Week 30 of 48 (7 Months!)

August 30, 2010

Another month come and gone. Another set of residents come and gone and come again. September looks like it will be jam packed with two amazing poets, Carl Phillips and Adam Zagajewski, the Literature in Translation forum and the usual mix of visiting artists. It should be a busy but good month. In the studio world, things have been a little slow of late. Ever since the show came down, progress on the next project has been much slower than I anticipated, but I suppose I have to cut myself a little slack sometime. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect everything to blast forward all the time—I really want to think through some of what I’m doing before diving in head first so there has been a lot more thinking and a lot less doing than usual. Still, being ridiculously task oriented means it’s hard to accept that sometimes visible progress is slow if a lot is going on in the brain. With only four months left, there is no doubt I am trying to cram too much into my time here and throwing myself into a panic as a result. Goals before I leave (some of them may have to be adjusted… I do work a nearly full time job!):

Assemble another show of new work for the end of November—includes conceptualizing and then making everything…

Teach myself aesthetics—all the basics of continental and analytic from the 18th century forward, then readings that apply specifically to visual art and sculpture, then some of the new work in cognitive/neuroscience as it applies to aesthetics, then some feminist critical theory…

Redo my website—not a redesign, but definitely a restructuring. Mostly this will involve transferring it from flash to html…

Research graduate programs—would like to apply this year just to get a read on how people react though I am not necessarily sold on actually going somewhere yet. Since applying will have to happen right at the new year, when I’m in the middle of moving, I should probably have a good start on the applications themselves before I leave…

So yeah! That doesnt sound so bad, right? Yikes. Anyways, I’m still not ready to say anything about the new project(s) so for now, more post-senescence images:

the last of the candy on the panels—did some interesting cracking

which is odd since that means it's both gooey and brittle hard at the same time—reminds me of Brakhage film and makes me want to shoot some video

beautiful puddles of multi-colored melty goo on the floor

close up of beautiful messy goo

unrelated to sweet senescence, but these guys are STILL around!

They are now 7 months old and looking a little worse for wear, but somehow they have not been reduced to a puddle like everything else... very strange...

Week 29 of 48

August 25, 2010

This week I would like to share a bit of writing by a July resident writer who had a great response to the show. Karen McPherson, a professor of French and Francophone Studies and the director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon, specializes in Francophone literature, feminist theory and gender studies, and postcolonial literature. She is the author of Incriminations: Guilty WomenTelling Stories (1994) and Archaeologies of an Uncertain Future: Recent Generations of Canadian Women Writing (2006). Karen is also a poet and has published poems in a number of journals, including Poetry Motel, Fireweed and Descant, and in the 2006 Lane Literary Guild chapbook Dona Nobis Pacem. At the recommendation of visiting artist, Roberto Juarez, I asked her to write a response to the show and this was the wonderful piece she sent me last week. Thank you so much Karen! It is beautiful…

Sweet Senescence, by Melissa Armstrong

Red Mill Gallery, Vermont Studio Center

July 14-26, 2010

Over eleven days this show was for me the living, beating heart of the VSC campus. I would stop in on my way to meals or to my studio in order to spend a few minutes in that still and vibrant space. Time was suspended there but humming with life. It reminded me of what it’s like to pause in the middle of a busy day to sit on a bench in a garden or to step out of the bustle of a foreign city into the dim and quiet interior of a cathedral.  This was the most organic and dynamic art exhibit I have ever witnessed—a feast for all the senses. The room was filled with light and color and heat, a faint sweet scent (real or imagined?), the buzz of insects, the whir of the fan. Five to eight large plexiglass panels (fewer at the beginning and more added over the course of the show) were suspended from the ceiling above metal troughs set to catch the drips from the translucent sugar syrups that coated the panels’ surfaces. Swirls and smears and layers and globs of hardened colored syrup glistened and beaded up as they began to melt in the heat and move with glacial slowness across the surfaces of the panes. These abstract paintings were frames in a slow motion film capturing second by second the material’s response to the changes in the environment–light and dark, heating and cooling, breeze and stillness. Each time I visited, the gallery was familiar and yet entirely different. The panels responded to the movement of sunlight across the floor. By day, the sheets clearly had substance. Watching the solid becoming molten liquid, I felt a pleasure similar to that I have felt watching glassblowing or steel smelting. At night, the gallery was lit up and from the road outside it looked like a rose window suspended in the dark. The entire gallery became a vessel of light.

At certain times of day the gallery was almost heartbreakingly peaceful. What is it about light through glass that moves us? On hot afternoons the shifting and dripping could be more dramatic. Yet these changes were always balanced against the photographic impression of each caught instant, grabbing your eyes’ attention the way a thing of beauty and light always does. Looking into these panels was like looking at a flower or a leaf: it was the containment of light. It was watching stillness and movement together the way you gaze into a flowing river and see both the river in one place and the water moving through.

The autumnal colors of the syrups added a sweet and somber feeling to the show. Golds and rusty reds, greens and browns– these were the colors of antique glass, of jewels, of amber.  And, just as in amber, gnats and moths and flies became stuck and preserved in these panels. These little daily deaths added to the idea of senescence, the way this vibrant world was cycling toward stillness and eventual death as the panes cleared off (though I shared the sentiments of a visitor to the gallery who remarked that she hoped this moth-catching was not part of the original intention of the piece).  The insects added something slightly dark to this exhibit, even an ethical dimension. Against the long, slow life cycle of the panels, an insect’s life and death were swift and dramatic. One day as I watched a moth approaching a sticky panel I had the impulse to try to save her from her fate but even as the thought crossed my consciousness I saw her land and grow instantly still—stuck in the sugar syrup. I found my somewhat dispassionate fascination in watching this disturbing.

On my favorite day in the gallery I discovered a half dozen tiny parallel threads descending unbroken all the way from the bottom of one of the panels into the catching tray. They looked like piano wires.  At that moment, just as the piece held both stasis and movement it also held, for me, both sound and silence. (So it felt absolutely right that a piano accompaniment was added to the time lapse video that capped the performance on the last day of the exhibit).

Melissa’s title for her show —Sweet Senescence –was perfect.  The sweetness was not only that of melted sugar and colored light, but also of the slow transformations that offered at every stage something newly beautiful to accompany the loss of what had passed and vanished. Senescence is such a pretty word for aging. It contains the echo of the word “essence”–so central to what this show is about—the essence of the thing, its substance, its permanence and impermanence. The panels, each at a different stage in its lifespan—the oldest ones almost transparent while the newest were still thick with substance—seemed to be asking: what is the body? what is the spirit?  The time lapse film projected on the last evening of the show was delightful. It was fascinating to watch huge globs falling into the trays, knowing how much slower that movement really had been. But the true time lapse was the eleven days we got to live with this piece. How we shared the rhythm of each panel’s life and how imperceptible and yet enormous the changes were. How sweet and sad and human and wonderful that senescence.

Another batch of residents come and gone. Sweet Senescence has also come and gone as well as half of my time here in Vermont. With the conclusion of the show, I’ve spent a lot of time viewing and editing all the various forms of documentation, cleaning and re-organizing studio and thinking about what’s next—both here in the studio and once I leave VSC in December. I am planning on having another show in November and then December will just be packing up and preparing for the move to New York. But all of that is still several months away (though I can not believe it is already August!!) so for now, more images from the show and eventually I will put together some of the video footage as well.

the sign, after a week, was reduced to a puddle

the 2nd to last day of the show... not much left except the new panel on the far right

a detail, half way through the show

the same detail at the end of the show

another detail

moth, caught in the amber

Week 25 of 48

July 27, 2010

Half way point!!! I missed last weeks entry with the craziness of the show, but it was the exact half way point of my time here on staff at VSC. The choice to have the show half way through the year was certainly intentional and will hopefully provide the momentum and motivation to finish out the year as strong as possible. In any case, the show has been really great for more reasons than I can count. It was a bit sad to take it down, despite it being the right time, and yesterday I projected the time-lapse of the entire piece in the gallery for everyone to share in as well. So without further ado, more images and video!

an individual sheet, at the end of the first day

all the sheets were poured differently in order to learn the most about how the layers move

Another panoramic, half way through the show

a detail

And lastly, the time-lapse video:

Theatrical Photos

November 17, 2009

I don’t feel like writing for once, but here are the photos as promised:

View when you walk in

The most important view, not reproducible in photos

Makes great shadows... kind of like xrays...

One of my favorite teeth


Soon I will do my usual budget info and “Things Learned“ entry…

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