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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Ragdale, bit by care-full bit

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I am very, very slowly settling in at Ragdale, in increments. I am not sure exactly what happened, but Sunday night, while coming downstairs after just finishing the packing, there was a sudden sharp stab of pain in my left knee, then another as I descended to the next step. So, I led with the right foot, brought the left foot down to the same stair, repeat, repeat. Monday morning, it was still that way, a nuisance but not a real problem. Paul kindly carried everything to the car while I loaded. Just as I was ready to leave, simply standing there, the knee completely gave out, felt like it wanted to bend the wrong way, swelled, and would not support my weight.

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After a little while and a little testing, I knew it was a sprain; I’ve had too many of them, and know what they feel like and what to do. So I contacted Ragdale to ask which room I was sleeping in; having had an ankle sprain here, I knew I didn’t want to spend the next couple of days stuck in bed in the tiny Sewing room. Yep. It was. So I stayed home Monday, leg elevated and iced and arnica-slathered, while e-mails flew back and forth, and the Ragdale folks (Amy and Jeff) came up with a lovely solution. The Beech room and the little Barnhouse studio (just a few steps away from the house itself) were open for the first week; I could have them, and then move to the Sewing room and out to my beloved Meadow when I am able.

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So I came up yesterday afternoon, hobbling and wearing two knee braces (one atop the other), and here I am. Since I have wireless and room to elevate the leg and (later) stretch in the Barnhouse studio, I moved into the Sewing room so as not to make extra work for housekeeper Martha, who I really like. Cheerful new resident liaison, Eddie, moved my stuff upstairs for me, and a single box of paper, small book-hulls and binding supplies into the studio; the rest is still in my car, waiting till I heal more. I brought hanji too; sitting and keeping the knee elevated seems like a good opportunity to do some joomchi. I had a great, sweet visit from my homie Chef Linda (who loves animals like I do, and loved Chance too.) So far I’ve done little but R.I.C.E., re-think, and today, I treated myself to an hour with Bonny, the excellent, strong-and-sensitive-handed massage therapist who visits when there are a group of residents who need her. It was wonderful, and she helped the knee and oh, all those other arthritic locations immensely. I’m very, very, very glad to be here and so grateful to Ragdale for always, always, always making it work, whatever happens…I’m sinking into its benevolence like you sink into a good pillow after a hard day, and I’ll truly be home when I’m out on the prairie. Soon!

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The HUGE ice pack that Linda found in the freezer. She tucked that pillow under my leg yesterday (and suggested renting a golf cart if it doesn’t heal quickly!)

Not just yet, and farewell.

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We got just under 20″ of snow; the next day was beautiful, with dramatic blue sky, and bright sun on shapes honed by the windy storm…

An extra mid-week post: yeah, I write more blogs in winter.

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…including our temporarily-aerodynamic cars. One of them is back to its square-ish self now.

Those few seconds of viral-ity I wrote about in the post-before-the-last have now turned into two weeks; it’s slowed down some but hasn’t stopped. (S)Edition spores still spread. The e-mail has finally ebbed, but the deluge contained a few little gems of possibility; some nice things are under discussion. It’s been a fairly amazing experience.

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This exquisite pattern on the garage window didn’t last long in the light that showed it off.

I also took on a great summer project that comes with a small grant, and am working on an interesting set of interview questions. Those things weren’t connected to the internet activity; they sprang from other spores at a place I love. Just to keep things in perspective, I also was rejected from a fellowship I was invited to apply for.

The day after the internet dam broke, I threw out my hip somehow, resulting in lower back spasms that haven’t abated, limiting mobility. Last week I visited the medico / insurance conglomerate, which yesterday approved a new round of physical therapy, for which I am utterly grateful, and eager to begin.

All these things have cut a chunk into winter plans; something had to give, especially to make room for p/t. Farewell, house project.  I’ve lived with the awful wallpaper I’d planned to collage over for a long time now, so I guess I can ignore it till next winter.

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The led lights came down today but the green glass globe stays to capture the returning light.

Though I’m late, I want / need to note the recent passing of another wonderful, influential book arts person: Arthur Jaffe.  Though I never met him in person, he was an early supporter of my work, and we enjoyed some excellent e-mail exchanges. I was impressed by his his enthusiasm, expansive personality and wit, and I’ve always rather loved his description of why he collected the pieces of mine he did.  One of the many amazing stories about Arthur is what he did during WW2: he fired shells stuffed with leaflets into Nazi Germany. They exploded and papered the landscape with information on how to defect or surrender, which resulted in a steady stream of lives saved. Is it any wonder that he had a singular, expansive, and truly intelligent view of what a book can be, after experiencing such an example with all his senses? We’ll miss you, Arthur, and thank you. We need more like you.

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.

Bliss

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Calligraphy is everywhere on the prairie and in the woods.

I’m home; got in Friday during the late afternoon, very tired; unloaded the car yesterday, am not yet unpacked. The final 10 days of the residency were absolute bliss; I pleaded a bit and was temporarily excused from all but the most urgent outside admin till this week. And so I was able to let myself surrender fully into the flow. Not only was I able to I get to that place that seemed so far away during the first bit of the first residency, I went way, way, way beyond it.

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There was a second piece that insisted on being made. The final Saturday morning, I brought food for lunch and dinner out to the studio in the morning and then spent eleven straight hours of what can only be called perfection, quietly bursting through any last shred of trepidation to a complete understanding of all the work, where it is headed, and most importantly, what it means to me and why.

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The overbeaten milkweed was terrible to cast with, at least with the sheet formation method I had to use (it did, however, make lovely sheets; I air-dried several to use, and restraint-dried some in the wee press.) But, oh, the beautiful pale glowing color!  Moon-like. I’m not giving up yet, but further experimentation was best left for the home studio.

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The final week wasn’t without a few physical struggles in the making, but it was still wonderful, purposefully moving forward, happily solving those problems, fully engaged.

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It was a time like the beginning of my work with paper, in this same geographical location in the old Meadow Studio: like music. What the current Meadow Studio gives me, among many other gifts, is the ability to spread out, switch processes, work on several things simultaneously, and to see all the work in relation to itself, the space, the prairie, and: my worldview. I repeat: bliss.

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(Final tally: just under six weeks in residence, not counting time spent at home, seven new works, counting the ear installation. Only two are ‘finished’ – one of those gets a wee bit more tweaking then heads out into the world in ten days – but I know exactly where each piece is going!)

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This Single Species (working title) is by no means finished, and will probably never be seen again this way, but I had to see them together on a wall for myself. They will not be for sale for a long while, if ever; they’re going to be tweaked, then move around.

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The Flow

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December! Things are moving along wonderfully and peacefully in the studio.  I met most of the new group on Monday (one person arrived Sunday night – an artist I went to school with! – and the final two arrived yesterday). All interesting folks, and of course everyone is happy. I went home again, after Wednesday night’s dinner for Thanksgiving, and cooked us a lovely, stress-free holiday dinner: we had things to celebrate! Now I stay put till the residency ends.

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Before I left, I added some color to another piece, and resolved and built a rather complicated odd armature, which is kind of funny because the shape is quite simple. Needing to extract it after casting made it complex. The piece has been asking to be built. I came back Friday at noon and made a fat post of heavy sheets for it.  Saturday was beautifully warm, so there was a long, muddy but lovely prairie walk, then a late night casting and embellishing the piece: so far, so good. There are two more points at which it could fall apart, but that’s how I roll. (Then again, if it all works, the armature is adaptable and re-usable; a series could happen.)

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Now that most of the leaves are gone, you can see the ears from the studio door.

I came back to the Barnhouse wireless near midnight to discover that ZIA sold a significant piece from the group show, as well as a few small studies. Excellent! Sunday, it was misty, drizzly and wet. I did the extensive prep – building a single-use armature – for another floor-cast piece. Yesterday was another late night, casting it in one go. This rather dull list-blog is meant to say that I am in heaven, with only a tiny bit of admin (due this week) to interrupt this beautiful, peaceful flow.  (Today, the sun is out: hello, prairie).

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My world. And a summer-worthy sunset.  Ahhh.

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prairie day

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The Meadow milkweed harvest at Ragdale. I always, always think I am too early, just after the equinox / Mabon. I also always take a first look round the meadow and think, “Oh!  There isn’t much this year.” Yet I am always right on time, and there is always a good-sized harvest.

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Fall has barely begun, just an inkling.  The work was hot and sweaty under the afternoon sun, as I crawled into dense foliage, with thorns or pesky burrs.  Yet for someone who lives contained by buildings, fences, concrete, alleys, it was glorious.  Just to BE, out where the only visible boundaries are trees and the big bluestem hides nearby buildings, just me and prairie, sky, birds and critters.

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And the Meadow Studio.  No one is in residence just now, so I went and peered in the windows, said hello, and made a fervent wish that our situation will allow me to be there later this fall. I’m scheduled for late October through November. I sat in the shade and trimmed my stems, then walked a circuit round the meadow, tossing the seedpods back in for next year. It’s a rich, vital wheel on which to turn.

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I love this year’s version of the Ragdale Ring. Love it.

There was even more reward:

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I couldn’t yet get near it without, say, a machete, but:

the Ragdale ear is still here!

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It’s lasted eleven months and it looks solid, and is most wonderfully, subtly warped. The dye has faded but is still there, and some seems to have moved through the piece. I’ve been making more plans for this site this year, regardless of whatever might have remained. This is better than I hoped (and I owe a lot of that to other harvests). I already value this place so much for the enormous gift of allowing me to interact with a landscape over time; that has now gone to a whole new level. I’m feeling a bit like one of those seedpods.

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(Thank you, Ragdale and Lake Forest Open Lands).