Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cracks of all sorts

[Part of Jeong-In's huge studio windowsill.] I wanted to go to bed early tonight b/c I've been so overworked and sick lately, but I started the worrying immediately so I figured to just stay up and worry while getting a few things done instead of roll around in bed and worry. Things have been chaotic lately. I feel that I'm straying from the path, feeling really far removed from papermaking. I guess that's part of the peril of research + all the extra stuff. It turns into a test of discipline. I love going off on tangents, but suddenly I have all this reading material that I haven't touched and haven't been successful in making the tons of phone calls I was supposed to this week. I've been a complete slacker in language studies and just generally feeling out of it.

My family confirmed today that I've lost a bunch of weight (I'm sure it's only in my face), and they saw me about 2-3 weeks ago, so the weird sickness and overwork has taken its toll. A couple weeks ago, I made a commitment to talk about my work and teach a binding to a group of book arts enthusiasts, and the prep and stress for that tipped the scale. But that was yesterday. On the way home, some disgusting older man was all over me on the subway (once a seat next to me opened up, he changed seats, spread his legs wide, and proceeded to "read the newspaper" while opening it so wide that his arm was rubbing up against mine. Every time I tried to move away from him, he'd just encroach more. I finally just got up and changed my seat, but freaked out a little when he got off at the same stop as me. After consulting a friend and my cousin today, I now know that it would have been completely appropriate for me to start screaming at him (English swearing would have been okay, too), esp since there were plenty of other people on the train. And also, that once I got off it would have been okay to go to the stationmaster and alert them and they'd call the police. Good to know now but it was awful to have to deal with that after a really long day of language exams, binding prep, almost passing out in the classroom, and doing the whole seminar.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how people here feel fine coming up to me to let me know that I'm flashing people or dressed inappropriately or whatever, and in the process of asking my teacher about that part of Korean culture, heard her end of it. She taught Korean at Wellesley for two years, and said that she was really shocked to see her students and other randoms in the street walking around w/low-cut jeans and their underwear and/or ass cracks hanging out. As soon as she said that, I realized that I have not seen a single butt crack since I've landed!! Which I have to admit is really nice.

In that spirit, I've set the theme for September's photos at eyes everywhere, so tune in starting next Saturday to see what everyone else comes up with. We have a new artist contributing from Dubai! It's nice to have a weekly project, since I've also lately been feeling VERY removed from the world, and all worlds that once provided me with intellectual, artistic, social, and spiritual nourishment. I thought I had set things up to help me, but it's not quite working out. I have the photo blog project, the mail art project with Ching-In, and my own subscription series, but it's still feeling peripheral to my life, like one more thing to do. Hopefully once classes end (one week left, wohoo!), I'll get more time to do my thing (at least 10 more hours each week!). And after the end of November, I'll have ALL my time for research/etc., once tutoring ends.

The other thing that I think has added to my insanity is the lack of reading that I'm doing. I don't have anything right now to read in English, besides a book of Krishnamurti blurbs, so I think if I just had someone else's stories to lean on every once in a while (even just weekend nights would be fine), I'd regain some peace of mind.

Oh! I went to the dentist today. Pretty much, there is nothing to be done for my TMJ wackiness and bruxism. But the dentist was really nice and drew all these pictures for me to show me what is wrong w/my jaw bone, teeth, fillings, etc. He's super busy so it was nice that he took the time to do that. He already put resin on my teeth to reduce sensitivity. But that's part of the scariness: I feel like all the things today that happened were things that would NEVER happen back home! My x-rays were shot w/o ANY protection to the rest of my body, and right out the open in the same room where 3 other chairs are set up for patients and assistants. Also, I swear that the resin he put on my teeth is just a glorified version of epoxy. I felt like I was just getting epoxy in my mouth. Hmm.

The not so fun news is that I have to go now every Saturday to replace ALL of my fillings. SEVEN of them!!! AAAAGHHH. But Dr. V had already told me in Chciago years ago that I had to do that. I just didn't have the funds at the time to do it. My friend who took me there joked that I didn't come to Korea to study, I just came to get all my medical needs taken care of! But as an American, how could it be any different? The dentist today said that if I did this dental work in the US, I'd have to sell a house to be able to afford it. Too true.

Other conversations today touched on depress-o topics like the new scary Korean prez who is being compared to both Bush and Hussein. Nasty stuff going on here, with blatant suppression of any anti-prez media, his desire to switch to a managed health care system like the US (I'd think that the ENTIRE WORLD would run screaming from a system like that!), and pandering to the rich while ignoring the poor. We also talked about if and how reunification would work, and how Korea was simply a pawn for Russia, China, Japan, and the US, but that at the time it had no power to do anything but be divided. Apparently, Korea is also the only country in the world that once received Unicef aid but now gives to Unicef to aid other nations.

The interesting story I heard today about the end of the Korean war was how China sent its military to counter the US army, and that it overwhelmed the US just by its sheer numbers: the soldiers simply marched from north to south, with absolutely no weapons, and just clapped. The US could shoot all it wanted, but the dead soldiers would be replaced by waves of new soldiers, clapping. There was no end. Anyone who saw the Olympics ceremonies would have a better sense of how many people live in China. So the US just called it a draw.

Tomorrow is my one full day off, though! My niece will be around in the morning, but I can deal with it until she goes to church (tho she keeps asking why I don't go). Also, HOW is it already September??! And Labor Day?!? I've lost alllll sense of time / season. Fulbright is closed Monday so I'll have to wait until Tuesday to pick up my business cards. Finally.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No end in sight!!

[an older work by Jorg] No rest until maybe Sunday! Today I met Jeong-In at her studio again, which was a nice treat. I think we're going to swap books, so that means that I'll have made and placed an entire edition in less than a year. Have not really studied a lick for my exam tomorrow. I was sitting on a bench outside trying to look over vocab and a woman came up to me to tell me that I was flashing the world (I was crossing my legs in a skirt). That kind of thing only happens in Korea.

GOOD NEWS: I had wanted to find this woman who spun hanji, but was worried that she wasn't alive anymore (it was an old lead from years and years ago). But she IS! Jeong-In helped me confirm her phone number and called today. I'll call again tomorrow. I really hope I get to meet her and see her work; I think that very few people in Korea are spinning paper. I could be totally off the mark, but it's nice to know that some people stay in the same place for a long time.

MORE love in the mail: a package from my sister and an extra special one from Ellie-Jo!! She knew exactly what I needed. I feel so blessed by the postal system lately! Now it's back to work before I fall over (I've been dizzy again). Tomorrow is a big day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cicada killers

If I were to do a direct translation of what they say I am sick with, it would be something like "body flesh cold" or "suffering from fatigue cold." I went back to school today and felt like I had an on&off fever, but being in school at least distracted me a little from being sick. I really think that studying so many vocab words about being ill and going to the hospital set me on the wrong path. So did overworking myself, which I've already (conveniently) forgotten the vocab word for.

I'm binding up another sample book but my aunt told me that it looked too primitive. I guess I'm a Neanderthal binder. It's too late to make changes now. I'm prepping for a very long, difficult Friday - more details once it's all over. Tomorrow I make another studio visit. Today I got FUN mail: a card from Andrea that said "watch out for the cicada killer" and a postcard from her TA, Lauren, who said that I showed up in a paper-related dream of hers. Note that we have never met in person.

I'm hoping that I'll get lots of work done in the next hour and that I don't wake up in the middle of the night on the verge of vomiting like last night. But the GREAT news...I finally got something that I've been waiting for for YEARS: [the domain is finally out of the hands of the snack food search engine people!!]

Monday, August 25, 2008

What kind of sickness IS this??

(These are waiting to be made into something...) I have no idea what is wrong with me right now. For the past four days, I've had a raging headache, which is uncharacteristic. I thought it was poisoning from mosquito repellent OR acclimating to doing yoga for the first time in two months. But now I just have no idea. At 2:30am, I woke up nearly unable to walk. It was the worst sciatica I've ever had.

I skipped school today (this is the neighboring college, Ewha Women's University. They just built this new "building," which is carved into a hill. It reminds me of locations for virgin sacrifices but maybe that's just my overactive imagination). The problem is that sitting makes my back worse, but laying down makes my head worse. I tried taking a walk thru the lake park but got really dizzy and felt like hell so I came back after 30 minutes.

(More of Jorg's work.) Oh, haha. I just got an email from my sister saying that I am sick b/c I am too old to do physical activity w/o warming up. I feel this awful b/c I put my ankle behind my neck on Friday? But, good news: I got an amazing package from Asao Shimura, a papermaker extraordinaire in the Philippines, who sent me lots of info and miniature books and a DVD. Yay.


I'm feeling sick.

A mix of lots of strange things (it didn't help that we did a whole unit on illness and going to the doctor in language class). I'm hoping I kick it so I can do all the Very Important Things this week like taking exams. I took two pills from Audrey today to try and cope w/the headache. I'm sure that sitting in A/C w/the newest Fulbright arrival and then my language exchange partner and her psych grad student cohort didn't help.

So, time for bed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Please help a fellow artist!

I just got an email from kate hers, who is an artist that I met thru Pauly. She helped me a lot in the process of applying for the Fulbright and beyond. She was in Berlin for the past several months (maybe longer?) on leave from her MFA program in California, and just returned to find that all her material possessions left in the US were trashed. I'm sending her a check as soon as I get her address, and posting her message here:

Dear friends, colleagues, collectors, and supporters,

I beseech you for help. It is with a heavy heart that I share with you my catastrophic situation. Upon going to pick up my personal belongings and art portfolio in a public storage space while I was away in Europe, I received most unfortunate news. In a freak mistake, everything was thrown away. I have lost the most important documentation of my artistic process since the last 12 years. Photographs, negatives, CDs, videotapes, art supplies, sketchbooks, clothes, office and kitchen supplies, bedding, towels, items of sentimental value, my entire library of books and DVDs and music CDs, etc. are gone. Basically everything I owned except for a few things I fortunately left at friends’ houses has been destroyed.

In order to find a positive way to transform my situation, I have come up with a new plan. From now until I raise several thousand dollars to help me replace all that I have lost (especially art supplies to make new work), I am offering a voucher system on my artwork. These vouchers come in $50 increments and they can be cashed at the end of 2009 (perhaps for the holiday season) to go towards the purchase of unique and original edition work, which includes: drawings, handmade collages, digital collages, and video. The work price ranges from $10 to $1000. Works will be offered to potential buyers in the order that the vouchers were purchased, but I promise to have a substantial selection. Note that mailing costs will not be included in the works price but can be calculated later depending on where I should ship the work. To get an idea of what my works look like now, please see my portfolio on my website at

In addition, I have unsigned Missing Persons Posters available now for $10. There is also a limited signed edition, which goes for $25. Please see the website for the image or email me for information,

I understand that some of you do not have the financial means of assisting me. Prayers, positive energy, and hugs are quite welcome. I also am in dire need of kitchen equipment like mugs, glasses, dishes, pots and pans, and cooking utensils. If you have a white elephant in the haus, I can help you find a new home for it.

To buy a voucher, please email or call me to get more information. I can also accept EURO by bank transfer in Berlin. Please forward this request if you know someone that might be interested.

Sincerely yours,
kate hers

Precious weekends

I lied. I'm too wiped out to talk more about how the exhibit went and review all the info I got from the artist about his work and life as a German artist in London, or to review dinner/drinks with Richard and his friends in one of the fanciest upscale neighborhoods in Seoul.
But I would like to say that catering at art openings (I've been to three since I've arrived) is simply exquisite.

Last night, after a long day out and about w/the daughter of a family friend (who was soooo sweet and lovely. We had a fun time over shabu shabu, coffee & sweet potato cake, and getting another book on hanji from one of the biggest bookstores here), I came home to pure love. Pauly sent homemade cookies!!! It was hilarious, b/c when I first opened the package, it looked like two huge tempeh sandwiches. For a moment, I thought, "she's lost her mind! She sent sandwiches from Angelica!"

I caught up on a little sleep last night (with a brief interlude: mosquito attack), finally did an hour of yoga today, had noodles for lunch and then passed out for a 2.5-hour nap. I still feel a little woozy from that. Everything is backlogged, work-wise, but I'm hoping that it will all work itself out. Oh, and I was silly enough to tweak out my sciatic again on Friday b/c my classmates begged me to show them some b boying. I ended up basically doing YOGA but most people can't tell the difference. But I did it w/o warming up. No more putting my foot behind my head on demand. I must have been a circus animal in another life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Only 24 hours, only 24 hours

Should be in bed but had to post and do some inbox clearing so I don't cry this weekend b/c of the backlog. Today: went to galleryem to the opening of an exhibit by two artists. Only one was able to make the opening.

That's him: Jorg Obergfell. Will talk more about the work later. It was fun: lovely gallery space, fun art, beautiful reception, and I got to meet my cousin's wife's friends (including the gallery owner, Emma. Get it? galleryEM...anyhow, she did her MFA at Parsons, I think. She couldn't get over how much I looked like my cousin).

That's Emma on the left, and then me grilling the artist. Richard, the first language grant + Fulbright grantee to arrive after me, came by and then we went out w/two of his friends to have dinner in the area. More on all of it later. For now, bed!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I am recognizing my pattern of constantly saying to myself, "once you get this done, then you'll be home free." Every big application, every time I finish one obligation, every time I do anything! I need to figure out a different way to see things b/c there's never any end to it. I just talked to the 2nd person to arrive here in my Fulbright cohort and was having a hard time speaking English. It's weird, b/c when I talk to Audrey or Kelsey or other Americans that I've met in my language program, I'm fine. Now that my homework is done and my bank statements reconciled, I'm realizing that my neck has gone into spasm again. GREAT.

I'm pushing a little too hard lately. But I just can't get it all done and get 8.5 hours of sleep at night (that's my optimal amount). So getting along on 5-6 hours plus dozing on public transportation is all I get. Today was a long haul, going back to Gangnam to meet Na Rae Kim. I ended up riding home w/her photographer on the subway. They both are CHOCK full of info and leads and are super willing to help me out, but it gets to be overload on top of all the other leads I'm working on. Plus, final exams are coming up for school! AGH.

Today's gem: teaching Na Rae and her assistant how to tip in a photo w/o glue. And being asked by her photog about handsewn endbands. I'm kicking myself hard for not taking my notes from Melissa's classes to Korea.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I plead family

It's a big lifestyle change going from a small immediate family with the closest extended family about 2.5 hours away, to being right in the middle of a big extended family almost all within one city. I had BIG plans for this weekend, and pretty much fell short of all of them. I also was unable to get my usual weekend naps yesterday and today. I thought today would be my big work day, since I stay home while the rest of my family goes to church. It's a great time to do laundry and artwork, since no one is underfoot and it's quiet. I cut, spun, and shot this paper before I got my rude awakening.

BOTH of my cousin's children came home w/their grandparents from church, and disrupted my peaceful Sunday. And at the worst possible moment! I had all my tools out, including knives, all my paper, my computer, and tin of pens. My niece pounced onto all of it, and my nephew started pounding away at the laptop. So much for getting anything else done! I tried, but it's really quite pointless. I finally gave in and took my niece out to recharge my transit card and get treats from the department store supermarket. I'm sad that I wasn't able to edit any more papermaking video or do a speck of work on my performance, but I guess sometimes you just have to watch kids make an entire board game complete with pieces called "ME" and "AUNT." At least I finished spinning all the paper.

P.S. - Takuji will be teaching in Japan at this printmaking program, which looks like heaven. I'm already wishing I was on my residency slated for next year!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Up and at 'em

I managed to get to bed earlier than usual last night to help mollify the 6:30am alarm this morning (Saturday). I had a big haul to Gangnam ("south of the river") to take a placement exam at the place where I will receive private tutoring in Korean starting in early Sept. My teacher is super on top of the issues that Korean Americans have, and has already laid out my course of study: basic grammar for the first 10 hours (1st week), families of words based on Chinese characters and how to use them, and minimal deciphering of texts in Korean on hanji. She said that no matter how much Korean I study, it won't help much while traveling b/c the dialects outside of Seoul can get almost impossible to understand, even for native Koreans. She explained one of the things I need to learn via the same issue for Koreans in English: they know lots of vocab, but not how to use the words. So, they know the meaning of "shower" but can only say, "DO shower, DO shower!" rather than "take a shower."

Other activities for the day:
- visiting my cousin and his wife and getting good advice on living with his father (my uncle); also getting a lead on housing
- video chat w/my sister
- more editing on the papermaking video
- Na Rae Kim's opening at Gallery Andante, and meeting the gallery owner
- noodles at a restaurant w/amazing chopsticks: they're metal but hollow!!! So they're super light. Exciting for those of us who have suffered through heavy metal chopsticks that dig into fingers and make hands tired.
- a phone call from the south with another artist to contact.

I still have not come up w/a solid performance to tape but am hoping it will come to me soon. We're in a fantastic respite from the heat (I actually woke up today and was cold!) so maybe my brain will return to pre-fried levels in time to create, perform, tape, and edit a new performance for a rapidly-approaching deadline.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I've been very, very bad about taking my camera when I go out. I mean, I just don't do it. So then I end up having to take other people's images off the web...this is the National Folk Museum in Seoul. I went today! Not part of the plan, but now it's crossed off of the list. I meant to go to a gallery in a totally different part of the city, but got on the wrong bus and then was too hot and flustered to figure out how to get on the right one, so I walked a while until I found a subway station, and went to a neighborhood I knew a little better. The museum is just so-so but still a good experience. It was strange to me b/c you just walk in, no tickets or checking bags or anything (free admission until Dec to celebrate the 60th anniversary of ROK), and you can take pictures in there! I almost fell over when I saw someone shooting a case. Very, very different from the typical American museum experience.

Roads were all messed up anyhow b/c they were blocking them off for parades and other celebrations: tomorrow is Independence Day. I saw some of the scariest scaffolding in progress in my life. Four men were in the middle of a street building a pretty narrow tower of scaffolding, no planks or anything, just the metal beams, and were already way above a traffic light when I walked by. No harnesses, no safety anything. I somehow managed to kill enough time and not fall over from the sun overexposure to meet my classmates for dinner: Mayumi and her new husband, Yuko, Aiju, and Kelsey. It was really nice to spend time w/them outside of class, despite the classic overeating and reeking of BBQ.

Yesterday I met my language exchange partner and got a peek at the offices of the psych grad students at Yonsei. We talked about her experiments with children and infants, since her focus now is on coordination and language development. She talked about how the brains of bilingual children are different from monolingual kids and I talked about how Americans never say things to each other that can be construed as impolite or offensive. She was surprised, thinking that Americans are more direct (this was about when people tell me that I'm fat). Hilarious, b/c it's sooooo the other way around.

It's late. A big weekend ahead.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unexpected responses

I sent the images from my papermaking field trip far and wide and have been heartened by the response. It reminded me that I am not done w/my documentation! Just getting the pictures edited and online was enough to wipe me out in this heat. But I forgot about the videos! This is probably b/c somewhere in the back of my mind I was wishing for an editing fairy (one that closely resembles my rock star sister) to relieve me of the burden. But that's not going to happen. It's time for me to finally start learning how to use the software that has been sitting in my computer, gathering dust. My goal: piece together all the footage and clean it up for one big file, to be ready by the end of the weekend. If it gets all hot on me again, I'm letting myself off the hook.

I had lunch and then went to a cafe with Kelsey today, which was nice. I really enjoy spending time with her, likely b/c she's super smart and articulate. I'm thankful that she'll be in Korea for the entire time that I will be here so there's one friend in sight! The downside was that I was all dizzy after lunch. I suspect the F-Killer mosquito spray. I can't think of anything else, since the dizzy symptoms are similar to earlier vertigo incidents related to solvent poisoning. I had planned to visit a gallery today but the heavy rain prompted me to just hang with Kelsey.

I've been emailing Maria and a few other people to quickly mobilize forces. It's that time. The time when you know that you have to get your support team together before you become a casualty. I have a SWAT team for instant response, a special squad trained in all things Korean so that we can communicate w/o lots of lengthy explanations about Korean culture, and a general battalion of those who continue to remind me that I'm not an old, fat, ugly spinster wasting my time in Korea and bringing shame to my entire family. Yes, this is the war that I have been fighting since Day One. The battle has escalated after some horrid comments by a 7-yo family member this past weekend about how imperfect my body is, and tonight the concern about me being unmarried escalated to new heights; my uncle takes no prisoners when he yells at me daily about my choice to be an artist and accept a Fulbright rather than tie the knot and pop out kids.

To counterattack, I'm sharing some video from the countryside: two women beating fiber to make hanji. When I set up studio stateside to make hanji, I'm totally using logs like this to beat fiber. Forget the little mallets we used in grad school. This method seems much more efficient, satisfying, and excellent for exorcising demons.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday disease

I don't have a good translation for that...but I think it's the same on Mondays around the world. I barely made it thru class b/c I was so sleepy, but am really happy b/c I've connected with Maria Yoon, who has been working on a project where she's getting married in every state in the US - all about the pressure on Korean women to marry, and by a certain age. I needed to talk with someone who had some understanding of the specific pressures on women here. So that makes me feel like I'm taking positive steps to maintaining some sanity here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Special requests

Um, when is Apple going to make a laptop that doesn't overheat like a mofo?? It would be nice to not feel like I'm being broiled every time I'm on this computer. Clover sent me that postcard of Julie (she took that pic, too) on the far left for their collaborative piece last summer. I'm backing up my computer for the first time since I've landed here, two weeks after a long scary conversation with a current Fulbrighter about losing data. In the end, there's no surefire backup, so I'm sticking w/my dangerous behavior of only one backup and an outdated one of the stuff on my server.

I've been feeling really crazy lately, as a direct effect of living here. It hasn't even been two months and I've already considered (not seriously, but just the fact that I mulled it over in my head is scary) at least five different methods of changing the body that I was born with. I've lost all ability to judge women for doing the same, b/c it's so clear to me that it's all about where you are, who you're surrounded by, and the demands of the dominant culture. It's not about how strong you are or how steeped in feminist theory you are or how intelligent and self-sufficient you are.

On the positive side, I live now in a small country that is incredibly proud of its Olympians - I was trying to read a children's book in Korean this morning when I heard all this screaming outside, like when a soccer team scores a goal screaming. Suddenly, I remembered that the mens' 400M freestyle was on, and ran to the TV. Sure enough, 19-yo Park Tae-hwan had just won gold. That was basically the only news that existed today. Though yesterday's judo gold by Choi Minho was more fun to watch b/c he was so emotional about it, rather than the commentators being more emotional than the swimmer.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dog days

The really hot part of summer is sitting right on top of us. I've finally caught up on sleep today, even though it was that awful kind of napping where you're just laying in your own sweat for a while but can't move b/c it's so hot.

Wednesday's trip south was good: we ended up going to the southernmost province in Korea to visit the one papermaker left in a village where there used to be tons. It was great to see every single step of the process, but the heat and killing time in between shoots really wore on us (I had invited Audrey and we both cut class - worth it just to get out of the city). It was all mountains on the way there and back. Bo Kyung Kim drove us down and then took us to the bus stop to get back since she was staying longer. There's only one bus to Seoul from that town a day, so we got there in time to get some ice cream and fluids for the 4.5-hour bus ride. I spent both Tues & Wed nights with my cousin's family, and even got some good children's books to practice reading Korean. One is a really sad story about a poverty-stricken family whose small child chews paper, and another is a comic book that helps kids learn Chinese characters.

Thursday, I went with Gigg to meet Na Rae Kim at her studio, where her workers were busy preparing props to shoot for her next book (she has a whole series of different book arts projects for children). I talked to her photog about my project and he said that there is another Buddhist nun who makes paper, so hopefully I'll get info on her soon. After that, I headed to Hapjeong to meet the new executive asst for Fulbright to take a look at my future apt (to see if I'd be okay living there). While I waited for her, I had a really good sweet potato iced latte at Crown Bakery. Totally hit the spot, and good timing b/c I had been craving sweet potato that day for some strange reason. For dinner, we went to a place specializing in barley (instead of white rice) - the whole menu was similar to "health food" places back home.

Friday, I somehow made it through class, did homework, had ice cream, and headed home. It was SO HOT that I tried to find a coffeeshop whose sister shop Diana and I had visited last week, but in the search for it, I noticed a sign on the same building for a place called "Yogaholic" (of course, all in Korean). I stepped in to get a schedule and instead ended up sitting down for a 2.5-hour talk w/the co-owner (he and his wife are the main teachers there). He spent 3 years in the US, north of Chicago and close to Denver, so he knew a good amount of English. Yoga classes in Korea are structured so that you can't drop into one class; you have to pay for 3 months in advance, 1 month if you're lucky to negotiate it that way. It was my first encounter with a Korean yogi! I felt right at home.

It's been pretty amazing to poke around and find all the different aspects of community that I had back home. I'll meet next week with a gallery director and finally called the nun that I will study with later in the year. I had been dreading those calls, fearful of the high-and-mighty stance that I'm so used to in the US, but both of them were incredibly nice and put me at ease right away. The generosity and hospitality of the people I have met has blown me away. In many ways, my extreme exhaustion is simply a product of abundance. Talking with the yoga teacher helped remind me that I'm probably on the right path.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Incredibly sad news

I just got back online to find out that Marilyn Sward, the founder of the Book & Paper Center at Columbia (only one of the many, many things to her credit), passed away a couple days ago. I never really knew her but she left a huge legacy and was a positive presence even after her tenure at Columbia when I was in grad school. She was a big mover and shaker in the papermaking world as well. I remember taking down my thesis when she RAN into the gallery to try and catch our show before it went down. She is the reason I went to Haystack, too. I was really shocked and sad to read this, a beautiful tribute written by Jeff Abell at Columbia:

Marilyn Sward (1941 ­ 2008)

It is with heavy heart that I write to you to say that in the early hours of August 5, 2008, Marilyn Sward lost a two-year battle with cancer. She had just turned 67 years old on the 22nd of July. Many people know that Marilyn approached her final illness with the same kind of optimism and assertiveness that she brought to all things. When she first went into the hospital in late June, she was talking about going biking in Italy in a couple of weeks. But, for once, she was not able to make her idea happen.

More than almost anyone else I have ever known, Marilyn was completely remarkable in her ability to bring ideas into reality. Marilyn would look at a situation, see a problem, come up with a solution, and make that come to be. When her daughter Heather had trouble in the Evanston public schools, Marilyn thought that artmaking might improve her learning. So she helped to start an innovative and influential art program in the Evanston schools. Feeling that papermaking and paper arts needed a venue in Chicago, she started Paper Press. When the building where Paper Press was located burned to the ground, Marilyn moved it to another location. And in the late 1980s, when many of the non-profit art centers were starting to fold, Marilyn had the vision to merge her organization with Artists' Book Works, and form the Center for Book & Paper Arts at Columbia College. Marilyn was the Director of the Center in its formative years, but not content with the facilities at 218 S. Wabash, Marilyn managed to convince the powers that be to construct a state of the art facility (at a cost of close to $1 million) in the historical Luddington Building at 1104 S. Wabash.

Marilyn was a wonderful teacher and colleague. Given her love for all things green (from flowers, plants and trees to frogs) and her affinity for things aquatic (Marilyn was an excellent swimmer) it was perhaps inevitable that she would work primarily with paper, that "hydrophilic medium," as she once put it. She loved all things paper, and managed to share that love with decades of students at both Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute, and across the country in residency at places like Penland. I will spare you the list of her professional accomplishments: the boards she sat on, the publications she helped foster, etc. Instead, let me share some more personal recollections.

Marilyn was the ultimate "morning person." She was typically up at or before dawn, would go out for a run or a bike-ride, and be at work on things by 7 a.m. I once had to tell her that if she kept calling me on the phone before 8 a.m. I would never speak to her again. On the other hand, by 9:00 or so in the evening, she would wilt, like flowers in a waterless vase. When she and I traveled together in Indonesia, you could count on her to be the first one up and about each day, but keeping her awake for an evening performance required caffeine, and even that didn't always help. How she managed to stay awake for all those performances at Lyric Opera over the years is anybody's guess.

When Marilyn was in my Sound class (she got her Master's Degree from Interdisciplinary Arts shortly after I started teaching in the program) I had students write pieces for each other to perform. She told her accomplice, "Just don't make me play the piano." So what did the other student do? Wrote a piano piece that Marilyn had to play. I don't think I ever saw her that angry again. But she played it. No challenge was to be left unmet, or unconquered.

It was also Marilyn who taught me never to travel without a journal, multiple writing implements (pens get lost), tape, and a small stapler. That way, everything of importance from the trip ­ ticket stubs, receipts, cards from restaurants where you ate, etc. ­ all end up in "the book." Helpful come tax time, and an invaluable document. Even now, when I tend to travel with my laptop, and keep my account of the day¹s activities directly into my computer, I still need the book. Marilyn also taught me that when traveling, you should buy something useful. One of her souvenirs of Bali were some brightly colored plastic buckets. I asked her why she wanted to lug these back to Chicago in her suitcase? "Because I'll use them everyday in my studio, and think of where they came from," she replied.

Marilyn was always remarkably clear-sighted, a force of rational decision-making, a wise advisor. During some recent "drama" at school, she called me on a Sunday morning (at 8:30, thankfully) and we had a long chat. Not only did she offer insights into the situation, but she actually listened to what I had to say. That's really what made her such an effective administrator: she didn't just talk, she listened. In fact, that's probably what made her such a wonderful artist and human being: she listened.

Jeff Abell
Associate Chair
Interdisciplinary Arts
Columbia College Chicago

Memorial services for Marilyn Sward will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Friday August 8 at First United Methodist Church in Evanston, 516 Church St. The church is located at the corner of Church Street and Hinman. It's quite close to Sheridan Rd. and Centennial Park in Evanston. There will be a gathering afterwards at the Evanston Arts Center, 2603 Sheridan Rd # 3 (about 12 blocks north of the church along Sheridan Rd.).

Also, from Andrea Peterson:

The family is asking that you not send flowers but if you feel so inclined to donate to an endowment fund that is being set up at Columbia College. To send make donation out to: Marilyn Sward Endowment Fund and mail to: Marilyn Sward Endowment Fund, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan, Chicago IL 60605.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A quick update in the haze

Tonight: return to Seoul (I went home after lunch w/Audrey and Kristen) to stay w/my cousin's family so that

Tomorrow: I can meet Bo Kyung Kim at 4am so that we can get to the countryside in time to start filming at 9am. Filming what? Their papermaker!!! It all came together really quickly, so I'm still not packed, but I am excited to have this opportunity. We'll get back late at night, I imagine, and then

Thursday: I'll sleep through class, and then go w/Gigg to visit Na Rae Kim's studio south of the river in Seoul. Then, I'll cross the river again to meet the new executive assistant at Fulbright to check out the apt that was infested and have dinner with her.

Meanwhile, I have a list of at least three people to call (gallery director, nun, family friend), and it all just makes me want to cry. Mostly just b/c I need more sleep. But I'm taking my camera and lots of batteries so I will hopefully return with lots of interesting footage.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Can't see straight

The intensity of Korean life is hard to handle. It's easy being a hard worker back home b/c the standards are so different. Here, an underachiever works about as hard as a pretty hard worker at home, so just trying to stay afloat is a real challenge. I have gotten really good at dozing on the bus and subway (though I don't like it when people and their hair lean all over me while THEY are dozing). But I don't know how everyone gets through their days w/o collapsing!!

We got our new teachers today; they seem nice enough. I mailed letters after class and then ran to the subway so I could meet Na Rae Kim (prez of the Korean Bookarts Association) at the Korea Paper Culture Center, which is in the neighborhood where my family used to live, long ago [the residence of all of my Korean childhood memories]. I recognized the slope of the land underneath all the pavement, and how confusing it was once we got beyond the main gate outside of my late grandfather's house. The first floor houses Seoul Hands, a big arts and crafts supply store (kind of like a Paper Source), where you can get all sorts of paper, bookbinding supplies, and even Keith Smith books.

Na Rae was teaching a big class of elementary school teachers, who are doing a week-long training in arts and crafts that they can apply to their classroom teaching. I came just in time for paste papers, papermaking from recycled paper, and paper casting (in wooden molds usually used for traditional rice cakes). They had already made some books and pop-ups. It was alarming how gung ho they all were. Somehow, I could never imagine my elementary school teachers getting this excited about smearing colors on paper. After looking around at the paper museum (where I saw two pieces that I swear I saw in Chicago five years ago) and store, we had dessert at a Red Mango and talked about what she is up to in Korea and why I am here. I tried to explain in Korean and failed miserably (which was okay since she did her grad work in England and knows some English), but was TRYING to say: I'm here for a year and papermaking is what got me here but who knows what I will end up doing here, and that is fine by me. It's just about seeing how I fare living in another country for a year, getting to know my family, understanding my parents better now that I'm getting a sense of their past, meeting a new community of people and artists, and letting myself learn what I need to learn (even if it's not what I thought I would learn).

I've been having horrible fears that I will have to settle for my own mediocrity. Examples: I will never be a fluent Korean speaker / reader / writer, I will never be a technically impeccable violinist, I will never be an Olympic swimmer. Some of these make me sadder than others, but the really scary one is: I will never be a good artist. I was thinking yesterday, how come I'm not an amazing athlete? Or any number of things? And my answer was that I am just not willing to sacrifice certain things for any one thing. Like, I really hate not sleeping enough hours in a day, therefore, I won't practice violin for 8 hours a day. So, I might be a mediocre violinist, but at least I'll be less cranky. But what if I just don't have a very good eye or sense of space? It doesn't matter how much I practice making things if I don't have a real talent for it.

I'm having a hard time unraveling all of this b/c I am not getting enough sleep. Which is what happens when you are on government funding!! It all makes sense when I'm laying on the floor on a bead pillow (like an abacus built as a cube w/beads on taut strings instead of metal rods) reading Murakami stories. But when I try to articulate it in written English, it all disappears. Which I am about to do, so that I get enough sleep for the coming adventures - wait until you hear about what is in store for the next few days!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I feel like a fried egg

that has sat in the pan for too long. Yesterday was the Han Style Expo 2008 and I went with Gigg. It was at this HUGE mall/convention center south of the river in Seoul, called COEX, and I know the pics aren't exciting, but they're here. It was basically lots of booths on different aspects of Korean culture, like cuisine, dress/costume, architecture, textiles, music and dance, and paper. Bo Kyung Kim of FIDES told me about it so I figured it would take care of a lot of things at once. It wasn't super exciting and I thought I was going to pass out most of the day b/c of my cycle and the heat. But it was nice to get some "Vietnamese cuisine" w/Gigg at the food court (it was actually Thai, but labeled as Vietnamese), and browse the huge bookstore. She got an American magazine for something like $11, all wrapped in plastic so that you can't see what's beyond the Mariah Carey cover.

I was able to take half of the return trip on the subway, and then caught a ride w/my cousin and his wife all the way home (the meeting place was across the street from Dunkin Donuts) for a big family dinner at home. It's really something to go from trying to get info on hanji in Korean for a research grant, to entertaining small children. This morning involved a session of "Heart and Soul," sightreading some other piano music, making a book of fake hanji for my niece, talking about the tiny lampshades I made for her toy lamp last night, and making fun of my hair falling out. It's kind of incredible how little it takes to amuse a child. I taught her how to wax thread, even though I couldn't explain to her what beeswax was.

I'm having a hint of missing NYC summertime. Actually, I think I'm just delirious and need to get away from the computer b/c it's emitting so much heat.

Love letter: a project by Francis O'Shaughnessy

Elizabeth sent me this call, more for therapy than anything else! I finished my letter last night as my niece kept saying, "why is your letter so long?" Hahaa.

Love letter
A project by Francis O'Shaughnessy

Having received some love letters, I decided to change a little bit my project because the letters I received were more fictions of love at my intention that of true love stories. The goal of this project is to collect feelings and authentic emotions registers on paper which you have one day received from a person or writing for somebody. Then I propose two shutters with my love letter project.

1-The project consists to send a love letter to me, written by the hand, addressed not to me but to a person whom you like and who was one day of passage in your life. This letter can be a lost letter or ever sent, a missed appointment, a letter which you already received at school, a letter whom you found, a St-Valentine mail, etc. Probably that these letters are too meaning for you to be given to me. Then, the other solution, you can also scanner them or photocopy them and sent to This shutter will remind you undoubtedly good memories. If you are ready to divide these letters with me for the name of art, I thank you in advance.

2- The project consists to write a love letter to Francis, written by the hand,. The letter can all contain: phantasms, drawings, a small note, a scented word, a memory, desires floating, a letter newspaper, a momentary love, an impassioned love, an intimacy, one intense moment, a remote love… In short, we must feel in the letter the love which you would have for a lover, a buddy, in love and addressed to Francis… You are completely free to do and write all that passes to you by the head. Write the letter which you always dreamed to write or receive.

The letters all will be good, can imports the source, the contents and the language. There will be no sorting. The letters can remain anonymous, be signed or with half or signed of another name. ¡Boys and girls are encouraged to take part in the project!

Several among you will receive this idea of project in your box email. And necessarily, several among you surely do not know me. If the project interests you, then take a bit of paper and write a love letter to Francis or send to me your love letters memories. That will take only a few minutes of your time and that will make you good. If you do not want to pay a stamp, you can the scanner and then send it to me by email:

You can send your letters to the address below:

566-2 Hotel God, Chicoutimi, Quebec, G7H 1V9, CANADA

¡¡¡Thank you in advance for your love letters!!!


PD- The love letter project has now 2 directions. You can choose the direction that you are the most confortable and then write me love letters. untill now, since one week, i received love letters each 2 days. there is some letter that i don't event know who is the sender and who is from! thank you to participe to my art project. There is no dead line to send me your love letters!