All original images and text are copyright 2008-2017 Liz Sweibel

Monday, May 29, 2017

No Words.

I write from Kyoto to report that this personal revolution will not be blogged; I told some people it might be.  Words are my currency from August to May.

My first impression upon deplaning in Tokyo was utter silence.  Yes, in the airport.  After the cacophony of JFK, it was glorious.  So while I walked down the JFK ramp weeping because I was afraid to leave (in a plane) and didn't feel well, I walked up the Haneda ramp teary from the silence.  It is such a relief to be free of the work of understanding other people and the need to make myself understood verbally.  I don't have to listen to anything, really; Japanese is like music.

This is a research expedition to reestablish my work's primacy.

This trip is about my eyes and their spotting-of-moments that are peculiarly mine.  I'm documenting most, and posting some to FB and Instagram.  It is beyond exciting.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reset.

I'm leaving for Japan in less than a week, and badly badly want the adventure to be a whole-body-and-mind-and-soul reset.  Something has to give.  I need the culture jolt to yank me out of the fog of world affairs and US politics I have been in for months.  I'm self-medicating with news, anxious, and relieved when some excitement pokes through the haze.

This place called "Japan" played a role in my family life when I was five or six or so, and is one basis for this trip.  In the early 1960s, Dad was doing business in Tokyo and traveling there with some regularity: enough for my mother to put her foot down eventually, given that I was the oldest of four by age six.  Her hands were more than full, and Dad would be away for two or three weeks at a time (as my five-year-old self remembers it).  (My nonstop flight to Japan is 14 hours; in the early 1960s those hours only got you to Paris or so.)

So a mound of bandanas, First Aid items, hiking clothes, and spare glasses is growing on my dresser: real evidence of a surreal moment.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Scale Shifts.

The Internet has opened life in countless ways, while closing it off in others and virtually ruining it with the 2016 election and all the meanness, selfishness, and ignorance made public during and since.  I have moments of wishing it had never opened.  I also see it - this blog and my Web site especially - as the site of the memoir I am unlikely otherwise to write.  It is a horrific time in the world, and I want to mark my tiny place in it in words and pictures.

We (humans) are at risk, and whatever good this country has been aiming for is being callously eclipsed or sabotaged by the cruel dysfunction of politicians and corporate overlords.  Famine, oppression, chemical weapons, terrorism ... The fear-fueled decisions - and some outright insanity - of the power-grabbers are hurtling the country and world to vicious, unimaginable (to me) new lows.  I was born in 1957.  The relative security I have assumed as normal is infinitely more fragile and ill-gotten than my younger self conceived, and now that self - my self - is stupidly astounded and ashamed at my unseen privilege.  I have learned much about Otherness in Facebook conversations.

From May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, starting with a quote from Robert Coles (in a 1970 New Yorker article):  "'Not everyone can or will ... give his specific fears and desires a chance to be of universal significance.' To do this takes a curious combination of humility, excruciating honesty, and (there's the rub) a sense of destiny or of identity.  One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private, and one must also believe in the vehicle for expressing them."

I wrote the post below almost a week ago, and this scale shift helps validate the attempt at introspection:

On Thursday evening I hurt someone I love; I was insensitive with my words.  I learned this when I got home, and felt my insides go liquid.  I don't recall my exact words; I was oblivious to their potential to insult.

I arrived at the gathering tired and still slightly irritated from the teaching week (and semester, and year), and was anxious to appear in better spirits than I felt.  It doesn't work very well; the anxiety is more of an obstacle - a danger, even - than a low mood.  Out of it comes my uneasiest behavior: spews of words.

My apology - sent that night - was accepted early the next morning, and my chest and shoulder muscles exhaled. Still I slept all day into the night, except for one errand and PBS from seven to nine.  My physical energy was consumed by the emotion, and the lethargy added worry that the emotion would lodge itself.  Today feels much better, and I hope I learned something.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Anticipatory Grief.

Leading up to Big Emotional Events, I'm full-on anxious and a tad obsessive; on FB, I described myself as "howling" in the days leading up to my sixtieth birthday.  I also knew that I would be back to (ab)normal on the actual date and thereafter, and I was and am. There is a history to this.

In 1975 my father had a massive heart attack; he was forty-six; I was a sophomore at the University of Florida.  We had gone to Crescent Beach for the day, my first college beach trip.  The phone was ringing when we got back to the dorm, and my mother told me to come home.  I don't know how I traveled from Gainesville to Miami Beach the next day; I do remember the evening before, sitting at friends' apartment, paralyzed and still and silent.

I also remember seeing Dad at Mt. Sinai the next day.  This bull of a man - the only reason he survived, I'm convinced - was tied to a thousand ICU machines but conscious.  We could only stay a minute.

Dad managed to stay alive for five years, slowly returning to a four-day workweek at his factory, Martin Wire Company.  My brother was diagnosed with dyslexia during this time, and the family was in enough upper-middle-class Jewish distress that we were referred to a psychiatrist, Warren Schlanger.  The therapy was prompted to support my brother, but he didn't engage; the rest of us clamored for airtime and eventually began some one-on-one relationships with the doctor, me included.

My mother was so touched to see Dr. Schlanger's name in the guest book at my father's memorial in 1980.  And she must have seen the doctor after the death, because she later told me that his perception was that my family began grieving Dad at the first heart attack.  Anticipatory grief.

This week I realized that my mental picture of Dr. Schlanger has merged with that of a psychiatrist I saw in the late 80s in Cambridge, Mass., Robert Okin, who I largely credit with saving my life by taking it (me) apart.

At 7.48 am today, I did a google search for Dr. Schlanger - who I have assumed many years gone - and he is eighty-two and in Palm Beach.  I need to think about that.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sixty.

I am sixty years old today.  It's 8.20 am as I begin writing - something I have been longing to do for awhile but unwilling to take the time for from something else, whether the priority of my studio, the obligations of my day job (endless grading and prepping), or my own tendency to slip in front of my own way and stop me.  Already today, I have wept for my parents, neither of whom lived to sixty, and lit two yahrzeit candles that now burn on one of my mother's beautiful plates that I usually save for asparagus.  I have read an essay by my dear friend Anne Pierson Wiese (published in the New England Review!) and - of course - her words spoke to me, to today, to my parents and history and love of objects.  I feel Anne's writing inhabiting this writing, and both are so lush with memory that it took a few seconds for me to realize that the birthday candles on my google home page are for me.

When I clicked, I was reminded that I share a birthday with Eric Clapton and gained a new connection:  it is Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day.  I don't know what that is, but have decided not to find out so I can keep my amusement to myself.  I may have to shout at some point before midnight.

I have also attended to the mundane, like wrestling with Rosie and a baby wipe to clean her rear end.  She's very round and needs help.  I'm usually left bleeding, and today is no exception.

I planned to see the Whitney Biennial and visit select Chelsea galleries today, things I routinely miss.  But I changed my mind, opting to stay closer to myself in my sunny Brooklyn home, where I can allow this writing to be important enough, work in my studio, and read exactly what I want before celebrating with family.  (And grade the last three student outlines, also closer to myself than the Biennial.)

Aging is extraordinary. My thinking and feeling have slipped in ways I don't appreciate.  It's harder to allocate time, knowing my life is more than half done.  It has crystallized how hard I had to work to grow myself up in my 20s and 30s and even 40s - because of their deaths and the nature of their lives and gene pool - and that that effort eclipsed other kinds of growth.  Today, at sixty, my life is where I would have wished it at forty or forty-five.  But then I was married, graduating college (again), living in the white suburbs of Boston.  Somehow, I left at forty-six and rebuilt in NYC, where I started.

I live two blocks from an apartment my father lived in in the late 1930s and short distances from other Brooklyn homes my parents occupied as children and newlyweds.  I didn't know any of this until after I bought my apartment in 2008; my parents died before my questions arose.  As the keeper of the "family boxes" for my brothers and me, I found my mother's high school yearbook shortly after moving in.  Reading "Bedford Avenue" on the cover, I was stunned that my running route goes by James Madison High.  My father went to Erasmus (which I knew), and I live between the two.  This bird-like migration is a comfort; having been drawn home gives sense and meaning to a life that is both very rich and still in search-mode.

Turning sixty has occupied me for weeks now, and I didn't realize until this morning's tears and candle-lighting that I have left my parents behind, again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Almost another year has passed since writing, and I just ordered Journal of a Solitude ... how interesting, inevitable, and agonizing to reread from a year ago and see that my questions and struggles are pretty much as I left them.

What is shifting - by forceful intention - is my attitude toward my instinct for solitude and meaning-making. It isn't a weakness or flaw or source of self-consciousness unless I do that to myself.  It is what grounds me and gives me a voice.

"Brain Pickings" has become an antidote to despair, or a vital inspiration to reshape despair into drive.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How nice to be drawn back to this blog after so long.  Just watching myself choose where to put myself in writing - one of my journals, personal e-mail, Facebook, my Web site - is interesting.  Why am I choosing to give such access to myself today?  A question for our times: countering feelings of invisibility, inaudibility, irrelevance, impossibility.  And isn't it as good a way as any to reach out to the dead?

I problematize everything about myself.  Since when?  Oh, must be junior high, the source of all evil.  I recall a confidence and sense of belonging in elementary school that evaporated upon arrival in seventh grade; everything I knew and trusted about myself came into question in my pining to be "popular."  But since I had stopped liking myself, the effort (and it was gargantuan) was futile.  The story of adolescence.

But I never stopped problematizing myself, a habit surely formed during years of therapy.  My last therapist said she wasn't sure how much more she could help me; my awareness and insight weren't lacking, so perhaps she could just help me stop beating the crap out of myself.  She tried, and sometimes remembering our work together helps me to back off myself.

Recently, I've been self-critical for spending so much time alone at home (also my studio).  Should I make a bigger effort to socialize?  to go out?  I've always been a loner.  Even in elementary school, I had friends but often rode my bike to the Woodmere dock to "fish."  That meant sitting with my feet dangling with a fishing pole, unbaited; I would have been horrified to catch anything.  I appeared purposeful (if strange to the men in the bait shack, which I once or twice entered) but my actual purpose was to be alone.  I once brought a friend with me, tentatively, knowing it was risky, and that confirmed my intuition it wasn't something to be shared.  In trying to connect, I only felt exposed.

I made this pencil drawing in 1996, as an undergrad at MassArt trying to communicate myself to myself.  I'm en route to the dock, passing a willow tree I recall as being in front of Randy Ross's house.


So where is the problem?  There is a problem, but it's only about getting out and doing more, not the preference for solitude.  Winter break is coming (at last), and I'd like to see myself get to the Guggenheim for The Trauma of Painting: Alberti Bruni and to galleries.  What inhibits that I'll leave for another day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I think of writing here almost daily, lately.  Four draft posts sit; the starts were so directionless I abandoned each.  I've been thinking about the places and ways I write, and I don't know where this blog fits, or if it does fit anymore.

I like writing in my notebooks, wcould I likands, so I can flip hysical act oback hether quick notes .  They're a jouhere are no revelatiornal in that they are not for otherI have a studio the public and forth notebook and a couple of floating e the pf writing. t in my hnotebooks.  s' eyes even as tns I'd woI like having irry about or something closer to paragraphs

Draft 5 stomped on and abandoned.

But I was here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I just carried my parents' old wing chair from the foyer into the bedroom, which involves a couple of turns that I maneuvered in a new way; whatever the old way was was no longer a physical possibility for me.  I got the chair where I wanted, but realize that to think of it in terms of being out of shape or tired is to think of it as passing, changeable.  It isn’t.  That’s my experience of getting older, and of seeing myself start to live and perceive life from a new (old) perspective.

No one can prepare you for it, and I can’t prepare anyone.  Now I get it.

Sometimes when I try to impart a lesson I consider somewhat fresh and exciting to me, it may not be one my students are or should be ready for.  The likelihood, though, is they’ll nod then forget – as I did, until now – and no harm done.

Frank Bruni did an admirable job exploring life after 50 in a recent NY Times article.

A colleague in Israel sent me a beautiful image called "Winter Blossoms at Jordan Valley."

 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Moving the studio home, my attitude has ranged from true excitement (at being able to grow things for my work, since I'm here to water) to disappointment that I'm "back" (oy, the judgment in that word) in this situation and anxiety about getting my work off the ground (interesting word choice; climb a sprout?).

The word "mindfulness" has become trite, but the concept and necessity are timeless.  I'm not meditating now ... can't generate interest in sitting.  Interest shouldn't be the deciding factor, of course.  I want the benefits but not the discomfort.  Sitting has to become habit (like running), and for that I have to decide to just do it for the weeks it takes habit to form.  Any negotiating of the decision changes it or requires me to muscle it back, so there can't be negotiation.

What is working for me recently is a conscious, constant effort to bring my attention 100% to whatever I'm doing, no matter how trivial or easy, and keep it there.  The immediate result is I'm more connected to and satisfied by the task; it's palpable and makes even banal efforts rewarding.  I also see the immediate effect of any dilution of focus:  I forget what I'm doing, do it wrong, or do it differently than I intended.  What's stunning is how far away I can travel from the work-at-hand before even noticing I've left.

Basil Day 4

Friday, July 25, 2014

It dawns on me that I've not felt fully settled in NYC since returning in 2004.  No wonder I look around my apartment and see nests:  found nests, made nests, suggestions of nests.

The loft was always a transient space; the trauma of that mass eviction (2007) still affects me.  Judy and her third floor in NJ were the net that caught me and helped me keep sanity, momentum, and Timmy and Riley as I sought my next roost.  I took a studio in South Slope while living there.

I decided right after the eviction that if there was any way for me to buy an apartment, then I would; I did, in 2008.  I gave the South Slope space up after a few months and moved the studio home.  In 2012 I became full-time faculty and rented a Gowanus studio.  Home and job stabilized!

Wednesday I moved the studio back home.  Home destabilized!  Here's a newspaper clipping I keep taped to my monitor:

 ... the one thing that doesn't dim with age is the chance to change people's lives for the better, even our own.

I have some ideas for new work trajectories and am carefully trying to implement them.  Maybe too carefully.  I'm trying to guide myself to avoid known traps, but being too cautious is as self-defeating as being too careless.  What rules do I need and what rules do I need to reject?  And how do I follow the rules that I need, seeing as my natural path is to make them then ignore them?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Today was my first full day of studio work in months.  And it’s new work.

An artist posted a query on Facebook about facing the blank canvas, inviting others’ thoughts.  Reading responses (and not being a painter), I felt a bit alone in my battle to even get myself to the studio.  I don’t mean the practical battle of time but the amorphous, tricky battle of me.  I want to go, I need to go, I don’t go.  Among the fears is something like the blank canvas:  that I won’t know what to do, that anything I do will be awful, that the psychic fallout of that is more than I feel I can bear.  (If I’m in the midst of a way-of-working this is not as substantial an issue; it’s the in-between times.)

I’ve developed strategies to sabotage my self-sabotage, one being to get to the studio very early in the day, before I’ve started any of the negotiating that I always seem to lose (win?).  Another is to set no expectations other than to be there and open.  A third is to allow myself to leave when I am ready, no matter how short a time.  These work.

The new efforts follow on the Japan drawings in globalizing my personal worries.  I am pleased about that.

As I worked today I was also reminded of my compulsion to avoid waste.  This isn’t new but seems to be growing more pressing.  Discarding something because it has become useless to me feels cruel … a rejection, a refusal to allow for its potential.  (A quote from my mother:  “Fuck potential.”  But she was referencing people who “have potential” yet do nothing [ever].  We don’t get points for that.  She was right.)  And/or:   fear that whatever I let go of I will soon need, then have to mourn not having it any more.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Written on the return flight Monday, June 30 (and toyed with ever since):

I’m at 35,000 feet as I write, mercifully that height and about three hours away from closing my responsibility for the eight students still with me.  One was dismissed, two left early to attend to family matters, and one is continuing in Europe.  I love Paris; I dislike the role of trip leader.  

I expect the students have mixed feelings about me, and I have some about myself.  After 100,000 requests (from the valid to the ridiculous to the juvenile) and judgment calls over 19 days, I know I did my best to be fair, patient, instructive, and fun.  That few of the students would see my effort as good enough (I have to assume) is a tough pill given how hard I worked on their behalf – whether they liked the form that work took or not.

But it’s not just me.  I’ve not been singled out.  It is most of these students' view of the world and what it is supposed to do for them.  The limits of my ability or willingness are received as an inconvenience rather than as a meaningful boundary.  They are always right in their own minds, and unmoveable in that there is no other possibility than their rightness.

And then, home for 24-plus hours:

What am I to take away from all this?  That I adore Paris – ADORE it – is not the hard thing to come to.  It is the obvious thing, the thing that rescued the experience.  What else?

And now another day-plus beyond that (and more consistently alert):

I am going through baguette withdrawal. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I wrote this post on June 15 and am only returning to it these nine days later:

Is it a set-up or naive to be longing for a transformative experience at age 57, given (literally) 18 days in Paris?  I left NYC so depleted and anxious that I almost couldn't leave NYC, wanted to crawl inside myself and pull the door closed tight; had someone offered me an out, I would have only been able to refuse by telling myself that my nature is to resist the new - and that, once on the other side of the transition, I am likely to be so thrilled as to be embarassed by my fright.

So, at age 57, if I can't escape (or even short-cut) this pattern of dread ... herculean effort to act anyway ... delight, then how available could I be to transformative experience?  My hope is that, now more or less on the other side of the transition, I can open wide.  I am opening, bit by bit, and aspire to wide, will try to commit to wide.

Paris is so utterly different than NYC that I feel foolish for having said "Why would I use my scarce time to travel going to a city?  I have city.  I need not-city when I'm away."  The comment wasn't made in the context of the gift of a trip in exchange for bringing 12 college students to a seminar.  That almost makes it worse:  that I would have believed myself had I not had the opportunity to realize the narrow-mindedness (and NYC-centricity) of that comment.

Paris is lower, wider, slower, softer.  In just three days here, NYC seems so hard.  I knew it was hard, but not so hard ... harder.  While having about three words of French and being alone is making me self-conscious about engaging, I feel comfortable here in myself:  wandering, looking, taking pictures, making notes.  That has to be the opening for bringing some freshness into my life.  ("Transformation" is such a sappy word.)  I started reading The Snow Leopard, a choice made to build my confidence, tell me it's OK to want more (and less), and to put the relative safety of my travels in perspective.

I am sitting on a bench in the Place des Vosges, a ten-minute walk from my apart'hotel.  It is cool and breezy, and the park has started to empty as people head to dinner.  I came here on a walking tour of the Marais yesterday, and veterans from D-Day were here in uniform.  The 70th anniversary (June 6) was a huge celebration.  There will be few years of having soldiers who lived the experience alive.  Will the forgetting accelerate when we don't have to look at them?  Four visitors to the Jewish Museum in Belgium were murdered May 24, and there were police guarding (a ladybug just showed up on my Mac) a Jewish boys' school in the Marais by the Memorial de la Shoah.

Now, these nine days later, the phrase "be careful what you wish for" has taken on entirely new meaning.  My love and wonder at Paris continue; my experience as a trip leader has been extraordinarily difficult and disappointing.  If I've learned anything about myself, it's that I am strong and capable and patient, and that I will not do this again.  Between my introversion and ways-of-being and the generalized nature of 20-year-old American college students, the stress and unpleasantness are not worth the opportunity for personal adventure and growth.  What I had hoped would help me turn a corner has given me a fresh day-to-day experience, but not the freshness in myself I need.  We have a few days left and, barring any further catastrophes, my wishes and expectations seem now right-sized.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What else is there, really, other than to be as kind to everyone and everything around us as we can be?  Kindness takes different forms, not all of which register as "kindness" at first glance, but it seems to me, at least at this moment, the bottom line.

Two group exhibits coming up, both seemingly of their own volition.  One at R. Jampol Projects, called "It's a Small World," organized by James Prez.  The other at the Ground Floor Gallery, which will coincide with Gowanus Open Studios this fall.

I'm in a warp:  end-of-semester (a brutal one) constriction, travel jitters, new cat (Rosie), sadness in my family.  I continue to write in All My Other Places, which is good because the need for privacy is good.

Here's a couple of pieces that might go into "Small World" (neither exceeds about 4" in one direction):




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Written March 5:  I'm still out here.  It's been a long time since I wrote here; I've been writing in all my other writing places.  It's all come down to a tiny notebook:  harsh observations about myself and the occasional a-ha.  Self-therapy.  It would be a luxury to have that type of support now, but the studio takes financial priority.  Since I'm not really active right now, it just feels sensitive everywhere.

Today, April 12:  Since starting this post I turned 57 (not easy) and got a second cat, Rosie, on/for my birthday.  She was a gift to Grace and myself.  I feel better that Grace has company.  Rosie fit right in.  (I don't take that for granted.  Many years of cat experience.)

I have been to the studio maybe four times this year.  I was there today and it's that uncomfortable, sad, frightening place of not knowing what to do.  I'm just messing with materials:  thread knotted into lengths of bubble-like circles, bits of painted and unpainted wire, wood chips from the sticks ... and then I added tiny fabric scraps I saved from two decaying personal items:  an antique photograph album of my mother's and a small, sweet pillow made from a quilt, which has fallen apart.  The fabric/wood interaction may have potential, which is soothing; I wasn't looking for or expecting that.

Soothing...  I thought of that word in the studio today; making art is self-soothing (when it's not self-undermining).  What seems ironic is that what upsets me - what I need soothing against - becomes the "message" (awful word) of the work.  (That's probably logical and obvious; I'm too close, which is OK.)  And much of what upsets me is universal, which must be part of what invites or at least allows viewers in.  Another part is my vernacular.  (Never used that word before, but I'm curious about the choice.)  It's universal and private at the same time.  And it's self-soothing when it flows.

I'm nostalgic.  I'm wearing a gold chain Aunt Janet gave me, with my baby ring on it.  Pictures of my parents and the boat sit on my piles of sweaters so I see them when I open the drawer.  The fabric bits in the studio are of this.  I'm pulling material (literally) from the past, and trying to make a whole, but I can't.  The materials themselves - my choices - won't allow it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This brutal cycle.  It arrives at a level of despair, then a spark jumps out of the exact process I had been judging as wasteful.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

fragments of our own hit the notes I wanted it to.

What We Do to Each Other, in fragments of our own


fragments of our own (detail)

fragments of our own (detail)

I hope that the modest sense of traction I'm feeling is real ... and lasting.  The exhibit was a terrific experience.  It was so gratifying to return to contextual work.  Gallery traffic was strong, and critics and curators spent time with the work.  There was a small splash of media buzz.  I'm pleased I gave the gallery talk; turnout was disappointing, but the experience was not.

Last weekend was open studios.  The work I put up dated from 2007 ... a revisiting and re-presentation in the wake of fragments.   It all feels current to me.  Had some visitors who expressed interest, including the gentlemen from Curious Matter.  I plan to visit there this weekend.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meet Mabel.


My parents had Mabel shipped back from Italy around 1969, with her pedestal.  My dad was flush then, and they took an annual European vacation.  Mabel's pedestal is with me, but Mabel is in Florida (above).  She has been there since my mother's death in 1986, when my brothers and I did not have the practical or emotional resources to deal with her.  (She is very heavy despite her lithe, albeit mossy, appearance.)

My Mom's sister Harriet, who died this past August at 95, had Mabel in her studio as a figure model.  When Harriet moved to assisted living, Mabel went to my cousin Paul's.  This photo is in his front yard.  Who in Brooklyn would put Mabel out like this?  It unnerves me to think of it.

It is likely that Mabel will return to NY. I hope so.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I drafted the paragraphs below around September 8.  Revisiting them these weeks later was interesting. I want to write more (I deinstalled today) but now need to re-catch up with myself (again).

It was a strange summer, bumpy.  After a vacation in California, my little Glenwood died.  Then, a good stretch in the studio ended with Aunt Harriet's death, and an overnight to Florida to see family and attend her service.  All with the NURTUREart exhibit simmering and fall semester coming.

I'm now on the other side of the exhibit opening and start of classes, and apparently survived.  I'd thought to document the installation's progress here but then found myself not that interested so didn't.  The abridged narrative is that I worked in the gallery Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning; fragments of our own opened Friday.  The reception was terrific.  Lots of people, a good climate.  I had more fun than I expected.

I haven't done contextual work in awhile.  Having a lot of gallery hours available to work was a bonus.  

The first phase felt familiar:  working with the wooden sculptures, What We Do to Each Other, and surfaces (table, shelf, floor).  It felt like making Parts to the Whole.  The decisions were confident.  In the next phase some self-consciousness about the new territory took hold.  Splinter installation #1 was the pivot point; it took a push.  From then on, I needed to stay connected to the ideas and specifics of the space when the questions got harder and I became more aware of time.  I felt at risk of rushing Thursday night, so stopped; Friday morning I had the answer as soon as I walked in (one I would never have come up with the night before).

I'm looking forward to going back to the gallery within the next week to see it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Since mid-July I have remained day-to-day connected to fragments of our own (with the exception of last week, the close of summer semester).  It's not about making things as much as about writing, thinking, daydreaming, running, walking, researching.  Most days come with a little breakthrough or two, as if the source of this work is undergoing (or undertaking) a stripping-away process that is subterranean for me, only making itself visible with conclusions.  Some may not make it to the installation, but they are conclusions when they are delivered.

I've felt low and worried the last day-plus, agitated and sad, overly tired.  I reflexively struggle against that - What's wrong with me? - as if any inner rumblings are the beginning of some kind of end.  Today those layers of emotion appeared in the work as if cleanly, exactly as I realized that the installation was at risk of becoming one-note.  So the internal shift was necessary, both to move the work and to recalibrate my expectations and wishes of life (and of myself).  These tiny openings snap shut quickly if I'm not hypervigilant, and always return to their starting position eventually, as emotional habits do.

I'm on vacation - started yesterday and go through Thursday - and trying to pepper studio time with not-the-usual things.  I walked the Park Slope flea market after the studio today, then sat in the open window of a Windsor Terrace pub-for-cool-ish-people and read the Sunday Times over niche beer, watching people in the street and intermittently making notes for the exhibit.  It's layers and layers and more layers.   Tangents.  It all just seems to make a return to this work.  So much of it will happen during installation in the gallery; I have to stay calm about that and remember that this is what I do; so much of it is trusting myself when that is precisely what it's taking me a lifetime to learn to do.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The work on the upcoming NurtureArt exhibit, titled fragments of our own, is coming along.  I'm surprised how much of the process is subterranean; I'm not making a lot, but a lot of ideas are surfacing that show the work is at work.

Moments ago, I was sorting through a random iPhoto collection that's long been awaiting sorting, and came across pictures I took at the Brooklyn College turtle pond in May.  They anticipate the floor drawings I started two or three weeks ago.  Below is one of each.

Turtle Pond at Brooklyn College, May 2013

Study #5, July 2013
Graphite on vellum; about 6.5 x 6"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This summer has seemed intent on thwarting my needs and hopes for it, though it has delivered a lot of lessons about myself and is - I hope - poised to improve.

Last November I booked a flight to San Francisco for vacation; I would stay in the Berkeley area with Robert, my brother and friend.  The pressures of the interim months made it hard to envision any type of break.  Once the NURTUREart exhibit came through I saw it as a retreat:  to ponder the show and catalog, to spend time alone in the Marin landscape, and to play with my brother, who would be working much of my visit but also taking time off.  I wanted to sail and hike and meditate and be quiet, punctuated by good food and good talk with my brother.

Between November and my departure, Robert's son moved home and another brother announced that he and his family would be joining us for July 4 from LA, overlapping the last three days of my stay.  My vacation had morphed into a family vacation.  I have a great family, but everyone sane knows that "family" and "vacation" are a risky match.  It wasn't that I didn't want to see them, it's that I wanted to see myself.  Unfortunately, less of that happened than I planned and needed.

Waiting for a taxi at JFK on my way home, I learned that the Asiana crash occurred 30 minutes after I took off.

Once home, I greeted Grace then went to see Glenwood.  The two were separated, as Glenwood had been struggling with an infection.  She was paralyzed: stretched out on the floor, eyes wide open and staring, utterly still.  I was at the kitty ER within an hour.  Glenwood spent two nights in the hospital, came home, had 24 hours of good improvement, then declined.  She passed away July 11.  It will be a week tomorrow, and I am just coming out of the haze of shock, grief, and emotional exhaustion.

So while I didn't keep myself company as I imagined, I did get to see myself in old and new lights.  For the old, there was some anticipatory acting out about family; I got all anxious about my boundaries and having my needs go unmet.  It's stunning how fast the regression happens; it's utterly reflexive.  It's also reinforced because everyone regresses.  For the new, in having to deal with the neighbor who cared for my cats in my absence and witnessed the worst of all outcomes, I saw the kind of person I have become.

Rest in peace, Glenwood.

Glenwood
June 1-ish, 2009, to July 11, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A  weekend I thought would be in the studio and in the company of friends has become mired in a despair that has more layers than I can sort through while in it.  I am in a coffee shop, chased from home by the grinding noise of a garbage truck emptying the contents of my building's basement apartment, occupied until yesterday by our ex-superintendent and now abandoned.

He hoarded and also left behind a dog, two cats, and six kittens, roaming the basement hall.  I dealt with animal patrol in tears.  One Board colleague seems surprised and perhaps put off by how emotional I am about this.  I am reminded of my father labeling me "hypersensitive," and a therapist asking me what that even meant and I didn't know.  I still don't, but still feel vulnerable to criticism that I "feel too much."  In the meantime, I am paralyzed to do anything other than sort and re-sort my upset about how a human being can come to the place this man did and what will happen to him and his animals and how to ward off feeling criticized, patronized, and self-conscious for having and showing emotion about it.

Abandoned Belongings


During the semesters I pine and struggle for time.  When I have it, I do battle with myself.  I'm working at home for a couple of weeks.  (Heather is in heavy-duty gluing mode preparing for Crush at MOCA Jacksonville.)  I kind of welcomed it - thinking it might make things easier right now - but the first day reminded me why I have - and love - my studio.  Extreme measures must be taken against cats, for one, and damage happens anyway.  How is it cats always know where you don't want them to go and go straight there?

It's a roller-coaster - my moods, energy, ability to focus, entire life view.  I returned to meditation; it's brutal to get it going again.  I want what it does for me but don't want to do it; my distaste for that attitude is often what gets me to sit.  I'm running pretty consistently, so that's good.

The September installation is the primary studio focus:  research, writing, collapse, nap, breakthrough, relief.  And repeat.  Yesterday's breakthrough is below.  It literally took all day.  Even as I know that I needed the day to produce it, exactly as the day went, I keep myself on the hook.  Could I be any whinier?

Wood, paint
1" x 1/8" x less than 1/8"

My formal starting point, along with the wood sculptures, is the gallery floor.  In researching the building and its times, a network of historical reference points - personal, cultural, and architectural - is taking shape.  I have some understanding of the personal content, less understanding elsewhere.  I can feel how this work can - and needs to be - multidirectional and layered but can't yet articulate it.

NURTUREart Gallery Floor

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My latex arrived yesterday and the new label - more craft-y looking than the serious MOLD BUILDER statement I was searching for - was ubiquitous in my searches.  Who knew?

In my studio visit with Maysey in March, talk of the Japan drawings prompted me to pull out my mother's pastels.  I have had them since her death in 1986, years before art school was even a thought.  In layers of synchronicity, my dear friend Ellen Eagle just published Pastel Painting Atelier.  Her mother's name is Roz; my mother was called Patty from birth (she was born on St. Patrick's Day), but her real name was Roslyn.  (She did not broadcast that.)  When I showed these photos to my cousin Judy (our mothers were sisters), she said they remind her of a Japanese sand and stone garden (karesansui, or dry landscape).  So much seems to be pointing to Japan.  It's a little unnerving as it is starting to feel like a responsibility.  To whom?

Mom's Pastels
Mom's Lines
I'm off to the studio.  One semester is done and the next starts Tuesday and there is a whole lot of family this weekend, but I will be there daily for as much time as I can.  Woo hoo.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

This is the only latex I have ever loved, and I haven't been able to find it for close to a decade because all I could remember was the look and color of the label.  My interests had also turned elsewhere in terms of materials, so it wasn't a decade of high-drama searching, just sporadic efforts.  Today, a google search of images turned it up on artsuppliesonline.com, apparently the only art-supply store in the galaxy to carry it.

Recent purchases of plaster and wire also suggest that materials that I've not used in a long time are coming forward.  Now if I could only get to the studio.  I haven't worked in earnest in about three weeks; there's too much else at the end of the semester, and I am wiped out.  All my studio time is spent sleeping or, because Glenwood is sick again, driving past the studio to the vet, as I will be in a couple of hours.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Untitled (Aomori, 3/11), 2013
Thread, vellum
9 x 12"
Untitled (Aomori, 3/11) was accepted into "How Simple Can You Get?"  The exhibit will be at Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, from June 28 to July 26.  While I'm loathe to pay an entry fee for exhibit opportunities, CAW is a non-profit and the juror is Robert Storr. Exceptions must be made.

I've not been to the studio for two weeks.  With the end of the semester, family in town, and an urgent vet visit with Glenwood, it's been out of reach.  But ideas for the Japan drawings as well as the NURTUREart exhibit are percolating, and I'm headed there today.

The floor at NURTUREart is my point of departure; it relates to the wood pieces that exist and the direction they are headed.  Interestingly, that floor echoes photos I took in Memphis before "Parts to the Whole."  I have an appointment to visit NURTUREart on May 21, when the gallery will be empty and I can soak up and map the space.

NURTUREart Gallery Floor
Main Street, Memphis
Main Street, Memphis

Friday, April 26, 2013

Untitled (Kesennuma City, 3/11), 2013
Thread, vellum
12" x 9"
The lovely Memphis couple who purchased Untitled (Sendai Port, 3/11) just purchased Kesannuma City.  With the strong response to this work, this series seems to be tapping something Out There.  I'm partially baffled at the work's strong pull, not so much on others but on me.  On Friday afternoons, determined to finish my work for the week, I instead sleep for hours if I get anywhere near a couch.  I just woke up and found a collection of Japan-related thoughts in my head.

My father did business in Japan in the early 1960s, traveling there frequently for weeks at a time (much to my mother's ambivalence with four small children).  He died long before I had an adult's curiosity about what he did there, but those trips are connected in my mind to "grow juice," a potion in an umarked plastic container that made our plants grow at an alarming rate; a storefront called Golf-a-Tron, which was an early version of indoor golf; a Humber, a British car that was shaped like a yellow cab (in black, with a red leather interior and burled walnut dash and little tables that pulled down from the front seats to cater to those sitting in the back, like on a plane) and christened Becky by my mother; and then a bigger house, Mercedes, and sailboat with assorted support boats.  He brought me a kimono and the accompanying gear for a complete outfit.

During those years I got caught up in a wave at the Silver Point Beach Club in Atlantic Beach; I didn't even know it still existed until I just googled it.  My family rented a small cabana there for several summers, and there I had my first adolescent crush, on Everett the Cabana Boy.  He kindly let me visit him 983 times a day without ever making me feel like a pest.  I remember my mother suggesting I leave him in peace, but he insisted he didn't mind.  In any case, I got caught in a wave and distinctly remember the world no longer having an up or down, seeing sea water whorling in all directions, and not being able to breathe.  It spit me out before I got into real trouble, and no one even knew, but the physical memory of being in the wave remains strong and unsettling.

I have thousands of frequent flier miles from a previous life of business travel, as Continental's club never had them expire.  Now that United ate Continental, a recent statement noted that my miles will expire in August 2014 and that I have enough to go to Japan.  I have started researching residencies there for next summer.

When my eyes opened this afternoon, these thoughts (except the frequent flier miles) were organizing themselves toward catalog content for my upcoming exhibit at NURTUREart.  This series isn't the work that will be featured in the gallery, but it may be exhibited in the office or another "secondary" area.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trash Can in Grand Central Station
4-5-6 Subway Platform
April 16, 2013
One Day After the Boston Marathon Bombings

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Two Japan tsunami drawings are newly finished.  Untitled (Sendai Port, 3/11) sold in Memphis, and I sent 10% of the sale price to the Japan Society for tsunami relief.  The check just cleared, and I would like to see that happen again.

Untitled (Tamura II, 3/11), 2012
Thread, vellum
8.5 x 11"

Untitled (Miyako City, 3/11), 2012-2013
Thread, vellum
8.5 x 11"
Untitled (Sendai Port, 3/11), 2012
Thread, vellum
8.25 x 11.75"