Ruby’s Dragon

This is what I do in the middle of the night while the rest of you sleep. My little stop-action videos have made me feel like less of a sleep-deprived lunatic and more like a hard-workin’ artiste!! Of course most nights are still spent with my thoughts racing obsessively around in the dark.

Thank you Ruby for the fearsome dragon tattoo.

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New Show opening August 14th at Cafe Racer

I’ve made a change of my plan. I can’t work on this project right now. It’s so sad and since I haven’t been too happy lately the addition of working on this has sunk me lower than I thought possible in the summer. I also didn’t feel right about rushing this work to finish it by the show deadline. I will pick this back up as soon as I feel healthier again. So for the show I am switching back to some drawings and paintings I had been working on before this project came to me. At least this way my work on the walls won’t make Kurt’s customers cry.

(This is a work still in progress of The Spiral Minaret of the Great Mosque in Samarra. It is something of an indication of the direction the work is going)

Most of the work relates to the devastating toll of the Iraq War in terms of Iraqi citizens and culture. This is a major departure for me artistically; I have never done work with political content. The majority of my work has been very personal, and I suppose this is as well at a certain level but via sympathetic feeling and reaction rather than any personal experience whatsoever.

I am generally so absorbed in exploring my own issues that I would never think to make any sort of altruistic statement or protest through my work. I initially stumbled across my subject by accident. I had been doing loads of research trying to find direction for my thesis, which usually devolved into my looking for my favorite works of art because looking at them made me happy but I pretended in my head that it was for research. I have always especially loved the art that originated in what is now Iraq: art from Ur, Uruk, Sumer, Babylon, Nimrud, Islam.

As I was hunting for my favorites I kept discovering that many of them had been stolen or damaged or destroyed since the Iraq War began in 2003. I then wanted to find out what has been lost and what remains intact.

I started to feel strange about being so concerned about the loss of art and architecture when so many people have been killed. I began researching how many Iraqi civilians had died, I had already heard reports of close to 300,000 but wanted to know if that was accurate and how that number was reckoned. In all my research the database of Iraq Body Count was consistently cited as the reliable list of identified deaths. When I read how many were on the database and how many more were estimated dead I was sickened. The only way I can describe how I reacted when first (and still) reading the Iraq Body Count database is to compare it to the reaction of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars when Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

When I get an idea for a body of work I usually see the finished project then have a flash of a high-speed sequence of each element of the work clicking into their proper spatial relationship. This is what happened here: I wanted to black gesso over white gesso on paper and board. On that I would make drawings of compromised artifacts or architecture, but instead of lines or shading I would carve the image out using the names of killed Iraqi citizens. So far it is coming together well with the visual and contextual impact being what I imagined.

Some may find this art offensive or heavy-handed or insensitive. I apologize to any who find it to be any of those, I mean for this to express my sorrow at this destruction of so many lives and the culture of the place they live.

My primary research sources have included Iraq Body Count, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/.
I think that being aware of the frightening numbers of Iraqi civilians killed is very important for US citizens right now as we near this presidential election. There is no true count yet but Iraq Body Count has documented approximately 90,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. The true count is exponentially higher:

“This is a list of all named or partially identified individuals in the IBC database as of Saturday, 26th July 2008, together with some of the personal details that are known about them. This list is constantly being updated. The latest version of this file can always be obtained from http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/download/ibc-individuals.php Concerned citizens and advocacy groups have for several years drawn attention to Iraqi victims of the war in public readings and displays using compilations of names drawn from Iraq Body Count and other sources. In any use of these names please give due honour to the as-yet unidentified dead who are not in this list, and whose numbers far exceed the named or partially identified victims. For every identified individual on the current list there are another 21 confirmed Iraqi civilians killed for whom we do not have identifying information. In contrast, virtually every coalition soldier who has been killed can be identified by name and other biographical information.
There is no organised effort to name all victims of the war. Only when all have been identified and duly recorded can there be any talk of respecting their memory. To those who knew and loved and miss them, Iraq Body Count offers its condolences.” -part of the explanation at the top of the list of names in the Iraq Body Count database.

12, 14, 16. April 2008

12, 14, 16 was my final project before the end of our school year. Of all the art work I have ever made this was by far the hardest, both subject-wise and physically. Visually I do not feel that it is among my strongest work, but was necessary for me to do in order to move forward with my art.

12, 14, 16 started out as one 5′ x 36′ piece that I stretched onto the studio walls and eventually cut into three pieces. It was visually inspired by Hellenistic sculpture, most specifically The Pergamon Altar. The female figures are made from my clothes hand-sewn onto the canvas which I had gessoed (you cannot imagine how painful it was to sew). I then used ink, sparkly dust, oil paint, graphite, and oil bars to create the environment and nauseating color. The appliqued photographs are taken from the window of my room I had growing up.

12, 14, 16 is a very personal work that addresses traumatic events which occurred in my youth and their aftermaths. I chose to address this subject in my art because it continually seeped in anyways. I felt that it was time for me to approach this subject in a direct manner rather than continue to not acknowledge where the darkness in my work comes from.

Most important to me was to illustrate reaction to painful events. In my mind it is important for people that hurt other people to be aware of the effects of their actions. And also for the person who has been hurt to be allowed their reaction.
I do not feel that I need to revisit the subject further in my art. I do feel that now I have addressed this so publicly I have no personal limitation in regard to the themes I chose for my work.

The Correspondence Project

The Correspondence Project was the main project I worked on during my second semester at The Burren College of Art. It expanded on my interest in the collaborative process. I recruited 14 writers from the USA and from Ireland. The 14 included professional writers, writing students, poets, song writers, amateurs, journalists and playwrights. Some I knew and others I had never met and found through placing an advertisement.

The only real limitation I set was that the exchanges would be easy to send and download via email. I limited my drawings to black and white as a quality control since color varies among computers and printers.

I sent each writer the same initial drawing. They then sent me a written piece in response. At that point the project split into individual correspondences between myself and each of the 14 writers. Some of the 14 correspondences were extremely prolific, while others petered out fairly soon. This was an expected part of the project and in my opinion was an intriguing aspect that made me question why did things end at the point they did.

For me this was a wonderful experience. It was challenging and rewarding. It expanded the relationships I had with the writers I already knew and introduced me to new people with whom I felt a strong sympathy of ideas. I had planned to continue The Correspondence Project until I graduated, but that does not appear to be possible right now. I renewed a romantic relationship with one of the writers while working with him on the project. With the failure of that relationship I found it impossible to continue. I may pick it back up eventually, but not quite yet.

I am currently contacting some of my collaborators and other writers to start a new project that will be similar to this one, but hopefully less in my control. I would like to initiate this one with us submitting simultaneously, inspired by the collaborative work of Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage.

Escape! November 2007

Escape! was a multi-media installation that was shown in The Project Room (part of the gallery space at The Burren College of Art). My show in The Project Room was due to be exhibited 5 days after I presented Come In and Visit. Due to this time limitation I chose to adapt and re-purpose many of the elements I used in the previous show.

One of the key things I learned doing Come In and Visit was how much I enjoy and appreciate collaboration with others as a part of my art practice. For Escape! I again asked Jon Rentler to collaborate with me. I was very impressed by his writing and also his generosity and enthusiasm. I wanted his work to not be overly influenced by words I used in explanation of the installation. Instead I built him a miniature of the finished installation and told him only that it was titled Escape! To my delight he returned with a series of amazingly creative investigative reports that provided speculative explanation of what took place.

This perfectly suited my idea for the space. I incorporated the cage, the barbed wire photos, redid the tree cut-outs, and the drawings of creatures with angst-filled eyes. I created a net out of the red and blue string that had made the web/ thought matrix in Come In and Visit, and projected Twirly Whirly a video of myself twirling around in the wind on top of the burren.

The concept behind the installation was escape from the cage and eluding all of the traps and barriers of my own making (literally and figuratively) – to freedom.

I was very very happy with how Escape! turned out. I felt that with it I was able to focus the creative chaos of Come In and Visit. Both exhibits helped me to realize that while I really love making individual pieces of art, I am most interested in using different elements to create environments that reflect the concept that I am trying communicate.

Come In and Visit, November 2007

Come In and Visit was my first real project as an MFA student at The Burren College of Art in Co. Clare, Ireland. It was a 3-day multi-media installation in 3 empty studios that I adopted. The project came to be out of frustration and desperation. I experienced an inability to produce satisfactory work at the onset of the school year. I felt unable to explain or defend the work I was attempting. I think that this was because I was trying to continue along the artistic path I had been following for several years, but subconsciously knew it was time to push my art further and possibly in different directions.

In order to break this artistic inertia I decided to reexamine all the thoughts and images I had recorded since my move to Ireland. I wrote out many of my entries to my journals, printed out loads of my photos, and projected and drew some of the small drawings I do whenever I have a pen in my hand. My idea was that I would spread them all out and would find direction for my art work.

For all my thoughts of being stuck I had managed to do a ton of work, but it was not the sort of work that I normally associated with my art practice (painting, large drawing). In order to display this collection of thoughts I took over a group of small unused studios so I could place everything up at once. During this process I had a number of discussions with our tutors which lead me to decide to open the collection up as an interactive exhibition and also to incorporate performance as part of it. The installation involved drawing, writing, photos, videos, music, and performance. My hope was that the end result would be a visualization of the working of my brain.

The show was open for three hours each on three days, all of which I spent blindfolded in a large cage/ bell jar writing and drawing in a new sketchbook about the experience and where I thought it was taking me. Basically starting the whole process all over. Since I was unavailable to assist the visitors my friend Jon Rentler acted as host and observer.

Before the first of the three days I had placed red X’s next to ideas and images that I found significant. The visitors/collaborators were invited to place blue X’s next to things they found significant. Before the second day I strung red string between ideas and images which I felt were connected. On the second day the collaborators were invited to do the same with blue string. On the third day the collaborators were asked to whisper comments and reactions to me through ear holes in my cage.

I feel that Come In and Visit was successful both visually and also in serving the purpose for which it was conceived. It forced me to look at things I had been avoiding and glossing over in my art. Most of the work I have done since had part of it’s origin in this work. It was very hard putting my private thoughts out there for the public to see, but this showed me how kind and respectful people can be. I no longer feel that I need to hide the darker side of me, which is very important because it is through the art making process that I am able to exist and work with that darkness.

Some posts on the walls:
-how does the shadow manifest itself in me?
-I think it’s been on the outside a lot
Obsessive/ possessive

-the little prince –I am visiting other planets when I try to see as others see!

-reflection, evolution, mutation, revolution –both revolving and revolting
-float, float, float, fall, then swoop and fly

-circle the target then shoot and hope nothing comes to get me

-sometimes I think it would be fun to be a lunatic
-I have a love of the broken. I close my eyes to the brokenness. I don’t want to fix, I live with the broken until I break myself. Then I rescue myself, over and over. Is it selfish to use the broken in this way. Is it a way to moderate my own cycle of breaking. I would probably break with the whole –and make them break too. The same cycle happens in my art.
-I sometimes feel less evolved and have found that the best outlet for that part of my personality is in artwork. But that part of me rejects planning.
-Martina said she thought I like to place myself in situations of personal fear – I believe she is right- I think it goes back to my determination for self-rule
-finding my space- part of my claustrophobic tendencies and part of my art
-the physical of the idea
-destruction/ emergence
-I think my super ego is out to get me. I didn’t think so before, but then I didn’t know what my super ego was.
-This may explain my history of head injuries, spilt drinks, and sprained ankles. I think I have mistreated my ego horribly!
-remaking nature – relate to making the unnatural natural and the natural unnatural
-I like it when it seems like I am looking at my own vision, but through someone else. But I also get sad because they expressed it before me
-I miss painting for the joy of painting. It’s feeling wrecked right now. I feel like I need to explain and analyze it before starting, which stops it because the reasons why I do anything usually become clear as I paint- my clearest, freest, and happiest time
-I hurl myself into an idea, know exactly where I am going. Then it usually gets to a point where it’s all fucked up and needs to be rescued. Then I question it all- why, how, should I quit and start anew, it it worth continuing with the idea? –almost always in a way
-pressure/ fighting back
-blocks/ barriers/ fences/ snarls – constant – isolation
-why do I never show the open? I make obstacles for the eye to navigate, but to get to what?
-what is up with me and trees –I really do like them, but they have become animated in my imagination
-I am nicer than ever before. I think I maybe care less
-I miss color, why do I use muted colors now? I think it’s a part of a certain timidity based on uncertainty -of place and understanding
-color is joy and chaos and freedom and confidence – not confusion
-fewer colors and less to understand and control – but doesn’t work – I crave color – better to throw myself off the brink into?
-I like it when an artist forgets something and obviously goes back and sticks it in – supremacy of the idea
-I hear better when I draw- why? How?
-twist landscape artist- I picture inward in the landscape –about self in place. Landscape = place to me. A metaphorical landscape.
-my thoughts on the power of nature and my feeling of smallness and sometimes not welcome or out of place
-I feel that nature is resentful or patiently waiting for me to be gone – but not always here
-why do I always draw my fat little roundy people/ scary birds/ circles/ people with crazy anxious eyes?
-I find that I have a hard time maintaining concentration – my doodlies act as a filter
-I am distracting myself in a passive way in order to avoid further distraction
-I do have a recurring sense of melancholy in my work –a reflection of my years of depression and what came of that
-sometimes I feel like a pair of floating eyeballs
-I seem to have returned to my beginning.
-I seem to have returned to my beginning. I feel doomed to go in a circle forever
-I need to get spun out of the cycle and fly out into the unknown
-something like the Ophelia
-poor impulse control in my history – less so now, perhaps too much correction
-confronting things I hide- but I don’t feel this must be through my art
-what matters most –the process or the end piece – for me they are one, but nobody else really cares about my process unless it relates to them
-holes become figures
-it (I) fight to be free, but the struggle doesn’t show
-what do I not want to do?
-give in/ give up
-I often have an overwhelming sense of pressure
-I think my art relates to a personal mythology that centers around fear or sex or the one regarding the other
-I have always exposed myself in my art –it may seem vague but to me it’s quite obvious
-caught/ trapped/ blocked
-I think I see more in my own art than is actually there to see
-pushing back like looking toward an emptiness
-I make screens to push through to get free –about love and sex and relationships
-break through or shut out
-I think that self-rule is my motivating force. Usually makes me work extra hard so I cannot be caught
-want to be clear/ not empty
-holes with escape holes
-I like the physical nature of the senses –vibration, microscopic particles (smell has weight) –except vision, it has no physical
-keeping things out or trapped
-I like to think that my art is very personal, but maybe I am just inventing justifications
-I take about 1000 photos a week, I am able to not worry about the artistic integrity of them. Not because it doesn’t matter –more because I crave the immediacy .
-I am confident in my ability to take photos with which I am satisfied… I often wonder why I never relate to my photos as art
-I think I see the camera as such an extension of my brain –more a vision of my inquiry and obsession.
-brain: blue, blue, blue / camera: blue, blue, blue
-to break free of boundaries. Feel like a caged animal
-pressure and tension. A sense of waiting

Notes from inside the bell jar:
-I didn’t realize how much this would be about other people
-Me as one of my peoples
-I can feel people watching me
-Big Star always makes me think of . I always feel sad when I think of him. But I think that is destined not to be.
-Everything makes me feel colder. –the music, the people talking
-Cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold cold FUCK
-What the fuck was I thinking!
– I am going to write using the camera.
-I have oppressed him, I wonder if he is as bored as I am

-I really should get back to my experiments in synesthesia

-I think it’s weird that “I feel like floating eyeballs” was my most significant idea to me
-had the most connections
-I think I am being watched
-This is a fucking freaky feeling
-Is anyone still out there?
-I think today is harder, but I thought it would be easier
-I am so aware when people are near me
-This is such a strange feeling.
-I am definitely starting at all the noises. This is much more like being in the woods
-I swear a lot in my journal. I wonder if I could ever stop swearing. Even in writing
-Someone is right here. This keeps fucking freaking me out
-I am hearing things that make me sad again.
-I don’t know if this is supposed to affect me in this way
-Am I his Ophelia?
-Today was more and less intense
-I am being watched
-This is generating paranoia not ideas
-I’ve been in here too long
-This is making me realize that maybe I don’t enjoy the gaze after all
-It’s so cold and empty in here
-This has changed completely now
-I am only drawing dark today
-I think I resent being looked at but I made myself be like this
-I am eavesdropping. This is so strange. People are having personal conversations here- forgetting that I have ears.
-It’s sort of like if you don’t talk they think you cannot hear
-I am happier with them ignoring me, but I sort of miss the attention
-The girl with the crying flower eyes
-I think Jon has left me? Did he go somewhere else?
-I feel left to die
-Music like snakes
-This is a huge waste of time
-I will ignore the outside now. I will only listen to the music. I can’t do it. I only want to stop feeling like this. This song doesn’t help
-I’m starting to get sort of sleepy and a bit meditative
-I wonder if this is still working?
-I will draw all of my favorite things now. Just to keep me from freezing my ass off.
-small dogs, spaghetti, American cheese, black gel pens, the flowers in Mommy’s garden, gallows frame mines, PBR, the bright blinding sun, roadtrips in old cars, shows
-I wonder if people think I am sick or crazy
-Definitely obsessive and self-obsessed
-I think I am understanding more of what this is really about. I’m not sure that I fully know though
-I am prompted to ideas and reaction by people and music and my own brain. Mainly the music
–it’s clearer how much this means
-I am sort of forgetting that other people exist
-It’s so weird what’s going on
-Someone is close again. I can feel them circling.
-Fucking sharks-how odd, I am starting to respond in an animalistic manner
-I think that people think that I cannot react or do anything
-my cage is starting to feel smaller
-The dynamic changes according to who visits.
-I want to get out. I have impatience
-It’s so odd to not have this place be about me. But I like it too. It seems like at least it’s a place that people feel okay. Which is strange because it’s surrounded with me
-I Love, Love
-I should just loop this song over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
-I didn’t realize that I now sense the presence of certain people
-This is generating personality specific reactions by me
-This is going on way too long
-I now understand what they mean by this being an endurance piece. But the only thing that bothers me is that I am freezing.
-And how hushed people are
-Is this that serious?
-I feel a bit pretentious
-I hope I haven’t hurt anyone’s feelings
-This would be horrific without my notebook
-This song reminds me of my lovely childhood. I love when I am instantaneously dragged back to my happy times
-But certain people definitely make me feel like I am in a cage.
-Certain people don’t make me feel like I’m in a cage. They make me feel more like I am just sitting in another room
-I am doing a performance for nobody
-It’s sort of nice
-Definitely the most relaxing this has been
– ’s lovely song is on. The one about . I wish that someone would feel that way about me
-Today I am learning to not rely upon others. Yet again. It’s something I just don’t understand. I would never just leave someone hanging like this
-This is the most comfortable I have been in here. Probably because I don’t feel so exposed
-The in-between is both too much and too little
-I remember that this process is about me
-The girl who cries string
-It’s best when I forget where I am at
-My drawings are so dark. Why do I always draw dark things.

GIRL: I think you are very brave to let people inside of your head

response to BOY: -I don’t know if I would agree with it if he means being critical in the work. By that I mean addressing things –I think it’s important to be honest in ones work. I find hiding ones opinion to be cowardly or fake. At least for me. I prefer to let my opinion be known –and if I were not to do this in my art as I do in my life wouldn’t it be a bit of a sham?
-I think some feel I should tone things down a bit, but I won’t and can’t.
-I am actually starting to like being in here. It’s a bit comforting.
-I am starting to think of this as more of a nest than a cage
-Get out of my head
-Is there a reason I am in a cage?
-I’m free!