Impressions

Top Seven: Syllabus, Glass Blowing, Parasite, Color Pen

Seven things I’m loving right now.

1. Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor

The simultaneous experience of looking, reading, and thinking in this mostly-hand-lettered and hand-drawn notebook explaining her curriculum and lessons on leading classes combining image and word made me want to reach out for my notebook and pencils and fill every page with abandon. I’ve been using exercises in my own studio to loosen up, and filing away other ideas to try with future workshop participants. Syllabus is published by the illustrious Drawn and Quarterly. I am working my way through it, to savor each section.

You can see Lynda Barry’s Face Jam Exercise on the NewYorker.com. It’s from another book of Barry’s, Making Comics.

Parasite_(2019_film)

Poster for South Korean film Parasite, theatrically released on May 30, 2019. Source: wikipedia.

2. Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho)

You don’t need me to tell you that Parasite is masterful, and very much worth viewing on the big screen. I’ll say it anyway, since I’ve been enjoying more films lately, especially films by people of color. It’s also really cool to see a foreign language film embraced by US audiences in record-breaking numbers.

A man wearing sunglasses using a gas torch on a molten ball of glass.

Still from Blown Away. Source: Netflix.

3. Blown Away

This Canadian reality TV series was released on Netflix this summer, and I just binge-watched it this week. Despite the fact that it’s a formulaic competition show with goofy hosts and oddball challenges, I loved it.

There have been other artist reality shows before, but none have necessarily revealed so much craft and skill. My heart went out to the glassblowers. Many were extremely skilled, and really deserved honors for their accomplishments, which were not afforded by the structure of the show.

My only other qualm is that the show didn’t show enough glassblowing technique continuously. They could have followed each individual project from start to finish for a half an hour and I would have loved every minute. The makers are casting for season 2. I hope they reconsider having students as assistants—it’s far too much pressure on the competitors and the students.

Blown Away made me yearn to blow glass again. I only did hot glass for two semesters in undergrad. It’s very addictive, like wheel throwing—once you get the bug, you just want to be blowing glass, challenging yourself, and being in the zone all the time. I miss that sense of being in sync with the material. Also, there were tools and techniques I never saw as a beginner glassblower that I wanted to try. I never pulled cane, or used a soffietta!

4. Pentel Color Pen Markers

The other week I was using markers from my set of 36 Pentel markers, when I realized that I’ve probably had this set of markers since 2015 or 2014. That would make these markers nearly 5 years old. All of the markers are still going strong. Granted, I don’t use them often, and usually only in small bursts for lettering, not for coloring. But still, that’s pretty impressive. I’ve had many ballpoint pens, gel pens, and calligraphy markers dry out or stop working; it’s refreshing when art supplies last.

set of markers in a yellow case.

Pentel Color Pen Fine Point Marker 36 Set. Source: uoduckstore.com

I just found, that on the Pentel site, you can purchase individual markers for 99¢ each. So even if one of the colors did run dry, you could replace it and not have a horrible gap tooth in your rainbow palette.

5. Feeling Good, Mel Day’s Wall of Sound Project

Mel Day is a California-based artist who as been collecting videos of individuals singing and compiling them into installations. She’s been scaling up (way up!) lately, by partnering with San José Athletics, Marching Band, Choirs, athletes, fans, students and community allies to create a new, “evolving series of participatory massed choral video works and half-time live singing events” around Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”

You can contribute by recording your video from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to be a “singer” to sing! Learn more at wallofsongproject.com.

6. Museum of Capitalism at the New School, on view through December 10

Spoiler alert: The Museum of Capitalism is a speculative project that invited artists to imagine the artifacts leftover from capitalism in a post-capitalist future. I saw the original iteration in a sprawling Oakland building a few years back. (I am still moved by Packard Jenning’s installation of a guided meditation for riot police de-escalation.)

A new iteration was is on view at the New School, including contributions by friends Related Tactics and Nyeema Morgan.

When I visited the exhibition, it felt to me that I hadn’t seen anything like it in NYC, that I hadn’t been in conversations in NYC that envisioned post-Capitalist perspectives.

There’s only a few more days to see the show. Find the address and hours here: https://www.museumofcapitalism.org/museum-of-capitalism-new-york-city

7. Batalá NYC

Batalá is an “all women Afro-Brazilian Samba Reggae percussion band. Batalá New York is a part of a global arts project made up of over 30 bands around the world.” I recently heard them play as they accompanied an Afro-Brazilian dance class. Wow! The beat is palpable in your chest. There’s something so cool about seeing women embracing power and massive volume, with unity and coordination. Check out their videos on YouTube.

Batalá NYC are currently raising funds to travel to Brazil. Consider supporting their GoFundMe.

 

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Art Competition Odds

Twelve Months in Art Competitions, 2018-2019

Stats on my art competition applications from July 2018 through June 2019.*

Goals

My goals this past ‘goal-year’ included applying to:

  • Ten residency, studio programs or public projects to get support in NYC
  • Six exhibitions in NYC
  • Two grants ($3k minimum)

This adds up to 18 applications, which was too many. I’d set goals totaling 18 applications in prior years, and I need to be more strategic and deliberate moving forward.

Progress

I submitted 8 applications.

Some of these applications fulfilled multiple goals. For example, some residencies included exhibitions or stipends over $3k, so I counted those towards multiple goals.

Here’s how much progress I made towards my goals:

  • I submitted 7 out of 10 applications towards residency, studio programs or public projects in NYC:
    • residencies
    • studio programs
    • public projects
    • 1 purchase program (It was located outside of NYC, but funds could support my work in NYC, so I counted it towards this goal.)
  • I submitted 3 out of 6 applications for exhibitions in NYC.
  • I submitted 2 out of 2 applications for competitions that included over $3k of financial support, which I applied towards my grants goal.

There were two primary reasons for a low rate of applications. First, I was awarded a six-month residency, and I couldn’t apply to anything else that conflicted with those dates. Second, when application deadlines overlapped with the residency period, I chose to prioritize the residency. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to submit killer proposals. I chose quality over quantity.

Successes

I have received notifications for 6 of 8 applications submitted.

Of these six applications, I received residency and 1 studio program. My success rate was 2/6, or 33%, of the 6 entries that have responded to date.

If the remaining two applications are unsuccessful, my success rate would be 2/8 or 25%.


See my stats from 2017-20182015-2016, 2014, and 2013.

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Research

Resilience through Sports Psychology, Heartbreak, and Mindfulness

Three books related to resilience.

I’ve been interested in resilience since 2016. I wanted to learn more about how people recover from setbacks and major changes in identity.

I started by thinking about athletes recovering from major losses, enduring injury, or facing retirement. This was partly fueled by my own participation in athletics (competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu last year, coping with chronic aches) and as a spectator (the mental or psychological preparation or fallout in Rhonda Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm, Rose Namajuna’s self-management which helped her dethrone Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Megan Rapinoe’s sense of self-driven purpose).


Jim Afremow, The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive.

Jim Afremow, PhD, The Champion’s Mind (2013)

[Find on IndieBound.]

I highly recommend this book for anyone who plays sports and wants to be more mentally prepared for competition. Practical, helpful tips for having the most conducive attitude in practice, in competition, in the face of loss, etc.


Competitive athletes face winning and losing on a regular basis. But loss is inevitable in everyone’s lives. We will all face grief. When you love, you can also lose your love.


Cover of Guy Winch, How to Fix a Broken Heart

Guy Winch, PhD, How to Fix a Broken Heart (2018)

This is a great little book written by a NYC therapist based on 20 years of treating clients. The focus is on heartbreak following the loss of romantic love, and heartbreak following the loss of a pet. Dr. Winch is keen to challenge social assumptions that provide accommodations for physical pain but not psychological pain, especially around these heartbreaks, which can be deemed insignificant compared to divorce or loss of an immediate (human) family member.

“We have been dealing with broken hearts for millennia and yet most of us know only two healing agents: social support and time.”

He explains: if other people deem our loss insignificant, they’ll withdraw social support, leaving us with only time,

“a variable over which we have no control, which is why heartbreak makes us feel so helpless.”

Dr. Winch describes several client stories of heartbreak and the unhelpful behaviors they engaged in. I found much of this very relatable.

He explains how love is neurologically like addiction, how heartbreak activates the same parts of the brain as a drug withdrawal. He goes over strategies informed by cognitive behavioral therapy, for things like moving towards closure and increasing self-compassion.

The book is published by TED Talks and is eminently readable. (I read most of it on two long subway rides.) Highly recommended.


What if resilience is a matter of preparation? What if you could train your brain to withstand setbacks—and the emotions and beliefs that follow—by becoming more mindful?

Like any job, my day job can entail stressors like shifting priorities, unexpected changes, long hours, and challenging personalities. Different tolerances and coping strategies are on full display (including myself, of course). I noticed that my co-worker D doesn’t let his feathers get ruffled. He doesn’t seem to get frustrated, upset, or impatient. I asked him about it, and he said, “A lot of meditation and prayer.” He keeps in mind a bigger picture and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

This month, I gave myself a mini-mantra and suggestion: “Be Kind. Unwind.” I just wanted to give myself space and permission to feel and acknowledge my feelings (there are A LOT of them this month) instead of rushing from thing to thing—task to task, distraction to scrolly-scrolly to ruminations. In practice, I am trying to be more mindful.


Cover for Christophe Andre, Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Paintings to Change the Way you Live. International Bestseller. Illustrated with a painting by Caspar David Fredrick of the back of a man at a mountain summit looking over a cloud cover below him.

Christophe André, PhD, Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art (2016)

[Published by Penguin Random House]

André is a psychiatrist and meditation practitioner who runs meditation groups for hospital patients. This is a beautiful book that uses old European paintings as inspirations for discourses on mindfulness.

“When we cling to our painful thoughts by ruminating on them, we solidify them. We ruminate on our ills and turn them into monsters. Rumination is the solidification of our mind’s chatter. Without meaning to, we turn an ordinary reaction into suffering.”

This next quote seems especially well-suited for striving New Yorkers. Or competitive athletes. Or artists who feel disempowered by the art world.

“We should go on making choices and pursuing goals, but without merging them, without obsessively clinging to success or perfection… We must do our best, in awareness and presence, but without seeing our effort, which depends on us, as less important than the final result, which does not depend on us alone…. We must stop thinking of our lives in terms of victories and defeats, seeing them instead in terms of the experiences that make us who we are.”

This is also about not being defined by your last project or bad review or win or loss. It’s about not tying your self-worth to an external indicator.

One question I keep coming back to in my work is “How do we keep our heart open?” To not become numb, scarred, hardened, or detached from the innumerable scary and traumatizing things in life. André writes,

“It’s true that access to these worlds of the present moment is made easier by external gifts [such as nature, beauty, etc.]… But it also requires a decision on our part to open ourselves up as often as we can to being touched, contacted, and struck by life. This is an act of deliberate awareness.”


 

I borrowed some of these books from Queens Library. I resolved to use the library more this summer, after “The People’s Guide to the Queens International” (my collaborative project partly situated at Queens Library branches) and probably the Marie Kondo effect. The more I use the library, the more it becomes habitual and convenient. Just yesterday, I used the bookmobile near my subway stop for the first time. I also like the enforced timeline of a loan—it motivates me to read.

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I loved this show! I love Maurice Sendak’s drawings, hand-lettering, and the whimsy, compassion, heart, and sensitivity in his work. This exhibit features Sendak’s sketches, watercolors, storyboards, and dioramas illustrating his designs for the theater. I really makes me want to draw more, and explore absurdism.

I can’t stop thinking about these sketches for costume designs. The first is from Where the Wild Things Are. The second is from A Love for Three Oranges.

Sendak-wild-things

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Study for Wild Things costume, with notes (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:19. // Source: TheMorgan.org.

Drawing of costume designs. Three figures. The two figures on the left show the front and back of the same person, "prince" in a body suit showing organs and bones. The third figure is a man a boat.

My photo of a page in the exhibition catalog, “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet.” // Find it in the Morgan shop.

There’s something just nice thinking about these drawings together. About bringing the inside out (your beastly feelings becoming a monstrous suit you wear and control), or making your outsides show your insides (the soft, vulnerable organs we’re all made of).

Through October 6
Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet
Morgan Library & Museum


 

Also, if you’ve never listened to the Teri Gross’ interview with Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air, give it a listen. It will break your heart.

Sights

See: Maurice Sendak at the Morgan Library

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Art Competition Odds

More Notes from a Juror

Over the past two weeks, I was a juror for an artist-in-residence program. I spent about 10.5 hours reviewing 30 applications. As I reviewed, I took notes on what I found myself responding positively and negatively to. These notes are summarized below. They reflect my own biases, the application’s structure, and the organization’s criteria.


The basis of good writing is clear thinking. The applications that rise to the top show deep praxis and high intelligence.

Say what, who, when, where, how, and why. Stating the parameters of your project clearly and simply helps jurors remember, sort, and rank your proposal. Timelines help convey a clear plan. Citing individuals or organizations shows that you’ve done some groundwork.

Specify outcomes when possible. At the same time, balance outcomes with open-ended-ness. Don’t be too predetermined; allow room for growth or discovery, and for dialogue and the dynamic qualities of the program to inform your work.

Use headers. They are helpful landmarks in narrative texts.

Hit the marks. If the criteria are outlined, address how your project, specifically, fulfills them. Avoid generalizations about how art fulfills the criteria (“Art is ___ because…” “Art functions in society to…” “Art has the power to…”). If your project relates to social or political contexts, summarize them. The bulk of a letter of intent should be a description of your proposed project; background info should make up a smaller proportion.

Demonstrate a track record. Your work samples should show that you have the experience and capacity to pull off your proposed project. If your proposal includes a new medium or format for you, describe how you will learn or overcome the technical challenges.

If you’re going to propose an expansion or re-staging of a current project, convince readers why it is dynamic, necessary, worthy, or new, rather than merely helpful for your career or exhibition history. Is there a strategy? Does this next phase help you reach a bigger, more ambitious goal? Do you have any concrete plans or partnerships towards that goal? Show how this specific opportunity is a good fit (as opposed to any other opportunity that provides funding or visibility). Bear in mind that other applicants will be proposing all new projects, which seem more ambitious, and conclude with a more satisfying sense of accomplishment, in comparison. If your proposal is for an interstitial phase of a longer project, the outcomes may seem modest or unexciting.

Review your submittal as a whole. The parts should interlock and strengthen each other. Accentuate strong connections (include work samples of past projects relevant to your proposal or artist’s statement). Eliminate weak connections (omit less-relevant text or art from your statement or work samples if they don’t support the proposed project). [In practice, this means drafting and editing your submittal first, rather than cutting, pasting, and writing directly in the application portal.]

Don’t be redundant. If you say something in your proposal, no need to repeat it in your artist’s statement or work samples, or vice versa.

Limit art-speak. On a mechanical level, each sentence should function to communicate an idea that is specific to your project or process. Avoid making up acronyms for elements of your art practice that you reference only once or twice.

Provide enough context for your work samples. This is especially true of performance and social practice projects.

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Art Worlds, Research

Watch: On Why Art Belongs in the World

A beautiful work of storytelling and advanced learnings about sharing art.

Kristy Edmunds’ keynote speech at United States Artists Assembly 2019 is stirring, smart, and compelling. I highly recommend it. Watch the video, which includes an intro by Ann Hamilton.

Person holding a bowl in one hand, standing at a podium.

Keynote speaker Kristy Edmunds. // Source: UnitedStatesArtists.org.

Edmund’s speech comes from her perspective as curator and artistic director, facilitating relationships between artists and institutions. She’s particularly pro-artist [which is something you might assume people working in the art world would be, but actually, some are anti-artist, H/T Shannon Stratton].

Edmund’s perspective was especially interesting to me as a social practitioner, in thinking about partnerships with organizations, institutions, and communities, and also as an artist who thinks about my work less in terms of objects to be owned, and more in terms of aesthetic experiences and engagements.

Below are a few highlights.

On partnerships between artists and institutions

The quality of invitations to artists and audiences matter.

Artists are not to be treated as vendors. A public is not to be treated as consumers. Do not transact poetics and people, ever.

She said that requiring measurable outcomes facilitates gatekeeping and hinders bridge-building.

On how art lives in the world

When introducing performances, Edmunds feels compelled to tell audiences:

We have a job together, which is to make a memory. We will be the living archive for this artist, in this moment, in this time. We going to become its permanent collection.

I love this idea. She explains:

Art belongs in the world. It is informed by the maker, its place, city, community, culture, conditions—everything through which it is made—but it isn’t owned by the organization that helped facilitate it. Nor, once it is given by the artist, is it exclusively owned by them. It become owned by a public, in the world, in a memory that we made…

Ownership as a fixed idea is transformed into something else. To me, that transformation is a participation in belonging to the work, to the experience of it, to the acknowledgment of its maker, to the cultural assets that stand with it, and also to us, fleeting or long.

The future completes our work—how it sustains or endures. What is forged in our cultural memory connects us uniquely.

For me, when an artwork exists that way—as a shared memory or an experience ingrained in the body—that’s whats most exciting about working in the realm of aesthetic experiences. That’s why I keep going back to making projects with people, inviting participation, gathering stories, and sharing emotions and experiences.

She also shared this tidbit:

…Art needs to belong in the world because it is how we practice, in the words of Deborah Hay, “the deep ethics of optimism.”

 


Tangent: On “The deep ethics of optimism”

*Since I’m obsessed with optimism I wanted to learn more about what this phrase meant. I found an interview with choreographer Deborah Hay. She said, “A friend of mine who is a poet talks about ‘the deep ethics of optimism.'”

Then I found an interview with writer Zara Houshmand:

Issues of social justice matter to me very much but over time I’ve been more inclined to look inward at deeper sources of change—the mechanisms of empathy, breaking down prejudice, embracing the other, fixing oneself at the root in ways that create a more viable relationship with the rest of the world. In other words, doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice. It goes beyond finding a balance of contemplative and active life, or marshaling limited resources to prevent burn-out. Rather, it’s about what it means to commit to impossible tasks wholeheartedly, the deep ethics of optimism.

This relates to ideas that I keep coming back to, as well as new ideas I am currently discovering:

  • What I’m trying to achieve in my art is space for connection, for people to be whole-hearted, vulnerable, and authentic. Through my work, I am trying to ask, “How do you keep your heart open?” I think this is connected to optimism and embracing the abundance of the world and human goodness, which informs your ethics and how you move through the world and relate to change.
  • What is the relationship between social change and personal growth? This came up a lot in my recent Belonging Project at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. I focused a lot about how belonging feels. Then we looked at how to relate this to how belonging (and othering) happens on institutional scales, on a societal level.
  • I’ve also been thinking more about what it means when “the personal is political.” When are acts of self-care or self-actualization empowering and radical? When are they self-indulgent and afforded by privileged? For whom? In what conditions?
    • Self-care can be radical for people subjected to systematic violence. I identify as a woman of color, and, I’m also East Asian, educated, with sources of income that allow me to pursue being an artist, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, with birthright citizenship and fluent English.
    • I am encountering my own ageism, ableism, and fat-shaming and the loss of privilege afforded youth, ability, and control over my body. I want to challenge these biases to work towards social change and inclusion, AND to accept myself for improved mental health. I recognize that this latter reason is completely self-interested; that this is how privilege works (I didn’t have to think about this before, I could be un-empathetic and uninformed about those affected); and this is how bias works (I couldn’t ‘see’ it until it affected me directly).
  • I’m reading adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy (AK Press [an anarchist worker-run coop🤘🏽], 2017) and “doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice” seems very related.

 

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