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.

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