Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The embryonic text for Party Girl got critiqued last night in my fiction workshop. I'm very happy with the reception it got. Overall, I'm getting great response from people who have seen what I'm doing with the residency, which is very, very gratifying. This has been such an amazing experience, and I'm thrilled with the work I've produced while I've been at the dump.

Yesterday, I got the postcards for my show (yeah!). They look great.

I also started a new piece - of course. I seem to have some sort of compulsive disorder and can't stop making art. I suppose there are worse things to be compulsive about.

Here are some new pics of the new work in progress:

And here is another shot of the table top. Because I love it so much and wanted to show the gorgeous color of the surface.

I took this pic from above prior to attaching the table top to the base. I was standing on these cement berms that are stored next to my container and the weird thing was, when I got on top of them, there's all this broken glass up there - a broken china bowl, windshield glass, mirrors, regular glass. It was strange and I'm not sure how all this glass has ended up there.

well, on with the day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Started working on the Party Girl text. Finally. At least I had a deadline - it was what I wanted to give my fiction workshop class for my final submission for the semester. the installation itself, it feels very rough, raw, and, I think, doesn't hold together. It doesn't do what I wanted it to do - which is to tell a story. More precicely to tell a narrative of American consumerism. And then I was reading through another blog I follow - - and looking at the workshops Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Rusch do, which several of my friends have done and love - and there was one that was about structure, which made me realize...oh, yes, that's part of the problem with Party Girl. There's no narrative structure yet. It is just a jumble of information because there's no narrative thread.

Which, having recognized it, interests me immensely becuase it's at the crux of what I wanted to explore - that narrative impulse, the ordering of random pieces of information and the way we create a story to make it all seem cohesive. Jonah Leher wrote about this on his blog,The Frontal Cortex (, the other day:

Why do we do this? I like to think of these confabulations as necessary half-truths to preserve the unity of the self. At any given moment, our mind is overstuffed with disparate sensations and fleeting thoughts; our different hemispheres want different things and distinct blobs of brain pump out distinct emotions. Why, then, do we feel like a unified person? Why do I feel like "Jonah" and not like a collection of random and stray neural emanations? Because we tell ourselves a story. Just as a novelist creates a narrative, we create a sense of being. The self, in this sense, is our work of art, a fiction created by the mind in order to make sense of its own fragments. In Proust Was A Neuroscientist, I quote Virginia Woolf on this mental process:

Am I here, or am I there? Or is the true self neither this nor that but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?

So here I am, reminding myself once more about the process, the exploration, of figuring out what it is that will give these pieces of information that spark of life (cue the scene from Young Frankenstein) that will make it all come together. Structure, structure, structure. Our minds know the shape something is supposed to be in even if we can't articulate it, and, when it doesn't match what we want it to be, it doesn't make sense.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Went to the container this morning, did a bit of work, bit of gathering - really great stuff coming in - like an old Underwood typewriter (I've been waiting for one of them for awhile, but it's not in usable condition), an old sewing machine (second one of those that's come in) and another old phone (I love old phones), plus a bag of small lightbulbs (I'll figure out something to do with them) and some beautiful star ornaments.

I puttered mostly, though. Rearranged the space so I could work in it again, but there's not really anything to do. So I've decided to take the weekend off. I realized earlier this week that I haven't had a weekend off since the beginning of February. So...I'm resting, relaxing, spending time with the family and will get back to work on Monday. Whew.

I did, however, in the course of puttering, end up making a gorgeous table out of that piece of wood I said reminded me of an alter. I'd been planning something completely different, but decided to try staining it today and it came out amazingly beautiful. Then, going into the disposal area, I found a table base, and, tada! Instant table.

Now the big question is: do I keep it (I can totally see myself using this as my writing desk and was already envisioning where it will fit in my home studio space) or do I want it to go into the show and possibly be sold (which also has an appeal -

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thinking today about artistic vision. Probably because of the odd moment of laying out the Party Girl installation and recognizing that it's so obviously a rough draft. I can't explain why it's a rough draft, it just feels that way. Here's part of what I've set up so far:

I love the Marilyn Monroe poster, by the way. When it showed up, I had a moment of "oh, it's just too perfect a detail, can I actually use it?" The answer is, yes, I can. But this feels like a rough draft to me, like the way my text work feels when I finish a draft. It doesn't inhabit that alive space yet that finished work does.

I'm also thinking about vision because it's the writing assignment in the class for which I am a TA. We talked about it in class last week - which was nice. In my undergraduate program, God forbid we talk about anything like that, anything that smacked of what it takes to be a working writer. We were writing for art's sake and art alone. the professor threw out the question to the undergrads, "What's your artistic vision? How many of you know what it is?" Other than the prof, I was the only one who could raise my hand.

Vision is such a tricky thing to name for yourself (the prof asked if anyone wanted help naming their vision and two of my small group members were brave enough to ask - it proved surprisingly easy to think about what they've written over the course of the semester and say, "you're vision seems to be this" and give them a nice meaty idea to chew on. It's so much easier to read the instructions on the outside of someone else's box. I still wish someone would read the instructions on mine and tell me what it says.) The only reason I'm able to articulate it is because of the application I wrote for the residency. It made me take a look at everything I've written and articulate what my vision is so that I could then say, "And here's what I want to do with my time at the dump."

What I realized about my vision is I am, and have always been, questioning the creation of identity. How do we become what the world knows? And creation of identity through the narratives we tell about ourselves and the world around us. We are storytelling creatures and we try to fit the stories we tell into the narratives we know - the rags to riches story of success, for example (how many Presidents have framed their personal history in this way?) We pick and choose the details and, in the telling of the story to ourselves and others, create the identity through which the world knows us.

Which brings me back to why Party Girl feels like a draft. It's just a collection of stuff at the moment. Party Girl doesn't live there yet. It doesn't embody my questions about identity and how we create the story. It will. By the time May 15th rolls around, it will.

And here, in case anyone is questioning my use of the word "container" when I talk about my studio space, is a picture of my container.

It really is a shipping container like you see on freighters. And, thank God, the heat wave has broken. It will no longer be a sweat box, so I can get back to work.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More photos from the container:

This is the last of the ribbon pieces I'll be doing. At least I think so - I still have one wire frame left and a whooooollllleeeee lotta ribbon, but probably because I have to turn my attention to other things.

I'm calling this one "Fig Leaf."

I laid out the items for the abecedary poem today to see where I still have gaps and think about what items I can put in those gaps.

This shows (front):
A is for angels in a holy night
B is for blue glass bowl broken in spite

E is for everyone standing in this room
F is for faces turning away to soon
(both of these letters use the split mirror)
G is for goodness nipped in the bud

C is for crutches that keep you standing up right
D is for doorknobs that close rooms off from sight

H is for hope washed away in the flood
I is for the ice cream you eat to forget

J is for the junk you no longer regret (which doesn't have any items yet)
K is for keys with no doors to unlock
M is for man (no rhyme yet)

N is for needles that piece through your skin
O (no idea yet)
P is for pennies (no rhyme yet)
Q (no idea yet)
R is for rings (no rhyme yet)

S is for salt rubbed into your wounds
T is for time running away too soon

U (no idea yet)
V is for vase (no rhyme)
W is for welcome (no rhyme)
X (no idea yet)
Y is for yardstick that measures your worth
Z (no idea yet)

And that's the poem.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A long post together with lots of pictures.

Here's the "Fork" piece, finally finished.

I'm pretty happy with the way this piece came out. Everything in this piece came from the disposal area - the box, utensils, keyboard keys, even the paper is reformed from the pages of a book I pulped and the definition of "fork" comes from a dictionary I found at the dump.

Today, I'm musing over how to present the Meditation on Color poem. I found a wonderful group of metal plates, six chargers and a serving tray, which I decided to use for this piece because they reflect the face of the viewer while you're looking at the piece - since the piece is a mediation on the meaning of color (as in the color of people), I really like the effect.

My original intention was to paint one of the masks (created with plaster and recycled paper) in a graduated rainbow. Here I've used a mask I painted a couple of years ago to see how the composition looked.

I don't like it as much as the plain white:

The next question is the placement of text. Whether it should be on the individual plates or surrounding the central mask. The final text will be printed on clear film rather than white paper so it won't stand out the same way.

And then, whether I like the individual plates surrounding the central in a halo or if it would be more effective as a rainbow arc. The benefit of placing the text on the individual plates is that the piece can be arranged either way, where if the text is on the central platter, it can only be displayed as a halo.

The poem itself is a variation on the sestina. The sestina form, according to, is: a complex form that achieves its often spectacular effects through intricate repetition. The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:

7. (envoi) ECA or ACE

In true form, writing a sestina is kind of a form of madness, as far as I'm concerned. It's an exacting form, and most poets say that they only have one sestina in them. I call my poem a "fractured" sestina because it does not follow the strict repetition of the end words, rather, the subject of each line of the poem follows the repetition pattern (sometimes naming it and sometimes not). It does follow the rotation of the lines, though. I used the sestina form for this poem because the repetition of it feels very much like a double helix to me, which lent itself very nicely to the subject. Here's the poem:

The longest wavelength, perceived by the human eye, is 625-740 nm.
Existing between red and yellow, seen at 582-620 nm.
Stimulating both the long and medium wavelength receptors, at 570-580 nm.
Dominating the spectrum of energy at 520-570 nm.
A color whose wavelength is roughly 440-490 nm.
A general term for the color between red and blue, 420 – 400 nm.

Royalty, imperialism, nobility, penitence.
Aggression, blood, energy, passion, sacrifice, sin.
Desire, flamboyance, fire, warning.
Warmth and cowardice, caution and sunshine.
Growth, health, hope, nature, envy.
Water, winter, cold, sadness, ice and sky.

Homer called the Aegean “wine dark” sea, lacking the word for blue.
In 975 C.E., the English first learned the word for purple.
In Sanskrit, the word rudra means red.
Geoluhread became naranja became the name for the fruit orange.
Beowulf carried a shield made of yew, the color yellow.
Growen has always meant ‘to grow’ to be green.

Forest, moss, lime, viridian, malachite, celadon, chartreuse.
Cerulean, cobalt, Prussian, sky, baby, ultramarine.
Orchid, heliotrope, violet, lavender, han, tyrian.
Vermillion, scarlet, crimson, rose, ruby, carnation.
Tangerine, carrot, burnt, Gamboge, apricot, persimmon.
Cadmium, ochre, lemon, mustard, corn, saffron, school bus.

Pencils are painted yellow because the best graphite came from China.
Everyone wore tinted glasses to make things green in the Emerald City.
Depression and sadness are blue moods because when Zeus cried it rained.
Crushed snail shells gave Louis XIV purple robes in which to hide.
More nations use red in their flags than any other color.
Like silver and purple, orange has no true rhyme in English.

In 2001, Homeland Security terrorized us all with the color orange.
Chinks from Asia, flowing onto our shores, were a peril of yellow.
Witches were hanged for wearing the devil’s color, green.
Niggers without a drop of white blood were so black they were blue.
Fags and queers in Nazi Germany wore triangles of purple.
Savages and animals lived on the Plains in skin that was red.

We perceive red to be different from yellow or orange,
Want to believe green is dissimilar to blue or purple,
When, at the level of the atoms which make us whole,
does not exist.

If you haven't had enough of the sestina form, follow this link to find out more.

And here's an Airedale very confused at what all this stuff is doing in her house:

The Exodus Begins

I have started clearing out the container! Today seemed to be the day to do it for some reason. I've pretty much cleared out the things I've collected but will not use - like the wood (although there are a couple of pieces I just couldn't let go of, for some reason, so I "recollected" them) and the "distressed" chair that has been living under my work table since the first week.

To me, it seemed as if the chair was screaming in pain, but I was never sure if that thought would carry through if I just presented the chair lying on the floor, so I reluctantly bid it fair well today.

I am also shifting production to home so that I can have space in the container to work on the installation piece over the next couple of weeks. My goal is to finish all the individual pieces up by the end of the month and have the remaining time to polish up the installation. Here's what my car looked like today:

The strangest thing is feeling as if I have breathing space in the container now that it's emptying out. It's strange because when I started the residency, the emptiness of the container felt lonely. Now the emptiness feels freeing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I've been so caught up with the residency, I forgot to mention I've heard back from the agent. The answer was "no," but it wasn't all bad. Here's her response:

Thanks again for sending me your novel, which I read with interest. I think that you’re a talented writer, and I agree that your narrative voice is “kick-ass.” But I just didn’t fall in love here, and I’m afraid that I’d need to in order to take this on, given how tough the market for fiction is right now. As I’m sure you know, this business is very subjective, so another agent may feel entirely differently. I wish you the very best, and lots of success. I’d be happy to read more from you in the future, including the non-fiction projects you mention.

As rejections go, this was a very generous one and didn't hurt too much. Of all the reasons for an agent to reject a manuscript, not falling in love with it is as good as it gets, and I totally respect that. I understand that you have to fall in love with the book because you have to be able to be its champion out in the world. You're not going to be able to do that if you don't feel passionate about the work. What it also means is that it's not the work itself - it's the chemistry between this particular reader and this particular novel. And she thinks enough about my writing to say she'd like to read other work from me. As I said, as far as rejections go, this one is as good as it gets. Though it would have been nice to have her request the rest of the novel and then say "I'd love to be your agent," I'm not crushed that this didn't work out. So...onward.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still working on getting the books prepped for the abecedary poem. I've only got three books left. Yeah. And I got the fork piece put together today. Also a yeah. This gives me about a dozen pieces for the show not counting the poem. Which feels like a nice amount.

Today I started cleaning out the container, taking things back that I don't need and won't need and don't think would interest anyone for my give-away pile. Most of it is pieces of wood - like all the pieces I thought I would be using as platforms for the poem. I'm going to start cleaning out more and taking stuff home on Friday, making space for the Party Girl installation in the container. I want to get that laid out soon so I can start working on the text. Had some good ideas today.

One thing that occured to me as I was working on the books and putting things in the cart to take away from the container was the idea of jo ha ku. One of my professors introduced me to this concept - it corresponds to roughly the beginning middle and end, but has a deeper meaning than just being a placeholder - it's about the type of energy in each movement and a complete movement having a jo ha and ku. The jo is the beginning, the introduction of the movement. The ha is the scatter, what happens as the themes become more complex, begin to interweave and, sometimes, become chaotic. The ku is where the scatter begins to complete, come back together. But each ku also contains the seeds of the next jo. The movement doesn't just end, it gives a little push into the moment that succeeds it.

As I started cleaning, I realized I have moved into the ku of my residency. The ha, that scatter (and there was a LOT of scatter) occurred in March, with the chaotic tumult of ideas that erupted from all the stuff. Moving into the ku, there is a pulling together of those ideas, those threads that began back in February. It's not just about finishing the pieces, but preparing for the show (one jo) and the work I will do after the residency is over (another jo), the seeds of which are contained in the sorting and preparations I am doing and making now.

More pictures soon. I keep forgetting to bring my camera with me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I wanted to include a sequence of photos of a work in progress. I've been intending to do this, but get so involved in creating the pieces, that I forget to take pictures along the way. This time I remembered before I was too far along.

This is another weaving piece.

More pictures from the container:

This is a better picture of the 7 sins piece. I really like it. I like the concept and I like the way it looks.

This is another ribbon piece. In the photos it looks like a dragon. It doesn't quite look like that in real life.

This is my test book for the abecedary poem. And here's one of an encyclopedia book being turned into a shelf.

This is a rather slow process - more than just a little boring. Each book needs to be cleaned, the covers glued to the next page, clamped, and the sides coated with wood glue. The clamps need to stay on until the glue sets, which means there's several minutes between each book. I'm about halfway through the set at this point. And today I decided to stain the paper so they look older and more solid, which adds another step. But when it's all done, I think it will look fantastic.

I realize that I am posting mostly about the residency project and that's becuase my attention has gone increasinly to this project as I get near the end of it - I'm not doing that much gathering at this point, although I do go each day that I'm there. I'm not driven to go find as much stuff, mainly because I have more than enough to do what I want to do - It's going to be a good show. I can't wait to see it up and then to experience people's experience of it. That is going to be odd - it's an experience of my work that I've never had before, so I'm looking forward to being in that space and seeing what reactions my work gets. Three more weeks of creating and then it's all organization.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Figured out the perfect solution for the abecedary poem last night - I found an almost-complete encyclopedia set over the weekend (it's missing volume 5). The books make the perfect platform for the objects. I can't believe how perfect they are. Amazing really.

I'm not one of those writers who feels the book is a sacred object. I know writers who won't even write in a book because they feel it defiles the integrity of what the author wrote. So I'm not adverse to ripping a book up, cutting it up to make an altered book artwork or even destroying the book, pulping the paper, and making something out of it. All of which I've done in the past few months. The book itself is just a thing. I'm more inclined to consider that the ideas books contain are the sacred object even though they are intangible.

So I began preparing the books today. I also did another piece that has been giving me a bit of trouble - the 7 sins piece. Here's an image - it's from my phone so it's going to be a little small.

The lists are on slate tiles. It looks really wonderful. It's one of those pieces I'd like to keep, actually. I love the idea of how the 7 Deadly Sins have become our contemporary virtues and the 7 Virtues have become our contemporary sins.

Anyway...still nothing back from the agent, which is possibly a good thing. I know she received the submission, but now it's the waiting game of "is it taking a while because she's thinking about it" or "is it taking a while because she's really busy." And reminding myself to just get on with life and work - keep writing and moving forward. One foot in front of the other. One word following the next.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Today was one of those twitchy "Why bother?" kind of days. I was so frustrated by not being able to get a couple of pieces done the way I want to, by forgetting, ONCE AGAIN, to bring something I needed from home and feeling this continuing sense of being scattered, by the challenges of needing a particular thing to show up and it not arriving.

I'd been thinking about taking all of Party Girl's furniture out of the container so I can put the installation together and take pictures and start working on the Party Girl narrative, but it was really warm in the container today, so I didn't feel like moving furniture. And then there was barely anything coming in today - it was so quiet, it felt very strange being there. I spent about an hour just moving stuff around in the container, clearing surfaces off and straightening (sort of), but mostly being disgruntled and completely stressed out that I'm going to have bare walls for my show.

Then I decided to work on another ribbon piece - I'd been intending to go back and do another one, but hadn't been getting to it. So I picked up a piece of gold fabric and ripped it into ribbons and cut up some silver metallic ribbon and started tying knots again. It's looking quite nice, though it's not finished.

While I was working on it, I realized that so much of art depends on just moving forward. Finding that loose thread you can start pulling and following it even though it might not seem interesting to begin with. And just doing it despite feeling like everything you're doing is crap.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I am in that frantic, uncomfortable space where I've got too much to do, too many small, fiddly little things to take care of in too many disparate areas to feel cohesive. I am constantly feeling the shock of "I forgot to do [fill in the blank]" and moving from one thing to the next with no plan or ability to see how it all fits together. It's difficult to even breathe when I'm in this space. Which is, of course, the exact thing I need to remember to do. Breathe. Take a step forward. Breathe. Take another step.

I suppose it's the monkeys again, acting up. They've been very quiet over the past couple of months. I think I've been moving too fast for them to catch up to me, but I think they've found me this week.

The main problem I'm having at the moment, is not being able to figure out how to create something the way I want to for the residency. Along with the fact that I have to put Party Girl's narrative down on paper. I've had several ideas of what to do with the installation piece, but it's difficult to visualize the space (see previous photos of the container) and that makes it difficult for me to think about how to construct the narrative. I'm sure it will all come together. Hm. Maybe I should take all the pieces and put them in the space behind my container and sit with it actually laid out for awhile - be able to get an idea of what I've got and what I'm going to do with everything. Hm. That might be a very, very good idea. And then I can take pictures of it and start putting the narrative together. Okay, that seems to be a way to do what I need to do - I can probably do it tomorrow since the parking area is closed off. I won't have to worry about Party Girl's furniture getting busted up. Okay. Cool. One problem solved.

The other problem is thornier - trying to get text onto the objects in a way that looks visually cohesive. I'll figure it out - but there's also that lovely problem of logistics that I have with sometimes having part of a piece at home and part at the container. "Seven" is like that right now - part of it is at home and part at the container and I think it's something I need to work on at home. I just have to remember to bring all the parts with me when I leave tomorrow.

I'm also stressing about the abecedary poem - about how to present the objects. That's proving to be a bit difficult for some of the same reasons as the Party Girl narrative. It's a big piece and I need to have a space to lay everything out in order to see what I've got and how it's going to be best to present it. I'll have to figure something out, though, because I've only got three weeks to get it done.

So...I was doing fine about breathing until that last moment there. Breathe. Step forward. Breathe. Throw monkey chow on the floor and run like heck.