Sunday, January 10, 2010

This is a tale of adventure

This November I did a residency at Nes Artist Residency in Skagastrong, Iceland. Iceland is pretty amazing and I highly recommend it. Go there.

This will be mostly a picture blog, with a bit of a story

Iceland is covered in very small, low-lying foliage with not very many trees in most of the country. So to me Iceland looked as if it were covered in another miniature world. Like a cluster of very, very small trees in a small tree forest.

I recently did a piece based off of the book, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five, by Doris Lessing. I won’t get into too many details about it, but it is a really interesting bit of feminist science fiction, although calling it feminist seems too limiting. I have since become very interested in women’s feminist and utopic science fiction. I love how they utilize the political power of using one’s imagination, and beside that, science fiction has pretty killer aesthetics.
Speaking of killer aesthetics, Skagastrond has an amazing landfill. I have been thinking a lot about sustainability as I had mentioned in earlier posts, and had recently made the decision to only use trash/recyclables/thrift store or repurposed items to make my work.
I had somehow come into possession of the book The 1983 Annual World’s Best SF edited by Donald Wollheim. In it, I came across the story Written in Water by Tanith Lee. It is a really interesting story about Jaina, the last woman on earth. Men fall out of the sky, presumably sent by an alien race, to help her re-populate the earth. Jaina basically says, hey I never wanted to have a kid, I don’t really trust the human race, and I am fine here by my lonesome. And do you think I want to die giving birth to your alien kids out here all by myself with no doctors? So she shoots him.
I was interested in the idea of the last woman on earth. I had never heard of anyone telling that story before. And I was interested in the idea of the world as essentially a continuance that alternates between nature and culture. Perhaps humans need to die back for a while so that nature can come back and regain some kind of equilibrium. Trees popping up through holes in the concrete and the like.

This piece is an abstract utility vehicle designed for Jaina to sew her crops, whatever those may be. In one point in the book Jaina’s new alien man begins to till and plant her garden. “But he would make her garden grow, oh yes.” This is obviously a metaphor for fertility, but I think it may also be about the need to re-fertilize the soil and the earth as well.

Here is the final piece along with a few details. The balls are covered in the fibers of the old fishing nets that I took apart.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Little residency on the prairie

In October I did a residency at Art Farm in Marquette, NE. Art Farm is literally a farm. Or, I suppose, was a farm. Marquette is one of those towns you may drive through and never really see a town, just a collection of farms and maybe a post office.
The piece I made there was brought about by the collision of two narratives. The first began with what was to me a most exciting find at a thrift store last year. I purchased a complete set of the "little house" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had read these books as a child, and can remember my mother and I watching the TV show together, which incidentally did vary greatly from the books. But as I began to re-read the books, I noticed that they read like a how-to guide of olden-day techniques of survival. I was intrigued by Pa and Ma’s ability to do what ever they needed done by themselves, or for the big jobs, with the help of an uncle or neighbor. I had been thinking a lot about ideas of environmental sustainability, and have been realizing how we as a culture have slowly lost almost all of our basic survival skills. I knew that if the apocalypse did come, I would be ahead of the curve, as Pa could teach me how to build a log cabin and dig a well. That is assuming all the water tables have not dried up in the apocalyptic future.

The second was an article I had found years ago in a AAA magazine I had received in the mail and inexplicably decided to flip through. There was an article in the magazine about a woman named Alice Ramsey. Alice was the first woman to drive across the country in an automobile, or a “horseless carriage” as I believe they called them. She did this with three of her lady friends, but she generally gets the credit, as she was the only one who actually knew how to drive. They did this in 1909, which was 10 years before women even had the right to vote. So basically, Alice is a pretty cool lady. I had earlier come up with the idea to do what I had loosely termed poetic actions, in which I wanted to reenact an important feminist event. When I began thinking about Alice’s journey, I knew that I did not want to simply recreate this event. I wanted to think about it.

I was also interested in the time of both of these journeys, which was slow. I think that there is a lot of political importance to the philosophy of slowing down, not just in how we think about food, but maybe in the way we think about and live our lives, but I am not quite sure yet.

Alice's trip took her through Nebraska, whose roads at the time consisted only of old wagon trails. Apparently around the Marquette area, in the places where there is no corn, you can still find the tracks of the old wagon trains.
Both of these women’s stories are inherently about journeys, but also about movement and progress. Both were exploring and marking territories that were still wild and unknown, at least in the minds of white people. Their acts of movement, the trails that their vehicles left behind, were like making lines on a map. But I also look at these stories and question the nature of progress. The settlement of the west by white settlers is a problematic and shameful part of American history. And connecting one end of the United States together through roads, ushering in travel of both people and goods and services, has been problematic for the environment, at the very least. Though Laura Ingalls Wilder refused to put up fences, all around her fences would be built, portioning up the land and pointing history in a new direction. In the narrative of progress, when do we get where we are going?
I wanted to take my own journey in a vehicle which is a mix of old car parts and barn wood found around the farm. It is a sort of hybrid of the two vehicles that these women took on their respective journeys. Below is the finished piece as well as the aftermath of my flintstones-style foot powered movement inside of it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Piece from Elsewhere.....

These images are from my stay at Elsewhere Artist's Collaborative in Greensboro, NC. Let me start this post by saying that I really like Greensboro. It is beautiful, and most importantly, has Cheerwine in abundance.
Elsewhere is a former thrift store that was turned into a residency by the owner's grandson. The woman who ran it seemed to have a pretty open and shut case of a Depression-era hoarding mentality. That is to say there is a lot of junk in this place. Their policy is that artists cannot bring anything in, or take anything out, in order to make their work.
Luckily for me this place is a fabric lover's paradise. It is a material world and I am a material girl. That's a little humor joke for you.

What follows most likely emanated from my deep-seated need to organize.

The third floor has an intense musty smell. Many of the piles of objects had been up there so long that they were starting to rot. I was thinking about the sharp contrast between the amazing North Carolina scenery and the stale air of all of these rotting things. I had been looking into bioremediation and the cleansing power of plants. This space needed some cleansing.
I began to take pictures of the objects. That old lady had some interesting things. I printed the pictures and cut them out along the edges to make into templates. They had such great organic shapes like territories or countries on a map.
Photographing the objects was both a way to catalog the objects, and to cleanse the space. It seemed like going through these piles and acknowledging each object by documenting it was the first step to giving them a new life. By moving the objects and photographing them, I was also mapping the room, as I had begun to view each pile of junk as a country or territory floating amongst the ocean that was this old building. There is an idea that making maps is simply a futile attempt to know everything about a place. I very much like that idea and find it very apt in this case.

I looked at the boxes as pedestals or plynths. They became the base for my piece and also the storage for this newly archived collection. What became the covering is a topographical map made from transferring the shape of the archived objects onto collection fabric and layering them together. I integrated plants into the final arrangement to add more layers to the topography, and the final touch to my cleansing ritual.
Here are some details of the final piece.