From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

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Cubic (sound)2 Opening Dec 5th

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cubic(sound)_Invitation  I have my first sound piece in this show.  Storytelling in SF.  Come see… and listen.

There will be five performances, including one by Laetitia Sonami.

I will have an interactive piece in the show built on participation.

At the LAB.

Written by Mary Corey March

November 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

piling it up

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from "The Bridge"- first Installation piece.  In this case a performance piece.

from “The Bridge”- first Installation piece. In this case a performance piece.

I’ve gone dark lately because I’ve been scrambling to finish the NEXT iteration of Identity Tapestry.  I didn’t expect another so soon.  I need to start saying no.  I’m building a larger one (around 18′) for the Wisdom 2.0 summit (How can we live with greater presence, meaning, and mindfulness in the technology age?).  It’s relevant to me and the piece really fits- connections between people, mindfulness/meditative experience, human contact, data visualization of human connections… there’s a lot of commonality there.

So… I’m smack in the middle of doing this new one (100 colors of yarn dyed, 80 some posts made, statement selection, etc.).

In the meantime I’m taking some very interesting classes that are giving me new perspective on my process and the concepts I’m working with.

Thoughts (notes to self):

I am fascinated by our relationship to data. What we choose to collect, what we ignore, what data says about us, what it fails to say.  How hard it is to visualize data of complicated systems or human beings (which are in a way complicated systems).  How much the question and framing of the question and the questioner affects the answer (something I’ve been aware of since childhood with my anthropologist and sociologist parents).

I am starting to wonder if my work process really is a hidden endurance performance art.  I did one piece in undergrad that exposed the process of creating an installation the was all about that.  Now the visible part is the participants creating the work- which becomes a kind of performance, but the hours that I spend making the component parts… it’s almost an endurance piece in itself.


On another note, my grandfather died on Friday.  An extremely full life, with so much positive effect on the world, well lived.  New York Times article/obituary, Boston Globe Obituary.  The NYT article leaves out one of the MA degrees and his medical degree, both leave out his knighthood.  Neither attempts to categorize his awards.  For me, his mad pace of walking, his skiing on his 93rd birthday, and his love of his lilies and vegetable garden are what I think of when I remember him.

This and many other things have made the past few weeks a bit of a roller coaster, but the preciousness of life and love and one’s work… they are brought right into the foreground.

Written by Mary Corey March

February 14, 2013 at 1:56 am

Color holes

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This is my yarn so far for the upcoming installation of Identity Tapestry at the TEXT: Message show in LA next month.  I lay it out this way to tell me what holes I have in the color spectrum and to see how everything looks together.

I consciously bias a little towards the blues and greens because we perceive more variation in those shades (especially greens) and they are also most often cited as people’s favorite colors (especially blues).

The unconscious bias this particular run is clear now that I’ve laid it out:  Purples- from blue-purples to rich burgundys they just aren’t represented enough.   I attribute this to the fact that purple is currently my favorite color.  In trying not to overdo purple because I love it so much I under-did it.

Well, that’s why I lay them out like this.

Just seeing this picture makes me want to rearrange a few of the balls- but then I would be at it all night.  This is enough to show me what I need.  Pretty as it is it isn’t the actual installation.

As you see not all of them are wound yet.  Thanks to the help of some very good friends last night nearly all these were done at once without anyone having to suffer from RSI.  I have done three iterations winding every single one myself and I’m happy not to repeat it.

One more day of dyeing should finish this easily.

The other thing this laying-out process does for me besides looking pretty and letting me gloat over all the gorgeous colors (most of which don’t show to justice onscreen because they are richly layered) is that it gives me a better sense of the volume.  I began sculpting the nest/basket/womb to hold them and realized almost right away that the scale is off.  Time to re-work that as well.

Tomorrow begins at Techshop running more tests on the laser cutter/engraver to see if there is a better, tighter, smoother way to make the statement plaques.  Then I get to go back to dyeing.  One month to go before the show as so far there is time for accidents to happen without damage.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

bringing back from NYC

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I love going to New York.  Each time I get a little distance from the rest of my life to submerge myself completely in Art.  I work on projects (which so far is why I go), I go to museums and galleries.  I visit other artists, discuss my work with all sorts of people… and on the subway and trains I make a point of reading about art and the art world (if I’m not sketching or making something).   I love that level of immersion and it kicks my mind into high-gear for art.

This trip began with dropping my painting off at the Chelsea Art Museum- an encouraging start.  I was able to meet with Annysa Ng (who has worked with me on two of my collaborative projects now).  She took me through the Chelsea art galleries and to her studio in Chelsea.  Fantastic.  I love her work.   She and I are so well  linked conceptually.  We see each other’s connections between ideas instantly, and make leaps together effortlessly.   We would like to do another collaborative work together working on the same piece, and the ideas have started.  I just wish we could work together in person more- it’s very stimulating.  I didn’t get to visit with Lina Puerta this time, but I hope to collaborate again with her as well.  The three of us make a very good team.

On Sunday I got to see my Primary Text installation post-participation and take photos.   I wish I could have seen it in action but I was glad to see the rest of the show and to get to take the pictures myself.

Mostly what I came away from this trip was the feeling that I’m ready for the next step- putting every aspect of being a professional artist up a notch- work, seeing work, the business end- everything.  I have been wary of galleries, thinking that I might have to limit my work or keep it too much the same if I went that route, but I am coming to think that if I found the right match it could be a very good thing for the work.  I work much more intensively when I know the piece will have a place to be seen and the support of the right  gallery would do that and more.   I found Art/Work an excellent resource for getting more perspective on Gallerists (and more appreciation for them!) and for learning more about the unwritten rules in the business part of the art world.

Seeing what was in the Chelsea art galleries was encouraging and inspiring.  I found I was most struck with very minimal pieces and it made me realize that I didn’t value my more minimal works as I should have (most of them aren’t even on my website, some just left unfinished).  What the galleries can handle in terms of large-scale work was impressive too- it let me see with my own eyes that I didn’t have to be in a museum to do such large scale work.

So… it brought me to thinking that I can start looking for a good match.  Maybe in New York, Maybe in San Francisco, but knowing that it will probably take a year or two of really getting to know the spaces before I even know if I would want to be in that space (or if they would want my work).  The metaphor of getting married is often used.  It’s about taking one’s time to find a good match.

The other thing that became clear over the week is that I need to completely redo my website.  I have coherent bodies of work and relationships throughout my work that are not showing well on the present page, so I’ve drawn out all the connections and now the challenge is putting them into a clear, clean online format.

Besides Chelsea and Annysa’s studio I got to the MET with the goal of getting more Madonna and child/pieta images and ideas for the current painting.  I also saw the incredible Savage Beauty exhibition there.  Wow.  The clothing was incredible, but the curation equally so.  The curator was acting more like an installation artist, creating whole environments complete with sound and video for the different lines of work.  I can feel more clothing and fashion creeping into my work, and I will be seeing Pulp Fashion and Balenciaga and Spain here before they close to further feed whatever is budding there.

A trip to MOMA yielded an idea for a new technique that I might use for a series and a reminder of painting techniques that I should bring in more.

In the meantime another potential project has come up over the last few days in a very unique space here in SF.  It would be a new interactive installation specifically for a show around a topic that I’ve been interested in for some time and fits perfectly into that body of work.  The space is unique and I’m excited by the prospect.

This trip has also convinced me to look harder for opportunities in the Bay Area.  As much as I love New York, this is my home and there is a reason for that, and my art should have a real connection to this place.   I feel as though I’ve hit the ground running again, and it is invigorating.

Written by Mary Corey March

June 9, 2011 at 2:07 am

A new revolution in Art: part one, breaking the cannon… again

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This essay got far too long to put in a single post, so I’ll be breaking it into a few parts.  I am also in the process of getting through a booklist on a certain part of art history (the New York School) that is shedding a lot of light on the subject and my ideas are expanding too fast to keep both current and coherant- so I will settle for large less precise chunks spaced a bit apart.


Revolutionary artistic movements now accepted as influential and important are generally dismissed in their time, and nearly always in infancy… mostly because they are re-writing the criteria for what art is.

A revolutionary movement is one that changes the rules.  In the last century accepted Art has expanded to include objects of mainstream manufacturing origins, junkyard-employee selected crushed cars, dead bodies, women clothed in raw meat, naked people standing in gallery doorways, a branch found in nature, a man in a cage with a coyote and even MANY different variations on actual feces either on its own (one piece had it canned) or applied to paintings (elephant dung).   Most of these mentioned have graced the Guggenheim and MOMA in NYC.  I’d say that the idea of What Art Is has been pushed as far as it will go without actually physcially attacking the viewer (and I may just be missing some here).  Famous artists have often put themselves in danger as an integral part of the piece.  Where now?

"The face and voice of the citizens of Black Rock City" HeadSpace is an interactive audiovisual installation which comes to life at dusk. A video projector, camera and microphone booth stationed 20' away from this giant head project the image of the participant's face and voice onto it. This live projected image appears to be three-dimensional from all angles around the sculpture, and the 10' tall projected "face" seems to float in space above the playa. All who wish to have their dreams, confessions, announcements, stories, jokes, poetry, performance, or songs heard are welcome." (text from BM website) Photo taken by Mary March, 2005

Right now any media is fair game, and any subject, but there are still rules.  Fifty years ago tossing out technique and conventional composition in favor of process, concept or emotional content was still up for debate.  Now it is part of the cannon of accepted Art.  A piece can stand on concept alone, or even (less often lately) on craft and composition alone.  It can stand on technique together with composition and/or process and various other combinations, but validity nearly always demands the artist place the piece within an art-historical context.  Right now awareness of and deliberate relation to art history is essential to an artist’s credibility, which seems to be  increasingly only accepted in the form of an MFA.  The institution again.  But I think the rules are changing again.

I have been wondering for years what would come next- but really everything I could imagine was a return to something in the past- in particular I expected a return to high technical craft and representationalism coming together with the conceptual and the abstract.  Endless variations within the current cannon  in subject matter and aesthetics (a lot of it with that technique/concept fusion) created plenty of new art and argueably new movements and schools  but the cannon remained.   Now after at least 6 years of being in the middle of the new art revolution I only just recognized this week that it is indeed a revolution: finally something that has the potential to change the rules again. I just didn’t notice it because I didn’t think of it as Art-art until I started studying what I consider the last major revolution in more depth… no doubt because I was educated within the current institution.

Now I see a growing movement that is making new rules which do not demand any of the standards that are still left.  Technique, concept, art history awareness, focus on process, conscious composition… it’s all being tossed… and yet I see some incredible art coming out of it.  I think some of the best of it retains an element or two of the remaining cannon- but some of it really doesn’t and still works.  The artists are also increasingly passing on control to participants and collaborators… and a large proportion of them come from outside art educational backgrounds.

What I am observing now is an international movement of art projects that could only be described as “outsider” art by the art world… and yet they are not only gaining entry into the art world, but transforming it. Moreover I’m not convinced this movement could grow up properly (or more to the point improperly) inside the art-educated art community because the art institutions are passing on their Traditions, their cannon (as is their role), much of it a good 50 years or more old.  Most of my professors in art school gave us what I now recognize to be a very 40’s-60’s view of art and the artist.  Contemporary artists are rewarded within the current system for fitting their work into that cannon… but the system may be shifting again.

The changes in the rules (or a lack of regard for them)  is coming mostly from outside of the educated art circles, but there is some cross-pollination and participation by what you could call art-educated artists.  I see the kind of communities springing up around these things that I don’t see in the academic art community now, but which perhaps echoes famous transformative artistic communities in other times and places.  I see what I can only interpret as a revolution in art that seems as-yet unacknowledged, even by many of the people within it.

I will now use dirty words that will make many Art-art people smirk and roll eyes.  Burning Man.  If you haven’t been, whatever you think about it is probably wrong.  There is just no description.  But I can tell you this, my first time there changed my views about art forever, and it represents or even leads a large part of this new movement.  In fact, it may be the only community doing these things that has any consciousness of being a movement, despite the fact that the people creating the art often don’t even identity themselves as artists (though they will tell you that what they are making is art).

I attended my first burn fully familiar with installation and interactive art such as it was in the museum setting.  I was already leaning that direction… but what I saw there blew my mind.  More dirty words in Art circles.  It wasn’t that the art was good in the currently accepted Art-art ways.  But it had other things that impressed and set it apart:  Scale, use of serious Engineering and Technology, huge Collaborative Groups creating projects together, a sense of freedom or Whimsy, and most of all, Interactivity.   This is the heart of the new movement I see in art, and it is slowly moving outside of the desert and into public spaces and even museums and galleries.

It took a year or so for what I saw at Burning an to sink in to my art process.  I arrived there with a new sense of the importance of the viewer- that work is only complete in that interaction with the viewer, but I came away considering how much more complete that engagement can be when the viewer becomes a participant. A few years later I look back and see that the bulk of my work since then (and the best of it) is interactive or collaborative or both.  This is a movement that is not only transforming engineers, programmers and random people  into artists, but transforming art-educated artists who come in contact with it.  It is causing them to drop the egocentric view of the artist and reach outward- not just to their environment, to history or current events, but to other people (in particular to non-Art people), here and now.  That may be the most revolutionary thing about it.


The next post will focus in depth on the work coming out of Burning Man and Maker communities that create together, often in huge warehouses.  If it doesn’t end up as long as it looks, I will also go into examples of this type of art entering into public spaces, museums and galleries… but that will probably be post 3.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 13, 2010 at 2:49 am


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For those of you not in the business of showing art (whether you create it or not), you may not be aware of the less artsy part of a professional artist’s job.  Submissions.  Finding things to apply to, reading up on the institutions and jurors connected with those submissions to see if they are a good fit, and then  when you find them, putting together applications, coming up with proposals… it takes 1-2 full days a week if you’re serious.

For me finding things is tricky.  Installations are simply harder for most galleries to accommodate, trickier to ship, set up  and very difficult to sell until an artist is VERY established.  On the other end of the spectrum, what I would call safe and easy art is easiest to find show opportunities and homes for. Most cynically, paintings by dead famous artists might be easiest.  To sell: flat things with right angles that hang, which either go with couches or have some strong representational element (but nothing too disturbing).  For example:  I know a excellent classical artist, represented by galleries in three states who does his real work (which sells sporadically in those galleries) and then does paintings of pears for hotels under a false name sold at different galleries to make rent. In his case his real work even fits the qualifications I gave- high quality representational painting.   But pears sell, and they are cheaper, so they move.  It’s rent.   With exhibitions rather than galleries it’s a little more Art-oriented and less sale oriented, but I still sift through mountains of show ops and discard most of them.  I am fortunate that my focus is mainly on showing rather than selling.

Contemporary art is risky and there are less quality places that will attempt it.  How do you define value?  Excellence?  Things are constantly in motion, subjective…  just all around hard to evaluate.  Even if that isn’t an issue a contemporary curator must get fun problems like how to clean up 3 tons of pennies, how to install a fountain, or how to hang several cars from the ceiling and will the roof support it if you can.

In the end even the places dedicated to contemporary art prefer a safe bet: the artist with the longer resume. It proves a shared interest in the artist’s work yes, but  I could see curators preferring the resume for an reason entirely separate from the art.  It represents a greater likelihood that the artist will show up, deliver what they say they will and do it professionally.  Artists are not widely known for their grounded reliability.  I am sure curators get their share of amazingly talented people who are nightmares to work with.  A track record helps.  On the other hand, if a gallery wants truly contemporary work, they need to court emerging artists because if the art isn’t fresh, it isn’t actually contemporary.  I had a little mental tantrum in the “contemporary” section of a certain Modern Art museum when I noticed that more than half of the work was 30-40 years old.  Only 3 within 3 years of creation.  Famous yes, but help.

I digress.  As intense as  finding and addressing opportunities to show work is, I find it gives me something back even if I don’t get in.

Today I followed up on a potential proposal submission I found last week and also found a very exciting  organization in the Bay Area I was unaware of. In both cases I’m well into working out exciting new pieces.  The great thing is that they are both doable in other contexts and situations.  The thing is I might not have thought of them without the situation outlined by the proposals.   A little bit of a frame- a location, an idea to start from… and my mind is flying.  Deadlines also help.  Time slips when I don’t have a target date.  They help prioritize and focus.  My favorite piece so far (Identity Tapestry) was a response to a show submission which I didn’t get into (to be fair the first run of the project had a lot of kinks that needed to be worked out…  but the curator who saw the trial run in my studio space found a show for it within a month).  One never knows.

Anyway- these two particular submission opportunities look right up my alley (geared towards new media, installation, etc. and towards launching emerging artists), but they are also very competitive.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I’m sketching and testing my ideas, and working with images for projections in the glass figure piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

April 19, 2010 at 3:00 am