From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Knee Deep in Rainbows

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I’ve been busy.

Finished Access Box (one of 60+)
Finished correct size (not yet glued down)

 

Internals for the Access reader box
Internals for the Access card reader box

Access is nearly ready for action, thanks to the programing and hardware design of my friend and collaborator Daniel Garcia and the help of my three lovely studio assistants who have been sanding away at the 60+ boxes I printed on the 3D printer.

Access will have its first run of interaction at Intel’s conference in Portland, Oregon this May, where I will also be presenting a talk on intersections and empathy.

The piece involves a series of statements about Access with “Yes” and “No” buttons with card readers to log responses.  The statements cover all kinds of access based on education, physicality, finances, background, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, culture, social elements, etc. Like Identity Tapestry, specific statements are selected and phrased to focus on the _intersections_ so that one statement may cover different kinds of people’s specific access challenges.

Each visitor will have an access card (image below) to use in including their own access story into the piece. I made these softer and more tactile with an eye to giving them the approachability, uniqueness and comfort people find in my yarn to set against the more impersonal electronic devices.  The color of the card will determine the color shown in the data visualizations for the piece.  They go from statement to statement, scan their card, and then select “Yes” or “No” for each of the sixty statements.

Cards for the Access piece

In this first iteration,  the data visualizations will be on large monitors on either side of the piece, but future iterations will likely use project mapping or combinations of screens and projection mapping.  I have the advantage of knowing the specific group for this particular piece in advance and knowing everyone should have no trouble accessing the piece.  In future more public interactions though, the goal is to make the piece accessible to participants who do not speak English, or who are blind or wheelchair bound.  The fonts were already selected based on being better for those with dyslexia.

In the meantime I am working on a very special (and HUGE) version of Identity Tapestry which will include maps for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT). The show (Wandering, Mapping) will open on August 4th and run until October 20th, 2019. The piece will also feature a companion wall of responses on local, Tokyo paper I have hand-dyed alongside the yarn.

My studio helpers have been my hands through much of the dyeing process, and all of the measuring and winding and they’ve been wonderful.  I am looking forward to seeing everything up and installed!

 

Transitions- continuing my art through illness

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empty studio

The corner of my empty studio

Since becoming sick with ME/CFS, I have had a lot to contend with and it has changed my practice.  I have limited energy, and I have to spend it wisely.  I have only minutes at a time of standing, walking, holding my head upright, etc. before I need to take a rest.  Then again, my practice changed a great deal when I became pregnant, and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to my art (I did the first Identity Tapestry while pregnant and it brought me into Installation).  The main effect is that I have to pace myself, and think through everything many times before I make the effort of _making_.  I suspect it will generate more thoughtful new work. I also have new reserves of patience, and new understanding to feed my empathy.

Right before I got sick I had come to an inflection point in my work where I knew I would have to start hiring assistants to complete large projects, but I was dragging my feet.  For those not familiar with how art at a certain scale of production goes, this is pretty normal and has a long history reaching back to the studios of the famous Renaissance painters and before.  Even without being sick, I needed to accept that I now needed assistants.

For the three shows I did in the first year of my illness, I relied on the help of an awesome network of friends and my husband (who even learned how to dye wool!) to help me do my work.  They were my hands. They got me through the installations at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and at the Marjory Barrack Museum.  Initially it was hard to conceive of hiring strangers to come into my home in the vulnerable state I was in, given that I had already resisted it before. I wasn’t ready then.

At the same time I became sick, we realized we had to do major repairs to the foundation of our house, and it became a huge remodel complete with moving out.  After I did the museum shows that year, I buckled down to the task of packing and purging the house… again with the help of my amazing friends.  My outside studio space was unreachable for me (and not wheelchair accessible even if I had the energy to work after driving there and parking) and essentially became expensive storage while I hoped I got better.  I turned down some shows and applied to nothing while I used all my energy to move house.

Today I am a little better overall.  The house is moved into a temporary space, and I finally let go of my studio of 14 years.  The new studio and shop space I will have in our house will be an absolute dream though, and I can’t wait.  In the meantime, I have use of our temporary garage and have set up the studio there, complete with a chair that supports my neck and torso so I can sit up longer.

Now that I have the moving hurdle done, I am back to exciting new projects!  This spring I will be doing a new participatory installation that I have been thinking about since 2014 and am super excited about: Access.  There is also another installation in another country coming up in the summer which I can’t wait to do.  Details will follow when everything is confirmed, dried and dusted.

In the meantime, it’s time to take the leap and hire some assistants.  Whatever my condition, my work will continue.

Las Vegas Humanities Salon and new Website

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Tomorrow night I will be at the Marjorie Barrick Museum in Las Vegas for a salon.  Information here, flyer below.

NH_LV_May 4 Creativity and HealingFlyer-Final.jpg

I am also happy to say that my website has undergone a complete re-write, with new content and more coming.

In particular I hope you take a look at the sound installations Cultural Fabric Breathes Still and Urban Pulse: SF, which now have the full sound elements incorporated into the website.  Other pieces like #DadaTaroT and Between the Lines have more content, with more coming soon to other works like Write Me for Art.

I have a lot of non-art on my plate for the next few months with both moving house and moving my studio space to one more accessible by wheelchair, but in spite of the chaos I’m still working on a new large scale interactive piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

May 4, 2018 at 12:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Identity Tapestry at the Marjorie Barrick Museum

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Beautifulsm

I am pleased to announce that The Marjorie Barrick Museum in Las Vegas has commissioned Identity Tapestry #12 as part of a community initiative in Healing Through Art in the wake of the shooting there.  It will be on display in the West Gallery from February 2 – May 12, 2018. From there it becomes part of the permanent collection. 

I will also be speaking in an artist panel on “Art with Social Purpose” hosted by Nevada Humanities on May 4th, 7PM at The Writers Block in downtown Las Vegas.

I have been happy to prove to myself, with this third installation in a museum since I became so ill with CFS/ME that I am now in a specialized wheelchair outside the house, that I can still work productively as an artist.  This has been thanks to the support of friends, family and assistants.

Almost ten years ago now my process and my work went through a serious change with pregnancy and the birth of my daughter.  There were “limitations” that made me use different materials and ways of working, and they prompted the shift to Particaptory Installation.   That work has lifted my art and my career as an artist.

This is another shift, and it is already teaching me a lot that I can put into my work and practice.  I fully expect it will continue to lift my work.

New Experiences, New Material

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Family at Disney

This photo represents one of the first bright spots in my new life as a disabled person (with ME/CFS). Last weekend was the first time in nearly five months I’ve been really able to move around outside the house, thanks to finally getting a power chair that supports my neck and torso.  We went to Disneyland for my daughter’s birthday wish, and we did it to the nines.

I’ve been working on the next two installations (for the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles), with the assistance of friends. I know I will need to hire assistants for new projects, but I’m still feeling freshly vulnerable in this state and I need to adjust.  Also, while I love inviting strangers into certain phases of my process,  I’m very picky about who I let into other parts of my process. Thankfully I have amazing people around me.

With my current condition, half the people get better within two years, and most of the rest never do.  I made the mistake of waiting a year for my back to get better nine years ago, and until my muscles stopped working (and compressing my spinal nerve), it never did.  I am thankful to be out of that level of constant pain, though I know I would trade back the pain for mobility in a heartbeat.

So… I am not wasting time now.  My art is moving on, and I have a fire under me to make new work about this experience.  I am very aware that disabled or not, I am very fortunate.  I have good insurance, my husband’s job supports us, freeing me to do my art without the constraints of whether it will sell or needing another job to support it. We have enough money that my condition is not bankrupting us and I was able to buy the expensive chair that allows me to.  I have supportive friends, an education, the tools to self-advocate, and so much more.  But this has thrown into relief how if this is so hard for me, how much harder it must be for most people.

After my recent experience of traveling with a wheelchair, the systemic lack of consideration and ability to do simple things like take a cab with any reliability, get on a plane you were assured you could take your chair on, or arrive with that all-important chair in one piece have given me fire to push for awareness.

I knew I had been thinking about a piece on Access for a while, but I didn’t realize it had been this long!  June 2013!  Usually with something that scale and cost it really helps me to know it will have a space to show first, but I don’t care anymore.  I will build it, and I will find it places to show.  As soon as the next two installations are wrapped, this is my next project.   I have been thinking about it on and off this whole time, and developing it, but now I have new first hand experience of being confined to home and wheelchair to add.

All that said, this new piece isn’t only about disabled access, it’s about all kinds of invisible access- financial, educational, social, racial, cultural, linguistic, etc.  It is about making people aware of what they can do without even having to think about it, and where others are barring and struggling to get in.

 

Written by Mary Corey March

September 29, 2017 at 10:13 am

Natural Dyeing for Sukkah Project

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I’ve been invited to inhabit the Sukkah at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco) on October 8th for one day of the holiday of Sukkot.  They invited six artists to each take a day to create an open studio or installation project inside the frame of the Sukkah.  I decided to take the opportunity to do a new Participatory Installation piece within that frame entitled Refuge of Leaves.

Process

These are photos of the dyeing process for this new project.  These are the first three batches, using pomegranate dye, rhubarb dye and artichoke dye.  Each dye changes depending on if I scour the paper first, or if I add a mordant, or if I add iron.  I did every combination on four kinds of paper to get a wider variety.

As I’m going, I allow the paper to show some marks- wrinkles, the mark of the iron, irregularities, etc.  Showing their history, that they have been through something, a difficult process that may even damage them seemed like a perfect parallel to individuals seeking refuge, to people who had a story to tell.

About the Piece

Traditionally a Sukkah is a symbolic ritual space of refuge in the wilderness created for the holiday of Sukkot in the Jewish faith and tradition. “Refuge of Leaves” creates a Sukkah as a space for reflection where people from many backgrounds can reflect on and share their personal experiences of refuge from “wildernesses”, whether physical or metaphorical. As a Sukkah it symbolizes a liminal space of safety within the wilderness between worlds.

I followed traditional aspects of the Sukkah in using natural plant-based materials in the form of a variety of papers from different places and times, including papyrus as well as paper that could be put through a modern printer.  These are for participants to write responses to their choice of prompts on the subject of refuge.  I am hand-dyeing the papers with natural dyes to mimic the color range of plants one might build a traditional sukkah from. The dyeing processes also makes each piece of paper individual in color and texture, just like the people writing their responses.

The word “leaves” in the title functions in a number of ways.  The individual leaves of paper in a larger book, the plant leaves that form a traditional Sukkah, and the nature of a this kind of refuge as a temporary shelter (not a home) that eventually requires one to leave.  The structure is very literally a refuge made of leaves that each participant leaves behind.

As part of this project I will be there from 10AM until 4PM to discuss my work and facilitate the process.  Please join me.

Overcoming Challenges

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It has been a while.  I have two pieces going up in museums shortly, and there will be another post for that, but I wanted to tell you what has happened to me recently.

For the past four months (since May 20th) I have been pretty much incapacitated.  It started as suddenly feeling odd, tired and wrong at Maker Fair (while hydrated, fed, cooled and well slept).  By the time I got to the car I was too weak and tired to move my arms without effort.  There were many tests, and for over two months, no consensus on what was wrong.  As a woman with a hard to diagnose medical problem (a group classically ignored and patronized by doctors), one doctor told me it must be psychosomatic (though thankfully he was only one out of six and the others did take me seriously).  It turned out to be CFS/ME, a condition that many derided as not real.  Thankfully Stanford finally developed a blood test that shows it is in fact a real thing and published just this July, and NIH has begun taking it seriously with research and funding the last two years.

So… even typing while lying in bed with my head propped has been difficult.  Holding my head up has been a effort that left me sore like an intense workout (and as a competitive gymnast, 15-year martial artist and circus person I know what that feels like).  I was not sleepy ever- my mind was fully awake, but my body could do almost nothing.  It turns out this probably started over a year ago when I had a severe virus that sent me to the ER for _four_ bags of saline.  They told me I was lucky to be alive, and I haven’t felt quite right since, with random bouts of weakness.

With this going on I have not been actively looking for shows and commissions, but when the Contemporary Jewish Museum asked me to do an installation I could not turn that down.  I also kept with the other museum show at the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum I was already signed up for because I knew I could do it with assistance.  And I am.  I will be there with my art even if I am in a wheelchair, and my art will not suffer for it.

For a while there was no sense of any time recovery might happen (if at all), but for nearly three weeks now I have been on an experimental antiviral treatment that seems to be helping, so fingers crossed.  Not knowing was very hard, but today I am hopeful.  If nothing else the experience gives me more empathy for those in similar situations.  In good news, my back hasn’t been in pain every day for the first time in nearly nine years! Apparently the muscles are too tired to tense enough to squash the ruptured disk.  Little victories.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 3, 2017 at 1:56 am

Posted in access, Uncategorized

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