hey, why not?

a peek.

Project comprehension.

I’ve just sent forth an application to an artists residency I’ve been coveting for a few years.  As part of my work samples, I submitted a 3 minute mock-up of the Concentric Trench piece.

I confess, I’m at a bit of a loss on how to proceed with this project.

I read/heard something recently which relates well to my understanding of this project.  The rate at which one reads helps to determine one’s overall comprehension of the material and its context.  For example, a new reader who struggles with each and every word will not understand what he read by the time he comes to the end of the sentence.  , the context falls away and the overall meaning is lost/displaced/forgotten.  The longer it takes to read the sentence, the harder it will become for the brain to link the words together to form a complete thought.

In grad school, I was dismayed that the class structure and fast-paced schedule did not allow for me to make things by hand and anything I needed, I had to purchase in the interest of time.  Admittedly, though, I did enjoy the volume of work I was creating.  Upon quitting grad school for many, many other reasons, I responded to this longing for an integration of craft by applying for grants in support of creating elaborate, multi-layered, interdisciplinary projects.  Being a newbie in applying for funding at the time, I figured at the very least I’d be applying just to get my name “out there.”  Imagine my astonishment when my work was selected in 2 out of the 3 grants I applied for!  In theory, I was psyched and ready to get some good work done; in practice, I was horribly swamped, and my 2 glorious opportunities were at odds with one another for my attention outside of teaching.  So it seems that in artmaking as well, the longer it takes to complete the work, the easier it is for the concept or the meaning to dissolve.

The moral:  As for my application to the artist’s residency I won’t mention by name just yet… I created 3 thoughtful, contained, to-the-point, arguably minimal (for me) projects which can (and I’m sure will) expand whilst I build them.  My goal is to get back to a place of feeling prolific by accomplishing my work bite by bite and relishing the morsels as they come, lest I should choke.  Less is less.  And that is more.

Yes, I’ve got a lot on my plate beginning today.  Back from Ragdale, shoving myself directly into the swirl of the city, a veritable hurricane’s eye:  hello to the pets, a kiss for my beloved, then off to receive multiple hugs from the kids in my favorite afterschool program ever.  Finding a new home and moving within 15 days is my lot now and, truthfully, I am not looking forward to it.  Especially since I was really getting into a remarkable groove at Ragdale.  Alas, the city calls now and I must fall into it.

Ragdale’s big idea is to provide artists and writers time + space (and delicious food and fabulous company!) to do their work in.  I found myself studying how I used that massive space in Sylvia’s Studio.  It is especially helpful to understand my art habits as I look for potential new home spaces in which to finally focus on putting my art work first and, yes, teaching second.  Really, I only used two large walls for the act of drawing and a large 36×48 table for my smaller drawings and all my other experiments.

So what now?  I’m in an unfortunate position in which I am overwhelmingly consumed with the ups and downs of false hope apartment hunting.  Re-homing myself and my family will mean less artmaking for the time being.  There is much to be said for keeping a healthy momentum toward building an active and thriving arts practice, so I eagerly look forward to the instant when I can make a happy mess in my own new space with my own time.  Much later, I concede, but I’ll get there.

I got so much work done at Ragdale that, looking back, I am actually dumbfounded by my ability to produce, thanks to such incredibly ideal conditions.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had such an ideal situation outside of my space at the warehouse in undergrad.  Expectedly, I was exhausted in the evenings (food coma), but pressed myself to keep creating anyway.  Early morning’s rise came at 630 or 7 am, then an hour of movement across the golden oak floorboards, remembering what it feels like to really embody the kinetic, to sweat from effort, to propel any sleepy images forward to work from.  My time at Ragdale became unusually/uneasily precious, knowing what hell was waiting for me back in Chicago.

So everything is temporary, then.  How reassuring.  I can’t wait for these upcoming challenges to be as temporary as possible, while I begin on my rocky path of understanding  more about why all this is happening, why it is happening now and how I can rise above, through and beyond it, surpassing both strife and artlessness.  I hope I may become a better being for the experience.

Feeling happy/sad and definitely grateful for the fleeting nature of excess through simplicity with which Ragdale has gifted me.


Today I woke up at 630am like it was nothing, made coffee for the gang (9 scoops, y’all!) and got down to business.  I started generating ideas for drawn images by projecting the Super8 film onto my 6×8 postcards, loosely tracing to form a composition.  I got all fancy with it and started layering images from the film, curious to see which images would compete with one another and, ultimately, which would survive my post-projection experiments in drawing.  I made three or four 6x8s and started on a new large drawing (44″x 53″) based on a memory of a film still.  Naturally, not only have I lost my hands, as in my first big drawing, but now I have become a snake woman.  Excellent.

Lots of talk with my pals Beatrice and Lorena about the circus and all things freak and carnival.  I brought my beloved copy of Geek Love by Katherine Dunn as inspiration, just in case I get a chance to read it again.  I don’t think it is going to happen, but just the same, I love remembering the story, how grandly and dirtily it was written.  Mostly, I just love having that book nearby.

I totally forgot what the bottom/underneath of a pelvis looks like, then I realized I didn’t have to draw it by book, I could draw it by heart.  Does anyone know what the obturator furamen holes are for?

We had studio visits and readings again this evening.  Great to see what everybody is working on, what they are questioning, how they are staying far away from their comfort zones.  There are some major risks being taken in the midst of many different levels of artistic empowerment and sentiments of success.  I’ve tried to project my peepshows to give my new work some context for these fine folks, but due to one thing or another, I haven’t enjoyed good fortune with that yet.  Tuesday it will have to be.  Then leaving for the city on Wednesday, with a class to teach soon after I get home.  Ah, yes.  Back to the grind.  But not yet!


I burn up on re-entry into the city from the vast lands I traverse, it’s true.  But I never expected that the same would happen when entering into an artmaking expedition.  When I was in Texas, it took my eardrums 3 whole days to stop knocking around inside my head in the middle of all that quiet.  Yesterday at Ragdale, I felt just plain barfy.  It unfortunately threw my whole zone of intensive productivity off, but it taught me that fiercely harpooning myself headlong into my work after such a prolonged mental and physical distance from it requires a slight bit of ease in order to accomplish sustained results.  So I went ahead, felt perfectly disgusting and, after putting in about three days’ work into a span of 6 hours, I took the night off.

A good reminder that my will can be easily trumped by something bigger than myself.  It is all a process.  And that’s not too shabby.


My second and last whole-day attempt at finding a new home in the city, interrupting the goodness and possibility of this residency, failed miserably.  So I gave up.  Happily.  I cuddled with our resident feral cat Mungo as I slept over at my house instead of Ragdale and for the first time, saw beyond the alley-cat discomfort he shoves forth with growls and barely raised eyelids.  What a great cat!  I’m sad it took me this long to discover his grand potential:  his kittenish curiosities, his sweetness and calm, his hoot-owl purrs, his drooling hair-fetish.  I just never gave him the opportunity to become un-territorial with our own cat roaming the house.  Mungo, sir, you are truly a force to be reckoned with and as well you are a gentleman.  Thank you.

I left Chicago (again), wanting a reset, a chance to start over with Ragdale.  Feeling that the first week had been lost to a messy uncontainment of “life stuff,” including finishing up my overly-complicated self-employed taxes and fighting a frustrating, fruitless hope/despair struggle for a suitable space in the city for 2 artists, 2 cats and a beautiful, perfect pooch, I got back in my truck desiring to redeem myself of my disenchantedness and unfun burdens.  So that is what I did.

Not being they type to want to ask for help (ever), but understanding fully that 1) help had already been offered to me by a kind painter at Ragdale and 2) I’d better take it lest I should feel any semblance of sadness or regret concerning an otherwise delightful time here.  All signs point to the fact that something really major is going on in my universe and I just can’t do it all on my own.  I am in the midst of an important moment in my own path of discovery, both in my work and in my self, and how those energies collide to determine my future as an artmaker.

Back at Ragdale, I asked my new friend Lorena if her offer to share her abundant space still stood.  She said yes, absolutely! and we strategized how to best utilize the space so as to give each other enough time spent independently as well as how to use our time together for gathering feedback from one another.  With the first day of our experiment under our belts (of our pajamas– why bother with zippers on jeans when you’re just working in your studio?), I am pleased to announce that we have struck up a brave and major success!

Hurrah! I am churning out work like the end of this residency on the 15th is all the time I have left in the world to make art.  I am making and sending 6×8 postcards to myself, as I have off and on since 1999, to see how the US Postal Service marks them or MIAs them.  I opened up a delicious and lengthy roll of hot/cold press Arches/Rives paper I first bought when I lived in Seattle in 2000.  I am beside myself with absolute joy–  I am drawing again!!!!  Huge vine and kneaded eraser images my mind has captured from my Super8 film, which I hand developed and transferred quick and dirty to video.  I want to see how my memory alters the movie stills in my brain.  I am projecting the movie atop the drawing and seeing how they match up or don’t.  Tracing, layering, erasing, redrawing. What is that tension that exists between what we remember and what is actual?  And how the hell do my artmaker’s hands represent it?  Whatever the case, the drawing just gets better and better, even in its dark moments… In the drawing, I don’t even have hands anymore!  What happened to my hands? Aaaahhhhhh!

I have definitely needed this experience and freedom for so long.  It is opening up so many untamed spaces of energy and big thought which were getting pushed to the side, covered up by life crap and attention away from my work.  I don’t blame these spaces for getting bored waiting around for me to discover them!  I am absolutely blessed to be here, first week of extreme burden/distraction or not.  I have come back to myself.  I am re-learning me as creator.  I am open to receiving all as it happens to grace my art-filled day.

Lorena, dear, you have saved this residency for me.  With all my heart and art, thank you!



Look, you and I both know I’m a human lightning rod: I  channel the damage from the masses because my threshold for adversity is elastically gigantic.  Today, it has become quite clear, though, that I am actually a lightning rod hooked up to a gas line.  Even in the middle of an idyllic, bird-filled prairie.  What gives?

The only way out is up!!!  Soon, soon.


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