Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Went on an 8K run this morning. It felt wonderful although I still haven't gotten rid of the crink in my neck that's been there since yesterday. My body is beginning to protest about 10 hours later. We saw several birds and blooms in Forest Park... I am getting used to the earlier spring of Missouri.

Starting my first French tapes in anticipation of traveling next summer...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Perpetual State of Deterioration (and Restoration)...

Quote of the day (from home inspection): "Buildings are in a perpetual state of deterioration." Aren't we all?Here's an image of the Shawn Stuckey-designed For A Limited Time Only catalog getting some green, and purple while doing its magic in the compost bin...

B found an interesting proposal for the "Olive Boulevard Transportation Development District" with goals to
  • Improve traffic flow along Olive Boulevard and New Ballas Road
  • Increase access to area businesses
  • Improve pedestrian linkages to retail, service and employment destinations along Olive Boulevard and New Ballas Road
  • Improve aesthetics within the district, creating a more attractive and inviting commercial center.
I look forward to becoming an advocate for these initiatives.

Loving Flashback:

DeKalb, IL was working on a similar plan to revitalize South Fourth Street and downtown DeKalb. I already was privy to seeing quite a bit of rejuvenation of downtown DeKalb in my seven years there thanks to the combined efforts of business owners like Megan Morrison (owner of Megan Morrison and much adored and missed Moxie) and Re:New DeKalb. Working adjacent to Jennifer Groce, RNDK's Executive Director was an education in itself (a hard-working, super-smart, savvy businesswoman with perspective and a great sense of humor). Here's an image from the Re:New website of the new skating rink I haven't seen since our move to MO.

Being able to invest in the local community there was one of best parts of working as director at the Nehring Gallery (website designed by Holly Nicholson and Nicole Szostak), and at the NIU Art Museum. This "very walkable" town, according to walkability.com, is sorely missed. Although I am happy to have moved to one of the most literate cities in America.

Now on to some fun research about energy efficient dryers, washers, refrigerators, drapery...water usage.... etc. Any recommendations are welcome.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Visual Conversation and Personal Conversion

Here are two dears altering the "For the Birds" at The Art Center Highland Park- and a statement in response to seeing invited viewer engagement, instead of just accidental.
Photo courtesy of "fabu" photographer Kimberly Strom.

I'm loving the overlap of my renewed interest in giving over authority of the work to the audience and the close etymological ties between conversation and conversion...
con·ver·sion n.
2. A change in which one adopts a new religion, faith, or belief.
3. Something that is changed from one use, function, or purpose to another.
4. Law
a. The unlawful appropriation of another's property.
b. The changing of real property to personal property or vice versa.
5. The exchange of one type of security or currency for another.
8. Psychiatry A psychological defense mechanism by which repressed ideas, conflicts, or impulses are manifested by various bodily symptoms, such as paralysis or sensory deficits, that have no physical cause.
(From thefreedictionart.com)

From a new statement about the work:

Gallery visitors are invited to alter the birdseed drawings and to take a handful of birdseed as they leave the gallery space and disperse it outside.

Gallery visitors activate the work by walking across it, altering the configuration, and dispersing the seed by the handful. The interactive drawing becomes a visual conversation. The responsibility for removing the work during the run of the show falls into the hands of those who enter the space. Once outdoors, the seeds feed wildlife, insects and are carried by wind and rain. The visual and literal disintegration of the works is not a statement of futility, but a reference to the acceptance of the porous architecture of our own bodies and the beauty in use and entropy. The alteration of the work speaks of the risk and thrill of engaging with others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Great Endings

I just finished A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts. Highly recommended. I usually am a fan of classic novels, and then become greatly disappointed by their endings (i.e. William Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage ending with a "bit of a Disney" clean closure.) Robert's non-fictional account of James Holman (1786-1857) is beautifully written, setting the scene of the times in a vibrant, engaging way.

I finished the book this week--- and I am enamored with his last few paragraphs. They are the conclusion of the book and don't encompass the vast travels of Holman-- If you want to get to the last paragraph yourself SPOILER ALERT: The first line is a quote from Holman himself and the last paragraph is an eloquent ending to conclude the story of Holman's life.

(Upon his world-wide travels, the sensation of place)..." entered into my heart, and I could have wept, not that I did not see, but that I could not portray all I felt." -James Holman

"Time, if not space renders all of us travelers. Cling as we might, we are ultimately compelled to let go of the familiar, to forge affinities with the new, and to sense the approach of the more unfamiliar still. We feel our way. If we are as fortunate as the Blind Traveler, we are given the grace to listen, with equal attention, to the intelligence of winds and the solemnity of silence. To remain, joyfully, awake to the path itself." - Jason Roberts A Sense of the World

I have read and reread the above passage many times. It is clear exposition on the nature of the transitory and travel. Bravo, Mr. Jason Roberts. The Blind Traveler was incredibly adroit with his language- as are you. I think the fitting of author to author was perfect in this case.

Good Ending #2. Composting the catalog designed by Shawn Stuckey from the For a Limited Time Only exhibition at The Art Center Highland Park . Here it is in with some onions peels, before I chucked it into the bin.

Equinox and Eggs

Yesterday... We got up early to see the approximate equinox sunrise over America's Woodhenge at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, IL. If it was a clear morning we would have been able to see the sun rise at the foot of Monk's Mound. The presentation was quite interesting, although I was distracted by those who were prepared enough to bring a blanket to the middle of the sun calendar. There was a small break in the clouds after the presentation, but only breifly.
It was frustrating and fascinating to learn that much information is unknown about the site. The mystery of what the actual posts looked like haunts me. What if they would have been carved? How much more information on their civilization/mythology would we know if we had the additional artwork there?

Afterwards, we stopped by Soulard Coffee Garden Cafe, my favorite place for breakfast in St. Louis. We came 15 minutes before it opened, and shot some images of the Soulard neighborhood. Seeing so many blooms in March is a treat! The architectural stock of St. Louis is phenomenal.

I don't think I've ever seen a large magnolia tree.

Friday, March 20, 2009

...old song with a different meaning since...

Happy Birthday to Jee Leong Koh! He's celebrating by broadcasting a reading of his new work of poetry, Equal to the Earth. Since we used to eat meals together and went on a few excursions, I know his voice's cadence... it makes reading the works yourself much more enjoyable. I had the distinct pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with him during his residency at the KHN Center for the Arts. He is one of my favorite fellow art exhibition viewers and posts his responses to works he sees on his blog. He read poetry to me while driving highway 2 home from Omaha and to the airport. His poetry is often erotic (in a real way with tension and celebration , smart and measured. His interest in metered poetry makes me reconsider the ability of structure to free one to discuss tiny details. Thanks for making it come alive, Jee!

"Virtual Reality is no substitute, but neither is memory." ---


Still mulling over the Gaylen Gerber artist talk I attended at White Flag Projects last night. I raced to get there after packing to dog-sit, so I didn't have time to see the show beforehand. I did listen to the Bad At Sports podcast of an interview with him and look at some images online- When listening to him speak to the very limited audience- it make my face flush with an emotion I can't identify. I can't tell if I had more of an issue with the constant comments of the couple berating everything he said or the presentation itself.

With him constantly repeating "the relationship between things" being so vital to his work or what it was about- the arbitrary nature of the installs seems an affront to it. However- seeing slides of architecture doesn't convey the sense of space- which is probably required to appreciate the re installation of wall-paintings. It seemed very formulaic. By framing his practice by saying he isn't a curator but an artist, and that he doesn't have to take responsibility for his actions because of the subjectivity allotted to an artist- seems a big cop-out. Or is it freedom to not have to ruthlessly edit that I am jealous of? Parts of the practice seem very unattended to and indulgent as a poorly-executed personal fiction in a visual format This notion haunts me. The continuous barrage of snide comments made by the couple next to me surely affected my reception of the slide show--- I'll have to return to see the work again in person.

I was interested to hear from an artist whose work appeared to be so modest- but it seemed really indulgent from his presentation of it. Certain equations of it seemed grandiose and empty at the same time. Because I still have doubts of the real power of artwork that does not extend beyond an initiated audience (being so opaque and self referential)- this is another aspect that nags me. But I have a strong envy of those who can produce artworks and not second guess the vocation; mine would be a completely different existence if I could leave my doubts at the door. Perhaps it's too wrapped up in art-speak to sing for me, the notion of never being able to leave an aspect of painting behind seems to limit the work.

The issues the artwork bring up is of interest to artists- to authorship, trademark, and act of installing... I love the notion of paintings about nothing- being completely neutral and in losing their content become context. My irritations and interest in Gerber's work will be further processed and help me formulate my approach for install at McHenry in August-- working title "Shooting Blanks"...

Since it always takes fermenting time to get a good question in--- I would be much interested in getting into a conversation about Gerber's teaching philosophy. About 16 hours ago, I would have had my chance. Too bad there can't be a week-after follow-up session for artist presentations. I think all parties involved would get much more out of it. It would be great to groundhog day it and see if sitting next to a quieter bunch would have make the presentation reveal more than my distaste for snide art crowds (and speaking directly to only that audience).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

A few days before leaving for Chicago, I thought I would grease the wheels for install and did a practice run on my patio... here's a before and the "after" of a week in my backyard.

Here's the freshly drawn doily-

Here's the "after" and all the critters than are being much more social now there is a Vegas buffet in easy reach. I've got to get my hands on a bird field guide.

The rain hit it hard last night, so some has floated off the patio. If I can catch some more species, I'll get more images up. The squirrels are definitely the big winners of this feast.

The Best Part

Here are a few images of others taking over the labor... it was great to see the energies of gallery visitors and friends add to the work. You can see Wendy Kveck's pepperoni cake on the edge of one of the images.

Thanks K for the advice on "what's next"... and I hope if you trek up to see the show, you drastically alter the works with your own ideas.

Photos from the show

Installing outside the gallery's windows (Thanks Annie Heckman for the shots); The 9 foot doily inside that gallery visitors can manipulate and should remove from the show by the handful; the Shawn Stuckey designed banner at the entrance; Kim and Derek and I at the opening; and Derek's sweet little flowers created just outside of Annie Heckman's piece...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kim's great company and photos

Kim and Derek made a trek up for the Botanical Gardens and The Opening last Friday. It was so wonderful to see friendly faces- and hear good news about the possibilities for their future. Brad and I are holing away money to purchase a home and visit them in Switzerland should the opportunity arise.
So not only were the visitors great to see--- When I stepped out of Annie Heckman's glow-in-the-dark cave, I saw the sweetest simple floral shapes- care of Derek. Brilliant, Sweet, and he makes a mean doily.

While I search for my camera cord, check out Kim's camera work on her blog.

ArtSlant Article

Check out Katherine Born's ArtSlant brief on the show...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Peanut, such language!

I will have to dedicate another post to a singularly incredible human being---my host. After coming back from the opening and feeling really satisfied with feedback and the response, I returned to K's apartment exhausted. She gave a thorough response to the show, and we were intently honing words and phrases to arrive at an understanding about opinions and notions... and I realize where 50% of my graduate education derived. Thanks K! (Not just for the great cooking and stories.)

Our conversation reiterated why grad school (if you get the level you should from it) was valuable. It makes an one aware how responsible an artist is to the viewer. One writes artist statements to be able to identify what philosophical approach you take with the work-using it as a guide. Your job as an artist is to measure work to those standards in the laboratory of your studio, in an organic melding of free association with stark editing, testing it on an audience (even yourself after time away), and continuing to hone the work until (borrowing a phrase from Jeff Adams) an audience can "reach the same arena of thought". The artwork that frosts my cookies now (and there are always exceptions) derives from the notion that one wants to seduce both sides of any issue to have a dialogue. The contradictions contained in an artwork (that doesn't estrange one particular audience) enables others to discuss the content/subject matter as well as its reflection in the artwork. In the late night crits in the sculpture department, gathered like friends with enough social lubrication to not be worried to offend, one could get an honest response- not fueled by malice or friendship, but critical thinking. Thanks all those with beautiful minds and the guts to share their ideas and thoughts. You make the process continue...I can't wait to get back to the studio- after a weekend of family celebration. And rest.

attitude of gratitute

Wow. I mean wow. The exhibition was incredibly well-attended- the Art Center was full of great people. I wanted to express sincere thanks for everyone who made the long haul from DeKalb, the city, Michigan, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Zurich (:)) and especially the Highland Park locals. The area was so friendly, I felt like being transported back to Nebraska City.(I fell in love with that place and their artist residency---KHN Center for the Arts. I especially want to thank those in the large crowd generous enough with their thoughts to share ideas and comments with me, and those who participated in the work- either drawing with the seed, altering the doilies, and dispersing it. I am still on a high from the event, with a bit of a sore throat from talking over the din. I feel like I have my voice back- being able to make work and exist in the intensive making process over several days. Being in such a lovely gallery space, surrounded by kind and understanding professionals --(Gabriella, Rena, Mario & Efrian) who enable you to "do your job" more effectively, just even getting a lift from all the students coming in and out of The Art Center... not to mention meeting four intriguing women (and having some time to spend with them that could extend past small talk) and getting to chat and have dialogue within the space. Olga- you are a lovely thing to have placed us together in a room.

Friday, March 6, 2009

(Two Days and) Tonight: FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!!!

(I must be a "bad news, then good news" kinda woman.)

I was a bit disappointed thinking that I had passed the 150# mark (forgetting that one of my 40 pound bags was used for the Beverly Arts Center Show. It was only toting installation equipment.) I've only arranged 110 # of birdseed for the Art Center Highland Park. There will need to be a next time.

I am also regretting not bringing my camera cord to be able to post images. I didn't think about the ability to VPN from Chicago and get all my horribly named files in order.

So after two solid days of installing- I have one large birdseed doily in the gallery space with a wee floral bit of floor sweepings arranged as well. The show opens tonight, and the outdoor lace... 3 trees and one bare patch were all completed by 3:30 yesterday. I guess the practice of creating them over several years has paid off in speed.

Other than the first two regrets--- the installation trip "For A Limited Time Only" has been phenomenally smooth, enjoyable and enlightening. A fun learning experience of great people, smart ideas, and just enough logistical hold ups to make it reality. The only real issue with installation was the delightful crowd that had amassed for my work---of the six-legged sort inside the bags of stored birdseed. So I moved the doilies supplies outdoors faster. The need for a dark seed for the gallery space prompted an enjoyable trek to Home Depot a' la Olga Stephan. Since we haven't met in person before, it was great to be able to listen to art, life, physics talk and bond over computer programmer spouses. I've gotta watch "The Elegant Universe"... A huge thank you to Annie Heckman for giving me a ride to and from the gallery, and perhaps even the airport tomorrow. She's been wonderful company and cut about her generosity has sliced two hours of commuting out of my schedule each day (not including my bumbling about to find said transport).

The weather has been more than cooperative- it's a balmy 60.. in Chicago, in March. Wow. Rena got a bit nervous about the size of the gallery space and the weather, so one of my outdoor pieces has been expanded to be included inside. It will be a gallery visitor's job to move it handful by handful outdoors. They are also welcome to rearrange the floor-based work.

I just cranked out the statement for the show. It's been honed by wonderful conversations over the past few days with the fellow artists installing in the space: Annie Heckman, Wendy Kveck, Marci Rubin, curator Olga Stephan (who made the entire event possible), and with my gracious host, Kristen, and a special shout out goes to Kip and Julie for their comments at my "Holding Pattern" show in Nebraska City. I've had the phrase "loamy architecture" running through my head for the past few years and put a smattering of it in my statement.

I'm having friends come down for dinner beforehand--- I miss my girls terribly.

So lots of gratitude for the experience and generosity of the people I've encountered. I'm looking forward to seeing several sorely missed faces at the reception this evening.

I'm hoping for a crowd and the utter destruction of the interior work by the end of the evening. I haven't opened up the work for interaction without my presence before- I have been conducting the "birdseed doilies" as a workshop with all ages... and am excited to see what happens. My control freak tendencies and then ambivalent mode switch may be tested, but I think my relationship to the work has fundamentally changed from its outset. I am happy to see it be a truly low-maintenance installation for the gallery. (The Art Center was gracious enough to let me store my materials so I could fly with just a backpack and not have to ship the sacks.) If all goes as planned- there will not be much of the interior doily left by the end of this evening. As for the outdoor doily- I've already been befriended by some squirrels when laying out my first piece yesterday morning. I am interested to see how much it changes in the course of a day.

I'll post images as I get them emailed from others or when I return to MO on Monday.

Here's the statement for the show. It gets closer to "the matter" than any references of futility, since my approach and outlook have changed.

"My birdseed doilies are a record of labor. They celebrate maintenance. The forms are created in an improvisational way, using generic geometric forms and alluding to delicate handiwork, mandalas, and kolams. As some daily activities lapse into chaos or fade without our attentions, the drawings serve as a reminder of a brief fixing of the transitory. Gallery visitors activate the work by walking across it, altering the configuration, and dispersing the protected interior installation by the handful. The responsibility for removing the work during the run of the show falls into the hands of those who enter the space. The exterior works feed wildlife, insects and are carried by wind and rain. The visual and literal disintegration of the works is not a statement of futility, but a reference to the acceptance of the porous architecture of our own bodies and the beauty in use and entropy."

Bring your cameras folks, catch it before it's gone!