From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘political’ 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.

Access- methods in progress…

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Wonderfully excited.  A little break was all I needed, and then I reached for the idea tap and it’s pouring.  I just had a very productive conversation with my husband over lunch where I suddenly fleshed out the material and action for the new Access piece.  I have been wondering what my final MFA project would be and I’m pretty sure this is it.

This  is the first new piece that I think does many of the same exciting things which Identity Tapestry does while being very much it’s own piece.  There are technical hurdles and budgeting to sort (all the actual art arrangement and content aside), but it’s totally in reach.

Sometimes just working out my ideas aloud to another person is all I need.  Feedback at this stage is very tricky and so I’m careful who I talk to and where I let the conversation go.

In the case of my husband I always know that I can get the most cutting edge tech.  He can tell me what is currently possible, and easily visualize and potentially execute what might be a step beyond that.  The idea I’m working with is well within current tech, but methods and options are a question and he can generally answer things off the top of his head a a few moments of looking up details.  I hope to drag in another friend with certain specialized tech skills… we will see.

My husband is also awesome in that he understands how I think well enough that I don’t need to do much filling-in for him to get what I’m after.  In early stages I don’t like to fill in detail.  I draw my initial sketches very loosely to let the process inform the piece.  What happens in explaining skeletal ideas to other people though is that they look at me like I’m insane.  Those are almost always the best pieces.  When they are done, they make sense when experienced and I can better explain them.

There is a danger though in explaining something too much early on- the process needs to be part of it.  Part of the steam for the process is a little bit of ambiguity.  If you are just executing something that won’t surprise you then you feel like a manufacturer.

So… I will get to work out and test the details of the physical component of the piece.  There is a lot to do.

More feedback about ideas and experience of access or lack of it from you are extremely appreciated!  Please comment in the previous post or email me!


The exciting things

Written by Mary Corey March

June 23, 2013 at 1:39 am

First Response

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watercolor crayon (9/11/2001)

I was in art school in Boston when the World Trade Center was hit.

My first response to the images of 911 was bewilderment, and the second was to do a pile of sketches in front of the news.  It was my only way to process the images. A couple jumping hand-in-hand hit me the hardest. A childlike response was the only thing comprehensible to me- a babble… and so I used crayons.

This large-scale drawing came out of those sketches when I got to my studio at school.  Any over-worked, over-thought response seemed too pretentious to me in that first moment.  Children put things into drawing by impact, without regard to scale or timeline or even what they can actually see.  There were people on that plane and I was thinking of them looking out as they crashed, so I drew them.  The way the whole city seemed to lean away- the smoke, the I-beams, the hovering news helicopter, the person leaning out of a window above the blaze waving a flag.  Did he think someone would be able to reach him?  Could that news helicopter have saved anyone?  What were those two people thinking about as they jumped?  How overwhelmed was that lone fire truck?

I babbled it all out in crayon.

I recall a Colombian student in a very different state of bafflement that day.  For Colombians, he said, this sort of horror was what they lived every day. Buildings bombed, family members disappeared.  Yes, each attack was smaller, but they happened all the time.  He shared our grief, but at the same time found us terribly sheltered from the horrors of war that so many people in the world live with day to day.  I got the feeling we were all the more rocked because we thought we were invulnerable.  I remember Dan Rather- the uncrackable man- crying to that thought.

Today as a mother I mostly think about the children of the workers there losing their parents, and wonder how many children might have been in the building. It breaks my heart.  The other thought that haunts me today is for the fact that the people who were brave enough to go in and help and come out alive are now dying of cancer and are largely unaided by our government.

My reaction to the kind of hate that fuels this kind of attack is still utter bewilderment.  I can comprehend in my mind how these things happen.  Cycles of violence and deprivation.  The passion for a cause that young men in particular get swept up in, the creation and dehumanization of the Other, the surrender of the self to the cause (and with that surrender, letting go of personal empathy).  It happens again and again- to soldiers, revolutionaries, police, prison guards… for as far back in history as we can see.  I’ve had my share of history, psychology, and social psychology.  It doesn’t stop me from babbling in incomprehension when hate strikes.

In the spirit of looking forward, everything I have ever seen or read speaks to reaching for empathy for the Other.  To stop anything that makes you separate them into other (or worse, into “not important people, or not really people, or into “vermin” or things).  It’s a slippery slope.  Try to understand someone completely not your kind of person today.  Try to find your common thread of humanity with someone you see on some level as the “enemy” or at the very least with someone you just don’t understand.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 11, 2011 at 8:50 am

Pop. A Gorilla burst my bubble.

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I think I honestly thought feminism was obsolete, but the Guerilla Girls just burst my bubble.

The “Weenie Count” was the pin. In 1989 te Guerilla girls did a count of male and female artists in the Modern Section of the MET, as well as male and female Nudes.  Results?  Less than 5% women artists in the modern collection of the MET, but 85% female nudes..  Really?  I thought, well, but that was still the 80’s, of course it must be better now.


They did it the count again in 2005.  It was WORSE, but now with a higher percentage of male nudes (Could this be because people are less homophobic and more male gay artists and curators are Out?).

How can this be?  I honestly had no idea it was this bad.

I think I actually thought that sexism as a norm, as a general all-encompassing societal force was a thing of the past.  I grew up in a bubble.  While both parents had PhDs, my mother was the high-flier career-wise (and as a college president still is) . Her mother was an anthropologist and biologist studying genetics, and her grandmothers (Victorian ladies!) both had Masters degrees.  My father (despite his PhD) was a stay-at home dad for at least a while.  So I grew up assuming that the Feminist battle was more or less over… even if I knew some people were still jerks, just as I knew that some people were still racists (I had my racism bubble burst in middle school).

My map of feminism really dropped off at the 80’s.  I went to a girls school for a while, taught by feminist English and History teachers from 7th to 12th grade, took History of Religions courses in college that had sections on Feminist and Womanist theology, and Early Church History with a heavy dose of female mystics and movers.  I have generally examined historical feminist movements with interest, as well as the way women individually dealt with sexism and circumstances.  I love reading up on historical women who pushed the boundaries and achieved great things despite the sexism (just lately I was looking at Victorian ones, such as  Ada Lovelace, arguably the first programmer).  I also admired my mother and other women of her generation for pushing through the sexist barriers they did.

But after the 1980’s, feminism somehow lost me.

I ran into too many “feminists” who seemed to be trying to restrict who I was more than the “sexists”.  The Pink Suit bothered me- it seemed a symbol of becoming an alternate male (and a twisted idea of male at that), not being free and equal.  I came to think of more contemporary feminists as extreme, outdated and often annoying in a way that give women who are simply being equal to men or advocating equality and freedom of lifestyle choice a bad name.  I’ve often gotten into arguments over methods, and views.  I’ve even been harassed by some for wanting to  marry and have  a child and had to say over and over again- “no, I’m not brainwashed (I grew up with strong women thanks!), I know my options, I want this and yes I am will still be an individual and a human being, not a slave for being a wife and mother.”  I found it hypocritical that some “feminists” will dismiss a women as person as easily as the men they are attacking for being a mother- let alone a stay-at home mom!  It alienated me from the entire topic, post 80’s.  I suppose like many radical minorities that carry the name of a larger group, such people were not representative but just loud, and were giving everyone else a bad name.

My reaction was to stop thinking of feminism as a current thing, and to look on people today who loudly identified as “feminists” with some suspicion.  I also somehow thought the real battle was over.   Somehow my mind glossed over the fact that women still made less pay than men for equal work, and that it was just two years ago that the equal pay act was signed (thank you Obama!).  Of course I had my share of men who expected me to be weaker, stupider, etc because I was a girl and I learned to spot and trounce early to be treated as an equal.

As a bouncer during my art school days I would regularly have to best whatever new guy came in simply to do my job properly without constant condescension and interference.  I had to beat one boss at arm-wrestling just to get the job in the first place.  I’ve had to step in hard at times to be heard in conversation in a group of men and do some verbal/intellectual trouncing before they would stop talking over me in conversation as if I couldn’t comprehend the topic.

I did see it, but despite everything around me I missed it.  I attributed it to individual behavior, not a societal plague.  Somehow I thought society as a whole had moved past this.  I was blind to it.  I was in a bubble.

The Weenie Count burst my bubble and I am grateful for it.  It succeeded particularly because it was an objective number, not a subjective idea that might be overstated.  Believe me, I’ll be paying more attention to the role of women, and the role of women in art now.

So am I a feminist?  I believe in women’s equality and right to equal treatment, and in a freedom to chose one’s lifestyle, but until running into the Guerilla Girls I would not have called myself a Feminist.  Now I’m not sure if I will- there is too much baggage in that term.  I do know I will pursue the recognition of those rights with some serious fire under me.

I have to say it’s a bitter pill.  I already had a taste for the difficulties any artist struggling for recognition and shows has… but to find out that it is going to be that much harder because of my gender? It makes my blood boil.

I have a theory.  Next post.

Written by Mary Corey March

January 8, 2011 at 2:20 am