Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Settled and not

[Soon I will run out of Canada pics and will have to take current ones. But I like the cushion of time off from shooting.] I forgot to say that I had found my favorite dress of the season, by Doo-Ri Chung. It reminds me of the rainbows in Korean tapestries. I had met Doo-Ri briefly when I was working in SoHo and she still had her little shop there. She was on her way to something big then, and it just keeps blowing up, which I love to see. Today was delicious: reading The Writing Life, working, watching "The Snapper," having good home cooking, and eating yummy red bean buns.

Along with that were two requests from friendly acquaintances for advice/leads. While sending out the info, I realized again that I know a LOT more about my field than I give myself credit for on a regular basis. I have tons of valuable, sometimes random, but always pertinent-to-someone information. I'm becoming the person I wanted to be years ago - feeling around in the dark, finding things, continuing on after they've been illuminated, growing richer all the while, and seeing w/my hands that this tunnel is much longer and more convoluted than it first seemed when I squeezed into the hole.

Sometimes I've wondered if I could make a living as an advisor of sorts, but I can't get my head around how that would actually work w/o getting ugly. Due to a few burns, I've also gotten paranoid about being taken advantage of. I always assume some kind of propriety, tacit limits on how much should be asked of me after I've already given a lot, but that isn't always the case. I love helping people, but at the same time know that too much of that takes away from my own work, especially since I am prone to overdoing. But I also ask for help from those who are wiser. So I'm not sure how to balance, especially since I want to stay in the abundance camp: as long as I continue to give genuinely and in a positive spirit, it will all return, and there truly is enough for everyone. So I loved reading this today, as a reminder:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Year-end organization and surprises

[Welcome to Montreal's Chinatown!] I finally got most of my hanji videos in one place. I don't know why this took so long. But I am learning that as organized and on top of it a person can be, it doesn't really matter b/c TIME is so crucial to getting enough perspective and energy and wherewithal to properly tell a story.

Also, I had worked on an article for Fulbright and they published it on their applicant blog (though I only just found it today when I thought, "hm, have they done anything with that revision yet?"). Here it is! Maybe soon I'll get motivated enough to pick the right photos to un-privatize on flickr so you can see the jiseung story (hanji weaving).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh, Canada!

We took a quick weekend trip to Montreal yesterday, returning tonight. It was a wonderful mini-vacation and I am so glad that we went. It was funny to see how drivers in Ontario and Quebec differ, and Ben had to remind me at one point when I was driving and complaining about all the congestion that we were in an urban area, instead of the boonies that I've quickly become used to driving through.

After checking in and getting a map of the city (we went pretty much cold, no plans, no recommendations for anything to see), we walked to the Grande Bibliotheque and then down to the old city. It was a brain-twister to try to function in French after working so hard to get my head to work in Korean. But it's always a good brain shake-up.

There were carolers and we walked around the little streets and peeked into the science center and walked on the water (ice) before heading back to pig out and drink yummy cocktails at a steakhouse. I love how biker- and pedestrian-friendly the city is. When we walked out, there was all this noise of fireworks, and we saw a lovely show - and it happens every Saturday night in December.

We considered a pool and workout date this morning but it turned into successive naps. We had walked through Chinatown on our way back to the hotel last night, so we went back for a ridiculously delicious and satisfying lunch at a Vietnamese place. I haven't had good Vietnamese in forever! It made me very happy. After a little bit of looking at the big mall shopping areas and and underground, we drove to little Italy to shop at the big market.

Somehow, we managed to stop and run errands before coming home and cooking another delicious meal of bacon-wrapped scallops and grilled asparagus. I am daunted by the workload, plus all my strategic packing for the holidays, but think I will be refreshed tomorrow and ready to have a productive 24 hours before hitting the road for Boston, NYC, Philly, and NYC again. And we will definitely visit Canada again! That was exactly what we needed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Onggi's allure

I can't stop looking at all things onggi - a type of pottery made by craftsmen in Korea, for food fermentation and storage. It started while reading the Jane Portal book, b/c I had found a reference to how onggi potters were often Catholics who did it to avoid persecution, hiding out in the countryside and working. I thought about Frank's research and so before I told him about it I looked online for more info and then found this fabulous article about the folk traditions and rituals surrounding onggi by Robert Sayers, who did a lot of the fieldwork on a Fulbright years ago in Korea.

Michael sent me this image he found, and then I happened upon a set of two videos showing an onggi potter at work, using a kick wheel. The first part is the beginning of the onggi, and in part two, you can see his leg working a little before 6 minutes in. But then upon further inspection, it turned out that the videos were made by Adam Field, who did a 10-month apprenticeship in Korea, about a year before I was there, learning the tradition from the national intangible heritage holder. I couldn't stop watching the videos: the glazing is my favorite, and then the firing, and of course he did a great one of himself in action.

I only stopped to cook dinner once Ben came home. Otherwise I would have watched all of them in one shot, here.

This morning, I read a NYT article on people earning a living off of Etsy and how hard it is. As if it would be easy to operate your own business, doing all production and marketing and distribution and blahhh. But even the title was funny to me, about your hobby being a lot of work. A big reason that traditional crafts are dying out, not just in Korea, but all over the world, is that they ARE all-consuming. It's always back-breaking labor (or eyeball-straining or arthritis-causing or any other kind of crippling), and it takes all of your time and energy, and you don't have much money, and you don't really get to take vacations. No one is interested in that kind of lifestyle anymore; it's too hard for us softies. But I still like to think there can be some kind of balance struck so that the people who still do the work get fully supported so that they don't have to do it and starve, or quit and survive. It kills me, watching the father do the decorations in the wet glaze with his thumbs, b/c it's so simple and deft and beautiful. I'm not saying that everyone has to give up their whole lives and bodies to keep it alive, but maybe just a bunch of people giving something, to keep that sweep of the hand moving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A fun drawing show in Berlin

[I sent drawings in the summer and have already forgotten which but they are in Germany now!]

Dear Sirs and Madams, dear artlovers,

We kindly want to invite you to the following lecture in the context of the exhibition Anonymous Drawings N°10:

Thursday,December 17, 7pm
Lecture with Dr. Andreas Schalhorn / Kupferstichkabinett Berlin:
In Grenzen grenzenlos. Anmerkungen zu Qualit├Ąt und Vielfalt der Zeichnung.
(in German)

A preview of selected drawings you find here.

kind regards,
Anke Becker /bluetenweiss

Monday, December 14, 2009

Press from Miami

I just got the e-version of the Caribbean Art World Magazine, which has fabulous coverage on Diaspora Vibe. Marcel and Marina were a delight to meet and talk to while I was there, and do amazing work (plus they drove down to Miami from Maryland to do Basel and the related events - hardcore!!). Scroll all the way down to read about DV in "Featured Gallery" or click on the interview w/Rosie and on the right sidebar you can see thumbnails of five of us who did artist talks on Dec 5. I love to see everyone on the backdrop of my pieces; I totally miss the vibe!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Catching my breath

Turns out that Daniel had sent me a bunch of other photos and even a video, but it had landed in my spam folder. Thank goodness I found out before it was too late, b/c his shots are hilarious. Here I am, clutching my lifeline (the computer) and probably explaining that the stitching is done with hanji cord.

Rud was excited about how he could affect the artwork by simply walking by, so Daniel shot it. The rest of my pics, most of them in the two long posts I did recently, are here. Oh, and yesterday I was so tired of my outgrown hair that I chopped a bunch off the front myself. I haven't done that since the summer of '99 in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, back north, I spent the whole middle of the day cooking and preparing for lunch and dinner. Ben and I stopped at a huge supermarket w/fancier items than the ones here when we were on our way home from the airport, and it's no wonder that I splurged on tomatillos and jicama. I did salsa and salads today, vacuumed, cleaned, and now I am ready for a nap. I took the trash outside and it felt just like winter. I remember being in Vermont in January a couple years ago and how it's still possible to work in cold and snow and ice. As long as you're warm enough.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The very long story of my recent very full and beautiful journey

[This post is the perfect example of what this blog has evolved into for me, or at least one of its very large functions as a tool for record-keeping and documentation. Modeled after my journal and sketchbooks, it keeps changing, gets full of all sorts of images and thoughts and snippets from people I've heard and read and known. But I can comb through it much more easily and it's archived, filed by date and time. Unlike my journal, which reads from back to front, and often has some other thing going on in the front, and then they eventually meet in the middle.]

Wed, Dec 2

Rise at 5am and get a ride from Ben to the Syracuse airport. The full moon follows us on the entire trip, even as the sun rises on patches of water that we zip past. I get on the plane and then we are kicked off since the right engine is leaking fuel. The flight is cancelled and I end up having to wait for a new route to D.C., Charlotte, and finally Miami, about 4.5 hours after I was supposed to arrive. Rosie picks me up with Jeannie and Patricia in tow, and informs me that we are on our way directly to Art Basel for its opening night. I am in sneakers, jeans, and a wrinkled t-shirt with a Swedish character, Imoo, on it. At least I get to change into sandals in the parking lot.

[There's the full moon again!] I doubt that I see very much of the ginormous space, and tried to do a sensible zig-zag pattern, at nearly a jog, to cover ground. I bumped into Leandro and Jessica, an Anish Kapoor piece, and a million people who are clearly there to be seen. They made me check my camera so I wasn't able to shoot the most outrageous costumes. It was amazing to see what caught my eye, and how I was able to spot handmade paper from a distance. I would play games w/myself to see if I could predict the maker of a piece and found that my visual acuity and all the years of schooling and art-ing around have paid off.

Rosie then dropped Patricia off at the gallery, and took Jeannie and me to Soyka for a much-needed late dinner. I had the most beautiful nicoise salad and we all had the Mexican chowder. I cleared my plate like a champ and then we all turned in. Rosie's neighbors took me in so that I could cancel my hotel reservation and save some money, plus be much closer to Rosie and the gallery, which rocked. Except they had two cats, and I'm allergic. But it was actually barely an issue since I was hardly home.

Thurs, Dec 3

The first of three consecutive artist talks! I did a morning lecture and demo on my history, time in Korea, hanji, and making the work for the show. Then we went to lunch, the first of three consecutive lunches at Clive's Cafe!

[This is actually my 3rd lunch there, but they were all SO good. Jamaican food done right. I had rice and peas every day, and jerk pork the first two days. Salad day one, plantains day two, and cabbage day three - which is this plate, with curried goat. Which was even better than the goat I had when I actually lived in Jamaica!] We met Kim and her girlfriends, who were visiting from Winston-Salem.

Then it was off to see more art. There were about 30 art fairs in town. It's a little crazy, Miami during Art Basel. We went to the Rubell Family Collection, where I saw the basketball piece by Jeff Koons and the faboo donut wall by Jennifer Rubell. Also, I noticed at Basel and also around town a lot lot lot of bricks.

Then we went to see the De La Cruz collection in their brand new building. Gorgeous. Lots of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ana Mendieta and room to breathe.

Even the objects hanging out for catering were lovely. I got my only mosquito bite of the trip while sitting in the outdoor area behind the building, trying to hydrate with Rosie and Jeannie.

Then we headed to Photo Miami, which was tiny by the standards of the big shows in town, but refreshing because it was so small. I was delighted to see that Light Work had a booth, where they were doing a great job selling subscriptions and showing prints that were priced more for the average person, which I really appreciated. Funny, since I had thought that I saw Jeff Hoone, their ED, in the Syracuse airport security line the morning before, but couldn't be bothered to find out b/c I was so tired and cranky since it was my 2nd time thru security.

Jeannie and I sat down for a while and she read my palm and got the birthdates of everyone in my family and we talked about her family and all sorts of other things. Then we left to hand the VIP pass off to Rosie, and got the car keys so we could veg in the car while Rosie took a look.

We headed back home to rest for a moment, stopping so that I could get some Benadryl for my allergies, and Becky and Kathleen were outdoors putting out their lawn decorations for the holidays. There was this gator and then a big Snoopy on his doghouse. They were gearing up for the tree indoors as well as the outdoor lights. We had a drink after I changed and we talked about the neighborhood and how much it has changed. It's right next to a park that used to be the most dangerous place in the county, when the county was also ranked as the most dangerous county in the state. Or country. I can't remember.

Then Rosie picked Jeannie and me up to bring us to her home, where she had cooked a beautiful meal for us. Shrimp and lima bean pasta, salad with homemade dressing, and then lychees to finish. I gawked at all the gorgeous art and we met her niece and her beautiful twin son and daughter, but then we were off to Miami Beach to see the performances for Art Basel on Ocean Drive.

This was the first one, by Simon Fujiwara, which was pretty much like straight theatre, but sweet and intellectual enough, about his experience as an 11-yo boy in the UK, realizing that he was an artist and that he was gay.

The weather was beautiful that night. But then the second performance started, and it was pure hell. It was the kind of show that gives performance artists a very bad name. I kept trying to get Rosie to leave, especially since we had run out of time on our prime parking spot, but she wanted to wait it out to see what happened. Nothing did, besides half the audience leaving. I wanted very badly to jump off of the bleachers and run into the ocean, but I restrained myself. At home, I took a Benadryl and slept a long, deep, quiet sleep. Probably the first in years.

Fri, Dec 4

Getting up was brutal, b/c of the Benadryl. But I still managed to pump out another artist talk. This time I was joined by Christopher Carter, Jeannie, and Rodney Jackson. There was another event afterwards but I had to stay for guests who never showed up. In the meantime, I had a long convo w/a local writer and teacher, which really helped me feel okay about writing about my time in Korea. It's hard to articulate all the things that we discussed, but it was totally what I needed, and nothing I could ever get up here. I talked with George Fishman afterwards, and then we all went out for lunch at Clive's again. This time, I sat with Rosie and her artist friends Arthur and Lucy from Brooklyn.

George then dropped Rodney and me off at Art Miami, which was also surprisingly doable. I saw a gorgeous charcoal drawing on a huge piece of handmade paper (of course the sitter couldn't tell me what it was made out of and who made it) by Kcho. I saw a couple videos, too, but was overwhelmed by the humid parts of the tent. I scampered out before Rodney, but he saw a piece on oiled hanji that I had missed, so that was a bummer. But I was VERY happy that they labeled it "Korean paper" since I had seen all sorts of other art that was labeled badly (like, the rice paper labels).

We walked back to the gallery for my opening, which was supposed to run from 5:30-7:30pm but ended up going until past 10pm! I did interviews with Nicole and Marcel, and we sold the big piece, so it was worth the late night.

Sat Dec 5

My final artist talk! Joined by Jeannie, Andres Risquez, and Carl Juste (pictured above). Afterwards, there was a good stream of people coming to the gallery, including horse breeders who travel a lot to Ireland for their work. We talked about women inventing the wheel and fulcrum, shoveling manure and how you stop thinking about it as poop and just as work (this of course involved talking about making paper from dung).

Then we went to Clive's for my final lunch in Miami. Curried goat! There's Rosie with her faboo bracelets and Jeannie with her little notebook: she kept us on task the entire time, truly amazing. Carl came along and his wife arrived later with their gorgeous son and a friend. He talked a lot about his ideas, but also echoed his artist talk earlier, saying that it was important to recognize and support Rosie in her vision.

Rosie dropped us at SCOPE, which was attached to Art Asia, so we checked out both before getting back in the car with Rosie and Rachel and driving through parts of Wynwood to see murals and a quick stop to see the Tico Torres show at MAC Art Group. At SCOPE, there was a section where people were trying to lead us to some other event, but the rain was coming down too hard for me to venture there.

This piece at Art Asia was done by a Korean artist with acrylic on hanji!

Our final stop on the drive-by was the Bakehouse, where Rosie had first started her gallery space. Now that space is the studio of Gerry Stecca, and the entire complex has undergone a huge makeover and benefitted from city funding and so on. They were busy painting the towers when we visited.

This was the chalkboard at the bottom of the stairs leading to the 2nd floor but I never made it up there, because I ended up mesmerized by the work of Gerbi Tsesarskaia. She's a ceramic artist originally from St. Petersburg, and does gorgeous stuff. Everything was exactly perfect: her setup for display, the music, and of course the work.

Since I was coming off of the big sale, I wanted to treat myself to something, and to something local, so after drooling all over her celadon pieces, I picked two small cups. She was so happy that I was getting the celadon pieces since it's a famous glaze in Korea and I'm Korean.

After brimming over with joy at my new treasures, we headed back to the gallery to take a rest before the parties started. This is a piece by Alejandro that you see on the way out. Joo-Youn Lee was waiting for us and launched into a huge, mile-a-minute convo in Korean with me. I was struggling and it made me sad that my fluency has deteriorated so severely, but that's how it goes. After some quiet time, people started flowing in, including a big group of people who were led by Fedo Boyer and we did an impromptu artist and gallery talk for them. Fedo's wife, Edwidge Danticat (a writer and MacArthur Genius fellow this year along with Tim Barrett, who just put out a beautiful article in defense of paper and book studies), had already been through earlier in the day with her two children and their grandmothers. I loved how her daughter was playing shadow puppets in the light against my big pieces and that she wanted her mother to get on the other side to see her birds.

We finally stepped out and Roy drove Rosie, Jeannie, and me to a Midtown party, where I stuffed my hungry stomach with lovely hors d'oeuvres and two glasses of merlot. I met a banker, realtor, art historian, and photographer, and splashed wine on the floor and my feet. Then we were off to a party at Edwidge's home, where they were supporting a young Haitian painter by selling his work, displayed all over the house. A man sang a beautiful Haitian song and there was tons of homemade food, a huge yummy cake that went like lightning, and SO many little ones and babies all over the place. Inside, in the yard, everywhere. It was a beautiful gathering, and a wonderful last event for me in Miami. Carl was at the party and we met his old friend, a firefighter, who first got him into photography while in college.

Back home, I packed. The rain from earlier had swept away all the heat and humidity that was making even the Miami locals complain. Funny enough, it didn't phase me at all - it never felt too hot or too humid. Strange, since I am very sensitive to both. But by the evening, it was cool, almost cold. I thought it was fitting: once my work was done, Miami was ushering me out by preparing me for the real cold I was flying back to.

Rosie got me at 6:15am to drive me to the airport. Of course, I arrived to find that my flight was delayed. But I still got to Syracuse on time, via Philly, only to have to wait another 6 hours for Ben to arrive from his weekend in NYC. That was rough, but the best was waiting for us once we parked at home at 11pm: it started to hail! And this morning I woke up to winter wonderland.

The story doesn't end there. I was lucky enough to catch Michael on Skype in a London cafe and we caught up, talked about our respective projects and recent travels, which really helped both of us process and hash things out. We miss doing the same thing in person in Seoul, but it's been great to see what we've done since.

Carl said in his talk that Rosie is like the Mother Theresa for artists like us. It's SO true. I can't articulate how amazing she is, as a visionary who also is a doer and gets things done how they should be done. She treats artists the way they're supposed to be treated, and treats everyone really well, and fairly. I miss all the hugs and kisses of Miami, all the warmth in the air and in the people, but mostly I miss Rosie's voice after being with her for four days straight. It's a voice that I am lucky to have heard at this point in my life, and one I hope to hear more and more of. Also! Big props to Jeannie, an artist who has been showing with Rosie for years now, living and working in NYC and Miami, who became like my keeper on this trip and such a gentle, kind, encouraging, thoughtful one. It will take me a while to process this all, but I think the best way I can is to keep working.

Michael and I talked about it, and the books are in us. We just have to get them out.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

We did it!

Rosie and me in front of the biggest piece in the show, sold. Hooray!

Miami was amazing and a huge success and so much more. Intense, full, and overflowing. Still will need time to process and am in transit, beat but gleeful at the Philly airport. More once I finally get back north.