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.


Anonymous said...

awesome. sounds like an amazing trip. plus you got to talk to michael! let's catch up soon.


mjc said...

Congrats on all - it sounds wonderful!