Meta-Practice, Thought Experiments in Agency, Travelogue

Kala Fellowship: Residency Notes, Part 1

Notes from the first half of a printmaking residency in Berkeley, CA.

printshop

A view of Kala’s printshop.

[Note: Kala is redesigning their website—sorry for links that may soon break.]

What

I just wrapped up my first of two stints as a 2015-2016 Fellow at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA. Kala is a 40-year-old non-profit arts organization, at the heart of which is a massive print shop in the top floor of a former Heinz ketchup factory. Their printmaking facilities span etching, stone lithography, relief, letterpress, and screen print. They also have an electronic media center with a 44” printer, a darkroom, and a shooting room. Around the corner, they have another space, which includes a gallery, collections, a classroom, and three project space/studios.

It’s like an Artist’s Playland.

As a fellow, I receive access to the printmaking studio, free tutorials, a free class, the use of a 100-square-foot private studio, a discount on classes and purchases, and a stipend.

repeat

Demo from the Repeat Pattern Screen Printing class with Emily Gui.

studio

Studio 270º.

When

The fellowship lasts up to six months. I’d heard that a few past Fellows were able to be active all six months, but many were not, likely due to finances or jobs. The Bay Area’s high cost of living is another limiting factor, for international artists and at least one other NYC artist I’ve corresponded with. I have also been told that many Fellows schedule their stints towards the end of the Fellowship period.

I committed to 2.5 concentrated months due to finances and logistics. I just wrapped up a 4.5-week stay from early January through early February. I will be back for a second stint in June and July to make more work and to install my work in the Fellows’ show and attend the opening. The exhibition is scheduled to open in mid-July.

I was mostly focused on studio work, but I was able to visit the re-openings at Berkeley Art Museum and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, and Related Tactics: Declarations for the New Year at Southern Exposure. I also enjoyed the Kala Artists’ Annual in the Kala Gallery (on view through March 26)—it’s a great way to be introduced to the work of the AIRs that I was working alongside, and be inspired by the range of work and media.

Actually, I’d been in a Kala Artists’ Annual many years prior. I interned there after undergrad, and used the presses for my reduction woodcut prints. In the intervening years, I visited the gallery, wrote about an exhibition, and submitted applications to the Fellowship program. I think my familiarity with Kala, printmaking, and the region were very helpful in my planning and expectations.

Where

Artists couldn’t ask for a better location. Just across the parking lot from Kala are a large hardware store and Looking Glass Photo & Camera, probably the best photo store in the East Bay. Across San Pablo are independent businesses Discount Fabrics, MacBeath Hardwood, Ashby Lumber, and Urban Ore (building materials salvage). An art supply store with a decent selection of printmaking supplies and paper is located 1.5 miles away.

You can also find Kelly Paper in Oakland and TAP Plastics in El Cerrito. (I don’t usually promote chain stores, but I missed these two after I moved to NYC, which lacks adequate counterparts.)

Just across the street is Berkeley Bowl West, a fantastic grocery store with prepared food. Its produce section is probably bigger and fresher than anywhere I’ve been. You get healthy grab-and-go food or stock up on groceries in the Kala kitchen. It’s a major perk of the location.

Kala’s split spaces—print shop and gallery—are located on different sides of the same block. To access one from the other, you can walk through loading docks and a parking lot, a sidewalk that fancifully circumnavigates trees along car-heavy San Pablo, or through neighboring JFK University and more loading docks. It’s not far, but it feels like it is.

This part of West Berkeley was industrial, and the building has its own monolithic architectural beauty. However, artists should note that access is easiest for those who can readily climb a short ladder, walk steep ramps, and climb stairs.

I borrowed a car, which made a world of difference for my commute from the peninsula (south of San Francisco), and getting supplies. West Berkeley is not very close to BART (the subway/commuter rail system). For artists coming from out of town, I recommend staying as close to Kala as possible. If not, having a car—and a high tolerance for traffic or the willingness to commute during off hours—will be useful. At the very least, I think you’d want a bike and a bike map.

Who

This year there are eight Fellows. Kala also has about 50-70 artists-in-residence (AIRs). The AIR program is similar to a membership, allowing access to the print shop and media center. For local artists working in print and digital media, the AIR program’s tiered rates can help make it a great alternative to a private studio.

I really looked forward to becoming part of this Kala community. When I interviewed Kevin B. Chen for my ‘zine, CO-LABORATION, he said:

As a young person, Kala Art Institute was an amazing place to be—a shared facility for printmaking with an ethos of collectivity and collaboration. This was seminal in my thinking about artistic practice as part of a larger dialogue, a community. It was (and is) a real community of artists whose ideas and work didn’t exist in the vacuum of a solitary studio, but rather was in the open and collectively shared. The notion of gestalt—the whole is more than the sum of its individual parts—took root for me then.

At Kala, I encountered these moments of serendipity. It’s a communal space, so I admired Emmanuel Montoya’s oversized woodcut prints, and the nearly silent way he and his assistant worked together. Having only ever seen monoprinting with oils, I was impressed by how an artist used watercolors on her acrylic plate, and she kindly explained the process. Often the print shop felt like an atelier—artists were quietly engaging their solitary studio practices, respectfully allowing others to do the same. Then, someone might put on the water kettle, and gradually artists gathered for lunch, and there’d be a friendly, energetic dialogue.

My most meaningful instance of serendipity is being a concurrent Fellow with San Francisco-based Leah Rosenberg. She began her stint in January, too, following her residency in Omaha and project in Hamburg. In the past, she and I collaborated with the late, painfully missed Susan O’Malley. Re-connecting with Leah, at Kala (where Susan’s “Be You” mural for Print Public is just across San Pablo) was some sort of cosmic gift, a confluence of Kala’s mysterious ability to survive an economic environment hostile to arts organizations, the jurors’ visions, and our own good luck. We are collaborating on a participatory project for the exhibition in July. It was also so nice to have a buddy. Doing a residency can be isolating—you’re away from your home and partner, and somewhat at the mercy of an institution yet on a self-directed journey, so having someone to share the experience and mutual support is strengthening.

How

Fellowships are awarded via an annual open call juried by outside curators and artists. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve applied. I submitted an application last spring, and got an email requesting confirmation of my interest in summer or early fall. I’m finding that artist’s experiences of residencies are highly shaped by the liaison, and Artist Programs Manager Carrie Hott (see her work, which I’ve mentioned here) was professional, responsive, interested, and interesting.

The Fellowship seems set up to support artists and let them get to work. At the Orientation, Studio Manager Paper Buck (see his work) asked us what media we’d like to use, and what tutorials we’d need. On the spot, he incorporated a screen coating and exposing tutorial. Carrie handed out keys to residents and fellows. That was day one. We were free to access the studios 24/7.

letterpress

Changing out the tympan in a Vandercook letterpress tutorial with Carissa Potter Carlson.

Kala relies on an honor system, and trusts AIRs and Fellows to work within their experience levels. If you are fluent with a piece of equipment, they might briefly talk it through with you, or they might leave it at that. If needed, you can request a tutorial. Brief tutorials are free and scheduled with individual staff members and teachers. You can also request a longer tutorial—available to AIRs at an hourly rate of $40, which I think is very artist-friendly, and free for Fellows.

Kala also offers a free, completely optional class to Fellows.

It took me about a week or two to get rolling in the print shop. When I was eager to get a screen printing refresher, an AIR was kind enough to walk me through it.

Kala’s requirements of Fellows are minor—donate three works (typically editioned work) to the permanent collection. Include credit lines. Submit good photo documentation. That’s pretty much it.

Why

I had an overwhelmingly positive experience over the past few weeks.

I’ve been exploring artists’ agency and interdependence, and want to make activity kits along these themes. I shipped my sewing machine to Kala, but ended up wanting to use my time at Kala mostly to print; I can always sew back in NYC. I did a lot of screenprinting on fabric, a little bit of letterpress and polymer plate, one woodblock (thanks to encouragement by KBC), a little participatory project, and the collaboration with Leah.

splitinkwell

Big roller, split well, birch plywood woodcut

I had books about artists’ self-organization and alternatives, but put off reading them. Printmaking is preparation-intensive, and I felt like I had plenty to do in the print shop everyday. I’ve been mulling these podcasts and articles.

If there was any stress, it was completely self-inflicted. At residencies, I am quite aware of the many artists who would like the opportunity I have, and I tend to want to earn the right to be there by being very productive. But the creative process isn’t linear. And I dabble around in too many media for processes to go perfectly every time. I usually reach a point where I have too many ideas and not enough time left, so I try to simplify and prioritize. The hardest part is letting go of what I can’t or needn’t do. For example, I re-printed a three-color repeat pattern screen print on 10 feet of fabric. It took me about 1.5-2.5 hours every day for six days. If I were able to let go of the flaws and mistakes of the first print, and adhere to my list of priorities, I would have moved on to other projects. But I was obsessed: I knew I could make it better.

Printmaking can be highly technical. For some, its established markers of craftsmanship can make it intimidating, and mastery expressed in minutia can make it seem arcane. But printmaking can also be looser and inventive. I like how you can also make it up as you go along, like making jigs—improvising and refining combinations of materials, time, pressure, and alignment. A folded playing card is a great tool for picking up prints from the press. A “jigsaw” woodcut of squares and triangles could be done in minutes on a miter saw. A plastic sheet can be a backing for screenprinting a t-shirt, or a tympan for printing a woodblock. Do whatever works.

pulleysystem

I devised a simple pulley system for printing and drying yards of fabric.

 

 


 

Thanks so much to Kala Art Institute, its funders, staff, interns, the jurors, AIRs and fellow Fellows for this tremendous opportunity and amazing experience thus far…

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Impressions, Travelogue

Impressions of Amsterdam

Exhibitions by Matisse, Goedel, and Kentridge.

A few months after I put up a map of the world with the loose intention of inspiring more travel, M surprised me with a short, spontaneous trip to Amsterdam for two of our favorite things—riding bicycles and seeing art and design. Here are my highlights.

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014 // Source: stedelijk.nl

The Oasis of Matisse at the Stedelijk Museum

As a young art student I was deeply inspired by Matisse’s paper cutout collage. I loved how they were joyful and expressive, and full of movement and freedom. I missed them when they were at the MoMA, but it is just as well as the Stedelijk wasn’t very crowded last Friday afternoon.

There are two segments of the show. Downstairs, smaller galleries identify Matisse’s stages of development, often correlated to periods of travel, and show works alongside others by Matisse’s contemporaries. It was like a who’s who of early 20th century art, with Fauvists, German Expressionists, Supremetists, and more. I thought a lot about luck and privilege—the happenstances and conditions that contributed to Matisse’s development—being born in a certain country and period, of a particular race and gender, with the means to travel and devote oneself entirely to studying and making art, within a milieu of likewise-enabled artists, interested patrons, and a tolerant government. I thought about how these probably shaped Matisse’s psyche, and his confidence and ambition—the aspects of his art that are most striking. The exhibition leads up to Matisse’s late-in-life cutouts. It seemed that every stage was a step towards this fullest expression of the master artist. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, of all the time he was able to devote to his own artistic development.

Upstairs, a large gallery displays Matisse’s cutouts, often using his signature fig leaf motif. I loved the color palette: rich, vibrant ultramarine, an even more vibrant magenta, black, red, yellow. These high-key colors underscore the graphic sensibility, yet the papers are hand-painted and improvised—you can see where the cutouts were cut and moved around again. Some of the collages are massive. You could spend a long time in this gallery, noticing how one’s eye moves around the musical compositions.

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014

The Oasis of Matisse, installation view. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. ©Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014 // Source: stedelijk.nl

While I was familiar with many of Matisse’s works, including his design for a stained glass window (above, left), I was surprised to see a number of ceremonial capes. These were lovely translations of Matisse’s free, expressive cutouts in satin appliqués. The palettes, designs, and relation to the body were satisfyingly unified wholes.

Finally, another large gallery is devoted to Jazz, Matisse’s book of cutouts and handwritten pages. While I admired how the cutouts were slightly textured as prints (and appreciated the validation that handwritten pages could make an interesting exhibition), I was interested to read that Matisse was disappointed in the result—he found the prints lifeless, and the experience helped him realize that the cutouts could work as artworks in their own rights. Even “master” artists have to take risks and fail (even if such works are not perceived by others as failures). It underscored the sense that one could use a whole lifetime to fully realize one’s potential as an artist.

Observatorie VII, 2013 © Noémie Goudal // Source: http://www.foam.org/museum/programme/noemie-goudal

Observatorie VII, 2013 © Noémie Goudal // Source: foam.org

Noémie Goudal: The Geometrical Determination of the Sunrise at FOAM

This show—with a series of large photographs, a photo-installation, stereoscopic images, and two short videos—was a stunning introduction for me to this young French artist’s work. She’s concerned with architecture that is related to the sun, and fabricates what look like xerographic constructions that she shoots as immaculate black and white analog photographs. They’re quiet and wonderfully strange.

There’s also an anamorphic installation of pieces of plate glass with cutout photographic imagery of an interior space. There are stereoscopic images of natural landscapes, like snowy peaks shrouded in clouds.

The exhibition is really rounded out by two short videos. Both are single, continuous shots from afar of a large architectural structure, wherein identically costumed humans commence and end a repetitive task. In the first, workers in white bunny suits descend ladders inside a massive, dark factory space, coming from a skylight and dropping beneath the floor. In the second, divers climb up and dive from a diving tower in a river foregrounding a distant mountain. There’s only about a half-dozen of them, and they cycle on for minutes, becoming more tired, and finally stopping. The videos function like moving image photographs of an architectural space, or like little scenes about an unidentified place. There is a sense of myth, detached from any specific time and place.

The Goudal show is excellently paired with Katy Grannan’s The Nine and The Ninety-Nine, portraits and scenes from a video-in-progress of the down-and-out in and around Modesto, CA.

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance, installation view at Eye Film Institute

William Kentridge: If We Ever Get to Heaven at the Eye Film Institute

There are three works in this knockout show: a 2008 single-channel stop-motion animation, a 2011 video installation with multiple channels, More Sweetly Play the Dance, a new commission especially for the Eye that is a 45-meter-long, multi-channel, synced panorama. The first two contextualize how Kentridge arrived at the third.

The video is a blend of Kentridge’s characteristic charcoal animation forming the background (I liked the restrained use of his signature style), a few puppets, and many live actors carrying props made by Kentridge. (The props are on view in an adjacent gallery, and are totally scrappy. A few are installed with the back towards viewers, to show their fabrication of corrugated cardboard, ink, hot glue, and bits of wood for reinforcement and handles.)

kentridge-prop-backs

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

kentridge-prop-gallery

William Kentridge, If We Ever Get to Heaven, installation view at Eye Film Institute

The actors form a parade, which starts out with a brass band in ornate dress and dancers. The tone is joyful. I appreciated the combination of expressive looseness and high-production value. The staging of the filming must have been a massive undertaking, yet the props are simple, roughshod cardboard elements. The score, audio recording, and audio playback are very well done, yet the projections do not match up edge-to-edge, echoing the collage-like feeling of Kentridge’s animations.

As the film continues, however, the parade morphs into a darker, mournful procession. The sick push IVs, goaded along by others wearing head to toe plastic protection gear. There are gravediggers carrying shovels. One might think of Kentridge’s work in the context of the fallout of apartheid—something of the past, of a specific nation (though there’s a different resonance in the Netherlands, as South Africa was colonized by the Dutch)—but there are larger narratives, having to do with Ebola throughout Africa, that implicate all of us. More Sweetly Play the Dance is a powerful example of Kentridge’s ability to blend the specific, the poetic, and the topical.

In the exhibition essay, Kentridge is quoted as saying:

Every act of enlightenment, all the missions to save souls, all the best impulses, are so dogged by the weight of what follows them; their shadow, the violence that has accompanied enlightenment.

While I’m not totally comfortable with the futility and pessimism in the statement, it made me think about the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, in contrast with the persistent institutional racism and denial of privilege going on in the US now.

A few asides:

We also went to De Appel Arts Centre, the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (project space) and the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography. Cool spaces, but I personally didn’t connect with the current exhibitions.

Privilege the viewing experience. While I had aspirations to visit the Van Gogh Museum, I just couldn’t bring myself to deal with the long lines and crowds. I’m not interested in elbowing my way into a clear sightline around a famous, expensive painting as other tourists snap photos. It’s too stressful and unpleasant. It’s not a good way to experience a work of art, and I am glad that I know myself well enough not to visit out of a sense of duty only.

I did have the odd feeling of recognizing works from art history books at the Matisse show. The reproduction does detract from the aura of the original, but more so does hype.

Safety first, and all that follows. I really like riding a bicycle but I rarely do. There are too many reasons not to—fear of being hit by a car, truck, or bus; concerns about personal safety after nightfall; poor bike lanes; not enough bike parking; bike theft; and aggressively car-centric attitudes in general. When you eliminate or minimize such reasons, it’s liberating. I enjoyed the integration and espousal of bike culture in Amsterdam during my short stay, and wonder how living in such a bike-friendly place impacts your lifestyle and psyche over the long term. We saw thousands of bicyclists everyday, including parents toting one or more children, and very few private cars on the road. Bike lanes were protected and clearly marked. When lanes are shared, drivers were almost always patient and respectful. A tram stopped to let us cross the street. That feeling of safety is maybe one of the most foreign and novel things I experienced—such a contrast from the outright aggression that cyclists face and have to psychologically armor themselves against when riding in NYC.

This pretty much sums it up. Life's too short to hate your commute.

This pretty much sums it up. Life’s too short to hate your commute.

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Meta-Practice, Travelogue

Residency wrap-up: c3:studio residency, c3:initiative, Portland, OR

Looking back at my 17-day residency.

The stunningly picturesque Mt. Hood is visible from many parts of Portland.

The stunningly picturesque Mt. Hood is visible from many parts of Portland.

From May 20 to June 6, I was in residence at c3:initiative’s c3:studio residency, which

“partners with local arts institutions to provide a studio residency for visiting artists… to develop work to be exhibited regionally.”

How it came about. I’d been invited by the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society (“‘Pata,” for short) to exhibit The Eve Of…. I needed to be in Portland to install the large sculptures and installations. With our budget stretched thin by the shipping and transportation costs, ‘Pata contacted c3. I’d heard about c3 from the art collective ERNEST—which is in a long-term, ongoing residency there—and had received updates about Andy Coolquitt’s residency for his Disjecta show. c3 was available and offered not only to let me stay during installation, but to come out earlier for a residency to make new work with a membership to Pulp & Deckle, the onsite papermaking studio they incubate. I said yes.

Getting settled. Founder and Director Shir Ly Grisanti and Program Manager Erin Mallea got in touch and asked me what I needed. They were communicative, prompt, professional, responsive, and happy to triangulate with third parties as needed. They picked me up at the airport; lent a bicycle for getting around town; connected me with a lender of woodworking tools; and hooked me up with advising hours from Jenn Woodward, who runs Pulp & Deckle. Furthermore, they arranged for me to present Make Things (Happen) at PSU’s MFA in Social Practice un-conference, Assembly.

A discussion about Make Things (Happen): Christine Wong Yap with Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini. Presented by c3:initiative and Portland 'Pataphysical Society for Portland State University's Assembly 2015. Photo credit: Joe Greer.

A discussion about Make Things (Happen): Christine Wong Yap with Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini. Presented by c3:initiative and Portland ‘Pataphysical Society for Portland State University’s Assembly 2015. Photo credit: Joe Greer.

c3 occupies a building with a small office, a cozy kitchen, a front room with a glass garage door that was an exhibition space, a larger middle room that I took over as a studio space, a shared bathroom with good-smelling shampoos and lotions, a closet with a large industrial sink and a few hand tools, Pulp and Deckle, and a one-room residence. The residence is sort of a white concrete cube afforded privacy with heavy black curtains. It’s outfitted with low furnishings that lend it a peaceful feeling—a comfy futon, pine credenzas with books and magazines, a lounge chair, and a tri-fold mattress, which turned out to be a nice place to sit cross-legged and work on my laptop. There’s also a large gated yard with patio furniture and plenty of space.

c3 is located in St. John’s, a neighborhood in North Portland. It feels like a small town. Its main street reminded me of Albany, CA, with its little movie theater, many bars, and vintage look. Transportation is pretty easy, with two bus lines that run to the galleries in the Pearl district.

Shir, Erin, and Jenn were incredibly accommodating. They said I was pretty much free to use anything in the office, kitchen, and closet. That meant I could print activity sheets for my Assembly event, had access to basics like olive oil and spices, and could use their washer, dryer and detergent, etc. These things seem small or mundane, but they make a big difference when you’re traveling.

What I did. In the first week, I made paper at Pulp & Deckle. I came to find the process of making paper to be pretty fun. The large sheets I started out with were technically challenging and physically demanding, so when I later made US letter-sized miniature multiples, I couldn’t stop giggling at how easy it was.

Making miniature multiples at Pulp & Deckle.

Making miniature multiples at Pulp & Deckle.

Plinth

Plinth

After that, I turned my attention to sketching, procuring, and making a plinth, A/V box, light blocks to cover ‘Pata’s clerestory windows, and scrims as backdrops for the handmade paper. I tend to work in ways that are very straightforward, and have found that attending to the physical space behooves the viewing experience. This was made possible with the chop saw, compressor, nailer, and Skil saw lent by Devan; Pulp & Deckle’s sewing machine; and a car lent by ‘Pata. I can be a control freak and it can be hard for me to ask for help (and flexible enough to accept it). But I thought about Torreya Cumming’s advice when I interviewed her for an essay for Art Practical:

“The first principle is beg, borrow, or steal. That is, don’t buy something if you need it once or twice, and you know someone who has one, or you can lightly hitch a ride on something that was going to be wasted anyway. This puts one in a complicated social network I call the ‘favor economy.’ Unlike some other barter systems, it relies not on a one-to-one exchange of goods or services, but on vague, consensus-based goodwill and mutual aid.”

I’m very grateful to Shir, Erin, Jenn, and Devan for providing the space, equipment, and knowledge for me to be productive. I feel really lucky to have been the recipient of so much generosity and hospitality. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I have plenty of time and all of the tools—physical, technical, and psychological—for the task at hand.

First Thursdays opening reception, The Eve Of..., Portland 'Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

First Thursdays opening reception, The Eve Of…, Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

Results. I’m very happy with how The Eve Of… looks at ‘Pata and also at its satellite location in the PDX Contemporary windows, alongside Ethan Rose’s excellent solo show. I owe huge thanks to Josephine Zarkovich and David Huff at ‘Pata, as well as Caitlin and James at PDX Contemporary. During the openings on First Thursdays, I ran into old classmates who’d moved to Portland recently, collaborators who happened to be driving through town, and even a colleague who I’d recently met in Wichita. Moreover, so many people came in to the galleries—friends, colleagues, supporters, and the curious. It was a very satisfying conclusion.

Christine Wong Yap, Projection, 2014, video installation: video, wood, fabric, acrylic, 80 x 32 x 32.125 inches.  Installation view at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

Christine Wong Yap, Projection, 2014, video installation: video, wood, fabric, acrylic, 80 x 32 x 32.125 inches. Installation view at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

The Eve Of…, including works created in residence at c3:initiative, will be on view through July 18 at the Portland ’Pataphysical Society in Portland, OR. A satellite exhibition is on view until June 27 in the windows project space at PDX Contemporary.

Correction: The link to photographer Joe Greer has been updated.

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Impressions, Make Things (Happen), The Eve Of..., Travelogue

c3:initiative Residency Day 12 Update

Some things I’ve done, thought about, and seen in the first 12 days of a 17-day residency in Portland, OR.

On Saturday, I installed two pieces from The Eve Of… in the window project space at PDX Contemporary, with a little help from JZ, DH, Caitlin, and James. It’s viewable 24/7 at the corner of NW Flanders and NW 9th.

It’s a satellite of the larger exhibition at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society (‘Pata), which opens Thursday (First Thursdays) from 6-9pm, at NW Everett and NW 6th.

The exhibition at ‘Pata will include new works—four large pieces of handmade cotton rag paper, which I made with the tutelage of Jenn Woodward at the Pulp and Deckle paper making studio thanks to support from c3:initiative. The paper is created for display in the ‘Pata windows, which will also be viewable 24/7.

Make Things (Happen) PSU Assembly brochure page. Illustrations of activities by Kari Marboe & Erik Scollon, Piero Passacantando, and Tattfoo Tan.

Make Things (Happen) PSU Assembly brochure page. Illustrations of activities by Kari Marboe & Erik Scollon, Piero Passacantando, and Tattfoo Tan.

Last Wednesday, I had a chat about Make Things (Happen) in PSU Assembly. It was sponsored by c3:initiative and located at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society. I invited Make Things (Happen) participating artists Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini to present their activity sheets and have a dialogue. Lexa asked me how I felt about shared authorship—I am interested in exploring it, and talked about the creative freedom I tried to offer artists, since I wasn’t able to offer remuneration. This spurred an audience member to ask Lexa and Julie what motivated them to participate. Lexa mentioned that this was a easy extension of an existing project, and Julie explained it’s hard to think of who would fund projects to fight white supremacy.

We also talked about if I’ve met resistance to my work about happiness, and I mentioned how much inspiration I take from Susan O’Malley‘s commitment to make art that is whole-heartedly positive. (At Harvester, I talked about how people can easily underestimate the amount of courage that making art about happiness can require.) Another person asked about where else I’d like to see this project, which reminded me of the last message I got from Susan:

I really think it would be amazing to see this project at the airport or library or DMV or city hall or some kind of public space…..

She was so smart about curation and public space. I should heed her words. These are just one more example of so many bits of wisdom she shared.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and who made it happen: Julie, Lexa, Shir, Erin, Josephine, David, Harrell, and many more.

I made paper before, once, in Nance O’Banion’s Bookmaking class as an undergrad. My memory of it pretty hazy, except for an image of the sheet collapsing as I unsuccessfully tried to “kiss” the wet paper pulp off the mold and onto the drying screen.

A few thoughts about paper making:

It’s technical, but much of it, like in printmaking, is by feel. You screw it up to know where it goes wrong, and then by experience feel when it’s right. For example, you figure out how much retention aid is enough, which you can feel in the softness of the water.

It’s physical. I made four 43×56″ sheets, each comprised of twelve sheets from a ~15×15″ mold. The water’s surface tension provides a good amount of resistance when you pull the mold. You sometimes have to lift and pour big buckets (30-40 pounds). A backache after the first day was all the reminder I needed to use my core and legs on subsequent days.

Oddly, I think having done vinyl signage helps. Though the materials couldn’t be more opposite in many ways—natural vs. plastic, historical or niche vs. ubiquitously modern—the processes share releasing a fragile sheet from one surface to another. It’s about timing and pressure.

It’s pretty magical. There’s no binder. The fibers just stick together. Because it’s very physical and intuitive, it’s a great process for finding flow. Jenn is a great teacher—very knowledgeable, patient, and no-stress. Pulp & Deckle‘s classes and private workshops are affordable. Recommended!

Time management. You might think that artists who are also art handlers will take less time to prepare for and install an exhibition. This is not necessarily true.

1. We can nerd out on details. I built a plinth for a work that usually sits on the ground, and a box for A/V that could just sit a shelf. I’m also sewing light blocks for ‘Pata’s clerestory windows and sheer window coverings to layer behind the paper.

2. It takes time. I underestimated how long it would take me to build boxes and pack my work to ship out here. Yet I work on crews where we do that for several days or weeks at a time. The scale of my work is smaller; but still, in this case, it included two large boxes the sizes of doors.

3. Because you never know when you’ll need to problem-solve. What can go wrong when you’re traveling, using local sources, unfamiliar tools, and new spaces? The patience and generosity of friends and strangers go a long way.

 

Bathing in the afterglow of the Postcards from America opening at Newspace Center for Photography; it was pretty cool to see dudely big-deals like Alec Soth and Jim Goldberg mixing it up with local subjects (a retiree, a girl named Cherish, a physical therapist who served vets, an advocate for Iraqi refugees) and PSU Social Practice students. The event was part of PSU Assembly. Susan Meiselas‘ project to raise the visibility of VOZ, a worker-led organization to empower immigrant workers is a smart, worthy way to use photography in social practice; limited edition screenprint posters are available to raise funds for printing. It’s super cute and signed by the Portland Postcards from America photogs. I was tempted. I previously thought Magnum was just a hotshot agency, but in a recent talk at Portland Art Museum, they explained that it’s a co-op run by photographers for photographers, and had to find new ways to support the work they want to do.

Yale Union/YU Contemporary‘s new exhibition by Willem Oorebeek. We were only there for a few minutes between engagements, and my largest impressions are of the space (a huge renovated industrial space not unlike Mass MOCA or DIA:Beacon, with beautiful light) and the architect-made exhibition design (2×4 framing on 12″ centers, very selectively sheathed). There were reproductions from magazines, and sheets of glass over rubber flooring with round nubs intended to read as pixels, though I thought of LEDs. There were black-on-black prints (black lithographic prints over a variety of mediums) that had optical or durational effects—you had to stand right in front of them to see them, which was engaging in how it forced an intimate relationship with the image within a massive space.

Woodwork. Borrowed tools from a suspension-tree-house maker named Devan. A 12″ compound miter saw, Skil saw, and compressor and nailer (yes!). Nice blades, smooth sailing. I forgot to pick up clamps, though, so I nailed a 1×2 as a guide wherever I needed it. It hit 92ºF and the patio umbrella was a savior.

 

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Impressions, Travelogue

Found Typography in and around Wichita

Signs, packaging design and more.

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Such exuberance. Douglas Street.

 

Library sign.

Fitting sign for a sturdy, spacious, modern building. Main Street.

 

clock with rounded sans red numerals, serif black numerals

A study in function and typographic contrast. Wichita Public Library, Central Branch.

 

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Such a high-minded engraving. I love how prominently the arts feature; hard to imagine a corollary image today. Framed and on display the library, in the genealogy section.

 

University yearbook spines.

Decades of typographic whimsy. University yearbooks.

 

Neon sign in the Delano district. Bell Floor Co.

Neon sign in the Delano district. The two different sized strokes on the sides of “co” are kind of sweet.

 

Big Brutus t-shirt, West Mineral, Kansas

Better than Google: Sean: “Have you been to Big Brutus?” “What’s that?” (Opens shirt and explains that Big Brutus is the world’s largest power digger.)

 

JR's private club, open 11 am to 9 pm. Serving Daily Fare, lunch 11-2:30 pm, open mon-sat. Bully good. Breakfast Special 7-11am

Diner era conjuring a wood type era.

 

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Bubble letters with drop shadow and Helvetica. The saw is indeed avocado green. And it still cuts like a beaut. Turn the wingnut to adjust the cutting depth.

Avant Garde outline above aqua and pink stencil with ribbon.

Avant Garde outline above aqua and pink stencil face with ribbon.

 

Committed to serving citizens. November 1994.

Get it? It’s copperplate script cast in bronze. What I do like is Kansas’ state motto: Ad astra per aspera (To the stars through difficulties).

 

Coleman Silk Lite Mantles.

From Coleman’s museum and store. Coleman was founded and operated out of Wichita (along with many aeronautics companies, and Pizza Hut). Another period of effusive typographic contrast; this one, a heyday of illustration.

 

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Strong City, KS. I was mostly attracted to the numbers which could be on a heavy metal album cover, but now I’m noticing the  right triangle, and how it seems a bit Masonic…

 

Wichita Work Release Facility

Maybe not a happy place, but someone probably made these letters, and decided how to stagger them across the checkerboard granite wall.

 

Santa Fe railroad car.

Adjacent to the Transportation Museum, on Douglas Street.

 

Old Mill Tasty Shop, Fountain service and sandwich

Trajan-eqsue Roman capitals over brush script, painted and re-painted? Yes, please.

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Projects, Travelogue

Harvester Arts Residency: What, Where, Who, When, How, Why

My Wichita residency wrap-up notes. 

WHAT: I just completed a 2.5-week residency at Harvester Arts in Wichita, KS.

Harvester is a two-year-old arts organization whose residency program encourages artists to experiment and share their process with the community. The results are exhibited, and then two local artists create and present work in response.

 

All the Steps in the Process, Installation view at Harvester Arts, 2015. Christine Wong Yap, drawings on walls, zine, furniture. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.

All the Steps in the Process installation view at Harvester Arts, Wichita, KS, 2015. Drawings and furniture by Christine Wong Yap. Zine edited and designed by Yap. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.

I came up with All the Steps in the Process: a research project on collaboration. I did six interviews with eight artists from the SF Bay Area, New York, and Wichita: Kevin B. Chen, Amanda Curreri, Leeza Meksin and Eleana Anagnos, Armando Minjarez, Elizabeth Travelslight, and Linnebur & Miller. Quotes from these interviews are realized in a series of hand-lettered drawings that line the walls in an exhibition design inspired by publication layouts. I also conducted a survey whose data, along with excerpts of the interviews, comprise CO-LABORATION, a 28-page ‘zine. I designed and built two reading desks and stools especially for reading the ‘zine. I also made a bench for visitors to view a video with examples of collaborative works by local artists: Amanda Pfister & Manda Remmen; Jennifer Koe & Nathan Filbert; Ann Resnick with Bethel Kidrun retirement community residents; Kevin Mullins in response to the work of Anne Schaefer; and Jessica Wasson, Patrick Calvillo, Alex Thomas, Ian Blume, Gray Brand, Bernardo Trevizo, Drew Davis, Jordan Kirtley, Peter James, and Tim Maggard.

CO-LABORATION, detail.

CO-LABORATION, detail.

All the Steps in the Process will be on view through May 17 at Harvester Arts. Wichita-based artists Darren Jones and Anne Resnick will create work in response.

WHERE: This was my first visit to Wichita, and to the state of Kansas.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised with how friendly everyone is. I found it so nice to just let my guard down and feel at ease, away from hyper-competitive places like New York or even San Francisco. It’s a fairly safe city to travel in. Sometimes I have to force myself to be social, and it was a lot easier in Kansas because people are just generally more inclined to respond in kind.

Wichita really grew on me—within a few days I felt like it’s normal for me to going about my day at a relatively chill pace, riding a cruiser on the flat, windy streets (or sidewalks, because there’s so few bicyclists and pedestrians). The art scene seems small but cool, with really strong mutual support and interest. I constantly witnessed examples of generosity, from the plenitude of the potluck—Ann Resnick and Kevin Mullins’ Crock Pot of chili and a still-warm pan of cornbread, and Meghan Miller’s triple-decker black velvet cake—Mike Miller’s lending super cool, vintage bucket-phones for the opening after-party, and Marta McKim of Atomic Elbow Massage, who gives Harvester resident artists free massages!

Bucket-phone outfitted PA system lent by Mike Miller.

Bucket-phone outfitted PA system lent by Mike Miller.

I enjoyed the vernacular architecture around Wichita. Even ICT airport has quirky engraved signage. This terminal will be replaced next month and eventually torn down. I loved visiting the main library; it reminded me of places I’d been as a child. This, too, is moving to a new building, though it’s yet to be determined how the existing building will be re-purposed.

Skyway.

Skyway.

Rock wall facade.

Rock wall facade.

Twin spiral garage.

Twin spiral garage.

Foyer. Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Foyer. Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

 

Harvester Arts just relocated to a new, dedicated storefront space in Old Town, an entertainment district with lots of bars and restaurants. (It’s right next to B. Young, a hair salon run by Ben Young and Trace Wilson, an exceptionally neighborly couple who are very supportive of Harvester and its artists. And highly recommended!) A few blocks southeast is City Blueprint, an art store/surveyor’s supplier (waterproof notebooks!), and print center. They printed the ‘zine at fantastic prices and great quality. I didn’t get a chance to go to the Yard, a random parts store that artists love, but knowing my weakness for potentially useful things even if I don’t really need them, it’s probably for the best. Commerce Street, a hub of galleries, is a short bike ride away. (I especially enjoyed Yoonmi Nam’s work currently on view in XX7 at Fishhaus Gallery.)

Harvester Arts’ title sponsor is the Hotel at Waterwalk, where I stayed for my entire visit. Other residents have stayed at the sister hotel, Hotel at Old Town, which is only a block away from Harvester. Being further away made me see more of the city and gave me a chance to shake a leg everyday. But towards the end, when I was pulling long days and late nights, I could see the advantage of proximity (such as when I had an SD card—at the studio—and wasn’t sure if it’d work in my laptop—at the hotel). It’s my first time staying in a hotel for an artist’s residency, and though it was a little odd to make such a transitory space feel like “home,” it was quite conducive—there’s WIFI, laundry, a few cardio machines, free passes to a real gym, and a free shuttle available upon request (though I often walked or biked to operate on my own schedule, or hitched a ride with Kate or Kristin).

Harvester’s space is a two-story storefront: the lower level is the resident’s studio and gallery, and the upper level is the office. The unit is set back from the street and felt private enough. I also enjoyed working in the back patio area, which is shaded from the sun by trees inhabited by vociferous birds.

Panorama of Harvester Arts' ground floor studio/gallery, shortly after I arrived.

Panorama of Harvester Arts’ ground floor studio/gallery, shortly after I arrived.

 

Making a bench in Harvester's back patio on a sunny day.

Making a bench in Harvester’s back patio on a sunny day.

WHEN: My residency was from April 8–26.

Harvester’s residencies are usually two weeks long, but I wanted more time, and those few extra days were helpful: I got jetlagged! There’s officially only an hour’s time difference from the east coast, but it felt like more.

My residency coincided with lots of art events. The opening fell on the Final Fridays gallery crawl and a big day of giving to the arts. I also judged the WSU spectacle, Project RunAway, a student wearable art runway competition and fundraiser. The weather was pretty great most of the time—in the 50s to 70s, with a few thunderstorms. There was a tornado warning my first night in town, but no actual twister (whew!).

Having 19 days to develop and install a project for a three-week exhibition makes for a very condensed experience. I could have used more time, but I appreciate how the short period forced me to try new things. Working as an art handler helps, as I can more or less plan and execute an installation, but it also makes me extra picky about small details. In the last few days, as I was feeling stretched thin by what I set out to do, I came up with a mantra: Simply. Prioritize. And ask for help. The hardest part was realizing that the flip side of prioritizing is letting go of what’s not important.

WHO: Harvester Arts was co-founded by Kristin Beal, Kate Van Steenhuyse, and Ryan Gates.

I met Kate in grad school; it was a fabulous surprise to receive Kate’s invitation last year. I believe the program is currently by invitation only. They are currently run with their own donated labor, with the help of interns and friends like Calie Shivers and Bernardo Trevizo.

Leading up to my artist's talk.

Leading up to my artist’s talk.

 

Opening reception.

Opening reception.

Harvester organized three events in conjunction with my residency: an artist’s talk/slide presentation, the aforementioned potluck, and the opening reception (followed by an after-party). My visit was brimming with productivity as well as socializing. It’s helpful to have an artist’s talk early on to introduce and contextualize my practice, and help artists with similar interests self-identify. It meant the potluck and opening were chances to continue conversations.

The communities at Harvester and the art department at Wichita State University—where Kate teaches—overlaps. You could say I began and ended my visit at WSU, attending visiting artist Judy Rushin’s lecture and closing on my second day in town, and the faculty exhibition at the Ulrich on my penultimate day (I really enjoyed Jennifer Ray’s large format photographs of places, and it was great to see  examples of Kate’s paintings and Levente Solyuk’s conceptually-oriented practice).

HOW: Shooting for self-sufficiency and relying heavily on interdependence.

Initially, I’d wondered how to make a project responsive to the site: Should I look into Wichita’s history of aeronautics or at Coleman camping gear? But in the end, interviewing and featuring the work of local artists and collaborators is specific to the site—or rather, a specific slice of a community of artists at this particular moment.

For this trip, I shipped out what’s becoming a basic residency kit: a 14 x 14 x 14” box that I’ve lined with Styrofoam and then shock-absorbing foam and filled with drawing and installation tools; a 36” long tube with a roll of drawing paper and a straight-edge/ruler; and a flat box with two 18 x 24” cutting mats. These three cost about $50 to ship via FedEx Ground each way (I made a minor innovation by printing return labels, and layering them under the shipping labels). It’s really helpful for me to hit the ground running with my own supplies. Being at a residency is an odd mix of empowerment and being somewhat helpless—you’re in an unfamiliar place and given new resources, but cut off from most of your own.

For example, Mark lent Kristin the van so we could get lumber. Kate’s kid was sick, so she would be around, so I could use Ryan’s saws. Home Depot offers the promise of consistency without actual consistency. (Unless you mean that the sheet saw is out of order again… I’m starting to think of their wood selections as a produce store—you can’t assume anything will be in stock, you just have to see what’s there. Fine, I’ll rip-cut my own 1x2s, and buy quarter-sheets at a 150% mark-up, then spend another 10 minutes getting a refund). But in the end, everything worked out. It was a gorgeous, sunny day for doing woodwork in an open garage. I fired up the unfamiliar table saw, and the board sailed through, straight and smooth.

WHY: an intensive, condensed experience of encountering a place and an art community, and being experimental and productive.

Two and a half weeks ago, I had a vague vision of some hand-lettered drawings on the walls, and the rough ideas of a ‘zine and some wood furniture. I knew it would be about collaboration, but I didn’t know what I would find out. What I learned from the process is specific, useful, and optimistic. I would not have done these interviews and surveys, nor met particular Wichita-based artist-subjects and artist-collaborators, were it not for Harvester Arts. All the Steps in the Process directly comes out of Harvester’s particular opportunity to experiment and focus on process. 

My practice involves the study of psychology, but I’m human, flawed and inattentive. For a few weeks, I got to be the center of attention as the visiting artist at Harvester. It’s an ego tightrope—receiving attention makes me want to be deserving of it all, and to work doubly hard. I still get surprised about how my personality manifests. This time, I realized that I’m an overachiever, and I need to work hard to balance the desire for external validation with intrinsic self-worth. When I nerd out on certain details, it can be an imposition of my own values on others helping me.

I’m proud of the exhibition, and in particular, the ‘zine. The interview subjects offered so much advice, experience, and reflexivity. Editing it down to fit the small format was challenging—there were just so many interesting perspectives to consider. I also think the survey worked out really well—huge thanks to all the respondents, and especially to KVS and Calie, who meticulously compiled the data so that I could compare multiple dimensions of the responses. Tacitly, Michael Yap is always an influence in my graphic design development.

Completing a residency and exhibition is bittersweet—I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity and many people who have supported me and given me their resources, labor, time, attention, kindness, and hospitality. And I’m sad to see the end of a magical period of productivity, chances to see the exhibition in this space again, and, most of all, the particular time and space of many blossoming friendships and a sense of community. Thank you to everyone who made my stay so welcoming. Immense gratitude to Kristin, Kate, and Ryan for making Harvester—and thus, All the Steps in the Process—a reality.

 

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Projects, Travelogue

Harvester Arts: Welcome to Wichita

Updates from a residency in Kansas.  

I’ve received an exceedingly warm Midwestern welcome to Wichita. I’ve been here 10 12 days so far in my 18-day residency at Harvester Arts, a relatively new arts organization run by artists Kristin Beal and Kate Van Steeenhuyse, and filmmaker Ryan W. Gates. Harvester’s goal is to foster arts dialogues, and they do so by bringing artists to experiment and share their process with the public in short residencies, which culminate in an exhibition—and then local artists are invited to create and show new work in response.

I'm the inaugural resident in Harvester Arts' new location in Old Town. The ground floor is my workspace and will be the gallery for my exhibition. This was shot shortly after  I arrived.

I’m the inaugural resident in Harvester Arts’ new location in Old Town. The ground floor is my workspace and will be the gallery for my exhibition. This was shot shortly after I arrived.

As someone who has spent most of my life on the West and East coasts, the change of location has been a dramatic change of scenery (I am loving the vernacular architecture here; see Instagram) as well as a shift in attitudes. RWG said it’s unpretentious here, but more than the absence of a negative trait, everyone I’ve met has been genuine and proactively friendly. In NYC my first reaction to strangers is an immediate, instinctual suspicion—friend or foe?—”foe” a broad spectrum including anyone who will needlessly waste more than a few seconds of time. Here in Wichita, pretty much everyone I’ve met—including people outside of art contexts—has immediately asked me how I like it here, and are invested in making sure I do.

Before my artist's talk at Harvester Arts.

Before my artist’s talk at Harvester Arts last Tuesday.

I realized that this genuine mutual interest made me feel very safe, and I found myself divulging more about my life and feelings than usual during my artist’s talk last Tuesday. And it was wonderful to be myself, and to talk about personal emotions publicly, and feel completely accepted.

My project for the residency is to research collaboration. I have been conducting interviews with colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and around Wichita. Their insights have been reflective and steadfastly optimistic. It’s been an honor to spend this time mulling the bounties of working with other people. To share their words, I’ve been hand-lettering quotes from the interviews for the exhibition, whose design is inspired by publication layouts. I’ll publish some of the interviews in a ‘zine or online.

Kristin Beal shot this great photo for my forthcoming residency project show. Featuring quotes on collaboration (L-R) by lovely interview subjects Eleanna Anagnos and Elizabeth Travelslight and from a book by Twyla Tharp as recommended by Alicia Eggert and Christian L. Frock. The title of the exhibition,

Kristin Beal shot this great photo for my forthcoming residency project show. Featuring quotes on collaboration (L-R) by lovely interview subjects Eleanna Anagnos and Elizabeth Travelslight and from a book by Twyla Tharp. The title of the exhibition, “All the Steps in the Process” is also inspired by Travelslight’s interview comments.

I also conducted a survey (thanks to everyone who responded!) and will visualize the data (with the help of number-crunching by Kate and Callie).

It’s been a whirlwind of activity—conducting interviews, drawing, meeting local artists, attending and participating in art events, and over the past two days, designing and building furniture that will be in the exhibition. In fact, this two-week residency feels not short but condensed, and I hardly have time to reflect and post here about my experiences in further detail. That can come after the opening. So hope to see you then.

Opening Reception: Final Friday, April 24, 7–10pm

Harvester Arts, 215 North Washington, Old Town, Wichita, KS

Exhibition: April 24–May 17, 2015

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