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


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"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It is an enormous luxury not to be pressured for time, then a greater one not to feel rushed.  The pressure of the semester ended December 22, after I slogged through a month of exhaustion and very low spirits.  But the habit of working against time is engrained, and my internal motor doesn't just reset once my grades are in.  Oh, no.  Rather, I enter an even more painful period of transition.  The imposed structure is gone but I haven't replaced it.  I don't have the energy to but feel like I should, so the time I need to replenish is haunted by the calendar and pervasive doubt.  It wasn't until after Christmas that my energy returned and I could go to the studio with anything to draw on.  This pattern is as old as I am, yet the despondency of the transition blinds me every time. It doesn't even matter that I can often label it while it's happening; I still collapse and believe I may never get up.

Then I do.  Then I have to sort it out in words.  Again.

So I'm in the studio working; I reorganized the space yesterday.  The Japan 3/11 drawings continue, ideas are floating around, and I will be updating my Web site, sending out applications, reading, and writing.  I now feel a humming internal pressure, to accomplish for myself and reinforce my foundation.  I also feel grateful that I haven't sabotaged myself in the end, as some of the thinking, feeling, and behavior that fuel this pattern have caused that in my earlier years and the risk will always be there.