Tuesday, April 16, 2019

From here to Houston

When I returned home from New York to Europe to New York, I was delighted to see the sedum I had left buried in snow returning to say hello. That was as heartening as the welcome home bouquet of flowers (that is somehow still doing quite well over a week later).
I only had a few days to prepare for my trip to Houston and wanted to build a new student sugeta. I decided to go longer than usual, which made a really nice sheet size (especially for making books) and meant I didn't have to trim the brush holder mat at all.
After a six-hour flight delay (and a live Margaret Atwood sighting!!), I arrived in Houston and got myself halfway decent enough to attend the opening of a fabulous exhibit at the Asia Society (my host). This is a detail of a wall piece by Prince Varughese Thomas about American soldiers killed in the Iraq war.
The biggest treat was being able to see a bunch of Beili Liu's 2D work in person. About 13 years ago, I lived on the farm where she built an amazing piece in Nebraska and have followed her career with admiration. This is a detail from her wind drawings.
The next day, the fantastic Asia Society curator Bridget (who masterminded and coordinated this entire adventure) shuttled me back and forth to the Glassell School of Art, where I was to teach a papermaking workshop in a printmaking studio. Yes, that old chestnut! In the evening, I gave my lecture to an engaged audience and then was treated to a marvelous sushi dinner.
In the morning, I walked over buckets of cooked pulp (I had spent six hours cooking it the prior day in my lodging, praying that no one came to complain about the smell) and teaching props. The class focused on fiber processing, bark lace, and making paper. Bark took over quickly.
Though paper and print are a great combo in real life, their studios are not always compatible. But we managed well and I was delighted with the combination of students. They were curious, hardworking, and eager to learn. I only had four vats and couching stations, but they were able to share graciously.
The only thing we had no shortage of was windows on which to board papers. The other richness of this visit was being in an incredibly diverse city. I was delighted to be staying near a Hawaiian cafe, where I ate five days in a row. Too good and too convenient not to!
One of my students is a conservator at the MFA (the museum that is affiliated with the art school) and she got me general admission as well as a ticket to the Van Gogh show. I was amazed that only a few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh museum where they had empty spots for the paintings that were on loan to this show. I couldn't have planned it!
This is a snapshot of the Anish Kapoor piece in the sculpture garden of the school as you walk to the museum. On Sunday morning, we were getting into a class rhythm when suddenly a security guard came and evacuated us. I left everything behind (phone, wallet, sweater, etc.) and told students to grab some cooked bark on the way out. We had assumed it was a drill or burnt toast, but we were out there for a LONG time. Fire trucks arrived, ladders went up to the roof, and thank goodness my students had something in their hands to work on.
This was the view once we got back into the building: the rooftop yoga class couldn't get onto the roof during the fire evacuation, so they set up right in the courtyard.
Last month and this month confirm what I've been seeing for a decade: bark lace is infinitely captivating. We are so fortunate to live on a planet with such incredible plants. Yesterday I flew back home wanting not to get on another plane for a long time. I also am looking forward to not resetting the time for a while. Jumping through setting the clock back in the US, two different time zones overseas, setting the clock back in Germany, and another time zone in Texas all added up. I have one week before the next gig and can't wait to wake up knowing where I am.

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