Saturday, January 31, 2009

here lies, he relies

I went to Colma today with Brigid and Alice. When Alice and I drove down there in the fall I became obsessed with the small colorful lichens and scruffy mosses growing all over everything in the 19th century Anglo-Saxon section, but this time Brigid and I ventured into the Polish/Russian section of the Holy Cross Catholic cemetery and I fell in love with, predictably, pictures. I think these small ceramic pieces are so lovely and something to think about. How do pictures extend or limit immortality? I took over 100 photographs and am still going through them to see what worked and whether I need to go back next weekend. At first I thought I would use these images as the genesis of a drawing series, but now I'm thinking they may well exist as photographs on their own (look at them when they are BIG-- they're GORGEOUS!).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mon petit

Fifteen years ago today I was ten and practicing with the Rutgers youth swim team when my mother came to the edge of the pool and told me that we had to leave because she was going to give birth to my brother. I couldn't stop staring at the contour of her belly sandwiched between her and the wheel as we drove the thirty miles to Somerville Memorial Hospital, my bathing suit still wet under my clothes. When we pulled up to the hospital, my mother was hurried off by my father and hospital staff. I remember my father yelling over his shoulder, "Hey kids! Soon there will be three of you!" My parent's friend, Tom Meagher, drove us to his house and I have no idea what we did there, but it wasn't for very long. My father picked us up and we drove back to the hospital where Will and I were allowed to hold our small red wrinkly brother, less than 6 hours into the world.

When I left home for college, Dennis was still only eight years old. What's interesting about this is that between the two of us we may have a complete memory of the past 15 years with very little overlapping-- I remember his youngest years and he knows his older ones. I know our family as 5 people living together and he knows our family as 4 (and now 3, since Will moved out this past September). Dennis, like my father, like me, is a historian too, and a witness, like my parents, to the unit of family confounding with change, an event I am only provisionally aware of. When I go home, it seems like everyone is still there.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My grandfather's ax

From Rebecca Solnit's essay, The Memory of Ruins:

There's a saying to the effect that "this was my grandfathers ax, though it's had four new handles and three heads since his time," the idea being that the continuity of use and of tradition is more powerful than the incessant use of materials.... Memory is what makes it my grandfather's ax rather than some worn-out piece of detritutus; memory is meaning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Ruins of Memory

Ruins stand as reminders. Memory is always incomplete, always imperfect, always falling into ruin; but material ruins themselves, like other traces, are treasure: our links to what came before, our guide to situating ourselves in a landscape of time. To erase the ruins is to erase the visible public triggers of memory; a city without ruins and traces of age is like a mind without memories. Such erasure is the foundation of the amnesiac landscape that is the United States. Because the United States is in many ways a country without a past, it seems, at first imagining, to be a country without ruins. But it is rich in ruins, though not always as imagined, for it is without a past only in the sense that it does not own its past, or own up to it. It does not remember officially and in its media and mainstream, though many subsets of Americans remember passionately.

-Rebecca Solnit in her essay, The Ruins of Memory

Monday, January 26, 2009


Here's something I wrote to send with submissions for the love show at the Playspace. Yeah, yeah, and some of the text is from a previous posting. Get over it.

If my mother is the feeler and my father is the thinker, they would still agree on the same thing, that "work is love made visible". This expression was made notable in the beginning of the 20th century by the spiritual leader (and some would say, prophet) Kahlil Gibran, a Syrian refugee who found his new home in New York City. In our family, love is made visible through our work. When my parents lived in Iowa City they found a piano on the side of the road. My father spent the better part of the next 6 years stripping the paint off that piano, re-varnishing it, tuning it, and insisting to this day that his children, against all our unacknowledged complaining, learn how to play it.

This idea, that work is love made visible, certainly informs the practice by which I make things. The duress and self-sacrifice of my commitment and time demonstrate love, but also feel like love too. Formally, this love is demonstrated through repetitive mark-making, through what seem like epic demonstrations of patience and will. By choosing to render an object I prove a commitment to it's investigation, to it's replication and preservation. But the drawings themselves are also about love, about the love of drawing, about the love of images to mean something greater than their existence on paper, about the stories inscribed in markmaking and the process of making those marks.

These drawings serve as stand-ins to talk about relationships with loved ones they represent who I've lost through emotional separation, geographic dislocation or death. My twenties seem, to me, like a profound era of loneliness as the expectation to be increasingly autonomous from my family and childhood community strides ahead of the formation of my own. The "work" in "work is love made visible" can refer to the demonstration of commitment to another person, but as I realize, more and more, how the people in my life are inextricably linked to my own identity, can refer to self-love too. All artists are given an opportunity to hold what they find most passionate in the light in a process that, more or less, reflexively extrapolates, "This is important. This is important to me. This is me." To enter this monologue, despite it's vulnerability, and even if no one is there to notice or care, seems like one of the hardest and most genuine declarations of love there can be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

F is for flashback

I got these in Portland-- and excellent set of beginner-level flash cards. I meant to leave the raccoon with Randi but forgot. The first time we hung out I drove her home and as we were sitting in the car outside of her house a herd of 5 enormous raccoons raced in front of us, across the street and up the tree next to her building. Her friend, Casey, lived on the top floor and reported that on many nights they would sit on a branch outside of her third-story window and just sort of glower through the glass. Once, my good friend Rachel Ostlund told me she wanted to make a random set of flashcards that would include everything and anything--foreign languages, state capitals, multiplication, world history, geography, animal cell components, etc... The idea was born into the air as she and I were making sandwiches for drunk college students at the Neon Deli in Middletown, CT, probably about 4 years ago. I still think it's a great one, and have been considering how flash cards could be used as a strategy to think and talk about memory. I like this particular set because of the way it looks, but each card I can think of a specific friend it would be perfect for, or have a specific memory (like the raccoon) that gets triggered by the image.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

At Camp, Eating Watermelon

I like photographs, like this one, that are so over/underexposed, out-of-focus, or faded that you can hardly make out what they're of. It's sometimes hard to spend money on them though. I have a collection of "mess-up" slides which I hope to outfit in a slide carousel one day. My old housemate, Timber, gave me a slide projector before I moved out, but without carousels. The specificity of this caption is what makes this one interesting-- I may have overlooked it without this information because of the obscurity of the image. But the caption makes me notice and wonder about this huge wooden porch, those bare white knees and sharp smiling watermelon rinds. It's a very small photograph-- the green in the back is a tea bag-- my scanner wasn't imaging the photo because it's so light-colored. A seal on the back reports that this picture was printed in a town called Sutton in West Virginia, a place I've never been.

I received the Indian Brook newsletter, The Lightning Bug, yesterday in the mail. It was sweet to see pictures of the kids from last summer and made me miss camp, not necessarily Indian Brook, but more the idea of camp, dearly.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rag bin

Oh jesus, this picture is horrible. I pulled the rags out today and moved them around for awhile to figure out how I might start piecing them together. I also picked 4 of them to draw. Some things to share:

1) We have a lot of blue towels, a consistency begun, perhaps, with a wedding gift and continued ever since.
2) The brown dish towel in the lower left-hand corner is from my grandmothers house in Indianapolis. I know this because ALL of her dishtowels look like this. I imagine it probably got to our house wrapped around something like a honey-baked ham.
3) The pillow case (second down from the top right corner) was one I used during rest time at preschool and kindergarten. It has my name on it, and small brown bears.
4) The white towel in the middle is a stolen hotel hand towel. As children, Will and I often took advantage of opportunities to heist hotel linens and airline blankets. Maybe we still do-- it always seems like such a good idea!
5) The blue towel in the lower right hand corner has my name, faded, on the bottom right corner, and my brother Dennis's name, in brighter Sharpie, on the bottom left.
6) The bright white and blue square washcloth was heisted by my grandmother, Mimi, from a hotel in China. She thought it was pretty and gave it to us as a souvenir.

I wish that I had taken the entire contents of the rag bin, but I only took the ones I found interesting to look at.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

diet coke intervenes

The first thing I did when I got to the studio today was spill the remnants of an old can of diet coke on this project I've been torturing myself over this week. I had cut up the text of my mother and father's versions of the same story and was trying to piece them into a single narrative (my own). Thank god, because I was having a hard time letting go of the idea. I think that if I try it again (if if if) I will have them be on magnets so they are easier to control and move around. I also think it's good to be trying mediums outside of drawing on paper, and that magnets might reinforce a domestic frontier that is important to the narrative. Conrad Ruiz helped me take this picture before I dumped them into the recycling. I'll probably be finding these words in my studio for the next year and a half.

I had my first critique of the semester today, with Allison Smith and my Dialogues and Practices class. It was a pretty sleepy critique, but I got positive feedback on the new directions I'm exploring and a couple of people said they thought I was doing a better job of telling stories and talking about my process than I was last semester, which was awesome to hear. People like the list-format drawings of all the pets our family has owned, of my brothers and I at all our different ages seated together, of all the people I've dated on a bed and the series of me with my crushes. I like these too, and think I'll focus on them for the next week.

Danny and me

The first in a series of me (now) and my childhood crushes (then). This is Danny Meagher. My mom worked in the same lab at Rutgers College as his father back when we all lived in New Jersey. Then our family moved to Ithaca, NY and his family moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. I saw him once for an afternoon in Edinburgh during a 2 week exchange program to England I took part in as an 11th grader. He visited me one night at Wesleyan my junior year of college. I was in an embarrassingly bad mood that evening. Now he is a barrister in England and I am a grad student in San Francisco. When we were small we used to go to work with our parents on school holidays and make paper airplanes, giant tape ball wads, and paper snowflakes to sell to college students until we had enough money to buy candy out of the vending machine in the building next door. Our parents had offices on the same hall as the greenhouses and we would play hide and seek in there for hours-- it was sometimes really scary to not be able to find the other person with the loud ventilation system and erratic sprinklers. There were small toads that lived in the rain forest room of the greenhouse which could not swim-- we found this out when we put one in the algae tank and it sank to the bottom. In one of the greenhouses there was a succulent section where you could torture Venus Fly Traps and fool unsuspecting college kids to smell the stinky meat plants. When our parents had post-doc parties we would sneak sips from the adults beers and pretend to be drunk. We would play badminton and swing in the hammock barefoot. We would build impossible mazes out of refrigerator boxes in the basement, dare our younger siblings to go inside and then turn the lights off before running away, screaming up the cellar stairs. When there was snow outside we built icy ramps to tobaggan over. I was, at some point, positive that we would get married.

Other people's pictures

Alright, so this isn't my picture... it's from the internet through a keyword search for "incredible stains." It is, horifically, of a blood stain on the floor, and was posted on a website that reports on small cheap hotel/motel/inn experiences. I think it's a really amazing and beautiful picture though, especially since it was made in a hotel room, a place where people go for annonymity and, ostensively, to escape from the narratives of their own lives and the rest of the world. It would be interesting and disgusting to stay in hotels and comb them for evidence of past occupants.

I posted Claes Oldenbergs manifesto yesterday and was thinking, as I biked home last night, that it would be fun to draw all of those kinds of art that he is so unabashedly for. Props to Devon VanPatten Meyer for helping me find that essay.

I've also started thinking more about the rags I brought home from Ithaca and how maybe I could make them into some sort of quilted thing. Drawing them doesn't really seem right for that project, I don't know why. Maybe this is ust me getting a little fed up with the shortcomings of working on a flat paper surface... which questions why my drawings have to be flat, or even on paper... interesting.

Since I already posted a picture that is not mine, I figure I may as well post another one. I think this picture is awesome-- Finger Lakes graffiti.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a staring point of zero. I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top. I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary. I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself. I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways. I am for an art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky. I am for an art that spills out of an old man's purse when he is bounced off a passing fender. I am for the art out of a doggy's mouth, falling five stories from the roof. I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper. I am for an art that joggles like everyones knees, when the bus traverses an excavation. I am for art that is smoked, like a cigarette, smells, like a pair of shoes. I am for art that flaps like a flag or helps blow noses, like a handkerchief. I am for art that is put on and taken off, like pants, which develops holes, like socks, which is eaten, like a piece of pie, or abandoned with great contempt, like a piece of shit. I am for art covered with bandages, I am for art that limps and rolls and runs and jumps. I am for art comes in a can or washes up on the shore. I am for art that coils and grunts like a wrestler. I am for art that sheds hair. I am for art you can sit on. I am for art you can pick your nose with or stub your toes on. I am for art from a pocket, from deep channels of the ear, from the edge of a knife, from the corners of the mouth, stuck in the eye or worn on the wrist. I am for art under the skirts, and the art of pinching cockroaches. I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind mans metal stick. I am for the art that grows in a pot, that comes down out of the skies at night, like lightning, that hides in the clouds and growls. I am for art that is flipped on and off with a switch. I am for art that unfolds like a map, that you can squeeze, like your sweetys arm, or kiss, like a pet dog. Which expands and squeaks, like an accordion, which you can spill your dinner on, like an old tablecloth. I am for an art that you can hammer with, stitch with, sew with, paste with, file with. I am for an art that tells you the time of day, or where such and such a street is. I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street. I am for the art of the washing machine. I am for the art of a government check. I am for the art of last wars raincoat. I am for the art that comes up in fogs from sewer-holes in winter. I am for the art that splits when you step on a frozen puddle. I am for the worms art inside the apple. I am for the art of sweat that develops between crossed legs. I am for the art of neck-hair and caked tea-cups, for the art between the tines of restaurant forks, for odor of boiling dishwater. I am for the art of sailing on Sunday, and the art of red and white gasoline pumps. I am for the art of bright blue factory columns and blinking biscuit signs. I am for the art of cheap plaster and enamel. I am for the art of worn marble and smashed slate. I am for the art of rolling cobblestones and sliding sand. I am for the art of slag and black coal. I am for the art of dead birds. I am for the art of scratchings in the asphalt, daubing at the walls. I am for the art of bending and kicking metal and breaking glass, and pulling at things to make them fall down. I am for the art of punching and skinned knees and sat-on bananas. I am for the art of kids' smells. I am for the art of mama-babble. I am for the art of bar-babble, tooth-picking, beer drinking, egg-salting, in-sulting. I am for the art of falling off a bar stool. I am for the art of underwear and the art of taxicabs. I am for the art of ice-cream cones dropped on concrete. I am for the majestic art of dog-turds, rising like cathedrals. I am for the blinking arts, lighting up the night. I am for art falling, splashing, wiggling, jumping, going on and off. I am for the art of fat truck-tires and black eyes. I am for Kool-art, 7-UP art, Pepsi-art, Sunshine art, 39 cents art, 15 cents art, Vatronol Art, Dro-bomb art, Vam art, Menthol art, L & M art Ex-lax art, Venida art, Heaven Hill art, Pamryl art, San-o-med art, Rx art, 9.99 art, Now art, New art, How art, Fire sale art, Last Chance art, Only art, Diamond art, Tomorrow art, Franks art, Ducks art, Meat-o-rama art. I am for the art of bread wet by rain. I am for the rat's dance between floors. I am for the art of flies walking on a slick pear in the electric light. I am for the art of soggy onions and firm green shoots. I am for the art of clicking among the nuts when the roaches come and go. I am for the brown sad art of rotting apples. I am for the art of meows and clatter of cats and for the art of their dumb electric eyes. I am for the white art of refrigerators and their muscular openings and closing. I am for the art of rust and mold. I am for the art of hearts, funeral hearts or sweetheart hearts, full of nougat. I am for the art of worn meat hooks and singing barrels of red, white, blue and yellow meat. I am for the art of things lost or thrown away, coming home from school. I am for the art of cock-and-ball trees and flying cows and the noise of rectangles and squares. I am for for the art of crayons and weak grey pencil-lead, and grainy wash and sticky oil paint, and the art of windshield wipers and the art of the finger on a cold window, on dusty steel or in the bubbles on the sides of a bathtub. I am for the art of teddy-bears and guns and decapitated rabbits, explodes umbrellas, raped beds, chairs with their brown bones broken, burning trees, firecracker ends, chicken bones, pigeon bones, and boxes with men sleeping in them. I am for the art of slightly rotten funeral flowers, hung bloody rabbits and wrinkly yellow chickens, bass drums & tambourines, and plastic phonographs. I am for the art of abandoned boxes, tied like pharaohs. I am for an art of water tanks and speeding clouds and flapping shades. I am for U.S. Government Inspected Art, Grade A art, Regular Price art, Yellow Ripe art, Extra Fancy art, Ready-to-eat art, Best-for-less art, Ready-to-cook art, Fully cleaned art, Spend Less art, Eat Better art, Ham art, Pork art, chicken art, tomato art, banana art, apple art, turkey art, cake art, cookie art. I am for an art that is combed down, that is hung from each ear, that is laid on the lips and under the eyes, that is shaved from the legs, that is brushed on the teeth, that is fixed on the thighs, that is slipped on the foot.

Claes Oldenberg, May, 1961.


I dropped my phone into water last Friday and have unsuccessfully tried to turn it on every day since. This morning, my hopes extinguished, I went to the Verizon store on Mission to try a new battery. They didn't have any batteries in stock. I tried turning on my phone one last time, and it turned on. And it works. It was a good morning, and Conrad and I celebrated by taking a walk to get some tamales. It made me think of what I did the MLK day before last-- the Baptist church in downtown Portland was having a special memorial service at night at which six different Baptist congregations from the surrounding areas converged to pay their respects. Some of the music was amazing... some of it was not. I actually had to leave the service when an awkward church band comprised of 3 young white acneed teenagers on the guitar, bass and drums and one of their moms (the band's lounge singer) for their rendition of Funky Lazarus. I kid you not, she introduced the song by saying something along the lines of, "The boys and I came together to think of something appropriate to play for tonight and figured that we should do a funk song, since funk music is so important to African American history... and then we decided to sing a funk song about Lazarus, because, I mean, what's more funky than a man being dead for a few days and then coming back to life? Hit it, boys!" Ugh, it was horrible, and made me feel stupid by association, having even been in the same room for that awful introduction.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Work is love made visible.

If my mother is the feeler and my father is the thinker, they would still agree on the same thing, that "work is love made visible". This expression was made notable in the beginning of the 20th century by the spiritual leader (and some would say, prophet) Kahlil Gibran, a Syrian refugee who found his new home in New York City. Perhaps all parents work and love hard, but I think mine are especially focused on the importance of the effort and intentionality behind it. Certainly it's a credo they've raised my brothers and I with. It's sort of like what every kid has heard their parent demand at some point in their life: "say it like you mean it." Because sometimes actions (of "I'm sorry"s, "thank you"s and promises) aren't enough-- there has to be effort behind it for it to really mean something.

In our family, love is made visible through work. When my parents lived in Iowa City they found a piano on the side of the road. My father spent the better part of the next 6 years stripping the paint off that piano, re-varnishing it, tuning it, and insists to this day that us kids learn how to play it. When I was 2 1/2 my mother bought a bunch of pottery in Spain that broke in her luggage during the flight home to New Jersey. This was right before she returned to Spain and my father and I lived alone without her for a year. My father painstakingly pieced those bowls back together and my mother keeps them in her office to remember this demonstration of hard work and love.

You know, now that I'm thinking about it, it seems like maybe the "work is love made visible" mantra is claimed with more fervency by my father than by anyone else... at least the visibility part. Materiality is important. I finished transcribing my father's stories yesterday and was struck by the polarity between his words and my mother's. My father uses anecdotal facts and descriptions a lot. In his rendition of the story of how my parents met he elaborates in explicit detail about the decrepit quality of the bike my mother was riding at the time, about the make and model of the frame and components, and the labor-intensive process of repairing it. The bike becomes epic, idolized and symbolic. In fact, most of my father's actions are just that: epic, idolized, and symbolic. Christmas, for example, is a big deal-- something he works all year to provide. His college blanket and scarf are objects that we kids are never allowed to touch or borrow. He's always been a collector and cataloguer-- of stamps, coins, records, Faulkner novels and wishbones. And starting when I was very young this is how we spent time together-- repetitive tasks, cleaning our house, getting quizzed on the worth, location or history of objects we owned.

So I started two new drawings based on the phone conversations with my parents I recorded this past weekend (pictures above). The top one I described a couple of days ago, a drawing about my mother's punctuative "you knows" in her storytelling. The bottom one is still just an idea I'm tinkering around with-- I've printed out the text from the descriptions of both my mother and father in which they describe the story of the bowl which broke that my father pieced together. I've cut the text down into single words and am now trying to piece both stories back together in a single narrative. It's probably, like, the ultimate marriage of a puzzle and magnetic poetry.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Character development

We love you, Jenny

Last night I furiously pedaled to The Lexington Club at 8:50pm when I realized that it was the premiere night of the sixth and final season of the L Word. Briefly, I thought about my friends in Portland who were probably getting ready to watch the same thing and how the scene at the Lexington only pales in comparison to the Sunday night networking and gossiping of Portland's Egyptian Club. Only briefly though... I was going to be late.

In the opening scene of the episode the characters were all looking sort of shell-shocked, seated in a room together as police and EMT drivers hurried around them. A good-for-nothing friend had told me a few days earlier that one of the characters was going to die, but it was still a rude and surprising reunion to watch an obscured body roll into the shot. The foreground busyness parted and it turned out to be Jenny, an L-word character notorious for her wild oscillations between relateable sensitivity and hateable selfishness. The bar erupted in cheers over her demise and the episode flashed a "3 Months Earlier" screen to take us back to where Season 5 left off.

You know, actually, it made me sort of sad that everyone cheered over Jenny being dead. Right right right, it's just a tv show, and it's a bad tv show, whatever. But still-- that's not cool. Jenny is a character, which means that she simultaneously is not real but is a consistent and articulate personality. And characters, good characters at least, are complex enough for us to hear their stories and feel that they are so different from us and, at the same time, pretty similar too. Jonathan Franzen, when speaking about his newest novel the other night, said that he found it impossible to write about a character who he didn't love, which is why it takes most novelists years to finish their stories.

In high school a teacher once told me about a study where individuals volunteered to identify a person in their life whom they really disliked and to spend as much time around that person as they could. Within three months, most of these people reported some sort of intense love for their previous enemies. This teacher also told me that this is because time is the foundation of all genuine relationships- it's how you really know someone. I'm not even sure why this teacher was talking about this, what sort of angle they were attempting to deliver (to be nicer to my parents, maybe?), or whether they were just full of shit. Here's something interesting though-- later in the episode (after the flashback) Jenny emotionally defenestrates her ex-girlfriend Nikki and was cheered on by the entire bar. I overheard a conversation next to me, initiated by someone clearly new to the show:

Faux-hawk girl:"Wait, why are you cheering for her? You cheered when she was dead... I thought you hated her?"
Fashion Mullet queer:"I do! But that Nikki, she totally deserved that-- she treated Jenny like shit! Jenny is fucking awesome!"

Like I said, interesting.

Yesterday I went to The Apartment to look for new photographs to write about. The owner of the store has loosely organized the photographs into over-arching themes like "children" "animals" "men, duo" and so on. I decided to spend the hour I had before closing to look through the stacks and stacks of "single women" pictures. The poses, interestingly, were pretty consistent-- back yard bathing beauties, old ladies sitting in armchairs, small girls in uncomfortable dresses. So, for the most part, I could flip through them pretty quickly. Occasionally, however, one would stand out and I put it aside to look at again later. I considered this: what makes some of them stand out if they all pretty much look the same?

At one point a young couple nervously came in the store-- it seemed like a getting-to-know-you type of date. The girl said, essentially, "Oh, weird, people can buy pictures of other people's families here, that's weird," and then they walked away. I've exercised some hesitation over this in the past, but I'm over it now. I like pictures because they're of people, and even if they're of people that I don't know, they still feel like people I could have known or would like to know. Maybe this is how some of them stand out-- they remind me of something/someone familiar. I think this is also where the L-word fits in, or maybe any storyline really. The characters on that television show are absolutely ridiculous, but there are moments where their characters do, say, or feel something that can seem really familiar, and it is in these moments that we (I speak for all L-word fans everywhere here) start feeling that same sort of love Jonathan Franzen talked about, where, even in the face of inscrutable judgement, we just can't help but care.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You know... I don't know.

I had a good day today at my studio doing a lot of nothing and a lot of something. I interviewed my mom yesterday and finished transcribing her 30-minute long interview today. I interviewed my dad today (twice! the recorder failed to work the first time!) and am just about to start. I asked each of them to tell me the three following stories: how they met, how they decided to get married, and how a bowl my mother bought in Spain was repaired by my father.

When I was transcribing my mother's stories I, at first, wasn't sure if I should include all her "hmm"s "um"s "uh"s "you know"s "like"s and repeated lines. I did. Today when I was listening to my father's renditions of the same stories I was struck by how differently his sentences were structured, having just finished listening to my mothers for several hours. Both are fantastic story tellers but they do it really differently. My mother is more empathetic, colloquial, nervous, elaborate and explicit. My father is more clinical, careful, formal, confident, historical, fluid and pedagogical. My mother is a feeler and my father is a thinker. I'm going to have to think about this a little bit before I can make any gendered statements about it... except that, I guess that makes sense (?).

Most of all, I want to talk about my mom's stories. The most repeated expression she used was "you know." Here's an excerpt from one of her stories:

"So, so anyway when I got to Iowa, um, myself, I, I flew there and uh, you know, I found a place to live, well, actually my advisor had found a, a room for me in a house that was only, like, a block away from the, uh, from the department. So that was good, you know, it wasn’t particularly, you know, an inspiring place to live but it was very close so I just kind of went ahead and took it, you know, almost sight unseen."

About a month ago I had a conversation with my mom about how sad it was for me that I didn't really know very much about her life before I was born. I thought that it was very strange and anti-feminist to accept that her story began with my own genesis. So this project was born out of that discomfort. I'm so interested in her punctuative "you know"s because they mean two things: 1) this is an incredibly feminist storytelling gesture-- to engage the audience by asking questions and connecting personal experiences to a more universal one, and 2) In a way, this is my mother teaching me things that I don't know and inviting me to ask more questions of her. She's probably going to read this and be embarrassed, but I think it, and she, are awesome.

I've got a drawing in the works where I have taken one of her stories, whited out all of the text except for commas, periods, ellipses and the words "you know." I went to Office Depot today to copy it onto a transparency (54 cents-- I paid entirely in nickels and pennies!) and hope use a projector to help me draw it on large paper. In this particular story, the expression "you know" occurs 21 times. I'd like to make some larger drawings by overlapping my parents' testimonials over one another, but will have a better idea of how this is going to happen after I transcribe the recordings of my father.

Oh! updates! My cell phone still broken, cutely nestled in a bag of brown rice. I sorted through photographs at The Apartment today for an hour but couldn't make any decisions about which to take home with me before I got kicked out at closing time. Tomorrow is the last day of the Bush presidency and Martin Luther King day! Double hurrah! This is an incriminatingly nostalgic picture of our little family 24 years ago in Iowa. I'm so... pink.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

do me do me do me, part II

evolution and revolution

After the Franzen lecture last night I killed my telephone by dropping it into a toilet. Last night, after paper toweling it extensively, all it would do was vibrate when I touched the keys. Last night I shut myself in the apartments bathroom and aimed my housemates blow dryer at it until I fell asleep with my head resting on the ledge of the bathtub. It was 1:30 and time to give it a rest. This morning it turned on, miraculously, but then while I was scrolling through missed text messages it flashed its last little Verizon screenshot of life before turning off. It has yet to resurrect.

Most of all this bothers me because I was supposed to interview my parents over the phone today. But it also just feels strange to not be able to call people up or be able to be called. There's also some sort of deep-seated distrust that I can't imagine my friends to be motivated or creative enough to get in touch with me in other ways. Sadly friends, we are living in a time where people don't just stop by and ring the doorbell to see if you're in, not many people can find the time to draft a postcard (let's not even talk about actual letters....) and most of my friends sweat at the idea of making plans more than a day in advance ("how about we just... call each other?") . It's a sad era and sobering to realize that I am a contributing member of it.

But, I am also the fortunate friend of many well-meaning revolutionaries. I got a 3-part letter from my friend Maggie Starr on Wednesday that made me feel really special. A fellow student, Lauren Marsden doesn't have a cellphone in order for her schedule to be more intentional and less distractable. Occasionally I enter my studio and find love-notes on my desk from my friends. Certainly, this intentionality, this trying and this persistence are gestures based in love, and love is revolutionary. This is not to say that I don't wish my cellphone would get its act together and start working (ugh!). But it's nice to be humbly reminded that the way my life is right now often contradicts the values that I hold dear. It's nice to be reminded that even though my life feels hard, it's not actually that hard, that it could be harder, that it's been harder in the past and that I can try harder, too. Viva la revolution!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Tonight I went to a reading with Jonathan Franzen (put on by the CCA Graduate Writing Program), who wrote a book of essays called How to Be Alone, which I've read from and really enjoyed. That particular book has some really beautiful passages about the science of memory woven into the context of Franzen's father, who suffered and passed away with Alzhiemers. Tonight he read from his memoir a woven analysis of global warming, birdwatching and his own failed marriage, which was funny and sad and relatable for me as someone who is also paralyzed and horrified by the environmental apocalypse looming within my lifetime, the nature it will inevitably erode, the personal relationships and understanding of my own purpose that get put into question in the face of such a disaster--- it hit some of my heartstrings.

During the Q&A, after some miserable attempts from the audience, someone asked one of the greatest questions, which asked Jonathan Franzen what he, as a memoirist who writes about extremely personal and incriminating subjects, would not write about (as in, where he draws the line). I mean, I guess his answer was sort of appropriately dodgy-- saying basically that he didn't write about whatever he didn't wind up writing about. The question, however, led him to talk about what issues he confronts as a storyteller, which I found really interesting. He told a story about how he once recieved a letter from the mother of a friend who has passed away, saying that she did not recognize her son in his description of that person, and the sadness it made him feel to think that his story had failed for someone.

This was the real heartstring for me of the evening, and something I think about a lot with my work, with my story telling, with my collection of anonymous photographs showcased in this blog. When my grandparents died I felt such a need to tell their story, to encapsulate them in my words, to record their presence, their stories, their mattering. Of course, through the drawings that materialized from this pursuit I realized that the stories I was telling about my grandparents were less about them and more about myself-- of their identity as my grandparents, as the parents of my parents, of the 20 years I knew them and not about the 60 that preexisted me. When I consider what I am really accomplishing with my work I feel panic and sadness over how inappropriately equipped I feel to be responsible to be telling their stories with all of the inevitable inaccuracies that are bound to happen. Franzen said it tonight-- the problem with being a storyteller is less that you are stealing someone elses story and more that you are stealing their ability to tell their own story.

I borrowed a recorder from the Media Lab today and scheduled separate telephone dates with each of my parents for tomorrow-- my mother at 8:00 am, while she is at work, my father at 3:00pm, after he has finished his Fed-Ex run. To some extent, their stories will always be told by me as if they were my own, but their own vocalization is also incredibly important to me too. Once I told my mother how I feared that I was warping their voices with my own and she told me that I had to remember that to some extent my voice was a product of theirs. This made me feel really good and less like the lying-theiving-good-for-nothing daughter that I had felt like before.

It was so nice to go to this reading tonight because even beyond the solemnity of Franzen's ideas and the lovely weft of his words was just the fact that it is so nice to hear someone tell their story, to have someone read to you, to have your heartstrings unexpectedly twanged, and to be reminded that stories, my friends, are important.

do me, do me, do me

I did this yesterday and today but am going to change the colors a little bit. It's on a stained peach-colored pillowcase. All of the words will be crossed out except "do me do me do me" which has become something to say instead of "hello" between some of my friends and me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

really really really

I made this drawing today. The text repeats, "do you love me do you really love me do you really really love me."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Progress Report

Here's all what I have got going on right now:
list drawings-- all our pets, all our ages, all my partners
drawing of sweatshirt stains
book of every craigslist response/ad i have ever written
zine of my 27 Portland housemates
redo drawing of the back of photographs
shadow drawing
drawing of TWS/LMS labels
ceiling stain drawing

Here are things I'd like to do/start:
drawings of Salem Drive rags
drawing of my parents bowl
drawings of my parents' differing stories of the bowl, how they met eachother, etc
drawings of childhood crushes (Keith Haring, Mr. Popaduik, Danny Meagher...)
more drawings with words
drawings about my name
more book covers
pick up some embroidery projects
drawing of TWS mix cds
drawings of google stains
drawings of unsent postcards and letters
zine about getting diabetes
more actual writing in general about memories

Homage to My Hips

My friend Melanie gave me a photocopy of this poem when I was feeling pretty low about my self and thesis during our senior year of college. I put it up in my studio and Adina and I thought it was pretty empowering. We proceeded to both finish our theses, find men and spin them like tops-- good times! Anyways, the poem has been on my mind, because I was thinking about writing and poetry and some new embarrassing poetic experiments in my journal. The problem was, I couldn't remember what this particular poem was called or who wrote it. My search engine words (top+ big hips+poem) pulled up allllllll sorts of interesting things, but I found it today. I love this poem.

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Lucille Clifton

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Square One

The semester began yesterday and already I'm swept into the torrent. I had two classes yesterday, both exceptional-- a drawing practicum with Keith Boadwee and Queer Theory class with Tina Takemoto. I'm excited for both and scared for the second-- it's going to be tough. I went to Oakland today for my office hours and bought a bunch of new paper. Now I'm sitting in my studio and trying to do anything I can but draw on it. I've always known that I take a long time to do anything, and over the break I got used to just waking up, coming to the studio and spending the whole day here. Now that my schedule is punctuated with work and class and the distraction of 199 other grad students running around it's hard to keep my concentration pointed and efficient.

I like this picture for the first day of the semester. I remember how awful and amazing it felt at the beginning of every school year at Wesleyan-- so much stuff being carried around, up stairs, into rooms, unpacked. A guitar case that would never be opened, shower kits put together by overbearing mothers, black steamer trunks bedecked with bumper stickers of previous identities. In many ways I'm just continuing with what I've done before-- but the beginning of a semester is always exciting-- a good time to reevaluate projects and priorities.

San Francisco the Impossible

I finished my book, The Heart Line by Gelett Burgess last night. Here is its melodramatic finale:

They walked, arm in arm, to the summit of the mountain, and sat down upon a rock to gaze at the city, far away.

There it lay, a constellation of lights, a golden radiance, dimmed by the distance. San Francisco the Impossible, the City of Miracles! Of it and its people many stories have been told, and many shall be; but a thousand tales shall not exhaust its treasury of Romance. Earthquake and fire shall not change it, terror and suffering shall not break its glad, mad spirit. Time alone can tame the town, restrain its wanton manners, refine its terrible beauty, rob it of its nameless charm, subdue it to the Commonplace. May Time be merciful--may it delay its fatal duty till we have learned that to love, to forgive, to enjoy, is but to understand!

Monday, January 12, 2009

rags, riches

I forgot how cranberry extract makes seltzer water do crazy things and had a foamy explosion in the doorway of Maggies studio. This sent me flying down the studio hallway where I discovered an unfortunate shortage of paper towels. This unfortunate shortage, however, very fortunately caused me to remember all of those rags I brought back to San Francisco with me from my parents home in Ithaca. I picked the least interesting one and made it more interesting by using it to sandbag the cranberry flooding happening in Hooper One. This picture is of one of my favorite rags, I think the pattern is so gorgeous and will be fun to draw. I'm buying a ton of paper tomorrow in Oakland and this eradicated towel will probably be the subject of the first drawing I'll start on for the semester.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Instant Relatives

At Really Good Stuff, the estate sale store I worked at in Portland, there was a drawer full of photographs (one of many) that had been labeled, "instant relatives." I thought this label was so transparent, almost mocking. It made me think about what I was doing there, that my collection was made possible by other peoples loneliness and fueled by my own desire for the feeling of family. I like pictures of people because they feel like people. Certainly this is why markets like porn are successful, because pictures stand in for something real, and certainly have the ability to quench some real desires. Last week I was showing Georgia how I've been trying to catalogue photographs by subject, for example, babies, still-lives, landscapes, homes, young women, women, old women, etc... She laughed at how creepy it would be to come across these albums and boxes and told me that if it was almost anyone else but me she would think the owner was ill-intentioned. I'm not completely sure if what I'm doing is not creepy, but it's at least a good thing to have in mind as I continue doing what I've already been doing.

I'm thinking about putting together a show proposal called Instant Relatives for Playspace (the CCA graduate gallery), or maybe somewhere else if they wont have me. I asked Brigid if she would put some of her drawings and paintings in-- she works from family photographs with a nice tweak of nostalgic gunfire and I think her work is awesome. I think that it would be interesting to have some sort of participation-- where people could bring in photographs to put up, maybe leaving with others (trading relatives). I think it would also be nice to make some sort of store situation, where visitors could acquire instant relatives for $3-$5 (buying relatives). I think in this way I could get a supplier like The Apartment, The Magazine, or maybe the photo booth guy at the Bernal Heights Flea Market involved.

I keep retelling the story about the drawing that got destroyed (missing still, perhaps somewhere flattened in the streets of San Francisco). I still feel so dumb about it, but the story is turning into something mythological. This sense of loss is certainly a soapbox to talk about how objects and images and words are critical to our sense of being. When I think of that drawing, most of all, I think about the week I spent making it, and the dissatisfaction of being reminded that there is nothing to be shown for that small but important duration of my time. We are a culture where worth has to be proved-- if you don't have something to show for your time, how can you believe or be believed? I've been thinking about this a lot recently, especially in the context of my friend Adrienne's writing about New Orleans and home-space, and my recent conversations with a few queer mothers and soon-to-be-mothers in Portland about how their queerness stirs the pot of what family, heredity, and mattering mean.

Across a table

I drove back to San Francisco yesterday after a great weekend of eating with friends in Portland. I picked up a craigslist rider on my way out of town, an old-soul transwoman who had as loose a tongue as I do. She talked about her experience coming out as trans as a 14 year old, having her first kid when she was 19, working in the sex industry, co-parenting and home-schooling of two small kids, what it means to be dating for a queer mom, how Portland seems like a safe place where all of these things can occur.

I'm back in San Francisco feeling floored with classes starting again tomorrow. Sean and I talked and it seems to us like the event to be working towards is Open Studios, happening this year on Sunday, April 5th, 12-5pm. Apparently all sorts of awards (read: tuition money for next year) are decided then. I'm glad to be back but realize that I didn't ever leave a time for me to catch my breath. It's been forever since I just lounged around all day, doing nothing for nobody. The time I spent in Portland was lovely because I got to eat across a table from lots of friends. I like this vantage because it focuses your attention-- you get to really look at and speak to the other person while remaining autonomous from them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

End of the trail

I've arrived in Portland, land of Lewis and Clark, bicycles, rain, beer and doughnuts. Yesterday I did the big drive from San Francisco with three craigslist passengers named Brock, Bochay and Marta. It was a great trip, but began with a fair amount of tragedy. I picked up two of the people at the corner of 16th and Mission and while we were reorganizing the trunk I put a rolled up drawing on the top of the car. We finished packing and got into the car and drove away. It wasn't until the tires hit Oakland that I realized that the drawing was no longer in the car. I was horrified and called every person I knew that could have been within 20 blocks of that corner-- but really, it could have fallen off anywhere. My friend Georgia biked there three hours later, and Anna texted me and said she took a walk down the street too. No drawing. I told Marta, Brock and Bochay that we needed to just not talk about it for awhile. Three songs into the car ride and, surprisingly, I was over it. I guess I figure that everyone suffers losses so much more serious than this one. It was a drawing that I had spent a lot of time on, but it was also just a drawing. I can make another one, and maybe I can do it better. I'm attached to the objects that I make, but I'm also in school right now-- the whole point of school is the making of things. The things aren't so important until later. I'm pretty sad about it, but at least it will be a good story. Maybe I can do a drawing of what I imagine happened to the drawing.

I'm in Portland now and finding it hard to find computers to write on this blog, but am busy-ing around with quick friend visits. It was misting this morning, a typical Portland morning. I woke up, picked up Kerst and we returned cans and bottles at Fred Meyer. We made 5 bucks and then went to get some lunch with our steep earnings on Hawthorne. Randi and I met up and went to the bins, where I got a lot of really great small plastic animals including a small army of anteaters and aardvarks. I went over to Maggies house and had tea and gossiped for awhile. Sally and Heather came over, we cooked a delicious cornmeal-crust pizza and took a walk to get some icecream for sundaes. I went to Kerst and Lydias house where we gossiped more and relayed updates. I'm at Emmets house now, where a feverish game of Taboo is being played. I'm exhausted and made a pathetic attempt at playing-- on my turn I only made one point (I got stuck on the word "wind-chill"). It's time to lay my head down.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Oh my god I love this photograph so much. I wish I was having this day-- champagne-of-beer, snack, RV camper, sun, and party frock. I spent my day learning how to use my computer and it was raining outside. Bor-ing. I noticed today that the photographs I'm working with on this new drawing about the photographers shadow are pretty much all black-and-white. I wonder if the formal techniques and tactics of picture-taking (in this case, having the sun behind the photographer, causing their shadow to cast into the foreground of the composition) started getting forgotten with the advent of color photography.

I leave for Portland for a few days on Wednesday. I'm pumped. The last time I was really there was way back on the first day of June, right after boxing up and liquidating my apartment and flying to Vermont to teach Quaker kids swimming lessons for the summer. On New Years Georgia and I hugged eachother into 2009 and she asked me, "Would you have ever thought, 5 months ago in Vermont, that this is how we would be spending our New Years?" I'll be honest, there's at least a little apprehension about going back to Portland-- I left really quickly and a lot has changed since then. Kerst and Lydia have reported the demise of Steak Tuesdays due to extensive friend-cest. Emmet quit the farm and moved into Emma's house. Randi's dating someone new and got fired. Emma and Jessi and Dannyand Maggie moved away. Maggie and Holly and Kerst moved back. Everyone seems to be unemployed. Actually, a lot of my friends spend their days doing a lot of the actvity illustrated by the picture above. Regardless, I look forward to a Bins date with Randi, to visiting with the Liz Leach gang, to checking out Jeanine's new gallery, to getting burgers at a strip club with Candice, to cooking extravgant meals with Emmet, to shooting the shit with Annie and her dog Tasche, and going on walks and getting doughnuts with Maggie, and so many other things.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On materiality

Here's something to think about from Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart in the introduction of their book, Photographs Objects Histories: On the materiality of images.

"...a photograph is a three-dimensional thing, not only a two-dimensional image. As such, photographs exist materially in the world, as chemical deposits on paper, as images mounted on a multitude of different sized, shaped, coloured and decorated cards, as subject to additions of their surface or as drawing their meanings from presentational forms such as frames and albums. Photographs are both images and physical objects that exist in time and space and thus in social and cultural experience. they have volume, opacity, tactility and a physical presence in the world and are thus enmeshed with subjective, embodied and sensuous interactions. These characteristics cannot be reduced to an abstract status as a commodity, nor to a set of meanings or ideologies that take the image as their pretext. Instead, they occupy spaces, move into different spaces, following lines of passage and usage that project them through the world. As [the chapters of this book will demonstrate in various ways], thinking materially about photography encompasses processes of intention, making, distributing, consuming, using, discarding and recycling, all of which impact on the way in which photographs as images are understood."

Girl props

I started a new drawing yesterday of some sort of epic best friend charm necklace thing. I'm trying to plan less with this one to see what happens-- hopefully something surprising. I did a little bit of research though, to check out what those best friend charms look like these days. When I was small I was the recipient of many of these-- little broken halves of hearts which sized up with the ones owned by my friends. I think it's weird and funny how little girls are trained to be romantic with their best friends-- I mean really-- those necklaces implied that my heart could only be whole in the company of my friends. What kind of message is that?! Last night I read a section in the book I'm reading where two women (both enamored with and by the same man) encounter each other on a boat and prove their friendship to one another with the most outrageous flattery and flirtery. My favorite part is when Fancy Gray tells Clytie Payson that her eyes are the most beautiful she has ever seen, a compliment that Clytie trumps by saying that her eyes are never as beautiful as they are when a little picture of Fancy Gray is being reflected in them. To be honest, I think this kind of flirtation is so amazing and I miss it a lot in this newish city. Remember when valentines were made for everyone in your class? This kind of friend romance seemed so much easier in Portland, land of huge house co-ops, where cheap cost coexists with high quality of living, where sleepovers abound, where bicycle gangs commingle and bad hair often means surprisingly-good-at-snuggling.

When I was looking for images of these girly best-friend pendants I found a bounty of them supplied through a commercial website called Girl props are self advertised as appropriate for girls of all ages. I think this is interesting because the word 'prop' implies a theatrical stand-in for something else, something that mimics reality. So, if you check out this website and all its glittery wares for discount prices you might start to wonder what reality these props are standing in for-- womanhood? Under the "Necklaces...Love" section you'll find a bunch of really great selections including a silhouette of a kissing boy-body and girl-body (called... "Kissing Cousins"-- what is that all about?), of a two-part necklace (one, a key, the other, a heart with the engraving"He who holds this key can unlock my heart"), and a chrome double charm, one saying "Always" the other saying "In touch." So, the thing about these gendered necklaces is that not just any boy child is going to wear a dainty-chained key around his neck. Let's talk about it. It just occurred to me that the website is also using the word "prop" to allude to the word "propaganda," which is also pretty interesting. Essentially, this overtly pink website is channeling Judith Butler and is a textbook example of contemporary post-feminism.

I love this picture-- there are more like it. Someone had this kid pose doing lady-jobs, here, doing the laundry. In others she is tending to a baby brother. Having grown up the oldest daughter I have to admit there has always been a sort of mothering impulse for my brothers. When I was a teenager I started to reconsider this impulse having become self-conscious when pushing my youngest brother around in a stroller lest someone think he had been born from my own 12-year old loins. This was encouraged, of course, with my own girlprops (mostly supplied by my grandmothers)-- dollhouses, small strollers, play kitchens and plastic food. This morning it was beautiful in the Mission and as I biked by the soccer and church crowd at Precita Park I saw a small gang of tiny-stroller-pushing children. One of them, I'm proud to report, was a boy. A couple of the girls were using their strollers to enact a demolition derby.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

On mattering

I took a nap on our buildings roof this afternoon and thought about the word 'matter' and all its many meanings. Matter, as a noun, is the word for any quantity of physical mass or volume, literally anything one atom or larger. It can also refer to a vaguely specified concern (to have several matters to attend to) or a problem (what's the matter?). Matter, as a verb, means to have weight or importance. So here's an odd tangle of the English language that equates significance with stuffness... interesting. I think about this word a lot, considering what it means for a person to matter and what a person would have to do to not matter. I think it's interesting that I equate mattering with trying, but realized today that a lot of mattering happens without trying and viceversa.

Certainly the fear of not mattering serves as a catalyst for many, especially amongst my MFA peers, to try things. But for such an aggrandized word, it leaves room for interpretation, which is comforting. This non-specificity implies there's more than one way to matter, and that one of those ways may be just right for me. As far as stuffness goes, maybe this can be opened up to interpretation too. Maybe stuffness can include memory, which seems to me a pretty good way to matter in other peoples lives. This is not an original idea, to equate memory with stuff-- the best example is obviously "Mara Baldwin? That girl has got baggage". I spent most of the day nursing my eyes, which have been marinating in smokey bar air the past few nights. I tried drawing this morning but had to give my corneas a rest for the day-- lesson learned: my vision matters. The reason why I've been hanging out in bars is because my good friend Sarah has been in town the past week and drove back to Portland this morning with her girlfriend, Alex. Sarah Lipkin matters. Here's a picture of some matter.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Book of Shadows

I'm getting ready to make a new drawing about the photographers behind anonymous snapshots using pictures like the ones above, where the shadow of the photographer is present in the composition. An advisor, Glen Helfand, told me there was a publication called The Book of Shadows that showcases a personal collection of similar photographs to the ones I've been gathering together for the past year. I spent an hour in my studio today catching up on all my notes from past advisor visits, figuring out all the books that I should have read over break, but haven't (Bahktin's writing on chronotopes, Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, Heideger's The Thing, and on and on and on). Long story short, when I looked up "Book of Shadows" I got a million results, but none that fell under Glen's description-- we're talking millions and millions of really serious Wiccan texts.

So I started looking for books about shadows and wound up thinking about witches, and then started thinking about magic, and then fairies, and then how one of my girl scout camp counselors (named Tucker) had a Tinkerbell tattooed on her leg, and then about Peter Pan who, of course, has a little altercation with his shadow in the beginning of that fabulous story. Everything always comes around full circle. I like how Peter Pan's shadow is this feisty autonomous character who needs to get sewn back onto the bottoms of his feet. I don't like how, in the cartoon at least, Peter's feisty shadow (who eventually gets tamed) is female. I do like that Peter Pan is played by Julie Andrews in the 1976 musical production.

When I look at photographs, I feel like I'm seeing through the same lens that the photographer did. To some extent, I suppose this is how the audience is always engaged when looking, as inquisitive, as the author of their own opinions of what they're looking at. To some extent, I suppose, it's really different-- I'm looking at a piece of paper and the photographer was looking through a glass lens. I can never experience the noise of that photograph, the weather, the mood, the back story. But the actual composition, the choice and view of the person taking the photograph-- the cropping, the light, the depth of field, the focus, etc-- are all there in the image that I'm looking at, and I feel invited to pretend that I was there (or am there) too. What I like about these photographs with the photographers shadow is that the photographer is so present-- I hate how there's an inherent clinical approach to looking at photography that omits the authorship of the photographer. I'm a drawer, so I love that my hand is so obvious in the things that I make. But I also recognize that my hand is just a tool for my head, that a photographer has a head, that our heads make choices and that choices are what makes us unique and what makes us authors.

The shadow also seems to open the composition up-- way back when as a freshman in college looking at quattrocento Florentine altarpieces, John Paoletti repeatedly pointed out how the compositions were painted to imply a window or continuity between the 'real world' and the painted one. I like the shadows in these photographers because it's like they are mine. I especially like that my dress changes-- sometimes I'm wearing a top hat, sometimes with long hair or a flippy bob-cut, sometimes there is someone standing next to me. For the drawing I'm about to start I'm still troubleshooting over what medium to use (pen, watercolor, pencil, etc...) and also trying to figure out how much information to render and how much to omit. For now, I think I'll just draw the shapes of the shadows, the lively/ghostly/feisty/solitary shapes that they are-- and really, because I think that shadows are cool enough to stand alone. Fuck Peter Pan and his unintentional chauvinism. Our shadows are the silhouetted shape of how the moving sun is shining around our moving bodies as we stand on a moving earth, dependent upon us, but also defiant and autonomous, often unflattering, always moving, unreproducible, fluid.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Forecast reads: grayandgrey

Once when I was heartbroken the person who was causing it put the flat of her palm in the middle of my chest and told me to pretend it was a glass Mason jar, and to push my heart inside of that jar, and to seal it and the whole time, through my crying, I remember thinking how cold the lip of that glass jar felt, how pushable my heart felt and how thankful I was that someone was telling me what to do.  I found my heart feeling pushable today and thought about that memory on my walk through San Francisco on the first day of the year.  I'm still not sure what really happened when I pushed my heart outside of myself.  Where is the jar, the heart, the heart in the jar?  What did that really mean?  Were those good directions?  I'm unsure, but have used this imagery, of pushing my heart into jar after jar, countless times anyway having not figured out an alternative yet.  It was a pretty gray first day 2009, and I celebrated by working on a pretty gray drawing.  Walking around this morning, this afternoon, and this evening, it seemed like the whole neighborhood was in the same sort of mood-- hesitant, hungover and whispery.

this is me, and this is me, and this is me

I once flipped through a book of Cindy Sherman's work and was drawn to a project she did long before her Untitled Film Stills and explosion into fame. She had taken a family album and had written under every picture with her in it "this is me," "and this is me," "and this is me," and on and on. Of course, this is the refrain when anyone shows pictures of themselves to someone who hasn't seen them before-- it seems like a pretty good explanation without so many words: "this is me." Sherman's project (which, of course, I can find no documentation of on the fabulous World Wide Web--how can this be?) included imperfect family snapshots-- pictures where just her arm, cropped out of the picture frame was circled ("this is me") and pictures of teeny tiny people on faraway bleachers with one small head circled ("and this is me"). It certainly invites speculation over her identification with the images and the consistency of her narrative.

I like looking at photographs with my family because there always seems to be these absurd moments that happen-- when my youngest brother claims to remember an event that happened before he was born, when I will see myself being held as child by someone I don't recognize, where my parents can't remember the names of friends they have their arms around. Pictures, even more so before the digital era, feel oddly essential and distant to my identity. The expression"a picture is worth a thousand words" should really be "a picture confounds our words." Over and over I look at pictures for guidance, I picture how things once were, and I make pictures of pictures, too.