Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

In which I try to answer a question by provoking others.

Finished and submitted my application for the CORE residency program in Houston today which, let me tell you, was about as easy as braiding your hair while looking in a mirror. A lot of the text I wound up using comes from various essays I've written over the past year and compiling this compendium of words into a single 800 word essay proved to be most difficult. That being said, here it is!

“What is a ghost?...To most people a ghost is the stuff from which stories are written, the floating, white-clad, luminous form that is seen in deserted houses or in midnight graveyards moaning out messages of terror to the unsuspecting living. To others a ghost is the substance of dreams, appearing at the edge of sleep as the face of a loved one, long gone and almost forgotten, or as the night-mare symbol of all his guilt and his fears... A ghost? Why, a ghost is many things to many people, its nature depending upon the strength of their imaginations.”
-Andrew Tackberry, Famous Ghosts, Phantoms and Poltergeists for the Millions

The English noun, souvenir, comes from the French verb meaning "to remember." But the French verb, souvenir, more literally translates to something like ‘to come from underneath’ which suggests a submersion into the depth of memory and resurfacing in a place of familiarity. It implies a revisitation, not the original experience, but that experience done again. Stories and possessions are souvenirs, evidence of passage through time. But found at a flea market, an object once a souvenir from a particular family narrative becomes a part of a social and phenomenological landscape. By teasing objects and stories out of the singularity of their original possession we can open up the possibilities of belonging/s, where we defy the conventions of autonomy to foster greater notions of collective consciousness. The photograph is one example of a prop that aids us in this shape-shifting process of discovery, essential to defining and then redefining who we are. As Roland Barthes writes in Camera Lucida, “I am the reference of every photograph, and this is what generates my astonishment in addressing myself to the fundamental question: why is it that I am alive here and now?"

I’m interested in objects and histories that speak of the tension between simultaneous absence and presence, as evident in the wear and breakdown of belongings, the fading and reinterpretation of memory and the conflicting truths of contemporary and historical experience. Our memories are clouded with aberrations and apparitions, evidence of their use. This in-between space is a rich place for creativity. Donna Harraway likens it to the diversity of border ecologies, the place where two ecosystems rub up against one another. The mutability of this grayness is as impossible to capture and define as the surface of water, the queer identity, the rendition of a spoken story, and the palpability of haunted atmosphere.

The visitations of memories are ghosts, apparitions from the past which infuse the atmosphere of the present. They lurk about in places, they have messages for the living, they hover above us in the air. They mischievously move things around, they sulk in corners, they visit uninvited, they vanish and reappear. The power of ghosts is in their provocation—this is how they can comprise Tackberry’s “substance of dreams.” In her book Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, Heather Love writes about the link between utopian longing and fixation with the past, referring to it as “a willingness to be haunted (135).” The willingness of the living to be haunted is akin to nostalgia, the disconnected longing for memories. Both are the hope for that which is lost to be renewed. Karl Marx used this imagery in the opening of The Communist Manifesto when he famously penned: “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism.” Marx aligns the presence of spirit not with the haunting failures of the past but with the incitement of change and revolution.

My studio practice over the past two years have focused on the imagery of domestic interiors in pursuit of the historical narratives built into their arrangement. They have been informed by extensive research into the concepts of ‘longing’ and ‘haunting’ in American history. But how does one render a ghost (“the floating, white-clad, luminous form…the substance of dreams”)? During my residency I propose to focus on the folklore surrounding American hauntings, recording this investigation through writing and the creation of visual works. If the haunting can be understood as a metaphor for memory, then the ghost story provides the script of how to remember. Heather Love affirms the powerful role of storytelling when writing “history—like the future—is a medium for dreaming about the transformation of social life… [T]hey are wild dreams, desires so powerful that they disrupt the linear temporality of progressive history (133).” Founded in the immigrant longing for identity, American hauntings exemplify a longing for belonging to an American dream, a dream as transient as ghost itself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Worked for a couple hours today formatting this image for a card and then freaked out when I found out how expensive it would be to print them out. So I'm sticking to the card I made last year, for now. Besides, I think saving up to invest inn cards for the MFA Thesis show will be a good decision. I've been thinking about this card a little differently than I did last year. Whereas it could be an opportunity to show off a picture of an already existing piece of work, it could also turn into some sort of artistic action in itself. I think this might be a smarter way to integrate the postcard into my practice, one which is already focused on everyday objects.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

rolled rugs

Have been thinking about rolled rugs and how I can use this structure for an installation. This picture is of a fairly modest shop display, but I just think it's so weird and interesting to look at!

Monday, March 22, 2010

the final return

It's Monday which means it's officially my last back-to-school experience (well, I suppose I shouldn't rule out another degree out entirely, but the end of my MFA escapades at least). I got this picture in Brooklyn for a buck-- god, why weren't plaid and starched collars cool when I was a young one? I was surprised by how few pictures were at the flea market, actually-- only one small showbox in a space as big as a soccer field. Where is all the paper ephemera in that giant city? I wonder if either NYC-area ephemera is highly valued and archived in libraries of its owners or if it isn't valued and people throw it away? It is really interesting how in some locales it's everywhere in thrift stores and in others it's just totally missing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

brooklyn fleas

My last day on the east coast today and I spent the morning with Emmet and Genevieve in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. We had a lovely breakfast and walked to the flea market where there were many pretty little overpriced things to see. I'll miss the east coast and the friends I have here but I'm also ready to get back to San Francisco and finish what I went there for... which is grad school. One and a half months, people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

in the air and electric

We went to the Met today and I spent a long time walking up and down the halls of the European paintings galleries. God, they were so freaking good at painting! I took some detail shots of animals and plants that I liked, as well as details like the ones featured above, where an amazing amount of detail has been spent on a relatively minor part of the composition. Alright, alright, I know-- these birds basically represent God's sperm. But in some paintings the "holy spirit" is referenced only with a dotted line, so it seems significant that these diva painters decided it was important to spend hours on making radiantly lit angel birds when they could have, you know, used that time to actually make the human proportions more accurate. Just saying.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

going places

I totally cleaned out my studio the other day to consolidate and give away things I don't need with the hope that making space will help with the making of new works. I found this wallet, a strange plastic-y thing I've had since I was very very small. It might be the only thing I have here with me that I know I've had for at least 20 years. On the inside there's a silly picture of a very small version of me standing in between my parents who are much younger grad school versions of themselves. I like that the brand is "Going Places." This weekend I fly out of San Francisco for Spring Break, which I'm spending in New York City with peers from CCA.

Friday, March 5, 2010

pass away

I've had this page from a scrapbook sitting out in my studio for awhile-- it reminds me of the process of collecting and archiving, but also one of migration and loss. The caption at the bottom reads "Mae's bedroom in L.A. after Bill pass away, 1985." I appreciate the unintentionality of the person who wrote that to have written "pass away" instead of "passed away." It turns that migration, the one of passing away, into one that hasn't ended yet... and clearly it hasn't judging by the mountains of evidence recorded in the photographs and deemed important enough to document and put into a scrapbook. I've been thinking about ways to make drawings exist three-dimensionally and wondered out loud to a couple of my peers if I could draw those boxes on paper constructed to be the shape of those boxes. I was informed that similar projects have been considered, such as Libby Black's paper sculptures of suitcases and Kaz Oshiro's constructed canvases made to resemble things like mini fridges and briefcases but left open on the back so you can see their stretcher bars.Well, that's okay. That's how the world works, right? Ideas have happened before. I actually recently have been thinking that maybe there is something pretty freaking magical about someone finding an idea that's been used and lost before. Maybe it's kind of like thrifting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

final review

My final review was today, attended by James Gobel, Susan Gevirtz and Deborah Valoma. It was a great conversation and though I was feeling a little bit uneasy beforehand I felt totally confident during it and realized that I'm pretty on top of the game. I think mostly because I worked so hard last year? The two pieces in this photograph are what I showed today and though I can't make any decisions of what is going in the show until I find out what space I get I'm almost certain that the bird migration will go in. I've got one month until Open Studios and two until the MFA exhibition. Time to make a checklist!

Monday, March 1, 2010

upanddown pillow

I finally finished 1000 geese today, just in time for my review tomorrow. It was hard to know when to stop since I'm not sure how many I need yet (which means the size of the space I will get to install this piece within) and I also just didn't get bored of making them. I've gotten some good feeback on this piece-- people are generally delighted by it's idea and construction. That being said I'm not entirely sure it's the most academically crafted pieces I've made, but I'm also okay with that for now-- maybe simple strategies are more generous vehicles for diversity of interpretation?