Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Musings

Today is Memorial Day -- a holiday initiated in the 1860’s to honor those who died in the Civil War and, since then, honors all soldiers who gave their life in combat. However, over time, this holiday has come to be more about the joys of a three-day weekend, outdoor BBQ’s and summer starting soon. I, myself, had my fill of BBQ yesterday while volunteering at the Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department annual fundraiser – a great spirited community event and part of what I love about living in a small town.

But today is not about BBQ for me. Today, I will drive to the East Bay to meet with my students at JFK University to watch two documentaries, each about an artist honoring death and change. The first is KayLynn TwoTrees Trail of Hope: The Building of a Ceremonial Earthwork produced by Jean Donohue. It documents the creation of a large spiral carved into the earth in the Ohio River Valley that honors, with ritual and intention, the various people’s of that landscape – those present and those past (including the Native Americans killed in the Trail of Tears).

The second DVD is Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision directed by Freida Lee Mock. The bulk of this film is dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The first time I saw this film, I was just stunned by how young Maya Lin was - a 21 year old student - when her proposal won the jury’s vote. She had to fight to keep her vision from being distorted by politics. In the end, she created one of the most powerful memorials I have ever experienced. As she describes so eloquently in the film, she designed the memorial as a cut in the earth, so that you walk down into a subterranean space to find the name of the loved one who died - you can reach out and touch that name, trace it with your fingers, feeling the intensity of that loss as a cathartic moment. Then you walk back up into the light, into the world of the living.

In watching both of these DVD’s I was struck by how important it is to create space, both physical and temporal, to confront and honor death and loss. Memorial Day, despite its festive atmosphere in our country, is an opportunity to do just that. Both KayLynn TwoTrees and Maya Lin remind me how art can provide that invitation to deepen by shapeshifting the pain of the past into something that heals and transforms the present and future.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Contemporary Quarterly: Art and Text

I am pleased to have been curated into an online exhibition and quarterly publication called Contemporary Quarterly – which is dedicated to putting contemporary art in context. This issue's theme is "art and text," and it includes some of my work from Mapping the Body as well as art by Donald Farnsworth (whose work is on the cover above), Arthur Huang, Rachel Wieking, and Catherine Courtenaye. Each artist’s work is quite distinct offering a nice affirmation of the myriad ways text can be incorporated into art. As the curator Robert Tomlinson explains in his essay, “The five artists represented here are as diverse in their imagery as they are in their choices of mediums. They are, however, unified in their use of text as a means to marry content with form to transform the common and ordinary into the personal and profound.”

You can view the online exhibition which features a clever room by room 3D format by clicking here. Or download a free pdf version of the catalogue by clicking here. Or purchase a hard copy catalogue for $20 by emailing

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Magic Mail

Amid the bills, catalogues, magazines, and other post box ephemera, I found this jewel – an artist’s book by Alisa Golden. Several weeks ago, I signed up for a subscription series by this Bay Area book artist, and Time Travel was my first installment. Not only was it magical to get an unanticipated treasure in the mail, but the book itself is full of the whimsy – uneven pages, varying textures, and even a tea bag filled with the words “read me.” What a delight. What a reminder that art need not be complicated, expensive, or formal. This tactile treat made my day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007 Launches a Podcast!

It’s official. The Arts & Healing Podcast has launched! Britt Bravo and I have been working to birth this new feature of for the last several weeks. It is very exciting to see it go live. For the first two podcasts, Britt interviewed Alli Chagi-Starr who speaks so eloquently about art and activism, and Britt also interviewed me (as the director of about my life as an artist. You can tune in and listen to the podcast on your computer, or subscribe thru iTunes by clicking here.

Here are some of the other podcasts I listen too. In listening to these, I experienced the enlivening power of hearing people’s voices online, and it inspired me to enrich with audio interviews.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Inspirations for Object Makers

I have been combing through my notes from Photo Lucida today – in particularly googling several artists who were recommended to me by Leslie Brown at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston.

I started with Robert Hirsh whose installation World in a Jar: War and Trauma includes 800 bottles of found imagery of horrors from the past three centuries. This project startled me. In 2002, when I had the dream that led me to collect and work with bottles – the figure in my dream had told me “you can bottle nightmares.” And so I tried. And I had to stop because I realized I was not psychically strong enough to work with nightmare imagery. My project, Bottle Dreams (one piece is pictured here), became instead about bottling memory, emphasizing its fluid and fragmentary nature. I marvel at the fact that another artist who I have never met pulled through such a similar idea. It affirms my belief that there exists a collective soup of ideas floating around in the atmosphere seeking artists to channel them into form. Very often it is more than one artist that heeds that call, transmitting it into form in his or her own unique voice.

I also looked up the work of Susana Reisman and learned so much from the way she engages her “ambivalent relationship to photography” by creating sculptures out of photographs printed on canvas. Next she constructed sculptures with blank canvas, recording photographically how light interacted with them. I resonate with her shift from making sculptures to making sculptural objects that are meant to be photographed. I love the playfulness and sublime abstraction in her work.

I also explored the historical archive of The Laboratorium, and then admired the beautiful, haunting emulsion transfers of David Prifti. Now, my eyes are full and the mixed media artist in me has been deeply fed.