Perplexing Peregrinations


Detail of an installation by Cary Baker, one of the two residents who came for my final two weeks at I-Park.  There are several white, perfectly gesturing jointed figures walking on the highly reflective pond (which makes them difficult to shoot). From across the pond, their reflections make them look about four feet tall, but they are actually only 12″ high. It’s a nice piece.


Whew. I’m back in Chicago, got in late Wednesday and rested up a bit yesterday…it was a busy busy busy and odd few days there.

The I-Park Open Studio on the ninth went really well, in spite of the fact that for about the fifth time during this residency, I couldn’t sleep and saw the dawn before I drifted off.  It was lovely to see Karen J and meet the friend and colleague who came up from New Haven with her. It was a long day, though. Finally, that night, I actually got eight hours of sleep, for the first time in a long time.


I did stay at I-Park on Monday the tenth, along with three other residents. Packing up everything took almost the entire day, and there were other things and some long goodbyes happening as well, so Anneliese and I didn’t get to go be tourists in Mystic as we’d planned.  But that evening, we did make it to the Connecticut River, which leads to the Atlantic, so I waved east towards Scotland anyways.  We drove around map-less for awhile looking for somewhere to eat, and finally found a rather nice old-style hotel that was, oddly, right next to a crowded free concert happening in East Haddam.  We had a tasty meal and a lot of fun on a big noisy canvas-covered outdoor deck overlooking the river and even noisier  concert. The seafood was sweet and fresh, delivered daily by boat. Then we had a hilarious drive trying to find our way back in the dark, trying to remember where we’d turned, and then Anneliese helped me finish loading – or rather just tossing stuff into the back of the car.

CT river

I definitely plan to go back to I-Park, and I got quite a bit of encouragement to do that, from several of the lovely folks there, which felt very, very good.

Tuesday, up bright and early; booked a two-day stay at a motel in Cleveland and shot out the door to awful traffic all through Connecticut on interstates, and long periods of sitting still in jammed up traffic on I-84 just into eastern New York.  Finally I couldn’t take anymore, and got off at the Taconic and took a longer but much more pleasant route to Women’s Studio Workshop.

As soon as I walked into the WSW office, they asked me if I wanted to stay and teach, beginning immediately!  One of the summer institute classes had begun the day before, and that morning, the instructor had a sudden family emergency, and had to leave.  It was a class on ‘collage techniques’, which included some embroidery, which I know nothing about, but also included some book structures, which I can teach anytime, anywhere. The class ended Friday (today).  I was kind of blind-sided and road-dazed, and didn’t know what to do.  I really do want to teach there, and I also really wanted to help out WSW, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the class description, couldn’t imagine what to teach; I just drew a blank. Also, I absolutely needed to stop in Cleveland on the way back, so staying till Saturday would have meant only two days at home before Ragdale.

Finally, I went and spoke to the people in the class, to see what, if anything, I might be able to help them with.  They definitely did not want to learn any book structures, they wanted ‘Collage Techniques’. I kept thinking, “What the hell is that?  You cut things out and you glue them down: presto, collage.” In any case, they seemed to be quite fine with just having a week of studio time, and a couple of folks seemed decidedly unenthusiastic about me taking over, so I thought it was a bad fit and they’d be happier on their own. (One woman, though, said, “I love your work!  Can you stay and do a slide talk?”  That was nice. I wrote down my URL for her.)

So, I apologized profusely to WSW, rearranged everything much more efficiently in the back of the car, and Kristen and I loaded up my cutter, and I took off again, feeling a bit stunned.

Almost immediately, I had my first police encounter, a weird one.  There were two light-flashing cars randomly stopping people heading into or out of the town of High Falls, and they chose me.  I rolled down the window and the officer said, “Hey, Illinois!” Apparently he  wanted to talk about the state, because he was traveling there in the fall, and he asked me a series of ludicruous questions while a line of traffic piled up behind us.  It was bizarre, and punched up my dazed-ness factor a couple more notches.


Maybe two hours later, I was skirting the lower edge of the Catskills on NY 52,  a smaller road, a very nice drive for both beauty and amusement.  The landscape is gorgeous and the man-made bits still have that corny borscht-belt flavor, and I love it.  There’s a place called Loch Sheldrake, where there is a Stage Door Manor summer camp, and Hassidic vacationers in sober (hot!) black mix with their t-shirted ‘n’ flip-flopped counterparts. Shortly after getting on the more highway-like route 17, I stopped for gas and went across the road for a frozen yogurt in a 50’s-style stand that also served all the usual junk food like hotdogs and burgers and nachos…and knishes.

Maybe it was the sugar in the yogurt, but, back on the road, I suddenly began to think of things I could have taught the WSW class that could be used for collage: lifting images with acrylic mediums, solvent transfers, paste-paper technique, even woven longstitch embellishments to take the place of embroidery; I could have gotten some Lasertran FedExed in.  I started to feel extremely guilty…and also to wonder, sadly,  what has happened to my lifelong ability to think on my feet. Things seem to blind-side me so easily these days. A spontaneous class wouldn’t have been problematic even momentarily a few years ago, and I wouldn’t have let WSW down…

And so, preoccupied with that, I wasn’t paying much attention, and was doing 80 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone, which brought me my second police encounter.  He had me red-handed, but he wrote me a ticket for not putting my flashers on when I pulled over, instead of the moving violation, which would have messed up my insurance rates.

I decorously drove the entire rest of the way into Cleveland very near to the speed limit, which got me in well after midnight.

(next: The Morgan)



I’m all done!  And the work is installed on a 10′ tall, 8′ wide wall.  I really like it – but whoo, is it obnoxious!  It’s supposed to be, but I might have been a tad too successful at that, and will hurt peoples’ eyes. I’ll see it in daylight tomorrow and re-assess.  Could just be the studio lights, they’re kind of hot and yellowish.

I’m not posting photos yet, for a variety of reasons: 1. the entire piece isn’t here; 10 feet of it is hanging in an upstairs room at home, and 2. I’m showing it in Chicago this fall, and I would like a live audience to see it first; people who come out to support galleries should get the first take, I think, but I will post it to the web site right after the opening in early November, and 3. I’m not entirely convinced it’s done yet.  It may need some tweaking and / or a more toned down addition or two to allow you to rest your eyes. It’s a departure for me, and is Not A Book (or a Bok Choy, Aimee).

So, the above photo is a detail, but I’m not really teasing you.  Honestly.

I’ve been working hard and steadily for the past three days; of course, everything took much longer than I thought.  The final, final bits went onto all 14 pieces simultaneously for most of today, which was a a lot of fun. Then I had dinner, cleaned and rearranged the studio all spiffy for the open house, including a good amount of packing, and installed.  Then I messed around a bit, and actually came up with a possible new piece incorporating Roger’s snakeskin, the paper that wouldn’t go outdoors, a lovely dried turkey-tail fungus Anneliese brought me, and a book / hull I made at Women’s Studio Workshop.

I’m going to ask if I can stay an extra day.  Apparently, I-Park is unoccupied for the week to prepare for the two big environmental art sessions.  Anneliese isn’t leaving till Tuesday, so hopefully I can do that too, and she and I can hang out some more. I haven’t gotten to the Atlantic!  We want to go to Mystic harbor on Monday, where I can wave across the pond to Angus and Mrs. B on Lewis (Old Saybrook and Old Lyme-of-the-disease are closer, but that is Long Island sound, not the same.  I have no real desire to wave at Montauk, remembering exhausting family trips there). And then I can also build a temporary crate  and load Sir Baroo at a relatively leisurely pace. If all goes well, I’ll be relaxed, ocean-satiated, and will leave bright and early Tuesday morning, stop at WSW for an hour or two, and then head to Cleveland and spend a day; home for a week, and then Ragdale.

Right now, a glass of red wine.  Ahhhhh. Life is good today. Slainte’!

stewdy oh

A corner of the ready-for-visitors studio.  Below: I’m liking this…


The It It Is*


*Title stolen from poet friend Smith, because I like it so much.  And because that’s exactly how I’m feeling / thinking, and that is Good.

Big gorgeous full moon out there tonight, and I discovered that I will not contribute an outdoor installation this time around.  Sigh. Not because of time constraints; I’d actually figured how to get it and the 14 studio pieces finished, and got a FedEx today to help with that. But, I was using paper for the outdoor piece that I’d made and shaped awhile ago, and brought with me.  (It was originally for another project, one that morphed instead into the big thing I’m hoping to do at Ragdale).  It seemed heavy enough to do what I wanted, but it was weaker than I thought, and started to disintegrate in the dye bath, which means it wouldn’t even survive till the end of the summer. So, no go.  I don’t want to do this as such a temporary piece.

I’m fine with that.  It wasn’t what I originally came here to do and  I’m not giving up on making something similar. I like the idea way too much, and that in itself is a fine thing to come away with.  I’ll do some outdoor tests over the winter at home, where I can watch it closely  (I-Park was going to photograph the piece seasonally for me).  Maybe I will even re-apply here with this piece as my focus. Best of all, even though the paper wouldn’t hold up to the elements as is, most of it was salvageable for indoor use.  Though I have no idea what it might turn into, I  really like the dye pattern that happened with it:


So, now I will still be working intently, but not insanely, for the next three days and I’ll have time for walks and breaks.  There’s a farewell dinner for us tomorrow (all we have to do is show up at the outdoor grill at 7:30), the exit questionnaires appeared in our mailboxes tonight, and we’re told that about 40 people have RSVP’d for the open studios on Sunday, with two more days left to make reservations.  And I will actually know one of them!  (Thanks, Karen!) I might even have time to do a lot of the packing before it starts, and leave early enough on Monday to make it to the daily WSW potluck lunch.




To The Wire…

Yow, I really, really didn’t need to lose that time.  Now I’m wondering if something will have to give, if I’ll have to forego either the outdoor piece or completing the studio ones (I really don’t want to carry those over to Ragdale, I have something else I want to do while I have a big space)…but anyways:


C’mon over!

(And check out Anneliese’s work! At one point we talked about collaborating, and though there just wasn’t enough time, we may still do that someday).

Slow Arc


Ye gods, indeed.  The whole yesterday’s-blog thing truly upset me, and basically cost me an entire 24 hours.  I couldn’t sleep, was up till well after dawn, woke after a few hours, and had to deal with more.

To the uninvolved folks who luckily have no inkling of what I was talking about, I apologize, and also say: be glad. I wanted to get a message to a group of people whose makeup and size I can only guess at, and to blog that message was the best, fastest method of communication I could come up with.  I also personally needed to blow off some steam. I don’t like being blind-sided. I don’t know, myself, exactly what activities occurred to prompt some very strong words regarding what was repeatedly called a ‘situation’ nor even what the ‘situation’ itself was, and I haven’t been enlightened.  But I’ve exchanged a couple more mails with the person, and though we haven’t quite reached what I’d confidently call an understanding, I think it’s now been accepted that people did act on my behalf without my prior knowledge, and that I was not conducting some sort of sinister plot from behind the scenes, using my ever-present hordes of willing minions. I believe we’ve agreed to let it go. I hope so.

My message boils down to: “I love you all, and I thank you, but I need this to stop”. At this point, it seems to me like something that may have started in fun, as a somewhat pointed joke, but in some still-unexplained way, got seriously out of hand. That’s all I can (or want to) say of this chapter.

(Though, I am curious as to what in hell actually went down, and I hope some informed minion from the hordes will be willing someday to clue me in.  I promise not to behead anyone. In fact, I will buy coffee.)

In the afternoon, I finally got back to the studio and got 14 of the 15 (!) pieces I am making loosely configured, committing each of their parts to a whole, then mixed my test dyes, did a number of not-quite great tests, went for a long, muggy, buggy early evening walk, and found a second installation site I like better than the first, came back and did more tests, finally liked what happened, and am ready to mix up the large batches of dye and have at it in the morning, after I adjust back, hopefully, into a more reasonable sleep schedule tonight. I’m taking advantage of my current no-sleep weariness to blog and do laundry (Which makes me wish I had at least one willing minion around.  Once a week, even.)

After losing a day, it might be a bit of a crunch to get everything finished, so hopefully, there will be no more, um, situations.  One thing I’ve learned from this though: the equilibrium I was thinking I had regained so very easily is, in fact, still on a rather shaky foundation. More healing, or more time, is definitely needed to strengthen it, to smooth it out, to achieve that fine sweet balance in forward motion I’m seeking.


Two of our millions of wee tree frog neighbors, stuck to the side of the house. The green one is tinier than the brown one, about half of its size.   The hearing folks say they are collectively incredibly loud.



When I mentioned to Roger that this was my favorite work on the land, he smiled and said, “I know her!” and gave me her name: Cornelia Konrads.  I immediately found her website: if you like this work, you ..MUST.. see.. it.  And…she makes books! Delicious sculptural books.  I e-mailed her and got an immediate reply, with her permission to post the link.  She’s coming back to I-Park; we will miss each other by one month. I will look forward eagerly to seeing what she does here next, that’s certain. (If you go to the site, click on ‘gallery’ – the site specific work is there, not in the site-specific link, which wasn’t functioning.  You’ll be very glad you did).


Yes!  It’s Luna III, or one of the first two after a rough night.


This piece is on its way back to Germany with Roger early tomorrow morning. He built a mini-version of his I-Park armature and together we carefully mounted one of my thinner overbeaten abaca sheets onto it. He will keep it for his own collection; and I have a four-and-a half-foot intact shed snakeskin he found in the woods.


This is a detail of a little wheeled cart with all sorts of rapidly decaying kinetic devices on it, built of scraps and found things, that sits in the big meadow.  I liked this bit, which is still functioning, spinning with a breeze, though missing a ‘blade’.


It’s been a busy busy few days, with a well-attended ‘mini open studio’ that let those of us who are staying know what to expect at ours on August 9th, a big potluck dinner, two writer residents and Roger departing, and two newly-arrived residents here tonight, whom I’ve just met briefly.  Also tonight, I finished making the final post of I-Park paper; I’ll spend the next two days casting and shaping those, then the whole studio gets reconfigured for dyeing and building. There’s a bandsaw. And, I’ve found two likely sites for my installed piece; the grouping of trees above is probably my favorite. Blahgs may get scarce again, but, as I hope you can tell, I’m loving it all.


Middle Earthiness

Roger 1

It’s exactly the midpoint of my residency today. There are three two-week residents (two writers and an environmental artist) who are leaving tomorrow and this afternoon, a ‘mini-open-studio’ open to the public, featuring their work.  Wednesday, three new two-week residents arrive, and  Sunday, August 9 is our open house, with seven of us, and if you are near here, please come!

Roger 2

I wanted to show you Roger Rigorth’s work (and have his permission to do so).  He is from Germany, part of I-Park’s 2009 Environmental Art program, and basically he travels the world building these things, though he does have a studio practice as well.  Check out his website.  (‘Galerie’ shows studio work, ‘Symposien’ shows the worldwide environmental pieces). It’s been fascinating to watch this work happen, and I’ve really enjoyed our conversations as well, and I love the piece…all sorts of associations form in its presence.  It’s huge, too – the individual structures are over ten feet tall.  The weaving is done with thick rope made of ‘manila hemp’ – the same fiber I am using as a fine, fine pulp. It’s incredibly solidly built as it is now, and Roger says that when it gets wet (it rained last night) it will contract as it dries, just like the overbeaten paper fiber does (not as intensely!), and further strengthen the structure.

Roger in progress2

I am trying very hard not to make any comparisons with the speed of Roger’s pace and my seemingly incredibly slow sheetmaking, hand-shaping and casting…but when I first went to look at his work, three days into the residency, he already had the long, ball-topped pieces cut and shaped, and one of the weaving armatures finished.  (Incredibly to me, all the Environmental Art program folks make their work in a two-week period – though, if you are here during the main sessions, you will have your dinners provided so as to facilitate your work). So, OK, yesterday I worked out a schedule to adhere to in order to finish both my studio work and the (smallish) outdoor installation, if it’s approved.  So now I’d better get out there and at it.  But I’ve been very, very glad to have met Roger. He’s given me a lot to think about. Next, he heads back to Korea.


(Roger’s on-site transport.)

Luna Tune Two


So, I got so excited about finally seeing a Luna, and then heard from a friend from Vermont who said she used to see one every night in the summers, sometimes two.  Sure enough, there was a second Luna yesterday, hanging out all day on the wind chimes just outside the studio back door.  It was a different one; the first had some dings in his feathery antennae and this one didn’t.  This, I am comfortably thinking, is more abundance.  And I finally saw some eastern deer yesterday, two does in their sleek summer red-copper coats.  I came around a bend and surprised them. We stared at each other for two heartbeats and then they fled from my two-legged-ness, white tails waving.


During this production stage in my work, I take my walks in the early evening because I love the light at that time, and inevitably feel as if I’m inhabiting a Maxfield Parrish landscape each time I approach the house or the reflective pond; it’s the further abundance of tall tall oaks, maples, black walnut, beech trees, dwarfing anything human-made: utterly, absolutely peaceful.


(The house is two stories tall plus attic…see what I mean?)


(One of the residents, Jefferson, is out in the canoe in the upper right…)

Luna (no ticks)

Today, all day and late into the evening, I had a visitor. It was a dreary, rainy day, which was good because I am now in the laborious production stage.  We went for an early morning grocery run, and then I got to work. Even though there are double glass doors in the studio, each with a somewhat annoying (but probably necessary) big translucent white X in the middle, I had the lights on because it was so overcast.  At about noon, I looked up, and there he was, peering in at me.


It’s a Luna moth!  They’re huge, gorgeous things, and a rare sight.


When I was oh, about 9 or 10, and lived in a town in Ohio that was partly suburban development and partly old run-down family farms, I hung out for a summer with the neighborhood science geek, the skinny smart kid with a bad haircut, knobby knees and glasses held together with strapping tape.  We spent that whole summer obsessively searching for a Luna moth. He wanted to kill one with formaldehyde and stick a pin through it; he had a collection of mounted winged insect mummies containing just about every other species native to the area. Personally, I just really, really wanted to see one (OK, and hopefully scare it away before he got the jar on it).  It was an enchanting creature to me, and elusive enough to be a Quest. We stayed out very, very late almost every night (in a parental bow to science on his part, by the grace of alcoholic indifference on mine), running wild in the fields and woods, wading in creeks by moonlight, because Lunas only fly at night.  We never found one, but being out and free in the secret, scented dark had its own magic, a feeling which has never quite left  me.


I never did see a live Luna moth until today, just mounted ones in museums (where the kid probably ended up working).  My Luna stayed there all day and all night, barely moving, just seeming to stare at me.  I brought other residents to see him, we shot flash photos, and still he stayed. I left for dinner, turned the lights out, and he was there when I returned.  Finally, a little after midnight, I finished up; about twenty minutes later, I went back out of sheer curiosity, and he was gone.  He’ll only live for a few days, but I’m glad he escaped a pin. I’ve finally seen my Luna moth, and it was still enchanting.

Lunafull2 (I forgot to say: the day before, deep in the woods on top of a steep rocky ridge just before sunset, I saw a huge Great Horned Owl, also fascinating. But they eat Lunas).