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


Monday, January 31, 2011

The weather has kept me from running for more than a week, the longest break since I got my rhythm back. I can do the cold, but less so the snow, which is piled high, and, worse, the ice. I haven't even tried to find my car beneath it.  I'm meditating spottily.  What I'm doing with utter consistency is wrenching myself around in my own head so that my default position is what I'm not getting done, not feeling, not succeeding at.  My thinking is like an obstacle course, or maze.  What I can say is, I keep trying.  I am nothing if not tenacious, even as my fear is that the struggle is just spinning wheels, no traction.  I know that's not true, but my psyche is doing its own thing and I spend a lot of time and energy wrestling with it.

At the same time, I'm doing a better job of disciplining myself so that work stays in the week and the weekends are free.  I'm overextended with the work I've taken on; containing it makes for very long weekdays.  The freedom of time on the weekends has its own perils, but is of course necessary.

So I am starting this Monday here.  These small acts of self-preservation are crucial.

My work has tended to strengthen as I yield to my innate sensibilities and use materials to pull them into being.  Something different is going on, and I'm having to resist the habit of dismissing the literal.  It began with finding photographs I took many years ago, before I was making art, and being struck at their aesthetic and conceptual consistency with what my work has come to.  My sensibility is already there, in them.  That led to using them for new thread-and-vellum drawings.  Here's a studio (i.e., amateur) shot of the first one, with a detail:

Liz Sweibel, 2011

Liz Sweibel (detail), 2011
It's all there:  the space, the structure, the weightlessness, the translucency, the process, the intention.  They do what I need my work to do:  slow me, keep me present so I can reach back to move forward, find the perfection in imperfection, build through repetition, allow for the slightest of means, hide nothing, leave room.

I have about ten now, all 9 x 12 except the one above, which is an inch or two smaller and more squared off.  I want to work on larger sheets (now that's new); this particular Canson vellum only (!!!) goes up to 19 x 24.  I'm very particular about the color and texture of the surface, so will sacrifice scale if need be.  I'm researching supplies, including colored vellum (!!!!!).

Here's the second drawing and a detail:

Liz Sweibel, 2011

Liz Sweibel (detail), 2011
I've started taking new photographs, and Thin Ice is from one of those.

Liz Sweibel, Thin Ice, 2011

Liz Sweibel, Thin Ice (detail), 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

I went for a gorgeous run in the park yesterday.  I planned to go again today but prepping for the start of classes tomorrow ate my weekend whole, despite my intention to get my work done so I'd have studio time this weekend.  Next weekend, definitely.

The swan family is still intact, and the signets are still carrying some baby feathers on top.  I don't know why this surprises me.  I couldn't get all six in one photo, since dad (I assume, given my dad) was off doing his own thing.

Five ...
... Plus One

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I've been keeping up with my applications, though admittedly my goals are modest.  Working on a statement for the Saltonstall Colony, I actually had a kind of epiphany:  a burst of understanding about how my work conflates (parallels? expands?) facets of my personality and pursuits.

The bolt hit when I was trying to articulate the role of restraint in my work - and like a flash seeing it as an act of generosity.  Holding back can maintain and protect a space, which means it can allow (wait?) for something or someone to enter.  Psychotherapy comes to mind, as technique.  (I love In Treatment, and am going to catch up on some episodes when I finish here.)

Holding back is different from withholding, which is rooted in anger (and fear); my father could be guilty of that.  Withholding is selfish, so that would make the two opposites.  They take opposing approaches to creating distance, one offering possibility and the other taking it away.  Where does this inclination live?  How deep?  Can a person change?

While this might not seem like an earth-shaking observation (my insecurity about stating the obvious as if it were a deep insight), something has come into juxtaposition that I don't think I understood as clearly before.  I've carried around a fear that I'm selfish, instilled by my father.  I've had to work to uproot that, which meant learning enough about myself to know whether he was right (he wasn't) or projecting (he was).

Perhaps without consciousness I've feared the restraint in my work has its roots in hostility.  (It doesn't.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In continuing to set up my better studio I unearthed old family photographs that match the stories in preceding posts:  my mother's last Thanksgiving in the park, the palm tree where she carved my father's initials after his death, more. It was heart-wrenching.

I discovered a random, noteworthy measure of our priorities, for lack of a better word.  Every morning I open the Animal Rescue site and click to make a free donation (oxymoronic, I know). (One day I hope to see Glenwood on the home page, as I submitted her story.)  Then I click along the tabs left to right:  Rainforest, Literacy, Child Health, Breast Cancer, and Hunger.

At the start of this new year, the site reported the total number of clicks for each tab in 2010.  The differences were such a surprise.
  • Animal Rescue:  72,170,000
  • Rainforest:  10,446
  • Literacy:  411,552
  • Child Health:  668,061
  • Breast Cancer:  2,112
  • Hunger:  53,800,000

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I like January 1 ... the whole idea of a fresh start.

Art biz coach (Alyson B. Stanfield) offers some good tips, most recently advising a year-end stock-taking of accomplishments and plans moving forward. I am expert at downplaying achievements and challenged to set goals, so am giving it a public whirl.

Accomplishments in 2010: Attended the Selling Your Work Online workshop at NYFA in March, and listened. Also in March, was invited to develop a group exhibit proposal with Yoon Cho and Priscilla Stadler (Just a Moment). Relaunched my Web site in July. Showed my video and digital images for the first time in Ekleksographia.  Reinvigorated my studio practice, in part by leaving my full-time job at the Evil Empire in late August. Returned to running two to three times weekly. Reconnected with two friends from grad school, Paula Wood and Kirsten Reynolds in September. Posted new drawings to the Viewing Program at the Drawing Center in November. Spent time with my Boston art community in December (Diane Ayott, Susan Scott, Kathleen Connolly, Mary Bucci McCoy, Barbara Grad). Set up a much better studio at home, with the help of family and friends. Contacted the Drawing Center for a critique. Accepted by Gallery Korea for a group show in 2011. More generally: applied for more exhibits, grants, and residencies; persisted in my work; wrote in this blog.

Goals for 2011: [Goals should be observable. Some of mine aren't.  Oh well.] Do a residency. Have a critique at the Drawing Center. Continue to improve marketing and networking. Spend more time in the studio. Continue running. Restart meditation. Practice what I preach.

I started rereading Thoughts Without a Thinker on the subway today, which was the catalyst for my starting a meditation practice several years back. Even better, I sat for the first time in months.