Thursday, April 29, 2010

I walked home alone at night even though I'm told not to

Oh, the admin has gotten out of control, as has my cookie-eating habit. Which must stop; I feel an infection coming on from my eating-like-a-starving-artist ways. Cutting back on wheat, pronto. But I wove two more little fellas today before heading to the Josh Ritter concert (part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival).

The first time I met Josh was in a breakout orientation group in some dorm at Oberlin. We had to do a terrible ice breaker where you take the first letter of your first name and find a word that describes you that also starts with that name. Jolly Josh, Kind Kiwon, and Anal Aimee are all I can remember--I don't remember who else was in the group. 15 years later, he is still very, very jolly. The new material is superb. He was nonstop. The crowd was surprisingly tame and polite. I totally cried. There's not much to say b/c it has been said a million times, but I absolutely love that he works so hard, is still so true to his voice, and is still so in love with what he does. I listened to him a lot during my first official residency in Nebraska four years ago, and it was amazing to see where we are today. Tonight, both in Belfast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I have been swimming in admin, coinciding w/the cold weather that keeps me home w/the heat. I decided today to walk south and get more greenery before heading to the studio today, and made a return visit to the Ulster Museum. I was looking for this trade union banner that Deirdre told me about, b/c she found it so interesting that Eve is covering her face, though women had a huge role in industry here. I also got postcards of my fave painting there, a portrait of Francis Stuart, by Neil Shawcross. And stared at it for a while.

I went into the tropical portion of the botanic garden, which is probably a good place for people who aren't used to the climate here but like warmer, humid, GREEN places. I wandered around the university quarter and tried out a new post office before heading uptown. I stopped by the gallery at Queens Street to see the new exhibit, which nearly made me blind.

I made a detour to photograph this sign that I had seen from a bus (but it wasn't my stop so I couldn't jump off). I'm almost done weaving my piece, though I'm frustrated with some mistakes I've made on it. I had to leave early b/c I was so overwhelmed by the residual shit smell from my shoe so I came home and got down to business: thick lemon bleach, boiling water, q-tips, patience. I hope it all turns out b/c I'm gunning for serious studio time tomorrow before I hit some openings.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spent in the best of ways

This is the first image of me in Northern Ireland that I didn't take.

The beach at Portrush. I touched the water but not with my feet.

Portrush town hall. Apparently this is a popular tourist town.

I was still eating my ice cream cone when we got into the car.

The rest of my causeway pics are here.

My legs are sore from climbing. I met Lucinda this morning and she drove us up the coast (treacherous but gorgeous) to the Giant's Causeway, a world heritage site. Stunning views--lots of rounding a corner and being wowed. Reminded me of a trip to Honolulu years ago, the deep dips into water. Lucinda found a hermit crab in the water amidst the basalt hexagons and we were lucky to beat the crowds. We drove to Portrush, walked along the beach, saw people on the amusement park rides, ate lunches she packed, and got yummy ice cream before driving back and stopping at the Dunluce Castle--beautiful ruins.

My first published self-portrait not using Photo Booth. I don't know how I did this since I was hiking up very steep steps at the same time. Here are the rest of the castle pics.

We took a slightly different route back to Belfast and then stopped at Ikea for stuff. I got a frypan for 99 pence so now I can finally cook eggs! It was a perfect outing. I thought I was going to write more but I am exhausted and need to pack for papermaking tomorrow!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clouds can be so moody

I've been rehashing stuff in the studio, hanji that I've brought, to keep myself busy as ideas percolate. I left the studio around 3pm b/c I was getting cold and sleepy and really needed a shower. But once I got home and showered, the sun came out! Oh, and tomorrow (Fri Apr 16) is the opening for a show of artists who will be teaching at the Morgan this year! If you're in Cleveland, swing by (7-9pm) and see three of my hanji pieces.

I'm booked solid for the next three days, have Monday free, and then more work come Tuesday. I wonder if it's possible for me to be in a place and NOT do that to myself. I'm hoping that the weather holds for all of it, especially a causeway trip! Since I've heard a rumor of SNOW soon. I am not happy about that but I guess my bracing for colder weather was not in vain.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday richness

Wow. It has been a big day! I knew that even before I arrived, since it was the day that executive power of police and justice affairs of NI was handed over from London to Belfast. Shortly after midnight, a car bomb exploded not far from the city, but luckily no one was killed. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and after Eleanor and I both got a solid night of sleep and morning of work, she took me for a drive through the city.

[The depression and suicide rates here are high, not surprising after so much war.] It was amazing. She is incredibly generous with her time and knowledge, and she knows SO MUCH about so much. She pointed out interface areas, Loyalist areas, Nationalist areas, murals, cafes, the Asian market, the street to eat good food, the cool artist studios, the area that the Flax housing used to be in, police stations that used to be military barracks, black cabs, surveillance cameras, empty lots and highways and walls used to separate communities, painted curbs, flags, and symbols galore.

She had wanted to take me to a graveyard for Republicans but we got very lost for a while and actually ended up visiting two others before we finally found the right one. It was a good adventure that even took us to Lisburn (a city SW of Belfast) momentarily, and up high for a view. I learned intense things about history here, the present situation, and also about herself.

It was sooooo much to take in but incredibly rich and valuable. I had asked her about etiquette when it came to Fiona in the studio telling me that I was welcome to knock on her door up the street any time, and Eleanor said that it was fine to call on neighbors; that is being a proper neighbor (in the US, I am used to people just saying, "let's hang out," but with no intention of doing so). So I had texted Fiona to say hello and she ended up coming by around 8pm for tea.

That was another fabulous talk, and we talked about this neighborhood, being outsiders, racism and how it is here as opposed to the south (as in Ireland), New York (she had done a residency in the city in the summer), real estate, gentrification, travel, and then the nightmare of border control. I told her about my experience and since she runs another non-profit arts org that has an international residency program, she shared their experiences and challenges. To make me feel better about my crossing, she told me a dreadful story about her friends, a married couple, who were separated for 7 mos b/c of crazy red tape. One of them actually got sent right back and was not allowed to enter the US. So at least I am here, right?

It was great to have such good quality time with both artists. I'm glad that they will be around. Tomorrow an English artist arrives for a few days. And I will finally get back to the studio!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More and more surprises

Last night, I found out that an artist will be coming on Tuesday to stay at the house until Friday. I was taken by surprise, but went about my day today as I had planned: a big, fat lazy Sunday. Got up around 7:30am, did laundry (which took about 2.5 hours in the machine--clearly, I have not figured out this new contraption) and hung it to dry, cleaned a little in anticipation of this man's stay, and even found grease to oil my very squeaky bedroom door. I waited until 1pm for the supermarket to open so I could stock up on groceries, and got some junk food to gorge on, which I did, while surfing the web aimlessly. I was upstairs in the bathroom when I heard a noise that sounded like knocking.

And what do you know! Eleanor, the artist who used to be the studio manager at Flax, and now rents a room in the house, was at the door. I had no idea she was coming today. Apparently she was supposed to come on Friday but came a little later. Thank goodness I was somewhat decent and had done most of my dishes. But it's weird going from having a space alone to sharing space (esp when I only found out about this part of the deal when I arrived). I have a feeling this will not be the kind of residency where I make a whole lot of work. Eleanor said that most of the int'l artists make their most interesting work afterwards. I doubt I will be an exception.

But she invited me along to see a friend, whose friend was playing today in a band. I don't remember the name of the venue, or the band, but it was a 6-woman Irish band. The venue was freezing, and afterwards Eleanor and I went to a pub to get some dinner. Then to another one to get a beer. We sat outside so she could smoke, so we were cold when we got home. She's turned in for the night but I am still processing--she knows SO MUCH. I love her view of Belfast, as she is also an outsider, from Ireland (the Republic). She does community art and is working with the Travellers, a nomadic minority on the island. She knows tons about all sorts of things, and while we swapped respective weirdness about our home countries, she asked why Americans were so against the health care bill. I had no good answers for her. I also talked about how everything these days makes me so sad: Poland's loss, uproar in Kyrgyzstan, being here and feeling the tension. But also about how to work through that. She said she still remembers my brick wall images and I was like, that's the problem! It's been four years since I made that piece, and it's all people want from me. If I just kept making paper brick walls, maybe I would be "successful" but I know there's more. But it's taking forever to push through. I read this today and it kind of made me feel like, okay, it's not just me (though obviously I am NOT trying to compare myself with Josh Ritter but I really admire how he worked super hard to do what he was passionate about doing, and is making a living doing exactly that).

And speaking of Oberlin (he and I were in the same graduating class), this very lovely exhibit is now open there, with one of my favorite books. And I have a lead on some papermaking that will be going down this coming weekend in Bangor at a printshop (whose residency looks nice! Printmakers, take note!) that has had some exposure to basic papermaking, through Pyramid Atlantic and Gretchen Schermerhorn.

Friday, April 09, 2010

And even better

Today was fabulous. These are the wishes that people wrote onto hanji in Lake George at the end of last year, as part of an interactive piece I did. I woke up at 8am today and was tired, not wanting to do anything, so I shamelessly ate a pot of ramen and watched trashy American TV.

Luckily, after all that trash, I stood in the kitchen doing dishes, thinking, "Aimee, what do you really want to do today?" Since I had a whole list of things left to do, but wanted to only do what I wanted today, as my Friday treat. I realized I was finally ready to pack up my studio gear and haul it into the studio. Down three flights of stairs here, on a bus, through the city center, and up four flights of stairs. Hooray! I still don't know exactly how I'm going to use this space, but I tried to angle the desk to maximize light from above and not have shadows fall on my work. I typed out notes from the past few days, met a couple more artists, and heard some more but haven't done proper introductions yet. Mike has the studio next to me, Aisling met me on my first full day here and has already been super helpful, and Fiona has the studio under me and happens to live on the same street as me!

After my hands got cold and my stomach empty, I left the studio and got a sandwich from a place that Aisling recommended, and then headed south because I decided I wanted to try the other things on my list after all. I was aiming for the Botanic Garden and Ulster Museum but saw signs for the Ormeau Baths Gallery, and took a quick detour there. I'm so glad I did. It is freaking beautiful. Inside and out. It's a really interesting space, the way they've built it, on different levels and with tons of space. Gorgeous. I walked in at the same time as an elderly man, and we left nearly the same time and he smiled at me when I was snapping pics of the outside. I would have liked to talk with him but was dead set on making it all the way south.

I realized what I had been missing all along as I trekked: the city!! South Belfast is where it's at: a much more diverse, lively, and younger crowd. It also houses Queens University, the gardens, and the museum. I felt like I could breathe again b/c it actually felt like a city and I could recognize it as such. Less of those stoplight button things for pedestrians--you just cross when you can. It's very freeing. There was a wedding party in the gardens.

The air was different once I found an entrance and got into the gardens, and I thought, "I found it! I found green space!!!" I was so relieved.

This is right in front of the library at the university. The woman I met yesterday said it's a lovely place to visit, so I will certainly be back. Especially now that I know this entire neighborhood would be a great place to hang out, work, etc.

And the crown jewel of today: the Ulster Museum. I thought that I would just zip thru in less than an hour before I arrived, but I ended up staying until closing. It is amazing. They redid it and it's only been open since the end of last year, but I was so impressed. It's SO FULL, of all sorts of things. I started at the top, since I had been tipped off that the top is where the contemporary art is. But it's like this rabbit hole of everything in the world. There is something behind every corner. I swear. You know how you go to museums and wonder if there is something around the corner but usually there isn't? Well, here it's like worlds inside worlds inside worlds. I love that they tried to address all different audiences, and have "discovery" centers on each floor for children, but they're not necessarily shoved to the side. You can see through glass doors to the activities, and they can see right back to the exhibits. Like many places I've visited so far, there are some issues w/accessibility but at least they have wheelchair lifts on some of the staircases. I loved walking through a huge painting gallery, seeing a little pile of hay under a painting, and two pairs of bunny ears and a big carrot under another. It wasn't part of the art: it was obviously part of a treasure hunt for children. Brilliant.

They had natural history, Irish history, Irish art through different generations, international contemporary art, drawings and watercolors, world cultures, an exhibit on the Spanish Armada, crafts, and who knows what else. They have a great cafe and gift shop area on the ground floor as well. The exhibit that had me in tears, of course, was dedicated to the Troubles. It was so sad but it worked. And after reading some of the huge panels, I was finally able to decipher the graffiti on my back wall at home.

[I wish these reminders were everywhere b/c I still don't know which way to look before crossing.] It's good to know I can always go back for more; both the museum and gardens are free and in a part of town I definitely want to visit again. I would have explored the garden and area more but my body was spent so it took all I had left to walk back to City Centre to get a bus home (the bus system here still only runs buses from the center out, but doesn't connect the other areas to each other). It was funny to see the traffic of people all coming at me: obviously, everyone coming home from work. I wish I lived there, too!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A real holiday

Yesterday I took a walk and saw everyone walking in the same direction: to a rugby game. I didn't care to partake but on the way back saw this, which was like some kind of freak portrait of me right now. Ha!

I went to bed somewhere between 2 and 3am but got up at 10am. I think it was the intense sun demanding to be let into my room.

So I obliged, and had some brunch, and then set out for the goal I set yesterday: to walk to and from the studio, to get my bearings. Not to work, since I had no guarantee that I would FIND the studio. And I can't deal with trying to get myself in with three keys and an alarm system. It was enough to see it and then double back.

I nearly got run over a few times b/c I still don't quite understand how the whole driving on the other side of the road business works. I mean, I get that it's opposite from what I'm used to, but all things related to driving exacerbate my dyslexia and I would think, "wait, how do we drive at home?" and then tried to reverse it. Doesn't work. I keep staring at the triangles in the road, wondering if they are arrows or the signal to yield.

More people were out than I expected for Easter, and the weather was totally lovely. So that was a treat. I'm definitely in suspended animation, and though I know I have deadlines, I feel completely unconnected to that part of my life right now. To the point where I don't care about missing them all. Amber asked if I would start a flickr set of images, and though I usually wait until the end to do that, I figured, why not?