Happy Samhain, Samhuinn, Halloween


It’s my new year’s eve.  Just getting dark here in Chicago, and a steady stream of kids (and one costumed Great Dane, who got a dog biscuit) have been coming to the door for awhile now. It’s cool and crisp, windy with scudding grey clouds and blowing brightly colored leaves: perfect.

I’m forgoing all parties, in preparation for tonight’s ceremony: many milestones to be marked, new souls to be invited to my table.  So very many endings, but even more (and much more profound) beginnings to celebrate tonight.

Earlier today, I was surprised by receiving a Samhain e-card.  I had no idea they existed!  I did a search and found a fair number; somehow this knowledge pleases me, even though they are as trite as any other, more universal holiday greetings. I decided to link to one for you all (because it wouldn’t embed).

Blessed be, and Happy Halloween.

Watch it!


Abigail Uhteg was one of the two book residents at Women’s Studio Workshop while I was there; she and I shared the apartment above the studio building.  She was making a gorgeous edition of a book titled, “The Complex Of All Of These.” Fellow book resident Amanda Thackray named Abby the Studio Paparazzi, because she was also constantly photographing; often we’d see her working with one hand, and shooting with the other.  This is what she was up to, and I love it:

35 books, 3000 photos, two months. I love it so much that she gets an entire shout out blog of her own.  If you’re familiar with these processes, you’ll enjoy it too (check out the print-specific sewing), and if you’re not: welcome to our world. It sure makes me want to be back at WSW.



Abby’s lovely shot of my dye brushes.  I’m not posting the one of my ass.

Speaking of Returns…


I rather love this poster.  Many thanks to Eileen at Evanston Print & Paper for creating it!  As I just wrote on my Facebook page, it keeps making me think of the scene in The Shining when Jack Nicholson hacks through a door with an axe, sticks his head through, and says, “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” with that wonderful, maniacal grin.  I was pleased and honored to be asked to be the first in a brand-new series of artists’ talks.

The pace is heating up as November approaches.  I wonder if I will miss the mild October (other than the back spasm, which is almost all healed now). Still, I’m glad I opted to do what I did: I tackled my home office, doing a quick and partial sorting-through of the papers; then I consigned them all to a donated 4-drawer filing cabinet (thanks, April), to be gone through during long winter evenings (and I have a kernel of an idea forming regarding the use of what will be copious discards).  I packed up the ancient PC and its plethora of peripherals; gave some away and found a recycling center where I can drop everything off once the old hard drive is returned.  I bought a nifty all-in-one wireless inkjet printer/ copier/ scanner that surprised me with its print quality for its price, and now have a fully functional office space again.  Whew. I’ve been knocking out the backed up admin in here for the past couple of days; about two more (hopefully less) days of that, and then: studio. I intended to show the lovely new office to you, but: for the first time since I bought it, both camera batteries are dead!  But now I have a permanent at-home charging location again, as soon as I find the damn charger.  That says it all as to why I needed this spot of practicality; I needed to re-create my own support systems.  Now, I’m baaaaack.

Re: Turns


I’ve just not been in a very blahg-ish mood lately; this may be the longest I’ve  gone without writing something since I started. It’s a quiet and introspective time right now; I am beginning to rethink many, many things, have been paring things away and making plans to rid myself of more.  I’m working steadily but not at all madly on upcoming shows and events, as well as the house, which makes an enormous and (at least currently) welcome change of pace from, oh, say: the past thirty years.

I don’t have very many friends who are my age, and never have had; they’re either a number of years older or a broad range of years younger.  But I do have one friend I’ve known for over thirty years who’s only a few months older, and I heard from her this week.  She’s doing exactly the same things (and has also recently ended some major connections in her life).  Oddly, or perhaps not, our shared second Saturn return begins in a few days.  This will be interesting.


A while ago, just for the hell of it, I looked up the exact dates of the first one (the Saturn return is a concept of passage I was completely unaware of at the time), and then l read through that time period in my old journals.  I moved six times (at one point, completely across the country), had two breakups and three intense relationships, and during the final move, gave almost everything I owned away. I also wrote my first grant and my first large show proposal (both successful), and created my first ‘residencies’, by working extra jobs to buy myself six-week slots of time to devote entirely to my artwork; I set the structure for regular prolonged investigations and a productivity that has rarely been interrupted since then (though it has fluctuated). I also began to teach (yes, I taught steadily well before deciding to get an MFA), and established two other regular freelance sources of income. I was a bit surprised to realize that, while I kept consistent journals for years before the first return, they trickled off during it, and were only periodically resumed.  The Blahg is one of the many things I’m re-thinking. Yes, this will be interesting.


For now, this quiet still suits me completely.  Today, I went for my first long walk in  days, thanks to several days of continual rain, and having my lower back go into spasm and treating that during the wet days.  The walk helped my healing back, very much, and the crunch and smell of crisp fallen leaves was delicious. I saw three young kids completely absorbed in what kids have been involved in every fall since time began: shrieking, laughing, chasing each other with armloads of leaves, diving into and scattering a huge colorful pile of leaves.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve slowed down enough to notice that.


A rose that climbed through the front porch this summer; I let it stay.

“How many of you, I asked the people in my class, which of you want to give your lives and be writers?” …”And then I tried to tell them what the choice must mean: you can’t be anything else.  You must go at your life with a broadaxe…they had no idea what I was saying. (I have two hands, don’t I?  And all this energy, for as long as I can remember: I’ll do it in the evenings, after skiing, or on the way home from the bank, or after the children are asleep…).  They thought I was raving again. It’s just as well.”  – Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm.

The spotlight, the shameless eye which she obligingly operates, always explores the same sector of a woman’s life, that sector tortured by bliss and discord round which the shades are thickest.  But it is not in the illuminated zone that the darkest plots are woven.” – Collette, Break of Day

“If it is an illusion, it is still my own.”

(Quotes from my journal, 1980-83).

Fally Folly


I’ve still got a lot of adjusting to do.  Taxes were more tedious than usual this year,  partially due to currency conversion, and also to all the fluctuation and moves in and out that took place from December 2008 to September 2009.  Except for a class description that I’m wrestling with, my next deadlines aren’t till November, and those will not be too, um, taxing.  Now that taxes are done, I want to be working on this:


I got this far at Ragdale; it’s seven feet wide (and the geometric background is a temporary mount).  That was exactly a month ago.

One of the most lovely aspects of residencies is the fact that you are isolated away from the rest of your life, physically and mentally. Even when you are living an allegedly self-directed life, as I am now (and largely was back when I became enamored of the residency experience), that makes an enormous difference.  Even when you’re at a place that does not provide meals or shopping, you still have only your work to confront every day, and feeding yourself is merely an aside.  The trappings of our daily lives have a sticky weight to them, make a psychic as well as physical block.  Right now, mine is this:


My office, which is situated on the main floor between my two studios, is still crammed with the detritus of fifteen years of teaching and administrative work that I dumped there last January, and added to in May.  Since my current life involves an escalated amount of admin on my own behalf, I’m really feeling the effects of not being able to use it.  (I did the taxes, and am writing now, in the main living area). But if I begin working to clear it out, which is the next giant task hanging over my head, it will take weeks: for various inescapable reasons, I will need to go through Every. Single. Paper. File.  There are six big boxes of them; most of it will get tossed into recycle bins, but some is needed.  It’s not just paper: Paul gutted the ancient PC while I was at Ragdale, and gave its two hard drives to a friend, so he could extract my files (the thing is so old that it won’t recognize a thumb drive).  I’ve got to hang onto its body until we get the files back, and there’s nowhere else to put it.  So, I’m in a bit of limbo, not able today to follow my heart (work on the new piece) or my head (begin on the office, even though I know doing so will make everything else much, much easier).

Solution? I decided to write this blog.  I am free enough that, though it won’t solve anything, spending a day waffling like this and taking the time to write it out won’t hurt me either. Realizing that is still an adjustment in itself.




Jen binding & schmoozing, doing both excellently.

Re: my recent lack o’ blahg: it seems I need to feel my way towards what to write about while in this somewhat slowed-down behind-the-scenes period. I’ll repeat that I’m truly enjoying a sane, steady pace for a couple more weeks.  It’s so…so…humane!

The house continues to slowly improve. Though, in planning in advance for some long-awaited rehab I want to undertake this winter, I was appalled to discover that several major walls are made of masonite, not drywall.  This explains the previous owner’s penchant for (but not the truly horrid taste in) wallpaper, and will mean more expense and time in terms of needing primer, but that isn’t really news, is it? Neither is the fact that Chicago jumped quickly to late fall on Saturday, and we turned the heat on this early in the year, along with the rest of the city.

I nailed down some classes and other things on my to-do list, but I’m still working on this (which I’m really looking forward to).  I solved a weird computer problem that derailed my MacBook for a day, and if you haven’t noticed at right, I set up a Facebook fan page for fast updates on shows and the like, and am planning a massive, much-needed revamp of the web site.  Still doing some tedious research, which will go on for months, and I gathered the parts together for a piece of portable papermaking equipment I’m tinkering with, in hopes of inventing something useful (if, admittedly, a bit ludicrous).  The next few days are for 2008 taxes, and then, finally: some extended studio time before my pace picks up in November.


Eileen, happy – and I hope proud!  She should be; this is a great place.

I had a lovely time this past weekend at Evanston Print and Paper’s one-year anniversary bash on Saturday, and a surprisingly nice time at a different meeting on Sunday.  It was surprising because the meeting was for a sad purpose; the unexpected pleasure came afterwards, from hanging out with a group of artists and craftspeople whose ages are within ballpark range of my own. My friends are from such a wide age range that it’s been awhile since that’s occurred. I’d  sort-of forgotten the easy comfort of being exclusively with chronological peers; there are things no one needs to articulate.

Here are a few shout-outs that have come in in the past wee while: one for Aimee (congrats!), one for Linda’s witty tree-garb, one for me, and one for Audrey, who’s off on her book tour now that it’s been released everywhere.  I can’t hear this video (except for the bits I can lip-read), but of all the promotion that I’ve seen in the past few weeks, I liked this a lot, simply because she’s so clearly enjoying herself.

Oh, and last but definitely not least – over in the blogroll, you’ll notice a new link to Quintan Ana Wikswo. She’s a writer, visual and video artist I met at Ragdale, whose blog I’m enjoying immensely.  This was the post that grabbed me initially, but there have been many more since then.


Calm Before


The fall colors come with cool temperatures, which produce the dogball syndrome.


Earlier this week, the cool, often drizzly weather produced a similar effect on me, naps and actual healthy nightly amounts of sleep curled (not quite so tightly) under a quilt and fleecy blanket, but then last night, my body rebelled, and said: enough of this.  Two nights of nearly eight hours sleep produced rampant insomnia and I saw the dawn again.

I’m moderately busy but not with terribly blogworthy things: a great, laughing sushi-and-martini-a-thon dinner with three old friends, prepping for two shows, (a new one and another version of a traveling one), writing new class descriptions, beginning  some research and hammering out dates for many, many different things. November will be rather busier, it seems. I cleaned up the gardens and that yielded a good daylily leaf harvest (with more to come, as well as hosta; those plants do not require a beater to become viable pulp). Right now, we are also (finally!) beginning to Deal With This House, which has begun with Paul working simultaneously on his office and one of his storage areas. Said spaces have exploded to fill and / or block access to just about everything, including my upstairs studio, which gives me these few moments to blog about nothing.

Shooting The Bean


As of 5pm today, all deadlines have been met for awhile.  (Actually, that’s not true: there are class descriptions, some input for an article, PR for a show, and my deferred taxes to be taken care of in the next two weeks – as well as beginning the initial intensive dive into what will be a long bout of ongoing, extensive research).  But: the due-by-October first things are all taken care of, and though they went at a relatively leisurely pace, it was still just too much computer time, writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing.  This gets me things I want, though.

My difficulty (and incredibly slow pace) with writing keeps me from ‘playing the numbers.’  I’ve met a lot of artists and writers who apply for 10 or more residencies or grants at a time, hoping to get two or three.  I apply only for things that I really want, with only one or two more than I think I can handle, mostly because the application process has never become an easy one for me.


But, as I said in the last blahg, though it has its tedious side, it was better to do this time than ever before, because I wasn’t doing it all on top of 10,000 other things, and I got to have breaks.  I also had some meetings, including a momentous one that showed me that I’ll periodically be involved in many more.  They’re in a lovely location, though, and Tuesday’s meeting was in crisp, cool, fine fall weather, perfect for strolling across the street afterwards to Shoot The Bean.


This is a Chicago pastime for tourists and natives alike, ever since Anish Kapoor erected The Bean, which is actually titled ‘Cloud Gate’. I do have a great fondness for it, but then I have always loved Shiny Reflective Things.  It is a fine, gigantic Shiny Reflective Thing. I haven’t been there in a long while, and on a cool fall day, it wasn’t crowded at all (and still, everyone had a camera – if you’ve been there, you have at least one photo of yourself reflected in it).  So, since I’ll be returning regularly, I think I’ll shoot it and some of the other Millennium Park features periodically during the next few seasons. It’s kind of difficult to go wrong, Shooting The Bean, eh?



The Bean. Below: details in The Bean’s hood.