Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Art & Life, Intertwined

I have a horrible memory. I am one of those people who loses names a second after they are spoken. I forget doctor's appointments and birthdays unless they are programmed into my cellphone. I keep an art business notebook on my desk where I record each packet sent to curators, summaries of phone conversations, deadlines, etc. to keep my career together.

Yet, I can remember what was happening in my life when I was making each work of art. I recall what I was thinking about when I made specific brush strokes, even on paintings that are over a decade old. I know who I was dating when I made The Fertilization Dress, embroidering three sperm an hour for days on end, thinking about that someone I was with who never wanted to have children. I worried about the fate of my brother through the entire process of making The Initiate. Blessed Art Thou was completed over Christmas, when I was hosting a house full of family... I planned what cookies to make while painting the figures below.

There is something about the nature of working with fiber that seems to "tie in" the life experiences in a more intricate way than painting. Hard to know if it is something about the activity itself, or the way time passes. Perhaps the repetitive nature allows the mind to wander into real life a bit more while working.

In my real life today, it is pouring rain, the tail end of Hurricane Fay passing over NC. I am propped up on the couch in the den with blankets around me and candles lit, embroidering. My husband is on his way to Kansas City for an interview, because exactly one week after we spent an ungodly amount of money on IVF, he was laid off, along with about 50 other people, in the annual corporate cutback. Our insurance ended the next day, so we are shelling $800 a month out of pocket. We are supposed to be getting our house ready to put on the market, but things are not going well with the pregnancy, so I am confined to bed rest and cannot help.

I met my husband when I was 41, after a long, fun, free & crazy single life that I always assumed would go on forever. (My shrink once asked me what my love life theme song was, and I replied, "that's easy... Ain't Nothin' Gonna Break My Stride".) It blows my mind when I think about where I am in the universe right now, sitting on this couch, gestating, trying to be still and peaceful. At this moment, I am quietly concentrating on the two jobs before me:
1) making the work, and
2) being a safe vessel (denying every programmed fiber in my being that tells me to go, go, go and to push, push, push)

I, like many artists, have said that making work is like a prayer, but it has never been more true than it is today. Because no matter what happens, forever, the stitches in my ice/guardian angel painting and the new hair embroidery will be stitches that attempted to "sew in" and secure this life inside of me, while thinking with each stitch, "Stay. Stay. Hang on, little peanut..."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bedridden, the artist takes breaks from embroidery to begin Peter Plagen's new novel, The Art Critic, being released in installments on Artnet. An excerpt of the protagonist's trials and tribulations:

"Don’t misunderstand me, Arthur argued with himself while he put his coffee cup into the dishwasher in his compact but smartly appointed downtown apartment, it’s not the real estate bonanza nor the wussification of a formerly gritty Noo Yawk neighborhood that gets me down. (I’m il wusso del tutti wussi.) Nor is it walking up and down those Alphaville Streets in desperate search of art with feeling rather than strategy at its core; nor is it, particularly, the monotony of one deluded, aspiring David Thornton wannabe after another displaying -- to the accompaniment of laughably pseudo-enigmatic publicity material -- another artist they think to be the next enfant terrible. (I can usually assent to either half of the term, but hardly ever the whole.) No, it’s the art itself that gets me down.

How many paste & doodle shows am I condemned to see today? he asked himself as he plodded up the subway stairs at 18th Street. How many discarded supermarket flyers drawn on in attention-deficit anger spasms with crayons or Sharpies, à la Jean-Michel Basquiat, will assault my eyes? How many dentist-diploma pseudo-academic "texts" with every other word ending in "-ification," written by artists acting as their own theorists-at-law, embalmed on birch plywood under glossy layers of polyurethane, will I be forced to read while I stand on fucking cement? How many Rocky-­Horror-­Picture-­Show-­meets-Fashion­-Week performances will I be forced to endure? How many Granny’s­-attic­-on­-crystal­-meth installations need I stumble through? How many huge Cibachrome prints of exquisitely posed suburban-gothic banalities, produced with budgets that must have consumed whole trust funds in a single gulp, must I try to decode?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Have some things going on.... ordered to bed rest by the doc.... luckily, embroidery can be done in bed!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Impending Exhibition...

(click to enlarge)
Just drove my niece & brother back to the Charlotte airport this morning.
(Georgia asleep en route)

Been working on the dining room table this week instead of the sewing room so that Georgia could color at the table and ask questions about why one would deconstruct a flag.
will ship it off tomorrow, then will be wrapping up the embroidery on paper and starting a new, different kind of hair embroidery.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Doing the finishing work on my flag piece (back, hanging system) this weekend. I have house guests, and look forward to bribing my 5 year old niece into another photo shoot. This time she will wear a dress covered in xmas tree lights.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In our household, I am known as the one who "always has to make things better": I frequently add some embroidery or sew a new sash for the thrift store clothes that I find. It is not only that I consistently double the vanilla or cinnamon that any recipe calls for... I can't even open a can of soup without adding some sherry and a pat of butter.

I think that one of the things that makes my art distinctive is the fact that I don't ever want to let go of it until I know that I can't make it any better. I have hung entire exhibitions, only to sneak back in the day before the opening and dab a few strokes of paint on the most recently completed piece because something was driving me crazy, and it was not apparent until viewed in a new context. And I thought that the embroidery on this flag piece was finished, but I spent the whole day Monday through Wednesday refining it even further.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When Obsession Pays Off...
Via Unusual Life, a 50 minute Jon Ronson film exposes Stanley Kubrick's methods through the unearthing of his extensive archives.
The Beauty in Change

As a workaholic, I seldom indulge in sitting on my back porch to enjoy a perfect morning.

Today it is cool and breezy, the lawnmowers have not yet started up, but the noise from the birds, cicadas and wind chimes approaches a din. Next to me, Radley is in the sun, chewing on a stick that he found in the yard. A clear vase on the table is crammed with long vines, cascading all the way to the ground, preparing to grow their roots into a new part of the yard where I have detected an aesthetic void. The network of cobwebs on the porch is like a scrim, completely invisible until the sun hits it just right, and then they suddenly appear, everywhere. In Disneyesque fashion, two chipmunks are jumping from log to log in the woodpile. The grapes are just about ready, each heavy cluster lovingly tied with household string around an inflated paper bag, my husband’s invention to keep the birds from stealing them before they ripen. Tomatoes, on the other hand, must be picked every morning now. In the corner of the yard, a plank and rope swing that my husband put up for me only last month is swaying ever so slightly. I requested it mainly to use at night, but the day that he finally put it up, he was home for a late lunch: it was two in the afternoon and he was pushing me in it.... higher and higher, laughing, when some city surveyors walked through our neighbor’s yard. I suddenly felt like I was in a Watteau painting, frivolous and idle in the middle of the day. The newlywed era of our lives.

When I hear a single engine plane flying overhead, I am filled with a depth of longing one rarely feels in adult life. It takes everything I have not to jump in the car and drive to the tiny airport, ready to bribe anyone for a ride. This is my standard airborne addict response to the sound, but today it is even more powerful. Take me away please, because the earth is shifting under my feet, and I want to watch it from above, rather than feeling firsthand the jolts and loss of balance. The earthquake was sudden and unexpected, but unlike a natural disaster, the plates are still shifting, and where we will land has not yet been determined. In the coming months, the challenge is to keep my sea legs, with eyes on the horizon, as the impending upheaval begins.

My husband and I share a faith that most unfortunate events ultimately take you to a better place. We are both ambitious and work our asses off, and so career-wise, every time we have left one situation, it was to go to a better one, so there is a part of me that is excited about the prospect of a new adventure. But this morning, I am filled with the profound observation, appreciation and sensual imprinting that is present only when you know that something is coming to an end.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sorry for the spotty and photo-less posts. I spent two days this week working on my profile at the Southern Artistry website. I was invited to join as one of the fringe benefits of the NC Arts Council Award. Setting up these types of things usually goes pretty quickly, but the "publications" page gave the opportunity for links to actual webpages, so there was lots of research to do and links to set up (I used some pdfs of scanned articles from my website server as well). I am finally mailing out the thank you tie (after lots of obsessing on the "finishing work")!! Back to artmaking tomorrow and through the whole weekend....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Here is the web page for the upcoming FAU group exhibition "Political Circus": I am off to my nearest metropolitan area today to get the supplies I need for the finishing work on my flag piece before I ship it off.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I wish I could make it to Edinburgh to see the Tracey Emin show.... here is a review by Charlotte Higgins at The Guardian.
Lots of upheaval in our household this week, potentially major life changes on the horizon, but I am trusting the universe and focusing on two looming deadlines....
I will be inconsolable if I do not make it up to NYC before the Louise Bourgeois exhibition closes.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

In today's Asian Pacific News....
I also found and enjoyed this article from the London Times' Carol Midgley on the pace of our lives today and the ensuing effects. Recouping from the 8 hour drive I made today.