Eureka! Excelsior!

I cannot describe what the past few days have been like; I’ve been stuck in total CyberHell with the new site. First, I hit another major snag attributable to last summer’s hard drive crash.  Every single photo gallery now needs to be rebuilt from scratch, which means searching through horrid restored photo files yet again. Then, I spent two entire days trying to get my site host to recognize and register my software (or vice-versa), with no success and multiple crashes of said software after each of the host’s refusals. Then followed tons of e-mail exchanges with tech support from both host and software with lots of suggestions, all of which failed, then crashed. This morning, while trying yet another host-site suggestion that popped in overnight, once again I got the dreaded 404 refusal and the software did not crash but froze, so I force-quit it…and, inexplicably but miraculously, when I reopened it to try again, the host was registered! I published! Eureka!

So here is my new site: www.melissajaycraig.com! Granted, it is not much of a site yet – no artwork! – but I will be adding to it fast and furiously now. If you’ve got my old site bookmarked (or especially: linked on your site or blog), please change the URL,  with many thanks. (The old site now redirects, but it will go down soon). Whew!

Also under Eureka!: that long-awaited decision finally came in. It didn’t go in my favor; which is ok; I did have some ambivalence about it. So now: Excelsior!* I move ahead with a very satisfactory Plan B. Even if I had felt badly,  that would have been immediately alleviated by a rather stellar grad research paper that came in (I’ll share excerpts soon) and an anonymous nomination to apply for a lovely grant (a long shot, but it is an honor to be nominated). Maybe – just maybe – I’ll even be able to get back to my poor neglected studio soon, before I hit the summer class road. But today: I climb out of this computer.

*In the spirit of one of my favourite Kurt Vonnegut quotes: “Excelsior! We’re going to the moon! Excelsior!” Yes, I need to step away from the computer.

Levels of Limbo

This is my current world. (As is still waiting, and keeping a number of others waiting, for a single decision, but that’s another ever-present story). I have a new and profound appreciation for web developers; I cannot imagine how people do this every. single. day. Eyestrain and muscle atrophy prevention are essential, as is just climbing out of the all-consuming screen periodically.  But here is the why  – which I really needed to be reminded of today – from an interview by Barbara Landes:

Q: “You have a large presence on the web. Do you feel this is an important way for artists to ‘keep up’ in the art world today? How is it important to you?”

A: “(Is it large?  I’ve never quite thought of it in that way).  My web presence is most vital to me as a deafened person.  I have enormous difficulty with most of the conventional ways that artists present themselves and network: I simply can’t hear enough in noise to do a great deal of effective schmoozing at openings or conferences. In fact, I shun most conferences because they rarely provide accommodations (such as CART captioning). They are essentially speech-based, and definitely exclusive to hearing people. I don’t use a voice phone; you can only text or e-mail me, so the e-mail link on my site is essential. I use cyberspace to basically level the playing field and to stay in contact. I maintain a web site, a (rather dull) blog, and a public Facebook page.  One thing I’ve been unable to embrace is Twitter…it seems a bit too immediate or intrusive for my preferences, but it could happen someday.

I’m not sure every artist needs it; I don’t believe in one-size-fits all solutions. My work is fairly well represented in photographs, so the medium is appropriate. When I am curating, I need to be able to see other artists’ images and read descriptions, so I really appreciate informative sites, and in turn, I also appreciate when curators or gallerists approach me with a prior knowledge of my work.

However it’s done, it is important for artists to be easily contacted, but if your work isn’t represented well online, I’m not sure this type of presence is useful. (After all that is said, one of the most common things I’m told at exhibitions is what an enormous difference experiencing the work in person makes, and I completely agree.)”

The process of building that contact point is nothing like making the work, either.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I am still waiting for a decision which has the potential to cause me to make some large decisions; while I wait, I must delay making other decisions in deference to that decision.  This is causing some concerns for those waiting for my decisions. The only remedy would be to make a decision not to wait for that decision and then, perhaps, need to cancel earlier decisions.  It’s becoming decidedly vexing.

Meanwhile, I have made decisions on the refurbishing front: I have software and hosting for the new web site. I test-drove several allegedly idiot-proof software samples before deciding on one; it gave me less of some things I wanted, but more of other features I needed. I’ll miss the look of the iWeb site, as this is more template-y and less flexible in page formatting, but the end result will be cleaner and much easier to navigate, to maintain and to be viewed on mobile gizmos.  I’m building away, making decision after decision, and hoping when it’s finally launched, you’ll think my decisions were good ones. (Today’s photos will be part of the site; they were design-problem-solving decisions).

It’s lovely that there’s one sure thing I don’t have to think twice about: sending HUGE congratulations to Aimee Lee! Hooray!

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?

and so on

It’s great to have someone look at your work and say, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” That happened a number of times at the Lubeznik.  It’s not so great to have a specialist look at your x-rays and say much the same thing. For one thing, it spawns more appointments with more doctors with only minimal attempts at treatment until their opinions coincide, and even then, treatment apparently also has to follow a set progression dictated not by the medical profession, but the insurance company.  Ridiculous.  All I know at this point is that I have an unusual manifestation of a common aging-people’s condition in my knees, and it’s slowing me down.

So is the data loss. I’ve been working hard, have re-built my calendar, and re-established connections with upcoming shows, jobs and other projects outside those realms, rebuilding folders, re-writing, and admin admin admin. And searching and re-searching the recovered photos…I haven’t even begun to start reorganizing those nor rebuilding slideshows.  I need another visit to the Mac store to resolve iWeb issues left over from the crash; can’t update my website till that happens. Somewhere in there I also did an e-mail interview (with some good questions) in connection with the Lubeznik show.

Keeping me from frustration are the gardens. Though the knees do slow me down, since I’ve been home from Penland, I’ve done a massive re-working of them, working (very slowly and creakily) whenever schedule and weather permitted.  The end of it all is finally in sight.  With Paul’s help, I built five new beds (with two small ones still to come), thinned out tons of perennials and either transferred them to the new beds or given them away, and relocated a lot of plants into more hospitable environments. It’s very satisfying. Also, the gardens will now be better able to take care of themselves much better in the future. I’m setting it up so I can still have growing things around to satisfy my soul without stressing my body. Two to three more days of working this summer will ensure great pleasure next year and well beyond. By the end of the week or definitely next, the admin and the gardens will be out there working on their own, and I will, at long last, be in the studio. I’m itchin’ for that.

Tritoma!

Roller Coaster Ride

What a week! Both fantastic and horrid and I am in need of serious recuperation.

Monday, after writing the last blog, I got almost finished on a proposal that was due to be postmarked on Thursday, only leaving a wee bit of work for that day. Very good, I thought.

Tuesday, the paper mail came early, and included the results of all the x-rays: unwelcome news. Many more tests (and lots of research) will ensue, but it’s a condition that has affected my knees ‘significantly’ (that much, I already knew; they simply don’t work) and wrists and ankles as well, but less so.

I had (and have had) little time to reflect on that; I loaded up the car and headed for Michigan City for the two-day install, and had a fantastic time.  The folks at the Lubeznik are absolutely wonderful, and I loved working in the two galleries; they just seemed to be made for my work. On the first day, I installed 69 copies of (S)Edition in their very own ‘shroom room, the perfectly-shaped Robert Saxton gallery, which appropriately was the building’s former library. It has a long bank of windows facing Lake Michigan and the west, and I loved the natural light so much, I didn’t want any artificial lights.  Fortunately, the lighting system had dimmers, so I compromised on very low electric light.  As the sun prepares to set, its soft golden light filters through the moving trees. The whole space becomes hushed, contemplative, forest-like. I love it.

I also had a blast visiting old friend and mentor Suzanne and her husband Rick, artists both, at their lovely home; we went to dinner and took a sweet cool barefoot sunset-into- twilight walk on the beach, where I was completely enchanted by a wee tiny Chicago skyline on the horizon.

Wednesday, up early and off to install this complete (so far) body of work in the Brincka / Cross gallery, a fantastic space of odd angles with a big domed circular skylight at its center. Even if it had been a plain white box, I would have been honored to be exhibiting here because I knew Bill Brincka when I was a grad student, and had met his partner Basil Cross during a long-ago visit to their  handbuilt house and the sublime sculptural gardens they built together as a total environment.  It’s now becoming a public park as they desired. (I have a Brincka hosta, one of the many plant species he propagated, in my own garden). As it is, though, the space reflects their spirit, their sense of totality in environment.  I hope my work contributes to that…I think it does.

Friend Jean Bevier was working in the gorgeous, huge Hindeman gallery downstairs, building a hilarious piece in honor of the region for the fabulous Text Messages show. (Completed, below; detail at bottom of post. It’s made entirely of glossy-enamel-dipped cherry bombs. Fireworks are legal in Indiana and not in Illinois, so as soon as you leave Chicago for vacation on the lake, you run a gamut of huge explosive outlets.). I got to have great fun periodically visiting her, and some of my favourite of earlier pieces of hers are in the show as well.  Check out the one at the link!

Still, I finished in time to document extensively and get back into Chicago before rush hour came on in too much earnest, only suffering through a few freeway parking lot situations. I downloaded all my photos of the show, deleted them from the camera and edited them, and then opened the proposal I had almost finished on Monday. Suddenly, my computer froze.  I couldn’t restart it so I shut it down…and that was that; it never reopened.

Thursday, I tried one more time to boot up the computer. Nope.  Off to the Mac store with dead computer, external hard drive, and OS disks.  Dead hard drive. Stupidly, I hadn’t backed up since January. Three hundred dollars and five hours later, I had a new hard drive and battery, but I lost all this years’ data, and, due to a major glitch in restoring iPhoto…ALL my teaching slideshows!  We did – after hours of anxiety on my part – manage to recover the photo library through January, so I’ll be able to rebuild them (mostly). I kept the dead hard drive, and will try a data recovery service if I can afford it.  If not, I’m facing a at least a week of recovering files by e-mail, rebuilding my calendar, my slide shows, and more visits to the Mac store to resolve other problems, all added to re-doing the admin I had done before moving on to the admin I had scheduled to finish. Needless to say, the proposal didn’t happen. Sheesh. I’ve discovered another perk of blogging anyways…at least I have some record here, and some of the photos of work made at Penland, though not full-sized. If you’re like me, you won’t listen, but: back up; back up now.

An embroidered by Karin Vance Chickadel in Text Messages. I’ve always loved this work, and it was good to see it again.

Thursday night, we were just north of an enormous, baseball-sized hailstorm that severely damaged one of Chicago’s treasures, one of my absolute favorite places in the city, the Garfield Park Conservatory: read about it, view a video, and if you can, please contribute.

Friday morning, follow-up calls to medical doctors with Paul interpreting. He had made plans months ago,  before knowing I had a show opening, so he took off for those.  I planned to arrive at the Lubeznik early to re-shoot all the photos I’d lost, and left even earlier as a precaution, because it was the beginning of the fourth of July weekend…but not early enough.  It took over three and a half hours to travel 49 miles, and I arrived half an hour late to a hugely crowded opening in full swing. In spite of my traffic-stupefied state at the beginning, it was a three hour blast!  Great fun, new folks, delightfully unexpected old friends, happy, tired staff and artists and a few interviewers, too. Then back on the freeway and, thankfully, home with only minimal traffic. So, I’ll have to go back out to properly document, but that will be a pleasure; so is beginning today’s total relaxation by throwing all these words, and some of the photos I was able to take, at you. Happy fireworks weekend, fellow US of A folks. I’ll be spending part of it comforting a terrified Lupe dog.

Relief (of sorts)

Whew! Tuesday night, on the way back from the studio after packing up the artwork, I slipped on some unseen ice, and though I didn’t quite fall, I twisted my leg strangely while struggling to keep upright. Wednesday, I was limping, but with Jack and Dave’s excellent help, I got my Subaru loaded up and left Ragdale. Paul was at a conference, so I unloaded alone, verrrrry slowly and painfully.  Next morning, up and off to Rockford.  The semester is over, so there was no help to be had. Though I had little trouble de-installing or packing, I had a terrible time getting the car loaded; the stairs were my nemesis. My foot was throbbing.  I taped the foot up next morning while Paul brought the work inside, then I figured out how to pack 21 copies of (S)Edition to go to Delaware (which I couldn’t do without having them on hand, to see how they fit into various containers), then went out and got said containers, packing materials, and outer boxes to fit them all.  But there was a big snafu with FedEx, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t find my hearing aids. Paul (literally) stepped in and we got them shipped out just in time…they’ll arrive the day before the show opens…I repeat: whew.  Taped the foot and headed out to Rockford again the next day; Carey had found a lovely, sharp young artist named Rebecca who helped immensely. I found I’d left my hearing aids on a pedestal in the gallery. The foot again began to throb badly as we loaded. But the takedown is done, and I drove directly to my ‘warehouse’ to drop off the work; fortunately, it’s on the ground floor. I suspect I’ve sprained the foot. One should keep off a sprain.  So, I’m about to do that: in a moment, I’m beginning a massive cleanup of my MacBook, then a huge upgrade, and then activating and getting to know an iPhone.  If nothing explodes, expect a couple of catchup blogs about the work I did at Ragdale, soon.  It was exciting. I’m home now till the end of March, and very happy about that. Though I still need to unpack from Ragdale…whew.

The last Ragdale snowfall. On my final evening, the fox came to say goodbye.

Here’s a nice mention of Cover Stories (I’m a fave, thanks) and (I think, a lovely) essay by the Jaffe collection. Though it was a tad disconcerting to read an excerpt from what I thought was a private e-mail from years ago, at least I didn’t say anything I don’t still agree with now…