Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer Bugs

What a wonderful summer! Full of fun, nature and art. In June, I worked with high school teachers in West Virginia as an Advanced Placement Summer Institute consultant. We looked at student work and contemporary art, talked about teaching strategies, and they made beautiful things. My goal was to help reconnect them with them with their inner art makers in this studio-based professional development week. It was an intense and beautiful experience.

This picture was taken on the last day of Mary Jane one of my wonderful students (and new friend) after we reassembled the art room at St Albans High School.

I also got to teach at the Wexner Center for the Arts and Columbus School for Girls. At each place I worked with 3rd-5th grade children and we focused on art and nature. My own amazing child was able to participate in both programs. It was a blessing to get to spend so much time with him and his contemporaries this summer.

Dr. Terry Barrett’s course Stories: Narrative Inquiry in Art Education at The Ohio State University offered me a chance to be a student. It was a profound learning experience. This is the link to the blog created, featuring the presentations and writings of the participants. It was a one week intensive and on Friday I read a poem I wrote titled Mulberry Leaves and Heroin

I have continued to create imagery and objects pertaining to houses, silkworms and moths. Two broods of silkworms have completed their cycles since May, and a third brood just hatched on Tuesday, August 31. In this pic you can see them coming out of their freckle sized eggs.

In three days they have more than doubled in size. They will grow from a sixteenth of an inch to more than 3 ½ inches in 4 weeks, take about a week to spin their cocoons, two weeks to transform once they are inside, and come out as moths, ready to mate and lay eggs in ten precious days of adulthood. For now, I feed them fresh mulberry leaves from my yard throughout the day and night. Two adult moths still live out their final hours in the house structure from the brood that hatched in July.
In my art, I use the insects as biological metaphors for psychological states and relationships in humans. Below, I have a series of images of the insects in the houses. My husband crafted the newest house out of discarded wood as I art directed. I am lucky to have him as a creative collaborator. I have documented the insects with over a dozen hours of video footage. I hope to edit it into something or somethings soon.

This was taken before the moths started to emerge and lay their eggs. You can see a fully grown silkworm searching for its spot to spin. Many die in this stage, unable to find a place that satisfies them, they use all of their energy seeking.

This female moth is just emerging from her cocoon. She struggled to get out for hours, but found a mate in less than 5 minutes. She never left this little spot and laid her eggs right on her cocoon. You can see her in the bottom right of the image. The vacated cocoon at the top was from her mate.
This is one of the first females that emerged. They "call" by spraying a pheromone to attract a mate. She saturated this whole area before a male emerged and located her. Later, the same mate got confused by the lingering scent and spent the rest of his life searching under the bed. This female had a total of three mates. Two ended up under the bed. You can see the tattered male by the bed post in the center of this image.

She laid her eggs on the bed itself. At first, the eggs are a pale yellow. If fertilized, they turn dark.

This complex object holds life and death. Moth House does as well. Between the two houses I have more than 100 cocoons. This moth got caught in the "web" of the other cocoons that were spun after its cocoon and died in the trap.

I am sorry that so many die as they try to make it to adulthood. I feel sad that they cannot live in the wild and that humans have bred them to have short, flightless wings. But, ultimately, documenting these dramas give me hope. They connect me with the tiny world of insects that most people ignore or reject. Watching helps me understand the human behavior I participate in and witness. And I think their small soft bodies and docile personalities are beautiful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Painting

This is painted on a full sheet of Rives BFK, quite possibly my new favorite paper. I started off very washy and abstract, adding layers of paint and then the map information, finally doing the detailed cocoons and moth. I have actually worked on the moth to add more form since this pic was taken. You will recognize this image from possible lifeworld part 2.

Contemplative Spring

Spring quarter was time for me to live with my ideas a bit. I did a lot of reading about addiction (Beautiful Boy by David Sheff -the father and Tweak by Nic Sheff, the addicted son) as well as about why otherwise rational people make irrational decisions (Sway written by two brothers whose name I can't think of right off). I mostly stayed out of the printmaking studios (though I missed making prints) and worked on mixed media pieces along with the video work.

This video still is a sketch for projecting onto paintings with my caterpillar imagery. I "kidnapped" a few of the many tent caterpillars that were on campus this Spring for a bug fix and to compare and contrast their behaviors with the silkworms. I loved capturing the moving images as they spun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

possible lifeworld

I am on You Tube!!!

This my first video on You Tube. It is a one minute study of my Cicada House and thoughts about my ideas of possible "lifeworlds", a concept which I have been reading about in an academic course I am taking this quarter.
This article (Wicks, P. G. & Reason, P. (2009). Initiating action research. Action Research Journal, (7)3, 243-262) backs up the questions I have been thinking about in my art and in my life. It talks about opening communication with questions such as “do I understand? Is it correct? Are the motives pure? Does it feel like the “right” thing to do?" (p245).

Also, our video art teacher is AMAZING!!! Check him out and the resources for the course:
Dan Channel

Cicada House

This is a detail from "Cicada House", the second piece where I combined projected imagery with a pre-exsisting doll house. This time, I projected into the doll house (rather than on the outside/front). This piece has a sound track of simple piano music, performed by my friend Lia Eastep that was scored from the sounds of cicadas recorded in nature.

One of the most interesting things about looking at this project turned out to be the colored lights on the wall. The video is of cicadas, which I edited from images borrowed with permission from As it was projected, it was almost undecipherable, just adding mood and magic to the house.

New prints from Winter Qtr at OSU

This is a detail shot of my first stone lithography

This is my first stone litho, "Understairs", 10.5" x 7.75"
Wow! I LOVE drawing on the stone and printing from it. I am still deep into this metaphor of using insects to think about human domesticity.

"Jennifer" reductive screen print, 11" x 15"
This print was a color and technique study, but more importantly, a reflection on the cycles of life and the recent loss of a dear family friend

Installation views for "Cicadas, Silkworms and Posable Dolls"

objects from the Posable Doll Series

Friday, February 5, 2010

Video breakthrough

After various attempts, I am posting still images instead of my second video. It was made to document my first video, which I projected onto the outside of a re purposed dolls' house. The house was abandoned by its maker, donated to a school where it was no longer wanted. I saved it from the landfill. I used it for a project with children (headed up by my son, Ely) and then I took it home where I spent time with it in our living room, making associations with real homes. How they are lived in and sometimes loved by people, but they have their own spirit that stays as people come and go. I also took pics of a beautiful and dilapidated Pennsylvania Dutch home in rural Ohio in the same weeks. Parts of the home are more than 150 years old, and have only the one original layer of wallpaper. The walls are deeply cracked and weathered, clearly showing the damage of time and neglect. When I moved into my art studio at The Ohio State University, I brought the doll house.

Meanwhile, I was raising silkworms. They lived in a plastic tub in the attic (of the doll house). Lots of them died, because their instincts to live have been bred away by the commercial silk industry. In fact, they are extinct in the wild. In the late fall and winter in Ohio my supply of fresh mulberry leaves was limited and many of the larvae chose to die rather than eat the commercial alternative.
At first I didn't see a real relationship between the insects and the house. I enjoyed using OSU's amazing libraries to research silkworms (and cicadas, which also interest me a great deal), wallpaper designs (William Morris, of course and contemporary artists Dan Funderburgh and Jennifer Angus), artists making work that incorporates objects (Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Cornell), creating undefined spaced (Thomas Demand) and delving deep into conceptual works (with Janine Antoni, and amazing artists who are on faculty at OSU Anne Hamilton, Michael Mercil and Amy Youngs) but perhaps I’ve been most inspired by visiting artists, film maker Janie Geiser and artist Sue Johnson and their attitudes about letting the work go where it is going.
Over Winter break, I came to the studio everyday to feed and care for the silkworms, staying most days to work on the house and my litho stone (that will have to be a whole separate post!). I thought both about the nurturing aspects of a home and the sedentary tendencies people can fall into and how “home” can be a trap if you constantly choose comfort over change.
Back to the creatures, the survivors were busily spinning their cocoons, mostly in corners on the first floor of the doll house. As they layered themselves over my wallpaper designs, I realized that practically no one would see the silkworms as caterpillars. And they only live 5 – 10 days as flightless moths, just long enough to mate, if they are lucky to have a partner who emerges at the same time. So, it seemed like very few people would catch them alive at all.

Enter the world of video. I spent two days between Christmas and New Years Day manipulating the lighting in the studio to capture the four remaining silkworms and the one moth that emerged too soon to find a mate within their home. This edited imagery got a sound track of a ticking clock and has been projected on the exterior.
Also in the house are four handmade books (two made Fall quarter, two from installations past), a pile of photos, kids drawings, lacey mulberry leaves and papers, a metal framed doll bed, a tiny library table with two doll sized books and a wooden staircase to nowhere. I have some ideas about what it all means, but I am mostly letting the viewer decide as I move on to what I am making now.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moth House

Here are a couple of shots that my wonderful studio-mate Rachel Heberling took of my most recent art piece in the Hopkins Hall gallery at The Ohio State University at our opening reception on Monday. My delightful husband is looking at the Moth House in one shot and in the other gallery view you can see my dear friend Lia. I hope to do more documentation and post again soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Breakthrough

After a long hiatus, I am making a post to share some images from my first quarter in graduate school.

I find myself in a luxurious space, being paid to be a student and able to make more art than I ever have in any other period of my life. I am laden with ideas, comforted by support and surrounded by inspiration. I have an art studio outside my home for the first time and it is a beautiful space. It was grimy and disheveled when we arrived, three strangers, spanning three decades in age from three different states with three different lives. Together we cleaned, painted and arranged to create a peaceful environment for our imaginings.

I have waited many years to be in this spot and I intend to engage fully, making the most of each opportunity. I am in a place where I am ready to explore and play.

The first image is a collage made from my first ever lithography edition. What an incredible process! I entitled it "Still Breathing".

In addition to plate lithography I have started stone lithography and also worked in various relief processes.

As my final project in releif, I created a variable edition of four books entitled "Ways of Knowing Bugs". Each was made of 2 prints that combined relief and litho with six chin colles. This is an image of one of the mock-ups I made as a preliminary. All of the works are relatively small. The book is 8" tall, each print in the collection above (25 in all) is 71/2" x 11".

The middle image (above) is the most complex lithography I have created, with two plates of color and one with black ink on vellum. It is on display right now in the Hopkins Gallery at The Ohio State University and is titled, "Settled In".

I have been raising silkworms as part of my creative work for the last four seasons.

I brought eggs to my studio at the start of the quarter. I also brought an abandoned doll house that I saved from being taken to the landfill. Somehow the two projects became one and the result is also in Hopkins Hall at the Recent Arrivals show (of first year MFA students). I hope to post more pics from that soon. These are stills from the video that is part of the piece.