Oh Big Apple

December 5, 2011

Does anyone even call it that anymore? In any case, I have officially lived in the big city for 6 months, and what a big city it is! There is certainly a huge adjustment period–especially after living in the middle of nowhere in Northern Vermont–and I would say that adjustment period doesn’t even really start until you’ve been here for 4 or 5 months. The first 4 months you’re in pure survival mode–scraping by on as little as possible, building up a routine and a familiarity with your new environment, learning the absolute basics of how to get by. It’s not until you’re a little more settled, a little less panic stricken by the whole thing, that the reality of what you’ve just done begins to set in. By the 6 month mark, you’re either completely burned out by the rat race that is life in the city, or you’re settled and comfortable enough to let those thoughts of doubt seep in. In either case, its time for those age old questions about what you’re doing here, and why, and to what end? Is this really what you wanted? Is it what you thought it would be? How long will you actually last here?

At least, that’s been my experience, and I hear similar reports from others. And I’ve heard that this is the formative point in your New York City experience. If you react to the 6 month mark positively, you’ll probably stick around for a while and things will get better or maybe even really great. If you react apathetically, you’ll probably try it out a little longer, stick around for a year or two, enjoy bits and pieces, really not enjoy others, but you’ll eventually move on to other, greener pastures. And if you react negatively at the 6 month mark, you’re probably doomed to hate the city forever. Even if you stick it out for a while and try to make it work, you’ll eventually walk away happy to be rid of it and not interested in ever going back except as a visitor, and even that might be pushing it.

This is where I’m at. The 6 month mark, wondering what I’ve done, how I’ll survive here, and whether I’ll find a way to be happy or if I’m going to come away hating it. I’ll get back to you on this.

In any case, I’ve been thinking recently about this blog and where it should be headed, now that life is so different… Not having written since October 1 is evidence of this… So far, I’ve kept it based entirely on my own artwork and process, and that form of documentation is still important to me, but my daily art experience is so much more than that now. Living in Vermont, and even Boston, my own art-making was all there was to report on, but here in the city, I encounter horrible and incredible art every day through my job as a sculpture conservator and in the city itself in the parks and streets, at galleries and museums, through articles and blogs, and in the studios of friends and colleagues. My personal art world has exploded exponentially, and if this blog is true to my art and its making, it has to reflect this incredible expansion as well. How this will manifest itself, I’m not entirely sure of yet, but by 2012, I expect some changes will be happening on here. Whether that will mean adding all these new aspects of my art world to this blog, or expanding to a new blog focused on all the stuff I see in my day to day routine, and still keeping this one primarily focused on the studio, I’m not sure yet… I’ll get back to you on this.

In any case, stay tuned for post holiday changes, and I hope you all have a great holiday season! See you in 2012…

This show was the first time I wrote my own press release and sent it out to every local contact I could think of/find. And who knew that sometimes people actually pay attention to them! I did it mostly as a formality, and maybe as practice, but didn’t expect it to actually lead to anything. For the most part, I don’t think people have actually gotten up to go see the show themselves, but they’ve at least posted the information in their papers and on their websites, or called me for a quick little write-up. And at the very least, it got Anahi Costa, of ArtseenVT to come check it out and write up a review. Not to mention it was great to finally meet her after working with her on Studio Center advertising… Science is Fiction is up for 2 1/2 more weeks so there’s still time, but I wanted to go ahead and share some of the fun publicity I’ve received so far.

Vermont Art Zine, online VT arts magazine–published back when I first sent out the press release

Seven Days, Vermont’s free newspaper–just published yesterday

ArtseenVT, online arts magazine–published this morning

I also got a great write-up in the RISD Alum magazine (pg. 13 and pg. 26 & 27) that happened to coincide with the launch of their new website, so the article ended up on the front page of the alumni section of the new site in addition to in print in the magazine! Had nothing to do with the press releases–just lucky timing.

And I’ve been trying to find some time to write a “Things Learned” entry after the Brooklyn Art Fair fiasco (before I forget everything!), but just to give you a sense of it, I found this article today, which is pretty accurate to my experience. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was a catastrophe.

Last week was my 100th blog post and I meant to do something special for it but totally forgot! Though it is a week late, I would still like to do something for it now. I’m thinking maybe a review of favorite posts or meaningful moments captured on the blog over the last 3 years. Is that too meta? A blog that reviews itself? In any case, it all began in January of 2007 when I found out I won the Sitings Competition at the Museum of Art, RISD and knew I would need a time based means of capturing the creation, birth, life and death of that piece. It may still be my favorite work to date, one that I fear I may never be able to “top“, but I’m not here to compete with myself, right? Mark Morris had some great things to say about the artist competing with self and I try to keep those words close… I’m here to make the work that needs making. A few favorites from those six months:

Sitings Proposal: I blame this proposal for starting me down this path that I have yet to turn back from…

Things Ive Learned So Far: the first of these that I try to do with every project. Working on my first show EVER with an institution was a real eye opener…

Opening Part I: the opening was just sooooo great. Shockingly well attended and incredible to see my work next to  historical masterpieces…

The End: the bittersweet end…

After Sitings (and graduation) was over, I didn’t do anything art related for a year. I managed to launch my website that summer, but that was as much for the purpose of landing a job (if not more so) as it was about the art and so when I landed said job, art making went out the window for a while. But I missed it during that year and thought about it all the time. Almost exactly a year later, I started searching for a ceramic studio where I might be able to make a piece about teeth that I’d been thinking about for a while. It was a long search as most studios don’t allow mold-making for slip-casting, but eventually I found the Harvard Ceramic Program, where I began working part time in addition to the design job to help fund the cost of a class that would allow access to the facilities. That fall I saw the RISD New England Alum call for entries and decided to apply on a whim, thinking it would be a good way to give myself a deadline for this tooth project. In the end, I proposed something extremely site-specific and the teeth project had to be put on hold for what became Post-Processualism. A few favorites from those three months:

Cracks, Recycling and Cats: this one cracks me up (terrible pun) because the death of the slab roller was one of MANY disasters throughout this project. Reading back through them reminds me of what a roller coasters this whole project was…

Frames Part 2: collecting frames from thrift stores was one of my favorite parts of this project as it gave me access to all this terrible “art,“ which became a fixture in our house for a while…

Installation: I mostly like this one for the video. The cracking and popping of the stacked tiles was the most amazing part of the whole piece, and no one saw it or heard it but me…

Unemployed!: I selected this one for the deinstallation process, which was really poignant for this piece, but love that it also talks about having quit my design job at the same time… and how it ends with the unknowingness of what to do with the piece, but also my life in general…

And, well, it all went downhill from there! Quit the design job, started working at a bakery, took on more hours at Harvard and finally launched into the tooth project that I had then been thinking about for 2 years. Nine months later, Vestigial Organs emerged:

Teeth Stories: the birth of teeth stories, which I need to get back up off the ground… VSC would be a great chance to collect a lot more stories…

Sculpture Residency!: of course this one because thats when I found out I would be going to VSC, something that would unknowingly change everything, but also because I love the scale in the image of the real tooth next to the modeled tooth—that tooth would become the SMALLEST of all the teeth in Vestigial Organs

Production Mode: because nothing beats that moment when the mold-making is done and you can just go into full on production-mode

Cut Paper Wedding Cake: unrelated but just such a fun project and gift to a forever childhood friend…

((De)Re)Install: A Trip to Rhode Island: mostly because of the insanity of taking Vestigial Organs down the day after putting it up for the first time, driving it to RI and installing it again. As usual I am horribly indebted to wonderful friends for helping with this…

And finally it was time for what was supposed to be a month long vacation in Vermont. To be totally honest, working with candy started out as a joke during a discussion with friends debating what to work on before leaving Boston, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it and I figured it was only a month—why not do something really fun and out there? I could always come back to teeth when I got back to Boston since I still had a lot of ideas about them… As usual, nothing comes out as you intend in life, and so here I am, still working with candy six months later and living full-time in Vermont. As of yet, nothing has “emerged“ from my time here, but I did schedule my first show in the Red Mill Gallery so I will have to put something together for that. It is in six weeks so it may be a bit of a crunch, but hopefully I can pull something interesting together by then. I will post the dates as soon as they are finalized, but for now it will be around July 12th—20th if any of you can make it up to see it.

I know this is silly and cheesy, but I have to dedicate this 101st entry to Matt. Because you were there for all of it.

Week 11 of 52

April 19, 2010

I am taking a break from everything this week including the blog, BUT I do have one fabulous thing to share. A used but perfectly functional digital camera arrived in the mail this morning from a person I’ve never met. Thanks to my shameless pleas for a non broken camera in order to continue timely and accurate documentation of everything in studio, a faithful blog reader who first found me three years ago through my show at the RISD Museum sent me a camera!! Thank you soooo much! I gave it a little test run this afternoon and so far so good—what an unexpected and wonderful gift. So all of you reading this, hop over to Cerebus Fangirl where she writes about anything and everything related to Dave Sim, Gerhard, Cerebus and aardvarks and say thanks for me! If you are unfamiliar with Cerebus, the longest running English language comic book series EVER, you should read up on this fabulous series, which you can now get in graphic novel form as well. Thank you again Cerebus Fangirl! All the pics that show up here over the next few months will be thanks to you.

Sometimes things just have a way of working out.

Time to Learn

November 19, 2009

Time for the good old Things Learned entry! I seem to have developed a habit of writing an entry at the end of every major project about new lessons learned along the way. Thinking about the project retrospectively helps me tie up any loose ends in my mind and gain some closure with it before moving on, even if I think I may revisit it or its themes. So here goes…

1. I can’t afford to take classes at Harvard! Despite working at the studio in order to fund using the space, without a real job, it is completely absurd for me to think I can continue making ceramic work there. Time to look into some other media that I can do at home without expensive firings.

2. Doing large scale work of any kind is complicated by not having a car. Zipcar is wonderful and all, but when it comes time to install in other locations, especially outside the city… well… it gets expensive very quickly. Not to mention the zipcar trips for dragging large supplies around. No one likes it when you try to carry a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood on the bus.

3. Living in an industrial area of the city is AWESOME! A lumber yard is less than a block away for building materials, FedEx, USPS and UPS are all a block away for shipping or receive large awkward objects, hardware store is a block away, many zipcar locations within walking distance, easy highway access, etc. etc.

4. Living in an apartment with no walls is so… freeing! I can transform the place depending on what I need at any given moment with almost no limitations. And if walls become necessary, it’s pretty easy to hang curtains or even build a temp wall.

5. Problems are often unseen pushes in the right direction. Can you imagine if glazing all those teeth had actually worked? This would be an entirely different project and not nearly as visceral.

6. Having a supportive partner during extreme transitions (nearly $50K to $15K as one example of many) is sooo important. I am not sure I would have survived this project or the last 9 months without his encouragement every step of the way.

7. Being an artist is painfully hard on so many levels. But despite my regularly scheduled panic attacks, there are so many moments of complete elation, it is difficult to wish for anything different. Life is so much more of a rollercoaster, but do I really want the boring predictable alternative?

8. I can do it, I can do it! I can start and finish a project totally on my own, without any outside deadlines, teachers for advice, fellow students for critique (although still plenty of friends to bounce thoughts off of), or institutional galleries to show in.

9. When in doubt, just do it. Do something. Really anything will work. As long as you are doing something, you are bound to find your way out of your stuck spot.

10. DON’T try to mount an 8’x4′ sheet of 1/2“ plywood to the ceiling.  Don’t do it by yourself, don’t do it with a partner, and I might even argue don’t do it at all!  Cut it into pieces first whenever possible.

11. THANK GOD for universal healthcare. It may not be perfect, but at least I have protection because lord knows I wouldn’t if I lived in any state other than Massachusetts.

Alright, thats all I’ve got for now. Next up is a boring budget entry and then on to the next new exciting project, which will happen in Vermont!

Learning is Fun!

March 4, 2009

So I’ve been trying to squeeze in some time to write my usual “things learned” entry before I forget everything related to the project, but it has been difficult!  Between quitting the design job, trying to find new jobs, balancing time in studio with time tying up loose ends on Post-Processualism (I still want to collect and post a project budget for the whole thing)… well, there’s only so many hours in a day.  And I’ve been working on normal “life” things that I’ve been ignoring like laundry, dishes, cat litter and general cleaning and organizing of my apartment, computer, files, projects, art pieces, contacts, seeing friends, donating hair, etc.

I finally sat down a couple nights ago and wrote out a few thoughts…

Things Learned:

1. Birthing pains are horrific!  The last few days getting this project out the door were some of the worst I’ve experienced.  Maybe it was the toxic fumes, or causing brain damage to the cat, or the frustration of fragility, or the exhaustion of the physicality… or maybe it was because I wasn’t 100% sure of this project to begin with so when it got down to the wire, it was hard to maintain the energy and passion against the looming doubts and second guessing that was running rampant…

2. Projects of a certain scale attain a level of “being” beyond the usual sculptural object.  They come into their own and no longer require your hand to continue.  Sure, I made it, I birthed it, but it is also an autonomous child, free to move in directions I may or may not foresee.  I felt like many aspects of Post-Processualism were completely out of my control, and while that’s a totally false statement in that there was only a little left to chance, relative to my usual control freak nature, this was difficult.  Letting go was difficult.  And yet once it is out of my hands (it was the same with Paper Jungle), it is somehow liberating–maybe that’s why I’m drawn to these types of projects?  Some masochistic part of me likes being forced out of my comfort zone and allowing things to be subject to chance?

3. Be absolutely totally clear in your artist statement/proposal!  Certain heart attacks and anguish can be avoided with a little extra caution in the beginning–even if it seems clear to you, it’s not always clear to others.  BUT

4. Be open.  Shit happens, things change, but that doesn’t mean for the worse.  I was delightfully surprised to find that what I thought was catastrophe was actually opportunity in disguise, and a certain amount of forced self-reflection led to a (probably) stronger piece in the end.

5. It’s hard to work without space.  I was blessed with Paper Jungle to have access to the PERFECT work space due to connections in school.  And I’m blessed now to have access to materials and processes (like firing) that I wouldn’t normally, but damn is it hard to work without space.  There’s only so much Matt, the cat, and my sanity can take when I try to complete a big project in my tiny apartment.

6. Storage!  I haven’t learned anything yet other than the fact that I don’t have any.  What do you do with large art pieces when you’re “done” with them?  I’ll let you know when I figure it out… Right now it’s all in my car for lack of any other place to put it…

7. Self-promote, self-promote, self-promote.  No one else will do it for you.  And make your own postcards–come on RISD!  What was with those over sized postcards?!  You should know better!  I couldn’t mail those anywhere for cheap!

8.  Friends are the best.  I mean, I already knew that, but it continues to be affirmed.  Especially the ones that come to your show.  Yes, that’s a guilt trip to everyone that missed it–you better come to the next one!  If you’re across the country, or across the globe, then you’re excused, but if you’re right here in Boston or New England…

9. When in doubt, JUST DO IT.  Following my intuition has never failed me.  It’s only when I ignore it or second guess it that I find myself in trouble–artistically or otherwise.

10.  Let things percolate.  For me at least, I need as much time as possible to just think.  And study.  And write.  And look at things.  And research.  And map. And diagram.  And plan. And then think some more.  The longer the simmer, the better.  Let other ideas pop up and write them down before they float away, but always return to the original brew.

Also, I was trying to keep this to a nice succinct 10 item list, but I was thinking during my commute that when it comes to learning, a. I love it, and b. I do it with my hands.  I seem to really enjoy throwing myself into completely unknown waters, floundering around for a while, and then magically surfacing with something that works.  Learning by example or from books or even based on teachers doesn’t really do it for me–I have to dive in, experiment a lot, learn by doing and let happy accidents happen.  If I followed well known examples, sure I would cut out a lot of extra work, but then where would the random mistakes that make a project sparkle happen?  By throwing myself into things relatively unguided, I’ve become an expert large scale paper cutter, painfully thin porcelain slab roller, photocopy transferrer, sewer of teeth and crappy but functioning installer among many other things.  Ask me to do any one of those things with a different material or structure, and I probably couldn’t do it immediately without more experimentation, but I know a LOT about how to do those specific things really well…  I think for me at least, art-making has become an essential part of how I learn and that’s a big part of why it has become so important that I do it with as much regularity as possible.

Things I’ve learned along the way throughout the course of this crazy project (or rather, things I’ve learned so far—cause there’s still installation + 3 months of show time to go…):


Big Leaves Money:

  1. Manage your own budget!  Because you’ll probably be working with people that are too flakey to keep track of anything for you.
  2. The gallery or museum might not actually have a real system setup for the budget they give you—as in, they refuse to give you a real account to work with.  You have to either spend your own money and get reimbursed or drag the poor woman in charge around to the store with you or arrange meetings in her office to place phone and/or online orders.
  3. Avoid spending your own money and having the museum reimburse you if at all possible because you may find yourself broke very quickly without much sign of relief…

Door The ID Department:

  1. I love them!
  2. They love me!
  3. Seriously though, get your department/other supporters to back you.  If it wasn’t for my wonderful department, I’m not sure how all this would’ve worked out.  They’ve hooked me up with a great space, a digital projector, a photographer and money to cover printing costs (or at least they will as soon as I write them a proposal asking for it…) not to mention their genius help with designing the ceiling and feedback on my work in general.
  4. Write proposals!  Don’t be afraid to ask—worst case scenario, they’ll say no and point you in the direction of someone who might say yes.  At least so far, every time I’ve written a proposal asking the department to support me in some way, and I point out all the benefits they get out of the deal, they’ve said yes.

Polaroid The Museum:

  1. Woah is the bureaucracy never ending.  Getting through museum red tape is nearly impossible.
  2. Don’t:  Expect the museum/gallery to do anything for you.  They might if you ask, but probably not.  You’re on your own.
  3. Don’t:  Attempt to print your own postcards/posters, getting through the bureaucracy is not worth it…
  4. Don’t:  Hope that they’ll provide alcohol at your reception.  Even though they have alcohol at every other museum opening, and even though all the student galleries have alcohol at openings, the museum refuses to allow alcohol at STUDENT openings.  Don’t even try.
  5. Don’t:  Attempt to have a rock band at your opening.  Apparently they have “vibration problems” with loud bands…
  6. Don’t:  Have too many pizza and paper parties.  They may start to look like social events, at which point they won’t allow it to fall under your budget costs.
  7. Don’t:  Hope they’ll give you your prize money at the beginning… I guess they need to wait and make sure you actually do the project before they’ll pay you…
  8. Do:  Make friends with Deborah.  For all her flakiness, she’s really sweet and only wants the best for your project.
  9. Do:  Talk to the other winners/people in your show—they might be really cool!  And jointly you can work on a lot of things more efficiently than on your own.
  10. Do:  Self-promote like crazy.  Pretend like your project is amazing, and they just might believe you.

Polaroid 3 Friends:

  1. They’re amazing.
  2. I love them never-endingly.
  3. They have made a huge difference in making this project happen and in making it fun to work on.  What will I do without weekly paper and pizza parties when this project is over?

Polaroid 2 Other:

  1. I’m crazy.
  2. I LOVE meticulous pain-staking never-ending work.
  3. I want to be an artist!  I just want to make things, myself, by hand, forever.  Screw this mass production, industrial design BS.
  4. Watch out for pliers.  When you’re exhausted and pulling wire through a wood frame, they might just hit you in the face when you aren’t looking… hard… There’s blood to prove it.
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