Small, growing sparks

Sorry for the radio silence here; it’s been an intense two weeks.

aaasmallsparx1

I went home between sessions, but unexpectedly missed the ZIA Gallery opening. We had a record snowfall for a first snow, about a foot where we live, much more in the western suburbs, much less just a few neighborhoods to the east. But out running errands the afternoon of the opening, a van spun out in front of me and just missed hitting me; I said aloud, “OK, that’s enough.” and stayed home. I did get this little grouping, collectively titled ‘Liminal (Phase Two)’ to the gallery and got to see most of the show a few days before. These were all done at Ragdale while I still had to prop up my knee and limit movement.

Liminal2

The return to Ragdale for the second session was beautiful with all the snow; it melted a couple of days later. I had completed a piece that I just didn’t like much before the final  days of the previous session. But, I  really liked parts of it; as a combined whole, they just weren’t speaking to me, not even in the way I had originally envisioned the piece doing. I gutted it the first week, struggling, trying different things. Then came all the shootings and all the vitriol on social media; I kept my exposure limited, but still tried to keep informed about what was actually happening, and to read any good suggestions for solutions, while keeping to the studio. The piece began to take on some of my angst and some of my emotion over the uselessness, and I let it; that was the spark the work needed, not to look away from those things, but to allow them to speak. It’s become a small installation. A couple more works are in various stages; my goal is to complete them all before I leave, to take home finished work. Somewhere in there it snowed again and melted again.

aaasmallsparkspod

I worked long, long hours, especially last weekend, because I knew I would miss a good bit or all of this one; I went home Friday and just arrived back here a few hours ago. Tomorrow is the big Ragdale holiday party, and afterwards, we grow from a small group of residents to a full house for the final week.

aaasmallsparkstorso

This was my ‘torso’ for Printwors’ Return of the Exquisite corpse, done before I left for Peters valley last summer. Milkweed on the brain even then…

Friday was the opening of this show at Printworks, with its attendant sadness. I had planned (since last spring!) to go, but had an important appointment beforehand. The timing of that was pushed back, the process took quite awhile, so I also (sadly) missed that opening. But I will make a visit after the residency, and also attend the memorial. Sid was a very nice person.

ViviSweet

Just waking from a nap. She has a pale blue swirl in each eye…

But the reason I missed the reception was compelling: meet Miz Vivi! She is eight weeks old, an Aussie mix, adopted from the same shelter as Chance, but she’s only spent three days there; she was born and raised in foster care. We decided to adopt her while I was home between sessions; we fell for her, hard, even though the timing was not ideal. Paul volunteered to be a single-pup-caregiver during this week to make it happen.  No, she is not a ‘replacement for Chance.’ That is utterly impossible. But she is her own spark, and will grow to become the cure for the dog-shaped rent in the fabric of our lives. And she is so sweet! When the shelter aide brought her to me, sitting on the floor of an enclosure, she came into my lap with tail wagging madly, crawled up immediately to lick my face, and fell asleep in my lap on the drive home. I’ve just spent a delicious, joyful, and funny 24 hours with the whole new pack, and for once, it was a wee bit difficult to leave to come here.

viv2_2

New moves, letting go.

1amoony

(I’ve been writing this in wee bits, off and on during breaks, for well over a week, then vacillating about publishing.)

Last week, I turned down three more teaching-related things (one even had a residency attached.) It’s a little odd still. I’ve traversed the better part of the past five years by swinging from lovely offer to lovely offer as if from vine to vine, only rarely interrupted by application processes. It’s been grand, and I’m very grateful.

Even though I’ve been fortunate to be able to detach from the application-oriented push push push and the cult of busyness that is standard in the arts, it’s still become too much. As we head into fall, only the work for two more exhibitions needs to be ironed out (and finished), two public talks, four openings, and then: I let go.

indigo

Indigo sprouting future indigo.

There is some sadness, because I do love much of that life. Will I return? Retire? At the same time, there’s a feeling of elated anticipation each time I say, “thank you, not this year.” I’m not sure where I’m headed. I think of the Smiths’ observation as they left the U.S. to travel at random: “spiders fall to float – they start a strand of web, then jump into the void hoping the air currents will carry them to the other side. If they don’t, they crawl back up the web and fall again and again until they reach the other side.” I’m ready to float, and it’s not necessary to know exactly where the other side is. I’m most interested in what I might discover on my way there.

1alines

Not-knowing has made blogging problematic. What’s ‘worth’ sharing while floating? Then I read this fine interview with Regin Igloria. Particularly the section on walking, but also the whole, resonated with my current questioning and challenges like the remembered hearing of a gong. Following the project on social media extended the vibrations. So, I decided to write:

Since I came home in late August, there’s been another arthritis flare, in a new place. I’ve been prescribed another round of p/t soon (well, in HMO time.) But p/t alone isn’t enough now. This year, I need to learn to move in new ways, until those ways become ingrained, my default mode. When I’m focused on  deadlines, on teaching, when I’m hurrying, I’ve had a lifelong tendency to completely forget my body even as I zip around, totally dependent on its capabilities, particularly its flexibility. As that keeps changing, I no longer know my body. I know I can do the un-learning and re-learning, but it’s a long process. When arthritis first arrived, it took a full year to learn to walk without turning my feet out without thinking about it. Now, I need to do all that I do without twisting my spine: all day, every day, every activity.

1aeardown

Ragdale ear down, the original; it lasted two years, and it will regenerate.

For awhile, I despaired of this year’s milkweed harvest. It takes at least a month to get into p/t. Then I decided to rehearse / train for the harvest on my own. It feels a bit like doing a perpetual robot dance, turning my entire body with my feet before bending forward, instead of swiveling at my waist, all the while working to override a lifetime’s physical instinct. I slowly worked up to moving mindfully while bending and bending to weed the garden: the dress rehearsal. Wednesday, on the equinox, I drove up to Ragdale and went for it.

It was slow, slow: gazing around, planning my path, wading through the towering dense bluestem, pausing and plotting each move. I fell once, early, afterwards remembering to stop, breathe, look, enjoy. Walking round the meadow, gathering up the small piles into one huge one, then carrying that to the shade of the Meadow Studio porch was the roughest patch. On the porch, I accommodated my skeleton with a bucket to sit on (and one to collect the trimmed leaves) and a sequence that let me work by bending only forward or side to side (which is still ok to do.) I paced myself, and got the job done with only a small amount of residual stiffness the next day. I feel absurdly proud and pleased, as if I were a beginning athlete, a casual jogger who’s just run in her first race and completed the distance. (My reward was an absolutely perfect long, paced studio day the next day.)

1ado

Out in the world:

Here is a radio broadcast, with an article and images of the Embarrassment of Riches show. I can’t hear it, but the images make me even sadder to have had to miss the reception and panel. The fabulous Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition Words | Matter is heating up! The website is still-expanding (eventually all the artists will have a dedicated page) but it’s live. This and this are two events I’m participating in. I particularly like the Toni Morrison quote in Eileen’s description of my talk. There’s more coming up, but not online yet. Neither is the exhibition in Utah, but the print catalog arrived, and it’s a nice show.

1aabc

Last but not least, hooray for just one of Aimee Lee’s many fall undertakings! I’m impressed. Happy super moon eclipse to all.

1axperiment

A’s and A’s and A’s

aascreens

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.

aaclass

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

aanails

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.

aashirts

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.

aacostume

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.

aabuddy

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

May Be This Way

aaZIAdots

I always love Anne Hughes’ installations. I like this one even better with the duct dots above.

The ZIA opening reception was very, very nice and warm. A surprising and diverse group of long-ago and newer friends attended (including one person who actually saw the announcement in the newspaper rather than on social media. Think of it.) I appreciated the support, and also had a very fine time catching up. I had no time to take more than a couple of quick snapshots afterwards. I remember sheepishly posing for tons of photos, but have only seen three. This shot by Linda M. Barrett is the absolute best of them (it’s one of the things she specializes in, and she did direct me a bit -“To your left. Chin up now!”- which is part of her work and it shows. In the others, I was somewhat sad to see the arthritis so blatantly visible, affecting my posture.)

LindaBarrettphotoZIA

On social media, Linda appropriately captioned this with the hashtag: scale is everything!

I got the new work onto the site a few days after the reception.  My hands-down favorite piece in the new series sold. Here is the series, and the news page will link you to a couple of other new works. Done! I also showed some older works and Anne made a great selection from ZIA’s inventory, so it’s a substantial grouping of works.

aashoot

For the month of May, my main preoccupation will be nurturing: the gardens and continuing to school my body against arthritis (Chance training goes without saying, and it’s been going well.) Let that be a warning regarding the content of the next few blogs (and most of the rest of this one.)

Monday after the opening was my first garden day. I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket to rig a support around a burgeoning peony. Afterwards, I simply could not rise, so I slid off the bucket and scuttled, crablike, to a place where I could grab the house to pull myself up with my arms. That was a bit of a shock, especially since working while standing has been so very much better. I definitely need my body to be functioning more than that.

Last Friday, the day before the ZIA opening, I ‘graduated’ from the spine portion of p/t, with a good, workable and flexible routine. This week, we began to focus anew on the knees, with the added perspective of the spine issues. The therapist gently but frankly reminded me that arthritis is a degenerative disease. So, I need to keep a better grip on it, and I’m very glad to be able to take this time to get there. The hospital p/t will end in mid-June with a blended back-and-knee routine in place, and I’m researching a few additional options to complement it. Meanwhile, yesterday was a beautiful t-shirt warm day, and after a good, calm(!) session with Chance, I did the exercises out in the back yard, and the mat work on the deck, looking up at endless clean spring blue, breathing it with the movement.

Then, the rest of the day in the garden, with this mobility solution, which worked nicely.

aacommodation

This tiny strip of garden got trashed and made even tinier when the big fence went back up, while I was at Ragdale last fall. Dormant plants were chopped out and tossed into a pile that was under snow when I came home. I found them during a late-December thaw and just threw chunks of roots into the garden or the vegetable pots before it (immediately) snowed again. Yesterday I pulled off dead material and re-planted the ones that had sent up shoots, while clearing up the first of 8 garden spaces. Bits of everything survived, even indigo (!) and I think I see new growth from the young kozo, whose branches were randomly snapped off. Life is good in all its forms, though it might not make interesting blogs.

aacleanstrip

The space is one of the few places in the yard that gets all-day sun, so it’s important. 

Out in the world, I was very, very sad to read about the passing of Jane Farver. While at Spaces Gallery in Cleveland, she was a fantastic early supporter, who not only helped me to see the immense value in following my own odd winding path, she also shored it up. I am definitely not the only artist so influenced; she will be missed.

aaforJane

Blooming for Jane.

Zip Zip ZIA

aaziawindo

Just a quick check-in. It’s been a zippy-busy week, so I have had very little media time. The ZIA show opens this evening; I had a bit of a preview yesterday when I dropped off an older piece (there was room for it after all) and it looks wonderful. Anne Hughes has such a facility with space. I particularly liked how she presented the new series.

aajoomchidetailJoomchi always makes me happy.

I closed out the pre-show studio marathon last weekend with my kind of celebration: joomchi! In this case, it became text-pages for a new book. The book was bound Monday, then all the work was packed, loaded, delivered and unpacked Tuesday, and I got an excellent soon-to-be-warm-weather haircut. Wednesday was paperwork paperwork paperwork and a return to twice-weekly hospital p/t sessions. Thursday I began addressing a whole huge load of things that fell by the wayside during show prep, Friday another session with the physical therapist, errands, and the drop off at ZIA. More soon; things will calm down a bit after today.

aajoomchi2

I used the very last of the ‘bad’ hanji sheets, which for me are the ‘best’ sheets. I love the sheet-formation anomalies, and what the joomchi process does with those.  Now, I’ll have to make do with decently-formed sheets, until I can make my own ‘bad’ ones.

Out in the non-ZIA world, the MCBA has sent out a flyer for The Contained Narrative show that opened on April 8, and they have published a (very) full list of artists in the show, and work categories. Book As Environment / Environment As Book not only suits (S)Edition well, it’s a category I’m very happy to see. (click to enlarge)

MCBA_ContainedNarrative_opening-1

March-ing onward

Apologies for the 3 week disappearance, though I can’t imagine that anyone, anywhere waits with bated breath for these posts. I just needed a dose of hibernation and radio silence. Nothing untoward happened except for something midway between a mild bout of flu and a bad cold last week.  Nothing particularly great happened either, except a lovely, highly effective, out-of-pocket visit to a fantastic massage therapist who really, really helped the hip and back problems, and released a few other knots I didn’t even know I had. Slow progress was made on many different types of rather dull work, I now have nine shows scheduled for 2015, and out in the world a nice person I don’t know curated a page of my work on a social media platform I don’t participate in (thank you.)

aaChance1

The only thing I seem to want to write about from the past three weeks is pup training. Since February 16, Chance and I have been Out On The Sidewalk (!) several times on short walks, with varying degrees of success, but no trauma and only a wee bit of drama. (The first thing that frightened him was ideal: a snowman. I was able to coax him over to sniff; it’s made from something he loves.) We’re taking it slowly, and have gotten up to about ⅔ of the block before SUVs or people or dogs go by and the big scary world starts to rattle him. Some days we just watch the world from the porch, only technically outdoors, where he gets big rewards for ignoring troubling things on cue. On too-cold or crap weather days we work on leash finesse indoors, and other things. We conquered one huge fear using the paper studio: Hose Horror. Last summer, the mere presence of the hose made him hysterical. I had to shut him indoors to water the garden. Now he lies down, intently but quietly watching while I spray water into buckets in front of him: papermaker’s pup etiquette. Chance loves his daily school session as long as we change it up, which keeps it good for me, too. On days when one of us feels impatient or cranky or has the flu, we do a review. Sometimes, like yesterday, Chance chooses the lesson. He repeatedly shied away from the harness, which is unusual. Instead he sat quietly, maintaining eye contact, asking “Please, can we do anything else?” I got out his travel crate and he instantly snapped to attention, tail wagging. He was delighted to show me how calm he could be lying inside while I zipped parts closed, moved it and myself around. He repeatedly entered and exited on cue, then voluntarily stayed inside for long periods while I wrote this. There were helicopters going by overhead and I think he welcomed an extra-safe enclosure, his collapsible cave. Works for me, and he was quite proud of himself, too.

AnneshowI’m about to enter a studio marathon phase and to start seeds for the spring garden, and tomorrow and all through the weekend, Chicago will actually have temperatures above freezing, hooray! All in good time to close out the end-of-winter-hibernation with a ritual hair-shearing. I’m looking forward to Anne Hughes’ Saturday opening at ZIA with Matthew Schofield, and especially Aimee’s excellent return to Chicago (and my alma mater) next week!  I’m really happy for Shawn Sheehy, whose trade version of the amazing Welcome to the Neighborwood is now available. Check out the video!

SAIC lecture

Watershed Week

Farm

Today’s photos are some of the ‘farm’ portions of my little Chicago yard gardens; here, tomatoes, hot little peppers, chives and marigolds to protect them all, and a primrose whose color echoes the (millions!) of little tomato blooms and makes me smile.

Finally, after two months of uncertainty, on Thursday we learned much more about what is in store for us regarding our home situation; we now have a solid plan A, B and C, all of which follow the same preliminary schedule.  One of the things we had been uncertain about was whether or not I’d be able to travel to teach the two summer classes. Fortunately, I can and will, and am really looking forward to that once again.

Farmherbs

The back-porch, two-steps-outside-the-kitchen herbs: rosemary, stevia (which I didn’t like as a sweetener until Sandy Bernat gave me a fresh leaf to taste last year: delicious) with more basil just seeded after eating the spring rocket / aragula that grew in that pot, cilantro turning into coriander and some basil, and Greek oregano, tarragon and lemon thyme, with more basil, dill and summer savory seedlings just getting ready to be transferred).

So, now I’m out of limbo and facing a pretty packed schedule for the next three weeks, but: joy! Much of it involves the studio, after today’s (lengthy) other tasks (there will be more of those, but they’ll be interspersed with studio, accomplished during drying times).  I am off to make that happen.

Farmherbsground2

Some herbs do better in the ground: smoky fennel, nigella (there’s tons more in several other locations), a new golden sage, and the lavender that was compromised by the polar vortex winter, but coming back, mixed with a few marigolds and cleome.

Out in the world: Mary Ellen Long has published a few photos from our show at Abecedarian Gallery: thanks!

farmmint

The mint patch with a stray dill (and a kozo experi-mint, weathering). On the other side of this tree and in other locations, lots of lemon balm, aka Melissa.

Farmtrim

It’s a watershed time for the gardens as well; except for a few transplants, the planting and seeding is done and it’s definitely time for the trimming back of the mulberry I’ll harvest and the dogwood in front; yesterday the City of Chicago beat me to it, chopping a big chunk of this maple away from the power lines.  (Look at that clematis-loaded trellis!)

Flyfur

There are other types of shedding going on: Lupe’s dropping her massive winter inner coat and Chance loves to chase the flying fur! The buckets in the background are full of soaking iris stems, harvested courtesy of my neighbors, ready for the cook…