Travelogue

Travelogue: Art Moves Festival, Torun, Poland

Art Moves Festival artists and organizers: Kevin, Joanna Górska, Alicia Eggert, Susan O'Malley, Agnieszka Brzęcka, and Rafał Góralski. Art Moves Festival, Fryderyka Chopina, Toruń, Poland

Art Moves Festival artists and organizers: Kevin Duff, Joanna Górska, Alicia Eggert, Susan O’Malley, Agnieszka Brzęcka, and Rafał Góralski. Art Moves Festival, Fryderyka Chopina, Toruń, Poland

I had the great fortune to visit Poland for the Art Moves Festival, an annual exhibition of art on billboards, founded by artists Joanna Górska and Rafał Góralski (Galeria Rusz) in 2008. They invited me to present some of my ribbon texts on billboards and visit their fascinating city of Toruń.

Billboards by Christine Wong Yap (center) and Susan O'Malley (right). Art Moves Festival, Fryderyka Chopina, Toruń, Poland

Billboards by Christine Wong Yap (center) and Susan O’Malley (right). Art Moves Festival, Fryderyka Chopina, Toruń, Poland

I’m so glad I accepted their invitation. My first trip to Poland could not have gone better.

Artists' presentations at Galeria Rusz' studio.

Artists’ presentations at Galeria Rusz’ studio.

Galeria Rusz assembled a cadre of interesting international artists at various stages of their careers. I was very lucky to reconnect with Susan O’Malley, a fellow CCA alumna from California, and meet Alicia Eggert, a text-based artist based in Maine, whose work I’d admired on the web. I was also very happy to get to know Kevin Duff (UK), Egor Kraft and Karina Eibatova (Russia), Roy Meuwissen (Canada), Darya Zaichanka, Michał Leśniczak, and Maria Wawrzyniak. Joanna and Rafał are artists as well; they organized a night of informal artists’ presentations to familiarize each other with our practices, with an incredibly pleasant and whip-smart translator, Jagoda Ratajczak (nicknamed Blueberry). It was awesome to arrive in a new country and find simpatico with artists from such different backgrounds.

With the wonderful help of Art Moves assistant Agnieszka and volunteer Anna, we explored the city together. With locals sharing their knowledge of Toruń and Polish language and culture, I found my experience very satisfying. Our three days were filled with so many experiences, it felt like weeks.

Toruń is a beautiful, fascinating setting. Its features a massive city wall that runs along Poland’s largest river, the Vistula (Wisła). It’s also the birthplace of Nikolas Copernik, and the home of delicious gingerbread. Founded in the age of the Teutonic Knights, Toruń has preserved or reconstructed many historic buildings. I loved the mix of old and new signs, flags, and typography.

We were incredibly impressed by the spacious, sophisticated Contemporary Art Centre. I loved Widomy kapitał, the exhibition by Agnieszka Kurant, a Polish conceptual artist. One of my favorite pieces of hers was a radio tower broadcasting the an audio track stitched together from the dramatic pauses in various political speeches. It was a great example of art that says so much with very little. She’s working on a forthcoming show at the Guggenheim—look out!

We were also delighted to visit the medieval festival. I wanted very much to learn more about the participants in the swordplay competitions, who likely assembled or made their own costumes, armor and weaponry. Re-enacting medieval swordplay can seem very nerdy, but these competitors had meticulous costumes fitting for this magnificent gothic city. Even better, a few competitors aggressively made the most of the two-minute bouts; we could hear the “THWACK!!” of sword against shield in our rooms a hundred feet away in Dwór Mieszczański (Burghers’ Hall, the building in the background of the photo above).

What is it like to be an artist in a gothic city? For Rafał and Joanna, it means having a studio inside the city walls—not within the city walls, but actually situated within a tower in of the wall. Their windows are tiny, just big enough, it seems, for a bowman to sight an invader. Now, though, one could use this space to stage a performance by a great Polish singer-songwriter folk duo called Twilite as an art opening, and to ply foreign artists with pierogis of all kinds, which would then fuel a spontaneous dance party.

On the last day, we had a bonfire scheduled, but afternoon rains drenched the firewood and our hopes for flame-cooked kielbasas. We opted for a ferry ride on the Vistula, but the weather threatened wind and rain, driving away other sightseers, who were needed to achieve the minimum ticket count before the boat would leave the dock. When we tried to while away wait with beverages, the draught emitted only foam. The outlook was grim. Then, a reversal of fortune: the strictly-Polish-speaking captain, apparently the father of the two sailor-outfitted youths manning the ferry, jubilantly ushered Susan and I up to the bridge, where he started the engine and gestured for us to take the steering wheel. Though there were only our small party on the boat, we were off. The sun broke through the clouds for magnificent late afternoon views, and beverages aplenty soon appeared. We had accepted paying a few fabricated “we-don’t-speak-the-language” taxes here and there, but this ferry family seemed to offer us a “welcome-and-enjoy-Torun” rebate.

A slogan for the city appeared on many tourist souvenirs: Toruń: Heart Beats Stronger. In my experience, I felt that Toruń was a place where my heart grew fonder—for artists like Joanna and Rafał, who spent all year planning an exhibition that inserts art in public spaces for everyday people, and generously sharing their wonderful historical city; and the artists from around the world who came to dialogue and make new friends.

The Art Moves Festival continues through October 17. Stationary billboards are on view in Rapacki Square on Chopin Street; text and video works are also on view on LED screens on LED screens on Kraszewski Street, Szosa Chełminska/NOT, Czerwona Droga/ Jan Paweł II Avenue; and mobile billboards throughout Toruń.

Thanks to Joanna, Rafał, Agnieszka, Anna, Susan, Alicia, and all the Art Moves artists; the kindness of strangers; Art Moves supporters (Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the Local Authorities of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region and Toruń Municipality, AMS SA billboards, Plaza Toruń, STGU, CityCelebrity, AMS SA, Artysta.pl, Design Attack, Arteon, O.pl, cowtoruniu.pl, TVK Toruń, rynekisztuka.pl, Independent), AIG, HWT studio, and M.

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Citizenship, Travelogue, Values

Points of Reference: Utah

View from a summit outside of Park City, UT.

I just visited Utah for the first time on a collectively-organized art retreat. N invited us to share work, get feedback, talk shop, explore new landscapes and art experiences, re-connect with distant colleagues, and generally re-set. I feel blessed to have come along for the journey with such worthy shipmates and epic landscapes.

Utah’s natural landscape is an unending source of wonder and discovery. Dolomite-like mountains, luminous calcite caverns, pristine waters, dense starry skies, fat moons, salt flats—it was all stunningly beautiful, with nice people and fascinating historical sites. Here are a few highlights.

Robert Smithon's Spiral Jetty.

Robert Smithon’s Spiral Jetty.

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty
Completed 1970, 1,500′ long coil 

We made an art pilgrimage. After a period of submersion, Smithson’s famous work of Land Art has partially resurfaced, and we waded out on it. It sits on a surreally pinkish part of the Great Salt Lake, with a few cartoon blots of raw oil. It’s huge, very impressive, and literally immersive. In imagining Smithson tackling this monumental work, he cuts an even larger than life historical figure.

Golden Spike National Historic Site
Transcontinental rails joined in 1869, creating rail lines 742 to 1,032 miles long

Spiral Jetty is just past the Golden Spike National Historic Site, where the Transcontinental Railroad was finished. Since Salt Lake City is synonymous with Mormons, it was eye-opening to situate the histories of other Americans, such as the Chinese and Irish immigrants who built the railroads, here too. (We also learned that we were a few hours away from the Topaz War Relocation Center, the huge internment camp that processed 11,000 Japanese Americans in WWII.)

Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels.

Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels.

Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels
Completed 1976, each tunnel 9′ diameter x 18′ length

Like a rare earth magnet, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels drew us clear across the state to a remote swath of BLM land near the Nevada border. It is a really powerful, iconic work by one of the few women Land Artists. Four concrete tunnels are arranged as two intersecting lines that frame the sun on the summer and winter solstices. Each tunnel bears holes corresponding to constellations. It’s an elegant intervention in the landscape, with varied viewing and sensate experiences—even for a day visitor (imagine visiting the site at night, or on the solstices, or under snow). At the Jetty, I looked at the lake, but mostly at the jetty. At Sun Tunnels, I looked at the concrete tubes, but also considered how it framed the landscape, and how the landscape framed it. I noticed mountain ridges near and far. It made me see gaps between ridges, where salt flats lay beyond view, and horizons were too distant to see through the atmosphere. The clarity of the sky and sunlight seemed to come into focus with the tunnels. I think Sun Tunnels is worth the trek. The detour’s not small, and this recommendation not insubstantial, when you consider the four anxious hours we were stranded without cell phone service after the shale-specked roads shredded two of our tires.

Bonneville Salt Flats.

Bonneville Salt Flats.

Bonneville Salt Flats
The remains from 17,000 year old Lake Bonneville; ~12 miles long and 5 miles wide

Just over the ridge from the Sun Tunnels was this landscape marvel and heart-fluttering mecca for motor sports enthusiasts. The crunchy, crystalized earth stretched into the distance, making for a surreal aural space as well.

Anaglyph Map of the Bingham Canyon Mine and Vicinity, Utah, on display at the Center for Land Use Interpretation's Wendover Complex, Orientation Building.

Anaglyph Map of the Bingham Canyon Mine and Vicinity, Utah, on display at the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s Wendover Complex, Orientation Building.

Center of Land Use Interpretation
Founded in 1994, with field offices in six states

Nearby, the strange historical and industrial sites around Wendover, Utah, are nicely presented by the CLUI’s Orientation Building. To get there, you follow specious directions to an seemingly abandoned military base, and then punch a code into a door. There is a 3-D map of one of the largest mines in the world, an archive of notable military sites that are terrifying (the Enola Gay hangar, replica German houses for munitions tests) and odd (a cavern that servicemen outfitted with a jukebox), and notes on unimaginable environmental degradation (moving tons of earth for a few pounds of ore). You can access much of this archive online at CLUI’s Land Use Database, but I felt very grateful and honored to visit this site guarded only by a sense of commons.

Bison. Antelope Island State Park.

Bison. Antelope Island State Park.

Antelope Island State Park
Initial park creation in 1969; 15 miles long by 7 miles wide

This testament to the importance of preservation sits in the Great Salt Lake, and is home to 500 bison and numerous antelope, coyotes, jackrabbits, and birds. It was a peek into a past wildlife-filled America that will never exist again. I could not really comprehend the bison that ambled on to the road near us. It was so massive, and so unlike any other animal I’d ever laid eyes on.

Timpanagos Cave.

Hansen Cave, Timpanagos Cave National Monument.

Timpanagos Cave National Monument
65 million year old caves, ‘discovered’ 1887, National Park in 1933.

Like Antelope Island, this site in the Uinta National Forest filled me with gratitude for the visionaries who preserved such wonders for future generations. Three large caverns stoked my geology interest with their ethereal, translucent calcite formations. The area, shot through with craggy Dolomite-like peaks, evinces the drama of the Continental Drift, with oceanic matter in this high-altitude, land-locked state.

Go Parks! Leave No TraceTread Lightly.

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Travelogue

art takes you to some funny places

This morning I scouted sites for my project for Art in Odd Places, a visual and performance art festival along 14th Street in NYC in October.

Near the West Side Highway, I spied a potential site, peculiar for its lack of signage. I went in to ask for a business card. The top of the card read,

“Your rendezvous for romance.”

It’s an hourly motel. Odd places, indeed.

—-

So bad, it’s good:

I have seen this CVS in a former bank, at 8th Ave and West 14th Street, before, but its architectural dissonance is still pretty cool.

I have seen this CVS in a former bank, at 8th Ave and West 14th Street, before, but its architectural dissonance is still worth savoring. Are those columns Doric or Ionic? Trick question. Corinthian!

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Community, Impressions, Travelogue

Points of Reference: West Coast

Some aesthetic impressions from a Portland-San Francisco tour:

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, from Crown Point in Oregon, USA. Author: Hux. // Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, from Crown Point in Oregon, USA. Author: Hux. // Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Columbia River Gorge. The more I visit grand vistas, the more I understand Romanticism.

Landscape paintings don’t usually affect me—but imagine living in a crowded, dirty city in the Industrial age, then exploring such vast, stunning locales like the Columbia River Gorge, the Catskills, or the Lake District in the UK. Post-postcard, post-Ansel Adams, I might be desensitized to the images of these places, but I never fail to experience awe—smallness in light of something greater—when I visit these places. It seems natural to want to capture the grandeur and qualities of light, as much as preserve the environment for future generations. [Go Parks!]

Ryan Pierce. Preview image for New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags. // Source: ElizabethLeach.com.

Ryan Pierce. Preview image for New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags. // Source: ElizabethLeach.com.

Get excited:
Ryan Pierce: New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags
Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Portland, OR
Through June 23

Really happy to catch the solo show of my CCA MFA classmate. Ryan specializes in hard-edged, post-apocalyptic narrative painting over luminous Flashe washes. He constructed this show around weeds, with tight botanical renderings of thistles, milkweeds, etc., as well as giveaways of pesticide-resistant seeds. My favorite paintings were from a sequence featuring the sun and the moon. I sensed some Charles Burchfield-esque visionary heat.

Karl Blossfeldt, Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair fern, young unfurling fronds, 12x. // Image source: PortlandArtMuseum.org. Caption source: karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Karl Blossfeldt, Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair fern, young unfurling fronds, 12x. // Image source: PortlandArtMuseum.org. Caption source: karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Karl Blossfeldt’s New Objectivity photos of botanical geometry.
70 Years/70 Photographs
Portland Art Museum
Through September 9

My knowledge of photography is a bit anemic, but this means that I get to enjoy many discoveries in the repair process. Blossfeldt’s images were a delight. See more at karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Portland Sewing

The short: Private lessons with Sharon Blair. Highly recommended.

The long: My sewing knowledge comprised making clothes for Puffy, my stuffed Crocker Spaniel, under the guidance of my mother. (Mom’s an excellent seamstress who made some of my favorite childhood dresses. She still uses a Montgomery Ward Singer dating from the late 1970s/early 1980s; to change stitches, she manually changes a baffling array of stamped metal gears.)

Remarkably, this experience, along with much experimentation, has girded me through sewn sculptures and ribbon projects over the past few years. In the same time though, I’d accumulated a battery of questions about fabrics and techniques. Sharon, the instructor, patiently answered them all. She has tons of industry experience, and started the lesson with a quick history of sewing machine manufacturers. <Tool nerd swoon>

I got a crash course in cutting and sewing, and practiced three of the six kinds of fell seams, which will be critical for an upcoming flag project.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco), Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop), 2012. // Source: StephanieSyjuco.com.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco), Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop), 2012. // Source: StephanieSyjuco.com.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco)
Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop)
Montalvo Project Space
Woodside, CA
Through July 20

Friends’ first collaboration. It’s good. Go see it, and bring cash!

Allison Smith, Fort Point Bunting, 2012. // Source: international-orange.org. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

Allison Smith, Fort Point Bunting, 2012. // Source: international-orange.org. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

International Orange
FOR-SITE Foundation
Fort Point
San Francisco
Through October 28

Really good show in an amazing site. Go! I went on a foggy, chilly Monday (no crowds) and it was lovely.

My favorite was Allison Smith‘s Fort Point Bunting. Each of the 75 swags is accompanied by quotes from servicewomen printed on linen and framed in waxed canvas cording. The narratives were empowering. While military intervention is fraught, this insight in the battle for equal access to combat is pretty thrilling.

Stephanie Syjuco‘s International Orange Commemorative Store (A Proposition) establishes a standard of finish and level of production that is sublime, and should have most artists quaking in our boots. Anadamavi Arnold‘s crepe paper gowns were magnificent. I read Kate PocrassAverage Magazine off-site, but found it to be the most entertaining and insightful look at the Golden Gate Bridge. I also loved Andy Freeberg‘s portraits of workers on the bridge, for the diverse, recognizable subjects, rarely-seen perspectives, and cool tools.

Fort Point’s history and vistas were great to explore. I enjoyed how the show engaged the site, so that viewers browsed historical/permanent displays in the course of visiting the exhibition. I expected a strong show due to the roster of international artists; I was pleased to find that the projects that resonated with me most form a collection of articulate, accomplished female artists.

Robert Kinmont: 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009; nine black-and-white photographs; 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. each; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo: Bill Orcutt. // Source: bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Robert Kinmont: 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009; nine black-and-white photographs; 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. each; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo: Bill Orcutt. // Source: bampfa.berkeley.edu.

State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970
Berkeley Art Museum
Through June 17

I’d heard rumors that this is the best show  many locals had seen in a long time. Unfortunately, I had only one hour, so I didn’t have the quiet mind required for uncovering the historical significance of the performance documentation and historical ephemera that ran through the show.

I loved that the show brought the major West Coast art initiative Pacific Standard Time up to Bay Area. Also, it’s not often you get to see an major survey exhibition about California art that doesn’t have a Los Angeles bias. I enjoyed learning more about seminal artists like Gary Beydler, William Leavitt, Bas Jan Ader, and Guy de Cointet (these de Cointet text drawings are fantastic, backgrounding Tauba Auerbach’s text paintings). It’s always nice to see Bruce Nauman‘s video pieces installed—here, Come Piece, two closed-circuit televisions with different halves of their lenses taped off.

The only thing that struck me negatively was the way that political art (works by artists of color and feminist artists) was the last thematic section. The architecture of the last room especially made the agit-prop David Hammons seem like an afterthought. I can’t pinpoint it, but I suspect that the early earth and performance work relates to a spiritual quest in merging art and life, and I intuit a bit of a woo-woo factor there, reinforced by the fact that my contemporaries who are especially fond of these artists tend to make transcendental works themselves.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill, 1996; painting; oil on canvas, 36 in. x 66 in. (91.44 cm x 167.64 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Ruth Nash Fund purchase; © Robert Bechtle  Source: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/104616##ixzz1xQHskP3n  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. // Source: SFMOMA.org.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill, 1996; painting; oil on canvas, 36 in. x 66 in. (91.44 cm x 167.64 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Ruth Nash Fund purchase; © Robert Bechtle Source: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/104616##ixzz1xQHskP3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill (1996)
SFMOMA 

Bechtle is a perennial favorite of the SFMOMA’s, and mine too. This late, great painting—on view in the second floor galleries—is like five paintings in one. The JPG doesn’t do it justice. Bechtle’s understanding of reflected light and surfaces is phenomenal. This work was the highlight of my SFMOMA visit, along with Anthony Discenza’s The Effect in  the contemporary language art show, Descriptive Acts.

I expected that The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area and Parra: Weirded Out shows would be more extensive. In fact, the Fuller show has two huge wall graphics that leads to a room of fantastic, large screenprint posters and transparencies. That’s followed by a group show by local, contemporary designers that is so un-related visually that my companion and I assumed that we’d drifted into the permanent design exhibit. The Parra exhibit is a massive mural, that is lovely and loads of fun, but I would have loved to see some works on paper, to get a little more intimate with the person behind these famous graphics.

I also would have loved to see more of Mark Bradford‘s video and performance works, especially documentation of his intervention at the San Diego-Tijuana border, though those could have been in the Bradford show I just missed at YBCA. The extensive selection of Bradford’s collages helped me understand the depth of his innovation with the materials (posters and curling papers) and tools (rope and power sander).

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Community, News, Travelogue

In Other Words, in a few pictures

Grateful for few days of art, sunshine, and friendly faces in California.

Thanks to everyone who came out to check out In Other Words at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco. I really appreciate the interest and support! I think the show looks fantastic—all respect due to Kevin Chen, gallery director; Intersection staff, and the other artists for their thoughtful contributions.

The show continues through March 24, with many public events—most are free or sliding scale.

Here are a few snapshots, with better photos to follow on my site….

Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Positive Signs greets viewers at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Closer view of Positive Signs. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another set of Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Intersection Gallery Director Kevin Chen (center) delivered thoughtful comments, connecting the show's linguistic theme with the gallery's location in the San Francisco Chronicle building.

Intersection Gallery Director Kevin Chen (center) delivered thoughtful comments, connecting the show's linguistic theme with the gallery's location in the San Francisco Chronicle building.

Susan O'Malley's sandwich boards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Susan O'Malley's sandwich boards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another project by Susan O'Malley involved semi-hidden placards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another project by Susan O'Malley involved semi-hidden placards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Meryl Pataky had a nice pair of installed wire works, whose shadows spelled positive and negative words phonetically.

Meryl Pataky had a nice pair of installed wire works, whose shadows spelled positive and negative words phonetically.

More photos, including the infamous pinkie cam treatment, on Alan Bamberger’s ArtBusiness.com site.

Snapshots of other exhibitions I enjoyed…

Kinetic media installation by Mario Ancalmo, SECA 2010, SFMOMA.

Kinetic media installation by Mario Ancalmo, SECA 2010 exhibition, SFMOMA.

See also Ancalmo’s show at Eli Ridgeway Gallery; don’t miss the lower level installations.

Deflated balloon dog by Jeffrey Songco, Steven Wolf Fine Arts.

Deflated balloon dog by Jeffrey Songco, Steven Wolf Fine Arts.

No photos, but worth checking out: Gina Osterloh’s solo show of studio photos and a documentary about blind massuers, connected by her interest in dysfunctions of the body of  and Richard T. Walker’s video at ybca.

…as well as inspiring studio visits…

Studio visit with Stephanie Syjuco.

Studio visit with Stephanie Syjuco.

Spool holders, hooray!

Spool holders, hooray!

Studio visit with Michael Arcega. Baby, the artist-designed and -made collapsible, outrigger canoe, under a pinata-disco ball-hybrid. Not to mention an envy-inspiring woodshop in the studio.

Studio visit with Michael Arcega. Baby, the artist-designed and -made collapsible, outrigger canoe, under a pinata-disco ball-hybrid. Not to mention an envy-inspiring woodshop in the studio.

Mini disco ball, wood glue, and the story of a sailing expedition at Michael Arcega's studio.

Mini disco ball, wood glue, and the story of a sailing expedition at Michael Arcega's studio.

Free crate + casters + door + sawhorses = two tables that fold into one. Genius.

Free crate + casters + door + sawhorses = two tables that fold into one. Genius!

Plus, (aerial) Geometry vs Abstraction.

Geometry

Geometry.

Geometry detail.

Geometry detail.

Abstraction.

Abstraction.

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Community, News, Travelogue

Goodbye Byrdcliffe, Hello Positive Psychology!

I had a lovely time at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe residency. It was really an idyllic place to live and make art. A typical day for me:

Wake up to birdsong.
Run (including my first 10-mile).
Read and write in my sun-drenched studio—Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi’s thought-provoking Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990) and Alain de Botton’s beautiful The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (1998).
Work on drawings, collages, mixed media, or photo projects.
Eat and socialize in the large communal kitchen with the other AIRs, including some amazing, health-minded cooks. They inspire me to eat more whole grains and less meat, and cook more. You’d be inspired too, if you’d had Dan’s homemade pita bread, Tryn’s key lime pie, and Bob’s chilled carrot-coconut milk soup.

Sights around Byrdcliffe: a brilliant meadow, backlit leaves, turkey vulture, black bear.

Sights around Byrdcliffe: a brilliant meadow, backlit leaves, turkey vulture, black bear.

Chipmunks everywhere.

Chipmunks everywhere.

Julie, Mary, Robert, Tryn, and Dan hanging out in the kitchen after Mexican food night.

Julie, Mary, Robert, Tryn, and Dan hanging out in the kitchen after Mexican food night.

Outdoor sculpture show at White Pines. Really loved the architecture.

Outdoor sculpture show at White Pines. Really loved the architecture.

View from White Pines.

View from White Pines.

In addition I took a Machine Woodworking class with Paul Henderson, down at the Byrdcliffe Barn. Cutting dovetails, mortises, and tenons with Paul, we’d chat about tools and music (he’s a trumpeter in a funk band!). It was tons of fun, and it reminds me how nice it is to have access to a really nice woodshop….

Paul and Jessica in the woodshop. That day's lesson: using routers and jigs to machine dovetails.

Paul and Jessica in the woodshop. That day's lesson: using routers and jigs to machine dovetails.

The residency was very productive and re-energizing. I am so grateful I got to be part of the Byrdcliffe story, enjoy the amazing land, and meet the other AIRs and the hardworking Byrdcliffe staff. Thanks Byrdcliffe!

Today
Artist in Residence Open Studios
Byrdcliffe Art Colony, Woodstock, NY
3:30–7pm

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild Artist in Residence Open Studios, July 23rd. full text: http://www.woodstockguild.org/artist-in-residence

My 360º studio photo-collage was featured on Woodstock Byrdcliffe’s email announcement! The super smart and interesting Julie Perini will be screening her experimental film and video work in my studio. Photos of my projects are in the Villeta, however, I won’t be there because I’ll be at…

July 23–26
The International Positive Psychology Association’s Second World Congress of Positive Psychology

Philadelphia, PA

Among the speakers are Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose books inform my work, including, most directly, the Positive Signs series (a selection is now on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA). I’m really looking forward to hearing these authors speak, delving deeper into positive psychology, and thinking through how it relates to artmaking and art viewing experiences.

I am able to attend this gathering with the support of a Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation. I am so grateful to them for the support. Thank you Jerome Foundation!

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Art & Development, Travelogue

Printmaking in the Catskills

I’ve been in upstate NY for just over a week, and it’s been dreamy. In California, a NY artist once explained how many artists live in the Hudson River Valley, and how you can buy a house and convert a barn to a studio. I was skeptical that it would be worth being out of the city. But now, after noticing the sound of automobiles only between long stretches of rustling tree leaves and birdsong, I completely understand.

Today, I took a relaxing drive down county routes to Rosendale, NY. The address wouldn’t even register in my GPS. Navigating the old fashioned way, I took one wrong turn and was immediately happy that I did. The road circled the banks of a beautiful lake, with only a few white clapboard houses nestled among the wooded trees on the opposite bank. The light glistened off of the water; everything was either mossy green or platinum light. I felt so grateful to be there at that moment. It was as if the longing and nostalgia of a Thomas Kinkade painting were coupled with immediacy of accompanying sensations: clean mountain air, woodsy smells, a slight humidity hinting at the impending rain shower.

Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY.

Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY.

I finally made it to Women’s Studio Workshop, a printmaking, bookmaking, and ceramics studio in Rosendale, NY. I had heard of WSW through their residency program, and thought that it would be a perfect place to pull a series of collagraphic monotypes that I had been scheming on.

Upon my arrival, I was invited to join a lunch of salad and crispy no-red-sauce veggie pizza (which touched this Californian transplant’s heart; in some ways, I may be a New Yorker, but not when it comes to pizza). There really is nothing like a home-cooked meal to make people feel welcomed.

While I have only screenprinted since my MFA degree, pulling the monotypes came back to me: setting up the press and the blankets, modifying the inks, finding the right balance of wet paper and releasing ink. I thought I would be rusty and have to humbly ask for technical help (much like the time a drummer who’d been playing on electric pads for so long he couldn’t set up a drum kit), but somewhere in me that printmaking experience remains. Though I used much of graduate experience to explore other media, I am happy to report that I can still call on my printmaking abilities. I even figured out the less-toxic clean-up oils (which were not used at my alma mater)—thankfully, since I’ve lost any tolerance for mineral spirits that I had built up in my inky woodcarving years.

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Art & Development, Travelogue

Woodstock Byrdcliffe: Get excited and make stuff

View from Mount Guardian, Catskills, NY.

View from Mount Guardian, Catskills, NY.

I’m in the Catskills for a short residency at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. I’m so honored to be here. The land is beautiful, serene, and full of wildlife. I’m giddy; it’s such a contrast from New York City and yet it so strongly recalls the Sierras in California. The colony was founded by British Industrialists seeking to build a utopian Arts and Crafts creative community. The initial attempt didn’t last long, but the Guild lives on as a series of amazing historic buildings housing 17 residents in visual arts, media arts, creative writing, and music composition.

I’ve been here just about a week, and am pretty much settled in my quaint room and a detached studio with high ceilings and skylights. I’m two-thirds through with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow; I started some new drawings and sculptures, and even dreamed up a staged photograph. The setting is literally invigorating—I’ve run further than I have ever before.

Inspired by a tradition I experienced as an Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, I initiated a residents’ mutual presentation series. It’s basically a slide slam/listening party/clip screening/reading event, made possible with shared laptops and digital projectors and healthy doses of participation and positive intentions. I enjoyed everyone’s presentations tonight. I suspect my readers would be keen to learn more about Julie Perini’s videos. I also really liked Jane Corrigan’s paintings about sentimental landscape images. My highest hope for the series is that some parallels emerge and enliven our discourse, and it appears that some already have.

The only quandry I have now is that the event is gaining interest and we may need to add another night to accommodate fellow artists on the mountain. Seeing a little initiative returned with such participation is very gratifying.

Residencies are like slices of heaven, so that artists can envision making more of “regular” life more like residencies—to inject the space and time to create, think, breathe, stretch, learn, explore, and exchange into life more often and for longer periods.

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