Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parting Shots

Cleaned out the container yesterday and turned in my keys.

Almost what it looked like four months ago. I left the dressmaker's dummy because the next student artist may like it - they're dead useful and wonderful just to have around when you don't want to feel alone.

Here's a shot of my beloved work boots:

I wish I had a shot of them when they were brand new and shiny. They were fairly expensive but worth every penny - I stepped right on a nail one day and only realized it when I heard a clicking while I walked. Steel-shanked and steel-toed and yet, strangely comfortable.

So now I am back home and slowly limping my way back into writer mode.

I printed off Choice this morning so I can start concentrating on it again, and had this awful moment when I could not remember what changes I had made and in which draft when I got it ready to send off to the agent. I was moving so quickly, doing so much, that a lot of the actual actions are a blur in my memory. I finally ended up pasting the agent pages into the first draft and saving the whole thing as a new document - revision one. It's now sitting on my desk staring at me intently. Don't ask me how a pile of paper can stare intently, just believe me that it can.

My office is now a blend of chaotic scavenged things and orderly writer things - it's a little like living inside Jekyll/Hyde's mind, I think. And it smells a bit funky at the moment. But...there is also wonderful art on the walls, pieces that I made that make me quite happy to see them in my personal space. More will appear around our house in the next weeks.

My grades are coming in from the spring semester - my 4.0 lives on, amazingly enough. I got an A in the workshop, which, I feel, wasn't really earned. It really should have been a B+ as far as I'm concerned because I didn't put in nearly the kind of effort I usually do. But...I am happy my GPA in still a lovely 4.0. It's not that I am so hung up on the grade, but it is nice to know that I am capable of this level of work.

Anyway...back to Choice. It's glowering now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So, one more Party Girl post just to wrap things up.

Here are the pics from the final draft of the installation, scanning from the entrance of the container (and the start of the sequence) to the end:

It's all down now. This is what the container looks like as of today:

And last, but not least, The Yard Sale of Party Girl

Party Girl's furniture will go to St. Vincent's - although I'm keeping the leopard print chair. I have plans....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I have decided I am not the kind of person who can take time off after completing a big project. It just doesn't work for me. I take off a day or two and suddenly a week has gone by and I have gotten nothing NOTHING done. And, further more, I am not motivated to get anything done AT ALL. This happens to me more often than not. I tell myself that after a major project is over, the draft, the show, the semester, I'll take a couple of days off and then, feeling refreshed, I'll get back to work. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. I get lazy. I goof off. I spend way too much time on Facebook taking too many quizzes. And now, the final indication that Things Have Gone Too Far...I am thinking about re-reading the Harry Potter series.


Don't get me wrong. I still love Harry Potter and am eagerly awaiting the sixth movie. But I can't go back to reading it. It's not good for me. I fall headlong into the wizarding world and don't want to come back out. It's comfortable there. It's wonderful and perfect and all the plot problems have been worked out and the characters are vivid and complex and feel like people. As opposed to the worlds of my own creation which are lumpy and imperfect and I see all the flaws and everything that still needs to be worked on. Harry Potter is just such a better place to live than my own stories.

So, I'll take it as a warning that it's time to get back to work. Enough loafing. Enough checking Facebook and Twitter every five minutes. Time to write.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The after-show glow continues.

I've been asked if I would like to show some of the Party Girl pieces at the Brisbane City Hall gallery in the fall. To which I have said yes, of course, and thank you.

I've had a couple of days with nothing to do, which has been lovely. I have read a book for no other reason than that I wanted to read it (Neil Gaiman's illustrated version of Stardust. Beautiful, though I kind of prefer the movie which, in some places, has very little to do with Neil's story - as he says, "I'm pretty sure I didn't write a can-can dancing cross-dressing pirate captain.").

I went to a staged reading of a friend's play last night. It was marvelous and wonderful and I am still pondering some of what she created. I love the playwrights in my program at State - they are such talented writers they blow me away.

Here is a clip from another one of Evy's plays:'s been a good couple of days. Tomorrow, back to work. Time to start taking down the show and clearing out the container for the next student artist-in-residence.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The show was fantastic. Amazing. Incredible.

People loved the work - I heard lots of great comments about it, both directly and indirectly. On Friday night, people spent a fair amount of time in the container looking at Party Girl. Saturday, not so much because it was bloody hot and that container turns into a sauna. I got asked for my autograph and had my photo taken by a group of fans (I had fans!). People took lots of pictures of my work, too. I got asked for copies of my artist statement and my ABC poem. People were thrilled to speak with me when they realized I was the artist. It was wonderful.

As I've said before, receiving this kind of feedback - immediate and unsolicited and often times simply observed by the reaction people had while they were standing in the gallery - this is much different than the kind of feedback you get as a writer. As a writer, the audience absorbs the work at a distance from you and the work is absorbed in layers, over time. Visual work is immediate, it's right there in front of you - and the feedback about the work is right there in front of you, too. Watching how long people took to really look at the work, how carefully they read or studied the work, all of those things were wonderful to observe because it means I succeeded in my goal of making work that is engaging and makes people think.

One of my favorite moments was speaking to an artist on Saturday who observed that there was a definite storytelling element to the work. I appreciated that he was able to see that impulse in what I was doing because that narrative impulse is what underlies all my work and it was nice to know it's there in the visual - that it comes out of my artistic aesthetic with the same sensibility, it's not divorced from my artistic impulse.

Some of my other favorite moments:
- realizing that people were very interested in quizzing each other on the 7 Deadly Sins but not so much on the virtues. I observed this several times with "Seven," and it's interesting to me. Why are we more concerned with knowing what we shouldn't do than in knowing what we should? I was to work with this idea some more because it fascinates me.

- the amazing responses my two interactive pieces got - I can't wait to start turning them into a poem. There are some great lines from "Give Me A Reason," it will be a lot of fun to work with it.

- the environmental art student who asked to speak with me about the work for his class and seemed intimidated to speak with me.

- my younger son giving "tours" through the show because he's heard me talk about the work so much he could repeat what I was telling people verbatim.

- the mayor of Brisbane saying she'd like to have some of the work displayed in the City Hall gallery (yes! another exhibition!)

All in all, it was an extraordinary experience and the entire residency was the most amazing opportunity I've ever had.

And now, it's over. All that's left is the cleaning up and storing of pieces. I've actually got a great place in the house to display the ABC poem and some of the other pieces will be displayed as well. But...onward. I've got a novel to get ready to go out again and other stories to work on, and a year of grad school to finish up.

Here are some pictures from the show:

The gallery, ready for visitors

I'll have pictures from the container in another couple of days. Right now, I'm taking some time to relax before I have to go and disassemble the show.

Here's my artist statement from the show:

The first story I ever wrote was about a group of abandoned appliances living at the dump. They sat up one night eating grapes and helping each other feel better. I was six. I can’t help but feel there was some foreshadowing in this story, some essential theme that would resonate throughout my life and work and lead me to this particular moment and the empathy I feel with the discarded objects that flow through the public disposal area at SF Recycling & Disposal, Inc.

I have always been drawn to the discarded, the abandoned, the falling apart. I am fascinated by the moment that marks the boundary between an object being useful and being garbage when all that changes about it is its context.

At SF Recycling & Disposal, Inc. I got to see the result of that change in context every day – the objects bought because of need, saved for years because of sentiment, desired for their usefulness or attractiveness or status, and then discarded because they were no longer wanted. Our objects define us, tell our stories, subtly reveal things about us. They record our existence in the same way pottery shards from ancient Greece show us the world 3,000 years ago. What will our objects say about us in 3,000 years? What will the bag of seashells, bought from a store and thrown away with the price tag still on, reveal? Or the closet full of barely worn shoes? What does it mean when someone would rather throw away a working blender than clean the mold that has accumulated around its blades?

I also learned our objects need us as much as we need them. We give them context. Separated from us, they become otherworldly, ghost objects without a reason to exist. Discarded office furniture, a full set of dishware, a bedroom set, books without someone to read them. They lose their meaning without us.

My time here has changed my perception of the objects in my personal environment. What will I ask others to dispose of when I am gone? Do I really need the impulse item in the store or will it end up in the landfill in six months? And when did I lose the ability to repair the objects around me, choosing instead to discard what I could no longer use and buy something new? How many times will I buy the same item because I do not remember that I already own one just like it?

I live in Brisbane, at the base of San Bruno Mountain. There is a shell mound on San Bruno Mountain, a pile of shells left by the Ohlone Indians hundreds of years ago after they had eaten their meals of mussels and clams dug from the silt of the bay. Standing on the shell mound, I cannot help but think that our attitude toward what is no longer useful has not changed since they sat there watching the seagulls and the sea lions and the whales in the bay while they ate. What has changed is the nature of what we discard and leave behind. A shell, left on the ground, decomposes, becomes soil, provides nutrients that feed the next generation of plants. A plastic cup left on the ground remains a plastic cup. It flies through the air, lands in the bay, washes out to the ocean and makes its way to the North Pacific Gyre where it becomes a small piece of plastic in an island of debris. The cup gets eaten by an albatross who’s stomach is already full of similar pieces of plastic and who will eventually starve because there is not enough room for the food it needs to live. And still, the cup remains a piece of plastic.

In a small way, I hope I have changed the destiny of the objects in this room, given them a different purpose, one that provides nutrition and sustenance and, hopefully, inspiration for others.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The show is hung!!!!!!!

We finished this afternoon around 2:30. There are a few odds and ends to finish up and I need to finish a few details on the installation in the container, but it is done. My friend and I will be back tomorrow afternoon so she can photograph the show - in addition to her wonderful talents as a show designer and generosity in giving me so much of her time this week, she is also a gifted photographer and makes her living doing fashion shoots.

Here are some of my amateur shots of the show:

View of the entire gallery space

Love is a Thing, A Simple Thing, and Naming Names on the center pedestals

Meditation on Color

The Gift of Fire (plus a text explanation of the sestina form that goes with Meditation on Color)

The Measure

Hanging - Flame, Woven Sunset, and Fig Leaf
Table (which I made) with Give Me a Reason, and Passing Time on the glass table (which I did not make)

And Finally:

Now I Know My ABC's
(which makes me laugh because there's something so obsessive about this piece)

I can not believe how amazing it looks. The oddest thing to me is seeing these objects I have been living with for the past several months hung on the wall. It places me in such a different relationship to them. I don't know if I can adequately explain how this feels because I did not expect this. It is very different than the feeling I get with my writing. I maintain the same relationship to what I write. No matter what form it takes, I still feel like I am the creator of those words. Standing in the gallery, I almost have the feeling of not being the creator of the work - I have become the viewer. It's very strange and I'm trying to work out why there is such a difference.

I'm sure I will write about this some more, but for right now, I am just so happy. I feel relaxed for the first time in months - I have accomplished something and in two nights, I will get to see how people respond to my work. I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Awesome day at the dump today. The show is looking amazing. I mean, I've been living with this stuff for several months now, but it looks totally different hanging in a gallery. It's so strange how different it looks on the wall. I am thrilled. And the synergy that gets created as pieces hang together - like the ribbon pieces, all of a sudden there's a conversation going on between them that wasn't happening before. We are making decisions about where to put things that are totally unexpected and unplanned and based on space rather than aesthetics and then realizing that the pieces work so well there they couldn't go anywhere else.

Here's what the layout for the abecedary poem looks like:

We'll be putting the objects on the books tomorrow, but it looks so impressive just as is, I love it!

Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the actually installation of everything, that I forgot to take many pictures. There will be more tomorrow, I promise, when I can show you what the gallery space looks like ready to go.

I did get this awesome picture of SF Recycling and Disposal, Inc's seagull abatement department's chief enforcement officer - she's a Harris hawk and has been perching just outside my container for about a month now when she takes breaks. She's very effective at her job, the seagull population has definitely declined since she' been hanging out at the dump. Every now and then while I'm working, I'll hear this piercing hawk screech, it's awesome. I love raptors. I think they are the most beautiful and amazing birds. I have loved sharing my space with them (though I make sure to give them their space - even though they're tethered, they don't like people coming too close and let you know it).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Marilyn survives!

I put together the "Demise of Party Girl" installation yesterday with the "revisions" of sequence and changes in certain objects. I think it hangs together very well now. I will be adding wall text and advertising "prayer flags" tomorrow (sorry for so many "quotes," must be a thing with me tonight).

Today, a friend of mine came to help hang my residency show. She is incredible. I am so grateful she is helping me because there is NO way I could have put the abecedary poem together by myself. Absolutely none. It's a two-person job to put the books on the walls, just for starters, but then there's the way she was able to look at the wall and go, hey, this is how we're going to do it. And can make everything even and level with just a ruler and a level. It will look incredible when it's done (I will take some credit, I did have the entire thing laid out on graph paper so I could say how many inches between each piece). I'll have pictures tomorrow. friend also looked at "Party Girl" and I told her I was having second thoughts about Marilyn and she pointed out that where Marilyn is now is perfect.

This is where Marilyn was in my initial "draft" of the installation. My fiction class thought it weighted the piece too much as a commentary on the life of Marilyn Monroe, and I agreed. So I was all set to bid Marilyn a reluctant farewell. But when I did the revised layout, she ended up beneath the pink party dress, on top of the makeup case full of fuchsia powder covered makeup.

(these pictures are from the first draft, the one's I took today with my phone ended up melding together in some kind of montage. I don't know why. I'll have pics tomorrow from the installation as it will look the night of the show)

My friend said that Marilyn totally works there - the pink in the party dress is reflected in the thin pink border on the frame and in the pink makeup in the case and the case is blue like the frame. Everything works together and Marilyn is like "totally the quintessential party girl, you have to keep her."

So Marilyn survives!!!!!!

For all her efforts, my friend received a black coffin with a smaller black coffin inside. Seen below with other items going on the giveaway pile - yes, the typewriter is going, too.

She was completely thrilled with it (I gave her a choice of any items in the container, this is what she wanted, she IS one of the original Goth girls).

Here's another pic, just to round out the post, of more items going on the giveaway pile. I love this gear. I would never be able to do anything with it, but I know someone will.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I am having a difficult time focusing on anything other than the show right now, which is not good since I still have some work to finish up for one of my classes.

I have noticed a curious side effect of my residency - I am having a difficult time writing anything other than my blog entries (which are focused on the residency projects right now). It is very strange, but I think it's a function of focusing on thinking visually for the past four months. It's almost like my brain has forgotten how to process thought as words rather than image. I will be very happy to get back to my writer brain after this coming weekend. But it is creating some problems as I need to write text for the show and I need to write this paper for class.

One of the many things that has been interesting to me over the past four months is the fact that working visually does not have the same effect on me that writing does. I can write six or eight hours a day and end up feeling totally energized, ready to take on the world. Six hours in the container, and I am dead, exhausted, my brain is mush. I don't' think it's a difference in focus. When I was at our friends' cabin, I was completely focused on writing and writing for six hours solid, completely enveloped by my characters and story.

My interpretation of this is that, while I am a talented visual artist, my true medium is writing. Something I knew, but it was nice to have this chance to try out the visual medium. I have always had a sneaking suspicion that I might have been a visual artist - I've always done visual work with paints and photography. It's a little like wondering if you're gay, I think. You don't really know until you try it out and see if it feels right. Well. I've tried walking on the other side of the tracks. I think I've been walking the correct path all along. The good thing is that I have this other medium to work in. I am looking forward to finding out how this experiment has affected my writing once I get back to it full time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I sat in the container today, just sat there, for several minutes letting myself absorb what I've experienced over the past four months. So I just sat in the middle of all the artwork I've created since February thinking how I completed almost every piece I thought of and they turned out better than I expected. It's been incredible to go to this place three or four times a week, be in the disposal area, finding the most amazing things (today, I found a wonderfully gaudy bathroom fixture, several old school maps - those kind that are made of canvas and have wooden rollers on the ends - and several wooden "inbox" boxes - which are just prefect to use for art boxes. I passed on the pseudo-old fashioned gumball machine even though I know my kids would have loved it). But I am glad my time there is almost over and I can get back to my writing. Words. It will be nice to submerge myself in words again.

So here are the last of the individual pieces in their finished form.

"The Gift of Fire"

"The Measure"

"Give Me a Reason"

"Naming Names"

a portion of "Now I Know My ABCs"

Since I've included lots of pictures of the abecedary poem, I won't give you all of it again, but I'll say I'm quite pleased with how it came out. I now have rhymes and objects for every letter of the alphabet and it hangs together with something of a story.

So now I will be concentrating on getting the installation put together and next week we begin hanging the show and time!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Into the home stretch now.

I wrote up my list of artworks for the show, titles, materials used, and prices. I was a bit amazed to see that I have 18 pieces for the show (this does not count that 1 piece has 25 separate pieces to it) plus the installation. No wonder I'm so tired.

Even as I was putting the list together and talking to Deborah (the program coordinator) about the timeline for the next two weeks, I was working on one last piece. I swear, I have a version of OCD - I can't stop making art. I put "The Measure" together today, stained the boxes for "Give Me A Reason" and "Naming Names" (plus cut strips of paper for them), and then started this last piece which is another mask piece with the mask covered in strips of text for the myth of Prometheus. I'm pretty happy with the result. All in all, I think the show will look great.

The timeline for the next two weeks is basically finish up everything this week and then hang the show Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Be finished hanging by Wednesday.

Thankfully, I'm done with my classwork for the semester, so I can concentrate on the show full time for the next two weeks. And then it happens. And then it will be over, I will collapse for a day or two, and then be back at work on Choice, getting it in shape to start looking for an agent. Writing. Oh, yes, writing. That will be nice. I think I remember what writing is...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Being "lazy" today (in quotes because "lazy" means spending the morning at an organizational retreat that I put together, then going to Costco), but lazy means that I'm not working on anything for the art show today, which may come back to bite me, but, whatever...

I've been working on some pieces at home. I've pretty much finished up the abecedary poem - filled in most of the blanks. I just have to figure out something for 'U' and something for 'Z' - other than that, it's really solid and holding together well.

Here are a couple of pics - 2 new pieces that I'm working on:

This one is "Give Me A Reason"

And this is "Naming Names"

Both will be interactive with strips of paper on which people can write a reason or a name and then put it in the cup.

(And you can see my very messy work desk behind the pieces as well)