a measure

march 2

WORD.

Words. Words. Words.  I really enjoy words.  In fact, I am quite particular in my use of words when it comes to titling.  Same goes for punctuation.  I can probably attribute this to my early love for e.e. cummings.  Not only was his work visual but the spacing of the words on the page pushed us as to how to read them.  Pacing.  Pauses.  I just love that the reader was forced to an experience of words.   One could not be passive.  Sometimes, it even took a few readings to really get the flow of the piece.  All in all, this was an early influence as to the importance of words.

For Example:

The Sky Was

the
     sky
           was
can    dy    lu
minous
            edible
spry
        pinks shy
lemons
greens    coo    1 choc
olate
s.

  un    der,
  a    lo
co
mo
      tive        s  pout
                               ing
                                     vi
                                     o
                                     lets

It has been one week since my surgery and recovery seems to be going well.  There are ups and downs but marked improvements every day.  I panicked the other day to be home all this time and not use my time more productively.  I guess that's rather silly because productive use of time at home really is resting, sleeping and healing but I'm not one to sit idle often and get anxious if I think I'm wasting precious time.  This would apply to my job which I can easily shoulder weights of feeling responsible for but also the show I am working on for later this year.

I had tentatively named the show a measure.  I've been referring to it as that for the past year almost year since I booked the show.  Soon, I'll really need to commit to that which has brought me to think more concretely about the title.  

When I have really thought about the works coming together, where once I thought I would use my body as a measure for my human-ness, I now considered that many- if not all- of the works were about these aspects of longing.  The anticipation, the expectations, the insecurity, the joy, the comfort, the disappointment, the devastation, the alienation.  I decided to commit to this to tighten up the direction.  It's a small space after all.  I started to favor on longing: a measure or a measure of longing.  Yikes.  They aren't great titles.

Often when I don't like something, I try to simplify.  I began to favor on longing, which really was the name of a show that I submitted to a few years ago that never materialized into anything.  I have always loved that title but felt a bit guilty to steal the words.  When I googled whether the show just ended up elsewhere, I came across a book of the same name.  Oh man.  I remember seeing this book in my subconscious somewhere but totally forgot it existed until this google search.  The reason why I remember is because of the Ann Hamilton piece on the cover.  Who could forget that?  One never forgets Ann Hamilton.

So now I've bought the book and now I am falling in love with new words.  Appurtenances.  What a word.  I'm not sure I've even heard someone speak it before.  When I look it up on webster's dictionary, the definition is hardly as interesting as Susan Stewart's passage about it.

I am particularly interested here in the capacity of narrative to generate significant objects and hence to both generate and engender a significant other. Simultaneously, I focus upon the place of that other in the formation of a notion of the interior. Here we might remember the meaning of appurtenance as appendage, the part that is a whole, the addition to the body which forms an attachment, transforming the very boundary, or outline, of the self.
— Susan Stewart, On Longing (pg. xi)

Man.  That's just the preface.  
(I almost feel foolish that I'm only discovering this book with any seriousness now)

But it draws me no closer to my show title.  At this point, it mostly requires maybe more reading and lots of word mapping- all of which are able to be done bedside as I rest and recover.  If emails are any indicator, it seems there is no shortage of work waiting for me when I return to my job.

 

february 19

Strength: Asset or Liability? (A History of Errors)

I have been thinking very much about strength, physical strength.  I feel as though I've had a many of conversation about my body over the past number of weeks- whether its about my upcoming surgery and recovery, or what the nature of my performance work is, or just merely what it feels like to be in my body in all it's tiredness and tightness.

I had a massage yesterday and it was a huge reminder about how crunched into myself I have become.  It's an understatement to say that I am stressed.  I'm not entirely sure that i am the most stressed I've ever been.  That could be because maybe I manage stress better than I had in the past, or that I am not addressing the axis of where my stress stems from.   But I am stressed and it was never so apparent than when untangling the muscles in my neck, shoulders and back yesterday.  I cannot believe that I didn't miss the space that has opened up in my body all this time.

A History of Errors; erased graphite on assembled paper, silver leaf; 2013

I am thinking a lot about my patterns as of late.  Believe me, it relates to what I'm talking about.  I tend to cherish my strength and wear my stamina or 'stick-to-it-ness' as a badge of honor.  I tend to 'stick to it' for much longer than what could be thought of as healthy, in some people's opinion.  I question if I lack confidence that I should deserve anything better or if I am way too optimistic that I can turn a situation around with my proven dedication.  It's an on-going pattern in my jobs and relationships.  The funny thing is, I figured this out in my studio work once I nearly had the ability to make work taken away from me (due to an accident).  My 'come to Jesus' moment had its impact, fast and swift.  I spent months evaluating what path i would take and I came up with the decision that my work need not be limited by medium (much like many artists who call themselves either 'painter' or 'printmaker,' 'potter' or 'metalsmith.'  Funny, sculptors don't define themselves as medium oriented like the others I just mentioned).  When I allowed myself to call myself 'sculptor' instead of 'metalsmith,' a huge window of opportunity opened.  

As I think about how my work evolved over the past 20 years, I sometimes question if it is an asset to allow the concept to drive the medium or does it just indicate a lack of discipline?  Those are probably the moments of self doubt I frequently have.  Today I don't think that- even though I am frustrated on my lack of studio progress.  Where I am questioning my patterns is in my life choices, as of late.  It's been a tough few weeks- I've been down this path before and I used my strength and stuck it out.  It didn't result in much because some situations are a sinking ship much bigger than I.  Regardless, there are so many aspects of what I accomplished that I miss.

My pattern always starts off with a boat-load of optimism.  It's a wonderfully creative place.   I act with that optimism and eventually run into roadblocks.  I work through road blocks- many times to come across more road blocks.  The more road blocks I work through start to wear on me.  Clearing road blocks don't feel like accomplishments the more I encounter them.  I feel sour but not hopeless.  I take ALL the responsibility, even though it probably doesn't all belong to me.  I keep going, trying to remember the big picture.  Then there is the point where the big picture starts to seem like a pipe dream.  I lose hope.  The responsibility of failure begins to weigh on me.  As I have aged, the weight has its impact- I feel it in my body.  It manifests there and feels like an albatross of a reminder.  I've been down this road before- is it silly to let it run its course again?

body sized drawing

A few years ago, I tried so hard to embrace the mistakes and all the things that never went right.  That the beauty was in the journey, not the result.  I really REALLY felt that while I made my drawings, the drawings that led me to performance.  I think I now hope for a similar epiphany- or at least an understanding. You know the phrase "art imitates life"- well, in this case, I am looking for life to imitate art.  I. am. not. cutting. myself. a. break.  I am trying to figure out the path and as I wander, it becomes more and more painful.  I feel guilty to be sick even though part of being sick is probably a result of trying to be strong.  I truly believe that emotions impact our physical health.  I am desperate to realize the lesson in this experience.

I pictured a History of Errors (2013) in this blog.  I love that drawing for so many reasons.  It was the drawing that reawakened my body; it was the meditation that allowed me to honor the beauty in my flaws; it was the beginning of seeing a body less as an object for things to happen to and more as a body that experiences the world its in.  

It's sobering to realize that one has so much still to figure out.

february 12

The Challenge of Communication

I explore aspects of the Self through drawing, sculpture, and performance.  Using the body as a form of measure, my studio practice is focused on how the actions of the body can imply more about the internal monologue.  We often communicate more than what we say through functions of our body.  If one pays attention, one could learn much more about another beyond language.  It is in one’s posture, the color in one’s face, the beat of one’s heart, etc.

Much of what I have been exploring has been this space between longing and alienation.  It's a place of duality because of its tenuous nature that can tip to either fulfillment or isolation.  While these pieces are very much self-exploratory, I am keenly aware that there is much control I relinquish due to a lack of articulation.  These works challenge 'the other' to engage while proving their commitment to do so- and the pay off is an utter honesty that one would not divulge if the commitment was not proven.  

I know it sets up a situation of disappointment most of the time.  I know that I struggle with expressing myself in this way.  I also know that personally, I am far more articulate in my writing than I am speaking.  It's probably my INFJ personality.

But I've really enjoyed studying this about myself within my work.  It is something from my personal relationships that I pass forward to my relationship with the viewer.  In my morse code videos, I wonder if anyone actually takes the time to decode them.  I'm not sure that anyone has- and to me, that is telling, and reinforces all my messed up expectations of feeling rejected, or not being good enough to hear what I have to say.  Talk about all those coming of age insecurities that were never resolved!

Semaphoric Alphabet

So while I explore the morse code pieces further, I recently sent a residency proposal off that uses semaphoric gestures.  You know what that is- it's the waving of flags you see lifeguards at the beach wave to other lifeguards in the distance.  I'm very interested to using the body in these visual gestures to divulge the depths of our thoughts.  Part of my proposal suggests that written word should be performed within a close space, suggesting the distance one must travel emotionally to truly connect with another, even if they might be right next to me.  

I'm semi-concerned with learning the language.  My memory is terrible.  My penchant of learning other languages is terrible!  While I think I can memorize the gestures to a poem, I think if anyone would choose to respond, that it would be difficult to me- fitting, yes?  Because in all reality, I can be overwhelmed by a dialogue and then doesn't that put me back to square one?  

january 14

I wasn't sure if I would continue blogging after I returned from Iceland.  I used to blog.  I like to blog.  It requires me to reflect on my work and be firmer about things I'm thinking about.  So it's a good thing.   Now will I blog every day, as I did in Iceland?  Well, no.  I think regular life will not allow me to keep up as I did, but for now, I'd like to make it a weekly occurrence- much like I used to assign my students in their capstone.


On counting.

A friend of mine gave me the book, Bluets, by Maggie Nelson in response to my Iceland blog.  It's wonderful.  Nelson is a professor at CalArts and begins the book by confessing that she tells people on her hiring committee that she is writing a book about the color, Blue, yet she had not started it.  And this went on for some time.  When people would ask how her book is coming, she would say "Great!" yet would only have a few bulleted lists.  

The book is broken into a numerical list, which at first, seems hardly a narrative but it progresses into almost a journal, both of self confession and discovery.  It's been such a wonderful suggestion by one of my new friends here at my new job/life in Wilkes Barre, PA.    

Yesterday, I had done some work in the studio, an experiment really (that I have all my fingers and toes crossed will work), and then went to lunch at one of my favorite local haunts.  I took the book along because I found that I am WAY TOO tied to both my phone and computer lately and it's making me feel brain numb.  

I read passage 100.  
100. It often happens that we count our days, as if the act of measurement made us some kind of promise.  But really this is like hoisting a harness onto an invisible horse.  "There is simply no way that a year from now you're going to feel the way you feel today," a different therapist said to me last year at this time.  But though I have learned to act as if I feel differently, the truth is that my feelings haven't really changed.

It's funny.  Since last year, I have dedicated a majority of my studio practice to a type of measurement, certainly counting has been part of this.  I actually began this whole thing by measuring my arm span (Length of my Infinite Love), then I counted present breaths- almost as evidence that I could be not bogged down in my insecurities and sadness.  I did that for 200+ days and then seemed to lose interest when I couldn't be still and present anymore.  Maybe that is part of this too.  

counting up the pile of counted present breaths

A friend of mine and I had a conversation a while back about how similar our work is yet how different.  I remember defending myself about all this record keeping I seem to be doing about my existence.  I told him that I almost want there to be proof to my living, thinking Self.  He argued that isn't that really what all artists are doing?  Good point.  It really is (and really we weren't having a disagreement, he is just so good to play devil's advocate)- but I really wanted it to be completely dialed back to the operation of it all, not necessarily the cause or a visual diary per se.  

[I have somewhat grown weary of artists trotting out their stories of suffering for all of us to see- somewhat of a "Look at me and all my suffering.  I have suffered far more than you have.  Pity me."  This could also be because maybe I was once one of those artists and although I didn't think I asked for pity, I got plenty of it.   It just was NOT a way to move on.  In fact, it just perpetuated the grief and was way too difficult to feel as though things could progress.  Of course, the feeling for viewers that "you are not alone" isn't a bad thing- but as an artist moving forward, nope.  It kept you locked there, drowning in quicksand.  And I don't want attention for drowning, nor surviving, just being.]

I realize that my work is somewhat navel gazing.  I have always felt that once I get this Self thing understood, I could move onto the bigger problems of the world.  I also have always felt that if we understand the Self, we can understand others.  I think I even state here, somewhere else on my website.  

So I am documenting this existence which has been riddled with the internal struggles of being OK.  There are so many frustrations that being OK creates because once you get to this place where you can state "I am OK" then you want to move on and be completely OK with others.  Once you realize everyone else is not on that same timeline, or better yet, not even thinking about this timeline, then it becomes an even bigger question "Am I really OK?"

Herein creates the problem, and this is when I question every aspect of "OK-ness."  In some respects, I pay tribute to the sadness I have felt; in others, I stand with my emotions and celebrate them- the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

I am working on a show for later this year (I can't believe I said THIS year).  It is tentatively called A Measure.  I am chipping away at my longing, my sadness, my presence, my destruction, my stillness, my alienation... my OK-ness.  I do want to remind you that I am not necessarily re-counting events of my life, more the effects of it.  I think however that even though I have spent this past year doing this and anticipate spending this next (almost) year doing this, that Nelson might be correct.  I don't know that I will feel any different, in fact, I probably won't feel much different, but I do think the mere recording of OK-ness might allow for others to get on the timeline.  Perhaps maybe then I tackle, "but am I REALLY OK?"   Who knows.  

Nelson mentions that she got really good at seeming like she had a tremendous emotional growth yet maybe felt just the same that year later.  I suppose if one looks at their wounds, the pain starts off as sharp and quick but eventually dulls and fades off.  Sometimes we are snapped back to it if we torque ourselves the wrong way and it is a quick reminder that it was once there... and perhaps to remind us how we don't want to go back there (or makes us yearn for more depending on what it is and what we want from it all).

Am I OK?  I'm OK on a a level where I once was not.   Am I really OK?  That is debatable.  Current life events are certainly dredging up things I am really scared about, but that is for another day.  OK on one level opens up for more things to be OK about.   Life becoming endless things to count.