Not much to say, except: things are moving along so beautifully out there in the beloved Meadow Studio, the knee still has its quirks but is better, and: I am staying at Ragdale for another three weeks, through December 11. Yes!


That was written last Thursday; I meant to post it Friday evening. Then, at dinner: the news of Paris and then the disturbing realization of the lack of coverage on the similar killings in Beirut. And then of course, the ridiculous anti-immigrant, pro-gun backlash, some from people I expected it from, some from others who deeply disappointed me.


I kept away from the social media screen as best I could, took refuge in the studio, worked well with swirling, streaming thoughts that offered no resolution coursing through my head. I thought of how I don’t really like us as a species. We are far, far from being the superior organisms on the planet that we believe ourselves to be. I thought about how many times I have been certain that we are on the brink of self-immolation in the 60+ years I have been alive. I thought about a great artists’ book I saw once, listing all the wars for each year in recorded in human history, and the terribly tiny amount of time when there weren’t any. I thought about how climate change, which contributed to the Syrian crisis, might actually, finally do it, allow us the annihilation we appear to crave. I thought about nature, going on about its business in spite of us, going through its cycles, its seasons of regeneration, fruition and decay that comprise its language. Plant researchers have revealed that not only do trees communicate with each other, they offer warnings freely to their species, regardless of type; a pine will help an oak. I thought about how I did my ‘duty’ to humans and allowed a young dog to be destroyed because he feared us, and in fearing us, was judged to be a threat. Was he not correct in his fear? I thought of so many things.


I made and installed new ears, thinking about them listening for just the slightest bit of sense from our species, for the recognition that we are not apart from the planet nor each other. On most of the projects I have going, I’m working with both raw and refined fiber in renewed, beautifully crude ways, taking it down to its essence. A tangled, complicated web, appearing so fragile, so ephemeral, yet tough and resilient in nature, because of its interlocking, its involvement: each strand dependent on the others.


That was written on Monday. And now, we’ve had the readings and the open studios and a “supper club” dinner with several interesting architects, and a fun group thrift store visit. People are beginning to trickle away as of tonight and early tomorrow. This was a lovely good solid group of women here. I’m looking forward to the next group too, even knowing that I’ll need to confront my deafness yet again as I (slowly) get to know them. I’ll go home this weekend, to exchange comfort with my small pack, to refresh.


I’ll be out in the world Saturday, when ZIA Gallery’s annual group show opens. It’s supposed to snow. I’m spending Thanksgiving here. On December 4, The Return of the Exquisite Corpse – the last exhibition of the year and for awhile – opens at Printworks in Chicago; and on December 6, I will be in residence for Ragdale’s holiday party, when some of the world comes here.


A’s and A’s and A’s


My Women’s Studio Workshop class earned a collective A plus-plus-plus; I do so love the caliber of the people who come there. Once again, it was a sort-of dream class: everyone had a considerable practice already, and came to find ways to enhance that, or in search of another direction to take, or as a way to reconnect with the materials and/or to explore them further. We had an extra person, seven instead of six, with me being the eighth body; for a 3D class, that was pushing the limits of the smallish but beautifully-equipped studio, but we all managed the rather intricate dances we needed to do to navigate around the space. I learned a bit about my new-ish physical limits after straining my back rather badly the second day, but everyone was incredibly helpful, class and staff. I had two repeat folks: truly enjoyable Jim, from last year, who built himself a wee paper studio in his Manhattan space, and Terri from a few years ago, who had strayed away from paper for a while but came back to it with a diligent bang during the week. My only regret is that, after seven full days of working, I misunderstood the time the class would end on the last day (an hour earlier than I’d thought, which was also the opening of the au-gust festival) so we had no time to lay all the work – and I do mean ALL – out for a show and tell and photo session. You’ll have to trust me when I say that there was an incredible amount and variety.


Here we are: Maureen, Barbara, moi, Terri, Jim, Ana, Louise and Dale.


I also really enjoyed my roomie, Shelley Thorstensen, who taught a five-day intaglio workshop up front and rocked a mezzotint plate in the evenings. Early in the week, my class at the Morgan was cancelled, so I could not have asked for a better group nor better company nor a better experience all round for my official last-class-until-2017-at-least.


During the week as the class was going on, all of WSW was even more of a hive of activity than usual, everyone building up to Friday’s opening of the au-gust festival along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. I installed my two groupings after class on Thursday, in the woods with Woody who was superbly helpful. Sadly, I missed Friday’s festival opening,  by falling asleep after class at the kitchen table (!) and on Saturday, because my car began flashing brake / battery dashboard lights. I suspected the alternator, so instead of seeing the afternoon performances along the trail (some very intriguing tree costumes had appeared in the second floor studio), I spent too much time at a busy Jiffy Lube in Kingston that the amazing Chris Petrone found for me. Jiffy Lube said there were no problems, so I had an oil and some filter changes, and had the tires rotated because it was inexpensive and I was there, grabbed a very late lunch and made it back past crowds of happy attendees in time to catch the tail end of Barbara Westermann’s interactive workshop, then packed and loaded everything but what I needed for overnight. After gassing up and grabbing some dinner and road food, I was able to walk part of the rail trail in the twilight and see some of the other impressive installations, though the woods were getting too dark for photos. A HUGE A- plus and congratulations to WSW for au-gust!  It is amazing, and is going on through the end of the month with a series of public events (ear-fungi will quietly linger on.) Photos on my Facebook page.


Yesterday, up early in the morning mist, out to the car to find a lovely farewell: a beautiful healthy indigo plant from sweet Chris, waiting next to my driver’s side door. About two and half hours later, cruising through the last bit of the Catskills and admiring the bands of morning mist that had wafted up into lovely thin strands around the hilltops, BAM! The alternator blew. I managed to coast downhill past a retaining wall to be able to pull over onto the verge and put the flashers on. My partner Paul gets an A plus-plus-plus for insisting that we sustain a membership in triple A. After an initial frustrating 30 minutes of trying to understand a squeaky-voiced person over the phone, I was transferred to a man with a deep, enunciated voice I could mostly understand, and from that point on I’ve been truly taken care of. A highway patrolman came and parked behind me with his lights flashing until a huge truck came and hoisted up the car for a 60-mile tow (on my route!). I’ve just spent the night in a king-sized bed in a motel room overlooking the Susquehanna river, while a part is on its way to the very good triple A garage. The indigo plant got a drink and spent the night in the window with the garage’s plants. I’m awaiting the text that tells me I can be back on the way to Cleveland and the SmithSanctuary soon…where I will say a-a-a-hhh.


Buddy, who hung out with me for several hours at the garage yesterday.



A visit to ZIA and my part of Anne’s current back room installation.




I like the light.


Building with the landscape and an eye to the work’s eventual deterioration.

It’s been a full, fine marathon. The summer studios became operational instantly, and I realized that they had already evolved to accommodate the back arthritis I didn’t consciously know about before this year. I have things with wheels so that full buckets don’t have to be carried; instead of attaching a hose, I use a milk-crate stand for draining the beater so full buckets don’t need to be lifted up from the floor. The studio transforms like lightning now from beater room to production to wood shop to reasonably comfortable seated task space. I still keep looking ahead to next year as I work: not only the garden but the studio is in full glory in the summer and I’ve never yet had the opportunity to use it for the whole season.



These eyes follow me, like living with an owl (I would like to live with an owl). Chance has become a sweet calm studio dog, just wants to be with me, stays out of my way as I do my working-dances, but observes everything. Often, when I bend down to the floor, there is just the lightest touch of his nose sniffing the top of my skull. He apparently approves of what happens in – or exudes from – my head while I’m in studio mode. He will occasionally do a full-body twitch when a machine is turned on, or when big things move as the space (frequently) changes shape, but he reacts no more than that. These things would once have sent him into a fear-frenzy. Now he will even take a good long nap while I am at an extended seated task like casting ear-fungi.

final with logos

Whatever I get done today finishes the studio time this session (sigh), tomorrow is packing and shipping two shows and a few last-minute outside errands, Monday to pack everything and square away, Tuesday, load and road.

Small February Steps

I took advantage of being forced to sit to work on some thought-provoking interview questions. After the usual initial word-struggle I’m making good progress on the answers, and doing that made me feel that I was making progress in general instead of being thwarted by whatever my skeleton was up to.


Eventually, I couldn’t stand waiting for p/t, so I began cautiously stretching where it felt like I needed to stretch. After a few days, that began to help a bit. I was able to cart supplies to the warm upstairs studio to embark on the first small steps of the artwork I planned for this winter: testing new dyes. They have some silly names, but they are the hues I wanted. The next wee step will be combining them with colors I already have, mixing tones.


Constructed / DeConstructed closed and I did the post-show work in careful increments: Monday, I drove down to Chicago Heights, de-installed, packed, loaded, drove home and that was the limit for my back. Tuesday, we unloaded while the weather was good. Paul kindly moved the work up to the second floor while I rested, leaving me enough back to pull out the crates, repack them, and move them back into the storage area.

My fearful pup has literally just stepped over a training threshold: he’s gone out the door onto the back porch while on leash on three separate days, not yet without some panic on his part. But he settles quite quickly and then when we do a walk around the tiny space he gets big rewards and praise, and we go back in to continue schooling in our safe-house. Like learning to accept the halter, he needs this stage done in baby steps, but he is making them. Yesterday, another small (but huge, for him) step, out onto the front porch, where scary cars, trucks, people and dogs often move past.


I haz dog walk envy.

Getting a referral for p/t involved x-rays. I did not throw out my hip.  Arthritis has ‘significantly’ invaded my lower spine, as well as the knees, and is accompanied by scoliosis. There were daily steps through the health care maze before we succeeded in scheduling my initial p/t appointment; but the first available is a month from now. So, I’ve also been researching what else might be available to help me learn about and deal with this new challenge to mobility. I sincerely hope to be taking a whole lot of guided small steps to alleviate it, sooner than mid-March.


Out in the world, I was pleased to finally see a blog mention that had nothing to do with (S)Edition, but I also compiled a partial list of sites that have featured it during its internet travels. I was very grateful to discover that I had a small presence at the gigantic Codex Foundation book fair that closed yesterday in Berkeley, thanks to Alicia Bailey at Abecedarian Gallery, who had Manifest, O on display, and Emily Martin’s Pantone Postcard Project.

And, if you are someone who has ideas for outdoor public artworks, installation and/ or video or performance based, you should be aware of this opportunity. The deadline is March 1st!  I’ll be participating with some installations while teaching at WSW at the same time.


Dogs + Art

aadogwhat The exhibition work has reached a tiny mandatory resting place; my part of the taxes are late, and need to happen now. I’ve been back at the web site work (still unpublished), making plans for Chance’s surgery aftercare and a quick trip next weekend to deliver work, see friends, have a break (hooray!)

Dogs share some similarities with art. For one thing, everybody’s got an opinion about them: how to train, what food / collar / equipment to use, when (or if) to neuter, and, if they are shelter dogs, what breed they might be, and on and on. I don’t even want to begin cataloguing opinions about art; just use your own. We are increasingly perplexed about ‘what’ Chance might be: he changes every few days. The latest  development is random patterning in his coat, which is still short but getting a bit longer and weirdly wavy and whorl-y. Could we be headed back towards one of his original suspected breeds, a Flat-Coated Retriever? Last week, when he was looking quite collie-like to me, someone at the training club asked, “Is that a Catahoula?” and this past Tuesday, by which time I was sure I had imagined any resemblance, “Is he a Collie?” (He did, incidentally, rather rock his puppy class that evening; I was proud). The club folks are dog-fanciers, people well versed in breed knowledge. On the street I get, “Ooh, what kind of dog is that?” and now I just reply: “Rescue mutt.” Someday, I might be tempted to get his DNA tested out of sheer curiosity, but really, as I’ve said, it’s who he becomes that’s important. Somehow, it all makes me think of my (too many) years in art schools, when students were relentlessly pressured to identify with this or that movement, ‘-ism’, or especially the latest trend garnering rarified buzz in some obscure academic journal. As both student (when we were force-fed Fluxus) and instructor (when I focused on the creator’s intention versus audience reception) and even just as an observer, what I cared about was an individual work’s impact: what was evoked by encountering this work? Authenticity never, ever needed to be justified by alignment with a theoretical basis for me. A good dog is a good dog, no matter her/ his bloodlines; art that is effective for me is a visual, visceral experience, regardless (and sometimes, in spite) of the sociopolitical views of its maker. aadogwhatart

Here, the artist cleverly employs a traditional rainy season palette of earth-based pigment, and a background patterning which, though muted, clearly pays homage to pointillism.

When making my own artwork, the pieces that tend to hold the most fascination for me are those that begin with an impulse, the mysterious, even mystical process that has a long and still-current history of being denigrated in academic discourse, labelled ‘intuitive.’ The spark may be something that I see (in the world or in my mind), a phrase, a small piece of a technical procedure or history; anything, really. But it begins a process of experimentation and discovery that I trust implicitly: these are the works that ask to be made, that teach me, shape me as they unfurl. They happen for reasons that are not always clear at the beginning and may change radically, require a lot of physical, mental or spiritual grappling, and evolve into something else along the way, and they require faith.


In a later departure, the artist turns to environmental work.  A found object is profoundly manipulated by unskilled brute force, in a stunning tribute to the principles of canine liberation, particularly addressing the issue of crushing boredom imposed by a blatantly speciesist human refusal to engage with inclement weather.

So it has been with dogs who come into and share my life. With Lupe, it was a simple flare in her glance at the Chicago pound. Face, the Supreme Dog of my life, I adopted sight unseen: she was a feral dog who found my dear departed Bro in rural Michigan. When he called to ask if I wanted her, something said: it’s time. With Chance, there was again that feeling that it was time, and an image that leapt out to me. He has something essential to teach me, as much as I’m teaching him, and we are only beginning the process. I don’t know yet what it will be, but I’m still taking it as I took him: on faith…even when I’m (literally) wrestling with him.


…and again.



This one is titled Required Reading.

Here are the one-day installations that happened at Ragdale on Sunday.  It was a great time: so good to see old friends, meet new folks, learn more about some excellent work, and share excitement over new plans together with poignant stories of Ragdale’s past.  For me it was also an opportunity (as was St. Louis) to try some new things, as well as just a huge boost, feeling a bit of what is in store: my fast-upcoming lovely long residency.



Two shots of its interior.  I may be doing more with this…

Overall, I’m pleased with how these outdoor works are developing. The pull in this direction has been strong.  Though I’ve heard (and read) the term ‘interventions’ quite a bit, always in a ‘good’ context, I’m not convinced that’s what they are.  To me, interventions are works that recontextualize what is available at the site: think Andy Goldsworthy.  I suppose these do that in some ways, but in a long, long loop of using often imported plant materials; when they are left to decay, they bring in very little that is unusual to the sites, contributing mostly more cellulose to the soil. But when new and still fully formed, they are definitely, intentionally foreign within the site, gentle intrusions. I like them best when there are no labels, when they simply appear without fanfare. Perhaps they’re better termed ‘apparitions’.


aMT2This piece was originally made to be part of a series, titled Mirror-Touch, to be installed in St. Louis. I abandoned it for the last post’s lichen reprisal piece when the necessary installation method came into question. With Ragdale’s solid cooperation, I tried it out here.  It will likely go further, soon.  

Below are two of several works by Margot McMahon, who had a fascinating story to tell of her early interactions with Sylvia Shaw Judson at Ragdale, well before it became a residency program; that influence is so readily apparent in these works.



There was also a sound installation by Shawn Decker, some of which was recorded on the prairie, and a reading by Dan Vera, who was in residence. (I had met him last week while gathering my bundle of milkweed). And the conference room was filled with wonderful work by Jane Fulton Alt, including photos, encaustic works, and two beautiful books (one published commercially, and another fantastically effective handbound collaboration with Teresa Pankratz).  All the work was based on the annual controlled prairie burns; and a video was continuously showing above the conference room fireplace. All the works had such a direct connection to this place, showing its enormous influence.


I also brought That’s Life back home; it was created here.  During my brief talk, I forgot to also point out a piece that Alice bought to be permanently displayed at Ragdale, which lives just a few steps away.

Alas, the substitute camera I’ve been using gave up the ghost just after I shot Margot’s works; it took a great deal of sheer stubbornness to later extract these photos.  I ordered a new one yesterday!

And that was the last of the 2013’s public tasks until ZIA’s group show opening in November. I’m breathing in, sleeping more, and planning harvests and new experiments: five weeks of bliss ensue soon!



Learning In Public

Though I can’t at the moment remember where, I recently read an article that defines an artist as “someone who learns in public.” I laughed out loud. Love that: am always living it, especially this crazy week.

Before heading to St. Louis on Wednesday, I had some fun with these:




On location at the Pulitzer Museum on Thursday, I discovered that the trees  these were made for were much narrower than I had thought.  I had been sent measurements, and photos, and made the pieces to fit the average. Nope.  They were way too wide, which immediately affected placement, and required massive adjustments; I worked all day.

Krysten Watson, a fantastic young woman, assisted me in the morning. Not only was she an excellent second set of eyes, I tasked her with marking the spot from which a word might be discerned. She came up with this bit of absolute perfection:


Later I added a hint.


As you may have noticed, I’m currently stuck with with an old camera which is not functioning well, and could not give me an overview shot.  Here are the individual pieces in sequence:





Soon, I’ll report back on the great wee bits of the conference that I attended.  After the (fun) panel yesterday morning, I drove home to work on tomorrow: more outdoor works.  This afternoon, folks in St. Louis will be bussed around town to look at shows; this is a scheduled stop.  Late last night texts came in:


Truly embracing today’s blog title with this work!

Departures, Delight

Whoo.  I came home from Ragdale today and am heading to Cleveland to the Morgan and the Watermarks conference tomorrow, writing this quick pictorial blog while my clothes are in the dryer.  I don’t have to tell you that Ragdale was fabulous; it never fails to be so.  All sorts of things happened since the last post.

My main project (something I’ve been thinking about for a year) needed lots of drying time.  Some of it I spent scouting for locations (there were very specific criteria), and I kept coming back to this:

The broken-off stump is perhaps 12 feet tall; not only did it meet all my criteria, closer to the path,  directly in front of the stump was this:

a big, beautiful fungus, close to a foot wide, right on the ground. Perfect.  While I scouted locations, made drawings, and thought about how to begin, I made two more copies of You Never Know (#2 and #3), just to get the juices flowing.

This is #3.

Then, (after making a cast of my own ear for reference) I built the clay ear shown in the last post, and made the plaster mold also shown previously.  It took almost three days to dry out, but was helped along by Ragdale magic that came through Linda.  I surprised myself by making this

on the heated floor, of Morgan kozo with the green bark intact, and some of my milkweed in little round sheets and some of the unbeaten fiber.

A little mycelium madness – with NO added color (though I had dyed a few small batches of Thai kozo before beginning).

Finally, I could cast the ear in flax, adding some  removable structural and integral installing devices, hand building the back, and setting it to dry with Linda’s magic: wee metal fans she just happened to buy up in Wisconsin the day I needed them though she didn’t know that!  (I now own them). It was a thick, heavy casting that took 2 and a half days to dry, and in the meantime, I went back to that lovely heated floor and built something else that had developed during evening drawing and research sessions:

Mitosis anaphase in dyed kozo with mixed flax, overeaten abaca and dyed kozo sheets in two intensities, with added milkweed fiber (shiny and a bit iridescent; beautiful).  The whole time I was making it, I kept thinking about paramecium, so after the art walk (which was excellent, but during which nothing got done), instead of spending a day making milkweed sheets as I’d planned (I can do that anywhere), I took the art walk evening off to think and draw, and the next day (all day) built this:

The ear had dried and shrunk and warped (with some control by me) during that digression, and had also had some after building to cover up openings.

And then:

Color scheming on top of the original drawings – with erasable Crayola colored pencils!  I’d forgotten my Prismacolors and bought these, cheap – and I like ’em! Then dyeing, and then…!

(late afternoon light)

(morning light)

This has me as excited as I was when I began building (S)Edition and LISTEN; it’s the very beginning of an extensive ongoing project.  More are on the way to Ragdale and I’ve already got a confirmed second location, and two more possibilities.

 But first, I’m off to Cleveland! I loved this residency.


I am feeling quiet and private after a rich holiday weekend.  The time didn’t go quite according to my very loose plan: I’m much further ahead on some tasks than I had anticipated, and still sluggishly behind on others.

So here is some very good and impressive news from out there. Granted, it seems slow, but bravo to Denmark for taking the official lead.  On a tiny scale, I was pleased to be termed an activist, as well, though activism through art seems to be an even slower, oblique process, one in which artists are largely preaching to the choir. Hermine Ford articulates my stance almost exactly, much better than I can myself, in this essay:

“Artists are not obligated to play a public political role, or express politics in their work though they may, and often do. However, as private citizens they have the same responsibilities as do all citizens of a democracy. I am a very political person, but I don’t make political art. However, one can make the case that all art is political on some level. The best art comes from a place of deep freedom, freedom and the empowerment to explore oneself, and through that to find commonality as well as difference. One could say that in itself is a political act. I do not experience a conflict between public and private concerns. The work I do as an artist provides the opportunity to make those concerns one and the same. I make work for myself and for others. If, through my work I provide a life raft for myself, I also provide a life raft for a few others. The individual’s responsibility, both in the public realm and in our own work, is to stay clean, “speak truth to power,” keep all dictators, including dictators of taste, the market, the academy, at bay.”