Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A slow go

Each day has been a struggle so I've slowed down a lot. I can't remember if I took this trip to one of the many trails of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park when I was able to get out of bed before lunchtime but it was a welcome change of scenery.

These woods were my favorite parts of the trail but most of the hike was through more boring brush. This weekend I will attempt more scenic areas with a friend, though I know a lot of the leaves have already fallen.
I also realized that I will need new socks for my boots that like to pull them down.
Sopheap Pich's work is immediately recognizable, even from a distance. After listening a bit to Mind Your Practice (Beth Pickens' mini podcast for artists), I knew I needed to get back to the museum to catch the rest of the Korean embroidery show before it closed yesterday. Instead of going directly into the Korean section, I came up the escalator and went into the Southeast Asian gallery and was glad to find these 2015 Seed Pods amidst antiquities.
These are Korean rank badges that visually indicate the rank/status of particular people, in this case, a scholar-official (cranes signified "scholarly integrity and elegance" as per the museum label). I loved that the actual badge was on display right next to ...
... a depiction of the badge on an actual person. This painting by Chae Yongshin (1848–1941) is Portrait of a Young Officer from 1921. There is a crane badge!
Though my eye went not only to the tail of the fur and these shoes, but to the woven mat underneath.
These screens side by side were also stunning, as they show a painted and embroidered version of Geese and Reeds by Yang Gi-hun (1843–1919?), a master painter from Pyongyang, who "had no rival in painting bird-and-flower themes." You can't tell from here but the left one is embroidered, and apparently these very fancy screens were worth as much as a house in downtown Seoul at the start of the 20th century.
Painted version
Embroidered version. Mostly I was sad that the show looks like it is in the textile gallery, but then there is much more in the Korean gallery (the Japanese gallery sits between those two). I fear that people missed this section of the show. Regardless, the curator did a fabulous job—congrats to Sooa!
At home, the actual installation bit for the bricks stymied me so much that I went REALLY small and started to sew underwear.
Then I focused on constructing little box stands for these mushrooms that a conservator so kindly lacquered for me. It's so hard to find people who can do this in the US, so this was a huge achievement. I have also been sewing like a maniac, completely unrelated to anything I need to be doing, and the patchwork underneath the stands is one result of productive procrastination.
I also mixed up some persimmon powder to coat four more mushrooms and went to Bill's shop to trim a couple mahogany stands to size. I've been obsessing for almost a week over art that will occupy one pedestal when I really need to be building an installation. But the rapid ascent of a terrifyingly backwards robototron judge—against the will of most of this country—sidelined my ability to do much besides prepping mushrooms. While scrubbing my bathtub, I listened to Beth Pickens estimate our current capacity to work, which is 40% of pre-pandemic times. That sounded extremely fair. Now that I have a number for this lowered capacity, I can embrace that it's my best for now and be grateful for simply getting out of bed in the morning.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On Indigenous People's Day

Now that the brick-making labor is over, I find myself desperately grasping for things to keep me from becoming completely unglued. Being home so much means finding fault with tiny details that I used to not notice so much. One was this trash can I made of scrap hanji (did I make it a year ago? Two years? I can't remember). I was unhappy with the way it was lopsided and how the openwork looked and mostly that the rim was falling out.
It became my weekend project and I used a different rim finish so that it's much more secure. It's shorter than the original but that's okay, as I'm usually laying on the floor when I find hair on the yoga mat to put into the trash, so it is even more functional than before.
In the process, I opened up the trimmed cords to find lots of old treasures. Some of the paper was plain hanji from imperfect sheets. But other paper was actually abaca from an old performance in grad school, and I could feel the ones that had extra kaolin. After the performance, years later I turned the paper props into sketchbooks and journals, so I found lots of bits of writing and drawing. Now completely fragmented, it seems much more interesting than when I let myself tear them into strips for cords.
I finished the third (and probably last) piece of this family last night. It reminds me very very much of a lemon, and of course I think about how we are all making lemonade as best we can. My hands really feel it. I haven't been making books aside from the ones I make for my book class this semester, but the Verne Gallery had a nice post about the new books that they are carrying at the gallery now.
Here are the unraveled scraps. After I filled out my ballot to deliver tomorrow, I thought about Native people not only here but all over the world, how they have survived genocide, attempted genocide, and countless horrors and injustices from the beginning of colonization. We let them be so invisible in our culture and go along with their erasure, but at a terrible cost. Unraveling the complex web of lies that I've learned since I was born in this country has been heavy but necessary. What buoys for now? This analysis of a poem by Natalie Diaz about Lot's unnamed wife—which brings discovery of a Native poet and a new book to find.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

KAAC fundraiser for democracy

The Korean American Artist Collective is running a fundraiser right now, though the end of Sun (Oct 11), to support non-partisan voter orgs. I've donated a small hanji dress (meant to hang on the wall) and there's tons of other artwork available this weekend for sale. This new basket has been slow going, too many distractions this week to finish.
I finally got to see the Korean embroidery exhibit at the museum this week, both in the textile gallery and in the Korean gallery. Need to get back to examine more of the rank badges in the latter; my meter was running and I was exhausted from skipping lunch that day.
This is a gorgeous screen of bronze vessels rendered entirely in gold thread, the men creating the images of the bronzework while women who were the court embroiderers sewed them.
Detail of a wedding bojagi.
Thimbles!! I remember my aunt and grandmother in Korea with the plain leather ones sewn together with red thread.
The back of the centerpiece, a wedding gown. I have always loved the imagery on the bottom of most Korean textiles, which looked to me like overlapping rainbows but are probably mountains (I've been extremely lazy finding out for sure and will check with my art historian/curator colleagues before I continue to guess!). What I found most intriguing of course were the paper pieces. This gown was used over and over, shared through generations, repaired and patched over time—but the sleeves and collar, which get the most wear, would be changed out each time. With paper! As was done in many other cultures.
The ubiquitous wedding goose. I get lazy in my telling of this wedding gift history and talk about wedding ducks. But originally, the gift was real geese (useful in agrarian times). Then, representations of geese. Not sure when it shifted over to representing mandarin ducks, but the whole point is that all birds represented in this way to give to newlyweds are ones that mate for life.
Since I rarely get to the museum in pandemic times, I peeked into the adjacent hallway to see if my favorite baskets were there, and they were! I fell in love with these about 7 years ago and all that has changed is my eyesight: harder to see the detail on these Pomo miniature baskets from the late 1800s–early 1900s, but the tag still reads the same: "Miniature baskets were made to demonstrate the basket-maker's virtuoso skill."
I did a very speedy sweep through the modern wing, which I rarely do, but I am always viscerally moved by Anselm Kiefer's work and his constant engagement with the difficult parts of German history and the present. This is Lot's Wife.
I never knew about Lee Bontecou until I saw an incredible retrospective of her work in Chicago during grad school nearly 15 years ago, and was glad to see this facing the Kiefer painting (hers is Untitled as many are).
This one was new to me and I was glad to have taken the time to rush through, then stop in my tracks: Alabama by Norman Lewis. Unsurprisingly, he was not as well known or exhibited or sold as his white counterparts in Abstract Expressionism, but this is so much more compelling to me than many abstract paintings (which used to be so exciting to me when I was first learning art history. My reactions are really different now).
After a long day of teaching and errands yesterday, I came home and wondered why my screen door was ajar. I realized there was a package left between it and the main door, which was very obviously from Europe. Once I saw the sender's name, I knew exactly what was inside, even without reading the description!
This was the most welcome way to start a weekend!! There will always be so much work to do but friends—and chocolate—always help.
And in my limited experience with planting flower seeds, I was so impressed by this button zinnia that came back after the entire batch in both the pot and planter dried up and died while I was away in Virginia this summer. The brick colors are no coincidence—I needed to work with really warm colors this time around with installation.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Pushing away from the status quo

I'm still not sure how I'm going to keep myself from sliding back into the status quo of inequality, turning the other way, choosing the easy but complicit choices. I'm curious to see what people in craft think about it.
In my insular world, the studio is creeping along. But the floors are done, which means everything else can go in. If only we could have given the contractor the orders in July when he asked for them before I left town, instead of today. Once everything arrives, it should take two weeks to finish (who knows how long inspections after that take before I can occupy). But due to the c r a z e in construction and renovation, everything seems to be backordered. Each year I think this space will get done in that year, and I've been disappointed for almost three years running. Please let it be 2020! But more importantly for people living in the U.S.: please be counted in the census!
In the ongoing saga of my insular world at home, I went to the huge lovely garden store to get REAL topsoil to go on top of the clay and rocks that my lawn guy put down a couple weeks ago (I fired him but I still have rocks and clay in my lawn), and more grass seed to spot treat. When I did those spots, I realized how much extra work I just made for myself so I didn't go as wild with the soil and seed as I had initially imagined. Owning a lawn is still a huge learning curve for me.
I saw this hilarious sign (DOGS 2020: BECAUSE HUMANS SUCK) on a street that has been blocked for months due to massive utility work along the entire road. After I finally got over my fear of being attacked for looking Asian during pandemic, I walked outside of my house and explored the weird non-grid streets near me. This one is one of the curved roads where my heart jumped to see a big red IMPEACH sign on the lawn. I had always thought my neighborhood was full of polite but scary folks who simply 'tolerated' my existence but would call me 'oriental' to my face and ching-chong me behind my back. That sign made me feel less afraid (though across the street was another lawn sign for a church. Maybe they cancel each other out). In that regard, please if you are American make sure you are registered to vote and have a voting plan in place!
This was today's batch of bricks. I know, I said I'd NEVER make another brick in my life. But these are really, really desperate times so it's nice to fall back on something I know how to do. It's also nice to reap the benefits of being an excellent student: I kept copious, detailed notes in 2006 about every day of my thesis production. What kind of fiber, how long it was soaked and beaten, what the best angle was for my 3-part molds, etc. I wish I could say I was taking those notes now but I'm in my 40s and not my 20s so that energy goes towards cooking my meals while I prepare for this show.
This was last night's batch. Yes, I know that is the most ridiculous tiny fan but it's what I have right now (I have a more powerful fan but it's for summer and already stored, plus it would be too powerful for this job. I need drying speeds to be done in a day but not too quickly).
This morning I released last night's batch from their molds. I letter the molds to keep track of which goes with which. My miter saw blade got weird on me yesterday so I stopped just short of the end of the alphabet, at W. It's just as well, because doing 20-something sheets/bricks a day is a reasonable ask. In 2006, I did 80 to 160 a day depending on my energy levels and how fast the first batch dried.
This first batch brought back a LOT of memories of all of my technical issues. They never go away, but are problems I can deal with on my own. Unlike the unnecessary stress (and financial repercussions) that this area went through hosting that ridiculous 'debate' last night. I ventured down near there today to pick up milkweed pods offered to me earlier this week and am soothed by Sarah's milkweed journey.
I'm hoping for 150 to 200 by the end, unlike my 2,000+ the first time I did this. Again, the temperance of age! Also, I have a LOT of other things to do (like process a billion milkweed pods), unlike my thesis semester when I cleared the decks of extraneous jobs and relationships to be in production from the end of January to the show opening in April. Even though plenty of friends I had then have fallen away, I am so thankful to the ones that are still here for me to this day.