Back to My Future

I am back in Ballyvaughan and have been mentally preparing myself for the questions I am going to have to answer in regard to what I plan to work on this year and how my work has changed and why.

I have returned with a sense of emancipation from my old worries and am getting really excited to get to work. I think my world is a happier place than it used to be. It will be challenging and exciting to go back to my work with a new perspective. I feel that I am looking into the unknown I have always craved and rather than fear I feel anticipation and excitement. Like I can feel that this new place is filled with light and joy, unlike in the past when I thought it contained things of which I needed to be wary.

I have been having this image in my head that my soul had been scabbed over. That I never healed properly from the things that caused me pain and I had become covered with scabs that both initially protected me but eventually acted as a barrier between myself and the rest of the world.

And that the work I have been doing -not just this year, but also the years leading up to now -has been a ripping off of those scabs. But the last big bits got ripped off too fast and too many at once and left me raw and exposed and in pain. Despite that initial trauma I feel this time instead of being a soul patched up with hard scabs I am now actually healing properly. I still have scars, but they are healing not just crusted over. I haven’t felt that my soul was whole and accessible like it is now since I was a kid.

I am returning to me, but a different me. It’s such a strange feeling. And I don’t know quite how to express it in person yet.

I have always been very independent -to the point of pushing people away and not accepting their input. And it has been lonely, although I never realized that until recently. I do miss the give/ take of interaction and working with people. Because of the way I have isolated myself I have needed a way to reach out and connect with the world. My art is the thing that is most me and carries me through the world and has proved to be my way of trying to communicate. But the one way interaction of just throwing things out into the public to be looked at was just not enough.

I think The Exchange is a way for me to become a part of the world and to create that sort of relationship that I have missed. And the great part is that I will be communicating from the place of me I love the most: my art. And will be getting art back in return from my co-participants as their portion of our relationships. I think this is the best possible project for me to start this year off fresh. I know that I will be working on many other projects this year, but haven’t a clue what they will be. My sense is that they will spring from the ideas and work that The Exchange inspires.


Next project: The Exchange!!!

It’s going to be a while before I put up more art, but I am looking for people to work with me on my next project. If you or anyone you know is a writer, musician, artist, or photographer who may be interested in participating in a new project similar to but more egalitarian than The Correspondence Project please get in contact with me!!!!! And by musicians I mean contributing music and by artist I mean any type of art.

Rather than my sending out an initial drawing and then receiving responses, The Exchange will involve spontaneous(ish) exchanges. I hope this will remedy the main issue I had with The Correspondence Project (overall I thought it was great). I felt that the initial image I sent out set a tone that remained throughout the project. With the simultaneous exchange the series’ will hopefully equally reflect the influence of both me and and the other contributor.

And I am really excited to open up the exchange to different media. I responded very strongly to the work I received from the writers and am curious to see what will happen when I work with people in other mediums as well.

I plan for The Exchange to be the visual counterpart to my written thesis and will continue it at least until the end of the school year and hopefully much longer.

A quick visit to my older art.

I wish I could go back and put this at the beginning of the blog, but I can’t. While it seemed appropriate to start this as a showcase of my more recent art it does seem strange to not show what a break this was from the work I formerly did. I have been thinking that I would like to bring back the cool distance of some of the work I did a few years ago, but am not sure that is possible at this point.

No matter the outcome it is always worth looking back occasionally and seeing where you have been. This is a chronological trip through my short art career.

Early prints and drawings:

Probably my first successful art idea was doing a series of prints based upon one of my favorite albums: Dusty in Memphis. My images are pretty literal visual interpretations of certain songs. This series remains the favorite of many of the people who know me and my art well. I’ve been told that it is partially due to the sense of my happiness in what I was doing that they see in the images. Which seems strange to me because while I was happy to be doing these the images are mainly about isolation.

Figure Drawing:

I LOVE FIGURE DRAWING!!!! I love to lose myself in the pull of the model’s body. I never learned to love figure painting as much, I think because I enjoy the immediacy of drawing and following the light around the figure. I wish I could do more figure drawing at this point in my life, but time doesn’t allow for it now. I’ll go back to it as soon as I finish up with school.

Vespa’s and Ape’s:

I did this series while studying in Rome for a quarter. I have always loved the organic grace of Vespas, but had never seen the little Ape trucks before visiting Italy. This was such a nice series to work on, I would wander around Rome with my parchment taped onto a board drawing all the pretty vehicles. I met so many nice Romans while doing this, they love these vehicles and all seemed to get a real kick out of my doing portraits of them. I finished off the drawings with shoe polish, iron oxide paint, and silver leaf.

More early prints:

Post Apocolyptic visions where all that remains are toppled sky scrapers and flocks of birds. And my angst birds – an early incarnation of these characters who have stayed a constant in my artistic vernacular. Plus some with nice feelings about people paired up.

Early random drawings and prints:

The Tree series of paintings:
The darkness was starting to seep into my work at this point. I felt I needed to find a way to control the images I was making both formally and emotionally so I decided that everything would be okay if I did them all 1:1 scale with the trees I was depicting. I spent day after day wandering around the UW campus measuring tree branches and making diagrams and drawings of them. Yet even with my attempts to subdue the dark it came roaring back in with my Looming Figure. With this painting I drew upon my sewing skills and created a quilt of a 1:1 scale drawing of some trees. I then stretched it and started painting. I stuck with it as trees for a few days then flipped it and worked on it for a couple months with these figures gradually emerging. Bleeding Tree was another one that just sort of made itself. This is what I feel like often when I am hurt, a hard skin with holes punched in it that ooze and ooze pain.

Tree collage prints:
These are less directly ominous, but are still about blocks and uncertainty. I made them by layering printing with collaged wood veneer and paper. I think these are among my very favorite things I have done. And they are HUGE which is always sort of satisfying to me.

Boxed In collage prints:

These were all about my constant claustrophobia and isolation of oneself. They are also about trying to break out of this and back into the world. I continued working at a 1:1 scale only this time the subject was myself. I cut a variety of plexiglass plates and built wooden frames with the same inside dimensions as the plate edges. I then smooshed myself into the frames and took timed photos of myself in these positions. I then layered collage and print until I was satisfied with the claustrophobic effect. This was the last group of work I did before starting my MFA. Although very different in appearance, I see a continuation of context in the work I have done since.

Lost in the night and the fog you have no place.

Lost in the Night and the Fog You Have No Place. I found that sentence written under a drawing in one of my sketchbooks from this past year and it seemed to fully sum up the state I had reached after 6 straight years of the toil, isolation, and self-critique of art school.
The images and words of this show are enlarged snippets lifted out of my sketchbooks. Stylistically they are a return to the type of little paintings I did before I had any training, but subject matter-wise they are a continuation of the examination of self that I have been doing this past year in Ireland. Some of it is very sad and some of it is very strange.
Lost in the Night and the Fog You Have No Place turned out to be a sort of clearing out of residue left in my head from this past year and from the difficult turn my brain has taken in these past 6 years. The constant self-examination and critique has taken a huge toll on my psyche. And the level of seriousness with which I have approached my education added to that hugely. I feel that I failed at everything I attempted until I turned to art. And once I recognized that art was the only thing for me I threw my every energy into it with a seriousness that I had never produced before in my life. Which has served me well scholastically but has also backfired into a loss of happiness in my life and even joy in my art-making process.
This past year as an MFA was the most difficult of my life so far. I have delved as deeply and openly into hidden parts of my life as I feel possible. It was important for me to do this but I had put no thought into the after-effects of such exploration.
I returned to Seattle this summer in a state of complete emotional numbness. And soon after my homecoming I experienced further personal upset in a break-up that added hugely to my downward spiral of pain. This was the catalyst of my downfall, I think because I had clung to that relationship as the last thing that brought me happiness. Without it I felt completely detached from the world. For three months I sunk further and further. Initially I blamed this all on the break-up but the further I fell the more I saw that every single thing in my life had been slowly shifted and I no longer had any sense of belonging to anything or anywhere.

The ultimate push into massive depression for me was working on the project I had originally planned as the work for this show. The sadness of it was overwhelming. I would work and work at it while crying the entire time. I think focusing on the pain of others at this moment in my life was both the thing that finally wrecked me and saved me. This forced me to recognise the level of my depression and also made me decide that I am through with being Sylvia Plath and that I was also done with hiding how I am from the people I love.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to find a way for me to let the people in my life know what I have been going through. I have rarely felt comfortable expressing how I feel in person which I think may have been the initial reason I turned to art, and explains the personal context of my artwork.
Once I recognized that I could not survive doing the show I was doing and that it was too late to just not do a show I had to scramble to find some idea that could come together quick and to a level that wouldn’t cause me mortification. I turned back to my notebooks and started culling them for ideas. I decided to return to something I had done a bit at school and did enlarged versions of little sketches and words. Looking through them I saw in my tiny automatic sketches that the despair I currently felt had been seeping out of my brain onto the pages for a very long time.
While doing this work I realized that I have reached the finish of this artistic voyage through the sadder part of my brain. The sources of most of my pain are far in the past and I have addressed them in ways with which I am satisfied. I no longer feel that I am lost in the night and the fog, but I still haven’t found my place. But not having found your place yet is still better than settling into the wrong place.

I do need to address the source of the phrase “lost in the night and the fog you have no place”, but that will have to wait a few days.

And check out the Cafe Racer site for other images from the show:

Queen of the hold outs!

One years worth of me!!

Years ago I realized that while I took bazillions of photos, there were rarely any of me ’cause I was always the one behind the camera.

So I started doing hold outs to record myself in all the places I would be.

This grew into my secret solo photo shoots I do whenever I am bored or want to pretend I am something I am not. It’s gotten to the point where I think I actually take far better pictures of myself just holding out my arm than most anyone else does of me. Probably because I spaz out and get shy and can’t seem to look normal when I pose for others. Except my cousin Bridgette, but that’s a whole nother thing.

So here’s last August to this August. We have me crawling in and out of the cracks of the Burren pretending I am Millais‘ Ophelia, being a fallen statue in the wildflowers, freaking myself out in the thicket ’cause I am sort of afraid of the woods, loving London, performing Come In and Visit, so so sick with the flu in both Brussels and Amsterdam in hotel rooms with no TVs and a book I didn’t want to read, laying in a bed of grass, falling in love with livestock, traveling through Berlin, Prague, and Italy, distracting myself from the pain of a broken heart, and finally happy again in my studio killing time while paint is drying. All in just 40 seconds!