This is what happened in the studio today. I wasn't expecting it. I went to the studio to put some finishing touches on a piece I'm making for an upcoming print show, but I was feeling unsettled: rattled, sad... I just couldn't finish the piece I had in my head. My heart had other plans.

The news gets inside us, permeates everything. Feeling the shock and horror with Brussels today.

Three Days of Mourning

On Artmaking, Feminism, and Intimacy

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about feminism, art, and intimacy, how their roles and influences tangle and intertwine—partially through conversations with a dear friend with whom I share a deep kinship in these realms. She is a fellow philosopher-poet of the arts (and she happens to be a brilliant art historian**)

There is, we concluded, a crisis of intimacy. Not just an intimacy breech, she said, but a crisis of intimacy. This is as relevant in the personal as it is in the political.

This is how it is.

I had a conversation with an intimate recently wherein they were baffled how our personal conflict became became a conflict of politics... but how could it be otherwise? The intimate is political. The political is intimate. There is no deep feminism that does not embody both. Culturally, we seem to have not yet learned this; we have not yet figured out how to inhabit it, how to breathe within it.

Those of us trying to span the gap are suffering its loneliness.

This statement is equal parts personal and political.

When did we extricate the two from each other? When did the abstraction, the academizing make us lose sight of the fact that these are the stories of one or a million female bodies, their rights to themselves, their lives... ourselves, our lives? My face, my fat, my muscle and bone, my wrinkles, my biceps, my knees, my thighs and [the countless articles and online discussions about] the gap that does or does not belong between them, the cubic feet of space that my body inhabits, this belongs to me. Embracing ownership of it is a political act, and the politicizing of that body, my body, can be nothing but deeply personal.

Tina Fey said, in Bossypants, that the definition of crazy as it applies to show business, is "a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore."

We make ourselves smaller. We contain and hedge in our depths; we do not fully inhabit all of our space. We are the bridges slung low and heavy across the canyon. We hold tight to both sides, stretch ourselves taut. We remind ourselves and each other to be narrower and narrower; we should recede into the distance when viewed from either side. We string ourselves between worlds, between realities, for the aesthetics, for the poetics. Our ribs are the planks and we make ourselves ever smaller.

This is our crisis of intimacy.

Reproductive rights, women's suffrage, domestic violence, fair pay, rights to own land... these battlefields are only expansions of the struggles of individuals, the singular and particular life of any one woman, her body, her work, her marriage, her home, her grief, her joy.

The stories we tell in word and image, of power dynamics, of relationship, of microaggressions and transgressions, of grief and loss and joy, the stories and mythologies, the symbologies and metaphors that we build and weave together, these stories are political.

How and if we choose to share our stories is a political act. That fact is inescapable. Silence bellows as loud as what is spoken... or cried... or shouted.

The edges of this is something I have always intuited, as my own work weaves threads of intimacy and personal narrative within broader pictures of cultural place and meaning-making, but this new view, this deepening of my understanding of the mythology, this putting words to it—building narrative in community, it ignites a new spark of understanding, of curiosity, a new desire to parse it out, a new pull to allow myself to reach wider, grow deeper, set loose some of my containment.

It makes the wind of the canyon sound a little more like song.

It makes me feel just ever-so-slightly more brave.


** I am not the kind of person who uses the term brilliant lightly. Seriously, you should check out her work. I'm pretty excited about this upcoming exhibition she curated for Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University:

For Myself: Nudes by Imogen Cunningham, 1906-1939

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976), Self-portrait, 1906, silver gelatin print, 18 x 14”, collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, Ore. A gift of the Department of Art History at Willamette University in Honor of the Class of 2015, 2015.032.

On Compensation and Love

Today I opened my email to find this letter from Portland Art Museum inviting artists to paint pianos for an upcoming exhibition.

I'm familiar with the partnering organization and am a fan of what they do, so I inquired further— namely, I asked about compensation.

Here is the response I got, verbatim, and in its entirety:

$0.00This is purely a labor of love.

I am an artist, and I am accustomed to such requests. Still, this response landed beyond the bounds of what I have been conditioned to expect. There was no half-hearted apology citing budgetary concerns, or promises of 'exposure' and 'opportunity' (whatever that amounts to). There was simply an assertion that my love should be enough.

"This is purely a labor of love." It was almost refreshing in its honesty, in its accidental revelation of what many arts institutions have come to expect of us, the artists they claim to represent. The Portland Art Museum has an annual operating budget in the $15-20 million range. In 2013 (the most recent annual report I could get my hands on), 3% of that budget went to art acquisition, and it's a pretty fair bet that a significantly smaller percentage than that landed directly in the hands of the artists themselves.

I am not trying to single out the Portland Art Museum per se, but I wonder where our priorities lie that this is the accepted norm, the reasonable expectation of artist involvement. I wonder what exactly this proposed labor of love would be in service of. The truth is, I'd love to be involved in this project: it tugs all the right heartstrings: community engagement, arts for underserved populations, art in public spaces. I've seen these pianos around, and I love them. It is also true that I make work for free all of the time. My work is, indeed, a labor of love... but when that labor of love becomes simply free labor in service of a system that exploits artists for profit, when it fuels a capitalistic art market—one that, as an aside, last night brought the highest ticket sale of a work of art to date at a Christie's auction ($160 million for Picasso's Women of Algiers)—it becomes expressly exploitative.

But I'm not sure that even that is what's getting to me the most.

I think it is this, the thing that has kept it nagging and tugging at my mind all day: Why are compensation and love somehow mutually exclusive? Why should we not put our blood sweat and tears into the things we love and also be compensated for those efforts? Have we, when I wasn't looking, all mutually agreed upon this operating procedure? Should there be no support, no exchange, no return for those who are working in service of something that they love? What does this say of the tortured artist trope? The martyr? I try to—and am honored to—give of myself wholly and freely to whom and what I love, but I don't want to give more than I can, get nothing in return. It is not in anyone's best interest when energy flows only in one direction. We need exchange in order to thrive. In short, I think we—all of us—need compensation for our work.

So, no. Thank you for the invitation, but I will not be painting a piano for you this time. Maybe it's time we all stop offering up our services for free and start valuing that labor of love.

Object and Meaning: An Exploration of Brokenness and Repair—Installing the Show

Install Begins

Evan Jones cutting the desktop for the Repair Booth

Repair Booth in progress

Gallery Doors—Wynde Dyer's Soap Bathtub in progress visible through the glass

Paneling the Repair Booth

Install view

Right outside the gallery doors... the mall.

View down into Pioneer Place Mall late at night.

Repair Booth (and/or rocketship) plans

Install view, day 3

The gallery's a mess and the shelves are going up

Shelves for objects to be broken

Finishing touches to the Repair Booth desk

Objects to be broken

Exhibition signage

Install View, final day.

Install View, opening night

Repair Booth sign painted by Justin Rigamonti

Display for objects to be mended

Meditations On Getting It Right

I spent the morning on the phone with my father, talking about the old standbys: life and and love and what are we going to DO with our lives? We laughed about the idiosyncrasies we have in common: the need to understand, the need to plumb the depths, and the need to get it right. He joked about how channeling it into knowing that the cabin of the boat needs to be 3 inches longer is appropriate, other instances, not so much. (My father has a great mind and is, indeed, a boat designer—he really does know if the cabin of the boat needs to be three inches longer.) With my line of work, there are no absolutes, no rights or wrongs, nothing to measure and catalog, no way of knowing I am following the plan, no mathematical equations I can muster or master to make sure that this boat will float. It is all faith and persistence. My life seems wholly this way, all ephemeral, only able to be experienced via sidelong glances, in full color in the periphery, but to clasp it would only make it dissolve into dust in my hand, slip seamlessly through my fingers.

I have been obsessed with maps and patterns, the yellowed tissue of dress patterns, and of course architectural drawings/ nautical plans are deeply ingrained in my aesthetic. One of my first paying 'jobs' was folding plans, blueprints, for my father. He paid me a nickel a piece. I folded them up and he would put them in a big manilla envelope to send to someone who needed a plan, something on paper that would tell them how to make something. What a nice thing—directions, a promise, that if you just do it right, you will have this lovely concrete and functional object when you are finished. It will float and it will hold you up.

It has only been recently that I have come to see the thread between these aesthetic loves of mine. They are all just that, a promise of direction, of success. Maps, patterns, plans—they tell us how to do it, how to get there. We can locate ourselves, and have directions to get to where we are going, a series of steps to follow to get to a place we've never seen, make something that doesn't yet exist. A friend chuckled at me the other day, reminding me that I speak exclusively in metaphor. It's also how I see, it is what the world is to me.

In my phone conversation today, I described this new piece I have just finished. A chine colle of layers of pattern paper over thicker paper, the lines intersecting and pointing different directions, hints at what is supposed to be done, but no answers, not really, and then sewn text over the whole thing, let it be. let it be. let it be...

Meditations On Getting It Right, Chine Colle and Hand-Stitching On Paper

It has never been something I'm good at, just letting it be. I am accustomed to work, to doing and making and planning. He responded with a story, about his adventures as a young man. He had spent a long time fixing up a sailboat, charting the waters, planning for the tides, packing and organizing and then finally, sailing in to Canada.

"Another long day, but we made it into Canada! Quite an accomplishment; more than two years of dreaming and work, pushing forward… pushing forward… always pushing forward." (A snippet from his travel log, included in a story he wrote about the sailboat, Ode to the Missy.)

And then, he realized that he had arrived, that all of his work had led him to the place that he had planned for, and suddenly, he could just be. He told me he made a decision to just allow things to happen, not make any choices, how hard it was, but that when he allowed for it, things began to happen. He told me that one afternoon he was sitting in his boat, mending a shirt, and realized he had no memory of how he had come to choose to pull out the thread or the needle, or begin the work. It had just happened, easily and without force of will. We laughed that if one believed in such things, one could possibly call it something like a spiritual experience.

I think a lot about the ins and outs and struggles of piecing together an artist's life—a life at all—how much work it takes to get there, how much letting go it takes to make it work, the choices we make, the risks we take. It is terrifying and precarious, but wonderful and exhilarating all the same. Sometimes I wish I had chosen something safe, something easier, something with less leaps of faith, more foundation, something with a rulebook. There is always that cliff just within view. But I didn't. I don't. I chose this; I choose this. I chose to spin my life from the matter at the center of my heart, and to try to make peace with instability. So, though the life I've chosen often feels scary, though upheaval is always a little too close for comfort, I will try to balance the planning and the leaps of faith, the pushing forward, and the letting it be.


***New piece on view at SCHOOL/WORK: PCC Cascade Campus Art Faculty and Staff Exhibition. If you're in the area, come visit it (and me) at the opening this Thursday, 4-6pm


There have been some major life changes in the last couple of months. Some good, some hard. No, scratch that... All good. All hard. My feet aren't exactly on the ground again yet, but I've been feeling alive in a way I haven't in a while. It feels strange and brave to talk about this here, but it's what/who I am, right? Isn't that what it is to be an artist? Raw-edged. At least the kind of artist I am, the kind I want to be. I've spent the last few years pursuing the particular vein of making public space for the private and intimate.

It makes me think of my first or second term of grad school, of a man who didn't stay with us in the program for long, but he made an impression. He was a little more than most of us could handle, but he would raise his hand in discussions, and count off on his fingers: raw, naked, vulnerable and lost. This is how he felt, where he was, what his world meant to him at the time. He was an aging surfer, a lawyer, a man whose life had veered from the path he had anticipated, and he was trying to make sense of new terrain.

These things aren't exactly true for me. I don't feel lost. If anything, I feel suddenly, joltingly found. But, new terrain, that's the case, to be sure, and to be an artist, there is always a fair amount of that grappling. There has to be.

I've been waking up in the middle of the night with ideas... feelings and ideas, and today, finally, I gave myself to the studio, to the press, to color and shape, to the particular kind of motion of hours passing while I work. I spent the afternoon with ink on my hands and I feel it all in me again. I feel that river coursing again. I feel like myself. I feel myself, and one notch deeper. I'm excited about this new terrain.

I made monotypes and played with layering color, neither of which I've explored much in a long time.

And here's little a peek at a few of the pieces I was working on.

on the wing of a bird

I've been in the studio again the last few days, practicing making things from the remnants of what's been broken. I am gearing up for a new body of work that is eliciting that tingling feeling in my fingertips, the one that makes everything feel brighter and better... and, you know, possible. I have an installation/performance in the works for next year that's rapidly tumbling and growing into an event I'm pretty damn excited about. There will be more details to come, but in the meantime, here is a detail of the wing of a bird in flight painstakingly constructed from shards of things that were once whole, things I have loved, believed, things that had to be broken in order to take flight: