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.

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