A Note on Why I've Been Quiet

The past year has been, as I am certain it has been for many, a bit of a trial.

Personally, I've been... hiding? Stealing the space and time needed for the necessary and painful processes of healing. Learning to function as a better human despite the imperfections of my body and the scarred bits of my soul. Struggling to comprehend lessons which I've carried too much shame for not having learned yet (despite never really having a teacher), and setting down that extra burden, too.  Slowly mastering the curricula of my self.

I do live to create, of course, so I have not abandoned my art even if I've been quiet in "the world". I've been working on some new abstract paintings based on the ying/yang symbol I'm calling the Personal Tao series. I've made some progress on Carina and have done a few other ad-hoc paintings and crafty-sort of things.  I'm developing some weaving projects and some political works that will take a bit of logistical doing. In general, simply trying to capture all of my fireflies of inspiration in as many mental jars as possible. (They're so pretty!)

Challenge the first:  We relocated, from our cramped-cluttered-cozy-Camberville walk-up to a (relatively) sprawling (still tiny) 1950's suburban tract ranch house. The property - for a number of reasons - seemed destined for us, and I'm more than happy that my beloved has clawed back 22 days worth of not-sitting-in-traffic time as a result of this move.

Settling into a new home always requires more adjustment than I expect, and this transition has been no different. The physical and psychic dust hasn't quite settled yet, but I have a studio set up now (for reals, mostly). Our living space is still not exactly where we want it to be yet - but at least the 80's-hotel-vinyl wallpaper is gone, and our cozy bedroom is our signature deep, beautiful red. Our honey-do list for home improvement and garden/land work keeps rolling on, adding new ones as fast as we're ticking off projects we've done.  At least our garden was healthy enough to go feral, and thanks to targeted irrigation abundant enough to not only feed the wildlife but to give us at least 200 pounds of tomatoes and tomatillos over the course of the season.  (However, I have learned a lot about what to not and not do for next year - Mother Nature is nothing if not a strict schoolmistress.)

Challenge the second: Despite the pleasure I take in gardening and the gradual us-ifying of the house, a shadow has loomed over it all: a creeping, chronic, pain that mostly radiated from my chest and core but attacked my feet and hips and shoulders and left me, at this time last year, literally crying as I tried to get out of bed in the morning.

So after some diagnostic mystery-solving, a sharp and intuitive physical therapist literally changing my life by going on a hunch, and lots and lots of rejiggering my "normal", I'm finally - after a literal year - in a place where I can wrap my head and life around the pain, so that it has diminished enough to let me be *ME* again. 

My pain is largely caused by a chain reaction caused by an odd quirk in my body's structure, which is both boon and bane. It is a gift because it can be largely addressed by things I can do, on my own, with supportive help from experts; it requires no opioid dragon to tame nor does it carry the menace of an immune system turned against me. (Rather, it's the arduous and tedious task of retraining large chunks of my neuromuscular system one block at a time) . It's a curse because there is no "cure", just lifelong awareness and management and an ongoing commitment to practice the physical therapy techniques and exercises that keep me moving and my pain at a tolerable level.

So this past year has been one of, above all, regaining balance. I have felt at once both alienated from and trapped within my body by my pain; both too far outside of and withdrawn into myself to make contact with much of the world comfortable. (That, and 2016 as a whole has been a fustercluck of a year, so that hasn't helped.)

The good news is, I am emerging from this forced hibernation with a renewed sense of purpose.  There really isn't any bad news at the end of that, it really is very good news. (The bad news is I had to go through it at all, I guess?)

I'm in the mid-to-late steps of developing pathography.org, a site dedicated to chronic pain and illness. Patient stories (pathographies) and experiences will be front and center - my own are all I have to start with, but my hope is to gain contributors and a community along the way.  I aim to eventually be a deep resource for those suffering from pain, expanding to help not only primary sufferers but their families, caregivers, and medical teams as well.

It's a big goal and I plan to meet it. For those of you who love my art, do not despair, I will return to it after the New Year. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and expect much more life around these parts.

The Making of "Valence"

One of the great things about art and design is being able to take inspiration (and instruction) from pretty much anywhere. But once the flint of the imagination is struck, and the design goes from nebulous to (mostly) concrete, the build begins.

The owner of the salon wanted something similar to this (but not quite as static) and in looking around for things that would be more harmonious with his current, yet evolving, decor I found this.

I took that idea and ran with it as hard as I could. Being a fiber artist, the use of quilting hoops was immensely appealing. Being a science geek, I loved how the lines invoked the atomic symbol in my brain. And being an ambitious little cuss, I thought - why just one shell? How about three sets of hoops to make three nested spheres of movement and loveliness?

I (re-)learned while building this piece (and Code:AVANI) that nothing happens quickly in woodworking. Like most natural materials, wood absolutely will not be rushed - and prep work is absolutely critical. Prepping the surfaces carefully and with attention to detail are pretty much the only things you can do to make wood look amazing - and there are no short cuts.

After oodles (and oodles) (and oodles) of sanding, I needed to stain the three sets of hoops - while the natural wood is pretty, it didn't work well with the client's current and evolving decor.  I experimented with an all-natural, kitchen-chemist steel wool and vinegar stain, originally. But it didn't give the effect I wanted, so I went back to tried-and-true Minwax in English Chestnut (for the outside surface) and Red Chestnut (for the inside). 

The hoops stained, stacked carefully on our table to dry. This is pretty enough on its own to inspire some other pieces brewing in my brain currently.

The hoops stained, stacked carefully on our table to dry. This is pretty enough on its own to inspire some other pieces brewing in my brain currently.

Once the stain was set, I needed to attach the hoops to the central structure. The fact I was using 3 concentric levels made this problematic when it came to the "clamping" part of the adhesive process. I started with these three hoops on the central stalk, then realized I did NOT have the proper tools for this. Even with extra-long C-clamps, there wasn't enough room for them to be set and supported properly. My salvation was in the Sears hardware section...

This one time, at band clamp...

This one time, at band clamp...

Once I got the proper tools I was able to put it all together all at once. I think I might do something different next time I make something similar. Balancing was a royal pain, so change #1 will be to enlist another set of hands...

(center strut is unstained at this point b/c the adhesive needs clean surfaces)

(center strut is unstained at this point b/c the adhesive needs clean surfaces)

Once the glue in the support structure was dry I was able to add in the "interesting", non 90-degree parts of the sculpture. Once all the shells were in, I placed a few nuts and bolts at some strategic joints. I didn't want to secure all junctures because I wanted the ability to shift and move the inner hoops relatively freely.

P1020484.JPG

After that, it was a matter of threading the store-bought socket kit (as opposed to the ones I built for Code:AVANI) and installing it.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Yeah, I'm pretty proud of this one. These pictures really don't do it justice - I'll fix that soon, I hope.

You Are Here: Maps and Art at NAVE Gallery in Somerville, MA

I've been buried in this project since the middle of June, and I'm happy to say if you live in the Boston area you can see it at the Nave Gallery until August 18. (Gallery hours are limited, though: 1-5 Saturday and Sunday). 

 

The exhibit is remarkably strong and I'm honored and humbled to be part of such a great show.  The show info is here: http://navegallery.org/wp/you-are-here-maps-and-art-2/

In front of the piece at the show. GIven the subject, I shouldn't be grinning that hard. But I am proud of it. 

In front of the piece at the show. GIven the subject, I shouldn't be grinning that hard. But I am proud of it. 

 

The statement for MY piece, "Mission Accomplished?" is as follows:

Close up of  Mission Accomplished?  

Close up of Mission Accomplished? 

 

On March 20, 2003, the United States led an international military coalition into Iraq. Forty-two days later, on May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush gave a speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare a victorious end to the major combat operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Behind the President hung a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished”.  More than seven years later, President Barack Obama declared an “official” end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, though thousands of soldiers remain in Iraq as part of a differently-named military operation.

A pin has been placed in this map in the Department of Defense's “Hometown of Record”  for each American solider who was killed during the entire seven year, three month duration of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

White pins represent the 140 soldiers who died during “the war”, the forty-two days between March 20 and May 1, 2003.

The yellow pins stand for the 4,269 soldiers who died in the seven-plus years following the Bush Administration's announcement of the end of the Battle of Iraq - between May 2, 2003 and the final Operation Iraqi Freedom military death recorded by the DoD on August 22, 2010.

The data was sourced directly from the Department of Defense casualty lists, available through https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/ The soldiers represented here are only those listed as serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, exclusive of all other named combat operations in Iraq or elsewhere.

This map does not show any of the non-fatal casualties, any casualties incurred by private mercenary corporations, nor any of the civilians who died in this conflict.

The frame's headlines, articles, and letters detailing the national discourse surrounding US involvement in Iraq are from the New York Times, between October 1, 2002 and June 2, 2003.

 

 

Painting to be Exhibited March 17-29

"Before\After: Experience, Perception, Context" was created for the "21 Days of Questions/365 Days of Action" events of 2013, a series of domestic violence awareness events across Boston and Cambridge, organized and curated by Hope Riccardi and Violence Transformed.

I am extremely excited to be included in this exhibit, and incredibly proud of the artwork itself. An exploration of the effects and experience of violence (and trauma), I have never had a piece be so insistent on its own creation. So far, it resonates with each viewer in a slightly different way, which pleases me. What will it say to you?

The exhibit will hang from March 17 through March 29 at the Cambridge College gallery located at 1000 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge.

Artist's reception and performance art will be from 4-8 pm on Saturday, March 23, 2013

More information about the exhibit and Violence Transformed can be found on the organization's website, here:  http://www.violencetransformed.com/