Monday, April 25, 2011

country summer

I've been waiting waiting waiting to find out if I get a job offer from the school I'm currently working at for next year in an elementary classroom but am starting to lose elevated aspirations about that particular version of the future-- it seems to me like if the school really wanted me they would have let me know by now. I've decided to proceed as if it's time to move cities so that there's no room for disappointment later on if I hear back and it's a no-go. It's hard to make decisions about The Future when I feel like it's hinged on the decisions of other people.

What I AM looking forward to is the prospect of getting some alone time in the woods during my upcoming residency with the Saltonstall Foundation. I was sent a document with the names of the other people that will be there at the same time as me, who will include:

Katy Higgins, Photography / Brooklyn, NY
Rone Shavers, Fiction / Albany, NY
Stewart Allen, Non-Fiction / Brooklyn, NY
Yen-Hua Lee, Visual Arts / NYC

OF COURSE I have already googled them and am wondering what they'll be like. It seems like our practices have been curated to overlap-- many of us seem to be interested in plant-life and concepts of home/domesticity. I'm so excited to meet some new folks and be having dialogues about the work I'm making. The residency I did at the Vermont Studio Center was such a large group that it felt difficult to feel cohesive at times-- I wonder how it'll feel to be with such a smaller group in a much more intimate setting (the town of Ithaca is miles away!). I'm looking forward to having more outdoor time and hope to bring a bike out there so I can get around without being dependent on motorized wheels. As far as I'm concerned, summer begins in 2 1/2 weeks!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Today was Easter and I spent it mostly on my own. Yesterday I biked to the beach and saw numerous families staging egg and basket hunts all up and down the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park. My own family never really celebrated Easter outdoors since New Jersey and upstate New York have notorious reputations of unpredictable April weather-- we were often stuck inside because of rain or even occasionally late-April snow! It was really nice to see so many families spending time outdoors together-- fresh faced and green thumbed like the couple in this photograph. I'm excited about getting some more outside time soon-- I'm suspicious that the dustiness of my studio has been making me sick. Spring is also the time for Spring Cleaning and I'm proud to report that this is one way I celebrated the Resurrection of Christ, and it felt wonderful. It was inspiring to look through my stuff and revisit memories, reevaluate projects, and get excited for new beginnings.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Eye

To me One Eye seems really sweet-mannered and adventurous and I have a total crush on her-- but clearly someone someplace sometime had a fleeting moment of vengeful desperation and not only ripped her out of a photograph but defaced her too. I guess that's part of the mystery of anonymous photographs that I find so intriguing-- it could have been an act of bitterness against One Eye, but perhaps One Eye was the one who ripped away the other half of the photograph, now mildewing in a dump somewhere amid other good intentions and lost possessions from the 1940's. Perhaps even the hand-drawn eye was a mild attempt of restoration. It might be an interesting and healing project to draw in the lost part of photographs like these.

Friday, April 22, 2011

x marks it

I'm drawn to photographs that have been designated as throwaways-- for every one of these photographs there is surely a different but very similar composition that was selected for larger printed production and that has been put in a frame. When you're looking at a photograph that you know isn't "the best" there's something free about the way you can look at it-- the expectation of the photograph to be pleasantly composed or to be unflawed is put on the shelf. I find myself thinking about all the other lovely reasons why this picture is worth existing-- I like that the horizon line is crooked and that something in the lower left corner is obstructing the frame. I like that the head of the black horse is awkwardly cropped out of the picture and that the men sitting on the log haul are blowing on their hands to stay warm instead of being captured in a more favorably heroic pose.

Surely this is an important strategy within an art-making practice or really any part of life-- that once you're able to dismiss the pressure and expectation of being perfect you're allowed to redefine and establish what your own idea of what qualities are valuable and interesting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

poised and ready

I'm feeling ready for a big change in my life and am waiting for the cues for it to happen. I should be finding out this week if I'll get a contractual job offer from the school I work at-- if I do, I'll hunker down where I am and finally make a real investment into finding community here. But if I don't, then that's okay too-- I will get a chance to move and try a new place with new people and opportunities. I'm actually not sure which one I'm hoping for more-- it'll feel good to feel wanted the way a job offer makes you feel with the obvious benefits of health insurance (yay!) and a constant salary (double yay!), but I'm also not entirely sure if that want will outweigh my own desire to move on. We'll see when it happens what feels right!

I'm a big fan of this kind of portrait formula-- a person, nice clothes, supportive furniture, backdrop. There's something so momentous and regal about it. The moment captured feels huge, like it's a moment that defines the end and beginning of back-to-back chapters. Certainly in the time when these photographs were taken that is what these photographs marked-- these people may not have gotten their next formal portraits taken for a few years after these ones and the portraits would sit next to each other in scrapbooks as signifiers of how much change happened in between their taking.

4 ways to show we celebrated

First of all, you should definitely click on this photograph to check out the details. Secondly, the elderly woman who I have named Janet is wearing by far the most wonderful outfit in the picture-- those 'pearls'! Thirdly, only the unassuming patriarch makes an appearance in all four pictures. Fourth of all, his undershirt is no secret.

I remember getting my picture taken like this family in all the various divisions and subdivisions possible (one of the kids, one of the nuclear family, one of all the women, etc....) and being able to recognize how it was sort of a weird practice... as if the set of photographs would EVER get separated and as if one picture of everyone wasn't enough evidence for all. I guess it's about the construction of the event-- depending upon which picture you look at you might tell a different story. Janet, for example, might remark "Oh, and this one here shows all my boys-- you can see how the male baldness progresses with age..." or "Here we are with our lovely daughters... Gayle was always the busty one." In this way she can be a wife, a mother or a grandmother and doesn't have to necessarily be all three in any one photograph, and I can see how that might be a relief.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In therapy I was asked for brief overviews of my experience growing up and I found it interesting because I immediately started out by talking about my parents' experiences growing up. I think in general when I'm explaining something it's natural for me to start from an outlying causal halo and to hone inwards rather than explaining it from inside-out.

I like this photograph because all it says on the back is "dad" even though the picture was clearly taken long before this boy would embark upon fatherhood. It's an interesting dilemma of how to explain history, backwards or forwards. Is this kid more son or more father? I suppose that's the magic of unlabeled photographs-- it's easier to understand the people standing in them as autonomous and anyone.

Monday, April 18, 2011


On the back of this photograph it is written:

Little Miss September Morning on July 4th, 1947
That's a grape leaf- not a fig leaf.

Sometimes what is written on the back of the photograph is so funny or compelling that it becomes hard to look at the image again without hearing the words play over in your head. I guess text and images always struggle with eachother in most contexts, but especially when one is making up for a lack of information or clarity in the other, such as this disclaimer does for its corresponding image. It's hard to say because although I think this photo would stand alone without the message the reason why I looked at it the second time (while combing through hundreds of similar photographs) was the fact that it did have this message on the back.

I've been having a hard time making decisions recently because of an inability to extract different components of my experience apart in order to assess what should stay and what should go. Sometimes two different ideas can be married to each other like the front and back of a photograph and it's hard to comprehend one without the other because of their proximity!

Friday, April 15, 2011


This portrait is almost entirely vanished from exposure to sun, spotted mildew, and just general wear and tear of use. Its muddied surface is interrupeted by these two hand-drawn dots where someone once accentuated the pierce of pupils. Now it's just sort of a mockery of that well-intentioned action of enlivening of a photograph-- I guess you can hardly see it in this scan but the effect in the original is pretty awkward. When I first found this photograph it stood out because it was one of few that was so unrecognizably anthropomorphic at first and only after looking at it for awhile did a face lift out of all that mutable brown fog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

writing down our names

Though it was once so abundantly known and loved that the owner didn't even entertain the necessity of writing it's name on these photographs, now this pup exists only within the framework of what we may ascertain from their compositions. This dog came into with the Great Depression, born in roughly 1928, where it lived to be an old dog (at least 11) with a young female child companion in a household with lush foliage and enough money to afford a camera, and as I said before was abundantly known. I work at an elementary school where reminding kids to write their names on things take up about half of my classroom time. I guess one's name to a child seems so permanent and limitless that it doesn't really seem a possibility that without the letters as witness, the identity of their label can waver, dissipate and float away.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I really like this photograph because of how it's teeny little portrait is framed with a schitzophrenic array of decorative borders--a simple white halo, a grape trellis and assorted ceramic jugs, a snow storm of dotted pattern, a squiggle, a fine line, a bolder one, an under-trimmed mat. I wonder if it can be understood as an exercise to decide upon indecision-- why choose one when you can have more?

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Went to one of my favorite photograph depots today after not visiting for nearly 1 1/2 years. I went thought my collection this week and picked out a bunch of large portraits which I didn't really have room or attraction for and traded them in for a fleet of new aquisitions, of which these small female portraits were included.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where am I and what am I holding?

Heard a great radio blip today about shared qualities of Science and Art as the ability through exposure to both to learn something or reassess our place in the cosmos-- where do we come from? who are we? where are we going? Both are also fixated with the meaning and logic of origins.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

wearing pants

Today I subbed for a 5th grade class and had a nice time learning more about their classroom. I even got to witness a conversation about what it means to classify assisted pushups as "girl pushups." Their teacher, Naomi, talked about how the terminology infers that girls can't do "normal" push-ups because of gendered weakness. I liked it and saw that the students were interested and invested in making a collaborative vocabulary revision, but wish there had also been a conversation about how it's okay to be physically weak, boys and girls, and that strength can be measured in a myriad of ways. Maybe some more about the unrealistic and unfair expectation that cis-gendered boys should be physically and emotionally strong and impenetrable. I listened to an old This American Life about the term "Sissy" and how more effort is being put into making feminizing words non-pejorative over letting boys be free and feminine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

holding flowers

So many of these small photographs show women interacting with nature in strange and stilted ways! I wish there was a better and less fertility-suggestive way for women to pose with flowers, maybe slung over a shoulder, in the teeth, under the armpit or between the toes?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

in their gardens

I'd like to do some more research about women and flowers that shrugs off the pejorative daintiness associated with both. If you have any suggestions of books to read, please let me know about them!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Awhile back I wrote a proposal to be included in a big public art project called The Cries of San Francisco which is the great big art baby of Allison Smith and organized by San Francisco's art non-profit Southern Exposure. You can find out more about the project through the website by following this link: My proposal was accepted but now I'm struggling to give it wings of it's own because I also found out I'll be unable to be in San Francisco during the actual event. I'm helping three 4th grade boys peddle disguises (our peddler personality is "Masters of Disguise"). The info session for all accepted proposals (about 50?) is this Tuesday night and I'm looking forward to learning more about how I can help the kids prepare and feel confident in their participation.