Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sickness of various sorts

On Thursday, I found my notes from a creative writing class I took during my first year of college, taught by Myung Mi Kim, a poet. Ching-In had recently seen her speak at a panel at AWP, and was completely blown away. She keeps reminding me how lucky I am to have taken class with Kim. I was overwhelmed by what I uncovered: 1. random notes from a Surrealism class I took the semester afterwards, where I had tons of notes on language, including quotes from Octavio Paz. I read Octavio Paz when I was 18?! 2. my journal entries and poetry from class and 3. Myung Mi Kim's notes and feedback. I'm sad that I was too young and insecure to take advantage of the incredible, supportive teacher who was visiting that semester. She was slightly reviled by the class b/c they hated the poetry we were studying, by Susan Howe. Their frustration with the material, which I recall was quite difficult, was taken out on the woman standing in the front of the lecture hall. My forceful and outspoken roommate who quickly fell into bossing me around, took the class as pass/fail b/c she didn't want to hurt her GPA. Being easily bossed around, I decided to do the same, which was a shame: I would have gotten an A. The next semester, I swore I'd never do that again, and ended up with a C in Economics (I had never before and have never since gotten such a bad grade).

Anyhow, the notes dovetail perfectly with all the inner work I have been doing (which is why I've been crying so much). I came out of a specific family experience, went to Ohio at age 17, and was completely dumbfounded by a professor and well-established poet who offered mentorship and guidance. Who offered support that was completely positive, without trap doors of guilt. It took several rounds of her making amazing comments on the backs of my poems, asking me to come talk to her, for me to finally visit during office hours. But I was so scared of offering myself up as a student that I don't think I visited more than once. In a different universe, I would have taken up her generous offers in a second, and in a different universe, I would have become a poet.

It makes me wonder about being a teacher, and how difficult it must be to have promising students who are still not ready to let you in. It's bad enough to have a classroom full of cranky kids who hate you b/c you challenge every notion of reading and writing that they have. I was depressed yesterday while staying home and resting because I read an editorial about how school shootings will never stop b/c it's now just a basic part of this country's fabric. And that gun control is impossible, so we just need to learn to plug our ears and run once we hear gunshots, again. Then, I felt even more depressed this morning while staying home and resting because I read an article about how dumb Americans are and their pride in their stupidity. I suppose I should just be happy that I still read print media, since apparently that's not standard American behavior. It reminds me of how radical books still are, and that reading will perhaps always be an act of resistance.

I traveled on residencies for about a year and a half after grad school, and though I am thankful for many aspects of that lifestyle, I am contantly thankful for the opportunity to have met so many writers. They have taught me so much about the writing life, which has everything to do with the reading life. They helped me renew my old reading habits - my most recurrent childhood memory is of laying on the living room sofa, buried in a book. My parents would take me to the bookstore and I'd come out of the shelves with piles of teetering books. One Christmas, I opened a gift box that would normally house clothing, to find it chock full of books. And I was delighted.

I am moving through the illness (had lots of C, Sambucol, and Serbian potion - ginger, garlic, lemon, honey, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and goldenseal), and thankful to have the forced rest so that I can crack open my Julio Cortazar book.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My hands can't stay still

After brunch with Yoonshin and her daughter today, I went to the printshop to finally attempt the scary task of printing onto my knitted paper. I'm better now at pacing myself, so I only spent a couple of hours there to do tests and went home (my usual pace is to force myself to stay in the studio for hours and hours and beat myself up if I don't come out w/tons of product). Last night, I made a binder for all my proofs and started my official digital log of my etching process. My OCD nature was greatly soothed by this activity.

The printed pieces were less interesting to me b/c I forgot that the knits would get completely squashed by the press. Flat knits that look like they've been run over by a truck are not interesting to me. But the ink that fell between the spaces on the guard paper behind the knit made interesting patterns. I also tested printing onto loose fibers. Now I have a lot to figure out before I hit the studio again on Tuesday. The most hilarious thing about doing this is that I'm working in a communal studio, so people are constantly dumbfounded by my experiments (I love when someone said, "oh, so you're really loose" when I said I didn't have a set plan for exactly how everything would look in the end). I don't understand the printmaking mentality yet, but have three months left of heavy exposure to help me figure it out. Either that, or the solvent fumes will take care of what's left up there.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hooray for unlimited studio usage

I spent another 7 hours in the printshop today doing aquatints. Wohoo! Too tired to recap so instead I'll give you a website to look at, for an artist I met last year, Injoo Whang.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smothered in paper lust

Oh, my. I had today off and happily went to the printmaking studio to practice burnishing and sanding and generally trying to erase mistakes that I've made. I wanted to see Vijay Kumar, who is a founding member and teacher at the studio, as well as a friend from way back when I hired him at NYFA to be an artist advisor. I haven't seen him in five years! So that was great. Then, I went to visit Lystra at NYFA and realized (yes, yes, I am very, very slow at these things) that my old workplace is the building right next to the Trump SoHo tower where that construction worker was killed. She SAW the guy that afternoon, and he was just there, dead and decapitated, for hours until they took him away. I've been walking past that site for almost a month now, not even noticing it was what it was. Yikes.

Anyhow, that's not the story I was meaning to tell. After I left Lystra, I headed up to 29th Street (wait, one more interjection: I'm sitting on the 1 train, thinking about how I feel so at home on NYC subways, when I hear a woman's voice and look up to see Mirah! Who lives in San Francisco!). On an old piece of advice given months and months ago from Tam, I went to visit Habu. It is a very, very dangerous place to go. These people sell hemp bark!!! [This is where you write down "hemp bark" as the gift to give to me always and forever.] Habu is a Japanese showroom that sells handspun, handwoven, hand-knitted, and hand-dyed textiles and yarn. It's insane. I ended up back at the studio with four skeins of paper yarn: bamboo, ramie, pine, and linen. And I made everyone else touch it. I'm working on a piece that requires more delicate paper, and I can't make it in my current lack of a paper studio state. I hate to buy things like this when I want to make them myself, but I figured I might as well get the best. I'm sad that I have to go to sleep and can't just knit these forever.

Things you'd never even know about

Case in point: blog awards. You receive them and then pass them along. It's so weird! And hilarious to trace lineage...anyhow, Tam gave me this award, which was really touching b/c I think I'm just a big crankster (taking over for Paulette since she exited the blogosphere). My turn to award!! It goes to Melissa, who broke into blogging a little less than a year ago, and has been kicking ass ever since! She is a brilliant artist and writer, super articulate guest on the planet, LOLROTF hilarious, admirable in how she chooses to live and chronicle her life,
and one of the best teachers I have ever had, ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The nicest package I've gotten this year!

Tam is brilliant. She knitted me these socks that I got in the mail today. Even the addressing was nice - she gave me a title. Something like "To the Amazing. . ." She's so good at making me feel good. Besides that, I spun some washi from my visit to Japan last year, got chalk all over the place, taught myself how to fold a new origami pocket, and sent out a bunch more mail art. Low key, but plenty for a very cold day. This morning, I finished typing out notes from the Sherman Alexie book I finished last night:
"I remember your mother when she was the best traditional dancer in the world," my father said. "Everyone wanted to call her sweetheart. But she only danced for me. That's how it was. She told me that every other step was just for me."

"But that's only half the dance," I said.

"Yeah," my father said. "She was keeping the rest for herself. Nobody can give everything away. It ain't healthy."

"You know," I said, "sometimes you sound like you ain't even real."

"What's real? I ain't interested in what's real. I'm interested in how things should be."
--From The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Coming clean

In March 2005, I asked my contacts to contribute stories about recent bruises they had sustained, and how they had gotten them. I was gathering these stories to make an artists' book about bruises, and used a darkroom technique that I was learning in grad school. Van Dyke prints always create the same color brown, but I tweaked all of my exposure times to create a book that would start light, darken to a full Van Dyke brown, and then fade again, to mimic the life cycle of a bruise. I selected ten stories from ten people and dated them, creating a calendar of bruises. Most people who read this book think that it's a catalog of all of my bruises (I know I'm accident prone, but this would be ridiculous!!). None of the stories are mine. I was overwhelmed by making the book (each page had two films, and two different exposure times, and it gets messy when you are coating paper in the dark) and embarrassed by it. I made two; one is in a collection in Hungary and the other I finally boxed properly. I am now most embarrassed by not sharing it with the very generous contributors, so I want to publicly acknowledge their support. I never want to be the kind of artist who asks for favors and doesn't say thank you. I know it's almost three years late, but THANK YOU!!

Benjamin, page 1.

Shawn, page 2.

Deborah, page 3.

Diana, page 4.

Melissa, page 5.

Stephanie, page 6.

Jen, page 7.

Anju, page 8.

Alexandra, page 9.

Ellie-Jo, page 10.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dirty wounds

AAAGH. [This is the first plate I etched.] I've been running myself ragged, and still not recovered from exhaustion. Yesterday I walked all over the UES after having a mini-breakdown. I am just so overwhelmed by myself; I never give myself a break! Never! And, so, after another late night post-class and strange dreams about Jami's new apt (which I have never seen), I go to work totally burned out. I was thinking, "Aimee, just take a half day, leave early, go home, go to bed," but then there were the usual voices, "how will you cover your commute? You have to at least earn a day's wages" and "stick it out!" or "just one more hour...just until lunch...just another hour...just..." I was so tired that I started to read the x-acto blade box, which said something like, "blades are extremely sharp."

Oh, you guessed it. Instead of going home, I plowed on through, and in the penultimate hour of work, my boss' 8-yo daughter came rushing into the studio making lots of 8-yo noises. I was holding a straightedge w/my left hand, cutting down the edge w/an x-acto knife in my right hand, turned to look at the girl, and next thing I know, I turn back just in time to see my right hand slice off a piece of my left thumb. And then it just sat there on a piece of paper, a piece of my thumb. The kid was way more emotive than me; I dripped blood and talked to Terttu for a while before we bundled it up in gauze and sent me home. The construction workers (who are working on the water main) decided to turn off the water right then, so I couldn't even clean the wound. Of course, the commute was unusually hellish. Luckily, my mom is an RN, so after telling me to stop screaming while I rinsed the cut (that is the WORST part of a deep cut: hot, hot, hot!!), she bio-occlusive bandaged it.

I was so ready to stop pushing myself for a while today! I wish I had stopped myself after the first cut and three slips on the rooftop (yes, I had a minor cut that I didn't even notice for a while, and almost fell 3x on the roof). Tomorrow is a new year. I am very accident prone and vulnerable, and I exert superhuman efforts to *not* be what I am. I'd like to learn how to give that a rest.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

By Junot Diaz

I probably would have run. I would have waited until we got back to the States, waited like paja de arroz, burning slow, slow, until they dropped their guard and then one morning I would have disappeared. Like my father disappeared on my mother and was never seen again. Disappeared like everything disappears. Without a trace. I would have lived far away. I would have been happy, I'm sure of it, and I would never have had any children. I would let myself grow dark in the sun, no more hiding from it, let my hair indulge in all its kinks, and she would have passed me on the street and never recognized me. That was the dream I had. But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.
From The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Sherman Alexie

I draw all the time.

I draw cartoons of my mother and father; my sister and grandmother; my best friend, Rowdy; and everybody else on the rez.

I draw because words are too unpredictable.

I draw because words are too limited.

If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of humans will get your meaning.

But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.

If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, "That's a flower."

So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me.

I feel important with a pen in my hand. I feel like I might grow up to be somebody important. An artist. Maybe a famous artist. Maybe a rich artist.

That's the only way I can become rich and famous.

Just take a look at the world. Almost all of the rich and famous brown people are artists. They're singers and actors and writers and directors and poets.

So I draw because I feel like it might be my only real chance to escape the reservation.

I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.
From The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Friday, February 01, 2008

"I am pleased to inform you. . .

. . .that the National Screening Committee of the Institute of International Education (IIE) has recommended you for a grant under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the academic year 2008-09."

Ayeee!! I MADE THE FIRST CUT!!

And that explains the recent demons (this one in particular only shows up when I am on the brink of big, positive things in my life), which have instantly been quieted. I was all jittery today b/c Clover had mentioned in a recent email that she was pulling for me since notification was going out this week. Then today I looked on the Fulbright site, and sure enough, they said everyone would find out TODAY.

I proceeded to run all over my home, start eating and stop eating random food, look for a pencil for half an hour, curse myself for not being able to locate my wood engraving tools, and just generally be crazy. I finally forced myself to do an hour of yoga right after eating an entire pot of soup. I got the email less than an hour before I had to run out the door to see Ching-In read. Barely any time to contact people! So a lot of people 1. don't know 2. have garbled phone messages 3. have missed calls.

The hard thing now is more waiting - they send my app to Korea and then back here for final selection. They nominate twice the number of people that they have grants for in each country, so I have to wait another few months to see if I make the final cuts. But for now, it feels good to still be in consideration.