July 2008 Archives

Lynda-Barry.jpgThis summer has not included much formal clay/studio time. Instead I feel like the character Frederick The Mouse from a book by Leo Lionni.This book is a great antidote to narrow thinking and is a wonderful allegory for the role of the artist. While all the other mice are collecting seeds and supplies for the winter, Frederick, who has the heart of a poet, collects images to get all the mice through the winter.

I have been collecting images all summer. I spent five days at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY taking a class with Lynda Barry. It felt like a combination of five days with a stand-up comic and deep exploration of my childhood through the cultivation of images and finally words that add up to breathing stories. Our days were filled with making lists and visualizations of images from our lists and then, expanding them into seven-minute timed writes. If we lost the image and didn't know what came next, we switched to the piece of paper next to us and drew spirals or the alphabet--always keeping our pens moving . It felt like fishing with a pen in the sea of images that make up the ocean of my childhood and the origins of my imagination. We read out loud with no comment or eye contact. While I listened I drew more spirals.

I loved listening and drawing. It is a very fertile way of working. While I listen my brain is turned off and I am just there. My pen is moving and I can trust my gut. In this case we weren't looking at anything but the page with intense consideration. By hearing other voices I was reminded of the kind of image that is alive. I remembered friends' names that have been lost to me for years. I invented a character based on my experience with just facts no emotion and I got some profound laughs when I read it aloud. We did not re-read our work all week. We did not talk about the work outside of class. We watched movies and took naps together. It was exhausting, inspiring, and exhilarating all in one breath.

The important thing I took away had to do with working by hand. In my normal process I write with a pen in a notebook and draw with pens and pencil, later adding water and collage. Then I type up my words and email them to myself. When I see them again as a separate image (legible and spell-checked) I can continue to expand and elaborate. This always seems insane but somehow  Lynda's approach added depth and validation to what I have been building upon since I was a kid.


please play

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These images are from David Byrne's installation play the building.  I love old buildings by the water. Byrne built his organ to play the materials of the building as a sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument. Devices are attached to the building structure -- to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes -- and are used to make these things produce sound. There are of three types: wind, vibration, striking. The devices do not produce sound themselves, but they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument. I enjoyed the sound but found  the surfaces of the building as wonderful visual departure points.

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Shadows become lines

shadow.jpgWhite painted broken glass inspires clay shards

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The space is an opportunity for play whether visual or audio.

I think of blogs as opportunities for inspiration. When I surf the web and dip into varied viewpoints it is a kind of instantaneous contact with materials, execution and description. Blogs are individual and seem so fluid it's hard to imagine their longevity. Magazines and words in print offer a different quality of documentation and longevity.

The first copy of Studio Potter that I own was given to me by a high school friend in 1974. She had been out to visit Dennis Parks at Tuscarora and thought I would be interested to read about it and potentially visit. I never visited, but the copy reminds me of our New York City  high school art room where we had one kick wheel and a great desire to understand and see  the potential of a larger world of ceramics.

The most recent summer issue is hot off the press. The topic for this issue is Tools and Technology in which I've written about the tool of drawing. The articles come at the topic from all directions. The editor, Mary Barringer, brings together a diverse range of approaches that insist on an interplay between the maker and their tools. It is a small publication and if you have any interest more subscriptions and submissions would help to continue to keep this independent magazine vibrant and alive.