Marched Out

 

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A palette of texture and color I worked with.

Sadly, much of March was “another month, another drug.” I’ve now spent nearly nine months ‘testing’ drugs, and still: the original condition continues unabated. The March drug not only does not work, it brought on some full-blown panic attacks, something I hadn’t experienced before. They were scary, quite physical and exhausting. Luckily, now that I know what the hell is happening, I am able to shut them down before they truly begin. I also discovered (by accident) that I was prescribed (and am still taking) a second med for a different condition that was, in fact, a side effect of one of the earlier ineffective drugs. This was never mentioned, and when I brought it up, I became truly cognizant of the term ‘mansplaining.’ I’m fed up, and have left that doctor. I have an appointment in a few days with a new primary care doc, who, though still within the same big-pharm-driven system, is a woman. Meanwhile the arthritis has invaded three new locations. I hate writing about this all almost as much as experiencing it, so hence: no-blog March.

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There were a lot of these lovelies mid-month.

Those oddities aside, there *have* been good things: it *is* spring and things are popping up in the gardens and the daffodils and hyacinths are blooming and the early trees are beginning to bud. I’m watching and waiting and hoping to see my milkweed return. We humans have new phones and can text each other, which is another blessing.

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And I did get into the studio to to finish up work for ZIA Gallery’s spring exhibition: Of Materials, Fiber and Book Arts. And I did go out to the opening reception, which was nicely busy and bustling. I enjoyed seeing a number of old friends, and meeting several new folks. It was all quite lovely and a rarity these days. The show runs from March 19th – April 30.

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And since it’s been announced, now it can be told: my single ‘outside’ project this year will be participating in Hand Papermaking magazine’s newest portfolio, which pairs established (old) artists with emerging (young) artists. Though we haven’t met in person yet, I’m working in collaboration with Katharine Lark DeLamater, who’s been just great. Exciting!

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And of course there is Vivi! Vivi! Vivi! She came through a March of difficult teething like a champ; her milk teeth just didn’t want to let go. For awhile she had double teeth and a cartoon – crocodile grin, till the baby needle teeth were forced out. Often they broke first; I found shards of little teeth everywhere and her frozen chew-rags were spotted with blood. None of the other pups I’ve lived with went through that; usually, it’s simply been a process of noticing a milk tooth gone, and then seeing the bud of the adult tooth emerge. Though she had (cute) cranky moments during the process, usually just before nap time, she remained a sweet pup no matter how much her mouth irritated her, and now she has all her growing adult teeth. She also did great on her last day of puppy school, even though we had missed the two previous sessions. She even did some things she hadn’t practiced, walking up and down ramps, and past toys and open bags of treats, which truly impressed me.

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She is a happy, funny little dog, very bright and inquisitive, and no matter what is happening out in the world or inside my body, she brings joy (and she and the rest of our pack bring comfort, too.) Tomorrow, she’ll be six months old.

Small, growing sparks

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Extending

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Interim (and out)

It is of course a strange time. I can appear to have crawled out from under the initial impact of Chance’s death: I get things done, but I am definitely not completely present yet. Some of the grief is still raw. Most is simply missing him, a constant ache. It is the same for Paul and Lupe as we slowly begin to mend our pack, tentatively creating the new pattern.

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I will miss this lovely old weathered wood.

Movement seems to be what we all need. It’s good. Lupe wants to walk and walk and walk when we go out. I’m immersed in a new round of p/t. Indoors, we carry on with heavy cleaning, and outdoors we’ve cleared the way for builders; the back deck and front stairs have gotten too rickety and are being replaced, so we’ve radically chopped two tall, dense thickets of dogwood and moved everything that’s stored under the deck. We got the house plants in and the last of the garden harvested before an early freeze. I got winter clothes out, summer clothes put away, and so on. Tiring physical work that leaves the mind relatively free to wander where it needs to go: that’s good.

During the darkest time, I completed these…

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…and sent them off. They’re collectively titled Liminal (Stage One) and they’ll be on view in Exceptional, which opens tomorrow.

Mostly I’m writing to say that Words | Matter is excellent, excellent, excellent. I got to see the completed library for the first time on the 6th, when there was a surprisingly large turnout for the Caxton Club event. On the 14th, I spent the afternoon looking and reading and touching, and then having light fun conversation with a few nice folks who were there, forgetting to even take out the camera. It was the best possible way to ease into the evening, when I got my fervent wish and had a lovely small talk with just seven people. It was like the ‘artist’s talk’ version of this past summer’s porch class: intimate, calm, good. I brought haptic-language book things and we read with our hands. As it was the day was perfect, surrounded by books to see and touch, pulling me gently and quietly into the infinite ways that books can cloak you in themselves. At the same time it was reminiscent of long lovely afternoons in the library as a child, with a comfortable dose of neighborhood coffee shop. If you are in town, it can do all that for you, too. Go!

Braithewaite Gallery / Southern Utah Museum of Art has published a video of the entire ABC exhibition here.

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My Ragdale residency begins on Monday, so we’re steadily, quietly getting our tasks to a stopping point while I’m prepping materials and packing. I’m so looking forward to stepping out of time, onto the prairie, into the studio, and into the boundless embrace of that touchstone place.

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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New moves, letting go.

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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And now…

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A good place to chop up a stem harvest on a hot day, with assistant.

Home a bit over a week now and beginning to feel…fresh, as if this is a new time, a new paradigm. A lot of clearing out has happened indoors, making way for some fine, needed changes. Unpacking happened. A great deal of chopping back and chopping down and a few harvests were completed outdoors. Though the big harvest is past, I did get home in time to eat some tomatoes and more are ripening here and there. The indigo plant has its new home. Chance training goes on daily and mostly well, and of course there’s been inevitable bouts of admin.

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I still pause every year as school season starts, but this year it’s with not a single pang at all, just gratitude. As soon as I began to breathe in this no-teaching year, to feel it peacefully settling around me, there were three tempting requests in my inbox. I’ve been contemplating (and constructing some initial parameters for) just one of them: a new reprisal of an old way of working that seems to be falling into place after falling into my lap. I had just barely begun to think of it as a future possibility when I was asked to try: win / win. That’s all I’ll say now but the potential is excellent.

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Jalapeño, nigella, lupin, lunaria.

Mostly, my mind is on the immediate future in the studio. Early last week, I managed to quickly harvest the daylily stems on a very hot day (a smaller crop this year, taken about a week later than I like.) Working in small increments during the week they were cut, soaked, cooked, rinsed and are soaking again, ready for the beater today. A fiber prep mini-marathon is underway: the stems plus abaca, flax, water hyacinth root and backyard mulberry to begin a few August-to-October projects. The weather has been fabulously mild the past several days and more sweet days are expected all week, so the late summer studio (which includes the outdoor spaces) is in full glory.

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I’ll grow these again; flavorful but definitely mild enough for the other human. This one was 9″ long. It’s a pasilla-type pepper called Holy Mole (which I admit I chose just for the name.)

Out in the world:

Here is an article about Unusually Natural which opened Friday at the Guenzel Gallery of the Peninsula School of Art up in Door County, Wisconsin; I hope there will be photos! And here’s one about An Embarrassment of Riches which opens tomorrow, August 25, at the NIU Museum’s Altgeldt Galleries in DeKalb, IL (I will see this one; two of the other artists and I will be carpooling to the reception and panel discussion on September 10.)

And, if you make books and you’d like to show them, this call for entries opened Friday and runs through September 15th for an October Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition.