Now showing…

Out in the world are shows and shows and shows…first, here are some views of my part of Embarrassment of Riches at the NIU Art Museum:

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And some shots of this innovative installation of a single copy of (S)Edition (OK, a bookshroom) installed at Structures and Stories in the Bucks County Community College (Pennsylvania) Artmobile. I usually don’t like my work to be in cases, but of course this show literally moves, on wheels. I kind of love that the case itself is floating above the empty pedestal. It’s difficult to believe that this pristine space is the inside of a trailer.

aaMJC_mobileaaMJC_mobile1The Guenzel Gallery at Peninsula School of Art in Wisconsin hasn’t sent images, but they’ve published a wee slideshow of Unusually Natural on this page. The Braithewaite Gallery at the Southern Utah Museum of Art has not updated its website, but here’s what I am exhibiting in that show; and info about this upcoming exhibition in Minneapolis will soon be available.
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(Bookshrooms are of the proletariat, the 99%; they don’t care about no stinkin’ air conditioners or cords when they gather for their subversive conversations.)

And above is a sneak preview of my installation, which was the first to go up at Words | Matter, which opens tomorrow! It is in a lovely warm shared studio space; the library will take up a number of its many rooms. I loved the idea as soon as I was asked about it; I also truly love (and miss) “neighborhood” spaces. Huge, huge kudos to Eileen Madden (whose excellent printshop is located in the space) for her vision and hard work in bringing this together. Here she is, surrounded by just a small portion of book deliveries.  Aside from viewing works on the walls, you’ll be able to sit in the comfortable space and have any of the over 80 books brought to you, to handle, to read, to interact with: marvelous! I can’t wait.

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Trusting, reading (and melting)

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Dividing line between spring and winter.

In addition to seeing Aimee at her Wednesday lecture, I’m truly looking forward to finally beginning physical therapy on Friday (the 13th, ha) for a problem that all but immobilized me eight weeks ago. I’m so grateful for having found such a wonderful massage therapy clinic nearby, or I would be even further behind than I am now. (I’m also pissed off because such effective care is not covered by our ‘health insurance’, but that’s another story.)

I’ve benefitted greatly from body work during much of my later adult life, but it had been seven years since I had had a massage of any kind. I still remember my very first session, a gift from a friend. For someone whose history contained physical abuse, it was a daunting, vulnerable moment. The therapist was great, though. At one point, she asked me to relax my legs. I didn’t know what she meant. She tried to show me how, by having me actively resist pressure on my arm, and then feel the difference when I let go. But I could not do it with my legs. She said, “This tells me you do not trust people. You are always ready to run.” That was spot-on, and rather profound for me.   A later therapist would say, “Let me drive!” Sometimes individual muscles would fight back, seemingly on their own. But I also had some incredible – not only physical – experiences during sessions over the years. But those, too, are another story. My point is that you have to collaborate with the therapist by giving your trust, surrendering to those skilled, knowledgeable hands. When you do, you can heal much more than you realize; it’s not just the muscles and knots that are being released, it’s what they hold.

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It’s not too huge a leap, in my opinion, to suggest that that type of trust might be employed when encountering artwork. A good dose of open-minded curiosity helps, too: where might this work take me if I let go and simply engage with it? I was truly, truly pleased to read this excellent review of Manifest, O by Heather Doyle-Maier, who did just that (and I am very grateful to Alicia Bailey at Abecedarian for inviting her to do so.)

Manifest, O has been out in the world for nearly ten years now; early on, I tried a few times to get funding to edition a version of it. The feedback from the juries was always a variation of the fact that it failed to ‘explain’ deafness. (On whose terms?) People suggested adding a colophon which included instructions on how to read. I couldn’t do that, so it’s remained a unique work. Reading this review, by someone who was willing to wholeheartedly experience the work and articulate her engagement, feels wonderful: not simply a vindication, but a confirmation of my faith in the reader / viewer. In nice a bit of serendipity, I read a post today by critic Jerry Saltz, who is calling for a moratorium limiting museum wall labels to three inches or less. He writes, “Long labels like these are a triumph of pedagogy over the object, a breaking of faith with art and its audiences.”  Amen.

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Plus: The sn*w is melting! The sn*w is melting! And Chance walked the entire block with me today for the very first time, and ignored two bicyclists. I’m so ready to trust myself to spring.

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Something green in the newly-revealed garden!

Virally

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(S)Edition text pages napping at Ragdale years ago.

This week we humans were both a bit out of sorts, resulting in reduced energy and a couple of actual afternoon naps on my part. It’s probably a low-level virus.

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The first 27 copies coming together; I was so excited about finally being able to see them.

On Thursday, (S)Edition was featured by a visual culture site I have liked for a long time, This Is Colossal. It resulted in some nice (and some bizarre) e-mail, and re-posting at other sites I like, especially the ones who have written their own text, like npr books, make zine and culture designers. It also went round social media I don’t use (tumblr, twitter, instagram, etc.) and was ranked (at 18th when I saw it) on a global viral views site.  So here I am, quietly dealing with a virus, while enjoying a few minutes of being viral, and thinking how much like the spreading of spores internet sharing is. A great big thank you to all!

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(S)Edition’s very first viewer, reading.

First Freeze

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As it began…

Getting that new roof was pricey, but the timing was most fortunate: the snow came and then the first polar freeze of the winter. It’s been five days; we ran out (with many other neighborhood folks) to stock up on provisions just as it began. The dogs don’t want to be out unless it’s necessary, not even Lupe with her spectacular winter coat..

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During last year’s barrage of polar vortexes, I shut the door on my cold cold office, moved the laptop out to the living room and stayed there, working and watching Chance being a baby-pup. This year, I was determined to keep it open, so in between easy bouts of teaching / show admin and a few site updates (including a new book page), I addressed that. I put up shrink wrap window insulation, got all the extra pink board from the basement studio and lined the lower wall next to my desk with it, then insulated with books, cramming the lower bookshelves on the outside walls full, and moving some boxes of stored paper things to fill in the gap between shelves. Books and paper rule in many different ways, and in this instance, they actually brought the temperature in here up from 48F to just a hair under 60F. Excellent (though admittedly not pretty.)

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Paperbacks in particular are superb insulation because they fit together so well.

(In keeping with my 2015 theme, it was even a Transformation of sorts, though by insulating the walls, further Investigation led me to discover how cold the floors are, located as they are over the only unheated room in the basement. There will hopefully be a Productive day or two insulating the basement ceiling.)

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Working to get Chance used to his new training halter is a part of each day, sometimes twice a day. It’s slow, slow going, but he wouldn’t have posed patiently at the beginning of the week. Hopefully by late winter we’ll be outdoors with it on; now is a good time for pursuits requiring patience, and he’s especially attentive because he wants something -anything! – to do. Moving books off the top shelf to use as insulation also allowed me to adapt to another aspect of winter with a bored young thief. It makes life easier.

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It’s going well, but of course I’m ready for the freeze to end, and hope we have awhile before the next. On Sunday, when it warms, I’ll pull crates out of the garage and pack and ship a show that will leave a pleasant empty area in my storage space till August. I always welcome more space in winter!

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Out in the world, I’m pleased once again to have a detail of my work as the cover for the current issue of Spoon River Poetry Review, Construction / DeConstruction opened at Prairie State’s Christopher Gallery, and Jim Croft and Melody Eckroth put up a new web site with tons of wonderful photos, in case you’re cold indoors, dreaming of book arts pursuits.

Truly home, and balancing.

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I’ve been in the studio for the past few days. I said, In The Studios – both of ‘em!

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2014 wasn’t planned to be this way at all, but till now, every time I tried to get back to my work, something else happened.  It has been almost as long a hiatus as semesters had gotten to be during my final few years at the edu-corp. That’s just wrong.

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But it’s over: now I’ve made paper (some with a new quickie deckle box cobbled together from scrap crate-building stuff) and have spent long blissful hours casting, dyeing, shaping, sewing. Tuesday, I wrapped up this piece slowly (glue, sew, wait to dry, glue, sew, wait to dry), and then literally, to be FedEx-ed out in the morning.

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Dogbane things…

The first book piece of this year. It’s been so good in the studio, I had to post these photos, hoping you can feel the peace and flow…ultimately, what I live for, the rest temporarily fading to background noise that doesn’t interfere with the music of making.

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Alas, the next wee while is full of non-studio tasks. But not for long: lots of early July studio time planned. Lots! By choice, the next show will be almost all new work on my part, exciting for me.

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Oh, the milkweed…

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I’m really looking forward to to seeing images from both Denver shows opening tomorrow, and I admit I am a little wistful that I can’t be there. At Abecedarian, Alicia Bailey has written a lovely intro to the show, and is exhibiting the largest grouping of the diaristic books I’ve been making since 2009 that have ever been shown together, along with (S)Edition, Manifest, O and an earlier work, Blood: Simple. I’d love to see Mary Ellen Long’s work with it, and the many friends, former colleagues, or just plain People Whose Work I Like in the Reading Room. Then, just across the street at CVA, are three larger, ‘non-book’ installations, one that has never before been installed by someone else, with a highly interesting group of artists I’ve not shown with before now.

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But home it is: and there’s great comfort in knowing that every step I’ll take this week will lead me back to the studios: truly home.

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(And on the other side of the country, some sweet fruits of the seeds spread by traveling, teaching…)

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Spring-ish Sunday

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It was a good week: the contents of one more exhibition got nailed down. Work for another is heading out the door, being picked up today after one more late addition and the cleaning of and slight adaptations to some early altered book works: dates and notices for that exhibition coming soon.  It’s kind of nice to have older works requested; keeps me from feeling strange for keeping what I view as these ancient, unsold things.  Borrowed-back work was picked up for still another exhibition, and more is being shipped for a different one (along with a lovely check for a piece I wanted also, but was just recently sold; something new will be made in its place for a June show). The last of what was needed for the next publication is done, and a fun-for-me quick delivery road trip is set for the first weekend in April: hooray!  All that’s left now are the contents of two more shows, crate-building for a third, shipping for three, then hopefully, finally, some studio and garden bliss before it’s time yet again to gather materials and hit the teaching road (a single trip this year, with two stops only: but still). In there are possible, under-discussion short air trips to some of the exhibition openings.

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Also in with the entire busy mix is extensive daily pup training, more extensive than I’ve ever, ever, ever had to do before, and we still need to closely monitor him as well. Chance isn’t stupid by any means, but he is simply, purely willful, and is beginning the most difficult period of his life (or rather ours, in relation to him): adolescence. With us, with Lupe, he is utterly loving, but as is often said about Catahoulas, he does seem to be somewhat ‘psychologically more primitive’ than other dogs I have known. His surgery date is set: he’ll soon lose his testicles (and a single, hind-leg dew claw, a useless partially-developed appendage attached only by a flap of skin that he is sure to get caught in something and tear off, otherwise). I’m hoping that neutering him slightly early (at 22 weeks as opposed to 24) will help him, particularly with his aggressiveness towards his own species.

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At times I’ve admittedly had some despair about him, particularly because my work is calling to me, getting more insistent all the time: things are asking – pleading, on the verge of demanding – to be made.  But I am working on compromises / strategies that will get me that time, and soon. There was a nice recent external ‘prod’ towards that in terms of a lovely brief mention of my work: a reminder that it’s not speaking only to me. And here’s something else I’m looking forward to: an author and her subject, both of whom I’m truly fond of and always impressed by.

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Doubly Honored

I’m going to be cutting my self-imposed six months at home short, but only by a few weeks, and for a very good reason: I’ll be attending the first Haystack summer residency. I’ve never been to Haystack, but had promised friend and mentor Marilyn Sward I would go there someday; this seemed like the perfect opportunity for a thorough introduction.  Not to mention the fact that it’s in Maine. On an island!

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The wonderful Nora Maynard has done an excellent interview with yours truly for the blog section of the literary magazine, Ploughshares.  She’s currently working on a series on book arts, and I loved her first entry, featuring a place (North Branch Projects) and person (Regin Igloria) I admire very much, so I am especially honored to be the second in the series. Just published this morning, the interview is already traveling around. Thank you, Nora, Ploughshares, Haystack!

Days of Thanksgiving continue

I’m home, and though I did take Sunday for an all-day, no-alarm Giant Thud, I still have a week of busy-ness and overlapping events (all of which I’m grateful for) before I begin truly settling in for the winter, and quietly begin to process all that’s occurred this year.

First, the art that happened in Vermont:

Here’s where the ear was installed (just one, because I’m not sure my bit of structural jury-rigging is going to keep this one any more stable than the first).  Initially, I wanted them to be on dead trees only. I was at dinner at one point, thinking aloud about how I was to differentiate between dead and live trees in late November. Vermont Studio Center co-founder Jon Gregg was at my table and said, “You are in Vermont.  People drill into live trees all the time.” And so I spent Wednesday afternoon hanging out over the river, grateful for all the tree-climbing I did as a child.  I was too good with my dyeing, and the ear side blends into its setting, making it quite difficult to discern from across the river.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.

I might like this a little better this way, but still remain somewhat unconvinced.

These two are in progress still, a few more things to be added to the tall one, structural work on the smaller.

I packed the car up Wednesday night after open studios, documented the ear location Thanksgiving morning, then had a lovely, sunny drive, skirting the Canadian border to arrive at Velma’s warm, wonderful North Country sanctuary. The day was just perfect: sunny, not-cold, a spontaneous meadow milkweed harvest, a tasty dinner for four with even tastier conversation (which I could hear ALL of; excellent after a month of meals in a room with 50+), and Velma and I talking, talking, talking late into the night and resuming in the morning. Just: wonderful. Also to see so much of her work in person! I wanted to stay.  I left with generous gifts of milkweed, flax and cedar fiber, a perfect packed lunch and this:

my own ‘witches’  brew’ – eco-dye bundles (my first ever!) of linen and paper –  to be opened in a few days, to extend the day’s warmth and friendship whenever I look at them.  On a rainy drive heading south to be funneled onto interstate blandness, I marveled at the connections the internet allows us, once again.  In an earlier life, Velma and I would have been neighbors (just before our paths diverged, and I chose art school, a partner I am still friends with acquired acres in the North Country and built a house there, where he lived for many years).  And yet, Velma and I met anyways, for which I am very grateful, as well as for meeting her sweet, smart, intrepid companion Wendy: border collie love and wistfulness on my part (she is a bit camera shy up close).

I hit some nasty weather, lake effect snow/hail and nasty winds coming off Lake Erie, all the way down from Buffalo NY to Cleveland.  At one point, a long line of us were doing 25 miles an hour with flashers on, and I decided I was being stupid, and that I would stop as soon as I saw a motel, but by the time I did, it had cleared enough to just become an annoying, no longer dangerous drive. I gratefully arrived at Cindy’s late, and we, too stayed up late talking, talking, talking, and made some tentative summer plans.  She didn’t see my note asking to be woken next morning, which was ultimately good; I slept a couple of hours longer than I would have, which I was thankful for during the drive home.  Then: the bank, to FINALLY deposit the check that had sat uselessly on my desk all month in Vermont, a quick stop at Busta gallery to pick up my (thankfully packed) work, and a visit and lovely homemade-by-Lady lunch and talking, talking, talking at the Smiths‘ (where I forgot to retrieve my hearing aid case, which is thankfully a reason to return – as if I need one!)  I really, really wanted to stay at Velma’s, Cindy’s and Smiths’ (and to stop at the Morgan and stay too) but I was also very, very grateful to arrive safely home, and for the fact that I’ll be staying put for a good while now.

Yesterday, I delivered the work to ZIA gallery for this: the opening reception is on Saturday, the same day as the Ragdale holiday party (where I’ll go, quickly, first). ZIA gallery director (and artist) extraordinaire Anne Hughes was packing things to be shipped to Miami for this…and a portion of (S)Edition is attending!

Lupe can also be camera-shy up close, but she has not left my side for more than a few minutes since I returned.  And now, today: I’m sending some things off to Australia, hanging up the wee seasonal lights, and The Bro arrives for a week of Our-Own-Early-Winter celebration: more abundance to be very thankful for.

Wrapping up (in) Vermont

It is cold, cold, cold!  The studio is warm, warm, warm (I was actually sweating a bit today in my long vinyl apron), but my room has definitely NOT been, except for Thursday, when I wrote up a request. I got heat that evening and went to bed early, to read and luxuriate in almost 62 degree comfort.  Friday and yesterday I’ve come in late at night to find the house pleasantly heated, but when I open the door to my room, it’s 10 or more degrees colder. There’s no one to fix that on weekends.  It’s bitterly cold out there tonight, and I am dreading the return to the room…it’s likely to be another three-fleece-sweatshirt night, with the covers over my head to keep my scalp from freezing. I’m SO glad I bought that cheap-o fleece blanket (tiger-printed!) my first week here. I also have two VSC quilts, and the sweatshirts, but still: brrr. So I’m staying here in the warm and writing a blog, postponing the inevitable.

Why they needed all the tweaking. Took an entire afternoon & part of an evening.

The ears are now all tweaked and only awaiting dye and sealant, and unfortunately, a bit of new structural help.  This week I had the disappointing news that the one at Ragdale hasn’t weathered well, but I was able to see exactly what happened thanks to a photo sent by the lovely Jaclyn Mednicov, who’s been in residence all this time (and just left; she went to visit the ear before she did, which is wonderful).  I can prevent it occurring again by simply adding a bit to these ten, and I’ll replace the Ragdale one when I get home (and will build subsequent ones a bit differently).

Meh. Didn’t know if it would work (did), and didn’t know if I’d like it (don’t).

So, in the last few days I redesigned the internal structure of future ears, made another experimental ear, which worked, but I’m not crazy about. I built a new book structure, which is currently awaiting its pages, which are drying (along with the pages for another book, if their colors dry to what I think they’ll be).

It has some possibilities like this…maybe.

Today was spent making sheets for the two books with my sugeta, first milkweed and then kozo, using up all the prepared pulp I brought with me except for the stinky abaca and a small bit of now rinsed and non-smelly flax.  The studio was so warm that I went and got a bucket of ice from the kitchen after beating kozo, to keep the vat (with its bit of leftover milkweed and precious formation aid) cold enough for decent sheet formation. The ice melted immediately but worked beautifully. Sheets are drying everywhere. I wanted barely-there milkweed sheets and pushed my luck with the thinness a bit too far, but they will still work very well for the new book, and I won’t have to feel any regret over tearing them.

Tomorrow and Tuesday are for book-building, ear-dyeing (maybe only the one that I’m leaving here), ear-installing and, absolutely: laundry. Wednesday, pack up and load all but the artwork. Wednesday night, final open studios, then pack and load artwork, then it’s up early Thursday, to say farewell to Vermont, and head out on the northern route to visit Velma!  That will be just lovely.

I will miss this river.  I love it. Though I had to buy a fluorescent orange hat I will probably never wear again to walk along it: it’s deer-hunting season.