Farewell, February

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The ZIA opening reception was good but quiet.  While it’s much better (and much more typical) for the gallery to be packed with boisterous, noisy crowds, it was nice for me to be able to have several coherent, unstrained conversations with small diverse groups, and there was a slow steady stream.  Anne Hughes’ installation was, once again, superb: it’s great to have such an accomplished mixed-media artist at the helm, particularly for a salon style show. There were interesting associations everywhere, and it flowed.

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The gravity factor continues: class inquiries have been coming in and keeping me busy, and today there was another, kind-of surprising exhibition offer for some older work (which means I’ll have to dig into storage – I’m not even sure if I still own the piece). And, here is the slideshow of work featured in the current issue of Spirituality & Health.  Though I can’t write about it (yet), good things are happening for a good friend; the ongoing conversation we’ve had about it encourages me greatly, because it all furthers the kind of work and above all, an approach towards making artwork that I dearly want to see perpetuated, in excellent ways.

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Though I haven’t quite given up art for chess (or dogs), pup-land is still taking a large chunk of present precedence for me. Chance is growing so very fast, becoming tall and coltish, poised to start losing his baby needle teeth. Though I’m utterly curious to see what kind of adult boy we’ll end up with in terms of size and dominant breed characteristics, I am so, so glad that I had this quiet month to savor the wee bit of baby-puppy-hood we got to have. Two days ago, he got his final vaccinations and a clean bill of health, so now he can go to school. We begin puppy class very soon, at a venerable, affordable training club fifteen minutes away that was highly recommended by Lupe’s class leader (who no longer holds classes nearby). It seems great, and they are very willing to accommodate a deaf human. Lupe is a great teacher / babysitter, and Chance learns fairly quickly at home, but in order to be a good urban beastie, he needs to learn along with dogs who aren’t in his pack.  So: on to the next phase, a new month, the next season.

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This! and This! and That and That

I’m not even going to mention the weather over the past few days; no matter its influence over what happens here. I’ll just shut up and wait for spring.  This evening at ZIA Gallery, we will begin to summon it. I’m looking forward to the reception (perhaps because my quiet year has been a wee bit too quiet? Hmmmmm…)  Doesn’t it look festive?

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GREAT NEWS: The Morgan Conservatory summer class schedule is now online and open for registration.  There are so many stellar offerings!  I’m SO pleased to be returning, and this year, we have expanded the class: five entire packed days of 3D, time to explore deeply.  It’s the second of only two classes I’m teaching this summer, so sign up now! And check out the pages of marvelous classes!

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On Facebook a few days ago, I saw one of those memes, which called itself an old Polish proverb and read, “Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.” (Someone else commented that their grandmother used to say, “Not My Farm. Not My Pigs.”) While those sayings are refreshingly true of my relationship with higher ed now, I still could not help being impressed by these events. (In my time, I have seen adjunct faculty go from being respected team members to actively being mocked for raising valid issues, and have witnessed them being told that the direction of the department they had been deeply involved in for years was none of their concern, because such lofty issues were now the exclusive province of the tenured).  So, this is refreshing, encouraging, and something I honestly didn’t expect to see within my lifetime. (here’s a cliffnotes synopsis).

And, an interesting follow-up about someone who has impressed me from the beginning, regarding a part of higher ed that becomes all-consuming, but is rarely addressed. Congratulations, Ms. M!

And now: off to prepare To Summon Spring.

ChanceTall And since I have almost written an entire post without mentioning him, here is our wee pre-teen: getting so tall!

Magnus’ Opus

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Snow and stored spring seeds, to summon:

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Another day, another winter storm…I rescheduled a not-very-important doctor’s appointment and some other errands, so as not to have to drive to the burbs in it: luxury. I’m very, very glad I spent an entire day delivering work to ZIA for this weekend’s so-aptly-named show opening and running other higher-importance errands on Saturday. Now I can afford to spend a snug snow day with Paul, Lupe and Chance-pup, who had an important breakthrough over the weekend: no more bed-time crate tantrums! (Well, at least not till dawn, when he thinks we should all rise and play). He’s still – and will continue to be – deliciously puppy-rowdy, but we are learning his language bit by bit, and he is learning ours.

I can’t stop posting pup pictures: getting big, tiring out Lupe:

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But to today’s main story: I don’t miss much at all about my long-ago kollidge position, nor many of the (very) few long-time colleagues who survived to remain when I departed, but Jenny Magnus is one person I truly do miss working with, and seeing regularly.  She is absolutely brilliant as a teacher and as a tremendously multifaceted artist and I am thrilled that she is finally, as this wonderful article says, getting some of her due. If you’re not near enough to attend any of the performances, you can get yourself a bit of Jenny’s brilliance here; I just ordered my copy. I’m calling this book the captioned version, and fondly remembering a stellar spontaneous solo performance in the men’s washroom when Jenny was a guest in my Visual Environments class.  I know that just reading the words can’t possibly deliver all that she is and does, but it’s going to be a great and tasty deep dark slice. Kudos and congrats, Ms. Magnus!

Two fourteen fourteen

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It’s warm enough again for pack walks (it’s the kind of winter when 20F feels warm); we start with all four of us, do our block and an adjoining one, then Paul and Chance go in and I take Lupe for another round of a few more alley blocks. Those late winter dirty grey piles of snow have always been able to get to me, but if I begin to ‘feel too February’, all I have to do is look back at other ugly piles from five years ago to be thankful for how much more genuine life is now.  Who knew blogging would prove to be so useful?

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The mail brought this: I’m pleased to have had an image of a page spread from Manifest, O illustrate an article by Anneli Rufus in the current issue of Spirituality & Health magazine.  The author discusses the ways that reading fiction can increase our empathic qualities in our everyday lives.  When I was asked for permission for the image to be used (one of those things that gravitated into my inbox) I was not familiar with the magazine and didn’t know what the article would cover, but I did like its title.  As a lifelong fiction addict it was gratifying to have my work extended in context with ideas I agree with and can support (and to have the check that accompanied the two copies help support me as well; thanks to Art Director Sandra Salamony). In a few weeks, there will also be an online slideshow of all the artists’ works used in this issue.

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The mail also brought this sweet wee bit of dyed kozo from a Connecticut postmark, with no note.  I’m calling it a valentine, since it arrived today. Whoever you are, mystery mailer, thank you!

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Playwithme playwithme playwithme!

I laugh when I read more recent past blogs, about thinking this would be a quiet year.  Chance is now full-tilt into his hellion phase, and had a two-hour yowling tantrum in his crate last night; even with pack walks and playing in the yard and daily training sessions and a lot of fetch and tug of war, he spends time each day just tearing around the house at top speed, sometimes having his back legs overtake his front. He’s hilarious, and Paul, Lupe and I are laughing but really, really tired.

(In spite of it all, I’ve finally gotten the peskiest essay / statement finished for an important new page for the web site; tomorrow is lots of running around town rather than publishing, but that was a breakthrough!)

February fervor

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It’s been two days indoors; last night it was -6F, tonight 0, and tomorrow up into the 20s, with 32 degrees predicted in a week’s time.  I’m so hoping the deep freezes of 2014 are over after tonight. Unfortunately I have cold-weather activated asthma, so I don’t do pack walks or Lupe’s walks when it’s below about 15 degrees; that creates too much dependence on the inhaler. Chance is improving daily, and those pack walks really help, so we need some just plain old cold.  He and Lupe reached an impasse after she put the proper respect for Senior Dog into him one night, with so much intensity that Paul and I both called it off.  Chance hid under my chair when she came near for a couple of days, but now they are playing rowdily but respectfully, chasing each other around the house, burning off the cabin fever. Before the cold set in, I spent part of an afternoon shoveling connecting pathways into the backyard snow, which was too deep even for Lupe. Paul calls them my ‘crap circles’ for all-too-obvious reasons, but they also help with outdoor space to run in (and, in Lupe’s case, banks to jump over to land in a play bow in front of a startled Chance). It was fun, a bit like building childhood snow forts.

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We’ve decided to do something I’ve never done before, and crate-train Chance, at least until he is old enough not to need confinement at night.  He is definitely exhibiting more Aussie than retriever traits, and one of those is seeing escape from his pen as an increasing nightly challenge, a fun problem to solve, which results in me reinforcing the pen every few nights, usually at about 3am, simultaneously making me laugh at his inventiveness and become really cranky. The crate arrived today, and we’re acclimating him to it downstairs before we move it up to the location of the pen. So far, so good: he was wary for awhile, barked at it initially, but has been in and out a several times with the door open. I crawled in, too, and he followed: look, it’s fun in here! (In fact, he is napping there now as I write: success!)

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When not immersed in canine land, I’ve been firming up the year’s schedule; I had happily accepted six excellent exhibitions from February through September, but now that dates are fully set, they all overlap by a bit, so I’ve been distributing existing artwork between them and planning a flexible, pup-realistic studio schedule for adding new work. And, I’ve decided to teach a third, short, local class in early fall, and booked my sole residency dates for October / November: Chance will be a young adult by then.  Last but not at all least, I want to commend Anne Hughes at ZIA who has been doing some great work on my behalf, as she does for all the gallery’s artists. It’s so nice to be taken care of…

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Though I am sluggish because it is not my favorite activity at all, I hope the web site additions will be ready for publishing in the next weeks, then at long last: warm-ish daily pack walks, outdoor runs, dog school…and studio. (Studio!)

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After a pack walk.

Out in the world, tales like this (a link I’ve blatantly lifted from Aimee, who says her own apprenticeships made her feel the same way) give me great heart, and reinforce the way I’ve been thinking about the how, what and why of art making and education, with impeccable timing: this week, Chicago is overrun with activities like this. That lovely apprentice’s post also makes me truly wish I could figure out a way to accept the requests for internships I’ve received (though my interns would likely be as involved with puppyness as I am right now: it all fits and works together. If it doesn’t, in my view, something is just plain wrong).

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February always is

With a pup it is constant; three steps ahead, two back, a slip sideways, a step ahead regained.  Chance learns more about “come” and learns “sit” in mere minutes, but backslides a bit on the daytime house-training, so we increase the outdoor visits accordingly.  Lupe has finally gotten him to begin learning dog-play language, something he missed out on by being quarantined, and it’s much fun to watch.  I’m so, so glad I scheduled this time at home for this phase, but am beginning to really miss the studio, too.

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In Devil Puppy mode.

However, quite a bit of related work is being done: yesterday I worked with a magazine editor, a museum curator, talked with prospective students, friends, a gallery director and a writer, received a teaching offer, and found that this nice article had recently been published, and also something I didn’t know: I am one of the featured artists in ZIA gallery’s wonderfully-named next show (To Summon Spring), and I began the web site work (so far behind it’s ridiculous).  All of which I can do on my lap while intermittently teaching and monitoring Chance, who, because he is so smart, can periodically transform into Devil Puppy. He even got above himself enough to challenge Lupe by trying to steal her Sacred Evening Biscuit. (Bad move, he quickly learned, or I fervently hope he learned).  Still, it’s February and even though we are rather busy, and outdoors with Chance almost hourly, and almost daily for snow shoveling and short pack-walks and Lupe’s adult-only walks, there’s no escaping that creeping, cabin-feverish, enough-of-winter-already feeling.

Unless you are heading to Australia. Or, if I lived closer, I’d go straight to this opening tomorrow evening.  Huge congrats to Velma and Aimee!

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The road to spring…

Gravity and Expansion

I’m a bit disappointed in myself for losing the link, but I read a great piece recently about ‘creating gravity’ – how an artist can work long enough to achieve a time of having things gravitate towards her.  Lack of reference (and credit) notwithstanding, that has, wonderfully, been happening to me lately: stuff – very good stuff – has just been coming in, and I am loving it. I hope to share news of some of it soon (and throughout the year).

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Which is good also because I am immersed in early puppyland, and loving it.  Chance is a smart little guy, already almost completely house-trained, and watching him learn is fascinating. Two cases in point: after the first two nights of howling, whining and barking in fear and rage over being penned in at night, he’s learned (after a nightly decreasing initial tantrum) not to ‘cry wolf’ – to only use his voice to wake us when he needs to go out. Sunday night was very cold. I took Chance out to relieve himself before bedtime, and he didn’t like that (neither did I, truthfully). So, he’d dodge me and run up the back porch stairs to the door, I’d pick him up and bring him back down and we repeated this multiple times, until he finally did his business.  When he woke me to take him out later that night, he relieved himself immediately, then ran to the porch, put one paw on the bottom stair, stopped and looked me in the eyes, essentially asking, “OK? Can I go up now?” Love! Then there is Lupe. Puppies need to chew, and to learn what to chew on, and redirecting Chance to appropriate chewy-things has been keeping us busy. At one point, he began to chomp on a throw rug Lupe likes to lay on. I said, “Chance! No!” but before I could get up, Lupe (with, I swear, a look of supreme disdain) went to the dog toy basket, pulled out a huge rope toy she used to love, dangled it in front of Chance until he grabbed it, then walked him away from the rug. All of this is admittedly mundane, yet at the same time hugely compelling to me.

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And, as of yesterday, I am now even able to simultaneously get work done on those great things that are rolling in and still do the puppy-monitoring. 2014 life is good.

Here’s something I’m quite impressed with. I don’t share the enthusiasm over the original referenced book, which is always, tellingly, referred to as being ‘seminal’ to the field, but I love this take on it. Huge congrats to Susan Mills and Women’s Studio Workshop: a place so very much more – and so very much better – than seminal!

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 When I get the most work done…after pulling out the camera.