From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘SFAI’ Category

Playing with text

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As we revisit memories they degrade and change and become confused. The time and place one is in now will flavor that memory. This was an exercise of writing “memory” over and over in different handwriting styles which each evoked different times and places for me. Gradually the meaning of the text itself is lost.

I seem to have become a text artist, at least in part.  Today’s offering is me playing.  I need to play more.  A lot of amazing work can come out of it.

I took a fantastic class last semester entitled Tex(tile).  It dealt with Semiotics, fiber art, fashion, symbols as text, text in art and fashion, metaphor in fiber techniques and materials… it was fabulous and right up my alley.

This semester I’ve got a text art class “This is a mirror, you are a written sentence” (after the text art piece by Luis Camniter) exploring text in art both in the studio and in reading.  I am also taking my first proper printmaking class at the graduate level.  It made sense since I’m interested in the reproduced, evolving, reinterpreted image/text and the craft/art/high tech juxtopositions.  Printmaking was high tech and is now almost craft as a medium (in the sense that these things can be automated, but we do them this way for a certain human texture, process, pride in work, quality, etc.).  The results of any process can be art, medium has nothing to do with it.  Printmaking also has a history of text mixing with image.

I’m going to continue on my large scale projects, but I’m going to make a point of playing with smaller scale ones.  Also of doing some painting and drawing more often.  One thin I’m looking forward to about printmaking is that it combines drawing and sculpture so neatly.  If you paint multiple colors/washes onto a plate you even get an element of painting too.


Written by Mary Corey March

January 28, 2014 at 1:36 am

Pulse Project

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If you are wondering what you are looking at, it is my newest Interactive and Participatory piece and my first proper sound installation as shown at The LAB, SAn Francisco in the recent show Cubic (Sounds)2.

Visitors are invited to place a finger on the pulse sensor to have their pulse taken. This triggers the audio aspect of the piece: a story of a San Francisco Moment recorded from someone in San Francisco whose pulse matches theirs. The sound of the story is played by a the flask of Bay salt water using a vibrating piezo plate to convert it into a speaker.  The grey material is cotton cloth sculpted in a rough impression of San Francisco topography with a few major streets embroidered in red.

In the end the project worked and was well received.  I’m sorry to say that during most of the opening it was almost impossible to hear though.  Even when I made an exception for the opening and added a conventional speaker under the table to compete with the sound from the other sound installations in the echoing space it was too quiet once the room was full of talking people.  Still, for the rest of the show and at the beginning and end of the opening you could hear it and it ran beautifully.

This is a piece I would love to re-work and do again in a quieter space.  In a quiet space the flask of water speaks to you quietly, but audibly- intimately.



Written by Mary Corey March

December 8, 2013 at 10:31 am

Digital Warping

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IMG_5712There is no sign of the many yards of silk ribbon I hand-dyed for the weft or the last skein of white cotton for the warp.  Today was one of those days that all the little things go wrong… until I finally got the materials sorted out and started work.  That makes everything better.  Warping is so meditative.

The first layer of warp (the up and down bit you weave the weft/across bit through) is mostly in place now.  New yarn arriving Wednesday to finish that.  The optical fiber comes next, then some near-invisible mono-filament for structure.  Then some loo/warp setup-stuff, THEN I can start weaving.  I don’t think I can really hook up the LEDs to the optical fibers to get them to glow until the whole thing is woven.

I was testing the optical fibers again the other night.  They are meant to only pass light from one end to the other without you seeing it out the sides.  By abrading the surface you get a side-glow.  If I abrade any single fiber evenly the whole way the light won’t make it- it will go dark in the middle, so what I’m going to go for is an almost rainfall-like effect- individual fibers abraded differently.  The tricky thing here will be that I will have to apply all the abrasion before actually seeing any of it lit or woven, so I will only see a slightly more opaque bit to tell me where the light will be.

I have mountains of concept behind this work, but as usual I’m reluctant to talk publicly about it while the work is in-progress.  I want to hear people’s experience of the work before telling them what I think is important or what my intentions are.  A lot of it in this piece is about the meanings within the materials and their history, and the methods employed to produce the piece- drawing from a painting, digitization, cropping, weaving.  The image itself is around the 6th version of same.  Days and days of work and artistic decision-making have gone into a deceptively simple derivative image.

In other news tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the other artists in the show I organized for the Diego Gallery at SFAI (selected by an outside jury).  Interwoven Connections– contemporary fiber (April 28th-May 4th).  So far so good.  Four awesome women (Dara Rosenwasser, Jacqueline Buttice, Heather Jones and myself) working at the intersection of fiber, photography, chemistry and technology.


Written by Mary Corey March

April 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Graduate Open Studios

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studioGraduate Open Studios at SFAI is just around the corner.  Come see what me and everyone else is working on.

April 20, 12:00–5:00 pm

Map (you want to take the entrance on 22nd St, not 3rd St.)  It’s on the Second floor and includes all bays with orange doors.  I am in studio C7.  It’s in bay C (one of the nearer bays on the left, studio is in the back right corner).

If you come visit you may well find yourself incorporated into an artwork.  I usually use Open Studios events for their steady stream of people who can feed into my work, so I am often alternating between hosting my studio and actually working.  Also, I can’t stand being in my workspace looking at anything unfinished without working on something!

freeing up the brain

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IMG_5629Even before joining the MFA program, just as an artist paying attention to the art world I felt certain kinds of pressures on my work.  In art school the current canon is all the more palpable.  My generation of artists (if they are to be considered proper Contemporary Artists) have the pressure to figure out their conceptual framework and justify their concept, use of materials, etc. before they even touch any material.  It’s stifling.  Sometimes the process informs the work through the material or the unconscious.  This pressure to think through everything and justify everything stifles certain essential parts of the artistic process.

The project I took with me to Norway and Sweden this trip was an effort to shake some of this off.  It was an impulse project.  I started not knowing what I would do more than a few steps ahead and deliberately not trying to figure that out too hard.

It’s still unfolding, and it is a relief to have something unscripted, though deadlines are putting more pressure on me to resolve it quickly now that I’m back.  Maybe that’s all it is for, maybe it turns into something I’m really happy with- we shall see.  It looks like it will be the first project that involves sound for me.

Travel generally helps to shake out the rigid bit’s of one’s thinking a bit.  I didn’t get in as much drawing as I would like, but I did get in a lot of walking and looking and just the movement of travel- planes, trains, buses… even reindeer.   My brain feels flexible and open again where it had felt a bit squeezed a couple weeks ago.

On another note, I did see auroras on my aurora-hunting journey.  A series of pale green and lavender ones, and one huge serpent of a thing arcing across the entire sky- pulsing and blazing.  It was incredible.  Riding back down from the sky station to the lights of the nature center below in the silence while pale auroras bloomed overhead was somehow even more precious.  Silence that huge is a beautiful thing.


Written by Mary Corey March

March 29, 2013 at 9:27 am

Setting out for the Arctic Circle

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IMG_4750I am so pleased with how the prints came out!  I have been dying to try the fancy fabric printer at SFAI since I first saw it on the tour.  So exciting.  For this new project I’ve printed on Belgian linen and organza (both pre-treated for printing).   It nearly looked like the fabric wouldn’t arrive in time to print, but though it came down to the wire it all worked out.  Amazingly the tests I did weren’t even needed- it came out exactly as I hoped it would!  There’s a first time for everything- even printing on machines.

I took 5 minutes the other day and made myself a rough little fabric embroidery floss roll that fits in my pack and I’m ready to go!

I love working while in motion, especially detailed things like this.  So yes, there will be embroidery, layers of printed fabric… and I’m thinking about other elements too… like sound.  The piece will be an installation of many smaller parts gathered around the primary map.  One thing I’m enjoying – I don’t know what will happen to the piece on the journey.  It will be a surprise, coming out of the travel.  We’ll see.  Pleased and ready to go to the Arctic Circle!


Written by Mary Corey March

March 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

to the wire…

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weaving stripped

Here she is as she should be.  I went through and stripped the wires at the ends.  It’s a little surprise for people who don’t realize at first that she’s made of computer cable.
I really like her hanging like this.  Originally I had her confined to a laser-cut acrylic frame-thing, but this is better.  In the right light the shadows will be great.  I’m also happy with the ragged edges- more organic vs/ digital play there.

If you haven’t seen this before, she’s the first of a new series taken from a previous series of “Binary Drawings”.  I sketched old master’s paintings in tiny 2-inch spaces, roughly, scanned them into the computer and worked them through a rather long process until I got a binary image that I was pleased with.  I was exploring how humanity still comes through layers of interpretation.  This new series takes a selection from those portraits (and new ones) and is woven.  As a fiber artist it made so much sense to me to translate them into weaving, but the surprising thing for non-weavers is that the loom was the first binary computer.  The old punch cards of old computers are based on the punch cards that created patterns on Jacquard looms.  In this case I’m extending the exploration of translating humanity into the digital world as it is now- bite-sized selections of subject matter.  I also love the art/craft/tech juxtaposition- methods of communication and expression, utility and beyond utility.  There is also the play against what is “woman’s work/art” versus a “man’s work/art”.


In completely other news I am doing what I’ve wanted to do for years and going to see the northern lights.  I’m headed for the Arctic Circle, first Norway and then Sweden this Thursday.

At first I had planned on continuing this series while on the road (plane, train, bus…), but the wire wasn’t going to ship in time.  In the midst of travel preparations I came across a new idea coming out of two or three long term back-burner ideas.  It will come out of the journey and is something I can pack easily into a small bag.

The tech part of it I’m scrambling on though- it involves printing on Belgian linen and possibly organza, which I ordered immediately.  Thankfully the manufacture is very nearby and very helpful.  I should be able to print it in the SFAI lab on Tuesday morning and have Wednesday to adjust things as needed.  I LOVE the printing lab at SFAI!  I can’t wait to print on this fabric!  I will be stitching through it…  more I won’t say… the piece is very lightly in my brain and nailing it down now will kill it.  I’m so glad I have real art to work on during the trip!

Written by Mary Corey March

March 11, 2013 at 10:27 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

Speak a few languages?

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Thank you so much to the people who contributed to this piece.  It will be part of a collaborative International show called “Telephone, recalled” taking place in France and the US:

É c o l e S u p é r i e u r e d e s B e a u x – A
r t s T A L M
Angers – 15/11 > 15/12/12
C e n t r e N a t i o n a l É d i t i o n A r t I
m a g e
Chatou – 29/09 > 24/02/13
C A P C M u s é e d ‘ A r t C o n t e m p o r
a i n
Bordeaux – 15/11 > 16/12/12
T h e E m i l y H a r v e y F o u n d a t i o n
New York – 15/11 > 24/11/12
S a n F r a n c i s c o A r t I n s t i t u t e
San Francisco – 20/11 > 06/12/12


Other artists are enacting our pieces as described over the telephone and we are enacting theirs.  All of us are also enacting pieces from the original 1969 show.  This is where I need your help! 

I will be enacting a Mel Bochner piece.  It involves an international game of telephone of sorts.I call someone in another country, say France.  I read a text to them.  They write it down in English, then call the next person in a different country (say Italy) and read the text over the phone in French.  The Italian repeats the process, calling someone in a different country.  It repeats about 4 times, ending i an English-speaking country until the last person calls me again and I write the last version down in English.  The texts will be displayed in the gallery.

So if you are in another country… how many languages can you understand and write down?  Would you be willing to take a call from a stranger, write what they say in their language down, call another stranger and say it in your own language?

If so please contact me as soon as possible!

Written by Mary Corey March

November 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

Feet on the ground, starting to run

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It has been a awhile since the last update.  The first jumble of moving in and starting to find my connections to SFAI has settled.

Today was spectacular. Last night I attended a visiting artist lecture by Raashad Newsome.  He’s awesome.  Intelligent, open, collaborative, exploring interesting cultural and artistic juxtapositions… just fantastic.   Using cultural gestures and conversational exclamations to score music in the style of chamber music in live performance pieces.  He conducts the pieces, and at the same time uses a wii and his own programming to mix video live into the performance!  Genius.  Exploring conceptions of “high” and “low” society and mixing them up, abstracting them together… then taking them around the world to see how they inhabit other cultures.  Brilliant.

So- I loved his work, immediately liked him, and then I got to have him come over for a studio visit in my studio today!  I just wish we’d had longer to talk, but it was a good talk and he liked my work.  He immediately struck me as the kind of person I would be great friends with.

I also had my first session with my tutorial class professor.  She’s really a great fit for me.  She asked good questions and gave me new things to look at, but she also really got my work and appreciated it.  I have no doubt she will push me harder  in the future and I look forward to it.  I love being challenged by someone who’s really good and who is really in proper communication with me.  She can also handle my whole range, which is impressive- tech things, installation, painting… she’s very versatile and has a well of knowledge and experience worth tapping for it all.

When people miss most of what I’m doing or saying and give me less than useful feedback on my work based on not understanding me or my work there is little to get from it.  There’s always something to get though.  For example:  “this is a lesson in how to manage discussions with certain kinds of people”, or “your work will be read in this way sometimes by certain people: how do you deal with that and to what extent is it them, to what extent is it you and does it matter enough to shift your work?”.  Everything is potentially useful, but some much more so than others.

Following studio visits I got a load of lumber for a new project I’m experimenting on.  I’m also convinced that it’s time to order materials for another one I’ve been planning for a few months.  More tech in both.

In the meantime I’m chipping away at the Pieta- there are many layers to go.   I also (finally!) found what I think will be a great hair photo source for the Mother.  I dragged an art history MA student from my Critical Race Theory class and took photos of her hair the other day.  People are often bewildered, but generally willing  thankfully.

Looking at the image of the painting  on the screen I see I let the left side of her face get too light and I definitely lost something in the left side of the smile.  I knew I was losing it but it was getting forced so I had to stop and return to it later.  The smile is hands-down the most delicate part of creating this piece.  Fortunately I get to go back into it tomorrow.

Last Friday I did a bit more with my quick painting of the woman in the B52 bomber.  It doesn’t fit into my body of work, but I really love the image- love the juxtaposition of the woman and the machine.

So… work is picking up and I’m very happy with my decision to do this MFA program.  The people it is putting me in contact with are an incredibly rich resource.  The access to visiting artists and artist/curator/critic faculty is great, but the connections with other students are not to be underestimated.  I’ve been meeting some wonderful fellow students and having some great conversations.  I’m pleased, and the art path continues.

In the meantime, Identity Tapestry in LA came down last Tuesday and more photos will follow.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 21, 2012 at 9:53 am