Afterglow and on

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A sneeze after the lovely holiday party.

I came home Thursday, a day early.

The second session at Ragdale passed in a good whirly concentration of work. Performance / dance artists Julia Antonick and Jonathan Meyer, with sound artist Joe St. Charles, form a group called Khecari. They held an open evening rehearsal of a durational work that moved between both Friends’ studios. We were free to walk in and out as we chose. I went in with an open mind and was surprised to see that over an hour had passed when I left. It was a wonderful, unusual, intimate experience. It was great to talk with them afterwards, too, trading the perceptions. The readings were conducted the way I like them best; two nights in the Ragdale House, with the readers’ chair, drinks, popcorn, a fire. There was much good work, and I had captioning for all, with two appreciated twists. Doro Boehme shared a laptop that was cued to this page, so not only did I have her words, but her collaborator’s images trickling down the page. Karen Villeda read a powerful piece in her native Spanish, the way she writes, while Eddie worked the projector to show an English translation. This worked for me exactly the way having the printed captions in English does; I can hear the rhythm of the reader’s voice, the projection of emotion and attitude and emphasis, while the text translates the word-sounds I cannot distinguish. I liked that everyone got to experience that, besides being transported by the piece itself.

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Wednesday afternoon, Ragdale’s great new resident liason Eddie Morfin brought some paintings and images relating to his graphic-novel-in-progress out to the Meadow and we had a steady stream of visitors, residents, staff, and a couple friends, for a couple of hours, and some good talk of our own afterward.

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After everyone had left and the daylight made its early winter close into night, I cleared the floor and made one last thing to work with at home. I mixed all the rest of the cleaned milkweed with a saved bucket of water from my last vat of pure milkweed sheets. The vat-water contained all the tiny fine leftover fibers and a still-useful dollop of my dwindling supply of pmp formation aid; I added more. Wet cleaned milkweed is virtually invisible on the black. I slowly poured it out on the privacy-screen-turned-support, trying to see the swirls of longer fibers, glimpse the texture of the finer pulp to make connected patterns. Next day, I just rolled it up still attached to the netting. When it’s removed, I’ll have a combination of banner-ish, wispy, hol-ey, long pieces and tufts of random fiber, both of which are fantastically strong. I really liked working with the poured pulp on this piece:

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The title is ‘Critical Distance.’ In this work, the poured sheets also got some minimal joomchi treatment; I loved what happened, how quickly the milkweed tightened and toughened further. The lovely Jane Fulton Alt kindly came out and shot it for me at a slightly earlier stage. I made some small additions, and it will get some further tweaking. So will this:

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Its title is The Trouble With That Theory, Volume II: Stinkhorn.

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This one needs only a little tiny bit of tweaking on the base. The working title is Fleuron (autumn). I am liking working this way also. It’s white mulberry from my yard.

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There are two more ears, made the same way as the new additions to the Ragdale installation.  It’s quite different than the last several constructions, though outwardly they remain the same. With these, I’ve attempted to build in a deterioration sequence. I’m thinking that the outer covering will eventually begin to peel and then fall away, revealing the strong but delicate-looking inner structure, similar to Fleuron’s but denser, tougher. At least one is headed for our scrubby, single backyard evergreen tree, so that I can observe its aging, take it further next time.

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There are other bits that came home as well, including a lovely pile of small white milkweed sheets. As always, the thinking that went on was just as or more important than the results, and the friends made and new work experienced in progress while yours is also percolating, and being cared for so warmly during the process. Ragdale is the touchstone place, where everything is easy, warm and familiar so that we can traverse vastly different spaces each time we are there. I’m honored to be a part of this short tribute to Alice’s enormous legacy.

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Now all the moving in of stuff has been done, though not the moving it back into place. I’ve had two days of Lupe walks, Paul talks, making food again, and a series of daily & nightly nap laps interspersed with a lot of trips outdoors, a whole lot of high-speed running around, and a great deal of fun playing with, “This toy! No that toy! Oh, this one!” as Vivi begins to find her fit into the pack.

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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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Trusting, reading (and melting)

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Dividing line between spring and winter.

In addition to seeing Aimee at her Wednesday lecture, I’m truly looking forward to finally beginning physical therapy on Friday (the 13th, ha) for a problem that all but immobilized me eight weeks ago. I’m so grateful for having found such a wonderful massage therapy clinic nearby, or I would be even further behind than I am now. (I’m also pissed off because such effective care is not covered by our ‘health insurance’, but that’s another story.)

I’ve benefitted greatly from body work during much of my later adult life, but it had been seven years since I had had a massage of any kind. I still remember my very first session, a gift from a friend. For someone whose history contained physical abuse, it was a daunting, vulnerable moment. The therapist was great, though. At one point, she asked me to relax my legs. I didn’t know what she meant. She tried to show me how, by having me actively resist pressure on my arm, and then feel the difference when I let go. But I could not do it with my legs. She said, “This tells me you do not trust people. You are always ready to run.” That was spot-on, and rather profound for me.   A later therapist would say, “Let me drive!” Sometimes individual muscles would fight back, seemingly on their own. But I also had some incredible – not only physical – experiences during sessions over the years. But those, too, are another story. My point is that you have to collaborate with the therapist by giving your trust, surrendering to those skilled, knowledgeable hands. When you do, you can heal much more than you realize; it’s not just the muscles and knots that are being released, it’s what they hold.

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It’s not too huge a leap, in my opinion, to suggest that that type of trust might be employed when encountering artwork. A good dose of open-minded curiosity helps, too: where might this work take me if I let go and simply engage with it? I was truly, truly pleased to read this excellent review of Manifest, O by Heather Doyle-Maier, who did just that (and I am very grateful to Alicia Bailey at Abecedarian for inviting her to do so.)

Manifest, O has been out in the world for nearly ten years now; early on, I tried a few times to get funding to edition a version of it. The feedback from the juries was always a variation of the fact that it failed to ‘explain’ deafness. (On whose terms?) People suggested adding a colophon which included instructions on how to read. I couldn’t do that, so it’s remained a unique work. Reading this review, by someone who was willing to wholeheartedly experience the work and articulate her engagement, feels wonderful: not simply a vindication, but a confirmation of my faith in the reader / viewer. In nice a bit of serendipity, I read a post today by critic Jerry Saltz, who is calling for a moratorium limiting museum wall labels to three inches or less. He writes, “Long labels like these are a triumph of pedagogy over the object, a breaking of faith with art and its audiences.”  Amen.

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Plus: The sn*w is melting! The sn*w is melting! And Chance walked the entire block with me today for the very first time, and ignored two bicyclists. I’m so ready to trust myself to spring.

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Something green in the newly-revealed garden!

Hectic, happy holiday season.

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After a couple of days to chill (and an afternoon acknowledging that this is actually the holiday season, plus two annual vet visits), I’ve been working full-tilt on three projects, portions of which I delayed during the residency; it’s all been inching forward and everything will be finally resolved and sent out this weekend.  Plus, I am getting ready for 2015’s first show…

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…unpacking the works from their crates so that they can all be stacked gently in a single load in my car in their bubble wrap, and tweaking a brand-new piece from this year’s Ragdale residency that will also be shown here. All of it will be delivered and installed on Monday. (And I’ve also been in e-mail conference about two new upcoming 2015 shows that appeared in my inbox this week.)

Meanwhile, ZIA Gallery’s annual winter group show has been going great for me, and in the past few weeks, several works have found new homes:

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Another grouping of these Exo Studies were purchased; I think only one or two remain at ZIA now.

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Two Years in Reverse was acquired by Oberlin College’s collection. 

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Up My Sleeve went to a lovely lady I met at Ragdale, a holiday gift to herself!

I saw her heading to the office on my last day there as I walked out to pack up the studio, and she told me she was the collector.

(Up My Sleeve is a favorite of mine so I am impressed by her choice.)

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And just this week, ‘Flow From’ went to new collectors at the gallery. Wonderful!

Our family celebration is Tuesday, Wednesday we’ll shop for a lovely meal I’ll happily cook, and then we’ll gratefully collapse for a quiet warm holiday at home: lots and lots to celebrate!

I wish you all peace, warmth and joy, whatever and however you celebrate, and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Progressing

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Beautiful but quite cold; January temps.

I was lax with the camera last week; it was a time of being too personally engaged to think of framing it through a lens.  On Monday and Tuesday, I got out the dyes and finished a piece, while taking others further. I’m pleased with what’s been happening. Wednesday, I met the very lovely man who funded the Prairie fellowship. We had a fine visit (with Linda-prepared lunch!) for a couple of hours.  Thursday, I held an open studio, and all the residents who remained at that point came out, in spite of cold bitter winds; it was warm and fun inside. Friday, we all left, and I came home to a happy pack (and the literally termed ‘excellent’ conclusion to the situation we’ve been dealing with for most of this year: hooray!)

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As yet untitled above, in progress below, along with much more. 

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Saturday evening I attended one of the nicest opening receptions in a long time, the annual end-of-the-year group exhibition at ZIA. What made it special was the fact that though I was engaged in conversations from the time I walked in to the time I left, they were with no more than three people at a time, and I could actually participate in some meaningful (and fun) dialogue. Sunday, I had a sweet restorative quiet rainy day just being with my pack.

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He’s calmer when I come and go, but while I’m home, he wants to be aware of my every move. 

But I’ve saved the absolute best for last: yesterday I drove up in the snow that’s now blanketing everything and I’m back at Ragdale for another three weeks!

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Been waiting for this.

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Big bluestem after wind and snow.

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And still.

here now

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There was another prairie burn; same quadrant as last year, and another in the woods. This time, I didn’t need to wait for smoke; I saw the vehicles and knew what must be happening.  Jane Fulton Alt was there, and it was lovely to talk with her and also to watch her work.  And to watch it all begin.

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It’s been a struggle, but eventually I got there: losing track of time in the studio, diving through that portal. There was imagery that just wouldn’t leave me, resulting in an experiment that might not have worked, but those?  Those are what excite me, involve me, take me to that place.  And it worked, so I made another, and will make at least one more. Ahh. So now, I’ve no words for the best of reasons.

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I rushed to get these ready and installed on the last warm day; still waiting to get a shot in the snow (it disappears quickly.) I wanted one on the fallen section of tree, but could not get the ladder safely positioned; too many huge fallen branches all tangled together.

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A few days ago, I went home again overnight, to switch out supplies, see my pack and luckily was able to catch a haircut on the way back; chopped it short (winter artificial heat and too much hair: no fun.) This week I will meet with my fellowship’s benefactor, which I’m looking forward to. I’m also contemplating the possibility of extending my stay. Oh, and there is snow, just enough to make the path back from the studio more visible to my tiny flashlight; the late nights have begun (it’s also dark by dinnertime.)

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This imagery is still insistent. I am not resisting. This was a test piece that made me very happy.

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In progress, above and below…

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Truly home, and balancing.

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I’ve been in the studio for the past few days. I said, In The Studios – both of ‘em!

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2014 wasn’t planned to be this way at all, but till now, every time I tried to get back to my work, something else happened.  It has been almost as long a hiatus as semesters had gotten to be during my final few years at the edu-corp. That’s just wrong.

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But it’s over: now I’ve made paper (some with a new quickie deckle box cobbled together from scrap crate-building stuff) and have spent long blissful hours casting, dyeing, shaping, sewing. Tuesday, I wrapped up this piece slowly (glue, sew, wait to dry, glue, sew, wait to dry), and then literally, to be FedEx-ed out in the morning.

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Dogbane things…

The first book piece of this year. It’s been so good in the studio, I had to post these photos, hoping you can feel the peace and flow…ultimately, what I live for, the rest temporarily fading to background noise that doesn’t interfere with the music of making.

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Alas, the next wee while is full of non-studio tasks. But not for long: lots of early July studio time planned. Lots! By choice, the next show will be almost all new work on my part, exciting for me.

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Oh, the milkweed…

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I’m really looking forward to to seeing images from both Denver shows opening tomorrow, and I admit I am a little wistful that I can’t be there. At Abecedarian, Alicia Bailey has written a lovely intro to the show, and is exhibiting the largest grouping of the diaristic books I’ve been making since 2009 that have ever been shown together, along with (S)Edition, Manifest, O and an earlier work, Blood: Simple. I’d love to see Mary Ellen Long’s work with it, and the many friends, former colleagues, or just plain People Whose Work I Like in the Reading Room. Then, just across the street at CVA, are three larger, ‘non-book’ installations, one that has never before been installed by someone else, with a highly interesting group of artists I’ve not shown with before now.

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But home it is: and there’s great comfort in knowing that every step I’ll take this week will lead me back to the studios: truly home.

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(And on the other side of the country, some sweet fruits of the seeds spread by traveling, teaching…)

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