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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


12 October 2007


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.


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.


10 October 2007


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 soufflĂ©. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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...