From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘societal’ Category

At College of the Redwoods

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img_1958Today Between the Lines (experience exchange) went up with the help of the head of the Black Student Union and the Professor heading the Book of the Year project. There are always hiccups, but now it looks exactly as it did in my mind and even though the official opening isn’t until Thursday it already had some participation.Some of the students who will get to participate are taking correspondence courses from prison, and I’m so glad I was able to get something of the piece to them, because having a place for their stories to be told is important.

My interview for the local NPR member station is here.  It doesn’t have the image and specific link yet, but it is the Feb, 21 one.

The piece works much like Scales did. Participants write a response to a writing prompt on a hand-painted paper and exchange it for someone else’s.  Then they read that person’s response and tie it to the frame which they feel it belongs most to (Repression, Expression, Privilege, Opportunity, Love, Hate (fear), Resistance, Compliance, Accepted, Suspected, Hardness, and Openness).  Being asked to place it not only gets them to read someone else’s experience, but it also gets them to think about it in the context of the themes in the book.

I wrestled a lot with the themes and questions.  I had to tailor the themes and questions for people who might not have read the book yet (half the students read it in the second semester), and also to make it approachable.  So much of what is wrong with the world that we need to change is things we cannot bring ourselves to engage with.  My job is to engage people, so I find myself walking the line of bringing up difficult issues in such a way that people can approach at their own speed, even in a way that seems fun and colorful.

I’ll show more about this new work later when I have more pictures of participation, but tonight I’m thinking about the screening of 13th at the college and the thoughtful, powerful discussion moderated by the Black Student Union afterwards.  The students I have met here have been wonderful and I am honored to be here.

#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.

Hidden Processes

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display sketchMy sketches are always like this- rough, scribbly, and somehow they work the best for me- loose enough for me to imagine different details.  But until the other  even the loosest sketch of the physical part of my Endangered Languages piece weren’t jelling enough for any sketch to make me happy.

I had been hitting a major wall with the work and it was keeping me up at night for weeks as I tossed image after image and idea after idea in my head.  Two days ago I had a great conversation with a friend that helped me break through.  He has helped me document my work in video and photography but more importantly he is always  a great person to brainstorm with (there are two pieces we’ve thought out together that I think need to be made as collaborative works).

The thing is the process is so often in the mind.  I visualize and discard so much before I start making these days.  Now without having physically built anything, I suddenly have a pretty clear picture of the finished piece.  Now that it’s there I can sketch and mock up and I can start building like a maniac.  I’m going to build a mock-up for size and relationship to the body before I build the main object.  I want to get the height and tilt angle that way.  It should recall natural history museum displays… but with some unexpected twists in action.

Another thing hidden (besides things in my brain) is the thoughts and concepts behind the work.  You will notice I don’t tend to explain my concepts here.  I have them, usually intensely thought out (what some people would consider over-thought out), but I want the concept to be experienced and seen and heard, not just explained before people see the actual work.  I want them to walk up and discover it, not come in with a thesis on it.  There is also a sort of delicacy in certain stages of creation, where if you explain too much (especially to the wrong people at the wrong time) it leeches the life out of it in your mind, or it kills your drive to make it.

At the same time, I love revealing the physical process.  I like to show the beauty and madness of the actual objects-in-progress and the physical experience of making the thing rather than explain everything up front.

You’ll notice the Academy of Sciences sticker in my sketchbook.  I went with my daughter after school to get a look at the display cases, both old and new.  When I go into a museums or place with the intent to take notes I always put the ticket or sticker or write the place at the top.  Sometimes the page is otherwise blank.


Written by Mary Corey March

November 22, 2014 at 12:59 am

Gala Night

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The Gala fundraiser opening for SFAI’s graduate thesis show. 

last participantThis photo is right when things were closing down.  I liked the stillness and being  able to clearly see all three pieces without the crowd.  It was a really great night.  I love  seeing people interact with the work!

My work for this show included Identity Tapestry (iteration#9)Write Me for Art/Do you read me? (Disintermediation), and Write Me for Art/ Do you read me? (digital mediation)

I poked my head out a little, but I haven’t seen the whole show yet.  I’m looking forward to a quiet viewing tomorrow.

Targeted ads as Portraits

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ad portraitContinuing in the thread of the digitally-mediated person (Binary Portraits, the Write me for Art Project, etc.) this idea came to me the other day.  I think a series is in order, but it requires the person I’m doing the portrait of to let me take all the ads from their computer that I find as they do their regular day’s navigation online

Advertizing companies get a ton of information about us as we browse (Google) or buy (Amazon).  They know what we look at and what we click on, what we are interested in, what movies and shows we watch and what we take home.  They know if you watch porn, or give money to charity.  It’s all there and they give us ads and “suggestions” based on that activity.  The line between “suggestions” and targeted ads is so blurry I think it’s really not there.

Topher ad Portrait2So… all this leaves a kind of portrait behind in the ads we get.  When I sign into my art-only Facebook I get ads for “mature and intelligent men” because it thinks I’m single because I can’t list my husband as my husband because he’s already married to my personal Facebook identity.  I assume I get diet stuff because I’m female (since I never diet), but it may be because I’ve ordered “large” in tights (I’m tall with long legs and not super skinny).  I didn’t find any the day I was doing this, but sometimes my husband gets ads targeted at gay men, usually when he’s been looking at a lot of interior design sites.  Who knows what all of this is based on?  Every click goes into the calculations.

Here you have us both as seen by the advertising computers.  This is what they think we are and want.

Written by Mary Corey March

February 3, 2014 at 5:57 am

Posted in art, digital, drawing, societal, tech

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redsMore dyeing today for Identity Tapestry.

I love working with dyes- in some ways it feels like oil painting- layers of color changing each other, relating each color to the others.  Over-dyeing (dyeing one color on top of another) gives you so much depth and variation in each color.  Love it.

Now I have to balance everything out, fill in the spectrum.  For this one I’m going a little heavy on the greens and blues (I always do a bit because we see more shades of green than any other color and because blues are the most common favorite color.  In this case I feel like it will fit the setting of Vermont.  I also want to be sure not to neglect browns for this one in particular.

After this I spend IMG_3035a lot of time attaching the yarn to the rocks and then (with some help) winding the yarn around each rock.  Time consuming, but important to the piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

New Identity Tapestry Video

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I am in the midst of the flurry of activity that comes with mixing end-of-term madness with shows and applications.  One thing this madness yielded however, was a new video documentation of Identity Tapestry, including the last 4 iterations.  And I’ve gotten it down to one minute and 34 seconds.

More about Identity Tapestry here:

Written by Mary Corey March

May 7, 2013 at 3:05 am

Opening Night for TEXT MESSAGE

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A few images from tonight.  The show was well put together and well attended and the piece was well received. There were some interesting differences that came up in which statements were mobbed and which were left untouched.   I’d say a half to a third of the yarn was used during the opening (100ish colors used).  It is the first time I’ve walked away from the piece when there was any statement left undone.  It’s hard to walk away knowing I won’t see the rest of it in action, but photographer friends have assured me they will get more images throughout the show.

I don’t know when I would get tired of doing this piece.  The different iterations make the series more interesting as a whole when you compare them against each other.  Cultural differences between cities really stand out.  I’d love to see it in different countries.

I had a number of enjoyable conversations and was very pleased to meet the other artists.  A good show and a good night.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

second stretched skin painting in progress

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detail, still wet so shinyThe latest image of my current in-progress skin painting.   Plans and earlier pics here.  It will get a double  top layer stretched over the red one.

It’s hard to see the depth and variation in the colors for this one.  It’s a lot more raw and bright than the last one because this person is under more strain and I want that coming through.

I have another in mind after this one, but I don’t want to talk about it yet.  More sculptural and will involves some casting work and a lighter top fabric.




Written by Mary Corey March

March 20, 2012 at 4:07 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