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Happiness Is… an inquisitive conversation with The Aphorists

My fellow Happiness Is… artists and I were guests on The Aphorists, a conversational podcast hosted by artists Jesse Houlding and Anthony Daniel Ryan. Have a listen to us talking

about Positive Psychology, skepticism, cake eating and making work that makes a difference.

Check out Episode #7 and The Aphorists’ past episodes on a variety of political and cultural topics.

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News

BOOOOOM! Irrational Exuberance Flag Raising Ceremony

The past 48 hours have been incredible.

The exhibition, Happiness Is…, is finally open at Montalvo Arts Center’s Project Space Gallery!

Curated by Donna Conwell following the suggestions of M and S, the show has come to fruition after months of preparation, Skype conferences, and then, for me, 5.5 weeks in residence at Montalvo’s lovely studios. After a brief stint back home in NYC, I returned to Montalvo with a trunk-load of Dad’s vintage tools to changeover the gallery. We fueled ten days of install with good tunes (Elton John and Journey), good snacks (clementines and wasabi peas), and even better friends (Leah Rosenberg and Susan O’Malley) and helpers (the not-one-complaint Kellen).

We developed the exhibition—making over a dozen new works, as well as determining the pacing for the works, lighting and paint schematics that conveys our ideas, and the how to enact spaces for pleasure, reflection, participation, and investigation. I am unabashedly proud of our accomplishments, hard work, and good collaboration. Huge thanks to Donna for bringing us together and giving us so much freedom to follow our visions, as well as for the wise guidance and hard work around the show and all of the programming. Montalvo’s support of this project is remarkable, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.

As part of the opening festivities of Happiness Is…, many volunteers and supportive attendees helped to actualize the Irrational Exuberance Flag Raising Ceremony on Saturday, January 26. The morning started out overcast and still, but blue skies and a light breeze set the perfect scene for the event.

The ceremony begins with a flag procession from the gallery down to Montalvo's flagpole. Flags range in size from 4x4' to 4x6'.

The ceremony begins with a flag procession from the gallery down to Montalvo’s flagpole. Flags range in size from 4×4′ to 4×6′.

Flag bearers in position at the event site. From left to right: Education Co-ordinator Lauren Baines, Elizabeth Travelslight, Curator Donna Conwell, Leah Rosenberg, and Lucas Artist Residency Program Fellow Rick Maciel.

Flag bearers in position at the event site. From left to right: Project Manager of Education Programs Lauren Baines, Elizabeth Travelslight, Associate Curator Donna Conwell, Leah Rosenberg, and Lucas Artist Residency Fellow Rick Maciel.

Leah waves her flag for the voting process.

Leah waves her flag for the voting process.

Lucas Artists Residency Program Director Kelly Sicat distributed mini vinyl flags for the public to use for voting.

Lucas Artists Residency Program Director Kelly Sicat distributed mini vinyl flags for the public to use for voting.

The people have their say.

The people have their say.

The littlest volunteer hoists the flag.

The littlest volunteer hoists the flag.

The people's choice: the first official Irrational Exuberance Flag is raised!

The people’s choice: the first official Irrational Exuberance Flag is raised!

The ceremony ends in a procession back to the gallery, with attendees following.

The ceremony ends in a procession back to the gallery, with attendees following.

Thanks to flag bearers Donna Conwell, Lauren Baines, Leah Rosenberg, Rick Maciel and Elizabeth Travelslight; the Sicat family mini flag distributors; Susan O’Malley for the photos; Dan North for flagpole maintenance; and all who attended for their exuberance!

Happiness Is… continues at the Montalvo Arts Center Project Gallery in Saratoga, CA until April 14, 2013.

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Happiness is… @ Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, CA

Happiness Is… just opened tonight and I couldn’t be happier about the exhibition. My colleagues and fellow artists Susan O’Malley and Leah Rosenberg are bright, inquisitive, hard-working and extraordinarily generous. Montalvo’s lovely Residency and Facilities staff has provided so much support. I’m so pleased with what we were able to accomplish together, and having the chance to share it finally, it is flat-out euphoric.

Tomorrow’s Flag Raising Ceremony and Artist’s Talk promise to be fun and engaging. Come by if you can, or stop in the show during its three-month run.

January 25–April 14
Happiness Is…

Montalvo Arts Center Project Space Gallery
15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga, CA

Take Charge of your Happiness by Christine Wong Yap

On Friday, January 25, Montalvo Arts Center will inaugurate its new 20-month-long programming theme Flourish: Artists Explore Wellbeing with an exhibition entitled Happiness is… which will run through April 14. Installed in the Project Space Gallery and also making use of Montalvo’s 175-acre grounds, the show is organized by the Lucas Artists Residency Program (LAP). Participating artists Susan O’Malley, Leah Rosenberg, and Christine Wong Yap address the question: How do we foster happiness and build a contented life?

 

Wong Yap’s series of texts sewn from ribbons and installed directly on the gallery wall convey messages encouraging positive mental habits. Rosenberg explores how color, light and material impact our sense of contentment with her Illuminated Stripe Works, a series of small striped light boxes. O’Malley has created a space in the gallery where she invites visitors to relax and reflect.
Happiness is… extends outside the gallery, with Wong Yap’s Irrational Exuberance Flags. Activating a flagpole in front of the Lucas Artists Residency, these rotating colorful banners represent the spirit of energetic optimism. O’Malley and Rosenberg have collaborated to create a guided walk through Montalvo’s forest trails punctuated by signs offering positive and happiness-affirming directives and colorful design elements.

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Happiness is…
Related Events

Friday, January 25
OPENING RECEPTION, 7-9:30pm
Project Space Gallery, Free admission
Be one of the first to view the new exhibition, and enjoy two exhibition-specific “happenings” with the artists. At 7:30pm, take a 15-minute silent walk through Montalvo’s grounds, led by Susan O’Malley. The experience, entitled Happiness is WALKING, will take place rain or shine. Participants are asked to wear comfortable shoes. Flashlights will be provided. At 8pm, return to the gallery and participate in a ritual of sharing, pleasure, and community, by sampling site-specific cookies baked by Leah Rosenberg.

Saturday, January 26
IRRATIONAL EXHUBERANCE FLAGS, 1pm
Lot One, Lucas Artists Residency, Free admission
Join Christine Wong Yap in the raising of her Irrational Exuberance Flags
HAPPINESS IS…, A CONVERSATION, 1:30pm
Phelan Library, Historic Villa, Free admission
Join all three of the Happiness is… artists and Carole Pertofsky, Director of Wellness and Health Promotion Services at Vaden Health Center, Stanford University, for a conversation about the pursuit of happiness.

Wednesday, March 20

HAPPINESS TAKES SHAPE, 7pm
Phelan Library, Historic Villa, Free admission
Celebrate the first International Day of Happiness with an evening of reading and performance led by poet Genine Lentine and cellist/vocalist Theresa Wong.


Saturday, March 23
THE SOUND OF HAPPINESS, 1-3pm
Phelan Library, Historic Villa, General: $25; Members: $20; Students: $15
Cellist/vocalist Theresa Wong and poet Genine Lentine offer an afternoon of vocal and writing exercises exploring the relationship of voice, language, and happiness. This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience and is open to all ages, including children.


A SPACE (FOR YOU)
Created by artist Susan O’Malley,
A Space (for you) is an area in the Project Space Gallery dedicated for visitors to relax and reflect. From January 26 through April 14, 2013, visitors are invited to rest and engage with others in the gallery. O’Malley also invites visitors to participate in several community healing events. For more information about these events, please visit: http://montalvoarts.org/programs/a_space_for_you/

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Happiness is… Photo Contest
Submit a photograph that best conveys what makes you happy along with a “Happiness is…” caption and you could win a signed inspirational poster by artist Susan O’Malley of $50 value (from the series seen below). Share your photos on Instagram or Twitter by tagging @montalvoarts and adding a “#Happiness is…” caption, on Facebook at lbaines. Select entries will be posted on our website. However you participate, don’t forget to add your “Happiness is…” caption. Deadline to submit is March 19, 2013. Winner will be announced March 20, 2013.

Image Credits:
Christine Wong Yap, take charge of your happiness, 2011, 83 × 24 × 1 in, ribbon, thread, pins.
Leah Rosenberg, Paint confetti, 2012, acrylic paint. Photo credit: Tammi Campbell.Susan O’Malley, Everything Will be Okay, 2009, print.
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happiness is… research note #17

Studio view

Studio view.

A few fragments at the end of a 5.5-week residency at Montalvo…

My art expresses optimism and positivity. I do, at times. And not, at others. Just like most everybody else.

In the past two weeks, I made five Irrational Exuberance Flags. Each ~4×6′ flag and accompanying sash takes at least two long days to design, pattern, cut, sew, and finish. Working late and waking early, with noisy storms puncturing my sleep, I fell into exhaustion and crankiness. It’s ironic—the project is intended to inspire delight and pleasure.

I do strive to apply positive psychology to my process. Most often, I find flow in production, zoning out with podcasts on—just enough noise to prevent negative rumination. But I’m goal-oriented, and with production deadlines looming, I dug deep. Put my game face on. Chunked it out.

And I’m so glad I did. A few days ago, on a sunny, windy day, I did a test run and hoisted the flags on Montalvo’s 30-foot flagpole. After a year or more of only seeing these flags as sketches and prototypes, my flags were finally flying!

If you have never hoisted a flag, I highly recommend it. It’s joyous.* Hoisting a flag is somewhat like flying a kite—you watch it go up, up up, and it takes on new shapes and an endless variety of motions. Like kites, flags catch the wind as well as the light, with just enough translucency to appear to glow against blue skies.

(*Here’s your chance to hoist a flag: the public will be invited to sign up to select an Irrational Exuberance Flag and raise it on Montalvo’s flagpole as during the course of the Happiness Is… exhibition.)

 

After looking at the flags on the flagpole, I realized that one flag design was too much of an outlier. I knew it in my heart when I woke up this morning, on my last full day of this stint of the residency. Jumping right back into do-work mode, I made a sixth flag and sash to take its place today.

Most viewers won’t know about this extra step, but I know…. I know that bringing the project that much closer to the best it can be is deeply satisfying. I traded off the positive affect of a more leisurely pace for the chance to reflect on this project and have no doubts or regrets. And I’m glad I did.

Montalvo has been a lovely experience of time, space, focus, and support. Kind people and diverse artists. Lovely redwood creek, brushy orchards, lovingly prepared food. A nicer, larger studio than I’ve ever been able to afford, and will ever for quite some time. The opportunity to realize large projects that have just been sketches carried around in notebook after notebook.

Homesickness, too. Nostalgia for affection. For small, mundane rituals. The holidays in a wood-stove-warmed house, snow outside, laughter of children, awaiting.

Artworks packed up, ready for my return in January to install the exhibition. Studio is clean again. Without  clutter, the endless bits of thread stuck on my clothes and shoes, it all looks newer, and ready for more projects. Ambivalence means being pulling strongly—equally—in two directions. I am ready to go home. But I look forward to coming back.

Happiness Is… opens Friday, January 25th at Montalvo Arts Center’s Project Space Gallery. Opening Friday night, artist’s talk Saturday. Full list of events and gallery hours here.

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happiness is… research note #16

A recent sunrise at Montalvo.

A recent sunrise at Montalvo.

Happiness is savoring a good experience, and then being able to share the chance for others to experience it firsthand…

I’m very excited to share the news:

Montalvo Arts Center’s Sally and Don Lucas Artists’ Residency program has just announced an open call today! For the past seven years, the residency program operated on a nomination-only basis. For me, from the outside, this process made the program seemed exclusive, and by extension, all of Montalvo seemed less accessible. It’s great news that California artists are now invited to apply directly to the program.

Currently a funder mandate restricts applications to California residents, but a little bird told me that an international call is anticipated in the future.

The deadline to apply is January 25, 2013. See the details at:

http://montalvoarts.org/programs/residency_application/

 

Deer at Montalvo.

Deer at Montalvo.

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Happiness Is… Research Note #15

This is what I think of as “the H-word problem”:

Happiness is commonly associated with simply being in a cheerful mood. Thus, making work about happiness can seem (at worst) simplistic, childish, thoughtless, naïve, privileged, trivial, and myopic.

Dig a little deeper, and happiness is complex, multifaceted, and subjective. So much so, that I think the works I’m making about happiness are quite modest. These projects hint only at elements of happiness, so elusive is happiness itself.

So it’s nice to read about the commitment to crafting tiny things. Jerry Seinfeld’s commitment to the quotidian, and his highly-disciplined pursuit of perfection are inspiring (see Jonah Weiner, “Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up,” New York Times, December 20, 2012).

After staying up late to finish a 96-square checkerboard flag (it doesn’t really evidence “the hand” that makes artists’ authorship obvious, and I imagine, will be read as a store-bought item by some viewers), I especially appreciated Seinfeld’s reflection that his work is to spend inordinate amounts of time on matters that most of us don’t think twice about. Even if the content does not strike viewers as especially consequential, the larger project is one of rigorous craftsmanship and dedication, which informs each gesture.

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happiness is… research note #14

Complete overkill, but one can dream, right? Alvin 4x8' self-healing cutting mat.

Complete overkill, but one can dream, right? Alvin 4×8′ self-healing cutting mat.

Happiness is having the right tools for the job. 

I brought two small 12×18″ cutting mats to this residency. What I saved in shipping costs is lost in time and accuracy. I’m constantly re-positioning the mats and fabric, snipping threads in the gap between the mats, and can’t trust the mats’ printed grids to line up.

The uses and limitations of my sewing ruler is also clearer. It’s great for cutting seam allowances (always 5/8″ or 1/4″) and holds up very well to use and even dropping it! The density and hierarchy of information is just right (a principle that  anyone whose used a tape measure with too much info can attest).  But, while cutting ninety-six 6-7/8-inch squares for a checkerboard flag, I wished I had a square quilter’s ruler.

Source: google.com via Christine on Pinterest

 

As I learned from my Portland Sewing lesson, you don’t adjust the shape as you’re sewing; when you sew, trust your cuts. Accurate cuts and tools means I get closer to actualizing things as I envisioned them.

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