Beltane begins it

It’s April 30 and I have a candle burning, and the first spectacular thunderstorms of the year have blown past, to the north, officially ushering in the season of growth. I haven’t felt very Blahg-ish lately, and I am not finished with the work on (S)Edition.  I’m still having to do way, way too many other, computer-related things, so much so that the web site and Flickr have been neglected as well. I did rebel on Wednesday and took off for a great evening with friends, for a cheap-food-followed-by-fantastic-but-expensive-drinks fest. It was much fun, though a Thursday nap was necessary.

The upcoming shows are almost, almost nailed down, enough to have charted out my calendar for the rest of the year. When I did, I realized that I am probably insane. Things won’t be quiet from now till October, and then only for a few weeks. So I decided to put out a call for a studio assistant or two, and was humbled and touched by an immediate, surprisingly large response, even though it’s a barter situation.  This will help immensely.

It’s good to ask for what you need, and is particularly great when that involves giving back.  Aimee Lee is doing just that right now, and her modest needs will give back immeasurably for years to come. She’s donating her time and skills, bringing traditional Korean papermaking (Hanji) to the US, letting us learn, and helping to preserve its uniqueness.  Read about it here, and help if you can.

the outside part or uppermost layer of things

Today was to have been a small back-yard papermaking gathering with three old friends, and I’d been looking forward to that, but it’s cool and rainy, so we’ve postponed till fairer weather.  It is fine to be having an actual spring season this year, though, instead of Chicago’s usual fast few days between winter and summer.

Friday was quietly social; I ran a few errands, then met up with another old friend for dinner and great talk, and then we attended a show opening, to see and support some young artists who have been working very hard. It was quite pleasant to run into several people I haven’t seen in a long while, but I cut out early. The next morning, the mailed announcement for that show arrived, which made me laugh out loud. (Fortunately, the artists themselves were on top of things; I’d been receiving their individual electronic invitations for weeks.)

Currently, still working on research things, house things, garden things, trying to work out details for a summer class, and still: working on the upcoming shows.  I’ve had to resort to a spreadsheet (shudder) to keep track of which works will go where and when.  At the moment, they’re all moving around like so many jumping beans from day to day, depending on that day’s e-mail.  One group show is simple and stable: a single piece created for the show, but the others all involve multiple works and installations. It will be slightly insane but fun. Here’s the first public mention I’ve seen of one of them (scroll to the bottom).

Yesterday, I declared an official “I’ll only do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it” day. It wasn’t much, beyond making a few more test sheets, watching a movie, and hanging out with Paul, but it was as guilt-free as a holiday  I highly recommend declaring your own.

And now I’m off to the studio. Today’s photos are of some its surfaces, with thanks back to Velma, whose post made me think of shooting them.  (See? This is what I love about blogging). In the interest of going beyond the surface, one result of revisiting my Scotland photos has been that all of my dreams the past few nights, no matter what they’re about, have taken place in Scotland.  Nice.

Ramblings, of all kinds

I had a couple of days of very strange, intense, nearly overwhelming moodiness.  During daylight hours, I determinedly powered through it by keeping myself physically busy; the nights are another matter.  Last night, flailing through a dream, I sent the tall bedside floor lamp crashing to the ground, and it didn’t even wake me.  In any case, I did get one of the remaining tasks on (S)Edition finished: the final covers are all embellished.

I’m also much closer to having my hectic summer schedule solidified, and I hope to be able to announce the shows soon.  (I’ve pretty much decided not to go for the sixth show, in a rare fit of rationality).  Though I am searching daily, I am no closer to finding paying work.  Nor to filling local classes, though the out-of-town ones have waiting lists.  Nor to remotely finding a balance between running and restoring a shared house, doing copious admin, and integrating studio work into home life with any form of efficiency. It seems to be all or nothing in any given direction.  So the new-life adjustments continue (as I fully expected them to, while secretly hoping they would easily resolve themselves).  Today will be (must be!) spent on the house, which gets trashed alarmingly quickly while other tasks move forward. We do manage to keep the kitchen running fairly well.

While waiting for e-answers and working via online conversations, I’ve been able to keep uploading batches of photos in short bursts.  This is good for me (not only because I then clear the the photos off my hard drive). This long re-adjustment period I’m in the thick of requires a lot of re-examination regarding how, where, and why I make my art, and how other activities factor in.  Here are a few:

  • Working almost exclusively on residencies not only provided the dedicated time and space the programs intend, it also added a certain defined motivational factor, if only that of a deadline to share with fellows. It also narrows choices. We call this combination of factors focus.
  • I think with my camera. Though I do not use photos directly in my work, they are a hugely important contributing process.  What I choose to frame and shoot triggers memory in a conventional sense, but also fixes a perception in my mind even when I am not actually looking at the images or attempting to recall a specific image. (The photo above, of THE lichen, is the most overt example:  in preparation for making LISTEN, I studied and studied my images of this type of lichen, and then did not look at them at all immediately before and during the actual production.  With most of what I shoot, this phenomenon is much subtler, much less deliberate).
  • Sharing how and why and what I do is also an important part of the process. Partially because I am deafened, I think, the blog is a part of it, taking the place of what, with  earlier functioning ears, would have been long group conversations. For better or worse (and it has decidedly proven to be both), I have this need to put things out here: travails as well as triumphs, ennui as well as excitement, warts as well as beauty.

So, here are two sets of photos from Scotland that are still currently acting on the next works I will make: a productive afternoon in an old graveyard, and strange and beautiful trees in Inverness.  There are also two more travelogue-like sets up, here and here.

The graveyard photos include this image below, from a few of possibly the most personally profound photos I have ever taken. (So much so that it felt a little weird to publicly post them; I’ve savored them alone for nearly two years). They say almost everything about my work.  Essentially, this could be my entire artist’s statement. (Addendum: in fact, now it is).


The yard was full of violets this week, before Paul had to cut the grass. Nice. He skirted around all the lily of the valley that jumped its borders; I’ll transplant it.

The two days of admin work turned into five full days and nights, with estimated deferred taxes thrown in there in the middle of it.  On a gorgeous 81 degree day, I took a five mile roundtrip walk, which seemed like a good idea. Clearing my head outdoors was good; wearing new shoes was not.  I’d had them on before and they seemed quite comfortable, but by the time I reached my destination, my feet began to feel sore;  by the time I got back home I was limping and had six huge blood blisters, in spite of cotton socks. They’re still pretty awful (sigh). I can hardly believe it, but I can finally return to the studio today, so I am segueing to part of (S)Edition that keeps me off my feet.

Some of what I’ve been doing involves re-examining unpleasant things.  That resulted in waking in the middle of the night three nights in a row, and being unable to get back to sleep.  So, when I happily saw Aimee’s photos, posted immediately after she visited a place I’ve always wanted to see, I decided to counteract the disturbing energy by revisiting good times. Last night I began finally putting the past 23 months worth of photos up on Flickr, chronologically, beginning where I left off: Scotland. I’ve got Edinburgh and the National Museum up. And I slept all night. I’ll keep at it bit by bit: Scotland, Catwalk, Jentel, Chicago, WSW, I-Park, Ragdale…

Scottish bluebells in Inverleith, Edinburgh, May 2008

a couple of definites

I almost forgot to say: last chance to bid on this book and /or a great many other works, and support Women’s Studio Workshop and the only visual arts residencies dedicated to women while you do!

I’ve gotten a few bids, but the book is still going for far below gallery price.    The Annual Auction ends tomorrow, April 15, at 9 pm. I surely do wish I had the cash to bid on a few things, but they could be yours…!

I won’t know until I get there if this is exactly where I’ll be, but I can hope!  I’ll be spending my 2010 birthday at Ragdale, hooray!  It’ll be a perfectly timed residency after teaching three intensive classes in three states and putting work into four shows (I think; still waiting to finalize one) in four states, one (or two) of which will involve on-site installation on my part. It will allow me to get ready for a fifth (and possible sixth) solo show coming up later in the fall (and possibly winter). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ragdale!  You are my touchstone, and I am forever and always grateful.  The beautiful old Ragdale house will be closed, undergoing an extensive restoration, so it will be a smaller group, a different dynamic, and so I feel doubly lucky, definitely.  And now (sigh) back to the admin…and midnight oil.

Not much closer to many more Almosts

Well, I spoke too soon in the last Blahg.  Got more pulp beaten and mixed for color, and then got hit with another huge load of tedious admin; been at it for two solid days, expect to be at it for a few more, before I can get back to the pulp and (S)Edition. Sigh.

Some very, very good things came in but are not yet fully confirmed, some others require more summer and fall schedule juggling, and I am still waiting for information on earlier tentative commitments, which will probably require even more juggling.  So, this is a photoblog from the past few days, while I type and type and type and wait for news that’s concrete enough to be share-able…and still keep planning more new work, still only in my mind and in quick sketches for now. But at least things things are blooming, even if I don’t yet know what they are exactly.

This side of the front garden looks great!

This side doesn’t.  This is why:I finally spotted the big fat rabbit who has built several tunnel systems into one side of the garden and, I suspect,  has eaten the bulbs.


Closer to Almost

The studio doesn’t look quite so large with the drying rack up, does it?  I have just enough room to move around it on all sides, to lay out the delicate wet sheets to air-dry.  I ran out of pulp tonight with only 34 more ‘text’ sheets to go, put more fiber to soak and will have a reprieve from production tomorrow during the five hour beat. Then, it’s binding in the upstairs studio while making the sheets for and casting stems downstairs, for the next two weeks or longer (with a few breaks here and there for things like estimating taxes). I want to have (S)Edition finished by the end of the month. The best part will be seeing all 99 copies installed at once, at long last (watch this space)!  The other best part: I can then go back to making new work that’s asking to be made.

While I’ve been working this week, a strange desire has come over me.  I want to take a vacation; to travel somewhere with no agenda, simply for pleasure, for my own curiosity.  With my upcoming show and teaching schedule, it probably can’t happen anytime soon, but I’m going to keep thinking about it.

Blue Lacuna

Yesterday, the (literal) bulk of the massive research project was finished, delivered and discussed.  There’s more that needs to happen, but it can now become part-time and I can resume my life. Saturday, I took a day off, but just couldn’t consign it to the basement studio. The weather was just too great, balmy, the skies a perfect, luscious blue, beckoning. I did a cursory spring clean-up of the gardens instead. Today, back to the studio and back to (S)Edition, another sort of clearing out of old business.

I have had no luck with the two new residencies I applied for. I’m fine with that; I want and need to learn a great deal more about making my home and home studios work for me, about ingraining my artwork into my daily life on an ongoing basis after years and years of concentrating the lion’s share of my work into intensive residency bursts. The bronze beater definitely adds to all the changes. I’m re-learning where and how everything fits together, and this will likely go on for a long while yet. I’m fine with that as well, but I am highly uncertain about where the blahg might fit in anymore.  Do you want to know that all the tritoma seeds have sprouted? I’m quite happy about that, but would I want to read about it on someone else’s blog? I’m honestly not sure. And that’s all I’ve got for you today.

“Let Them Eat Books” – Hellen Highwater

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Cheeseness: cheddar, swiss, pepper jack.

It’s April 1st, the windows are open, the sun is shining, the weather is utterly beautiful and supposed to reach 80 degrees today, and I am inside glued to the computer, where I have been for days (and will remain until Monday) which makes me feel like the April Fool of all time. However,

and this is all for a good, just and necessary cause.

It’s also the tenth anniversary of the annual Edible Books festival around the world; started by the late Judith Hoffberg in 2000. I was in charge of the Chicago version for its first five years, and advisor to a group who followed for another couple of years; it’s something I miss, a wonderfully absurd rite of spring. We ate in a library! These are my entries (under my own name and various pseudonyms) from 2004. (The book above, Manipesto, made of tortillas with pesto and food coloring and spiral-bound with onion, was accompanied by a petition for closed captioning on television; but is also appropriate to my current stare-at-a-box April 1st activities).

Hellen Highwater made these Basic Bindings every year from fresh-baked white bread, always accompanied by butter.  She wants me to tell you that I am also in this show which opens today in Denver. I’ve always meant to enter work into one of Abecedarian’s shows, and this is the first time I’ve had time to do it (though my entry was an older work, also circa 2004).  So, even though I am glued to this wee box, there is still some cause for fool-ish celebration here…tonight, perhaps.