Listening Across Time

8 12 2018

While the MFA journey in some ways already feels long ago, it was lovely this fall to get to revisit it at the Regier Art Gallery by exhibiting selections from the different projects that I worked on over the 2+ years. Here is my exhibition statement-

In Listening Across Time, excerpted from work developed during the past two years, I explore letter-writing as an act of relational care, in past, present, and future contexts. Parts of this trilogy are represented here through varied works on paper and other media: photographs, artist books, and letterpress prints connected to letters exchanged between a trio of sisters from the past, considering the objects and emotions that we leave behind; sculptural book pairings and embroidery sparked by a series of present-day handwritten correspondences; and Letters to the Future, epistolary texts that find form here in drawings and audio recordings. In each part of the trilogy, I give thought to how both words and traditions of making are passed between generations, transferred between hands and bodies, in intimate settings. Through these many correspondences across time, I have come to think of letters not only as a way of exchanging thoughts and ideas but also as a form of active listening. Letters are an invitation to listen, an agreement to care for another person. I believe that such listening is directly connected to a slowing down, a taking time to take care, and this quality is what I seek to reflect in all parts of the work, drawing attention to the ways we care for each other with our words.

I was so gratified by the reception of the show. For work that has been so personal and intimate, and is all connected inside of my own head, I wasn’t entirely sure that others would necessarily see the connections as well. But they did, and I was surprised to find that the ideas brought a lot of emotions to the surface for some viewers. I had not anticipated the tears. Clearly, this is a theme that resonates, and it’s one that I won’t be done with for some time to come.

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Photographs from What We Leave Behind and letterpress prints from Dear Sister

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Taking Care, a participatory installation of letters and thread

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Dear friend: a thesis in / of letters

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hand-word drawings and audio recordings from Letters to the Future

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a selection of artist books related to correspondence and collaboration

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(apparently the spotlights function strangely in a panoramic photo)

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Thank you, dear colleagues!

23 10 2018

Being recognized by one’s peers in the field is an honor second only to receiving warm words from one’s students, because they’re the ones who really understand the blood, sweat, and tears that go into this labor. I’m so thankful to my fellow art educators in this state for giving me an honor that could equally go to so many of my colleagues. Many thanks to Kathy Schroeder for nominating me, to the artists who put on such fabulous professional development workshops (I made many sheets of plant-based paper at the conference!), and to the KAEA board for selecting me for this award.

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co-a-lism

20 10 2018

More catch-up…

In August, my cohort in the MFA program – ten artists representing seven countries –  realized a major project together, a group exhibition at Flutgraben, an artist space in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood.

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During our January residency together in Mexico City, we decided on the theme of co-a-lism – merging our interests in coalescing across boundaries of geography and media, our belief in the importance of coalitions, and our playful reference to the many -isms of art history. (Modernism, Expressionism, why not co-a-lism?) We worked with that theme for the next seven months, thinking together across time and space, and coordinating so many logistics. Jo+Michelle Piper designed the exhibition catalogue, for which two stellar colleagues, Susie Quillinan and Elena Marchevska, wrote essays. We printed the catalogue but it is also available online.

The experience on-site was so much greater than I had anticipated. We spent time together and we helped each other with installation. I spent many hours embroidering in the space, surrounded by my peers and by the recorded voices speaking my Letters to the Future. And the public exhibition opening, as well as our public MFA defenses and dialogues, were so well-attended that we were very pleasantly surprised. It was a day of surprises and emotion – a surprise engagement, a performance that nearly resulted in an arrest, a graduation celebration after the exhibition, and the joy and adrenaline and exhaustion that accompany such monumental efforts.

Since I returned to work 2 days after returning home from Berlin, I’ve hardly had time to process the experiences. But I am eternally grateful for the ways in which this MFA program transformed my work and my thinking, for the relationships that were forged through the process, and for the doors that it opened and will continue to open. I miss these people dearly and eagerly anticipate our next steps of working together.

mfa cohort

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Patterns in our Hands workshop

29 09 2018

Catching up after a whirlwind couple of months and the beginning of the semester… but these ideas are still percolating and I expect to keep exploring them in the months ahead.

In late summer, I had the opportunity to run a workshop for 25 international artists in Berlin, on the theme of “Patterns in our Hands.” I continue to be interested in the ways that we share knowledge through our bodies, and how such embodied knowledge facilitates ways of learning that break down boundaries of gender, age, personality, and language. Donna Haraway, in Staying with the Trouble, conceptualizes string figures, or what I grew up calling string games, as a process of “giving and receiving patterns, … of relaying connections that matter, of telling stories in hand upon hand…” String games, this “rhythm of accepting and giving,” becomes a form of collective knowing, of learning and knowing together.

The International String Figure Association collects string figures from all over the world, laying out in detail how such patterns are used by children and adults, to bring good luck, or bountiful harvest, or safe passage to the afterlife. Their books, however, are full of diagrams and remarkably complex instructions for how to create each figure. How much easier, then, and more satisfying, to share the patterns hand upon hand.

So after some discussion of ideas, we turned to sharing patterns – and the joy and concentration and openness were so much more than I had expected. I saw artists rediscover knowledge in their hands from decades earlier. I saw artists who struggle with a common language learning from each other. And I saw the patterns open up space for knowledge sharing in unlikely pairings.

Thanks to Flutgraben e.V. for the space, to Kate Hilliard for her assistance, and to Jo+Michelle Piper for the photos. 

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Dear Friend: a thesis in / of letters

10 07 2018

With this MFA nearly completed, I took time last month to work on the visual presentation of the thesis. My MA thesis and PhD dissertation are both hard-bound in library style, doubtless identical to every other thesis and dissertation on the shelves next to them. But this MFA thesis, about letters and care and listening and attunement, called out for something greater, something more thoughtful, more care-full.

After much deliberation, I hand-bound two copies into a Japanese stab stitch binding, which are now housed in a clamshell box. The historic stamps on the cover represent the locations of my grad school residencies – US, Germany, and Mexico.

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(For anyone interested in reading the thesis-in-letters, I can send you the PDF.)





Books and Pages

31 05 2018

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been giving thought to how to more broadly conceive of “books” and “pages.” I’ve been making book-pairings to represent each of the correspondences in which I’ve been engaged over this past year, each inspired by particular words or on-going themes from our correspondences. Some look very much like books; others less so, but in those cases, the “pages” are the defining element for me.

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some patriarchies don’t know when to quit

here january marks the beginning of spring

Here January marks the beginning of spring

the only power we ever had

the only power we ever had





Spring Speaking

13 04 2018

I’ve maybe said yes to a few too many invitations this spring, but in each case, I’ve done so because of the opportunity of spending quality time with friends and artists.

A grad school friend and I had agreed to co-chair a roundtable discussion on Experimental Writing and Arts-based Memoirs at the Transcultural Exchange conference in February in Quebec. Although he had to back out at the last minute because of a family emergency, I still attended and presented in the hopes of good discussions, time with friends, learning with and from artists, and engaging with possible new opportunities in artist residencies. And, what a lovely chance to experience the Francophone culture and a fortified old city, all amidst piles of snow.

I said yes to an invitation from the National Art Education Foundation to present about my Activism, Art, and Design class on a featured grantee panel at the National Art Education Association conference in March in Seattle. Because NAEF had supported my curriculum development with a grant that contributed significantly to the success of the class through a series of visiting artist-activists, I felt obliged to attend and to help publicize their grant program. (Good thing, too, because I read that they didn’t award some of their grants in this most recent cycle, due to lack of applications! That’s leaving money on the table and art educators should be applying.) A major draw for attending, though, was the chance to spend time with a college friend – sharing memories, discussing art and literature, cooking and eating together, etc.

And just this month I said yes to attending an accreditation and assessment conference in Chicago on behalf of my school – partly because I felt an obligation, given that we have an accreditation visit next year, and partly because it allowed me to spend time with artist friends in Chicago. Christa Donner, one of my regular correspondents, and I were invited to give a presentation and performative reading of our letters at Compound Yellow, an artist space in Oak Park. It was a lovely time of exchange and discussion, and such a different experience reading the words aloud, to each other, in front of an audience, than reading the words on a page in the privacy of home. The whole experience confirms that the thesis-in-letters I’m currently writing will exist both in writing and as a performative reading – details of that currently in progress.

Many thanks to Mary Sherman at Transcultural Exchange, Kathi Levin at NAEF, and Laura Shaeffer at Compound Yellow for the invitations that yielded such rich conversations and time together!

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Some new and old friends at Compound Yellow