Monday, March 31, 2008

Dream Council

I dreamt about Susan Sontag last night.

Somehow I ended up in a small intimate room with a few other women. There were comfortable, soft chairs, warm wooden moldings and there may have even been a hint of some incense. We were sitting in a circle, discussing as friends might. Susan had our attention. She was a healthy older woman with silver hair. She spoke with a fervent decisiveness that evidenced her experience and learning. She was a woman who commanded attention, one whom you listened to, without distraction, because it was clear from the intensity of her expression that she was speaking truth.

If only I could remember what she was saying.

She was reading from one of her books at some point, and later she spoke to us on a particular subject (what it was, I can't recall). The last thing I remember was a poem that we were examining. There was some discussion about the last line of the poem. It was challenging to our sensibilities because it used the word "nigger" and so, seemed racist. One woman was questioning her understanding of the line as if to say incredulously, "Is the poem really saying this?". Susan's response clarified that the woman had misread the line and that in it's proper poetic reading, the meaning of the line was not derogatory. -- I'm not sure if I can explain it well, although I do have a sense of it from the dream --. The line was meant to be challenging. It intentionally presented this very loaded word in order to ask the reader to confront their emotions about it. The words in the poem were, themselves, meaningless, they were used because they could illicit a certain response in the reader; they could create a particular emotional state.  The challenge of the poem was to ask the reader to be open and receptive while experiencing unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings. -- Interesting, hmm?--
(I admit, it is hard for me to be open and receptive to the dream, or even myself, for having a dream that uses such a hateful word. But I sense that this conflict is kind of the point. Dreams are like that poem, it is not the actual images or events that are necessarily important, but what you experience through them.)

Well, the only other notable observation from the dream is that I was the youngest person in the room. Whatever that might mean. 


I am currently reading a book by Sontag: "On Photography" It's been on my bookshelf for years, and my mental list of "books to read" for longer. It's much more approachable than I had guessed. Like John Berger, she writes about history, philosophy, art, and culture, with an easy, unpretentious manner.
I've read another book by her, a novel, titled: "In America". It was fantastic. It presented an interesting historical picture of America at the end of the 19th century. The main perspective is from an Eastern European immigrant, a renowned actress in her home country, who comes to America, with an entourage, to start a new life. In addition to being a lovely journey into the past, and the minds of the different characters, the structure of the novel is surprising, and an adventure unto itself.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Cleaning

On Monday I spent 4 hours in my studio: sweeping, dusting, rearranging, sorting, storing, and purging. Since the new year started I haven't been in there much, so I needed to do some refreshing. It makes such a difference to clean and recompose a space so that it is better suited to ones current needs. It breathes a new life into it. 
I haven't been making much artwork during the past few months. I've been really distracted by the process of applying to school. My nerves have been on the Tilt-A-Whirl, and my mind has been busy with reflection and projection. I've been thinking a lot about the work that I have waiting for me in the studio, but I haven't been working on it. Honestly, I think I've just been afraid. For the past 7 years I've been uber-focused on my process as an artist, and on making work, but it's been mostly in isolation. I haven't had much discerning feedback and now that I know I'm going to have people paying attention to what I'm doing, I'm experiencing a bit of stage fright. I'm someone who has tended to have closet confidence. Deep down believing in myself but, in the spotlight, failing to exhibit my finer qualities and capabilities. I'm not quite sure where it comes from, but I've been challenging myself to work through it for quite awhile.  It's especially important as an artist, where one's most highly valued asset is the ability to express what one truly thinks and feels, to resolve those issues of self-doubt, and self-consciousness. That's why I've decided not to believe in them. It may sound funny to say it that way, but it's true. I mean, actually, I don't believe in them. When I have thoughts that weigh me down, and halt my productivity and the liveliness that is in me, I don't believe that those are true thoughts. They certainly don't serve my purpose. So, while I've entertained them in the past, I will no longer listen to the whispers of personal dissent. It is hard to ignore them sometimes, when they come knocking, but it is possible. Instead of fearing failure, or mockery, or judgement, I will invite the council of experience. I will present my ideas and inspirations to my best ability, and I will let my friend Response complete my understanding of their relevance and value. 
All that being said, I'm actually on my way to the studio.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artist Statement

This is the essay that I submitted with my application to the Social Practice MFA at CCA in San Francisco. It outlines my artistic interests and professional intentions. Enjoy.

Listen / Respond

Actions which expand mental space, adjust how moments are experienced, and germinate thoughts, buried within the collective mind; these are my medium. My intention, as an artist, is to enrich the experiences of people around me and contribute positively to human understanding and culture. My motivations are personal, communal, intellectual, spiritual, and practical. Two themes which are consistent in my work, and which I look forward to developing and understanding on a deeper level, are: Communication and Interaction.
In the spring of 2005, I studied with Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky in South Africa. After weeks of speaking with artists, activists, scientists, and cultural leaders, a remarkable spirit of understanding and community developed between all those involved. This experience reinforced my belief that genuine communication is a powerful and revolutionary practice. I began to explore the dynamics of person to person exchange through a series of diagram-like mixed media pieces. Using silhouettes created from found images, I composed different relationships. In some pieces, red thread was used to represent the path that thoughts, feelings and ideas can travel in their expressed form; revealing that the path is often not from A to B. In other pieces, like "Conversation", the silhouettes are arranged to show the visual form that the spread of ideas or information might take as they travel outward from their source through word of mouth. The resulting form evokes organic images like ivy or bacterial growth suggesting that our conceptual expression may not be an exception to patterns in nature. These silhouette pieces were the beginning of my ongoing artistic investigation of communication.
Interactive artwork in the form of installation, public interventions, and community based initiatives have always inspired and motivated me. One such project that I facilitated was the conversion of a burned out, boarded up building into public mural space. In this project, two groups that would normally oppose each other, realtors and graffiti artists, collaborated in order to present a positive message to the community. The murals were connected thematically, through the theme of peace, as a response to the occupation of Iraq. Our actions rehabilitated the abandoned visual space that the damaged building occupied, and showed by example that people with opposing views can work together and accomplish something positive. 
On a smaller scale, I have been inspired to work with found pennies. Pennies embody interesting contradictions. They are ever present and often ignored, they carry value and yet are often regarded as valueless. One of my penny projects was intended to draw attention to these items in their disregarded state. Each time I found a penny I filled out a label recording the state, city, date, time, and a brief description of the location of the finding. I then affixed this label next to the penny. I documented this action with digital photography, and left the penny and label to be found again. By relying on random interaction, I intended to transform the moment that one has when finding a penny into a conductor of curiosity, awareness, and reflection.
Currently, I am combining the themes of communication and interaction in a series I have begun, using tin can telephones. While still in its exploratory stages, the work is headed in the direction of site-specific installations and performances that will involve random and organized interaction.
Through a career in the arts, my objective is to be a professional troublemaker, challenging stale and dysfunctional ideology which disregards the practical importance of creativity, beauty, and genuine self-expression. I aim to be a presence in the public sphere that brings new thoughts, sensations, and possibilities into the arena of daily life. I will bring the experience of creativity and artistic expression out in the open, create public spaces that allow people to experience other perspectives on living, and challenge the dominant paradigms out in the streets through working with the minds and hearts of local and international populations. Using creativity and alternative thinking to digest the relevant concerns of the day and facilitate constructive responses, I will listen and respond. Academically, I am interested in teaching, lecturing, and writing as ways to participate in the dialogue that shapes culture.
I see graduate school as a place where I can begin my professional career. The Social Practice program is the first program, that I have found, that is in line with my artistic and intellectual interests. In the course of graduate study I aim to develop a solid understanding of contemporary theory and art practice, and gain a real sense of the opportunities that are available. Through discourse with teachers, artists, and peers, I aim to fill in the gaps that I see in my professional artistic life, and become aware of new ones. I intend to develop my art practice and learn to apply it in a context which will function most effectively. I look forward to being a part of a community of artists with whom I can collaborate, brainstorm, contemplate, and share excitement with, about the possibilities that art-making offers to us and what we, through art-making, can offer to the world.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Tulip On My Table

The tulip on my table has opened wider since I first sat down. It is facing the window. Bright afternoon light bathes its flaming petals. What was once a whole is now pieces, connected at a center. Their shapes like teardrops, emanating from one point and then pulled, as if by gravity, along a plane in 6 directions, to make their form. Some bend toward, some bend away. One sees the light and the turn of the line around their outer curve. At the top of this curve there is a dip, a tiny valley, as on the top line of a classical lip. -- The colors are bright hansa yellow, cadmium red, cadmium orange; ivory black and raw umber; surprising touches of rose madder and violet -- Colors are not always as they first appear --.  In the center is the piston, yellow tinged with green. There are 6 stamen... but what if there were no names for these things... ...Another shape, small, is at the center. It grows up and then, at the top it spreads out to create a head with 3 points; like a triangle with it's flat sides pinched in. Surrounding it are 6 others. They are like stems, yellow at the base, turning to black and finishing in a delicate purple petal, caked with tiny, ochre colored granules. These tiny petals are beautiful, lily shaped, with white centers and tips that curl and twist as in a sensuous dance. -- Invisible, the fragrance is sweet and airy, like earth and sky, it smells of spring.


"First of all, we're talking about ART here. This is our main subject."

Well, I've been thinking about this statement. Yes, it's true that ART is the anchor. However. It might be more accurate to say that we are talking about LIFE, LIVED EXPERIENCE, MEANING. We are concerned with these things foremost. We are not concerned with discussing "art" for the sake of art. We are concerned with discussing art for the sake of people; for our own sakes, and for the "sakes" of others. Art is our medium.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


First of all, we're talking about ART here. This is our main subject.

An excerpt from an email that I sent, to a dear friend of mine, a couple of weeks ago:

"It's super cold here.
I've been thinking today of how I'll cope if I don't get into grad-school.
I had a phone interview 2 weeks ago and I thought it went really well and since then I've been really excited about going. I'm supposed to hear 'yes or no' sometime this week, and it's already day #4... It's driving me nuts. One idea that I had (for if I don't get in) is to start an art blog. I've been wanting to create a presence on the web for a while. I was thinking that my first entry could start with: 'So, I was rejected from the graduate program I applied for today.', and then I could keep a blog as an artist from that day forward. It wouldn't be super personal, at least not about personal drama. It would be about my thoughts about art: my art, other people's art, the art world, etc. I could talk about my process and my background. I'm determined to continue on in the direction I'm going even if I don't get into school, and I think this could be a good way to start. I think it would be interesting to read about someone's attempts to make it as an artist. -- And then, in an optimistic moment, when I was convincing myself that I was definitely going to get in, I thought that maybe I'd do the blog anyway, even if I do get in. We'll see. At least now I have a project to look forward to, 'yay or nay'."

Friday, March 7, 2008

First There Was The Void

And Then There Was Light. 
Today I received notice that I was accepted into the graduate program I applied for.
This blog is created in response to that information; and is a continuation. Another step in the process.