All original images and text are copyright 2008-2018 Liz Sweibel

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Two trajectories are defining my days – one pulling me forward to my work, and the other pulling me down and away.

The first:  I let go of rules I’d made about how to have a studio in my home and asked my brother to put up drywall over my (plaster) foyer walls.  Such permissions sound simple in retrospect; this one took more than two years.  And it closely followed December 11, the anniversary of my mother’s death.  Now, with wall space in addition to my huge table (the envy of all), I have a workable studio.  A few days ago and perhaps synchronously, I was notified that my work will be shown at Gallery Korea in 2011.

At the same time, I feel a malaise that I attribute to a kind of middle-age exhaustion.  I’ve read that this time of life can bring a loss of optimism, idealism, possibility.  I’m struggling with that, because those qualities are fundamental to my character.  I feel betrayed, confused, and frightened by how unfamiliar I can seem to myself.  I’m disallowing my natural responses to the world.  They cost too much, cause too much disappointment.  The tide and the odds are pushing too hard against me.  The word jaded comes to mind, but I reject it.  Tired, yes; beat up, sometimes; down, often.  Those are passing; jadedness seems permanent.

Interestingly, my malaise lifted temporarily while watching In Treatment a couple of nights ago.  The premise of psychotherapy is that each person’s pain is valid, that the moment-by-moment events of a life have weight, and that it is worthwhile – arguably necessary – to look at them.  I’m grateful for the reminder that my sensitivities are intact, if clouded over, for now.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I took this photo of my mother at Hogback Mountain in Vermont in August 1982.  I don't recall anything about the trip, but my family rented a great farmhouse in nearby Marlboro for three or four summers around 1970.  Her expression seems to hold those memories and the painful two years since my father's death, as well as a sadness I always see in her eyes.

When I wrote on the anniversary of her death, I mentioned her father's depression.  (Christopher Payne's book of photographs, Asylum, just shot to mind.  I want it.)  It was severe, and he was hospitalized more than once.  She didn't much talk about her childhood, but she did tell me of a day when her father asked her if she was his daughter, after a hospitalization and electroshock therapy.  How excruciating for a child, to become unfamiliar to a parent.  All I remember is him sitting in silence in a chair in the sun by the window, in an immaculate short-sleeve white dress shirt with his newspaper and cigar.

Mom was much younger than her three siblings.  My sense is that her childhood was a hard-to-reconcile combination of love and neglect.  (Mine too, differently.)  Mom was the first to die; only the oldest, Harriet, survives.  She is 93.  Her and Mom's relationship was confused, as Harriet was 13 years older and had parental responsibilities she never quite shook.  My mother struggled to separate from Harriet, made more difficult by them both being artists.  It's interesting to compare their work; both were abstract painters, heavily influenced by Hofmann, Picasso, and Matisse.  Where Harriet's work is cerebral and linear (she's said to me so many times, It's all about space, Lizzie), my mother's was figurative.  For me, the difference matches the differences between their personalities.

Oh Lord.  I just previewed the post and saw the date.  It's my father's birthday.  He would be 82.

While I'm haunted lately, I'm also detached.  Two anniversaries haven't registered until triggered the day of.  Near misses.  Rather than anticipate the anniversaries, as I did for years, I'm flirting with the anticipatory guilt of missing them.  I have some of my mother's journals.  In one she wrote that guilt is the only man-made emotion.

This charcoal hangs in my living room.  Its clean lines are uncharacteristic of her work (brushier, looser, more exploratory than known), but it's a great drawing.  I see I'm reflected in it, which seems apt.

Untitled (The Fat Lady), Patty Sweibel

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another Anniversary

On May 28, the day before the 30th anniverary of my father's death, I wrote a post about him, and noted my intention to write about my mother.  I'm a little embarassed to say that, until a little while ago, I was unaware that today is the 24th anniversary of her death.  How I became aware is one of those mysteries of synchronicity.

I went running this morning; the lake is starting to freeze.  Gazing out at it, a voice behind me said "Wow, is the lake frozen?"  I turned to see a boy of about 12 or 13 with his skateboard.  "Not all the way through, just in spots," I said.  His response?  "I go away for a week and everything changes."  Well, that was a little breathtaking.

Over the brunch ritual that follows a weekend run, I began reading about Lily Rabe, the daughter of David Rabe and Jill Clayburgh, in last Sunday's Times.  When I read that Clayburgh died November 5, my breath caught.  I've had Jill Clayburgh and my mother on a parallel plane since An Unmarried Woman.  I got very emotional and then just knew today is the anniversary.

I remember Mom being very moved by the movie.  She must have related to Clayburgh's role as a woman trying to solidify her identity apart from her marriage.  While the character was divorced and my parents were together, my father was a dominating presence and the times were such that women stayed home and raised the kids.  My mother was a painter, though, and needed more.  My father encouraged her, but also wanted dinner at 6 pm, his independence, and his way.  In other words, he wasn't about to babysit the four of us while my mother painted.  He wanted to ride his motorcycle.

(Ours Was Off-White)
The struggle between convention and desire was an undercurrent in our household.  Within the suburban model of that era, my family was a bit other.  We had a Jeep Wagoneer in the late 1960s when all the other moms were driving hideous station wagons.  My mother was "seeing someone" way before therapy was common practice.  There she found her voice, which she promptly used to tell my father (loudly) that she was not just his wife and a mother but a painter, dammit, and she needed a studio.  I know this because I heard her from my bedroom on the third floor with the door closed; they were in the living room.  My father cleaned out a room for her to use as a studio within days.  It could be hard to tell, but I know he really loved her.

My mother's strength and self-doubt were roughly of the same caliber. (That may be common among artists; the doubt propels the work.)  As a child of the Depression and her father's depression, I suspect she had a lot more in her adult life than she ever imagined in some ways, and less than she wanted in others.  Jill Clayburgh's character lit up the gaps and the struggle, and that must have shook Mom up.  Had she had more time, I think she would have filled many of them, and it's heartbreaking she didn't get the chance.

I have struggled with this post for a long time (and accept what that signifies), and it's still not there, but it's not going to get any closer.  This drawing of my mother hangs in my dining area; it's signed Amie '61.
Patty Sweibel
March 17, 1931- December 11, 1986

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When I returned to the vellum-and-thread drawings today, I saw a note I made last time:  same thing holds them together as tears them apart.  In my Drawing Center portfolio, this got translated to vulnerability and strength seem to come from the same source.  The two are not synonymous, but I think I thought they were at the time and must have been trying to transform the rawness of the first phrase into something more refined.  Why?  There's something self-destructive about my original phrasing, reminding me of Dana Schutz.  It's about being one's own worst enemy and best friend.

Dana Schutz, Self-Eater, 2003

Dana Schutz, Feelings, 2003

Some of these drawings reveal rules as I work on them.  Sometimes it's necessary to use just the length of thread I started with, and stop whenever it ran out.  It would have been a lie to start another.  We can't always foresee what we'll need, especially when we act without a plan; we lose some chances as life moves along, while finding others; and we don't get do-overs.  We make do with what we have, and the limits of making-do press on us to be creative - or at least accepting.

Today's run felt almost wintery.  The wind was up in Prospect Park and the sky was turning that could-snow gray, though it wasn't cold enough.  A few hard-core picnic-ers were out.  The leaves are down; just a few - mostly red maples, I think - still have a substantial number hanging on.  The birds in the lake were all tucked into themselves, bobbing out in the middle.  This year, I noticed a new bird late in the season; I'm not bird-savvy, but it could be a cormorant.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The leaves seemed to fall fast at Prospect Park.  When I went running Sunday it was still quite leafy and colorful; three days later, most trees are almost bare.  The swan family is still a unit; the four signets are almost full size, with only the top layer of wing feathers still brownish-gray.  They wander farther and more independently.  The day was colder, too, and windy, but clear and bright, and the run loosened my mind enough for me to feel - not just know - that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  This was my almost-favorite holiday second only to my birthday; when I turned 50, Thanksgiving moved into first place.

I don't have many traditions in my life (distinct from rituals, of which I have many), perhaps an outcome of losing my parents so early.  Traditions in my extended family continued after their deaths, of course, but I was thrown so far out of orbit by the losses that I lost my sense of belonging.  Thanksgiving was also my mother's last holiday, in 1986.  She was very sick.  I believe she hung on just to celebrate it, because our family tradition had a lot of potency for us all.

In the mid-1970s, my father found a beautiful, small, off-the-path park while motoring up the Miami River in our runabout.  My parents started a tradition of having Thanksgiving there; we'd bring tables with cloths and real silverware (by car, not boat).  We had frisbees, whiffle ball, blankets to lounge on.  All of our Florida family and close family friends were invited.  It was a great time; the spirit of it was just right.  When my father died in 1980, his ashes were thrown in the river by the park, and my mother carved his initials into a palm tree by the shore.  No wonder she hung in there for a last picnic.  Her ashes are there now too.

I was living north of Boston and began my own tradition of ordering Thanksgiving pies from a farm in Ipswich.  The pies were great but it was equally the ritual of calling to order them on November 1 and making the beautiful drive north to pick them up the day before, alone.  I'd wander the bakery, looking at all the jars of things and dried flowers and petting the farm cats passed out in rocking chairs by the fire.  I'd go outside to look at the farm animals, then back in to warm up.  It was a tradition I loved, even though I was always sad doing it.

The first time I went back to Miami for Thanksgiving was in 2003.  I went to the "new" park, which the family had moved to for convenience.  I went to tell them I was leaving my marriage.  It was awful, actually, between the message I was bearing and the strangeness of what I'd hoped would feel familiar.  The new park was not Sweibel-style at all; it had thatched-roof huts, grills, picnic tables, bathrooms, lots of convenient parking, and a crew cut.  People make reservations.  We liked things more unruly.

Tomorrow I'll go to my cousin's in NJ, which has become a much-loved way to celebrate.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just Last Night

Ann Waddell, Sacre Coeur Couple
Ellen Eagle wrote me that she'd found the work of Ann Waddell and the students she teaches (in Beijing), and was so enthralled she wrote Ann a fan note; I, in turn, was so enthralled I wrote Ann a fan note.  The photo above is from her blog, with the post:  "Seeing couples has made me a little sad lately...  It's good there are a number of things making me happy."

Reading last week's Sunday Times last night (how great that it lasts a whole week), I saw Sophia Coppola has a new movie, Somewhere. The review of Stephen Dorff's performance says:  "Without work to fill his days, Johnny is marooned on some inner desert island and has no idea how to get away....  When his exasperated ex suddenly dumps their 11-year-old daughter, Cleo, on him, he seems confounded.  But as he and Cleo spend time together, he rediscovers what it means to be responsible for someone else."

Also last night, I was listening to Sinead O'Connor's Theology (I prefer the London sessions) and reopened God's Silence, a book of Franz Wright's poems given to me by Justin Bigos over a year ago, which I still haven't finished.  Each poem is so full; I read some of it and become saturated, then the rest doesn't penetrate.  I reread and get maybe a line farther along then fill up again.  Some I can't seem to digest.  Something in them pushes on something in me very intimately and deeply; I'm being explained to myself in a new language.

The juxtapositions here, juxtaposed with changes in my family and friends, are asking me to check in with myself about my solitude, and whether or where or when it might become loneliness.  I spend most of my time outside the classroom alone, at least 75% of my waking hours.  I'm not lonely, with rare exceptions, but I am aware of an anticipatory loneliness.  I'm very aware of growing older.  Having God the overt subject of the music I was listening to and the poetry I was reading is so far from my ordinary experience it struck me, and made the question of earthly loneliness suggested in Ann's blog and the Somewhere write-up more poignant.  The role of work in my life is not so far from Johnny's.

While the number of things making me happy is substantial and the loneliness factor low, I'm not sure how I feel about growing old alone.  I love living alone - could imagine being in a committed relationship and still living alone - but am not sure I'll always want to be alone.  At 53 in New York City and not getting any younger, will I have the choice?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The paper attachments that showed up on the drawings last week feel to me like building; they suggest gutters or shelves - something architectural that holds or catches and perhaps clogs.  I'm piling small strips of paper in some of them.

This series increasingly seems like studies for work to be constructed, which is new for me (as is being without a studio ... not a coincidence, I'm sure).  In addition to working with the gutters, I'm making tears in the paper as part of the sewing-and-knotting process; the tears echo the cutting into drywall that I started in 2008 but haven't had space to pursue.

Liz Sweibel, 2010
Liz Sweibel, 2008
I can become intensely aware of my self as I work, and see myself execute these tiny, laborious, precise acts in a dogged, somewhat surgical effort to build a graceful, simple, secure place for valueless shards of paper and leftover thread.  I'm compelled to absurd acts of caretaking that are deeply meaningful for me; all my work bears traces of it.  Sorting through stuff on my studio table this morning, I found some notes from the proposal I wrote for the "Day Job" exhibit at The Drawing Center.

That job came to feel like the hollowest caretaking; no wonder my artwork suffered.  The irony, of course, is that the work I do with discards feels more authentic than the work I did at that college.  My notes say "College Inc.," a reference to a very disturbing Frontline segment.  The DOE's gainful employment crusade may be a too-broad attack on the for-profit industry (LIM, where I now teach, shares nothing with those schools), but if that's what it takes to protect people from being preyed on by scam colleges, so be it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Smack Mellon has a one-year studio program I might not have applied for before the Governor's Island letdown, but some reserve of tenacity asserts itself, without my conscious help but with my gratitude.  I selected work for my application to document the potential of time in a "real" studio, so five of the images were sculpture and installation pre-studio-loss in 2007 and the rest digital images and drawings made since.  In fact four of the five recent pieces are from the last month-ish.  They seem to me to point to real space more compellingly than any of the collage series that have preceded them, and so I didn't fret over their newness.  The four I included are below.

Smack Mellon asked for a portfolio script, which turned out to be a wonderful experience of processing the ten works (in 50 words max per image).  The writing was illuminating as it covers pieces from 1998 to the present and had me making connections among them, while pressuring me for precision and conciseness.   It left me excited about this new work and its potential.  I now have three proposals out - the Millay Colony, Gallery Korea, and Smack Mellon - and feel the demons from the Governor's Island rejection are dismissed.

Liz Sweibel, 2010
Thread, colored pencil, vellum
6 x 4"
Liz Sweibel, 2010
4 3/4 x 4 1/2 x 1/8"

Liz Sweibel, 2010
Thread, vellum
5 x 3 3/8"
Liz Sweibel, 2010
Thread, vellum
4 3/4 x 4

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another aspect of decision-making is timeframe; I keep decisions close to me and don't get too far ahead.  I don't trust myself to know what I'll want in the future, and fear getting trapped in something that's lost its appeal.  I live more reactively, making decisions when they're in front of me, more or less.

In art as in life:  My work is a process of immediate decisions that responds to what's actually there without a fixed (or any) vision of what will come of it.  I may end up with rubble but it's the only way I end up with work that surprises me.  The work takes the lead; I listen and follow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

About seven years ago, I was asked how decisions were made in my family.  I was leaving my marriage.  Two clear memories crystallized the whole issue and I could say without hesitating that decisions seemed to me to be inconsistent, compulsive, unexplained, autocratic.  I'm not a believer that kids should have an adult voice in all decisions or are entitled to know more than is appropriate for their age and rank, but I do believe their internal processes should be taken into consideration and treated with respect when decisions affect them.

When I was in fourth grade, I was invited into "fifth-sixth," which was a two-years-in-one class that combined the best and brightest from the four elementary schools in the area.  The hitch was going to junior high a year early, which was daunting.  My parents told me the decision was mine, and I took it seriously.  Riding with my mother in the car one day, I brought it up and said I still hadn't made up my mind.  She said, "Oh, we already accepted for you."

As I was graduating high school (I was 16, thanks to fifth-sixth), my father suggested I go to Europe between graduation and college.  While it was a cool offer, it came with no specifics, like how one did that or with whom.  I didn't have a clue, and didn't even know what to ask.  After some weeks passed, he told me the offer was off the table because I hadn't done anything to show I wanted to go.

In between those two events, my family moved from NY to Miami Beach (in the middle of tenth grade ... ouch), with little notice and no explanation.  I just thought my father wanted more sailing time and had come to an opportune time to leave the business he partly owned.  Well, he did want to sail more, but he was also in a bit of a squeeze and leaving town was the smart move.  Of course my parents couldn't share that with a 14-year-old, but the move came so suddenly and at such a pivotal time for me that the silence about why or that it might be hard for me left me feeling invisible and insignificant.

In making my work, I prefer decisions that are reversible, whether I can undo something or redo it. I tend to avoid setting up irrevocable, no-turning-back actions.  I relate that to these early experiences and doubts about my decision-making that I carry with me.  Also, nothing gets lost that way, which may be more to the point.  To make a decision that's irrevocable and erases other possibilities or existences is too much responsibility, too prone to regret or grief, too like the process that cost my family so much in Florida.

When I teach contemporary art history, I need to peel students off the idea that all art is self-expression in the therapeutic sense.  Yet the artist's self makes the decisions, and their patterns relate to something.  I'm reminded of Heide Fasnacht's comments about subverting the self, when I met her at Vermont Studio Center.  Do I do that?  Enough?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This has been the most focused, productive weekend I've had in s-o-o-o-o long.  I'm alternately elated and weepy with relief and gratitude.  The thread drawings are fresh.  I don't know them.  The opacity of the vellum adds a sculptural element, makes the work physical, and adds much possibility.  The sewing and knotting slow me down.  There's tension between control and letting go, front and back, visible and less visible.  And as a bonus, I suspect and hope that these drawings could lead me forward to sculpture and installation.

I also got a beautiful run in today in Prospect Park, albeit with about a million people walking for the American Cancer Society.  The swan family I've been watching continues to travel together; the four signets are almost full size but still gray on the outside.  I see white beneath.  The turtles were also out sunning.  Last time I was there, four turtles were lined up on a log in the lake, each with one rear leg extended, like a turtle arabesque.  It must be a drying strategy to prevent mold, sort of like the swans throwing a flipper over their backs, which I wrote about a few posts back.

What a relief to go into the work week having had this weekend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Through the drawings, some things are starting to make sense.  Until I moved to NYC in 2004, the work I was making was very slow and labor-intensive.  I had the luxury of time and could engage really, really deeply in repeating a set of processes for as long as it took.

Liz Sweibel, 1998, Threshold
Liz Sweibel, 1998, Without

I have much less time now, but still need that quality of experience.  I've found ways on and off these last years - the tiny sewn pieces and collages are examples.

Liz Sweibel, 2005
Fragile as Glass II
2 1/2" x 2 5/8" x 1/2"
Liz Sweibel, 2007
Interior 16
1 7/8 x 1 7/8"

And I've lost more than time - my Queens studio, my sense of visibility in the art community, my financial net.  (As if on cue, Joe Cocker just came on with A Little Help from My Friends, the anthem of my ex-husband's all-friends band, with Jack singing lead.  He'd have a big bottle of Absolut in his pocket - "talent juice" as he called it, but he didn't need it.  We'd all wait for that yell.  My ex, Chuck, would be on drums or guitar.  It was an unbelievable amount of talent in one garage, basement, or yard.  Band parties were some of my happiest times in those years.  I still miss them.  But I digress.)  Of course, I have also gained much.

So:  working at home is having me find ways to get that quality of engagement without much time or space AND without being able to leave much stuff out given the disrespect my two cats will inevitably show.  It seems I'm leading up to delivering what I thought was an epiphany but is not even news or new, but another reconfiguration of what I do, to meet new times.  Here are two drawings from a new series:

Liz Sweibel, 2010
4 x 4 3/8"
Liz Sweibel, 2010
4 5/8 x 4"

Even when it feels so different (as the above explanation to get to an old point proves), it's the same.  And it is different, but it is the same.  And the same is good, in the sense that it makes it my work.  But different.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not winning the Governors Island residency knocked me down hard for 24 hours and kept me down for twice that.  I forced myself to apply to another residency right away, like getting back on the horse.  I'd felt a brief but powerful tug to stop applying for anything, and eventually came to the resolution to spend less time on each application. Given the likelihood of winning, I invest a lot of time. My applications don't even improve, necessarily, from over-tweaking.

I am slowly starting to draw, building on the homework Ellen assigned and I completed (successfully).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Here I Am

From Ellen's directions:  "Subject matter, media, scale is your choice. Handing the work in, is not."  From Ana, one of the librarians where I teach, when asked what she learned on a leave of absence:  "It doesn't matter."  She wasn't saying that what she learned doesn't matter, but that she learned It doesn't matter.  It's stuck with me and, when I'm lucky, it surfaces when I'm weighing a decision that has no real significance.  It doesn't matter whether I do this or do that, it only matters that I do.  It's not a way of life for me, but a strategy I can use to keep it moving.  It's been my mantra this weekend in the studio.

Like the good student I am, yesterday I began drawing from observation using a pencil, the only divergent path being my choice of vellum over Stonehenge.  I wanted an unfamiliar surface.  Everything about it felt stupid and awful.  So my first rerealization (I know this, have known it forever, just periodically have to unearth it all over again) was that I'm not interested in drawing what I see.  I'm interested in drawing what I can't see but what I feel and know and need to actualize.  I'm rereading Daybook with my students, and Anne Truitt describes it for herself as "attempts to catch the threshold of consciousness, the point at which the abstract nature of events becomes perceptible."

I took another sheet and started making tiny circle-like marks in an intuitive pattern, then flipped the vellum over and used a pink Prismacolor pencil to give the marks a ground.  The marks suggested holes and so I turned to needle and thread for the next drawing, and the next, and the next.  And each time I felt myself overdeliberating I thought, It doesn't matter.  I kept it moving and made quite a few.  They suggest an architecture/establish a place, with a carefully placed occupant or witness in collage or colored pencil.  More from Truitt:  "Sculptors, relying as they do on subtle kinaesthetic cues for the apprehension of weight and form, may be more dependent than other people on placement."

I can only be the artist I am.  To compare myself to those who make grander, public gestures on similar themes isn't fair; it's an act of judgment that makes me invisible to myself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010

From my kitchen window I can see the shaft of light from Ground Zero quite clearly, and the Empire State Building alight in red, white, and blue.  There seems to be an inordinate number of sirens going off, not car alarms but fire and police.  I wasn't living in NYC on 9/11; living here makes the day even more unfathomable.

Not Giving Up

The most forthright statement I can open with is that not until recently have I even fleetingly thought of stopping, of closing up shop.  I won't stop, I can't stop, but the thought doesn't contradict that.  It's just a thought.  What's behind it is the frustration of this ongoing block and the challenge of making enough time and finding enough courage to push through it.

I've asked my dear friend and colleague Ellen Eagle, who knows me and my work intimately and how hard it is now, to stay with me on this, so of course she is.  I have homework.  I'm to draw with a blank mind and show her some drawings when we Monster Tuesday night.  (Monster is the verb form of feasting at Monster Sushi on 23rd Street.)  It sounds so straightforward, except that it isn't, plus I don't have a paper-and-pencil drawing practice, which of course might also work in my favor.

I'm thwarted by my expectation that my work be Good and Important, and that prescription for paralysis has been in effect for awhile.  The sense of futility that got entrenched in me at my previous job also entrenched the paralysis, because the work I find Good and Important feels so much further beyond my resources than it ever has.

I must get out of my own way and do my homework.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rest in Peace, Willa

I've been reconnecting more with my Boston art community.  I miss these artists and my critique group dearly; it is about the only aspect of my Boston years I still mourn for.  I'm fairly isolated in NYC as an artist, and it makes it all harder.  I was invited into a critique group shortly after moving here in 2004 and was in it for a couple of years, but it was unsatisfying - and that was more painful than the isolation, so I left it.  Part of the appeal of the Governors Island residency is to meet other artists and work in a shared space for awhile.

I've been in closer touch with Marty Epp-Carter, who was my Boston studiomate and crit group buddy, and remains my dear friend.  We went through an enormous amount together, from our day-to-day art and life exchanges to my intense MFA years to the simultaneous end of our long-term relationships to our moves out of our fabulous studio to new parts of the country.

One of the special treats of our studio life together was that Marty brought Willa, her yellow Lab.  If they arrived after me, Willa would charge through Marty's studio up the steps and back to mine to say hello before the leash was off.  Willa made a huge contribution to the home-like quality of our space.

This morning Marty is saying good-bye to Willa, who has grown very old.  When I got Marty's note last night, a huge wave of grief and loss crashed down on me.  From my experiences losing Spike and Riley, the moment will be cutting, and the absence will resonate for many, many months and linger forever.  Rest in peace, Willa.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I've spent time in Prospect Park the last two days, and there was much to take in.  After my run yesterday I stopped by the lake to watch this swan - a really big one being really territorial.  He was bullying away all the ducks in his vicinity, run-paddling through the water to disperse them.  I didn't know a swan could move so fast.  Once he had cleared his space, he started a major housekeeping project.  It was absolutely a performance.  Any duck that got too close he'd chase off.  He started to move toward shore.  When he got in water shallow enough to stand, he started the next phase of cleaning, facing his human audience.  Out of nowhere, this little duck paddled up behind him and bit his ass and paddled away.  Hooray for the little guy.

Today held multiple events.  First, I fell again.  I looked away for a nanosecond and went down.  I was on the dirt path, since it's better for me to run off the pavement in terms of the pounding.  (I won't make the obvious joke.)  I took the brunt of the fall on my palms and really bruised my left hand, which was still bruised from last time.  I was upset, though of course kept going, covered in a fine Brooklyn dust.  My hand is going to hurt for weeks; it's swollen and tight and tender.

I parked myself by the lake afterward for a long, long time.  And it dawned on me:  This practice - of sitting by the water by myself for long periods, just watching and thinking - has been life-long.  In elementary school I'd ride my bike to the town dock with my fishing pole.  I didn't use bait or intend to catch anything, so the pole was a prop to make people think I had a practical purpose and wasn't just a young girl who preferred solitude.  I spent a lot of time at the duck pond by myself too.  These memories reinforce the Governor's Island residency, which feels very vulnerable to want so much.  I'll know within a month.

There's horseback riding at the park.  The horses are nice to see and seem well cared for, unlike the heart-breaking beasts pulling the carriages in Central Park.  As a string of horses walked by, one beautiful brown animal suddenly laid down (its rider slithered off gracefully considering) and started rolling around on its back in the dirt.  Amazing.  This giant animal, saddle and all, was just rocking out in the dirt.  He stood up, his rider remounted, and off they went.  Wonderful.

There's more!  Late afternoon must be swan bathing time.  A family of parents and four signets were floating close by each other, each busy with its own cleaning.  Each also had one leg somehow flipped over its back.  The flipper looked affixed to the swan at a ridiculous angle, at odds with the bird's grace.  That each swan was in the same awkward position floating close to the others made for a strange landscape.

Time to ice my hands.  I'm upset about the fall.  The last one was July 28, exactly a month ago.  Odd.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Step, Then the Next. Repeat.

I finished my full-time job Friday.  While I was more than ready, having been planning my departure since spring, it was surreal and not the purely celebratory moment I envisioned.  I have unfinished business there, so that fuels some fuzziness in my departure, and perhaps that made it slower for me to realize I'm out.  Walking away my last day, I purposefully went straight across town - to exit the barren neighborhood of the college toward areas that remind me why I live in New York and toward where I now happily adjunct.

Yesterday, I began experiencing not going there.  It's a huge relief, yet I've always struggled with transitions.  Little of my time is structured now; I teach three mornings a week and have the rest for prepping and grading, writing/editing jobs, and reinvigorating my studio practice.  My financial anxiety is high.

I did submit a proposal to "Day Job" at the Drawing Center, the result of an eleventh-hour decision to either come up with an idea that resonated or not submit (unacceptable).  The collage-based ideas were dull and rote and forced.  Maybe I needed to be done with my job to free me up, as the better idea came (the day the proposal was due, of course).  It is as good as I could produce, and I overhauled my Artist Registry portfolio since that's what the Selection Committee will be using to see work.  It's hard, knowing what a long shot these things are, but it's no shot at all if I don't submit.

What I'm finding is that I need to cork the self-chatter that would have me wing it in my unstructured time.  I need to have clear objectives for each day and then not argue with myself or let myself off the hook.  I'm also planning to do much of my schoolwork at LIM so less comes home, especially grading.  I'll be more efficient there, and home will be clearer.  I'm grateful that LIM, unlike many or most colleges, welcomes its adjuncts and provides nice workspace and a good, friendly environment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beginners Mind

As I ease out of my full-time job (one week to go), I'm seeing with more clarity (and pain) how silenced I am in my work; it set in with the loss of my loft in October 2007 then took deep hold starting in 2008.  I'm starting to see that the worst thing I can do is go into my studio and try to "pick up where I left off."  I did that last week, and while I felt some success in the bare fact of working, I was sidestepping how inconsequential my work has come to feel.  My attempts to maneuver the collages into a proposal for "Day Job" are forced and futile.

Better to stay out of the studio.  Better to create conditions that will help me open up.  I don't know what they are (and barely what they aren't), but think one place to begin is to ask myself some very hard questions and be unsatisfied with every answer that doesn't make me cry.  Another is to acknowledge what gets me going, since I'm so shut down that whatever does must be very important.  I think starting with the latter will help with the former.
  1. In a single museum visit, Anne Truitt first saw the work of Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, and one other artist she could not remember.  In a kind of epiphany, she realized she didn't need to work in the service of materials but rather could make whatever she wanted.  Her breakthrough piece, First, came soon after and set the course of her work for the rest of her life.
  2. In the Art:21 episode on Doris Salcedo, a studio assistant told of one day when they heard gunshots outside the studio in Bogota.  They were working on Unland: The Orphan's Tunic, weaving strands of human hair into cloth and table.  He said something like, "What can you do but drill millions of tiny holes?"  The only response to violence is to dig deeper into what we can do to protest it, even if it's the accumulation of a zillion seemingly tiny acts.  Salcedo's work - what she can do - gives the victims and survivors a voice.
  3. Douglas Weathersby used a small project he did in my Boston studio to make photographs, which I never forgot.  Even his invoice was special.  He integrates his life and work, and achieves a kind of intimacy and universality where the risk is pettiness or grandiosity.  Alethea Norene, an artist I learned about this week, strikes a similar chord.  So does Nina Katchadourian.
I'm going to leave it at that for now.  Three is a good number.  I meditated this morning.  I'm going running this afternoon and will think about (1) making whatever I want that (2) does what I can do about what's most important to me and (3) seeks integrating my day-to-day into the doing.  Being back into regular running is a big help these days.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Size ... Scale

I've been in the studio all day working with "Day Job" ideas.  I fall into illustrative mode when I'm out of my practice or pushing myself to explore a set theme, and the work tends to be immature and heavy-handed.  But I worked solidly, and since it is the first time in many weeks and has left me with things to think about, I am satisfied.

The experience of my full-time job is a potent mix, from the thrill of seeing students progress to anguish over my sense of complicity with my employer to astonishment at the thinking and behavior within the organization.  When I try to net it out, the job has made me and my efforts and abilities feel small and futile against the dysfunction in the college and the larger cultures in which it operates.  My idealism has taken a beating; I'm disillusioned, angry, and deflated.

So what does that look like?  I'm spring-boarding off my series of collages, thinking about size and scale.  A clear distinction was put in front of me recently:  size is absolute and scale is relative.  The architecture of the collages is interior and is not a scaled-down version of the world but a to-size portrait of my interior life.  The size matches my body, and the viewer's, which is how they are intimate.

Their exploration of scale is another matter; scale shifts ask the viewer to look more carefully.  They deliver nuance, surprises that complicate the perspective.  So if the collages' small size is one way to call for a viewer's attention, scale shifts are another.

My full-time job has shrunk me as a person, made me feel less powerful and able and less good about my potential to have an impact.  It's also produced a scale shift; I experience the poverty and pain in the world as much, much huger than before.  I feel utterly tiny beside it.  This is not my employer's doing, though; I've been exposed to new people and cultures, and that could have happened in any number of environments.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Chink

The Drawing Center released an open call to Viewing Program artists for an exhibit titled "Day Job."  I began writing last night and in 20 minutes produced a lucid explanation of my situation from a perspective I'd not been conscious of:  essentially, that while the theme of my work has always been care, relationship, and paying attention, my day job has shown me the stronghold that abuse and exploitation can have within and between communities and individuals.  And not just shown me, but inserted me into.

My work feels puny in its shadow.  No wonder I feel so lost; no wonder whatever I do feels so futile; no wonder my work feels irrelevant in relation to my art heroes.  The need to leave my job in order to continue working has been a much bigger force than I knew.  And now that I am leaving, I can't just pick up where I left off, because its puniness is exposed.  The "Day Job" proposal comes at a synchronous time (it's even due August 23, the Monday after I leave); it's having me understand and confront this sooner than later.

It's also tapping my sense of being under-ambitious in my work, a sense that predates and stands apart from my day job.  In Prospect, Anne Truitt writes, "I remember a life-or-death feeling that security lay only in independence.  And I remember grief, grief that the cost of independence was an unspeakable loneliness."  Independence was essential in my growing-up too, and I've never learned to take on anything that was bigger than what I could do myself.  It could well be that my growth now hinges on my willingness to challenge this, and in the instant of writing this I feel myself grieving my ways of working, instantly forgetting that I don't have to give them up but do have to question and expand them.  I've grown too comfortable, which is grating given how uncomfortable I am.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Easier Said Than Done

The studio is excruciating when it's been dormant, or nearly so, and when I've gone through so much time and so many changes since really engaging that I don't know what I make any more.

I worked with paper today, then wire, watching myself struggle to construct something that stands up or is coherent out of small, undefined bits.  It's the same struggle I'm having outside the studio, in my working life, made worse by my concern that I won't get ahead of myself in the studio to help with the risks I'm taking outside it.

The real need now is to open my work up to whatever it needs to be.  Isn't that what I'm making all these changes for?  When I think of my art heroes, a miles-wide chasm opens between what I do and the work I most respect.  I feel like a little girl looking at the grown-ups and wanting something, but not sure what it is for me or how to go about finding out, let alone how to get it.  This is a hard, hard, painful thing to feel at my age - the logical result of how I've lived, but that's small comfort.  What is a comfort is writing.  Or is it a distraction?

Now that the shock's worn off from yesterday's fall and I've taken stock of all the places that are scraped or hurting, I see I'm lucky I didn't seriously injure or break anything.  I plan to go running again tomorrow - to get back on the horse.  Same with the studio.  I'm very agitated.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In My Head, Gardening

I'm very much in my head.  The upside is my head is a better place to be, as I'm getting excited about the next phase:  more art, more teaching, more flexibility over my time.  When I was waiting to give notice and lagging, my wise friend Alicia promised I'd get my energy back once I leave.  Just giving notice has helped.  I've been going running more, which energizes me, so the momentum is positive.  I have the next four days off and will be able to move into the studio.

There's a lovely small house that I pine for when I run.  It's architecturally out of place, but quietly so.  (I empathize.)  The front yard has an ivy cover, and a garden along the facade.  I was imagining what I would do with that garden - English-style, with lilies and ... - when I hit the pavement.  I was down before I knew I was falling.  I saw my bruised shoulder right away but didn't notice my bleeding knuckles until a half mile or so down the road.

Why the photos?  They seem an apt juxtaposition to my roller-skating days.

It's strange to fall as a grown-up.  I fell twice before in the last couple of years.  One was also while running (though on a path in Prospect Park); the other was while walking along the street at night and missing a cliff in the sidewalk.  I had to chase rolling cans of cat food and collect my asparagus.

At 53, I can still bounce up from a spill and keep running.  It's reassuring given the changes ahead.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I started a post a few days ago but wasn't able to find the right tone, or the many right tones.  My connection to my self is fragile and I'm quickly overwhelmed.  I resigned my full-time job.  On August 20 I return to independent worker status.  I've got a nice line-up of fall classes to teach at LIM College and a book to edit, but need to be in marketing mode 24/7 to get this new life off the ground - and keep it aloft.

My reasons for leaving my full-time job are complex but boil down to making space for my artwork to grow into and the impossibility of continuing to work for my employer.  I adore the students but have come to feel complicit with practices I can't abide.  The leaving is bittersweet; some colleagues and many students have touched me.  I'd like to write about some of the students but feel tentative.  Their lives are very different from mine, and writing from where we've connected seems to risk romanticizing them, and that is at best unfair.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Fire Island

Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, 7.15.2010

Sally invited me to her family’s Fire Island beach cottage last weekend, one of the best invitations ever.  The stress goes out as soon as I board the ferry and the nostalgia comes in, like a tide.

I took the LIRR to Bay Shore Thursday night so I could wake up on the island.  (The photos are from my trip.)  The station names echoed - Jamaica, Freeport, Lynbrook.  Friday morning over coffee, I started talking about my parents’ deaths, sad narratives I hadn’t spoken in a long time.

That night I dreamed I was running from a string of violent crimes I’d committed.  I was running with someone; I don't know if it was a man or woman, only that I was at risk of getting caught having done harm.  I'd grotesquely reduced one victim to a balloon animal.
Platform, Jamaica Station, LIRR, 7.15.2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marquez on Time

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes "...and then they understood that Jose Arcadio Buendia was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room."  This is an incredibly beautiful and poignant sentence.

I'm getting emotionally overwhelmed, between opening wide to memory to write my LMCC proposal and upcoming changes in my immediate family (chosen and of origin) and work life.  My wonderful cat Riley's death was a year ago Saturday, and that's with me as well.  Everything just feels so sensitive.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Braving Want

I'm finished with Turn, and as much as Anne Truitt's way and work move and inspire me, we don't live in the same (art) world or time.  If I want my work to be visible, I have to market it - hard.  Her fortunate early meetings with Kenneth Noland, David Smith, Clement Greenberg, and Andre Emmerich laid the foundation for her career; even the way she writes about these introductions, casually, is to visit a different universe.  But her marriage to James Truitt already had her traveling in rare circles, though she didn't seem to feel of them, and so perhaps other rare circles would seem equally "normal."

I'm working on an application to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for a Swing Space residency on Governor's Island.  I want this so much, and am making my want public.  This residency is perfect for me - the island locale, the ferry commute, the studio space, the work hours available and expected, and the fit with my work and the life I'm maneuvering toward.

The trick is it's project-based; I'm oriented to process.  So I'm taking that as a new challenge too:  to envision an outcome that the tools and spirit of this residency will particularly make possible.  I'm getting there, daydreaming and making notes on the subway.  The application is due July 22.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Echoes reconcile."

Paul Chan spoke in a panel at MoMA last night about Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, which was staged in the Lower Ninth Ward in November 2007.  Other panelists were Robert Lynn Green, a life-long Lower Ninth resident, Katrina survivor (he lost his mother and granddaughter), and neighborhood ambassador for Chan's project; Greta Gladney, Executive Director of the Renaissance Project, a nonprofit committed to quality-of-life in New Orleans; and Christopher McElroen, the director.  Kathy Halbreich of MoMA moderated.

I must be relating all these facts because there's so little I can write to convey the human and humane power of their conversation.  Green's everyday eloquence (wearing socks with flip-flops with his suit), Gladney's professionalism just barely and not always holding back a well of high emotion (her family home is in the Lower Ninth), McElroen's pointed sensitivity to place and people, and Chan's profound intelligence (and humor) (and absence of ego) (and gift for articulating his thoughts) made for a bittersweet, poignant coming-together that had me holding my breath and holding back tears (not so successfully).

I've been thinking about the pull of geography, and how bird-like many of us are in our magnetic draw to a place and what it holds.  For Green and Gladney, Katrina was an unfathomable devastation of their place.

Paul Chan's statement about the project is well worth reading.  The power of art to bring awareness and compassion and to effect change doesn't get better than this.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Return to the Studio

It's been a long time since I went into my studio newly, with no work under way.  Since I begin with process and materials rather than idea, it's a matter of going in empty and hoping something will come out.  It's unnerving (at best), waiting without knowing what I'm waiting for or whether anything will come, but it's how I work.  My grad school theory instructor, Iain Kerr, introduced me to the idea of active waiting, and that's saved me from just plain waiting ever since.

I'm reading Anne Truitt's second journal, Turn; continuing to have her voice in my ear feels necessary and soothing after Daybook.  Truitt would see her sculptures whole in her mind's eye, then make them.  Executing a vision has never worked for me (as spontaneous expressiveness never worked for her).  So it's not about the studio in particular that makes Turn so valuable now, but Truitt writing about getting older, being alone, seeing changes in her body and energy, and remembering her childhood and parents.

I made some marks on small pieces of paper (most about 1 x 5") using black acrylic paint and a piece of wire.  The awkwardness of the tool made it impossible to fail (should I be foolish enough to seek success), and the marks would be something to react to.  I can't remember when I last touched raw materials, between working on the Web site and before that working digitally and before that making collages, which come about differently than my drawings.

The marks of black paint suggested a broken landscape and I began working into the gaps with graphite or colored pencil.  Each drawing has one type of mark or shape (lines, circles, squares, or x's) in one color beside the black.  I made about 15 of them, thinking and investing as little as possible.  It is remarkable how my touch, vocabulary, and concerns so insist on themselves.  These drawings are no more than the busywork of waiting, but they're still of me, and that is good and valuable reassurance at this delicate juncture.

I'm readying to recommit to my work as I haven't since losing my loft in October 2007, which was just three months after an incredibly affirming experience at Vermont Studio Center.  It is a new time for me, and I don't know what that means other than that my determination and need have become more powerful than the things that draw me away.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Day After, Plus

The new Web site is launched; early feedback is positive.  I had a huge wave of anxiety after sending it live last night, but seem to have recovered without permanent damage.   I joined Facebook today.  I despise it.  Utterly.  It's ugly, it's cluttered, it's juvenile, there's irrelevant stuff I can't seem to make go away, and it's hard to work with.  Do I sound like a dinosaur?  Some excellent advice I received about developing my presence as an artist on the Web is to go where the people are.  The people are on Facebook and so I'm there now too, even if the earth shudders when I walk.  I'm sure I don't have my settings right yet, but I can't fool with it for another moment today.

I was not accepted into NYFA's Artist Boot Camp, but it was the nicest rejection letter ever.  So nice I responded to it.  I wrote that while I'm disappointed, I'm making my own boot camp.  With one camper.  One tenacious, passionate, determined, fed-up-with-the-status-quo camper, who is returning to studio practice now that the Web site is done.  And looking for opportunities to exhibit.

Tomorrow is Marina Abramovic's last day at MoMA.  I wonder how she feels, what this has been like for her.  What will it be like to stand up, knowing it is done?  What will she do on Tuesday?  Wednesday?  I visited last week, and the line to sit with her was halfway around the Atrium.  People were meditating, holding yoga positions, drawing her, sneaking photos.  Some looked like they were performing (yuck).  It was crowded.  Abramovic looked exactly the same as she did in March, except her dress is white instead of blue and the table is gone due to some inappropriate behavior.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Big Anniversary

The entire month of May was very difficult for me for years, as my father spent the month in the hospital, then died on May 29.  Tomorrow will mark 30 years since that terrible month.  It's still sort of unbelievable to me, because I can summon and feel his presence and voice.  I miss him, as I was too young to be without him or to have achieved any kind of adult relationship with him, and he was too young to die.  He was 51; I am 53.  I have questions, lots of them, and the wish we had had time to overcome the emotional barricade we had up to hide our very real love and like for each other.

I've been working on my new Web site for weeks, and knew I wanted a meaningful launch date.  It was only in the last week that I realized the site is close to ready, and of course it's no accident that this anniversary was right in front of me.  So my new Web site will launch tomorrow.

My father was complicated.  He was charismatic, quick and smart, funny as hell, a late-blooming sailor, and scrappy.  He was also angry, frustrated, sensitive, and a bit rudderless.  He didn't finish college and had no career as such, but applied his inborn entrepreneurial spirit to what seemed right at the time, from the bar in Harlem to a mysterious company that made him rich, to semi-retirement in his early 40s, to some investments that drained his resources, to buying a small wire company that had nowhere to go but up, which he ran fairly happily (or so it seemed, though I'm sure he would've liked it to be more lucrative) until he died.  I've been told he felt he lost his touch after he emerged from semi-retirement, and my feeling is that he gave up in some fundamental way.

I note this because I'm a lot like him and I've run a somewhat parallel course.  While I did finish college (twice, actually, plus two master's degrees), I also earned a lot of money way before my 40s, and have been struggling financially ever since allowing my artist-self to live.  (I don't, however, have a family with four kids.  Thank GOD.)  I'm at a point where it feels like I either declare myself the artist I am and put that first or give up and be a hobbyist.  The latter is so repugnant that it's helping me overcome my fear of the former.  The new Web site is my symbolic and practical claim to my identity.  It's a gift to my father, but also a refusal.

I'd be remiss in not mentioning my mother here, since she was a gifted painter and as much an influence as my father, but her story will be for another day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On Commerce

Why does it feel like I have to keep money and art separate?  I've been reworking my Web site for weeks, and one of my intentions is to set it up for commerce.  Even the intention feels a little shameful, like it dirties me as an artist and cheapens the work itself, as if the content and formal strength of the work spill out when I put a price on it.  I know this isn't new or just me; it's the myth that starvation and art are a productive line-up, that the baseness of money and the loftiness of art should not meet.  (Not surprisingly, I'm not a fan of Koons or Hirst.)

I've spent a lot - I mean a lot - of hours trying to tuck a little shop into a discreet corner of my site.  I've invested days trying to keep "serious" visitors from noticing that some work is for sale.  Finally, I'm seeing that all this time has been me buying into exactly the division I object to.  I've been working so hard not to offend others' sensibilities or feel like I'm selling out that I've been setting up to starve myself.  It's a one-woman drama.

How could I think it better to keep good work in a drawer than to make it available to people who might love to live with it?  Art is the start of a dialogue; without a viewer it may as well not exist.  While there's a rich history of reclusive or invisible artists - the Philadelphia Wire Man, outsiders, Joseph Cornell - wanting to move the work into the world is not intrinsically anything.  I've kept my sights narrow.  And when I grow arrogant enough to think I've learned to suspend judgment, I run smack into one, and it's always me judging me and it's always rooted in fear.

Maybe now this new site will move forward so I can get back into the studio.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Roller Skating

I wrote a week ago that my father was good with a camera, then posted photos whose value to me were as clues to where he might have worked and what his world was like before I was born yet he was married and adult (or maybe not so adult; there was something about him that never quite grew up in "normal" terms, as there is with me).

He took the photos below when I was two or three, and even though my stake is personal, I love them - for the mood and light, the movement, and the unself-consciousness, interiority, tenacity, and adventurousness I see in myself as a little girl.

I'm trying to reground myself in these qualities now. I have to, if I'm to stay true to my gifts, my needs, and my ambition. I feel like my life has come to a deciding place about what the rest is going to be. This isn't morbid thinking or high drama, but the reality that, at 53, if I don't leap I will look back and know I betrayed myself. That's not my nature, but the tug to playing it safe is real. I am single, with not much of a net, so I have only myself to rely on. We're all in that situation, single or not, but in practical terms, the bills have to be paid. The emotional risks are at least as daunting: exposing my interior life, both in my work and in going public with my ambition; not knowing what forms my work might want to take in the world; and being afraid to find out because it may be a lot to want and require me to extend myself in utterly foreign ways. Wanting, not knowing, being imperfect, and asking for help were unsafe in my family, particularly with my father, and so these fears are as essential in me as my tenacity and willingness to take risks.

It's 5.30 am and the sun is coming up over Brooklyn - stripes of brilliant coral, golden orange-yellow, and pinkish-gray; a soft, cottony edge where the sunrise meets the leaving smoky blue night sky. The birds are very chatty; their voices seem to come from everywhere and nowhere. The temperature is exactly right. This weekend is two perfect days of spring, weather not to be taken for granted in New York.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I've been working hard to push through into my work and get more involved in art in the city.  For last night, I'd signed up for a panel on social issues in artistic practice, and rushed there after work.  I couldn't find it.  The address didn't exist, or was one of those hiding art addresses that you have to know to know. I wish it didn't bother me but it did.  I walked back and forth a little, self-conscious.  [Postscript:  When I got to work this morning, I saw my Post-It with the address on my desk, and I hadn't remembered it correctly.  But it doesn't matter.  It's the same thing.  A part of me doesn't want to go to these events and so I find a way to not go in the end.]

I seem to remain on the periphery despite my conscious pushes to engage.  I'm more comfortable here.  Once again, Anne Truitt's Daybook offered comfort this morning, when she summed up a rich passage wth, "My natural focus is interior."  Her book is a gift to me, particularly with the turbulence in me now.

So I gave up on finding the panel and climbed up to the High Line (first time!), stretched out on a lounging bench, and graded exams.  It was beautiful and felt good, but also, still, separate.  There was no winning with this one.

Earlier this week I went to see Kate Gilmore's Walk the Walk in Bryant Park.  It was 8.30 am and raining, and the women were reluctant to start.  That's understandable, but when they did they looked miserable.  I'm not sure whether Gilmore was good with that (wanting nonperformers as she did), but I wasn't.  I wanted them to be less self-involved in that way, or maybe it was fine and I was just irritated they were late starting and I had little time.  The brilliant golden-yellow of the structure didn't sit right with me.  Blood from a Stone, at the Brooklyn Museum, and Standing Here, at the Whitney Biennial, were more successful for me.