Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ghost word: a word form that has entered the language through the perpetuation of an error

Ghost Dance: a group dance of a late 19th century American Indian messianic cult believed to promote the return of the dead and the restoration of traditional ways of life

Phantasmagoria: 1)a constantly shifting exhibition of optical effects and illusions, some seen and others imagined 2)a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection, or assemblage

Phasmophobia: is phobia involving an abnormal and persistent fear of ghosts, spectres or phantasms

Somnambulism : an abnormal condition of sleep in which motor acts (as walking) are performed

Spectrophobia: a phobia involving a morbid fear of mirrors and the dread of seeing one's own reflection

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I found this photo on the ground and it seemed to be about the color swamp. My advancement review is on Thursday and I'm feeling pretty behind-- I have a few goals in mind: finish a large drawing of an unraveling blue rag, finish the texture detail on a drawing of a pre-cut photo frame, and execute some small drawings of things I'm thinking about so I can have something to show when I ask my review committee to help me think about them. It's been a strange semester because I haven't really been attentively meeting with my advisors, distracted by the demands of out-of-town guests, reading for class and thesis writing--I haven't really had the opportunity to converse and troubleshoot over the things I'm working on. I'm having a hard time articulating why I'm interested in the ghost as a metaphor for memory and how I can draw a ghost metaphor without, well, doing something stupid like drawing a ghost. Time for bed.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the truth about ghosts

I spent a lot of time today trying not to get brain-washed while doing google research with the keywords "the truth about ghosts." I'm becoming more and more convinced that ghosts are usually a tool that people are using to talk about something else-- but it's complicated to parse out exactly what they're skirting around. Well, anyways, some of it is clearly just absolute hooey, but most of it also, read without commitment to being literal, also seems like it could mean something a little more interesting.

God and ghost loving author Sylvia Browne writes this about where we're going:

As I mentioned earlier, when our bodies die, most of us experience the brilliantly lit tunnel, not descending from some faraway place in the sky but actually rising from our own bodies and leading much more "across" than "up," at about a twenty- or thirty-degree angle. We travel with gorgeous, weightless freedom through this almost sideways tunnel, never for one instant feeling as if we've died but instead feeling more thrillingly alive than we could ever imagine here on earth. All our worries, frustrations, anger, resentment, and other negativity melt away, replaced by the peace and all-loving, unconditional understanding we remember and are about to reunite with at Home. God's sacred white light waits to embrace us at the end of the tunnel, along with loved ones from every lifetime we've ever lived. Even our pets from every lifetime are there to greet us, so eager with the joy of seeing us that the human spirits have to wait their turn to get to us. And once we've arrived on The Other Side, we resume the busy, active, exquisite lives we temporarily left behind to further our spiritual education in the tough school earth provides.

There's a simple, logical reason that the legendary tunnel takes us more "across" than "up"-our destination, The Other Side, that paradise for which we're Homesick from the moment we leave it until we return, is another dimension located a mere three feet above earth's ground level. This very real, idyllically beautiful place exists at a much higher vibrational frequency than we do here, which is why we don't perceive our intimate proximity to it, any more than the normal human ear can hear the extremely high-frequency pitch of a dog whistle. If you've had encounters with spirits from The Other Side, or talked to or read accounts from those who have, you've noticed that very often the descriptions include the impression that the spirits were "floating" a few feet above the ground. While that's often exactly what it looks like through our eyes, what's really happening is that the spirits are simply moving on their ground level at Home, three feet higher than ours.

I'm totally into her specificity of the angle of that tunnel you go down after dying-- totally wild! You can read more of her ideas here: Her love of ghosts at times is irritatingly unwavering and her faith could make the devout blush and the skeptical jealous.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I'd like to draw the worst line ever to be on the end of. It would be single-file, and miles long. It might be about something regrettable.

Friday, October 23, 2009

catching things from the sky

This is a wonderful photograph for so many reasons. I would like to be this man every day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

not quite sure

The person who took this picture thought they were preserving the memory of this indeterminable object. The tip of a wooden oar? An airplane propeller? a bench? The only things we can know for sure are that it was taken with a bright flash during an April night in 1966.

Of course the fact that this picture meant something very specific to someone resonates the concern that most artists deal with at some point in their making-- how much sense our art has to make to other people who look at it? This question is one that ignites a conversation with big clumsy words like 'responsibility' 'accountability' and 'accesibility.' My review is next Thursday and I've been wondering how these words will be framed in the context of my current studio practice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


My friend Morgan has gotten me dog crazy, especially for small to medium sized floppy-haired dogs like thisaone here. I'm in the process of looking for a new place to live and am dreading another month without a place that's mine-all-mine. I did this for the month of August and half of September and it was just awful. When my mother was here she kept asking me where I thought I would be this time next year-- I'm sure to her it seemed like the question she was supposed to ask... but it terrified me because I realized that I was supposed to be able to answer it. Last week I finished Dorothy Allison's short book "Two or Three Things I Know For Sure" and have picked up the habit of stating those two or three slippery things for myself. And so today these things might include wanting to own the dog in this photograph.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

red pile

Finished this today just in time to talk about it with James in an advisor meeting. We like it. I'm going to do more, but better ones. A few weeks ago I masked out and drew in the pattern on a small blue shirt... it was a good idea but a subtle forgery isn't as interesting as an overt lie. I bought a sweater today and am going to try to deconstruct it. A friend of mine named Sydney Russell (who went to Wesleyan and also currently goes to CCA!) does similar deconstructions but with different materials and for different reasons. It's a little bit scary to have someone so proximate to my practice doing a similar thing but I hope that it keeps me smart and articulate and am excited to be pushing further out of the exclusivity of drawings. Don't get me wrong-- drawing is great, but it seems important to be good at more than one thing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

and then and then and then

I made this silly drawing yesterday but have been surprised that people seem to be interested in it. This seems to happen often here-- that I make a throwaway something that curiously provokes rapture in my peers. My studio practice has been excruciatingly slowed down with the tumult of the Murphy Cadogan show, out-of-town guests and the writing of my thesis. But what this means mostly is that I've been making productive lists and quick/fast/dirty drawings in my sketchbook with the little time I have-- drawings that have been allowing me to try something without committing wholly to it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

shadows of shadows

I have thinking a lot about my relationship with ghosts, how I'm scared of and enraptured by them, how I've never seen one and how I hope to. It's complicated. But even more complicated is the idea of how to draw them outside of the Hollywood model of what ghosts look like-- how do you draw something that isn't there? I guess the ghost stories that I'm most interested in are the ones where nothing is ever seen-- stories in which the ghosts anonymously do things, move things around, make noises, eat at tables, but are never seen. My friend Adrienne has stories about hearing ghosts walking on her roof. Anna Whitehead has ghost stories from living in Philadelphia where the room drastically went cold and the light changed. Hannah Ireland told me that when she was teaching at a girls orphanage in France that one night a large window in one of the dormitories kept unlocking and swinging open on a windless night. Perhaps that is the best way to draw ghosts--to draw their bodiless actions-- coffee being sipped from a mug and spilling all over a chair, an empty swing being swung in, a floating pen writing a letter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

the siblings

This is a great photo from a nameless antique barn in Vermont. The embossing of the border tells you that the photo was taken in Rutland, Vermont. That's all. There's no other information, which demands that more attention be paid to these three curious sitters. I'm thinking siblings from their faces-- those small tight ears, coarse dark hair, and almost identical noses and lips. I love their gender non-specific bow ties and the long simple strings around the womens' necks. The belts, if you look closely, are carefully composed-- the fellow has his centered while the belt buckles of the bookended women are off-kilter toward the outside of the frame. the photo is so symmetrical that it calls attention to the things that are just barely awry-- the fellows combed moustache and coiffed hair, his crooked collar tips, the beginning of a painted backdrop behind the woman on the left, the single raised eyebrow of the woman on the right.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

some shapes

I've been doing some new sketches in my notebook of houses, tombstones, conversation bubbles and ghosts. One of my advisors told me he was glas I was doing them in my notebook and sparing everyone from having to look at them nice paper. Harsh. But I'm still sort of interested in them-- I mean, obviously, they're silly, they're scribbles, they're hardly even the seeds of ideas... but they're also fun to draw, they're fast and easy and they're didactic versions of the images of the subject I'm hoping to make work about. To not draw them would be like someone else making paintings about Christ without dealing with how to draw and what it means to draw the cross.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

coming and going

It landed and I took this picture. I tried to rescue it by putting it outside and thought that I killed it. I brought it back inside and put it on my desk. Later it was mysteriously gone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

building blocks

some preliminary brainstorming for the essay topics of my thesis, which will probably be titled, How To Remember:

1. “Aberrations and Apparitions”: ghosts, death of the photograph, death of painting, memory disorders, historic reproduction, forgetting/ for getting, forgery, punctum/studium (Roland Barthes), “Instant Relatives”, Rememory (Vonnegut?)/ Remember-me, Tacita Dean (Floh)

2. “The fog of maybe”: San Francisco weather, youth culture, migration, lonliness/alone-ness, atmosphere

3. “Proof we were there”: artists and artmaking, narcissism, portraiture, studio portraits, photograph taking, flea markets, estate sales, thrift stores, evidence, stains and wear, “as-is”, dust

4. “The warp and weft of words”: embroidery, dictionary definitions, quilting, “mussed”, eyewitness reports, fallibility of memory, poetry vs. prose, fiction v. nonfiction, love letters

5. “Who we are and where we came from”: grandparents, family identity, conflict of simultaneous truths, water, narcissism, domestic interiors, family secrets (things we shouldn’t talk about)

6. “How to remember a past/passed life”: memory, collection/preservation, botanical illustration, entomological displays, curiosity cabinets, Mark Dion, “Shrine of remembrance”, nostalgia, littleness

7. “Silent Cities”: earthquakes, invisibility of American ruins, cemetaries, story of Colma, names on tombstones (the names we had), Isabella and Arthur

8. “How to make a clock tick backwards”: directions, undirections, making and unmaking, Robert Smithson, and perhaps all of the things from “Silent Cities” (above)

9. “On metaphors”: shapes of time (Kubler), staircases, balloons, circles, waves, ven-diagrams, family trees, roots/branches

10. “Flashbulb memories”: memory vignettes, some true, some not, some mine, some other peoples

11. “The Here and Now”

12. “On longing”: loneliness v. alone-ness, being/longing/belonging, identity, mules, grayness, Cindy Sherman (this is me and this is me and this is me), holes v. wholes, research v. me-search, susan Stewart

13. “Seen and not heard”- family secrets, the backs of photographs, making, mystery, the unknown, scene/seen

Saturday, October 10, 2009

the happy couple

My mother and three friends from Portland (Lydia Mann, Maggie Starr and Vanessa Morea!) are in town this weekend for my opening so I've been doing a lot of sightseeing. Today the Portlanders and I woke up and made breakfast, went to the Musee Mechanique at Fisherman's Wharf, ate fish and chips, walked up and down the market streets in Chinatown, visited the Columbarium near Golden Gate Park, had hot drinks in Haight-Ashbury and built a bonfire on Ocean Beach. My mother and I have been walking around the Mission a lot, scaled the cliffs by Sutro Baths and took a walk around Land's End-- we hope to visit the Conservatory of Flowers and the Botanical Department at the Academy of Sciences on Tuesday. I found these pictures the other day at Community Thrift-- this couple is experiencing the quintessential gay holiday in San Francisco, and in such high fashion! I love these square format color pictures and wonder who these men are in their wide-collared shirts... but even more so I'm interested in who the photographers are-- random people chosen off the sidewalk to curate and capture the vacation of this posthumously happy couple.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The estate sale

Walked around with my mom today and got these photos for 10 cents each at Community Thrift. I like this pictures of things on the way out, a final catalogue of someones stuff before it all gets separated into disparate homes. When I was flipping through this stack of photos of inanimate furniture it kind of felt like I was flipping through a family scrapbook of look-alike relatives.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the unveiling

The press opening for the Murphy Cadogan show was tonight and I met a lot of new people and had a good time with my mom, who flew in today. She is responsible for this picture-- I was predictably resistant at first.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the quilters, and then me

Found this picture today stuck in a random book that I was using to keep something flat. When I worked for the Liz Leach Gallery in Portland I got to meet a few of the quilt-makers from Gee's Bend, almost exactly two years ago. My job during their stay was essentially to drive them around from their hotel to interview and lecture venues around Portland. I also got to handle the quilts and mount them onto the walls of the gallery, which was exciting-- my favorites were the ones with old stains all over them, especially a smaller wonky one made for a child's bed. That's me in the middle clad in dirty jeans which I remember being embarassed about.

Monday, October 5, 2009

fold, furl, wallow, welter.

I took the time today in order to figure out a good title for the quilted piece I put in the Murphy Cadogan show. I'd been procrastinating because it seemed like whatever I named it would inevitably create some sort of tired menstrual metaphor (think 'cycle' or 'rotation'). So I had a hot date with a dictionary and a thesaurus and came up with the following: 'Fold, furl, wallow, welter.' Check out their awesome definitions, extracted from Merriam Webster:

fold: to lay one part over another part of, to reduce the length or bulk of by doubling over, to clasp together, to entwine, to bend, to concede defeat by withdrawing, to bring to an end

furl: to wrap or roll close to or around something

wallow: to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed, or ungainly manner, to billow forth, to devote oneself entirely, to take unrestrained pleasure, to become abundantly supplied, to indulge oneself immoderately, to become or remain helpless

welter: to rise and fall or toss about in or with waves, to become deeply sunk, soaked, or involved, to be in turmoil

Mostly I just like how these four words sound. But I also like how they allude to the laundering cycle of clean/not clean and an emotional cycle of order and chaos... and then of course all the grayness/greyness that occurs on the way from one to the other.