Travelogue

Tides Institute and Museum of Art StudioWorks residency wrap-up

Just completed my first printmaking residency: I spent the month of June in Eastport, ME, making prints in the Tides Institute and Museum of Arts’ new StudioWorks building on the main street in the historic downtown.

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The Studioworks building is a historic preservation effort by the Tides Institute, assisted by talented masons. The renovation work is proceeding. For really cool photos of the process of turning a historic building into a working printshop, check out the Tides Institute’s Facebook page.

It’s been a productive experience: I’m coming away with three projects involving woodcut and letterpress printmaking, banners, and semaphore flags. Some projects are nearly finished, others are series with initial pieces completed and more ready for production.

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Finished projects on display in the Open Studio. Supported by the STUDIOWORKS/Tides Institute & Museum of Art, a private not-for-profit organization.

Eastport on a Nat Geo map.

Eastport on a Nat Geo map.

Eastport: Neighborliness in Abundance

It was quite an  adjustment, coming from the metropolis of NYC and adapting to small town life, where everyone knows each other and many are quite curious to meet new people such as myself.  In the city, anonymity feels safe and efficient. In Eastport, the standards of common courtesy are exceptionally high. For example, drivers will often wave to pedestrians. It’s baffling at first. Did they mistake me for a friend of theirs, I’d wonder. Did they wave because I was walking in their way?

To me, Eastporters’ investment in welcoming and learning about every individual living alongside them, if only for a summer month, is practically astounding. The weave of the social fabric was so tight. Many years ago, I made paintings that I thought were about the psychology of public space. But I see now that they were specifically about urban space, and isolation and distrust.

Eastport is technically a city, though it feels like a small town. In every direction from the house where I stayed there were people who made my welfare their concern. Most of all they wanted to know that I enjoyed my time in Eastport. The pride in their town was very clear.

The pace of Eastport made it possible for me to get a lot of work done; the distractions were few (though that will change this week with the Fourth of July). The past few weeks were restorative for me. It was quiet and very  easy to spend the day and evenings working, then wind down and get a good night’s rest. Very sociable artists might find the town’s night life in adequately lively, those who can tolerate a lot of studio time will find it perfect.

I stayed in an old Veteran's Hall, where I also did a lot of sewing. This was a great space for working—spacious, quiet, and light-filled, as the StudioWorks building is being renovated.

I stayed in an old Veteran’s Hall, where I also did a lot of sewing. This was a great second space for working—spacious, quiet, and light-filled—as the StudioWorks building’s renovations are underway.

The Fireman's Muster is an annual tradition; part of Eastport's Fourth of July festivities.

Eastport’s Fourth of July festivities are the largest in the state of Maine. I got to catch part of Eastport’s Fourth of July festivities, such as the Fireman’s Muster. Independence Day seems to kick off the busy summer season. Even in the four weeks of June, I could sense the town emerging from the winter and spring.

I enjoyed meeting many amazing, friendly people. The town’s demographic skews grey, but there are some very sweet and funny young parents with creative interests in the arts as well as local food. I attended some fantastic potlucks with great homemade eats, lively conversation and smart folks.

Butternut squash muffin, fellows from near and far, on Marit's family's camp porch. This would be after the swimming, and before the fireworks.

Butternut squash muffin, fellows from near and far, on Marit’s family’s camp porch. This would be after the swimming, and before the fireworks.

Porchlight song.

Porchlight songs.

Artists thinking about applying will be happy to hear that Kristin McKinlay, who coordinates the residency, is good humored, accommodating, and also a working artist. See her embroidered wall works at her site.

I also really enjoyed meeting Anna Hepler. Via conversations and a studio visit with her and her husband Jon,  I felt a great support and intellectual camaraderie. Both accomplished in their fields, they close to relocate to Eastport as a home base for being citizens of the world (with their two young children in tow; very inspiring!). Luckily, the Eastport Gallery invited Anna to do a talk this month, so I had the chance to learn more about her work and the development of her thinking. (Future residents can enjoy a talk by Kristin!)

The area is has so much history, much of it persists into the present in the form of amazing artifacts.

Boxes containing player-piano tunes.

Boxes containing player-piano tunes.

1888 campaign ribbon at Marit's.

1888 campaign ribbon at Marit’s.

A sweet "rose-velt" campaign item from FDR's Rosevelt-Campobello Park on neighboring Campobello Island in Canada.

A sweet “rose-velt” campaign item from FDR’s Rosevelt-Campobello Park on neighboring Campobello Island in Canada.

For those artists influenced by landscape and light, or people who savor them, Eastport is amazing.

Artists can watch the tides go in and out, just past the Tides Institute, from their breakfast nook.

Artist-in-residence at the GAR building can watch the tides go in and out, just past the Tides Institute, from their breakfast nook.

The view from Harris Point, a nice walk from downtown.

The view from Harris Point, a nice walk from downtown.

A school of fish, perhaps herring, plashing in the bay.

A school of fish, perhaps herring, plashing in the bay.

Looking out towards Campobello Island at sunset.

Looking out towards Campobello Island at sunset.

Twilight over Eastport.

Twilight over Eastport.

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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, Community, Research, Travelogue

Bits and Bobs

Detail from a drawing/sculpture in progress.

Detail from a drawing/sculpture in progress.

Cheap and cheerful

Here in Manchester, there’s a saying, cheap and cheerful. It means what it sounds like. For example, This and That is a tasty curry house that offers three items for £4.20; it’s praised as epitomizing cheap and cheerful.

I like the phrase because:

  • It’s thoroughly appreciative, even though Mancs can seem totally unsentimental.
  • It’s characteristic of something local: As Stuart Maconie put it in Pies and Prejudice,

    …many of the north’s market and mill towns … have become shrine[s] devoted to binge drinking and discount shopping.*

    Within a half-mile radius, there are three pound stores–Poundland, Pound World and Pound Empire, whose business name, confusingly, is Pound Kingdom–and one Quality Save.

  • It reminds me of a Chinese expression, which is nearly identical (literally, “has attractiveness, has cheapness”). For my ultra-frugal immigrant parents, no higher compliment could be paid.

I’m about four days away from the Open Studio reception (Thursday, April 23, 5:30-7:30 pm, Chinese Arts Centre), so I’ve been working hard to finish several projects. Some are inspired by cheap and cheerful, so I’m making use of knickknacks from pound shops, like fans with multi-colored LEDs. Here’s a studio shot of the fans wired together to run on grid power instead of batteries, something I learned from this Instructables page.

Studio view

Studio view

Dan Graham, Tate Podcasts

Though I missed Dan Graham’s speaking engagements in the SF Bay Area this spring, I got his podcast lecture from the Tate. I enjoyed his talk, even without the pictures; he’s whip-smart, brisk, and completely free of affectation. For someone to have shown in as many Biennales and Documentas as he has, it’s very refreshing to hear him say in the same even, ego-less tone, that the Queen of Norway commissioned him to make a pavilion, so he made one on a fjord, it’s quite popular, and it’s referred to as a shower stall. Asides like this, from most other artists, would come across as false modesty.

Projections!

Preparing for T.S. Beall's artist's talk at Islington Mill

Preparing for T.S. Beall's artist's talk at Islington Mill

I enjoyed meeting Tara Beall, the artist in residence at Islington Mill, whose work is a fascinating combination of Arte Povera, webcam-sourced-video, boundaries, interstitial spaces, architecture, and installations that are a hybrid of kinetic art and video projections.

Her work seems in dialogue with the work of Ed Pien, whose new show at the Chinese Arts Centre is being installed right now. I’ve been getting sneak peeks of it — mirrors, projectors, cut paper, and macramé on the scale of architecture — and I think it’s going to be phenomenal!


*To be fair, Maconie also wrote, “Like [Manchester] at its best, [The Smiths] had glamor and gloom, winsomeness and wit; they were magical and proletariat all at once.”

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Art & Development, News

upcoming: tech tools, open studio

dark into light christine wong yap
Dark into Light, 2008, mixed media installation: 100 night lights, par can, spot bulb, 10 x 10 x 8 feet. Swarm Gallery

Dark into Light, an installation I first showed at Swarm Gallery in Oakland, last year, will be included in Tech Tools of the Trade: Contemporary New Media Art at de Saisset Museum, April 17 – June 28, 2009.

I’ll still be here in the UK during the opening on Friday, April 17, 2009 from 7:00-9:00 pm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there!

It should be a great show; the other artists include Jim Campbell, Anthony Discenza, Rodney Ewing, Martha Gorzycki, Lynn Hershman, Scott Kildall, Nina Katchadourian, Andrew Kleindolph, Jill Miller, Deborah Oropallo, Alan Rath, Jackie Sumell, Stephanie Syjuco, Gail Wight.

I’m also really looking forward to the program on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 from 6:00-8:00 pm, Tactical Digital Aesthetics, an evening of art and conversation exploring new media, remediation, and cultural politics. Keynote by Johanna Drucker; roundtable by Ray Beldner, Stephanie Syjuco, Anthony Discenza, and Johanna Drucker; and moderated by Katie Vann and Kathy Aoki.

This survey exhibition features work produced by Bay Area-based or Bay Area-rooted artists using new media—defined in the context of this exhibition as electronic, digital, or web-based. Organized into accessible thematic sections, the work in this exhibition explores the ways that technology has shaped our sense of selves, our vision, our bodies, and our world. The exhibition examines our cultural fascination with technology (including our continued faith in its benefits), our myriad uses of the internet, as well as the potentially troubling applications of technology in simulation and surveillance.

While the work in the exhibition features a broad range of conceptual and artistic approaches, all of it is unified by its multidisciplinary content. As a result, the exhibition has been organized around thematic areas that highlight the works’ connections to contemporary cultural and social phenomena: Biomorph, Identity, Web Repurposing, New Light, Hope and Promise, Surveillance, and Simulation.

This exhibition is co-curated by the de Saisset Museum and SCU Assistant Professor Kathy Aoki.

Unlimited Promise, 2009, installation: foil paper, thread, light, shadow, 15 x 20 x 14 feet. Produced in the Breathe Residency at Chinese Art Centre.
Unlimited Promise, 2009, installation: foil paper, thread, light, shadow, 15 x 20 x 14 feet. Produced in the Breathe Residency at Chinese Art Centre.

Open Studio 23 – 30 April 2009
Reception: Thursday 23 April, 5.30-7.30pm

If you’re in Manchester, come to the Open Studio at Chinese Arts Centre! The reception co-incides with the preview for Ed Pien’s new installation in the Centres’ gallery.

Breathe Artist-in-Residence Christine Wong Yap, a multi-disciplinary visual artist from San Francisco, California, will open her studio to the public from April 23 – 30, 2009, with a public preview on Thursday, 23 April, 5.30-7.30 pm.

Christine Wong Yap’s art practice is an exploration of the competing pulls of optimism and pessimism. Using metaphors such as dark and light or words and meanings, Wong Yap explores the dialectical relationship between optimism and pessimism and its influence on our experience of the world. Her explorations take the form of installation, sculpture, multiples and works on paper.

Wong Yap, who has been in residence at the Chinese Arts Centre since 29 January, has immersed herself in art activity throughout the Northwest. She’s presented her work to MA students from local universities and reviewed art events and exhibitions from Barrow to Birmingham on her blog. She has also engaged in a self-directed course of study spanning British commemoratives, Roman typography, Mancunian slang and temperments, institutional signage, President Obama’s optimism, time perspectives and utopias. Her recent studio activities include text-based drawings, a installation of lights and shadows, and a light-box integrated into the Centre’s architecture. During the Open Studio, Wong Yap will share works-in-progress and release a new artist’s multiple.

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