May have been.

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May was: medically, a doubled dose of April’s ineffective drug; a visit to a specialist, another test, and finally, a double drug cocktail that appears to be working, after nearly a full year of attempts. The tradeoffs: 10 days or so lost to reactions, the swollen lower legs you see on old people (which feel like wearing dense squishy meat socks), and losing the ability to drive. Tomorrow June begins with a visit to the specialist, and ‘tweaking’ –  which perhaps will allow me to regain my car, if not my ankles.

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The kozo flowered. I’ve never seen this before, and really liked the alien-odd blooms.

May was: a fun month of experimentation for our collaborative project, doing something I have always had an interest in but could never figure out how to incorporate into my work successfully before, or even to experiment with, as it is time-consuming. The studio was a totally productive mess, there was research, supplies arriving, lots of processing and cooking and making. Even the initial failed experiments were hugely interesting, and no materials were wasted. Now my part of the prototype work is finished (a little late thanks to the first paragraph) and I am eagerly awaiting seeing the results (and in the next few days, playing with the bits of experimental leftovers.)

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May was: Vivi healing, having her stitches out and jumping right back in to being her feisty funny self. June is her eighth month on the planet and we’re pretty sure she is half Australian cattle dog / blue heeler / Queensland heeler (different names for the same breed) and, as everyone says, “something else.” At times, she seems to have terrier-like qualities, but then when she is startled, she emits a hound-like arooo, a bay more than a bark. A couple of weeks ago, she began to carry one ear forward, the other out to the side. She loves all the time outdoors when I’ve moved the studio out or when I am in the garden, and May was: lots of both, and that is good. So is the whole 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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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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Blethering down to the wire

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I’m feeling just a tiny bit overwhelmed as the ZIA show approaches. Ironically, what’s going beautifully is what’s happening in the studio. Even that has its limitations, mostly of space, which curtails how much I can get done in a day. I need to periodically stop and wait for things to dry under my ocean-smoothed / Jasper Beach weights, and there are a finite number of those, and no room to set the work aside to dry while working on something else. Night-time work ends at 10 pm; a tired partner with excellent hearing is attempting to sleep in the next room. Still, happily, I am really liking this series. Yesterday I finished the last of the pieces that were built at Ragdale in the fall, and today will move on to two complicated accompanying works.

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Physical therapy goes well, too, and I have come – in the sense of having a big Monty Python-esque foot drop from the sky onto my head – to understand just what it does. Twice daily, the exercises and stretches counteract the specific, constant pull that the arthritis exerts on my skeleton. If I skip a session, that fact is painfully pointed out. (Right now I’m in the middle of a two-week break from p/t appointments, but have an assigned routine for the interregnum, plus really helpful suggestions for keeping the pressure off my back in the studio, where all the current work needs to be done while I’m standing.)

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For the past week, Chance-pup has been experiencing some regression.  I can’t pinpoint any incident that might have triggered it, but he reverted to a nervous, reactive stage. We continued to work daily, but I haven’t been forcing him to take more than a few steps outside his secure space; we’ve been reviewing, watching the world from the porch, building back confidence. Today, a quiet weekday, we ventured back out for the first time: just a short stroll back and forth, past two to three houses either side of ours, into two neighbors’ driveways. He did well (and got lots of praise) for the most part, but challenged the single car that drove past. Sigh. Once the show is up, I’ll contact the vet for advice. There are also Many Things That Need To Be Done in the gardens, and those have to wait too. We won’t even talk about the state of the house, though I do police the kitchen nightly.

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In the studio, it’s been easy to forget all that as colors dance and my stone circles of weights assemble, break ranks and reconfigure in endless patterns. The garden will forgive me, I think.

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Out in the world, social media told me that I ‘attended’ AWP via the Spoon River Poetry Review. I didn’t realize my work was on the covers of two adjoining issues, but I liked seeing this stand full of them. And (S)Edition continues to spread its spores.

April, popping.

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Happily checking in: now there is radio silence because I’m busy with good things.

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A studio marathon is (finally) well underway. It is just…glorious, dancing with color in the beautifully increasing light. It’s so wonderful to have finally resolved a sticky color conundrum, and to finally see this series coming to life. Also, the process requires drying breaks which conveniently rest my back.

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That’s a little less necessary since two days ago. There was an unexpected and rather dramatic result from physical therapy, a deep pop pop pop, and my lower spine released or adjusted itself, significantly decreasing pain and increasing mobility. And, I’ve finally gotten approval for the therapists to also address the ongoing situation with my knees…comfortable walking is in my near future!

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That’s also allowed me to get out into the garden for short periods to start the early spring chores, including fencing out Chance of the giant shovel feet. His training goes very slowly, when it comes to the world outside our gates, but I love him anyways. He’s still a giant pup who ran amok in a neighbor’s plastic egg display, chasing a low-flying robin. I laughed, went back and redistributed eggs while the unscathed bird followed me, scolding.

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ALL my indoor milkweed has popped up!  That gives me hope for the big batches I seeded outdoors (and also a means to identify the seedlings when they appear later in the season; I’ve never cultivated milkweed before.)

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Out in the world, (S)Edition appeared on some of Saatchi Gallery’s social media. And here is a lovely interview, in which I answer Really Good Questions popped by WSW’s Lizz Thabet.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Away-from Homestretch

 

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Joomchi shadow! Intriguing…

I’m wrapping up an explosion in the studios, a number of new things being worked on at once. Sweet studio hours have been woven in with pup training, sleep / eating schedules very different from mine, still way too much admin, medical visits, laundry, all the essential ephemera of life. It will all come together tomorrow and Tuesday (when cleanup will also – definitely – need  to happen), Wednesday is reserved for a big fat pile of tedious postponed admin, Thursday for packing and Friday: the road.

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I’m really looking forward to the workshops, and absolutely eagerly to the many friends I’ll be so very glad to see…and of course, this show, which will open while I’m in Rosendale. At the same time, I am having small wistful twinges about leaving. My presence at home is a boon to our current situation, the wee gardens are at peak (we’ve just begun to eat the burgeoning tomatoes that taste like the sun), and Chance is at a point in his schooling where he’s slowly beginning to realize that walking at heel is his job, and that the world will not end if he ignores squirrels while doing so. I’m truly becoming a confirmed homebody (well, and home studios-body: that’s essential). I know for certain, though, that I’ll come back replenished, renewed and refreshed.

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These lovely purple French hollyhocks aren’t supposed to be here; they’re growing in the wee spaces between stone pavers, outside the garden.  I decided to let them.  They’re gorgeous and very very tough and hardy: Chance crashes into them multiple times daily, retrieving his ball, so they protect the actual garden.

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A joomchi palimpsest…