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.


Make Things (Happen)

Make Things (Happen) Now Open!

Impressions from the Social In Practice opening, plus news from contributing artists who are Making Things Happen.

Activity sheets freely available in Make Things (Happen) at Social in Practice at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, NYC.

Activity sheets freely available in Make Things (Happen) at Social in Practice at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, NYC.

Thanks to everyone who made it to the Nathan Cummings Foundation for the opening of Social in Practice on Thursday.

The breadth of the artists in the show is impressive. Curated by Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas, the exhibition includes diverse, socially-engaged photographers. There’s a lot of work, and it’s beautifully installed in NCF’s spacious offices. I’m going to return—there’s much to take in!

I’m so happy with the positive responses to Make Things (Happen). Many viewers took activity sheets home—can’t wait to see their results at #mkthngs and #mkthngshppn.

Social in Practice is on view at the Nathan Cummings Foundation at 475 Tenth Avenue, between W. 36th & 37th Streets (in the same building that used to house Exit Art), 14th floor. Viewable by appointment Mondays through Fridays now until October; email

Make Things (Happen) allows me to share the work of compelling artists and their practices. I’ll post occasional digests of their current goings-on, to help contextualize their activity sheets for your participation.

Still from Julie Perini’s video “The White Lady Diaries” (2013) (Source: via

Still from Julie Perini’s video “The White Lady Diaries” (2013)// Source: via

In addition to experimental video work, Portland, OR-based Julie Perini examines whiteness. Safe and Sound?, a documentary on the race and police brutality developed by Perini and others, and her White Lady Diaries short videos were recently featured in “Seeing Past Portland’s Whiteness” by Alicia Eler on Hyperallergic (March 24, 2014).

I have met white people who feel like it would be politically incorrect for them to speak about race whatsoever. But that’s not true—as Julie exemplefies with her activity sheet, Instructions for White People Fighting White Supremacy in the United States #1.

Maurice Carlin, Performance Publishing: Regent Trading Estate. Photo Gwen Jones. Source:

Maurice Carlin, Performance Publishing: Regent Trading Estate. // Photo Gwen Jones. Source:

It’s the last weekend to see Salford, UK-based Maurice Carlin’s epic site-specific printmaking project, Performance Publishing: Regent Trading Estate. The estate is situated behind Islington Mill, the massive mill-turned-artist-studios/alternative-art-school/music venue/alternative-art-experiment Carlin co-runs. Viewing hours are Sunday and Monday 12-6pm; or see the lovely photos on

Fittingly for a founder of an alternative art school, Carlin’s activity sheet, Primary Sources, describes experimental procedures for developing artworks. Give it a try!

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!

Artist in Residence Open Studios
Byrdcliffe Art Colony, Woodstock, NY

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild Artist in Residence Open Studios, July 23rd. full text:

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!

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.