Pavlov’s Dogs, Private Life

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I’ve had nothing to say. On Wednesday, we reached the watershed beginning of the active phase of our combined current situation. It will continue for at least the next two months. In most ways, I’m very glad that we’ve agreed to keep what’s going on private, sharing only with those we love, trust and can rely upon. In another way, I’m experiencing a small, unexpected internal struggle, attempting to disengage from and / or construct the necessary walls here on the blog and in the few types of other social media – largely Facebook – that I regularly participate in.

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Shows go out; shows return.

This is a bit of a surprise to me. It’s not as if I haven’t needed to temper my words, or obliquely / cryptically refer to events before; far from it.  In most of those instances, though, I was dealing with adversarial situations, even overt persecution. To be able to focus on my artwork (and its attendant realms like the garden and teaching) was a lifeline and an affirmation. I’m sure writing about those parts of my life will feel that way again, maybe even soon, but at the moment, they seem lackluster; even the upcoming shows are like old repetitive tasks to be completed, not all that much different than doing the laundry. I’ve done it all hundreds of times; what’s to write about?

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Plants grow and are cut down; these have already returned.

Likewise, social media, once another type of lifeline (an end-run around deafness), holds little interest just now, possibly because it feels quite false to so severely compartmentalize. Yet, I vaguely miss the bit of daily interaction even as I shun it.

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Pre-social-media, pre-deafness, this was never a problem; I simply ‘disappeared’ as often as I needed to, for as long as I needed to, whether it was to get some artwork done without distraction, or to deal with personal situations akin to the one we’re currently undergoing, or just to have some quiet space. In the less-deafened, pre-caller ID, pre-answering-machine days, I can remember a room-mate watching, amused, every time I fiercely stared down the ringing telephone, refusing to answer, “to be one of Pavlov’s dogs!” I don’t know why that simultaneous need for privacy and to question our conditioned responses disappeared for me in terms of technology and particularly the internet, but I do know that, like the woman in this moving tribute, deafness was the impetus. Now that artists are routinely conditioned to live out loud, attempting to withdraw is, well: something I had to write about, if only to share inconclusive thoughts on not sharing so much.

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Joyeux vieux jeux

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Drawing with two translations.

I am a happily anachronistic geek: not only an artist who works with her hands, but one who still always makes working drawings, particularly when I am puzzling out the colors of any given piece.

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Often,  I bring colors home with me. Immediately after I made the drawing, I found this on the sidewalk, with no similar plants nearby. I only used portions, and not that vibrant pure green (but that will happen).

You see, the interplay of color and shape is music to me, something that still makes me feel the exquisite multitude of sensations that being able to hear music once provided. I walk outdoors without hearing aids, and prairies, mountains, seashore, woods and even alleys become symphonies; the tiny details of plants, fungi, lichen, bark and rocks are poignant intimate passages, loud and blatant or infinitely subtle, and sometimes I am blessed with the sight of a clear perfect note that can just pierce the heart and gut with delicious, soaring impact.

Back in the studio, deaf with my colored pencils, paints and dyes, I reach for a replication of the sensation I felt while experiencing particular passages.  The  drawings are my scores, the finished work a recording of the playing.

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And then, I go back out to fill my eyes, to listen. Happy May / Beltane!

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Segue: on the Vineyard

When Sandy and I were discussing the upcoming workshop, she said I must take time to spend on the island. I’m very grateful to her for that, because Martha’s Vineyard is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, not only because I love being on islands, Atlantic islands (on both sides of the pond) in particular. I also love – and even have a need – to physically experience places that are steeped in human history. The Vineyard holds fascinating, uplifting history that resonates at my core.

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I borrowed and read this excellent book about twelve years ago. In anticipation of my upcoming visit, I recently acquired my own copy. Re-reading it now, not so long after experiencing first-hand how ridiculously easy it is for corporations to blatantly, casually flout ADA laws, is proving to be an emotional event.

For about 300 years on Martha’s Vineyard, due to hereditary factors, there was an unusually high percentage of deaf people (one in 155, as opposed to one in nearly 6000 on the mainland). As the title of the book states, hearing and deaf alike learned sign language along with English as a matter of course in early childhood. Hearing people used sign language among themselves, whether or not deaf people were present; it was simply second nature. As a result, deaf people were full participants in every aspect of island life: like their hearing neighbors, they were farmers, fishermen, shop owners, churchgoers, members of local government and fully present at every social occasion. ‘The deaf’ were not though of as a group, but were remembered as individuals, according to their accomplishments, personalities, professions, and relationships first. To be deaf was simply not perceived as being unusual in any way. “It was taken for granted…as if somebody had brown eyes and somebody else had blue…They were just like anybody else.” Perhaps the most telling of many such quotes in the book is this, a reply by an island woman in her 80s when asked about neighbors who were ‘handicapped by deafness’: ‘“Oh,” she said emphatically, “those people weren’t handicapped. They were just deaf.”’

The history of Martha’s Vineyard definitively points out that the notion of ‘disability’ is something a culture creates by tacit agreement (as discrimination often is practiced as well). Perhaps walking the land and breathing the air of an island imbued with such beautiful history will provide my own last bit of healing, finally obliterating the remaining scars left by sanctioned bigotry. I felt a bit guarded about writing of this, until I read the jacket notes by no less a personage than Oliver Sacks: “ I was so moved by Groce’s book that the moment I finished it I jumped in the car, with only a toothbrush, a tape recorder, and a camera – I had to see this enchanted island for myself.”

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Spring is here! And I’m in the studio, making books (but out every day, basking).

All Ears

I am cautiously proclaiming myself well again; even the fever blister is gone (and I am so relieve to stop tasting the camphor in the effective but awful topical med).

It’s been Almost All Ears here, slowly carving, handbuilding, casting, breaking down and beginning again, but I now have four viable molds of different ear types and have begun the much more fun activity of actually casting the pieces, and thinking about what else might be made during the next two weeks while ears are drying.  The response to the project during slide night on Monday and last night’s lengthy open studio crawl has been excellent. I had wanted to make two more smaller molds (or rather a single mold with double ears), but I am out of plaster and so is VSC; we’ll see if I can talk someone out of a quarter-bag or so.

I’ve met several very interesting, fun people; some will leave tomorrow and a few new folks come in, but the bulk of us are staying on.  I did pretty much lose two days to the election, All Eyes fanatically glued to the computer, unable to look away from Huffpost’s live election results (ultimately better than I believed possible, with ALL the idiotic ‘rape’ candidates defeated and SO many fantastic women elected). I lost the next day to recuperating from staying up till 3:30 to see the president’s acceptance speech (I gave that day up to laundry as well, sewing some ear inserts while waiting in the laundromat, so I did accomplish something)..

There is a benefit that’s coming up next week for an incredible organization in Illinois: Equip for Equality. Read their about us page to learn what they do; it’s invaluable. They are tireless advocates for all disabled people in my home state. The benefit information is here, and if you scroll down, it includes a donation link. If you can, please support their important, relevant, necessary work.  I’ve done so by donating this piece to the auction, and writing the caption to accompany it:

“Too often, the key factor that is perceived about someone with a disability is the  difference, either in the way we look or, in the case of ‘invisible disabilities’ such as deafness, the inconvenient differences in the way we must be interacted with. The vast root system of our humanity, intelligence and hearts remains out of sight.”

Please help Equip for Equality continue their considerable efforts to rectify that.

Nemesis

Yesterday I had a pivotal conversation via captioned iPhone. Short tests with the app were wonderful, and I’ve used it successfully (and with a sigh of relief) for things like appointments. I really thought it would be fine. But the long conversation was simply ridiculous on my end: the app suddenly became agonizingly slow, misinterpreted words, and froze. three. times. I backed it up with headphones and cranked-all-the-way volume that just barely gave me the speaker’s voice, yet disconcertingly fed back loud, distorted,  delayed echoes of my own. I can do most anything but have an effective phone conversation, so I’m rather frustrated by the fact that so much, so often, seems to hinge on just that.

And now I’m left to wonder: do I become my own arch-nemesis when I attempt to accommodate the hearing world instead of relentlessly insisting on the other way around?

DelAware, Penlandamonium

Propellers! out of Asheville and back, and the Blue Ridge from above…

I’ve been trying since Sunday to complete some writing about the profound, revelatory experience I had at the Art of the Book in the Twenty-First Century symposium at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art last weekend. The symposium was erudite, provocative and as wide-ranging and comprehensive as The Book: A Contemporary View exhibition it accompanied. The selection of speakers who also were artists represented in the show leaned towards the sculptural side of the equation, something that rarely (if ever!) happens, but the big picture balanced out in other ways.  I enjoyed it all, thoroughly. (But didn’t take many photos).

How I heard.

The reason my experience was personally profound was due to the fact that the DCCA applied for and received a grant to accommodate all levels of hearing loss.  I had CART (Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning) throughout the weekend, and it not only provided for fuller participation than I have ever, ever had before in my own field, it brought me to some startling realizations…which I will need to wait to share, until there is some downtime to quietly consider and edit. All I can do at this point is to wholeheartedly thank and commend the DCCA for being so forward-thinking, so inclusive.

I have perhaps never seen a more appropriate use of the slash symbol…

I worked until the moment I left Penland, and even though the superb Shawn Sheehy has been doing the teaching since I returned, I am exhausted.  Sunday evening (when I also returned) brought an influx of one-week classes. The Penland event calendar, already vigorous, escalated over the top…there are events every single night this week, Friday will bring several at once, including our Edible Books, and that will be followed by another huge party on Saturday (which I predict I will totally need to skip).  Class prep continues to be intense (this week I need to repair equipment for next week), the weather is back to cold and rain and fog and even heavy snow that didn’t stick, which causes mealtimes to be a veritable maelstrom of echoing noise with everyone packed indoors at once. It doesn’t help that I haven’t had a weekend rest since I arrived (I had a guest the entire first weekend, and the symposium and a sweet long visit from old dear friends and hours and hours of plane-changing travel the second, and a steady stream of out-in-the-world things to deal with via the inbox as well…most very good).

It snowed Monday morning and was c-c-cold.  Papermakers are tough. Teams worked out here all day, and on the porch as well. We only have Shawn for 3 days.

In spite of how this all reads, I am still absolutely loving it here! I suspect I just needed to tell you why Penland will be like Ragdale and like my DCCA revelations: it’s all something I will need to write about after the fact, whenever there is time.

Active (ist)

I am crazy busy, but I have to tell you this: Recently, I was asked to help two arts organizations with grant applications for funds to provide accessibility, by describing my own experiences and providing information on methods of accommodating all levels of deafness.  I’m very, very pleased to be able to report that the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art has received funding, and will provide both CART (Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning) and an American Sign Language interpreter for the Art of the Book in the 21st Century Symposium on March 25 and 26. (And I’m so excited that I’m personally going to be able to fully experience my fellow speakers’ presentations!)

This morning I sent off an additional letter of support to be included in the application of the second organization, a stellar residency program I’ve experienced twice (I’m not mentioning it by name; I don’t know if that would affect their chances). I have high hopes that they’ll also receive funding. I wholeheartedly commend these two organizations for making access a priority, for wanting to educate and to be educated. As I wrote in the letter: “(this residency program) is highly renown for its international community, for the enriching interaction between creative representatives of widely varied cultures; those of us with sensory disabilities also inhabit unique worlds. Offering us the tools we need not only accommodates us, it allows our colleagues to easily interact with our worlds, promoting the same kind of understanding already fostered by an active international exchange.  Including us makes for a truly global experience; because, when everything is said and done: all humans are only temporarily abled.”

I’ve also been invited to become a part of an advisory network for the residency program, and I’ve accepted. All of this work, while unpaid, contributes to personal success as well, in terms of helping to craft the life I want to lead: one that is open, embracing and inclusive, further dispelling clouds of past prejudice, which is really only fear of difference, which is ultimately a condition of ignorance, sadly, in some cases, willful ignorance.

Elsewhere: The DCCA has published an online catalog of The Book: A Contemporary View.  I love that it has an ISBN number, even though it only exists online (though soon you will be able to download it if you so desire).  That’s interesting in terms of the ongoing conversation about the future of books of any kind. Saturday’s Portable Papermaking class was great, but I was too busy to take a single photo. Many thanks to Evanston Print for their help and the loan of their silkscreen-making facilities on Sunday, and to Abecedarian Gallery, who’ve placed another of my bookworks into a collection.  Now, back to work; I hit the road in four days.