Final critique thoughts

Creating Neural has been a test mentally and physically. To see it all come together for the first time in the atrium was overwhelming. It was bigger than I expected. More ethereal.

It was sad to reach my final critique in grad school, to know that this opportunity is almost past and won’t come again. Hearing people’s responses to the work made me cry (I saved it for when I got home). As each person spoke, I could feel their emotion and the moment made me grateful.

Reaching the finish line almost killed me. Watching each person interact in the space, hearing how it made them feel, and observing their bodily responses was worth the pain.

On boundaries

What do you do if your boundaries are crossed? What do you do if they’re crossed repeatedly?

Apparently, if you’re me, you kick a hole in a wall that you immediately patch before going to hide in your house because the thought of being on campus makes you feel like torching everything. Thankfully I only kicked the one hole this week but that fight instinct is still there.

Fight or flight is a basic animal instinct honed over time as a means of survival. I read somewhere that its buried somewhere in your psoas muscle. Mine is several levels of fucked so I imagine that fight instinct is looking for a way out. Most of my life, I’ve fallen towards that instinct. I’ve had to battle bullying, a cult of personality/narcissist and his three knife-wielding children, for my life in the hospital, and a few people along the way for good measure. The only time the flight instinct kicked in was when I had to flee Washington in the dead of night, exhausted from battling both a flash flood and another narcissist. Fleeing was shameful. Not because I did anything wrong in the situation, but because it felt like I had failed in that fight or flight response. Like I had failed yet again to undo all the training a narcissist does to you to keep you under their control.

Which brings me to this week. What do you do when the place you built out and had reserved since last semester is taken from you? In some ways it felt like becoming homeless again. Like the deal was vetoed even though it had the support of Congress. I spent over two years homeless, living off people’s couches and in my car, sinking further into depression the longer a foundation was withheld from me. You can be homeless without being home less and just as captivity can become a mindset, so too can homelessness. When I first arrived in Columbus, first settled into my apartment, I was terrified of leaving my house. I was afraid that if I left it for too long it would be gone, vanished, a figment of my imagination. As a child, we moved around too much for us to have a place to call home. It took me almost a year and a half to finish unpacking and decide that I was safe. It was the same for my studio. I couldn’t settle in until I knew I was safe. Now most of my things have been brought home and I took down anything not thesis related from the walls. Its white, bare outside of a photo of Lulu, a point of frustration every time I walk into it. I’m great at leaving places. Not so good at staying.

I’m aware that a large part of my flair up lasting so long was tied into the stress of campus. And with an abscess now sitting right on my sciatic nerve, it feels like a sign to stay the hell away from this place until I’m obligated to be here. The damage was done, shit got changed, and I got the short end of the stick. Part of the deal had been that I was willing to shift my pieces if the first years needed a place to hang and that deal went the way of NATO under Trump.

Which means I have no clue where to put anything for my final crit before install. I can’t figure out the combinations that need to go on the titanium rods or which will be the five free floating. I have nowhere to hang them and I’m not going to stress my body building out another section just for one crit only to have to remove it all over again. The sole reason it came down after last week was because of how many people kept asking if I was removing it immediately due to them needing a space to hang. Maybe I’m in a mood because of Cliff the assfuck from PT (reason for the hole in the wall). Maybe it’s because this time of year sucks for me. March 2 was my father’s birthday, April 2 was his death day, and my life started all over again on May 19th, 2006. I’m superstitious about these dates. It took me over ten years to drive on May 19th. My body was terrified it wasn’t going to make it through the day.

I’ve heard that Icelanders survive the winter, the long days without sun, only to kill themselves when spring begins again. Maybe the sun is too bright, too confusing. Maybe its just this weird fucking time of year when the stars get cross and send mixed messages to our brains. Maybe there’s something about spring that brings the fight or flight response into overdrive.

Whatever it is, I’m keeping my feet and fists away from walls while I try to figure out a way around this mess.

Actual 1st crit thoughts

With my original first crit canceled due to the polar vortex, I was unable to show people the first test in its home in the atrium. Thankfully I take obscene amounts of photos of this piece so I was able to include them yesterday in my actual first crit of the semester along with samples of how things are going to start taking shape within the atrium. I left questions with the viewers to guide the feedback due to the acknowledgement that it was going to be really hard to crit something this far along. I had to make a lot of specific decisions between the two dates, cut 80+ yards of fabric (still 10 to cut in my studio and another 60 on its way), order three different thicknesses of grade 5 titanium (same metal in my body), and feel my way through the process of allowing the fabrics to decide their own fates.

Strangely I am incredibly calm about Neural. I can defend my position and materials and all the strange questions inbetween. I feel good about where I am, almost ahead and ready to just install the damn thing and do the defenses. Truthfully, the writing is the part I’m least worried about. I’ve done a defense like this before. Its all just allowing things to fall into place and find out if I’m still able to use the beam in the atrium like I originally planned.

Maybe its because I had to turn so far into myself over the last few months, to start turning into a black hole, that I was able to birth this piece, to take in all the lessons and pain and love and create my own version of the Big Bang.

What do we create in the space that pain occupies?

What does it mean to make work about pain when the very act of creating it is painful? Have you ever stopped to consider your body? The thousands of systems and messages pulsing throughout that make you move, think, be. Have you ever stopped to consider what would happen when your body became foreign, painful, a prison to be perpetually broken out of just to get yourself out of bed to pee. As a maker, have you ever thought about what it would mean to have the very part of your body you truly create with start to break down? For most people, its a stretch. The idea of your body turning on you and sending spam messages to your neurological pathways is something out of the ordinary. We take for granted the ways in which we move, what our bodies can truly do. For someone in my position, I don’t get to take these small things for granted. I have to think in order to move. Wince and force in order to use my dominant arm. I usually kind of toss it back into its socket and hope it doesn’t pop out again while I’m cutting each piece. Doesn’t particularly last very long as a result of my fibromyalgia and CRPS. So I make work about pain that creates pain with each cut or hanging because the reality that I may one day no longer to make that particular kind of work hangs over my head.

From birth til death, our bodies are covered in fabric, so much so that we no longer think about the myriad of ways it surrounds us. We’re wrapped after we leave the womb and wrapped when we depart this world. Its so commonplace that the idea of transforming it became a need. A desire. A burning matched only by the burning of my skin as my nerves misfire.

I spent a chunk of the break with this idea that I was going to do a thousand iterations, to really start to figure out how all of this comes together. I did some, but the action of repeatedly going up and down and hanging and detaching and rehanging was too much for my body to handle. So I sat with each small change. Only to have Jo-Ey come in my studio, see the pieces hanging backlit on a line, and made me wonder if the work could exist in some way like that. Truthfully, its the easiest of all the iterations I’ve done. And I think it’s the most beautiful. I don’t know what exactly I want out of this particular crit mainly because by the time seminar rolls around in the day I am seven levels deep in this never ending flair up and completely useless as a human. I want to know how this feels. If stalling the activation through hanging on a line can also mimic the ways in which the neurological breakdown of the body occurs. If the pieces need to be fully in the air, casting shadows and taking up a large amount of space. If I’m too stuck in my own body to allow the viewer in or if the piece can be entered into from multiple perspectives and bodies.

Iteration 1:

 

Iteration 2:

 

Crit #1 (Current iteration):

 

For those curious about the symptoms of fibromyalgia (and why I’ve been away from myself as its gotten worse over the last few months), here’s a handy little thing. The worst for me is my allodynia as it makes it hard for people to even hug me or touch me and my hyperalgesia since that’s like perpetually living with the volume turned up to 11.

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Final Crit of the Semester

Neural

It began with a breath, or lack thereof. It was seven years since my father’s last breath, this quiet death that I stared at for what must have been forever. I spent most of the spring semester exploring that breath through video, photographs of bedscapes, and finally- weaving. Weaving became meditative. I focused my breath in as paper weft crossed paper warp. I became aware of my breath out as I felt the image glide through my hands. The act of weaving felt like a creative release: I was focused, motivated to keep my hands moving to watch the image come to life, enthralled by what happens mentally and physically when you slow down your practice. It felt like a universe was blooming inside of me and my hands were struggling to catch up. Through my studio practice into the present, I will be exploring the neurological breakdown of the body through the process of weaving. The warp is the body while the weft the neurological system. I want to explore what that looks like visually. Throughout the year, I am hoping to answer some of the following questions:

  • How can I weave together a narrative?
  • What is it about the act of weaving that calls to me?
  • Can I construct the image itself through the weaving process without having to rely on the photographic image?
  • How can I push my weavings to expand in both form and content?
  • Does my work have to exist on a wall or can it be brought out into other spaces?
  • What is my personal balance between control and letting loose?
  • How can I push the breakdown of the body by channeling different diseases or methodologies in my weavings?
  • How important is it to me that my audience its seeing something representational of what I’m seeing?
  • Can I create a body of work that bridges the perceived difference between fine art and craft?
  • Why does there need to be a distinction between fine art and craft in the first place?
  • Can a breakdown be a breakthrough?
  • Can I make art about the body without the body being noticeably present?
  • What can I make in the space that pain (mental and physical) occupies?
  • How can I create an intimate space through the hanging/instillation of the warp pieces?
  • Can I reference weaving without having to utilize the weft?
  • How does light and shadow play a role in the work? What do the different tonal qualities of the lightbulbs (daylight, warm, and cool) create visually?

As I have moved forward this semester, I have narrowed down my research topics and decided to focus on utilizing only paper backed fabric (ranging from silks, rayon, and cotton varieties) to form a series of hanging warps. My use of fabric is intentional: when cutting each piece, frays begin to form along the warp lines functioning as a metaphor for frayed or damaged nerves. By maintaining stiff edging along the top and bottom, I am making reference to my Spring 2018 project that revolved around aspects of the bed as place of life and death. I have been trying to create size variations in the cutting of each warp as well as frankensteining the cutting mistakes in order to reference the surgical aspects of my health journey.

Currently, I am planning on hanging each of the pieces from the ceiling via clear fishing line. I have not decided if I want to attempt weaving the fishing line as it goes up towards the ceiling or if keeping them hanging simple is my best bet. One of my biggest challenges to date has been finding the proper rigging points for the pieces within the MFA spaces. Last year, I helped Anita install her woven pieces which gave me insight into how the gallery space could work as well as allowing me to troubleshoot potential hanging problems. I am hoping to determine whether or not I will have to create my own rig to hang the pieces or if I can get away with what is already present in the gallery. Based on my initial iterations, there are two specific spaces that I would be able to hang in: the side room where Anita and Erica showed last semester and the atrium where Young-Mi was. If I remember correctly, the gallery has beams that can be installed to add additional rigging spaces.

I’ve been playing around with different modes of instillation and while I feel good about the latest iteration for a final crit, I had a dream last night that it was hung in a tall giant mass that cascaded down to the floor from the gallery ceiling. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to test the idea out (and also don’t have the proper contact points for the current iteration) but it’s something to work on as the piece continues to grow.

 

Reflections on 2nd critique

I’ve been thinking about the body- about my body and the things it does without my permission like shake or buckle. I’ve been thinking about my father’s body- the Lewy Body Dementia removing his ability to think or create. I’ve been struggling to find balance and gave in to the flow over the last few weeks. I felt like I was rushing to get things finished for this critique only to get things up and realize how far I’ve come in this project. I’m still playing, still testing, and keeping myself open to however things want to be created. I’ve been thinking about writing and how I haven’t done much of it lately. I miss my words, the way in which I know how to best communicate whats deep inside. Moving forward, I’m just going to allow things to happen. To see where the image stands in this current body of work and if its needed. To bring back the written and see what occurs when its dissected then left for others to read.

It’s taller than I am

Just finished the 6 hours of laying out and cutting this massive beast. It took longer because it took me a hot moment to figure out that I was going to have to cut the warp piece in two 36″ sections since I haven’t purchased my 4×8′ cutting mat yet (though I do have a ruler almost long enough… apparently I can’t measure so it was just above the length of a heckin 72″ ruler). Got the photo test marked off and ready to cut as I begin the weave.

First critique reflection

I’ve been trying to give myself a few days distance from the crit to try and get some thoughts down on paper. While there were definitely a few helpful things brought up, trying to present initial research while seeking specific feedback in this first crit was impossible under how it was run. It felt rather like a giant participation awards ceremony. I needed more in order to determine how I am pushing forward and just having everything come across as positive and warm-fuzzies nice didn’t allow me to strike the proper balance.

I’ve been sitting with my piece since it first went up on Wednesday, sitting further since it was popped up to get it out of the way in my studio. I’m trying to answer the questions that weren’t able to be brought up while looking over the notes Grace was kind enough to take for me. It makes me wonder what could have happened if I had just presented it as a research PowerPoint which was my original plan. I busted that mock up out in 25 hours because I hate PowerPoints and thought a visual idea present while I asked would have been more helpful. What would have happened had I had access to my original rigging points and didn’t feel pressured to add another element in to try and create the visual balance I was looking for with my original rigging spot? What could have occurred had I been able to ask the pointed questions during the crit instead of having to run around afterwards grabbing anyone who would talk to me to get to the bottom of things?

I keep coming back to this idea: I’m not trying to be an art critic, I’m trying to learn how to be critical of my work. Maybe I’ll meditate on that instead of ruminating on the lost opportunity; focus on the parts that were actually helpful instead of feeling like the whole encounter was a giant hug fest instead of the intense crit I was looking for and used to.

Test #1

First time rigging a weaving and manipulating its form off the wall. I spent the first two hours hating the piece and wanting to set it on fire but stuck with it and kept seeing what would work. For a materials test, it’s not terrible and it works within my overarching theme: exploring absence and presence in art through the neurological breakdown of the mind and body from diseases such as Lewy Body Dementia and Fibromyalgia. This semester will end up a big learning curve for me as I determine how these pieces will ultimately take flight.

Test piece #1 – fabric, photo paper, and fishing line

Weavings move slowly

But this isn’t going as slowly as working with weaving actual images together (also, while the backs are the same white, the fronts are so far just off enough that I am a bit pissy about it; probably won’t annoy me once it’s done but still)

Starting the weave

I’m currently in a material testing phase of my thesis where I get to play and see what’s going to happen. First test will be paper and fabric and let me just say: I don’t think I like weaving with fabric. At least not yet. I have to create a variation of a loom or some sort of support for myself because fabric has way too much give. Like, a frustrating amount of give. Maybe it’s because I have gotten so used to working with paper (photo or otherwise) but it’s 9am and the struggle is real