(a long) Study in Contrast

I have always assumed that at some point (always in the future), life will naturally become an affair of relatively even rhythm; still with its high points and lows, to be sure, but evenly paced.  This week blew that illusion completely away, yet again.

Late Friday came the news that a loved one needed to have rather major (though scarily, outpatient) surgery ASAP, probably Tuesday, and in the meantime was to be physically restricted, and afterwards, extremely so. I was due at St. Ambrose University on Thursday for a mini-residency that had been locked in place since last spring; my week had been steadily planned around the prep for that. My loved one insisted that I should still “Go! Go and do a damned good job!”

So, Saturday was spent rather frantically lining up support people and systems for my absence, and figuring in when and how the prep could be accomplished during the next few uncertain days, while constantly battling both worry and guilt. Sunday, I shopped for and cooked a large batch of food to be frozen and easily reheated in the microwave, and that evening, searched, found and pulled a couple hundred images for two slideshows from the horribly jumbled recovered files on my external hard drive. Monday I rifled through my fiber inventory and found suitable things that could be recycled or re-hydrated for the St. Ambrose class, leaving only one 2-pound batch that needed to be prepped from half-stuff, chopped it all up and put it to soak, made an inventory list and began packing equipment, and did several loads of laundry. Tuesday, up at 4:30 am, to the hospital by 6. I took the laptop and rebuilt the first slideshow during the surgery, and after the 12-hour hospital stay, set up the house for the reality of the restricted recovery. Wednesday, I beat the first batch of pulp, went for a long but encouraging follow-up doctor’s visit (huge sigh of relief), did a last-minute grocery and home supply run, recycled and/or re-hydrated three more batches of fiber in the beater, drained it all enough to fit into five buckets, finished packing the equipment, got three hours’ sleep, and it was Thursday.

I packed clothes and media, loaded the car with those plus vats, moulds and deckles, pulp, pellons, felts and vac press, drove to Iowa, unloaded, planned the next morning’s studio setup (the room was being used for a class that evening), did a student critique session, drove to the hotel, had a 20 minute power nap, drove back to the school and did the first slide talk to a surprisingly full house, grabbed a takeout sandwich on the way back to the hotel, checked in with my loved one (who was as well as could be expected), finished rebuilding the second slideshow and got to sleep at midnight.  Friday: overslept 30 minutes, hurriedly showered, packed for a long day and got to the school at 8 am, where a small team of us speedily set up a temporary paper studio in the print shop (and I had breakfast on the run) in an hour, made five types of paper with a full, enthusiastic class of beginners, cleaned up and disassembled the studio with the students and team, went to lunch with faculty, did individual student critique sessions, changed clothes, gave a second well-attended slideshow talk, talked with tons of people all through the show reception, then went to a lovely dinner with our small, good group until about 10pm, then drove back to the hotel, checked in with my loved one and got an entire…eight…hours…sleep. Yesterday: up, breakfast with taxidermy, back to the school to load my now-dried-out equipment (I left the pulp for further paper pursuits), drove back to Chicago and my loved one who is doing well, unloaded the car…and then, a total crash on my part.

I knew I would have a great time at St. Ambrose; I’d be working with Professor Joseph, who I’ve known and liked a long while, and I very much enjoy Catich gallery curator and director Heather; we hit it off well even via e-mail, and in person we work together in a fun, compatible, quite productive way.  And, in all honesty and with no false modesty, I have come to expect a ‘good’ reaction to my work, wherever it goes.

But this experience went way above and beyond ‘good’. The work is interacting with the school and larger community in an interdisciplinary manner that is sort of an ideal for me; the best response personally possible.  I’m going to forget a lot, but during the whirlwind, I spoke with professors from the English, Chemistry and Ecology departments who had brought or were bringing their classes to the exhibition for very different reasons (I will soon be reading English essays about individual works, and the ecology students will be thoroughly instructed on the sustainability of hand papermaking by their professor, who asked great questions and took notes). I met several lovely librarians, very nice folks from the Figge Art Museum, a great papermaker and several other area artists, including graduate students from the new MFA program in Iowa City, and had a further bonus when a book artist /educator friend surprised and delighted me by making a long trek just to come to the reception. The overall response was such that I got to feel like a rock star for a wee bit…except for my worries about things at home.

I suppose the lesson learned and the thing to be grateful for is that I can, at my advanced age, still pull off this kind of sleep-deprived, pulled-in-two-directions, high-speed high wire act, even though I really, really, really would rather not have it happen that way. The show reception and residency were excellent experiences; it would have been lovely to have had time to savor them. And yet, I would much rather have been able to have been wholly here and supportive throughout my loved one’s entire ordeal. Why that never seems to be how it happens – or, indeed, what I can do to make that coveted, evenly paced, wholly elusive future happen –  is still a complete mystery to me.

Paper and Paper: Gallery window above, some of the class paper drying below.

(I had no time to shoot any pictures but the last one – taken yesterday morning after loading up the car – but here are some from the show; thank you, blogger).

Keep Calm and Carrion

January 2012 is indeed proving to be ‘interesting’ with rather huge unexpected, un-ignorable events dropping in our already busy laps at this house this week, affecting us next week and a bit beyond.  The hardest part was admitting that I simply had to drop one postponed project and continue to postpone another, but the people involved seemed to take it well; at least easier than I did.  I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to practice acceptance of my limitations. It’s almost working. Almost.

Reports from Iowa about the response to the show are wonderful, which helps.  I return to the school (and hilarious taxidermy-infused hotel) early Thursday for an intense residency after a highly charged, insanely busy early week.

I admit I’m harboring hopes for a quiet February, with time to rebuild my broken web site and to finally address other behind-the-scenes tasks.  You know: winter.

I am not in Iowa again…

…but I was, and had a fine time, and will return again in ten days. If you are in Iowa, I will be giving two public presentations at St. Ambrose University in the Galvin Fine Arts building.  One is geared for artists, on Thursday evening, January 26,  from 6 -7pm, when I’ll talk techniques, about how some of the works in the show were made, with documentation, props and images; the second is the visiting artist’s talk on Friday, January 27 at 4 pm, followed by the show’s reception from 5-7.

The installation went very well; it’s a sweet gallery with some interesting features and the director is excellent; we worked together easily and most enjoyably.  I love the shows when I can be there for the installation, particularly with (S)Edition. This is the largest gathering of copies since the entire edition was installed at the Morgan: 81 of 99. I had much fun toying with the flow of the show, good visits with Professor Joseph, and a nice talkative dinner out with our small group.

I stayed (and will stay again) in a monstrously huge, labyrinthine and hilarious hotel with an interior over-the-top lavish-ly modeled after a German castle; words just fail me.  Breakfast is served in a cavernous two-storied dining hall with towering chandeliers, its upper walls adorned with taxidermy.  On Sunday, throughout the meal,  there was a man playing a grand piano I hadn’t even noticed the day before; it’s that cluttered. Surreal, but highly amusing: definitely not a generic Whatever Inn. I call it Schloss Iowa.

Now, for the next ten days, a plethora of projects. Here’s something unusual that showed up in google alerts while I was gone.  I don’t know this person, but rather like what she did, even if she didn’t.  I do applaud (and encourage) anyone who chooses to step out of their personal boundaries to learn what there is to learn from the attempt.

I am not in Iowa

Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t in Iowa, either, but I am supposed to be, installing this show.  Half the artwork is there; the lovely gallery director and I loaded her car in the dark at 6 this morning, so she could race against the season’s first winter travel warnings (she made it safely).  I couldn’t leave at that time with my half, because I needed to ship out the work for this show first.  (We’d planned to leave at 10, before we knew about the predicted weather). By then, snow had arrived in Chicago, coming down increasingly thicker and faster as I loaded up my half of the Iowa show, and the weather report said Do Not Go There in bold red type with exclamation points.

Ah well; it gave me time to chill (no pun intended) a wee bit after an intense week, and hopefully I’ll write this, get almost an entire eight hour’s sleep, and then the roads will be clear.  If not, then it’ll be Monday and Tuesday, the show will open a day late, and I’ll do a massive rescheduling of next week. That’ll be nothing new, as that’s already happened all this entire strange but productive week.  I’m trying to be zen-like about it all.  Sleep will help.  (Goodnight).

Shrouded, bubble-wrapped stuffed, six-foot book.  All the work I’m hauling had to come out of its crates today, in order to fit into one carload.

Thick Of It

Work, work, work, deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, write, write, write about me, me, me and my work, work, work. I’ll get a break tomorrow for a much-needed haircut, trying out a new, nearby place. At the moment I closely resemble Albert Einstein, probably from pulling on my hair in exasperation while I write, write, write.  Shawn and I got the Natural Cycles show down, got great feedback about it and stole time for a lovely long walk  in the woods, but other than that, the above is all there is, except:

Two lovely one-week summer 2012 classes are online and open for registration, so here are the links, as promised: Arrowmont, June 10-16 (Gatlinburg, TN) and Women’s Studio Workshop, July 9-13 (Rosendale, NY). Thanks for the searches and hope to see you there!  Sign up soon…

Here We Go

I did say 2012 would begin intensely, didn’t I?  Yes, I did, and I already feel as if I’ve put in a full week in the past two-and-a-half days.  To my great consternation, I worked all day on January 1st, no lazy Hogmanay here.  I had not planned to do that at all, but for some reason I felt up to it, and got one of the most tedious projects, one I had been dreading, completely out of the way, and with a good attitude. That’s what a relaxing holiday week can do for you, I guess. I’m currently working on three projects simultaneously, adding a fourth (the de-installation of Natural Cycles) tomorrow, and two more this weekend.  Some will be physical and that will be most welcome.  Above is one I’m currently working on. It includes two trips to Davenport, Iowa: one for installation and the second for a wee residency with lecture, critiques, demonstrations, a workshop, faculty lunches, a show reception and (I quote) frivolity / bourbon.  That certainly fits into the holiday year concept; looking forward to it.  If you are in the area, please stop by. Back to the flying flurries of e-mail…