Thursday, September 24, 2020

A lot of straw on this camel

Last Friday felt unbearable, losing RBG and the noise that ensued. I listened to a great interview of Hasan Minaj by Phoebe Robinson (video version here, audio here) about what college has turned into in this country. Aside from all the wisdom, he said that the world these days is too noisy. That was the most resonant part for me.
Last week I had a walking date with a friend, which is when we saw the bird and nest sculptures on someone's front lawn, and this apt sculpture on their side lawn, how things are feeling lately.
I haven't been as good about a regular schedule of rising, walking, exercises, and breakfast because it has gotten cold. Today I did get up and in and out of bed a few times before finally getting outside, even though it's a warmer day. I need to also water my lawn that is now full of clay and rocks. Yes, I fired my lawn guy (probably a couple years too late, but I'm bad with this kind of confrontation).
I've also gotten back to a frantic type of twining because of a show deadline. I was told very late in the timeline about what I was expected to show/not show and it has thrown me off. But I always get back on my feet.
At the farmers market I got these lovely cucamelons, which brought a little light in these dismal days.
In a long awaited attempt, I was very generous with myself and used a lot of my dyed cords for this new piece. As I was working, I felt like all I wanted to do is crawl into a hole and not emerge for a while.
So first I closed this "basket" because it's a joke, get it? What kind of basket has no entry?
Then I thought it might be too much for folks, they can't handle that. Nor should I be so fatalistic. So I went back and made a hole (not easy when you've cut away all of the cords early). No hole = sculpture (= lots of money). Hole = vessel (= less money because somehow it's functional). Making the most of the directives to only make and show new work!
 
Even better, a maker shared with me a video months ago that I really highly recommend, a Cree man making a canoe out of the trees. It's a much better use of an hour than reading the news, for me, at least.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Beleaguered

Today I drove west for a couple of hours to meet a dear friend at a nature preserve. She wanted to see lots of wildlife but mostly it was egrets, yellow flowers that I couldn't identify (tickseed? Something much taller?), a frog in my path that jumped into the grass, a couple of snakes, a huge grey bird that looked like a dinosaur, and a bunch of what looked like enormously fat geese or ducks. Plenty of plants, but it was a bit bleak seeing marshes that looked choked by invasives.
It was a good break from yesterday's work: my lawn guy showed up alone and asked if I wanted to help. I wasn't sure if he was joking but after I talked to the electric company about a weird bill, I got booted up to work. Spreading 2 yards of dirt was no joke, though I was not happy with it because it was clearly not topsoil, looked more like fill dirt. At this point, all of the land is clay so here I go adding a new layer of clay! He seeded today and I had to buy a new hose to start watering. Grubs killing my lawn set me over the edge but at least...we pulled out some invasive weeds? At least I get to throw money at a lawn I don't use? If Fulbright cancels our grants next spring, I may finally get serious about doing my own lawn/yard labor so that I don't have to be disappointed constantly. At that point, I'll need the exercise!
I still love seeing the ironweed against goldenrod at the metro park a mile from me, though it's cooling down considerably. What is NOT cooling down is my general sense of outrage. I listened twice to this great interview between Audie Cornish and Claudia Rankine. I was also horrified by stories about the abuse of women in woodworking as outlined in this article from a couple years ago. The idea that men would be so threatened by a woman doing carpentry alongside them that they would risk her life and actually break her back? Sigh. This weekend I was happy to take in a concert of all new music through Open Space Music, reminding me of a story that a friend told me about her colleague's recent experience trying to buy a book—

My [colleague B] was looking for Minor Feelings at the Strand bookstore, and she asked at the front desk where to find it. The person who was working said, you need to go downstairs and ask the person working downstairs because it’s really hard to find. There was an Asian woman who was also working at the register, and she said, oh, I know where it is, I’ll help you. It turns out that the book was almost impossible to find, stocked in a place where anybody hardly goes. B went up to the front desk and asked why the book was not displayed in the front along with other books that deal with racial equality and so forth. The man said, we only display books that were published recently. B then told him that the book was published in 2020 and they should have the book at the front. He was very defensive and started telling her all the reasons why they didn’t have the book out.
I still don't know what to do with all of this hurt in my body about where we are right now. I know that the twin pandemics are causing my current state of being barely able to stay on top of my life, the weird dreams, the constant clang of things falling out of my head as my mind stops being able to grasp anything for longer than a millisecond. The answer used to be my work, but I can't even see it under the pile of teaching, fall applications, trying to schedule medical appts before year's end, and maintaining my basic life without getting pulled under. I feel desperately sad to miss my niece's transformation from newborn to babyhood and beyond, and miss my mom's cooking. I have to remember that the change of seasons is never smooth, and that the scampering now to see loved ones outdoors before it snows is a real necessity to keep me strong through the winter.

So as not to be 100% a downer, what's good? Watching someone online get really excited listening to a violin/cello duo. Witnessing a composer geeking out on music theory after explaining why it's important to give students a break this fall because they are already feeling so worn this semester. Realizing that I can identify more plants this year than I could in past years, so even if my relationships with people have deteriorated, my relationship with the organisms that keep all humans alive has strengthened. Having too many books to read, so time to crack another one open!

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Holding space in the stuckness

I visited Yuko at the Verne Gallery over the weekend and completely agree that some days are just tough going!
Every time I set up for class now, not only do I have to pull all of my tools and samples and so on, but I have to check out a laptop, adapter, tripod, webcam, and mount in case someone has Covid-19 symptoms and has to stay home. I also have to set up an HDMI cable, an extender cable, an extension cable that goes into another room, a video camera, power cable, and mount on my work table so that the students can see behind me on the big screen what my hands are doing (as they can't get close to me anymore). I also have to drag mats around so that no one trips all over these cables.
After sewing four new masks before the semester started, I realized I should have made silk-lined ones to be more gentle on my face and provide some kind of extra electrostatic barrier to particles. So I made more, for me but also for my parents in NY, and strung them with shoelaces (I am OVER making bias tape! Over!!).
In the slowest-moving studio building known to man (and men are responsible for the slowness of it), I asked Bill to help me get my beater off the pallet that it arrived on in the winter so that I can actually move it around and properly be able to look into the tub to be able to refinish it. There were some very scary moments in the process but we did it!
Bill had also given me some milkweed starts earlier this season, and one day I was worried that they were dying because suddenly the leaves were almost gone. When I got closer, I saw that this monarch caterpillar was hard at work eating and pooping. Its frass was all over the leaves and at the foot of the starts it had already eaten. Sadly, it wasn't a great place to hang out—not really enough food or shelter—so it's gone.
Another friend later in the season had heard about someone in her neighborhood giving away even bigger milkweed starts! So this was waiting for me when I got back home from Virginia, which was a wonderful surprise. I wish I knew which species of milkweed it is.
When I read about how philanthropy is set up to benefit the very rich, and get tired of walking in my neighborhood seeing all of the yard signs, I try to get away places with a lighter human touch. This is a golf course that has turned into a metro park, and I was amazed by how much it has changed in the last several years: soooo much more vegetation! You can still hear the constant noise of cars as the park is on the corner of two big main drags and very close to the highway, but wildlife is having its way.
I loved seeing the ironweed, and though it's not the goldenrod and aster combo, it's the same purple/yellow principle that attracts more pollinators. Though the actual people walking through this park were not as nice as ones I usually encounter in the street, it's good to have this option a mile away, as the big nature preserve I like to visit requires a longer drive. Right now, I am taking a massive procrastination break from my work, having gone through a couple big deadlines but still with a few more to go. I am attempting the one goal rule by Jessica Abel, and am learning about how much I squirm away from my work, every second I can.
Lately, I've been thinking of things and then a day or two later, they show up! Linda Ligon had contacted me a while ago about writing about my work, and then yesterday this lovely publication was waiting outside my door. The Long Thread was just what I needed to see and it includes people I admire, like Sarah Swett and Mary Hark.

Meanwhile, the hard work persists. I keep making changes to my syllabus, the readings, the whole framework of my class this semester in artists' books. I keep falling into old traps because I'm so well conditioned by different types of oppression that intersect in my body. I hope it's not like what I just learned from my lawn guy about why my backyard has died: grubs!! AGH. I wondered about the holes multiplying and the dead grass and so on. I wasn't vigilant, I wasn't informed. But now I am, so the repair begins.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

How could I forget?

I meant to include this, but it actually deserves its own post: Pati has worked so hard to make an incredible video about hand printing that is so much more. All of her work makes mine so much easier, as she goes through the process of printing images without a press and how her mind works when approaching her printmaking and her artists' book making. It's very calm and soothing as well, and is packed with detailed technical info as well as her inspirations from books (real books, the ones you hold in your hands that have paper pages!).

Enjoy.

Looking back when it gets unbearable

Lately, the burden of a great many things that feel extremely unjust has been keeping me low. The barrage of bad news, always. Teaching in person when we are not equipped to do it safely or well, not compensated for all the risks we have to take and the extra time it takes to change everything we do, looms ominously. Having to re-apply for a Fulbright grant because the one I was chosen for may not happen due to pandemic but policy won't allow us to fulfill the grant any later (plus, they already have me on provisional status because my parents were Korean nationals when I was born in the US, so I've already had to jump through an incredible number of hoops), is another downer. When I was away, it was easier to tolerate. Given less than a week of time and space, I made this teapot, my best. I wove other things, not even all pictured here. And finally gave my rhododendron drawings homes in lots of books. Today is painful, so instead of being present, maybe it helps to return to the past.
Last year, I met Claudine Latron in Lille, France. Her converted garage studio is where she makes paper, books, artwork, and moulds. She was generous, gentle, a font of knowledge and quiet energy that makes all of her work possible.
After spending a month making books using this structure, I realized I didn't appreciate it when I saw it in person at John Gerard's studio. An American who was wise enough to get out of this country many years ago, he makes paper, artists' books, and so much more—including running a papermaking supply business in the German countryside, picturesque and calm.
In the Netherlands, I visited Peter Gentenaar and Pat Torley, who each make remarkable handmade paper artwork. He does the colorful sculptures like what you see here, and she has an amazing method of pulp painting that allows the most deliberate detail.
The mouldmaker who made my trip possible by hosting me, meeting me at the airport and showing me the train system, and taking time out of his busy life to drive me around Belgium and all the way to his teacher's widow in England, is Serge Pirard. If only I had not been so careless and erased all my photos from England, I would show you those as well.
Serge even arranged a little side trip on our way into the Ardennes, to visit Pascal Jeanjean, a French papermaker working in Belgium. Aside from making impeccable handmade paper, he works hard on creating watermarks for his custom paper. This is a wax mould for one.

I had not edited my photos from this visit last year until...today!! I wish I had gone through these hundreds of photos immediately but each day I was so tired that I would just upload to my hard drive and go to bed (except that fateful night in England when I didn't, and then accidentally took other photos over them. Not sure I'll ever forgive myself for that mistake). This was a new camera, I hadn't practiced enough, and things are out of focus! This is what I get for not wanting to just use a phone camera. Oh well. But these mistakes are a little easier to live with now that time has passed and I marvel at the fact that I could travel so easily. I miss that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Back to school

The fun is over and strangely enough upon my return home the weather acted like fall weather when returning to school, back when the planet wasn't so hot and we had gradual shifts into seasons. The picture above of how Korean women in Confucian culture had to stay unseen by men is pretty much how I feel about teaching at school in person. The anticipation anxiety was through the roof for a couple weeks and though we survived the first week, I still worry as it's only a matter of time before we get an outbreak or exposure or illness or any combination of the above.
The other looming large reality is the studio. I have so many misgivings about my choices now that they are manifesting in real life and no longer abstractions in my head. Now I see the consequence of having choices: taking responsibility for them. Still juggling what seems like more and more balls, but after tomorrow night one more thing will be done: artist talks for a group show I'm in. Register for a 7pm zoom session with four of us—I'll probably do a little jiseung demo.

Friday, August 14, 2020

When you know

I had been scared for nothing in this tiny corner of woods. I think after the tick bite I generally got overly scared. But I biked down here today for one last hurrah.
I finally took the path that I knew led to the airstrip (I had always seen the two paths from the airstrip but didn't follow because I didn't know where they led. Silly fear!). This was about when today I knew I wanted to leave tomorrow, a day early.
I had had a lovely final visit to the library this week and saw this delightful Japanese book on growing mushrooms.
And these tidbits, plants tucked into the book (mostly likely a conservator's nightmare but terribly fun to discover).
The fun thing is that this wasn't even what I had requested but it was better so mistakes are often fortuitous.
I had searched the entire catalog for Korean anything and failed, so I looked up "Japan" and found one book that included Corea. Of course! Fascinating account, of course racist and not well informed because it's a white British guy going to Corea before Japan turned it into Korea and so on, but still so interesting. He wanted to look at plants and horticulture but found them utterly uninteresting and not special there, so instead he talked all about the people and how hot it was. It was foolish to travel there in the summer on horseback (I don't like going in summer even with cars and trains and A/C), but he said it was impossible to get accurate info about the country.
I had noticed this sweet piece on my first visit but wasn't able to ask until my last what it was: a piece by the late Jan Baker. Of course! It's so her.
There is plenty I haven't explored and yesterday, when attempting to avoid my school prep by taking three walks, one bike ride, cleaning, asking for a tour and then talking a lot, and so on, I came out this way. These are turned off but wow, to have your own gas pumps?!
The surprise lilies are all shouting and I'm so glad I was able to meet them. When I arrived, I was greeted by fireflies. Now, a month later, already so much has changed.
This is the house I asked to tour, the Nora Mellon house. I had expected grand wide open spaces but that isn't how it was. It was more like the other side, lots of smaller rooms attached to more and more.
This facsimile of a painting had me stumped. A dog playing harpsichord, I don't have enough art history study to understand why this image would ever have happened, but it was hilarious.
I only got around to dyeing, not using these. I started one tiny piece a few days ago but it languished in the face of reality: we're forced back to school and I'm terrified. Herb put it very well here. Since pandemic, I've felt a lot of resistance to a lot of my work. This is where I feel an incredible amount of it. A teacher long ago said resistance is information. Well, I know exactly what the information is and I don't feel good about it. Days of revamping a syllabus/schedule with very slow progress.
I knew I had to get home to deal with it, where all my notes and sample structures and real life are. Yes, it's beautiful and peaceful and whatnot here, but my work is done and I am needed elsewhere. Packing is so easy with these grand wheeled carts and I'm confused by how I seem to have less when I'm pretty sure it should be the same amount coming and going (actually, slightly more leaving). But a calm packing job when I live all on one level makes it easier. It has been great and it has come full circle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Vibration

Here the dominant noise is buzzing. So many pollinators, so many insects. At the arboretum this weekend when we were looking for where to put down the picnic blanket, all the grass was twitching. Up here on a sweaty late afternoon visit to the formal garden, I finally noticed these giant gorgeous pods!
Here are the flowers I cut from the walled garden to see what will dry tough enough to make it home on a 6-hour drive, and then survive being shipped in a box to NYC to my photographer for a piece.
I'm packing the wet studio and cleaning a bunch, which leads to some dry studio stuff getting packed as well. These cords are bundled in a cloth and already in my car trunk!
From the light orange down, those are colors I did here. Onion, marigold, marigold plus icy salty fresh indigo leaves, and then those leaves again (very weak because this is NOT how to use indigo but I wanted one last hurrah in the dye garden).
This is the third version of this book and I am finally getting the hang of these paper strap bindings.
This one was from when I first practiced these structures years ago. Now it's finally holding a bit of content. I delivered one to the library and had a great visit because I finally found a book that got a grip on me.
These are the small papers from this month. That was fun!
Pods are bursting everywhere. Not all, but more than when I first arrived.
I saw this photo essay about blood quantum in Native communities today and it was wrenching, just as it always is when I think about this cruel colonial rule that lives to this day. I loved what the photographer said in response to the interview question about "being objective" as a Native journalist covering Native stories: why don't we ask white folks if they are being objective when they cover white stories? All My Relations covered blood quantum in two podcast episodes, this one with outside guests and then this more personal one with their own team. And then to contrast this with the one drop rule for Black people. How is it possible that white supremacist colonizers could come up with BOTH rules and apply them with no inner struggle? I mean, of course they did. It just sucks that they're still around.
I hope this one is praying for us because we really need it.