29 December 2007

Starting again


Okay. I've been busy, or maybe just lazy. At least lazy with this blog. Time to get back into then habit of writing here.

Now for a quick synopsis of what the last month has brought.

Currently I am putting together my CV, so that I can send out some applications to a few universities. I would like to be able to teach for real, rather than just being an unofficial faculty member. Right now other faculty members ask me to help teach their courses, but the university will not consider hiring me as faculty. I am fed up with it.

Abelisto is also fed up with the university too. His sabbatical was turned down, and not for a good reason. Read here, and here, and here. We need to find a school that needs a sociologist and an artist.

The website redesign at work is just now getting started. This past week my fellow team members and I filled out a fairly detailed questionnaire for the discovery phase. We meet with the Atomic Playpen team on the 3rd.

Daughter-2 has gone back to Las Vegas, enrolled in UNLV and hopes to get the 7 credits necessary to finish her BA there. The registrar at our university was wonderful when daughter-2 went to speak with her about the options.

Daughter-2 was due to fly out of La Crosse on Christmas day - at 6:30 pm on the last flight heading to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I love flying out of the La Crosse airport - it's 25 minutes from our house (unless we get stuck on the wrong side of the railroad tracks). All flights go out of gate 2... I don't think there is a gate 1. I know there's not gate 3... It's great - they actually have an area where you can wait with your loved ones up until maybe 20 or 25 minutes before their flight leaves. Then they go through a short and quick security check and get on the plane. No more driving two and a half hours, dropping someone off and giving them a quick hug on the street, trying not to get hit by the crazy drivers or yelled at by security.

Anyway, when we got to the airport around 5:30 on Christmas day, we stood outside for a little while (it was not very cold, compared to the previous few days) while daughter-2 and daughter-3 shared a last cigarette together and then wheeled, dragged, carried the luggage into the airport. They ended up coming back out, dragging the luggage with them. Turns out the flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul was canceled, not due to weather - which was our first assumption - but due to a mechanical problem with the plane. Since it was to be the last flight out that day, the best we could do was come back at 4 am for the first flight of the next day. Daughter-2 was not happy at all, and actually I did not relish getting up at 3 am to make the trip all over again. The clerk, seeing our faces, said "what a shame, the only ticket left on that flight is in first class..." Daughter-2 promptly stated that she would take it. So she got to fly not only between La Crosse and Minneapolis/St. Paul, but all the way to Vegas in a first class seat.

Since she left I have been a bit sad. I really did not get to spend much time with her while she was here. All her old friends kept her quite busy. I had forgotten (and I think she had too) how many firends she has here and what a social creature she was (is). I am hoping that everything works out in LV school-wise. She really wants to finish her BA.

I have a few projects in process right now
  • a 4 yard swath of linen/rayon/cotton fabric that I am weaving. It will end up being a garment of some sort. I have about 2 feet of it woven as of tonight.

  • two encaustic projects - one on driftwood and one on heavy watercolor papers

  • a quilted vest for Abelisto. We keep our house between 60 and 62 degrees and sometimes a sweater, sweatshirt or jacket is too much, but a turtleneck is not enough.
I think there is something else, but right now it escapes me...


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04 December 2007

Been a while

The last two weeks have been tough in many ways.

Over Thanksgiving we went to Indiana. My brothers and I went through my father's garage and parceled out the items that each of us wanted, sorted and organized the things we felt my mother needed to keep around, and bagged/boxed/stacked the things that should be given away or hauled away to be recycled or trashed.

Abelisto and I made the 600 mile drive home on the Monday after Thanksgiving. We were in the middle of Illinois when we got a phone call from daughter #2. She was crashing emotionally and the end result was that at 5 am on Wednesday (just 36 hours after we got back from Indiana) I flew out to Las Vegas. Once there I helped her pack some things up and we flew back to Minnesota yesterday. She is here at least for the month, and perhaps for the spring semester so that she can finish her BA. She needs 7 credits or an internship to finish it up.

The temperature difference between Nevada and Minnesota was amazing - we both spent the evening shivering. Today she begins making some concrete plans for what's next in her interesting life.

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19 November 2007

Liberal Economist?

I have found an economist I kinda like...

Paul Krugman writes about the politics and economics of inequality in America and other topics.

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08 November 2007

I would do this work

Danielle - if you are reading this - this is the work I want to do... But no one in Winona would pay anyone to do it.

Just kidding - or at least partially. I would like to do something like this, maybe not as a career, but as performance art or community/collaborative art. But I think I would have to develop a style first - or at least a style that someone would admire.

Not gonna happen anytime soon is my guess.

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05 November 2007

Taking a break from fiction

There is nothing wrong with reading fiction. There have been books - novels - that have changed my life, made me stronger and more determined and less apt to be taken advantage of, more willing to risk giving voice to my own ideas and opinions.

There have been novels that have saved my sanity during times when reality was just too damn awful to deal with, times when an hour or two (or ten) stolen now and then from what everyone else expected me to do and be, spent reading about some alternate world, some faraway place or time, kept me from ending my life...

So, you see, I love fiction, good fiction, of any kind, except maybe romance novels - not saying that they do not have their worth, just that I could never get into them much. Perhaps that had to do with being afraid to be caught reading one, more than any actual romance novel itself. I think my ex would have considered it disrespectful to his manliness if I needed to read a romance novel - after all, wasn't he the be all and end all in regard to what a woman would want?
ugh...

Well, what I meant to write about this evening, instead of my love for good fiction, was my intent to do some more academic reading.

I am starting with Ethics and Visual Art, edited by Elaine King and Gail Levin, published by Allworth Press (New York, 2006). It contains 19 essays on various ethical concerns with art, art collection, authenticity, cultural appropriation and artifact repatriation, censorship, ownership and copyright, and more that I cannot remember right this moment.

It will be like reading short stories. I like short stories because they are short - I can read them at the end of the day and have a definite ending place (so that I do not read half the night, or more).

I may not read all 19 essays in this book, but I am hoping that a few of them will serve as jumping-off points for additional research.

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04 November 2007

Pepin Wisconsin

This weekend Abelisto and I went beachcombing. We like to go up and down the Mississippi and gather interesting debris (natural and man-made) for art, and for just collecting.

We ended up stopping at several gravely beaches. Abelisto found the best agate that I have ever seen come out of the Mississippi. It was over an inch in diameter and this translucent deep red color.

We found bones, river glass, and interesting rocks. I do not know exactly what I will do with it all, but something will come from it, I am sure.

We found some interesting driftwood too. That I will likely use in my encaustic work. I recently attended a show at SMU of an encaustic painter that works on weathered boards which was inspiring. She did not work on driftwood, though. I think that the wood we found will make interesting foundations for a different sort of painting than I have been doing.

We ended up driving up river on the Minnesota side of the river, and back down on the Wisconsin side. It always seems strange to me to be able to look across the river and say with certainty, "That is another state, right there, those hills that I see..." Usually borders like that are much too arbitrary to say those kinds of things. Even at the Grand Canyon, I could not be certain what state claimed the territory I was seeing across the gorge, since the Grand Canyon twists and turns back on itself so much. Not so the Mississippi. I know which state those bluffs I see are.

Anyway, we went across the river at Red Wing Minnesota and headed back downstream. We stopped in Pepin Wisconsin (near the birth place of Laura Ingels Wilder, if you were curious). We found a very interesting and vibrant arts community in Pepin. They were all so friendly and interested in us - we were, of course, driving the art car. We ended up being invited to join their fledgling arts association, urged to dine at the local eatery before it closes for the season, and to attend a music performance next Saturday.

I think we will do all three...

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29 October 2007

It feels like I should be studying

Spent the weekend unable to log on to the internet. Since we had the party on Saturday night and the benefit on Sunday there was not a block of time that I could sit down and debug it.

I think I am missing having studying to do, or something. I went straight from 10 years of part-time study (while working full-time) to get my BA, to 5 semesters of full-time study (while working full-time) on my MFA to getting ready for a big art show in the gallery to dealing with my father's failing health and death.

Now I feel like I am in some sort of limbo. I need something to study and write on. Something challenging. Some ideas I have been tossing around are:
sustainability - which might go along with Abelisto's beekeeping project
identity & garment - this would be an extension of my thesis/portfolio
using art to promote peace & justice
art & activism
ancient textile techniques - art or handicraft
symbolic language - from textiles to rock art (could involve some primary research eventually, there are petroglyphs just outside of vegas)
authenticity - who has the right to express what
I think I need to stay in practice for doing research and academic writing. Maybe I will submit an article to a journal on something. It is either that or find a way to do a Ph.D.

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24 October 2007

Too many files

I have spent a couple days now, on and off, looking for a file. The problem is I have three computers (maybe four - I cannot remember when I made the file, so I have no idea which computer it might be on...) as well as three network folders and three portable hard drives to search...

Time for some serious file management work. I need to start with the 500gig portable hard drive and get it organized. Then I could work through the others, looking to see where the newer versions of documents are and which should be saved/deleted. Then I could move the files to the portable hard drive and wipe and restore one or two of the computers, and reload only the files that need to go back on them. Then I could burn DVDs of the remaining data for archival purposes, and return to using the 500gig drive as a standard backup of all four computers (just the documents and software settings - not the software itself) and the other portable hard drives.

Sounds like too much work though - I bet it would take a month to look at each & every file - so I guess I will just muddle through the mess.

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22 October 2007

A Reading

Last Thursday I had a reading of some of my stories at the local arts center. I was asked to read for 30 - 45 minutes, but brought enough materials for just over an hour and a half - not know what the mix of people in the audience would be. That turned out to be a good decision because the small group of people present encouraged me to read more of my work. I ended up reading for just over 80 minutes.

Much of what I read was material/stories from my MFA thesis/portfolio. I have not written much lately - just mostly about my father. It seems that other than the meanderings in this blog, when I write it is about him.

I think I will see if I can string together my previous stories and the new stories about my father and put together a couple hours of readings to perform. Maybe the Blue Heron would have an evening that I could take.

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21 October 2007

Yesterday & Today's Efforts

This weekend has been fairly productive. Not with art, but with all the other crap that one has to do to keep things going.

Made it to the farmer's market to get some soup veggies for the party next weekend (we are having home-made soups and breads from Panera). Talked to the bee guy, finally remembered to take some encaustic paintings to show him. We gave him an encaustic artist trading card.

We did every scrap of laundry. Except now there is more to do...

We cleaned the downstairs bathroom. And our bedroom.

Abelisto did some grading and prep for Monday's classes. I did not have any grading to do. My students are working on papers right now. Next weekend I will have grading to do.

We bought mice for the snake to eat - frozen ones, not live ones. Mice-On-Ice, they are called.

We bought groceries. We only do that every other week. Well, we only go to La Crosse and do the big grocery shopping every other week. We get perishables locally from a couple stores in town and the farmer's market.

We picked up the built-in cabinet doors from the glass replacement company and put them back on the built-in cabinets. They had been sitting in the hall for about a year before we took them to have the broken glass replaced last week.

We took a short ride on the bicycles, stopped by the bike shop to ask about trainers (the device you set a regular bike on to make it into a stationary bike for exercising in the winter.

We cleaned up my studio - it was not too bad, so that was easy.

We cleaned up the front room. And the dining room. And the foyer. And the back porch. We paid the bills.

We replaced the front door. The replacement door had been sitting in the foyer for about three weeks. We bought it and one for the back door on sale at Menards at the beginning of the month and managed to get the back door replaced the next day. Not so the front door.

Eventually we want to give up this big house. We have talked about donating it to the local Catholic Worker house. They could use a bigger house for their women and children's homeless shelter. We have also talked about selling the house.

I just want something smaller and simpler and more energy efficient. I would think about building something, but past experience kind of makes me shudder.

Eventually I would like something about half the size of this place. I figure 1500 sq ft would be ideal. That would be big enough that people could visit, but not live with us. I would like to be on the edge of town - close enough to ride bicycles into town, but far enough out that Abelisto could have as many beehives as he would like. I want a big garage that I can convert into a studio.

Some days we talk about finding one or two like-minded adults who would like to live in community. If we could find them, we would consider keeping the house after the kids leave. But I go back and forth in my head on this. Having lived in community I know how hard it is to make it work. Still, with the right people... But that is the trick, finding the right people.

Anyway, the house, or at least the first floor, is clean (except for the kitchen which I am going to tackle right after I finish this posting) and ready for the soiree next weekend. We will need to give it a touch up, and mop the floors, on Friday or Saturday morning. But for the most part, none of us will be mortified about the house when people come Saturday night.

I was going to make some curtains, but I think I will just leave the slightly cat-damaged mini-blinds up for now. I will just pull them up high enough that the damage does not show. Instead of all that sewing work, I am going to start a weaving project. It will be nice to weave something. I have not done any weaving for a couple years. Between grad school and work and the divorce, weaving got shoved to the bottom of the list.

We did do one art related thing today. We went to the opening of the next show in the SMU gallery.

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13 October 2007

A Father Story - Transcendence

My father and I sat in the van, in the pre-dawn twilight at the edge of the ocean, on Daytona Beach. We had driven all of the previous day and most of the night to get there. It was the last family vacation we took together – I was nineteen and had already moved out of the house (not on the best of terms), within a year I would be living in the commune, and all communication between us would cease until my first child was born.

I get motion sickness in a vehicle – car, bus, airplane – it doesn’t matter. If I am not the driver, I am ill. When my father is in the car he always drives. Always. On the trip from Indiana to Florida I decided to take medicine to keep from being carsick. I slept through three states and woke up somewhere in Georgia. Everyone else was asleep and my father was alone as he drove through the darkening evening. I crawled out of the pile of bodies and up into the passenger seat and watched as the roadside scenery flew past, briefly in and out of the illumination of the van’s headlights.

Along towards morning we arrived at our first destination – Daytona Beach. In 1977 you could drive out on the beach, right down to the ocean’s edge. We pulled up to the high-tide mark and turned off the engine. I closed my eyes and leaned back, deciding to try to sleep until daylight. Almost immediately my father nudged my shoulder, pointing out over the ocean. The band of sky just above the dark water line had turned from the black of night to a vivid, iridescent, dark turquoise. You could tell that the sun would soon be up.

Except for the gentle lapping of the waves, it was totally silent on the beach. As far as I could tell, there were no other people on the strip of sand stretching out into the darkness on either side of us. I watched as my father lit his pipe, tobacco glowing brightly as he inhaled, inhaled, inhaled – he always takes three deep puffs to light his pipe. When my night vision returned and I could see out into the darkness again, I saw a strange orange glow far out in the water, looking for all the world just like the glowing tobacco embers in my father’s pipe. I rubbed my eyes and blinked several times, unable to figure out what I was seeing. As we watched it became apparent that we were seeing the sun, seeing it shining through the water. We were seeing the sun before it rose, seeing it through the ocean, visible to us because of the curvature of the earth and the clarity of the water. For a few fleeting minutes it seemed like the ocean was aflame. Then the sun crested the horizon and the day was upon us.

At nineteen I was still far too self-absorbed to notice very many things beyond my immediate wants or needs, but sitting there on that beach it became evident to me that I was observing something outside of my normal daily experience. It felt like something that had been happening for millions of years, something that happened for the first time at that very moment, something that happens again each time I think of it.


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12 October 2007

Transcendence

The opening sentence of my artist statement states: I am an interdisciplinary artist examining the transcendent in the light of the connection between the ancient and the contemporary.

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So, how does one examine the space between the ancient and the contemporary in the light of the transcendent?

Transcendent, fancy word, complicated idea... The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as going beyond the limits of “normal or physical human experience.” I’m still working on my definition – some days I think I’m almost there, other days, well…

Why is it that people try to isolate the transcendent from the ordinary? It seems to me that they are two parts of a whole. Doesn’t separating them destroy both of them? Render them weak and unremarkable?

I think that life is, by its very nature, transcendent. I think it happens aljavascript:void(0)
Publish Postl around us but we often don’t realize it in our fragmented existences. To be present in your own life is to connect with the self – the I AM. From that place, from that self-awareness, comes the ability to recognize the transcendent. I don’t mean self-centeredness; I am referring to self-knowledge. When we do not know ourselves we become ineffective, insecure and fearful, easily swayed, easily manipulated. Because we do not know what we are truly capable of, all tasks seem impossible, all obstacles, insurmountable and our awareness is trapped in the normal, everyday physical life. I think most of us get glimpses of transcendence now and then, usually when we least expect it, during moments of peaceful acceptance or hard-found resignation.


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10 October 2007

Identity

The process of self-discovery is fluid, elusive and capricious. We find and lose ourselves, moment-to-moment, like the fleeting recognizable shapes seen in the clouds. The process of discovering our godhood is likewise fluid, elusive and capricious. We find and lose our divinity constantly. This is our mystery.

It seems to me that identity is a made thing, like art, like music, like a spinach soufflé. It’s part performance, done for an audience, often involving improvisation – even plagiarism – and part self-discovery, a continual self-recreation.

I cannot speak to how everyone does it, but I pick and choose between all the possible choices I can imagine and sculpt an identity for myself. Actually I have several identities – the work identity, the home identity, the mom identity, the lover/partner identity, the artist identity. These days all my identities are more similar to each other than they have ever been in my life. I think I am achieving balance.

Finally.

Postmodern society allows for each of us to keep a closet full of identities which we pull out and try on, wearing when and as we see fit. It seems to me that this is both a personal choice and a tendency based on cultural norms. Sociologist Victoria Alexander, in Sociology of the Arts, seems to agree, stating “…because people are more geographically mobile and can choose among a wide variety of consumer items, their identities have become fragmented and based on their consuming choices and lifestyles” (13). Did my grandmother have more than one identity? Perhaps she did, living with an unstable man, balancing a work life and home life, walking carefully on whatever eggshells the moment laid before her. Perhaps the need for multiple identities – or multifaceted identities – comes from having large numbers of people to interact with. Could it be that we need to be one person with that group, another person in this situation, and still another when we’re all alone?

In The Power of Feminist Art, editors Norma Broud and Mary Garrard, discussed identity with Judy Chicago. Chicago stated that, "Identity is multiple… when I started looking at Jewish experience people would say ‘Oh, you’ve stopped being a feminist?’ It’s because they had a very narrow concept of identity… one can be both a woman and a person of color, an American and of African descent, as well as a person of a particular class. One’s identity is larger than singular (72)."

My identity is indeed multiple. I self-identify as a member of a number of overlapping groups. In regards to ethnicity I see myself as predominantly western European (Irish, Scottish); class – this one is a bit fluid – I consider myself upper-middle class because I feel I am very fortunate in life, but I’m not sure if that’s how I’d be placed based on income. I place myself as an artist, a mother, a partnered individual, and a reluctant and somewhat anarchistic American. I have a work identity that oozes capability and responsibility, but I’d really like to chuck it all and be more bohemian, taking up an eclectic gypsy persona as my primary identity.

The clothes would be so much more fun.


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09 October 2007

Interstices - Part 5

Took the show down on Saturday. Now all the art is back in our house. I found wall space for all the paintings and photographs, and I filled the corners of the front room with sculptures. Some items (like Glimpses in Time) will have to be rolled or folded up and put away. Even if I had room to hang a 5' x 8' x 8' sculpture in the house, the cats would destroy it... not on purpose, they just love fabrics and hanging fabric is their favorite.

They are pretty tough on window blinds too. They have made cat-sized holes in the blinds on a couple windows. They simply walk through the ends of the blinds (bending the individual plastic strips out of their way) to get to the window sill, and after enough bending and folding even the toughest plastic will crack and break off. I have some 14 ounce canvas that I plan to use to make some roman shades. I figure that it is tough enough to stand up to five cats - it is the same fabric that is used to make commercial tents and awnings (minus the plastic coating that makes it weatherproof).

Anyway, the art show was fun and frustrating. The fun part was that I got to speak to so so many people about art in general, about my art, and about art education. The frustrating part was (and is) that I do not have the wherewithal to just do art, or even do the kind of art I would really love to do. I would love to do really large sculpture work and/or public art. I want to cast Communion Circle in ductile iron or soft steel and set it outside to rust. I want to do some work with oxyacetylene welding. And I would love to create some large clay sculptures.

I sure get tired of saying to myself, "Well, someday..."

However, I really should not complain. After all, I did not even step onto this road until just a couple years ago. You would think that by this time I would have learned patience. Perhaps I am just feeling mortal these days.

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07 October 2007

I miss my dad

It is very hard to remember that my father is gone. I keep thinking about things I need to tell him or show him. It is sort of funny, well not really, but I think about telling him things more often now than when he was alive. Used to be, I would go days, if not weeks, without actively thinking about him. Now I think about him all the time.

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02 October 2007

Making Paint

Tonight I made my own encaustic paints. I melted some beeswax, ground up some damar resin, and mixed it and the various pigmenting agents in the beeswax.

I ended up with six or seven very interesting colors and a couple not-so-interesting ones. I will use the ones that are not so interesting as base/background colors.

I used commercially prepared ground pigments. I am looking to move away from the paints that have heavy metals in them - even though those colors are the most intense. I do not like working with them because they are so toxic. I may end up working with a totally different color range in order to be more health and ecology focused with my practice.

I eventually want to grind my own pigments. But that will have to wait for a while. I need to figure out if I can grind the pigments without using a binding agent. I think most binding agents would not mix well with the beeswax.

Maybe I will make some more handmade paper and see how these handmade paints work on it...

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29 September 2007

4 Weeks

Last night marks four weeks since my father died. I tried not to think about it too much. I am not into avoiding thinking about it, but I do not want to dwell upon it either.

I wonder if Friday nights are always going to make me sad.

I see photographs of my father and I cannot imagine him gone. He is always so damn strong and vibrant and alive in the photographs. How could someone so present in the world be gone?

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26 September 2007

Interstices - Part 4

This is a bit closer photograph of Communion Circle: 1-10.

Communion Circle: 1-1
Plaster sculptures, each piece measures
approximately 24" x 24" at the base,
heights vary from 64" to 76"


I like tension in my artwork. I like to find ways to express two or more opposing ideas in a single work.

This piece is about community. As I planned the piece I had two ideas about community. Community is always the same. Community is always changing.

Community is always the same represents the idea that community essentially exists anytime there is one being involved with another. Thinking in terms of human community, it seems to me that community is our foundation; it is the bedrock of our existence. That is the part that never changes. We are always in community.

Community is always changing refers to the fact that individuals change community, and community changes individuals. By this I do not mean simply the transitory nature of human interaction, not just that we are nomadic in nature (nomadic in regards to community - even if we do not move our persons, we move our loyalties, our interests, our passions and that brings us into community with new groups) but also that each individual changes the dynamics of a community, and the experience of community changes the individual.

Each piece in Communion Circle: 1-10 represents a being, an entity, in some stage of its life. Each being has root-like tendrils at the bottom of wide/thick bases. Each being then tapers up to a narrow point which twists, bends or droops in a variety of shapes.

The root/tendrils base is meant to suggest a tree in the minds of the viewer - what is more stable than a tree. It lives its life in one place and, barring human intervention, lives a long time, feeding the community upon its demise, as it slowly decays. This represents the unchanging essence of community.

The upper sections of the beings are meant to suggest surreal bird heads (some of them strongly resemble birds). What is more temporal than a bird, more transitory? This embodies the ever-changing aspect of community.

The sculptures themselves were constructed in phases. I started with a block of wood, 1" x 7" x 7", drilled a 5/8" hole in the center of it, and inserted a 60" fiberglass rod. I then twisted newspaper into the root-like shapes and taped it to the board. Once I had enough roots taped down, I began filling out the shape with crunched up balls and folded up slabs of newspaper, taping them to each other as they wound around the fiberglass rod in the center, tapering to a narrow column at the top of the rods. I then twisted more newspaper into the various bird-head shapes and affixed them to the tops of the sculptures with more masking tape.

Once I had the general shape I wanted I covered the sculpture with a couple layers of plaster cloth (the same stuff they used to cast broken bones with). With this plaster cloth I refined the shape, adding details to make the suggestion of tree trunks and bird heads stronger.

After the plaster cloth dried and set up I mixed up a slurry of plaster and water which I then brushed on the sculpture in a thin layer. After the layer dried fully I added another layer, and another. Each sculpture has around twenty layers. After the plaster work was done, each piece was given two layers of a neutral white paint.

I decided on white because I did not want color to interfere with either "seeing" the shapes, or seeing the pieces as a cohesive whole.

That said, I am working with a local foundry on getting these cast in soft steel or iron. I think they would make a great outdoor sculpture - it would rust to a lovely brown color.

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17 September 2007

Interstices - Part 3

There are two more fiber sculptures in my show. This one is called Glimpses in Time, and it tells the story of my father's life. It is hanging in the north room of the gallery.
Glimpses In Time: We All Tell Stories
Italian burlap, wooden dowel rods
approximately 60 inches x 96 inches x 72 inches
The two small works visible (on pedestals) are also my artwork
and will be featured in a later post. The work on the walls
is by the other artist in the show, Carol Faber.


Working with commercial fabric allows me to take work with me (sometimes, anyway). Abelisto and I went to a fabric wholesale outlet in the Twin Cities and bought 20 yards of this off-white Italian burlap. I experimented with using all sorts of substances to stiffen it enough that it would stand on its own - without luck. After wasting several yards (a pricey experiment - Italian burlap retails for $20/yard and wholesales for $8), I decided that none of that was going to work and I would have to use some really nasty, toxic chemicals to stiffen the fabric sufficiently. I am trying not to use those types of chemicals in my work anymore...

So I took another path, and created a work that would hang from the ceiling.

I started this piece on the trips to Indiana to be with my family during the last summer of my father's life. It has sections where I have pulled out the vertical threads, leaving only the horizontal ones. This creates visibly distinct sections - narrow and wide bands of open, semi-transparent areas.

So how, you ask, does this piece represent my father's life (and recent death)?

I took this piece with me when we first went to Indiana after learning that my father had terminal lung cancer, and each of the subsequent times we visited this past summer. During the days we spent there I worked on the piece on my mother's huge dining room table in the great room of my parents' house, the room where my father's hospital bed was set up. People would come and go - my brothers and sister, my aunt, the neighbors, friends of my father and mother, the hospice nurses. We we all told stories, lots of stories. The stories soaked into the artwork, the lines of thread being drawn out were the words of the stories, the gaps left behind were the feelings left when the stories were finished. The columns of drawn threads, narrow and wide, sometimes close together, sometimes farther apart, represent all of the lives that touched my father's.

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16 September 2007

Interstices - Part 2

I suppose I should have mentioned that Interstices is the name of my show.

Interstices
[in-tur-stuh-seez]
1. the spaces between things.
2. intervals of time.

The space in-between is a potent place.
It is the space where transcendence – change and transition – occurs.
It is the quiet before the storm, the fallow time when ideas conceived gestate, the moment between the glance and the quickening.

Fiber Sculptures
Ascension.
Fiber sculpture, hand-woven and hand-knotted recycling twine,
approximately 14 inches by 12 inches by 40 inches.
Two gourd sculptures are also visible in the lower image.


For Different Ends
Fiber sculpture, hand-woven recycling twine, approximately
12 inches by 8 inches by 96 inches.


Both these fiber sculptures are made from recycling twine. I like making art from materials not normally used for art-making. I particularly like stiff, homely materials like recycling twine. I like the way it has a mind of its own - being tightly wound around the spool has given the fibers a memory of the curved, circular shape. When freed from the spool they tend to spread out in their own directions unless they are tightly woven or knotted (best seen by clicking on the images and viewing them in the full-sized versions).

These sculptures are hanging from the ceiling frames on monofilament. You can sort of see in one of yesterday's photos how they are suspended in space. These are 3-dimensional pieces and I like to encourage people to notice that by not hanging them on a wall. In fact, Ascension could not be hung on a wall at all.

More tomorrow... it's late. It always seems to be late when I find the time to write in this blog.

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15 September 2007

Interstices - Part 1

I thought I would share images from my current gallery show - Interstices.

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View from outside the gallery

This is what you would see as you approach the gallery. I placed the sculpture Communion Circle: 1-10 carefully so that it would draw passersby into the gallery.


View from the doorway

As you step into the gallery you can see more of my work. I place a fairly diverse selection of work in this front room of the gallery. The gallery has two main rooms. This is the south room in the gallery. If you walk forward to the wall opposite the doors and turn to the right there is a smaller central area, formed inside the south room by two movable walls (which have never been moved because they made them way too heavy to move easily - they were afraid that the walls would not be stable enough to avoid tipping over if they were not really heavy, thus the 2 or 3 feet of concrete filler running the length of the walls at the bottoms of the 12 inch thick walls) and a permanent wall that divides the two main areas of the gallery.

In this photo you can see the doorway at the back of the room which goes to a very small room that is never used (except for storing platforms and pedestals and one of the movable walls) and the galley workshop/storage room.

So that you have an idea of the scale in the room, I think the gallery measures 30 feet by 50 feet, so it would be nearly thirty feet from where I was standing when I took the photograph to the back wall.

Here you can see some of my encaustic paintings - on the left and back walls, two fiber sculptures, two gourd pieces and the plaster sculpture i mentioned above, in the center.

I will post another set of photos tomorrow.

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14 September 2007

Pavlo

Tonight Abelisto and I went to a wonderful concert. The musician was Pavlo(www.pavlo.net), who plays Mediterranean music.

We had third row seats, center stage, and there was no one in front of us.

Before the show there was a cd of Pavlo's music playing just loudly enough to be heard over the normal chatter of excited people finding their seats, greeting their seat-neighbors and paging through the program.

The cd faded out. The house lights dimmed. And Pavlo and the four musicians accompanying him came out onto a dark stage.

As they started the first number the lights came up and we could see five handsome men, dressed in varying combinations of black and white, lovingly playing their instruments. As their fingers flashed and hands stroked the fretboards, drums and keyboards, they set the mood for the evening - sultry, sexy and smooth.

Right away I noticed that the musicians playing the stringed instruments - Pavlo on guitar, George Vasilakos on bouzouki, and Randy Rodrigues on bass - were using wireless transmitters instead of the usual wired set up. It did not take too awfully long to see why - they never stopped moving and dancing to the music they played.

The keyboard player, Denzil Remedios, seemed at first to be a bit shy and distant until I took the time to focus on what he was doing. I think that part of my first impression came from the fact that from where we were sitting we could not see his hands and he did not move as much as the other musicians while he was playing. When I concentrated on his contribution to the music I realized that he was fully engaged with the others and his playing was an intense and compelling underscore to the stringed instrument parts.

The percussionist, Gino Mirizio, spent much of the concert playing not only the congas but all of the percussion instruments - including the cymbals - with his hands. The resulting sound was a perfect match; its soft, slurry beat complementing the sounds of the keyboard, bass, bouzouki and guitar. Not limiting his performance to the background, Gino used sticks in several pieces and created a complicated and compelling rhythm that wove in and out of the music in a manner that made it hard to stay in our seats.

Catching me totally by surprise, Randy Rodrigues skillfully slipped his electric bass right into the music. I would have never thought of an electric bass as part of a Mediterranean ensemble (being more accustomed to thinking of bass players playing rock 'n roll or reggae or some such). I love new discoveries, new realities.

For much of the evening, the focus was primarily on Pavlo and George Vasilakos. They were usually at the front of the stage, hammering away at their instruments, pouring out amazing music. Sliding, bending, hammering on, pulling off, all those special techniques that make music unforgettable. Fast, fast fingers. Perfect timing. Exemplary showmanship and expertise.

Even though many might see Pavlo and George as the stars of the evening, Pavlo went to great lengths to "show off" the skills of his partner musicians. Every musician was in the spotlight a number of times during the evening. It truly seemed that there was great respect and affection between the band members.

I ended up being given a free cd of their music. During the song Under the Heat, Pavlo invited someone from the audience to come up on stage and dance with him. Well, I certainly could not pass up the opportunity to dance with a handsome man, especially on stage... I climbed over Abelisto and our son (who pretended to be totally mortified), and danced my way up to the stage. Once there Pavlo and I dance for several minutes, whirling and twirling and enjoying the music. He asked me if I had ever done any belly dancing. I held up my hand with my thumb and index finger about an inch apart. He smiled and said follow me and we shimmied and shook back and forth, looking into each others' eyes (yes we did the booby-jiggle-walk). We laughed, he gave me a big hug and then we bowed to each other and I danced off the stage as he picked his guitar up again and finished the song with his partners.

It was great, great fun. During the intermission, Pavlo autographed my cd with"Thanks for the dance! Pavlo"

I could write much, much more. The show was absolutely a blast. If you ever get the chance to see Pavlo in concert you should definitely go. And buy tickets as close to the front as possible, so that you too can get up and shake it up on stage with Pavlo!

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08 September 2007

My Father

video

This is the video that I made for the visitation before my father's memorial service. Hopefully it will load for everyone. I have not put video on the web using a blog before, and it has been a long time since I put any video on at all. The actual movie (DVD) has music, but it made a huge file for the web, so the sound is not included here (also I did not want to infringe on the musician's copyrights).

The first photograph is of my father when he was sixteen or so. He is pictured with his new limestone-hauling truck. He was so proud of it, before this (he started driving trucks at around age thirteen) he had been hauling logs for his stepfather's logging crew. He had some wonderful and interesting stories about those days.

The second photograph is of my parents on their wedding day, June 22, 1956. My father is 27 in the photo, and my mother is 19. They had been married just over 51 years when my father died.
Read more...


The third photo is when we lived on Handy Ridge Road. My father is cutting a board for some project. I am holding the board - helping him - even though I am only three years old or so. My brother is watching - he would be around two. This would be sometime around 1960, I think...

The fourth photo was taken during one of the motorcycle trips my parents went on. They usually traveled with my aunts and uncle. I think the person in the background is my father's sister, but the original photograph is so faded that it is hard to tell.

The fifth photo is one of my father with a MGA sportscar. He loved cars. This one was a deep burgundy with a cream-colored top. This was in 1967 - I know this because there is another photograph, taken the same day, wherein my mother is pregnant with my sister.

The next photograph is a portrait of my father - I am not sure when it was taken. I think it was before the photo of him with the car, these may be slightly out of chronological order.

The next photograph is my father receiving one of the many awards he received for excellence when he worked for Fiat Motors as a regional service representative. It is sometime in the 1970s - if you could not tell from the plaid pants. My father has his pipe and tobacco pouch tucked into the waistband of his pants - he always did that, I almost said that he still does that...

The next fourteen photographs span a time from the 1970s through this past spring. Mostly we took photos at holidays or other special occasions.

This movie makes me both happy and sad...


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07 September 2007

Last night's art soirée

The event went fairly well. I would have like to have more people there, but the people who came were very interested in the work and what I had to say about it.

The event was a fund-raising benefit for art students and art programs at the university. It was a wine and cheese soirée. The event kicked off a month-long silent auction of some of my work. The proceeds from the auction will go to the school of the arts, as will a percentage of the sales of any other work. Currently I have sold five pieces, not counting the three which are being auctioned.

Today my feet kind of hurt. I spent a lot of the day yesterday talking about art in the gallery. I spoke to two Artscore (arts appreciation) classes - one was the class I am teaching - and then three hours at the event.

The first piece to be bid on was Red Bowl Ritual. It is a gourd bowl that has been dyed red and has spirals burnt into the side of it. The spirals were branded into the gourd with a brass rod with one end that I shaped into a spiral and heated in a campfire. I think I want to make some more branding irons, but this time with iron or steel - the brass rod barely survived the heating I needed to decorate one gourd. Maybe I will ask Sr. Margaret for some time with the oxy-acetylene welding/cutting torches.

People also bid on the small piece, Bee Garden. It is a 6 x 12 inch encaustic painting. No one bid on the large encaustic piece, From the Beginning. Perhaps it was because it had a minimum bid price of $250.00. The others had minimum bids of less than $100.00. However, I would not let go of the larger piece for less than that if I were selling it, so I do not want it to go for a lesser amount at auction either.

It is always a dilemma - pricing the work I do...

05 September 2007

Home Again

We are back home now. We made fairly good time coming back - left around 8:30 (our time) and got to Winona around 6:30.

I only got sad once during the drive back.

It is impossible to believe that my father is gone. It does not feel real yet... I am not sure it ever will.

I miss him. Now and forever.

04 September 2007

A very hard day...

We had a visitation and memorial service for my father today.

I made a video for the visitation. We scrambled for photographs, searching my mother and sister's numerous photograph albums, bought a scanner (my mother's had quit working ages ago), and I scanned about 30 photographs, color corrected and optimized them in Photoshop. I did not overly repair them. I wanted people to see the age of the photos - I just made the colors and contrast a bit better if the photograph was too faded. The wear and tear of old photographs is a big part of the story that each of them tells, to make them too pretty would be akin to telling a false story and I wanted to tell my father's story right and true. We found two of my father's cds - a jazz one and a classical one. I took one track off of each of them and imported all of it into Premiere, added timings, transitions and a title slide and rendered the whole thing through Encore to make a DVD that was set up to loop the movie over and over.

At the visitation people seemed to really enjoy the movie. They sat there smiling through their tears, telling stories about my father.

I mentioned before that he did not want to be displayed at a funeral. He did not want people looking at his body and "carrying on." I think I agree with the idea of being cremated. It was a very peaceful ceremony, and I am not sure it would have been so restful if there had been a body to cry over. I do not know, hopefully no one will be stuck without a way to heal because they did not see a body. The body is not the person. And cremation is what my father wanted. My mother did not agree, but she said she would do it for him. She said she did not want to be haunted. I am not quite sure if she meant that literally or not... she is a Celt after all.

Two ministers spoke, even though my father was not a church goer. One minister was the one from my mother's church. He is new (and very young - not actually a full minister yet, I think), and did not know my father well. He came over once during the last few weeks of my father's life and spoke with him. Even though he did not know my father well, he did very well presiding over the memorial service. The other minister was a friend of my father. He was one of my father's McDonalds breakfast compadres. He had a personal relationship with my father, and was able to speak about him directly.

After they both spoke the presiding minister asked if anyone else wanted to speak. I did not have anything prepared, but I could not let go of the tightness in my chest without speaking about my father. I spoke about his kindness and generosity, about the stories he told us, the stories he created just by living a true life. Actually I am not sure exactly what I said. I did not break down, but I got a bit weepy at the very end. My sister and mother and one brother thanked me for speaking, the other brother looked me in the eye and nodded. I took that as his approval.

After the service we went to a luncheon that my mother's church had prepared for us. Everyone at the service was invited, but only family and the church people came to the luncheon. We thought it was going to be a chore, but it was not. It was a very relaxed and peaceful meal.

01 September 2007

1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster

At the funeral home, the room where my father's body was kept for us to view was accessed by passing through a garage. In the garage were two classic cars, carefully covered with tarps. One of them was a 1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster. When he noticed me peeking under the cover, the funeral home director pulled the cover back so that we could see the car.

The car was originally owned by someone who lived in Bloomington. My father worked at the imported car dealership in Bloomington and most likely worked on that very car...

We thought it was strangely comforting and totally appropriate that dad was being kept company by this wonderful old car that he had most likely touched 50 or so years ago.

Just so you know what a 1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster looks like, here is one. The one in the funeral home is dark brown, I think, with black fenders. It is perfect.

So are my memories of my father.

My father died last night...

while we were driving the long road to get to him. We were four hours away when he slipped away. Everyone says it was a very peaceful passing. The mortuary picked up the body before we got there. The hospice people picked up the bed and other equipment before we got there. When we walked in it was like it never happened.

There are several things I will wish forever - that we had started early in the morning, that we had come down the day before, that I had called him as much - or more - than I called my mother these last few weeks.

They told him I was coming. They said he tried really hard to wait for me. I never knew until today how much I really really love him. Right now I have this terribly hard knot in my chest that I cannot ever imagine going away.

He wants to be cremated. They call the ashes cremains - I never heard that word before today. The funeral home director was incredibly good. I thought it would be awful there. It was not.

I did get to see him. He is not being viewed, he does not want a traditional funeral where the body is displayed. He wants just a memorial service.

His body is not going to be embalmed - no make-up, no hairstyling. He looked very good today. None of that artificial look that usually disturb us so much at funerals. I am very glad to have gotten to see him. He truly looked like he was just resting - except for the fact that he was so very still and quiet. He never was a quiet sleeper, always catnapping, moving slightly, sleeping lightly.

I touched his hands, stroked them and curled my fingers inside his. I put my forehead against his and whispered to him, telling him how sorry I was that I could not be with him more these last few weeks, and that I loved him. I had to touch his arms, his face, his chest and legs and feet. I think it made the other people in the room uncomfortable.

30 August 2007

My mother called again last night...

My father is dying right before her eyes, a little bit each day.

Yesterday he only had about a tablespoon of water - no food, no other liquids. He seemed to not know my sister.

I called my oldest daughter in Las Vegas and told her she needed to get to Indiana if she wanted to see him while there was any possibility that he would know her or her daughter.

We spent all day today trying to get airline tickets we could afford for her, my granddaughter, and my second daughter. We thought at first the hospice foundation that is associated with the hospice company that is taking care of my dad might be able to help. The people that come to the house to care for him and counsel my family said that there should be funding available.

However, with the increase in airline prices (partially due to the holiday weekend) and the less-than-stellar donation levels this year, we were told that they could only help us with one ticket. One ticket would not do, not at all.

So we kept hunting. Finally my daughter found tickets with US Airways, a red-eye flight that shortens their visit by a day, but is going to cost us considerably less than the $2000.00 we first thought we were going to have to spend. We bought the tickets directly from the airline, which usually costs more, but this time it did not.

So they will be flying out next Tuesday. I hope he is still alive by then. I hope he at least recognizes them at some point while they are there. I hope he does not die while they are there. I do not pray much, but I am praying hard for just those things, nothing more right now, nothing more.

We thought we would have more time with him. All the doctors said months, not weeks, not days, when he was diagnosed earlier this month with metastatic lung cancer. I think he is surprising everyone with his rapid decline.

Perhaps it is not a decline, or at least not a decline in his world. Since when is it a decline to be at rest, at peace, unafraid and calm. I think that is closer to an uplifting than a decline.

I would surely like to think about it in that way...

29 August 2007

Things were not going all that well...

I almost died one day. I remember some of it quite clearly, but not all of it.

I was giving birth to my third child. I had gone overdue by almost three weeks and probably should have been induced a week or so earlier. I probably had gestational diabetes (I did with a later pregnancy); I will never know because my doctor did not have me tested. His was the most basic of care since he would not be delivering the baby. I had planned for a home-birth.

The baby weighed ten pounds, even. The birth took from Friday night until Tuesday morning - I was having late second-stage labor by the middle of the afternoon on Sunday.

The RN/midwife told me later that during those three-plus days, no one wanted to be the one to say "Take this woman to the hospital..." The hospital was over an hour away. I lived in a commune that was big on "natural" births (a decision/policy/divine fiat that was established by the men of the commune, men who never had to lay in a birthing bed waiting for a child to come out of their bodies). Anyway, it was a social faux pas to go to the hospital to give birth. I had already done that once and no one wanted to shame me that way again...

But most of all, no one wanted to be the one to say that things were not going all that well.

After a while, when your body is working that hard, you either totally lose it, or you get into a state of mind that is boundless and free - maybe that is zen (but I still do not know what I think zen is...).

It seemed that once there, once in that free place, it was easy to disconnect from the physical world, disconnect from the massive hemorrhaging that suddenly happened once the baby was born, disconnect from the fact that I was bleeding to death, that I was freezing cold , cold enough that my body was having violent seizures and thrashing about uncontrollably.

The peace of mind was amazing. I know that sounds trite and cliché, but there is a reason many people who have near-death experiences say that. There really was no fear, no noticeable discomfort. I found myself in two places at once - laying on the bed with my birthing team seething about in a panicked rout around me, and at the same time in this strange nowhere-place where it was soft and warm and calm. I think I remember laughing with delight. I think I do... I can tell you that I clearly remember the joyful feeling of being loosed from my body, the intense effervescent giddy feeling that seemed to come from both within and without.

I do not remember what they did to bring me back to my body. I think I have this vague memory of ice packs to stop the bleeding, but those memories could very well be distorted by the fact that bleeding to death was making me feel so cold - or at least making my body feel so cold... I really do not know if they used ice on me. I do remember, at one point waking up, coming to, or perhaps coming back, to find myself laying in a pool of blood that nearly stretched to both sides of the queen-sized bead and fully reached the foot of the bed.

Even that grisly awakening did not stop the peace of mind that I felt. I was outside of consequences, free and empty of concerns.

I can still call that feeling to me, sometimes.

28 August 2007

The days are speeding by, too fast, too fast...

I should have been calling more often. I keep telling myself "I will call tonight..." then I get home and get started on a project or a book, and the next thing I know, it is too late to call them. They live in a different time zone from us.

Last night I heard from my mother. My father is weakening more rapidly than we expected. He has not eaten - not more than a bite of cereal and a slice of canned peaches - in two or three days. He sleeps all but just a few hours. I do not think he will be with us much longer...

Early last week he went out to breakfast with a friend. The friend, a good friend, came and picked him up. He must have taken the wheelchair, loaded my father into and out of the vehicle and rolled him into McDonalds, and then reversed the process for the trip home.

Breakfast is the only meal that is even slightly worth eating at McDonalds.

When I was a kid, we never went to McDonalds when we went out to eat when my father was going along. He did not think it was real food. But sometime, sometime in the last 10 or 15 years, my father joined the McDonalds' breakfast clique. I find it interesting that no matter where you go, no matter what part of the country you are in, if you stop in a McDonalds early in the morning, it is full of retirees nibbling on egg mcmuffins and hot cakes, sausage biscuit sandwiches and egg burritos, drinking their coffee and juice and talking up a storm.

I think I like that. I wish I would have gone once or twice with my father.

22 August 2007

Friendships

I have always thought of myself as someone who is a bit cold, a bit distant. Not that anyone would have really noticed since I have always tried really hard to not bring this attitude/feeling/tendency into my dealings with people. For the most part, I have found that I either really like someone (and those are few and far between) or I have no real feelings one way or another about them. Thank goodness I do not usually find people I truly dislike.

However, these days I find myself floundering in friendships. It is a good kind of floundering, sort of a letting go of all the restrictions I usually confined myself with in the past. I think the tendency to flounder is coming from my fairly fragile emotional state, not the actual friendships. The friendships are a blessing.

So if you are one of my friends, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your friendship, your prayers and especially your kind words. They often seem to come at just the right times - times when I really should stop for a minute and just think about the world and all its wonders, times when I need to just let go of something that really is not all that important.

Often, it seems, we humans tend to take each other for granted - thinking that there will always be a time to say thanks, or to sit and have a cup of tea together, or to express love towards each other face-to-face. I realize that my father's plight is making me more sensitive to these matters - I find myself sometimes making others uncomfortable perhaps, with my declarations of friendship, appreciation and love. So be it. I just have to trust that they will eventually understand.

And I am okay with it if they do not. These things must be said.

20 August 2007

Floods

We have been dealing with excessive rain and flooding here in Winona. Our lovely bluffs and coulees (ravines) tend to cause flash floods if we get more than 2 inches of rain in a six hour period (according to the state hydrologist). I think they are saying that we got around 17 inches of rain in a 36 hour period.

Our house has not flooded, but many others have not been so fortunate. Entire houses have washed away - some with the owners sitting on the roof. There is a 40 foot hole across one highway. I heard somewhere that more than one car went over the edge of the abyss while the water was raging. One nearby town is totally surrounded by water, partially submerged by water. The Red Cross is boating supplies into the residents. Everywhere you look there are downed trees, flotsam and jetsam, and mud, mud, mud. And gawking onlookers - I have resisted the temptation to go look-see.

Tonight there have been a number of ambulances going down the street in front of our house.

The university where I work is being used by the American Red Cross as a shelter for evacuees from all over the county. Dignitaries have been to town, made speeches and promises and left - no mud on their shoes.

We keep walking down into the basement - just to check. It is still raining, on and off. I really should pick the important stuff off of the floor, but I dwell in denial.

17 August 2007

Growing up inspired

Perhaps I had the ideal childhood. I do not know. All I can tell you is that I was surrounded by a collection of caring adults that provided discipline, guidance and inspiration; adults that encouraged me to discover who and what I was. I could, and in fact, should do the unexpected and rare things that I was inspired to do. My childhood was one of empowerment – power and ability.

I was given the power of knowledge – the knowledge of how to fix things, make things, do things for myself, by myself. I was shown that I had a potential given by grace, and that I had a responsibility, perhaps even a duty, to develop it to its fullest, to fearlessly explore my self. I have not always lived up to that responsibility, but I try...

For as long as I can remember we had motorcycles. My father and mother rode together and sometimes took extended trips with my aunts and uncle. One of my aunts owned, rode and fixed her own motorcycle.

I think I was four or five when I first rode with my father, sitting in front of him on the motorcycle while he carefully rode along. It was not too long after that that I started riding a motorcycle on my own – a step-through Yamaha 50cc similar to the scooters that are popular today. I rode in our large backyard and on trails in the wooded areas of our rural neighborhood.

During much of my childhood my father worked out of town and was gone during the week. Because he was only home on weekends it meant that my siblings and I quickly learned to maintain our own motorcycles, and later our cars. He was usually too busy with other projects when he was home to fix our motorcycles as swiftly as we wanted. As children we acquired mechanical and technical skills that far exceeded those of our age-mates.

Initially, when my father worked on various projects around the house I was the one that helped. My brother, the next one in line, is 16 months younger than I am; when I was four or five and ready to help, he was only two or three and far too young to do much. I helped with all sorts of projects - carpentry and remodeling, plumbing and electrical, fencing and landscaping, auto repair and auto bodywork. I was using power-tools, levels, t-squares, hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers while in grade school. One of my earliest memories is tactile in nature. I remember the pleasant feeling of automotive grease on my fingers. It was both gritty and slippery and the contradiction fascinated me. I think that being able to legitimately get quite dirty was intriguing also. I can remember purposely getting dirtier than necessary as I ran back and forth between the tool rack and my father’s outstretched hand as he worked under whatever car needed fixing.

Working with my father taught me how to follow directions. He taught me how to bracket my choices with alternatives, to plan for exigency; if I was not sure if the nut, bolt or wrench was the correct one, I would also take him ones that were the next sizes smaller and larger. He taught me how to plan ahead, how to deduce the next step. From him I learned how to improvise and find creative solutions to problems.

From my mother I learned independence and strength. Since my father was not home most of the time, I learned how to handle emergencies, how to stay level-headed in a crisis and to be reliable and competent. She showed me how to cook and bake; we raised some of our own food, canning and preserving it ourselves. She taught me how to sew and embroider; she made most of our clothing.

My father is a patient man that never begrudged us an explanation of not only the how of what we were doing, but also the why behind it. He demonstrated daily that only reasonable behavior would be accepted, but what he determined reasonable was solely taught with kindness and honesty and responsibility. I did not have to wear skirts and lace and behave in a “feminine” manner, but I did have to do what I said I would do, not cheat or lie, and treat everyone as I wanted them to treat me.

My mother is a playful, artistic person who, by her very nature, teaches kindness, acceptance and gentleness. As children and young adults, she encouraged us to explore ourselves and the world around us with abandon, never placing unnecessary limits on us. We were encouraged to discipline ourselves and recognize that work, any work, could be tolerable, and even pleasant if we chose to make it so; the right attitude would be instrumental in finding and keeping the mental balance that makes life meaningful.

Although the work they do is gender segregated – my mother does not fix cars and my father does not cook and bake – they instilled in me a belief that I could do whatever I set out to do. We were not allowed to say “I cannot” until we had made a serious effort to do the task at hand. I grew up knowing that I did not have to accept the limits others wanted to place on me. I did not have to fit anyone’s expectations of being female. I could do whatever I chose to do in the manner I chose to do it and when confronted with the walls that others built up to confine me, it was within my rights to find ways around them, it was in fact, expected of me that I find ways to dismantle the walls. Although it is not a word that my parents would use to describe themselves, I suppose my family was revolutionary. This was in a time when women’s liberation and feminism were not yet part of mainstream vocabulary. They gave me the confidence to tackle many tasks and jobs that I might not have had the self-assurance to take on if I had not had the experiences that I had as a child.

My Father's Life

People keep asking how my father is doing.

I have no idea how to answer that. I sometimes just say "He is dying." That is the blunt truth, baring a miracle, he will die sometime soon.

Soon is relative though. Soon could be sometime in the next two months, or soon could be sometime in the next year. The uncertainty could get to be overwhelming.

But I do not want to hurt the kind people that ask. So, instead, I usually tell them about his strength... About his peace with all of this... He has said on more than one occasion, "I've had a good life..." and "I don't want people coming over and sitting there crying. I want to have good times with them now. They can cry later, when I'm gone..." I also tell people about wanting to be with him more often than I can be.

He wants all of us to have good memories - good memories from before he became so ill, and good memories of this time too. The first is easy - he has been a great father. The second, well, I am trying... but it is so hard.

I so resent the fact that circumstances have me 10 hours away from him. I would love to be able to check in with him more often. I would love to be able to stop by in the evening, bringing him a chocolate malt (his current food craving), or watch old BBC comedies with him.

I would like to be able to help my mother more too. I know she needs more breaks than she is getting. For so many years he was on the road most of the time - when they first married he worked as an over-the-road truck driver and was gone a great deal; then he worked at Imported Motors, in Indianapolis, driving up there on Monday morning and home on Friday evening; after that he worked for Fiat Roosevelt, with the same sort of schedule; then after a brief interlude working for one of the Fiat dealers, he returned to trucking; and finally, after retiring 10 years ago, he started working as a "drug-runner" for a pharmaceutical company, making deliveries to nursing homes and hospitals over a large area of the state.

During the time when he was away she was used to running things her way. When he was home, he could have it his way. This worked so well for both these strong individuals. Now things are so different for them. The changes have come so suddenly - until the cancer diagnosis last month, he was still working full-time.

Next time Abelisto and I drive down I want to send my mother off with one or two of my daughters, to spend the day in Bloomington or Terre Haute, shopping, eating out, relaxing and having fun together. Abelisto and I will stay with my father so that she can do this without worry or feeling guilty.

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15 August 2007

Gallery Slide Show



Clicking on an image opens the slide show in a separate window (at www.slide.com), with larger images. Once there you will need to click the play button at the top of the image. If you click on an image in this slide show you will be able (after another click) to see a larger version of the image.

If you go to the slide show I want to apologize for the widgets on the right side of the slide show - Slide.com slide shows are not all that customizable. However, they are quick and easy and free...

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13 August 2007

Monoculture

On the drive back and forth between Minnesota and Indiana we usually (read: always) take the same route. Boring, I know, but efficient, since I have made the trip enough times over the 12+ years I have lived up here to know the fastest, easiest route.

Our drive takes us through part of the corn-belt of this country. It truly is appalling to crest a rise in the Illinois' flatlands and realize that, for as far as the eye can see, all there is is row after row of corn.

Although I am not an expert on sustainable lifestyles, I know that growing all that corn, year after year, is not a sustainable model. Corn is not an efficient crop; it requires massive amounts of chemical intervention.

I worry about this push towards corn based ethanol gasoline additive. I do not think that we save much in the way of spent energy or carbon emissions with corn-based ethanol.

I need to do more research.

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10 August 2007

Strangely intimate...

Today I performed a strangely intimate task for my father - I brushed and cleaned his dentures. At first it made me a bit queasy. I do not know why - it was not gross (although he thought it might seem so to me so that when he asked me he said it was a nasty job and that I did not have to if I did not want to...) but it felt way too personal. I did not even know that his upper teeth were dentures. Whoever made that plate for him made them look just like his original teeth, right down to the gold capped bicuspid he has always had (when I was young and would loose a tooth he would tell me if I could keep from putting my tongue in empty socket my new tooth would grow in gold like his) and the uneven bite that makes his smile so memorable.
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I do not mind using my physical strength to help my father. It is not a big deal to help him move from a prone to a sitting position (although since they gave him a trapeze above his hospice bed he can do it for himself). I do not mind lifting him into his pickup truck. It makes me feel both helpful and powerful to do those things - like a good daughter. Those are things that do not intrude on my comfort level. They cost me nothing, in fact, if I am honest with myself, I think I feed off of them. They make me feel good when I do them.

Cleaning his dentures was different. He hated to ask, but he cannot stand without keeping both hands on his walker. So cleaning his dentures at the bathroom sink is not possible for him to do. Cleaning them in his bed would be a messy, daunting task. He does not want to use the wheel chair inside the house, not yet anyway. I suppose someday he might have to...

Anyway, while cleaning his dentures I felt uneasy, kind of fluttery and odd. It seemed so deeply personal. For years I brushed my kid's teeth every morning and evening. But this was so different, cleaning the disembodied teeth of my father.

I was not sure how to go about cleaning the dentures, so I just slathered them with toothpaste and scrubbed them with his toothbrush. I know I keep going on about how strange it was, but I cannot think of another word to describe it. Anyway, as I scrubbed the teeth and gums it became sort of a meditative exercise (maybe zen, although I do not know exactly what constitutes "zen") and it became supremely important to do this task perfectly for my father.


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08 August 2007

More on Boundaries

I previously posted my response to a question on the Goddard MFA-IA email discussion list about boundaries. This is my second response to the discussion on the list (I have not gotten permission to post anyone else's responses to the question, so I am not posting their thoughts/postings).

More thoughts...

I think the most important thing that I have done is make it possible for Abelisto to be around when I am making art (and me to be around when he is making his art also!). It is difficult to maintain a close and generous relationship when one has to give so much time and energy to people other than the partner. I, too, work full-time (or more than full-time), am a parent, and try to do art every day... Where would I fit time for a partner in this if we were not creative about it?

Our compromise is that we do not shut ourselves away in a studio to do our art. We have made the entire first floor of our house into our studio. Abelisto can be in the room, if he chooses while I work on a new sculpture or painting or weaving. I can be there if he is composing music.

If Abelisto is in the area while I am working he can bring me a fresh glass of iced tea when I need one (often he knows without me asking). I can return the courtesy when he is working on his music. We do not interrupt the person working, but we are there. If the phone rings and my hands are covered in paint or plaster, Abelisto can answer it and even hold it to my ear if needed. When he is recording I can serve as gatekeeper and keep interruptions from ruining the soundtrack.

I recognize that our method would not work for everyone. Family dynamics, house and studio space and other differences would make this model unfeasible. I just thought I would share how we have worked it out.

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07 August 2007

Mount Trempealeau


One more river fog photo

This one is the Mississippi River with Mt. Trempealeau (the largest sandbar on the river) taken from the Minnesota side, a few miles downriver from Winona Minn.

We get a considerable amount of fog throughout the bluffs that border the river here. I believe this is Radiation fog (fog formed by the cooling of land after sunset by thermal radiation in calm conditions with clear sky. The cool ground produces condensation in the nearby air by heat conduction. Radiation fogs occur at night, and usually do not last long after sunrise).

In the early spring we get Advection fog (fog caused by moist air flowing over snowpack). It happens when it gets warm one day and the air fills with moisture from the melting snow. The next morning all the bluff tops will be covered in hoarfrost, every tree, every dried weed stalk, every blade of grass. It is amazingly beautiful and haunting. I have a photo of a spruce tree covered in hoarfrost, I will have to try to find it and post it here...

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Another Photograph

Mississippi Bridge

You can sort of see the second rainbow just to the left of the main one.

The bridge is the one crossing the Mississippi River at Winona Minn. You cannot see the river from this view. We tried to get closer to the bridge/river before the rainbows vanished, but they were gone in a matter of minutes. They reappeared later, but we had parked the car (with the camera in it) and were on bicycle by that time. I love to ride just after a rain, or in a light drizzle rain (as long as it is not a cold rain).

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Some Photographs

Lake Fog
A lone fisherman and bird, out on Lake Winona early one morning (5:30 a.m.)

River Fog
Fog on the Mississippi River, near Trempealeau Wis. Photo taken from the Minnesota side, just downriver from Winona.

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An Examination of Transcendence

Okay, my Artist Statement says "I am an interdisciplinary artist examining the transcendent in the light of the connection between the ancient and the contemporary."

So, how does one examine the space between the ancient and the contemporary in the light of the transcendent?

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Much of my work has its origins in the ancient or traditional. It is inspired by the everyday articles that were created to make survival easier, ritual meaningful and environs pleasurable. There is a continuity to be found in working with fiber, with sculpture and with story that springs from their antiquity as focal points for human activities. This continuity both informs my practice and is expressed in my work, sometimes becoming the message of a piece or the vehicle for the message. An examination of the historical context of the work of fiberists – my word for the individuals that create articles (decorative, household, personal, industrial) using weaving, felting, sewing, knitting, et cetera – has become a significant part of my praxis as well as one of the inspirations for my personal theory of art, helping me frame my position that art is giving ideas shape. I don’t believe that having a practical use prohibits an article from being art. I have seen exhilarating, breath-taking weavings that could have been used for a number of practical purposes, and probably were. Purpose is as much “in the eye of the beholder” as beauty.

Examining the practical, utilitarian aspects of fiber work allows me to bring this aspect of the craft into my practice, both as a study of methods and as inspiration for contemporary work. I am most interested in the artifacts and techniques used to create them, from earliest known examples through pre-industrial revolution fiber work.

I think that one aspect of the exploration of the transcendent relates to Time – chromos time versus kairos-time – or time as moment-to-moment and time as eternal. Madeline L’Engle has the best explanation that I’ve run across:
Kairos. Real time…That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time which we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we’re constantly checking our watches for chronological time… The saint in contemplation, lost to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside herself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings... (Walking on Water 109)
A friend of mine explained how she sees kairos time – God’s Time she calls it. Her explanation revolved around one of the spiralcut magnets from my practicum. She picked up the spiral from the centermost point. The spiral spread out vertically, resembling a curving, sloped walkway up a very pointed mountain. “Here,” she said, pointing to a given spot on the climb. “Here is where your great-great-grandmother was born, and here is where she died. And here,” as she pointed to a spot farther down the spiral, “is where you were born. This place on the spiral represents your allotted time. This is chronological time, time as we know it. But this, this is God’s time.” And she promptly dropped the spiral flat, flat onto the table top, reducing it to a two-dimensional plane. “In God’s time it’s all one. You always were, your great-great-grandmother always was, from the beginning to the end in God’s mind.”

I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to any church, haven’t been to one since racing motorcycles became more interesting than Sunday school, back in seventh grade, but her explanation struck some sort of chord in me, something that has resonated, deep inside, coming to the surface at odd times... I’ve wondered, ever since that simple but profound illustration, if we sometimes skip across the void, skimming into times outside of our own allotted time like a flat stone thrown skipping across the river. Could that be the source of our strangest dreams, the sudden inspiration, the feeling of déjà vu and those unexplained moments of utter calm or utter terror?


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