From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

#DadaTaroT @ open studios

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I did a less formal version of the #DadaTaroT piece at this fall’s open studios.  I am really enjoying this piece!  A lot of people asked some pretty intense questions, and many interesting interpretations and conversations arose.

A few odd things keep happening:  out of the (4?) times people have asked about Trump winning the election (the piece was made during the primaries), Elvis has been drawn three times out of the nearly 100 media cards.  What is one to make of that?

Another thing that has happened at least three times is that pairs of friends have picked the same card after the entire deck was shuffled.

Two groups went as three people together instead of a pair.

In this iteration, a questioner asked about the nature of the artist as a child, and the person answering was actually quite right.  Another person made an offhand comment that the questioner would get a tattoo on their hand… which it turned out they already had.  A surprising number of people asking about their own mortality.

Narratives upon narratives.

Apologies… the notes on the  two responses seems to be lost.  I’m working on recovery and will post them when and if I get them.

Identity Tapestry to show in Switzerland

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vkz_ueber20unsFrom the first iterations of Identity Tapestry I’ve been wanting to create it both in a museum space and in another language.  I’m pleased to announce that this May I’ll be doing both!  Identity Tapestry will be up as part of the upcoming show “Identity” for four months starting this May at the Vögele Cultural Center in Pfäffikon (just outside Zurich).

I will be flying out for the install and I’m incredibly excited.  Any iteration demands a look at which statements to include or leave or if new ones ought to be added, especially in a new area or situation. In this case the language use should be especially interesting because there are essentially two languages at work there: High German and Swiss German.  One is the official language which is used for nearly all text, the other is the language of intimate conversations and the inside of one’s own head.  Apparently it is only recently that the Swiss-German language has appeared in text, and then mostly in text messages, and only to very intimate friends.  How I approach these languages and navigate translations will add new levels of complexity to the piece.  Thankfully the curatorial staff is wonderful and I have a local Zurich-raised person who is willing to consult with me on language as well.

The Crucible of Deadlines and Constraints

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hand on fireMy problem as an artist has never been lack of ideas or even crafting skills.  The real skill is deciding what is most important and when, what not to do, what to sacrifice, what to put the most time and effort into.  Drawing itself is an act of selection- what line to place, what line to ignore, what line to emphasize, tweak, or ghost.

So right now I have a good problem for an artist- two shows at the same time.  One I committed to months ago, but without a specific piece.  Since I knew I could have more space for that show I prepared to spread out and create a larger installed environment.  Then I was invited to be in a show in a museum just outside Zurich, Switzerland.  They wanted a specific piece, and it is one I have to be there to put together.  And they open two days apart.

Now that the Switzerland one is confirmed I’m turning back to the first one.  Suddenly I have more constraints.  Something that can run itself.  Something smaller and easy to install.  Still something interactive.  In the case of this show, something both contemporary and Dada. I was intimately familiar with Dada before I left high school and I loved it then, but two more advanced art degrees have actually put me at more of a distance.  So I dove back to the source.  I re-read the manifestos, looked back at the beginnings and what motivated them.  Suddenly an entire new interactive, small, easy to set up artwork burst out of my head.  And it will work.  And it comes right out of the unconscious pool of all the ideas I am constantly exploring. Better still, because the process of Dada involves some randomness, it will be fun and surprising to make.  I’m excited.

When I have enough time and resources to do whatever I want without a burning idea starting in my mind and a place to put the result I do very little that gets finished.  Give me a place, a time, and a single constraint or direction and suddenly my mind is on fire and my hands itching to create.

Stepping Back (in)

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mirrorI’ve been away from being public about my art for a little while now.  I’ve only applied to a single program, I’ve written no blog posts, showed no work and even turned down a few shows.  I needed a break where I could think my thoughts without offering them to the world.

Years ago I might have pushed on, and possibly had a breakdown.  I’ve learned better.  During the course of my recently completed MFA program six people I love died.  Three of my four grandparents, one of whom was like a second mother to me.  Two mentors.  One friend and fellow artist to suicide.
Just on their own MFA programs are difficult, intense cauldrons of emotion and ego and challenge and intensity of ideas and beliefs.  They are the crucibles that forge us… those of us who don’t crack.  The ones that did crack were measured in the bulging mailboxes and empty studio spaces at the end of each year, and there were more than a few.  We put ourselves on the line, our ideas, our thoughts, our work, and those of us who are willing, our loves and lives and beliefs too.  Of course, the current fashion is cynicism and snarkyness (which doesn’t call on people to put themselves out so far) but for me being on the line it is what makes the art have a soul,  and while Soul doesn’t matter to some, and there is some good purely intellectual/aesthetic art, it matters very much to me.
After the thesis show I had immediate offers for shows and commissions- wonderful opportunities,  but not the breath of air I needed.  For a full year after it I was busy, during which there was another death, the final grandparent. They all lived full lives, all died over 94, but the loss is ours and never easy.  The situation of being in constant physical pain was one factor I had throughout all three years, as was being the main caretaker of my young daughter during a period where my husband was so busy he rarely even got weekends off.  There were other significant pressures I won’t list.  It was a hard three years.  It was also intensely productive and important.

At the same time I was incredibly fortunate.  I didn’t have to pull my hair out over money.  I had love and good friends and whether I wanted a break or not I those commissions and shows just dropped into my lap- nearly every vacation during the MFA program as well as after it.  I didn’t have to look for a single show after I graduated- I didn’t have time for any more, but when I saw the pause in the stream, I took the break instead of hunting for the next one.  I shut down the blog and set out to take care of everything in my life that had been held together with sealing wax for three years. I did things for the fun of them, I saw the people I love, I experienced new things and got new ideas.
Like many artists, I have depression.  I have anxiety and panic attacks.  It is almost a cliche that artists are tortured souls and some of us think we can’t work without that (I disagree, but it is different).  Chronic pain adds its own layer to one’s process.  Most people looking at me would have no idea about the first two and many would never know about the pain either.  There were many classes and critiques where I was clenching my fists not to scream from the physical pain in my back and concentrating hard on keeping a normal face.  I have many strategies for dealing with it all.  I kept on, put one foot in front of the other, did all the things I needed to do and held everything together and met every deadline, did my best work… and when I had an opening I did the sane thing I would not have done 10 years ago, and rested.

 

You see two other people died during that time, acquaintances, but each with a compelling message.  One was another suicide from depression- someone who worked himself into the ground and didn’t acknowledge the care he needed to take of himself, he pushed himself too far.  The other was a car crash, a terrible random thing that could take any of us at any moment.  When I resurfaced those deaths reminded me again not to take a moment for granted, and not to put taking care of myself last.  I even discovered something to help my back and for the first time in seven years I’m having multiple days without serious pain.  I’m breathing again.

 

So here I am, back at work.  My mind has been plotting new art, my hands have been busy, sketches and ideas form.  It’s time to step back in to show my work and share my thoughts again.    I leave you with this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on creative genius and depression.

 

***Addition:  Wonderfully, when I moved on to check my email I found an invitation to include a specific piece in an exciting museum show in another country waiting in my inbox.  A well-timed confirmation to stepping back in indeed.

Spring Shows and Events!

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     April 19th:         Open Studios 12-5PM   2565 Third Street (between 22nd and 23rd), SF, CA
                                   
May 2-4th:             Print Show at Mullowney Printing   933 Treat Street, SF, CA 94110

                                    * Opening on Friday the 2nd.

     May 14th-18th:      PRINCIPAL:  SFAI’s Graduate Thesis Exhibition


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SFAI Graduate Open Studios: http://www.sfai.edu/openstudios

This is your chance to get a peek into the process.

Navigational Tip:   There is an entrance at 22nd street.  Go to the second floor.  Every Orange door on the floor is an SFAI facility. 

I am in Bay C (just to the right of the lounge) in a lovely corner spot in #7 in the back right. 

I will send out more information on the second two events as they approach.  I hope to see you at the Open Studios!  I will have an interactive piece running in the studio as well as a Participatory piece you can contribute to.

Whirlwind of Art NYC: Grid/Weave/Tangle

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Last week I flew out to NYC for some Art saturation.  Museums, Galleries, the Whitney Biennial, a show, studio visits… it was wonderful.  There will be a post about all that, but I thought I’d share the work that really connected to my current exploration of weave and grid and tangle.

I happened to see Jasper John’s “Regrets” series at MOMA and noticed a lot of fabric and weave in his prints!  It was interesting to me that though I knew him as a painter since high school, I’d never really seen any of his print work (one of those some-media-privileged-over-others things?).  He also directly incorporated cloth and weave into his in 0-9 series on display there. Last week I was just working out how I would incorporate the weave into my first copper plate and here was a famous artist doing just that.  Serendipitously later that day I saw another Jasper Johns piece at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea related to the 0-9 prints at MOMA which was done as a bronze sculpture … again with the weave.

The following slide show is made up of the work around NYC, old and new that fed  into the shapes and thoughts around grid/weave/tangle that I’ve been exploring.

 

Written by Mary Corey March

March 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Magnolia Editions

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So today my tutorial professor Mildred Howard took us to visit Magnolia Editions in Oakland.  She really goes above and beyond.  What an incredible space!  There were notable artworks both carefully displayed in the lobby and scattered, hung, tucked and neatly filed all over the place.  Don Farnsworth gave us a tour and struck me as just the sort of person who would get along nicely with the various engineer, rocket scientist, neuroscientist, etc. set of my friends who build crazy things in their spare time.

IMG_4618The thing that clenched that impression (besides his knowledge of the human-eye/brain, color, etc.) was the studio-made coffee roaster.  It’s a re-purposed barbeque with a little motor for a rotator to turn the little cage for the beans.  We roasted them while he talked about the fine art of coffee-roasting, cooled them over an inverted house fan over a screen, and then he stamped and filled bags for us.  Things like this reassure me about the art world.  I’m glad I’m not the only geek here.

Magnolia has all kinds of incredible toys I want to play with- a huge laser etcher/cutter that has eye-beam spotting (senses dots on your material to better line things up).  They have a print shop, paper making studio, a large scale watercolor printer… so many things.  Especially interesting to me is that they also have everything (including the knowledge and skills) for designing large scale digitally designed tapestries like the Pae White piece that blew my mind at the art fair in LA (a smaller version of this).  It turned out the Magnolia folks did it with her and everything is printed on the largest loom of this kind in Belgium. Something about soft flexible, untreated fabric looking like metal just does it for me.  That it’s in the weave, not any application on the surface.

Anyway- a HUGE printer (more than half the size of my living room huge) that prints on a wide variety of surfaces.  While we were there they printed a new piece that will be used for Imagery Winery’s new label (it is an award-winning winery which commissions artists to do their wine labels.  The surface of the piece itself was layers of laser-etching, then building up the surface and finally printing over the relief.  Wonderful stuff.

Chuck Close’s work features heavily at the studio as they work out processes together (currently tiles for a New York subway installation).   He actually called while we were there and asked us over speakerphone if we really wanted to be artists.  When we said yes, he said “Keep the faith”.  🙂

The whole atmosphere was really a delight.  I would love to come back there with a project to do with them and their lovely toys.

On a side note they were doing exactly what I was doing all day yesterday- using the laser cutter as part of the printmaking process.  Something that seemed like a natural move to me, one I was not at all surprised to hear that others have already been doing.

Written by Mary Corey March

February 21, 2014 at 10:45 am