Marched Out

 

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A palette of texture and color I worked with.

Sadly, much of March was “another month, another drug.” I’ve now spent nearly nine months ‘testing’ drugs, and still: the original condition continues unabated. The March drug not only does not work, it brought on some full-blown panic attacks, something I hadn’t experienced before. They were scary, quite physical and exhausting. Luckily, now that I know what the hell is happening, I am able to shut them down before they truly begin. I also discovered (by accident) that I was prescribed (and am still taking) a second med for a different condition that was, in fact, a side effect of one of the earlier ineffective drugs. This was never mentioned, and when I brought it up, I became truly cognizant of the term ‘mansplaining.’ I’m fed up, and have left that doctor. I have an appointment in a few days with a new primary care doc, who, though still within the same big-pharm-driven system, is a woman. Meanwhile the arthritis has invaded three new locations. I hate writing about this all almost as much as experiencing it, so hence: no-blog March.

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There were a lot of these lovelies mid-month.

Those oddities aside, there *have* been good things: it *is* spring and things are popping up in the gardens and the daffodils and hyacinths are blooming and the early trees are beginning to bud. I’m watching and waiting and hoping to see my milkweed return. We humans have new phones and can text each other, which is another blessing.

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And I did get into the studio to to finish up work for ZIA Gallery’s spring exhibition: Of Materials, Fiber and Book Arts. And I did go out to the opening reception, which was nicely busy and bustling. I enjoyed seeing a number of old friends, and meeting several new folks. It was all quite lovely and a rarity these days. The show runs from March 19th – April 30.

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And since it’s been announced, now it can be told: my single ‘outside’ project this year will be participating in Hand Papermaking magazine’s newest portfolio, which pairs established (old) artists with emerging (young) artists. Though we haven’t met in person yet, I’m working in collaboration with Katharine Lark DeLamater, who’s been just great. Exciting!

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And of course there is Vivi! Vivi! Vivi! She came through a March of difficult teething like a champ; her milk teeth just didn’t want to let go. For awhile she had double teeth and a cartoon – crocodile grin, till the baby needle teeth were forced out. Often they broke first; I found shards of little teeth everywhere and her frozen chew-rags were spotted with blood. None of the other pups I’ve lived with went through that; usually, it’s simply been a process of noticing a milk tooth gone, and then seeing the bud of the adult tooth emerge. Though she had (cute) cranky moments during the process, usually just before nap time, she remained a sweet pup no matter how much her mouth irritated her, and now she has all her growing adult teeth. She also did great on her last day of puppy school, even though we had missed the two previous sessions. She even did some things she hadn’t practiced, walking up and down ramps, and past toys and open bags of treats, which truly impressed me.

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She is a happy, funny little dog, very bright and inquisitive, and no matter what is happening out in the world or inside my body, she brings joy (and she and the rest of our pack bring comfort, too.) Tomorrow, she’ll be six months old.

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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May Be This Way

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I always love Anne Hughes’ installations. I like this one even better with the duct dots above.

The ZIA opening reception was very, very nice and warm. A surprising and diverse group of long-ago and newer friends attended (including one person who actually saw the announcement in the newspaper rather than on social media. Think of it.) I appreciated the support, and also had a very fine time catching up. I had no time to take more than a couple of quick snapshots afterwards. I remember sheepishly posing for tons of photos, but have only seen three. This shot by Linda M. Barrett is the absolute best of them (it’s one of the things she specializes in, and she did direct me a bit -“To your left. Chin up now!”- which is part of her work and it shows. In the others, I was somewhat sad to see the arthritis so blatantly visible, affecting my posture.)

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On social media, Linda appropriately captioned this with the hashtag: scale is everything!

I got the new work onto the site a few days after the reception.  My hands-down favorite piece in the new series sold. Here is the series, and the news page will link you to a couple of other new works. Done! I also showed some older works and Anne made a great selection from ZIA’s inventory, so it’s a substantial grouping of works.

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For the month of May, my main preoccupation will be nurturing: the gardens and continuing to school my body against arthritis (Chance training goes without saying, and it’s been going well.) Let that be a warning regarding the content of the next few blogs (and most of the rest of this one.)

Monday after the opening was my first garden day. I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket to rig a support around a burgeoning peony. Afterwards, I simply could not rise, so I slid off the bucket and scuttled, crablike, to a place where I could grab the house to pull myself up with my arms. That was a bit of a shock, especially since working while standing has been so very much better. I definitely need my body to be functioning more than that.

Last Friday, the day before the ZIA opening, I ‘graduated’ from the spine portion of p/t, with a good, workable and flexible routine. This week, we began to focus anew on the knees, with the added perspective of the spine issues. The therapist gently but frankly reminded me that arthritis is a degenerative disease. So, I need to keep a better grip on it, and I’m very glad to be able to take this time to get there. The hospital p/t will end in mid-June with a blended back-and-knee routine in place, and I’m researching a few additional options to complement it. Meanwhile, yesterday was a beautiful t-shirt warm day, and after a good, calm(!) session with Chance, I did the exercises out in the back yard, and the mat work on the deck, looking up at endless clean spring blue, breathing it with the movement.

Then, the rest of the day in the garden, with this mobility solution, which worked nicely.

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This tiny strip of garden got trashed and made even tinier when the big fence went back up, while I was at Ragdale last fall. Dormant plants were chopped out and tossed into a pile that was under snow when I came home. I found them during a late-December thaw and just threw chunks of roots into the garden or the vegetable pots before it (immediately) snowed again. Yesterday I pulled off dead material and re-planted the ones that had sent up shoots, while clearing up the first of 8 garden spaces. Bits of everything survived, even indigo (!) and I think I see new growth from the young kozo, whose branches were randomly snapped off. Life is good in all its forms, though it might not make interesting blogs.

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The space is one of the few places in the yard that gets all-day sun, so it’s important. 

Out in the world, I was very, very sad to read about the passing of Jane Farver. While at Spaces Gallery in Cleveland, she was a fantastic early supporter, who not only helped me to see the immense value in following my own odd winding path, she also shored it up. I am definitely not the only artist so influenced; she will be missed.

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Blooming for Jane.

Zip Zip ZIA

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Just a quick check-in. It’s been a zippy-busy week, so I have had very little media time. The ZIA show opens this evening; I had a bit of a preview yesterday when I dropped off an older piece (there was room for it after all) and it looks wonderful. Anne Hughes has such a facility with space. I particularly liked how she presented the new series.

aajoomchidetailJoomchi always makes me happy.

I closed out the pre-show studio marathon last weekend with my kind of celebration: joomchi! In this case, it became text-pages for a new book. The book was bound Monday, then all the work was packed, loaded, delivered and unpacked Tuesday, and I got an excellent soon-to-be-warm-weather haircut. Wednesday was paperwork paperwork paperwork and a return to twice-weekly hospital p/t sessions. Thursday I began addressing a whole huge load of things that fell by the wayside during show prep, Friday another session with the physical therapist, errands, and the drop off at ZIA. More soon; things will calm down a bit after today.

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I used the very last of the ‘bad’ hanji sheets, which for me are the ‘best’ sheets. I love the sheet-formation anomalies, and what the joomchi process does with those.  Now, I’ll have to make do with decently-formed sheets, until I can make my own ‘bad’ ones.

Out in the non-ZIA world, the MCBA has sent out a flyer for The Contained Narrative show that opened on April 8, and they have published a (very) full list of artists in the show, and work categories. Book As Environment / Environment As Book not only suits (S)Edition well, it’s a category I’m very happy to see. (click to enlarge)

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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.

March-ing onward

Apologies for the 3 week disappearance, though I can’t imagine that anyone, anywhere waits with bated breath for these posts. I just needed a dose of hibernation and radio silence. Nothing untoward happened except for something midway between a mild bout of flu and a bad cold last week.  Nothing particularly great happened either, except a lovely, highly effective, out-of-pocket visit to a fantastic massage therapist who really, really helped the hip and back problems, and released a few other knots I didn’t even know I had. Slow progress was made on many different types of rather dull work, I now have nine shows scheduled for 2015, and out in the world a nice person I don’t know curated a page of my work on a social media platform I don’t participate in (thank you.)

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The only thing I seem to want to write about from the past three weeks is pup training. Since February 16, Chance and I have been Out On The Sidewalk (!) several times on short walks, with varying degrees of success, but no trauma and only a wee bit of drama. (The first thing that frightened him was ideal: a snowman. I was able to coax him over to sniff; it’s made from something he loves.) We’re taking it slowly, and have gotten up to about ⅔ of the block before SUVs or people or dogs go by and the big scary world starts to rattle him. Some days we just watch the world from the porch, only technically outdoors, where he gets big rewards for ignoring troubling things on cue. On too-cold or crap weather days we work on leash finesse indoors, and other things. We conquered one huge fear using the paper studio: Hose Horror. Last summer, the mere presence of the hose made him hysterical. I had to shut him indoors to water the garden. Now he lies down, intently but quietly watching while I spray water into buckets in front of him: papermaker’s pup etiquette. Chance loves his daily school session as long as we change it up, which keeps it good for me, too. On days when one of us feels impatient or cranky or has the flu, we do a review. Sometimes, like yesterday, Chance chooses the lesson. He repeatedly shied away from the harness, which is unusual. Instead he sat quietly, maintaining eye contact, asking “Please, can we do anything else?” I got out his travel crate and he instantly snapped to attention, tail wagging. He was delighted to show me how calm he could be lying inside while I zipped parts closed, moved it and myself around. He repeatedly entered and exited on cue, then voluntarily stayed inside for long periods while I wrote this. There were helicopters going by overhead and I think he welcomed an extra-safe enclosure, his collapsible cave. Works for me, and he was quite proud of himself, too.

AnneshowI’m about to enter a studio marathon phase and to start seeds for the spring garden, and tomorrow and all through the weekend, Chicago will actually have temperatures above freezing, hooray! All in good time to close out the end-of-winter-hibernation with a ritual hair-shearing. I’m looking forward to Anne Hughes’ Saturday opening at ZIA with Matthew Schofield, and especially Aimee’s excellent return to Chicago (and my alma mater) next week!  I’m really happy for Shawn Sheehy, whose trade version of the amazing Welcome to the Neighborwood is now available. Check out the video!

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