I spent this past weekend with family and during our visit I asked my five-year old niece what I should be for Halloween. Twice, actually. The first time she said very seriously that I should just be myself, that adults usually just go as themselves. The second time it came up she offered this suggestion: white dress, white wig, carrying a piece of vanilla cake. What would I be? A lady. But what would I be called? My name, of course.

The reality, sadly, is that I'm not going as anything and I'm not really going anywhere. I had class today and mountains of reading and other stuff to do for my twelve hours of class tomorrow. I'm not a total party-pooper, though. I asked willing volunteers to share their Halloween traditions, plans, costume details, etc., last night before my grad group critique. I don't usually coerce people into participating, but I liked the idea of commemorating an event in this way before it's happened. Here's what they shared:

I'm not even eating candy. I had a can of split pea soup and some wheat thins. Now that's depressing!

Anyway, the weekend was a nice break from the hectic past couple of weeks. I took a break from my problematic works in progress to recycle a series of postcard-sized pieces I screenprinted last semester to include in the grad show at the Mission Hill building, in connection with the Roxbury Open Studios this past weekend.

It's called "everything round invites a caress." The title is from Gaston Bachelard's "Poetics of Space." I was going to call it "the phenomenology of roundness," after his final chapter of the same name, but Neal thought that might come off as a little pretentious. He said a good title should be subjunctive. So I asked him if my alternate title, the one I went with in the end and the one he preferred, was subjunctive and he said no. I'm still trying to figure out what a subjunctive title is. Anyway, each card, printed with graphic representations of objects from my past, some of which repeat, has a vellum overlay with quotes taken from all the chick flicks I watched over the summer months.

The text in this detail reads: "I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses... taking pictures of your feet." It's from Sophia Coppola's "Lost in Translation." I like the relationship to photography, which wasn't totally intentional. I like the way the vellum blurs the image underneath, making it appear to be out of focus. Sophia Coppola's movies are really at the heart of what inspires me to make work like this, all pink and girlie and ephemeral. It makes sense, actually, that I would spend some time with dreamy work like this in order to take a break from the reality of all the questions I still need to answer about my other projects. Or, in the words of one of the boys in "Virgin Suicides," "What we have here is a dreamer. Someone completely out of touch with reality." Well, maybe just for a little while...


here it goes again

Mid-term paralysis. I should have suspected. Things were going way too smoothly. My strategy so far this semester has been to pursue just about every random idea I have, having departed quite a bit from my prior "body of work," editing a half-dozen or so project ideas down to three or four and committing to those until December review boards. One thing leads to another, ideas change, and before I know it I'm creating an installation that's moved away from the wall completely, a sort of juggling act of perhaps too many elements. And I don't have a very good reason for my sudden fascination with, for example, the adirondack chair. So I'm torn between caring about meaning and content and realizing it might be time to slow down and think about that stuff, and feeling like I need to work, work, work my way through these ideas to understand what they mean to me and what kind of response I might want them to evoke in the viewer. I don't want to end up with an empty "one-liner" but I don't want to kill the imagination by over-thinking it all either. Oy.

Anyway, that's about how my week has gone so far. Tuesday was the real highlight, though, and I think the emotional turmoil may have been initiated by watching "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in the morning block of my painting seminar (I'm not sure why). I'd seen the movie several times before, but not recently, and never that early or that sleep-deprived or in a classroom setting. Even in the best of viewing situations, the movie is highly upsetting to me, for many reasons, and the entire time I was wondering why Jason Middlebrook, one of the Museum School's visiting artists and one of the "four painters" participating in that night's panel discussion, when invited to forward relevant reading materials to us to prepare for his portion of the presentation, recommended instead that we watch this movie. I've compared art school critiques to diagnostic medicine before, specifically as it's portrayed in the t.v. show "House," and I guess I could see some depressing similarities between grad group critique and institutionalized group therapy. Who knows? Maybe the film is just an influence for him.

At any rate, I think some of that experience carried over into the rest of my day. So much for taking critical feedback with a grain of salt. I love ideas, really I do, and I love talking about them, but sometimes I wish I could be like Jasper Johns, just make something and put it out into the world and let the viewer or audience do the explaining. I, as the "artist," or "cultural worker," or whatever, am not really that important. And it doesn't mean I don't think art or artists are important in general...I just don't think we know everything ahead of time. And it wouldn't hurt to get over ourselves occasionally.

And if I make a latch-hook pillow from a photo of Georgia O'Keefe, it's not necessarily "trivializing" the artist, a comment I've heard now from two different people. Is it "trivializing" because it's latch-hook? Because a pillow is a rather mundane object with some functionality (although both the latch-hook and pillow elements were, in my mind at least, elements of decoration, not of use or of function...who sits on a latch-hook pillow? have you ever seen a latch-hook "rug" on the floor?)? Because I'm including artists who've dealt with their own image in completely different ways, like Frida Kahlo and Cindy Sherman? Obviously, these artists and, more importantly, their work, are important to me and I mean them no disrespect, but the trivial comment really makes me wonder, whatever happened to the death of the artist? Are Georgia, Frida, and Cindy untouchable? What if I made latch-hook pillows from portraits of Chuck Close, Gerhard Richter, or Matthew Barney? And it's not like I'm making a latch-hook version of their work. And so what if I did? And damn you for turning a latch-hook pillow, something I've been making "for fun" as I spend too much time watching t.v. and movies, into something potentially negative. So maybe I should stop sharing this kind of work...Or maybe I like this kind of conversation and how it potentially "troubles" the image of the artist.

You know what I mean?


I am 29 today

But it's not my birthday. My birthday was Tuesday. And while that statement does suggest that I'm 29 today, but I wasn't yesterday, it is actually valid. That was my thinking behind the t-shirt I made to commemorate the day - I can wear it all year long. And next year, if I want to start lying about my age. Anyway, it didn't get too many comments on Tuesday - most people asked if I really was 29 that day. One guy yelled "happy birthday" from his truck as I crossed the street. I thought that was pretty nice of him. I've got a thing for velour iron-on letters lately. Sometimes, I feel like I could spend the rest of my life just making t-shirts for different occasions and to commemorate different events.

Anyway, I'm mostly okay about the whole approaching 30 thing. I mean, if you think about it, I'm actually already in my thirtieth year, since we more or less start at zero and at the end of the first year, we're 1. But was it pure coincidence that I got this catalogue a couple days before my birthday? What am I buying that's getting me onto the pre-menopausal mailing lists? I have to admit, though, they sell some nifty stuff. In addition to the predictable tummy tucking products and shoes that promote circulation, they have these cool plates that sort of hook onto your wine glass so you never have to do that balancing thing again at parties (or have people spill wine at parties you host). And this blender that looks like an upside-down mug so you can blend 'n' go. And shoulder pads! Maybe I'll hang onto it for awhile...

In other news, I was pretty pleased when Monique was elminated from ANTM a couple of weeks ago. Melrose almost disappointed me with that increase in attitude last week, but I can sympathize with just about everything that aggravates her. She's still my favorite, although I couldn't help but feel a little bad for Megg...talk about kicking her when she's down, you know?

P.S. Only two and a half weeks until the season premiere of the O.C.!


my contribution to the Logozoo

Last post I mentioned recenlty listenening to a presentation by poet Robert Kendall, who talked to the text and image arts area about his latest project, Logozoa. Sample sheets of stickers along with instructions were provided at the end of his presentation. I love projects like this, that are text-based, interactive and whose primary mode of display is on the internet. So I picked out my half-dozen stickers and headed straight to the Mission Hill building, putting one logozoa in my studio, where it's safety is pretty secure, and another, slightly more precariously positioned above a strip of lightswitches in the foyer gallery, where there is currently an impromptu photo exhibition. I think the texts are pretty appropriate to both locations. I might e-dopt a logozoa as well so keep on the lookout for that.


sunshine and summer blue

As promised, a full school/art update, complete with a few images (this is the "sketch wall" in my studio). School started right after Labor Day weekend. In all honesty, after four months of summer, it took a full couple of weeks before twelve hour sleep-deprived days felt normal again. My week goes something like this. On Monday morning, after getting roughly six hours of sleep, I TA for a class called "Publish!" The class used to be called Publication Design, but the emphasis, while it's still a technical class, seems to have shifted a little bit away from design and now leans more heavily toward the ability to self-publish, looking at a lot of activist artists and war graphics from WWI to the present. I'm not totally qualified to be the TA for that class, but I try to finesse the situation and answer technical questions about Quark and Photoshop (so far) as best I can. I'm learning a lot.

That three-hour block is followed by a six-hour break. In the past month, I've mostly stayed at school, working in the MacLab, reading in the library, or hiding away in my studio, doing art and stuff. From six to nine I'm in grad group critique, the single required course for all students in years one and two of the program. The school offers five or six sections of this course, so you're bound to get a pretty diverse group of students, from both years and all areas of the program. Occasionally, however, you, a painter/printmaker/image-maker, get stuck in a group dominated by "photo people." Either way, you won't get nearly as much out of this class as the administrators would lead you to believe. You're better off signing up for many individual critiques throughout the semester. And even then, after about a year of taking every bit of feedback to heart, you're free to select and discard which information is useful to you or not. They're good practice, though, for your review board.

That said, grad group critique always gets me fired up. Also by this time I've had about three doses of caffeine (I'm trying to cut back) so that it takes me hours to wind down. On top of all this, sometimes my priorities get all out of whack and I decide, instead of going to bed or staying up doing school work, to make mock wedding invitations for characters from t.v. shows like the Gilmore Girls and Lost. Needless to say, I go to bed late and toss and turn for hours before falling into a deep sleep around 4 a.m.

My alarm is usually set to wake me up at around 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. It takes me about an hour and a half to do all the usual morning stuff in addition to feeding my two cats, making coffee and having breakfast, and packing lunch, and sometimes dinner, for the day. It takes me anywhere from 40 minutes to well over an hour to make the seven or eight mile T ride to school. That's why I get up at 6:15 a.m. to get to school by 9. And in the winter, I have to walk in the snow. I'm gonna have great stories to tell my grandkids.

Anyway, on Tuesdays I'm in Patte Loper's all day "Four Painters" seminar. I love seminars. Much less technical than studio classes but not as "academic" as an art history class. Patte brings in four "painters" over the course of the semester (they don't necessarily use paint, though). We read stuff that they recommend and talk about their work before meeting them in person (and eat free pizza from Sorento's). They give public lectures and you get to meet individually with about half of the artists she brings in. The first artist she invited this semester was Sheila Pepe. I had a brutal 30-minute critique with her. She essentially told me to stop explaining my work and then proceeded to pull out some really insightful stuff, even about older work where I thought I'd heard it all. Next week we'll host Amy Wilson. I've enjoyed perusing her website and many blogs in preparation.

On Tuesday evenings, while Neal has class, I usually try to head straight home and get some sort of aerobic exercise, but there's been a public lecture or presentation almost every week so far. There's a sculpture based sister class to Four Painters and their lectures are on Tuesday evenings. So even though my calendar called for a "Firm" step workout a few weeks ago, I heard MassArt's Taylor Davis talk about her work instead.

This week has been particularly speaker-heavy. On Tuesday, Mary Ann Friel, master printer and project coordinator at the Fabric Workshop Museum in Philadelphia, spoke about the workshop, museum, and several projects they've done with various artists since about 1977. I first learned about this place about four or five years ago, during my Laura Owens phase. She was one of many artists-in-residence there in 2000 or 2001 I believe. There are lots of pretty well-known pieces that I had no idea the FWM was a part of, like Felix Gonzalez-Torres' two clocks, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), and Paul Chan's floor projection that was installed in the Whitney Biennial earlier this year. Some of their current artists-in-residence include Mark Bradford, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, and Shahzia Sikhander. Friel also gave a fabric printing demonstration in my screenprinting class yesterday, during which I decided a repeat pattern printed on fabric would definitely be part of the installation I'm working on in that class.

Which leads nicely into Wednesday. Mornings are a repeat of Monday (during yesterday's Publish! class we hosted visiting artist/poet Robert Kendall and heard about his latest project, Logozoa), followed by an afternoon of intermediate/advanced screenprinting, led by Jenn Schmidt (who also happens to be my studio advisor). Jenn has organized a show for us in mid-November, giving us a tangible deadline to work toward. I've been tossing around two or three ideas this past month, taking baby steps toward making any decisions or real progress. But yesterday evening after class, while I was sitting in the annual Beckwith Lecture at school, my mind wandering as Lynne Cook talked about her curatorial practice for the Dia Foundation (something about site-specific installation and industrial spaces converted for gallery use), I had a really defined vision of my project, which, as mentioned earlier, has grown into an "installation." It all started with these little adirondack chairs I bought and painted colors like "summer blue" and "sunshine." Here's a chair that's been appropriated by one of the miniature cats from the miniature cat collection I have growing in my studio. More about that later.

Of course, normally after screenprinting I have to "haul ass" over to Tufts for my art history class, which, this semester, is Museum History and Theory. I skipped class last night to make it to this lecture, which was actually quite relevant to the course, but a bit of a snooze-fest. I got home around 8, though, a full two hours before I'd normally be home on a Wednesday evening. Either way, Neal and I usually catch up on t.v. while munching on popcorn and drinking fresca because I don't have to get up early on Thursdays. In fact, I don't have to get up at all, what with the lack of school or work today, but I usually have a long list of other stuff to do and occasionally make an appearance at Neal's weekly colloquium. On days like today, when I'm not all that interested in, for example, the fate of newspapers, I might at least make it to the free dinner that always follows.

On Fridays I try (in vain lately) to get my own work done while I "monitor" the screenprinting studio, unlocking the exposure unit for students, refilling spray bottles designated for Fantastik and emulsion remover, cleaning out scoop coaters left in the sink, and replacing brown kraft paper on the ink table. There's been a ceramics class in there the last couple of weeks and while I gripe to myself that I'm not getting any work done, I've actually really enjoyed helping them out. Ceramicists are nice.