Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Survival moves

This was the dessert spread (there was a whole other section for beverages on the other side and this ginormous display obscures the savory spread) for the DeGolyer reception / presentation of awards / exhibition opening. If I hadn't already had dinner plans afterwards with the good and great Alisa Banks, I would have eaten much more.
Jesse was our intrepid conference leader / planner / teacher / all around making it happen guy who took excellent care of us from the moment we were invited last year. He even had to manage moving all four classrooms from one building to this library on the first day of the conference because the A/C suddenly went out. We spent the morning with wind blowing our hanji all over the place but the humidity and heat were great for making cords. Here you see the winner of the competition, Coleen Curry, who had a beautiful entry. She really gets material.
In the afternoon we used a fancy reading room that spread us out a lot but was great for distancing (very few people masked). Coleen was in my first class along with a lovely group that worked really hard.
There's the rest of class. We were fortunate also to have a small class size so that things were really manageable. That's the nice part of endowed programs, they're not in it to tally up as many tuition dollars as possible. This is a shockingly inexpensive conference to attend, and you get to study with fantastic teachers (I was so glad to be able to spend time with Bhavna and Juliayn; they are super smart, skilled, down to earth, open, and kind).
I believe this was Deborah's final basket. I was AMAZED that a decent number of my students managed to finish a basket in one day. That's from cutting down a sheet of hanji to this. The second day, I repeated the class to a new group.
Someone in class mentioned that a student in Juliayn's gilt edging class was practicing on my book. I couldn't believe it until she brought it in herself so I could sign it.
I missed her name but she was so respectful, waiting until class was over to ask, and I was really touched when she said she brought it because they were asked to bring a valuable book to them. Aside from one weird comment, I flew home feeling like that was a good job done, even if no one again was wearing masks on the plane / in the airport. I had NO time to decompress, as I had to mow the lawn before a thunderstorm arrived a couple hours after me, and then start prepping for my first private hanji student.
Youmee arrived on Sunday evening, and I arrived Saturday afternoon, so I was cooking fiber on Sunday, getting the dining table moved to the gallery, and the rest. We took her to dinner and ice cream that night and then Monday started by rinsing both batches of fiber, which she picked for two days straight.
She also beat for three days straight. Remember, this entire time, I am ALSO picking and beating fiber while prepping the vat, cleaning, etc.
We did a test run Monday afternoon and pulled maybe 6 or so sheets (that's 12 times at the vat, Korean style).
All of my learning with Mr. Shin, the Korean national treasure of hanji making, last year really came in handy, though I still need to figure out a better couching surface.
We took my new laminate walls in the beater room for a spin. While I wish I could have encased more of the walls in 4-ft Marlite, this is a good start.
After three full working days, she had a whole stack of cleaned sheets, and piji (chiri sheets / waste sheets / paper where we put back all of the stuff we picked out). I also drove her around to a paper/book studio, printshop, and print gallery for a four-hour tour, and fed her dinner at my house on the second night, while staying up until almost midnight on Sunday cooking her lunch for the first day. Needless to say, by the time she came by on Thursday to pick up her hanji, I was destroyed.
Amidst teaching, I was trying to juggle phone tag with my next gig in western Mass to ensure that supplies and equipment would be in place to teach papermaking. But my entire system was shutting down. My doctor said that pretty much all of my current ailments stem from too much travel and too much stress (and not enough sleep). So the obvious thing would be to travel/work less. When I was finally able to take a nap on Thursday, I felt like I was dying into sleep, it was so desperate. I've never done this, but I had to make the call to cancel my gig. With only two weeks notice, I also managed to find them a substitute teacher and to coach/prepare him. I knew I did the right thing because over the next few days, I found that I couldn't comprehend things anymore. For example, at the hardware store or grocery store, I'd stare at aisle signs or products and could not differentiate. I saw the words but couldn't figure out what they indicated. Scary.
This was also tied into our latest collective trauma of state-mandated murders. I've lost days to crying and helplessness, anger and fear, bargaining with myself about what other country I could flee to when the time comes. This is one memorial at Oberlin.
I went to Oberlin on Saturday because global crises have depleted papermaking fiber stocks, and had a wonderful afternoon seeing an old student (whose junior studio show is up now at the Baron Gallery) to talk about a more formal mentorship starting this summer, walking around campus, and visiting the art museum. Michelle, my student from 2020 class, has taught me so much about the resiliency of students these days. She never stopped making paper after I taught her right before pandemic began, and brought more paper to share with me that she and another student from my 2022 class had been working on this past semester. I was so alarmed by the massive digging for geothermal blahblah at the studio building that I didn't get a chance to peek in at the damage from the recent flood (probably for the best; I can't handle any more bad news).
I was so happy to see the Eva Hesse show at the museum after seeing her big show in Germany years ago with works from Oberlin, because this one had pieces that contained archives that cannot travel away from here. On my way out, I was delighted to run into Robert, who curated both of my solo shows at Kendal, and to catch up. We were mourning the slain and he talked about the trauma of the survivors, and how he was a war vet but he was an adult at the time. It is so hard to live in such a sick time but he reminded me to keep making art.
The flanking jiseung pieces are from before and during Dallas, while the little rock books I bought from Amy Fishbach, who lives in Cleveland Heights and collects these rocks at Lake Erie. That's about all I can do for now, find brief refuge in tiny things.
And support those who do the same. At right is my friend Paula, and her wonderful daughter Sarah rushing to get out of the picture, in her new studio quite close to Lake Erie in the Twist Drill building. She and I are both doing the same thing, growing up out of our home studios and into stand-alone ones. It's a big move/commitment but her space is beautiful, full of light, and seems like a great new place to work. These are the people I want to be around, those who care about their art yet take care of their family, friends, and community, who know how to be human in the ways that nurture humanity. While I'll miss being able to see my own family, I am so relieved to finally have two months at home for the first time since last year! Gardens await.

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