Arghhhhh. My fingers still haven’t healed up from Sunday, which means today has been a gross and painful day. Not fun and very, very frustrating.
Here’s the last pop up I was able to finish before I split open my middle finger. I may just have to take tomorrow off to let it heal completely before going on to do anything else.
I took off last evening to go to the Kirchner opening at MOMA with Diane and her husband Frank. I have to say that my expectations were pretty low for a Tuesday opening in the middle of summer for an artist who is long dead – I kind of expected it would be a mellow affair, one where we’d be in and out of the museum in maybe 15 minutes.
Winds up it was this incredible party – jam-packed full of gorgeous people, full open bar, DJ, and Dali films beamed in over the main entrance (ok, I get it – Dali’s films are being shown right now, but it was definitely a weird little touch given that it was Kirchner’s big night). Funny – I haven’t gone out to a party in ages and found this one a little over the top. With the purple lights beaming in everywhere and the music blaring, it was a little more like Miami in December than NYC in July.
I’m not a huge Kirchner fan. I get that it’s an accessible show for the summer (Berlin street scenes) but I’m just not wowed by the work and I was actually surprised to see this huge fuss being made over what is actually a pretty small show. I do like his claustrophobic sense of space though – that was nice to see and be reminded of. His use of color is of course really terrific to see in person. But it remained a small show – not a retrospective by any means – tucked away on the third floor, sort of behind where the Becher’s photo show is.
The accompanying wall texts were extra-breezy and disappointing. I really feel like I showed up not knowing all that much about the artist and left not really knowing that much more about him. If anything, I felt weirdly congratulated by the show, as in “Good job! you already know everything there is to know about this artist and there’s not much more we have to add!” which was a weird way to feel. And it’s wrong, too – I truly don’t know that much about Kirchner and it certainly would have been easy to give me a little more meaty info than what was provided.
So the show was kind of meh – ok for a summer show, but I’m setting my sights on Marlene Dumas (very excited for that) and not really getting too attached to what’s up right now. But the party was surprisingly great.
I started off this morning with my favorite little art trick ever, one that I’ve used ever since I was a teenager. In the weird little twilight that exists between being awake and asleep – that lull that comes over you just as you start to be aware of your surroundings upon waking up – I planted an idea in my head and just let my mind take it over and fester on it.
I think if I were to put in a nutshell what all my greatest problems in life were, that nutshell would be neatly labeled “fear” – I can actually do quite a number of interesting things reasonably well, it’s just that sometimes fear overtakes me and it causes me to screw up. Sometimes I go to say a particular word – and it could be truly anything, like a friend’s name that I’ve said a thousand times before – and suddenly get this panic that I’m going to pronounce it wrong… and in the split second between thinking the name and saying the name, this fear takes over. And then, of course, because I’ve become so distracted and fixated on saying it wrong, I do in fact mispronounce it. It’s frustrating. It’s not that I can’t say it correctly or that I haven’t said it correctly many times before. It’s just that the fear takes over and… well, that is the end of that.
The same thing happens to me in my work – I have a problem which I know I can solve, and yet I can’t because the fear cripples me – and so this exercise is a good way to force myself to relax and just let my brain do what it already knows what to do.
So I tried it this morning on that thing in my studio that’s been haunting me – my gigantic pop-up that comes up in the middle of my book, the one that opens up to be four feet tall or something, except I couldn’t really figure out how to do it. Or rather, I had a working solution, just not one I was really thrilled about, and it was becoming something that I was slowly getting more and more anxious about.
And voila, I have a solution. It’s actually incredibly easy and straightforward, and just goes back to my original thinking:
Duh, it’s so obvious – dowels with strings, like what a puppet has, can support the trees. This will allow me to build them way in the hell taller and also utilize the space that exists between the book and the ceiling (which, is of course, an awful lot of space). The dowels can be collapsable, in keeping with the overall specifications of the project. Good lord, the answer was so easy. I can’t believe I was so worried.
I think a lot about how fear is sort of my muse – how my relationship to fear defines so much of what I do in every aspect of my life. It’s always there for me and it’s just this weird dance I do to resolve it, to avoid it, or just to live with it. I wonder often what the opposite of this kind of fear is – it’s not “courage” per se, because it’s such a specific kind of irrational, strange fear that makes no sense whatsoever. This morning, I’m kind of feeling like the opposite of fear is maybe drawing (or, artmaking in general) – that productive act that allows you work through problems effectively rather than simply sitting immobilized and overwhelmed by them. The clincher is of course that drawing (in this case, the desire to make this crazy pop up book) is what got me into this particular mess in the first place, but that’s just a funny little irony.
Anyway. I like this.
Ok, not really, but I just have to share.
No sooner did I post the below, whiny post, did I decide I needed to get over myself and get back to work. I sat down and started in on this intricate piece that has been driving me crazy, setting out to cut a tiny slot for at tiny tab.
Well, something happened – I misjudged how thick the paper was and where exactly I was cutting and bam! I punched a nice-sized hole in my left hand’s pointer finger. Bastard.
Ok, but trying to look on the bright side – at least I knew what not to do now, right? So after bandaging the finger and cleaning up, I went back to work cutting the second slot. I was oh-so-careful to hold the piece in order to avoid a repeat of the last accident and… bam! A good ol’ slice down my right hand’s middle finger. And so now both my hands are bandaged:
I don’t know what’s more mortifying – that I cut myself making a tiny pop-up house or that we only have Snoopy bandaids in our medicine cabinet.
I tried to get right back to work and then realized that A. I have no dexterity with these stupid bandaids and B. I was bleeding all over this damned piece. And so, I think I’m officially calling it a night. My hands will be all healed by by Tuesday, I’m sure.
So there’s a confluence of different things going on here…
I brought 26 drawings to the framers on Friday and was so relieved to drop them off and have them be someone else’s problem. I always get so anxious when my work piles up around here – I don’t have flat files (I keep my work in a binder of sorts) and I have this paranoia that one morning I’ll wake up to find that the cat has puked all over the binder, or that I might one day drop a glass of red wine on it, or something to that effect. Obviously, the exact same thing could happen at the framer’s, but somehow the relief of knowing that it wouldn’t be my fault is just all I need to relax about it. It’s not so much the “precious” artwork getting destroyed or months or work just vaporizing in instant; it’s more that I can’t bear the thought that somehow I might be responsible for it. I’m pretty forgiving and laid back when it comes to just about anyone other than myself.
And so, the last couple of days have been all about tinkering – playing around with some new popups, trying out different shelves (ok, why is it that every single one of the shelves I found the least bit desirable at Lowes was somehow screwed up? there were nicks and chips all over the place. at least I got one “for practice” but you know – it always kills me when I go into a store ready to make a significant purchase and have to leave with a lot less than I intended just because the store is so screwed up). But things are looking really good and I’ll have more pictures in a day or two.
My energy level has been really low lately and I’m trying to figure out the best way to deal with it – do I take off a little time now (it’s clearly the result of just working too much) and push off all the stuff I need to get done til later, or do I get all the stuff I need to get done now and take off more time later? I keep going back and forth with the pros and cons of each way of handling it. I’m still not sure the best way to go. Tomorrow is the last day of the residency program I’ve been teaching in (it’s only one day a week, but it is a looooonng day – eight hours of pretty much nonstop critting) so that’ll help once it’s done. But I need a vacation in pill form or possibly some way to cram in two weeks of sleeping and eating into 15 minutes. That would be great.
I know, I know – you can’t read the text. It has to be linked to Flickr. I know.
I know, I know – this blog is getting really behind the times. I’ve been working like a crazy lady and have tons of stuff to update. But only one more day til the framer’s, so right now I’m drawing instead of blogging.
Man, I wish photographing these things was easier:
Bah. I’m all grouchy that the picture doesn’t really do the piece justice – I’m so psyched about this work and then I photograph it and it looks so… flat. Annoying.
Anyway. This one goes next to the one with the swan. It reads, in the yellow box: Was this any way to justify an existence? and then goes on to say (first in the sky and then on the ground):
I know that’s not the only reason they existed, but still – they seemed so much more like objects to be admired than living, breathing creatures. When I think about my own life, I think constantly about how I am somehow not enough – ever – and must always redouble my efforts in order to be even passably satisfactory. Somehow, this is how I assumed most people saw themselves.
I’ve come to realize this isn’t the case – that there are some for whom the relatively straightforward process of transitioning from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan is full, total, and complete once that stage is reached and there is nothing left to do but remain, maybe perpetually, in this perfect state. The hard work now over, the remainder of that creature’s life is now defined by various states of happiness and the peace that comes with the belief that things will always be this way.
This piece is tiny – 7″ x 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.
The text reads:
I thought of things that were beautiful
because of what seemed like
on which their survival hinged.
I wondered what other purpose these creatures served other than to mesmerize and delight us.
I’ve been trying to problem-solve one of the biggest issues facing me as I do these pop-ups, and I think I may have figured out how to make all my (pop-up-related) problems go away.
I must have looked at hundreds of pop-ups by now. What I find myself coming back to over and over is that the ones I like the best are dependent upon a 90 degree fold (think: a birthday cake popping out of a card that is opened to a 90 angle) rather than a 180 degree fold (which is what is used most often in pop-up books, as the book opens up to a spread).
So… fine. The problem with this is that while I see the idea of “pop-up book” being full of all these interesting metaphoric possibilities, “pop-up card” doesn’t offer quite the same ring to it – yes, it’s still like this little world you hold in the palm of your hand and it’s still this expanding universe that starts out very small and grows, but it’s just not quite to the extent that you can have a book totally unfold and give you so much.
So in trying to figure out a way to merge the possibilities of 90 degree pop ups with the depth of a book, here’s what I’ve come up with: What if I put a long shelf up with a row of these “cards” that have scenes where one blurs into the next? Meaning, while the shelf will be perhaps at first glance like one of those WASPy collections of Christmas cards, only with the cards open to the viewer, upon a closer look you can see that the whole thing comes together to tell this intricate story.
I’m completely into this idea. Making the 90 degree pop ups is so much fun and I seem to be reasonably good at it, so it’s all moving very quickly. I’m envisioning this long shelf like 15′ or so with all these little, detailed pop-ups that you really have to spend a lot of time with in order to really see all the intricacies.
Anyway, here’s the first:
It’s a scene at night with these two Victorian-style homes. All the pop-up elements are made from one piece of paper, the same paper as the grass and the sky with the exception of the doors to the houses which are the only additional paper used. And the text, too – that is also on its own piece of paper, which is collaged onto the surface:
I thought of very old deaths, the kind that haunt a place and never go away – they remain in the atmosphere long after you expect they’d disappear. I always loved older architecture, but I wondered if this presented a constant problem – if the houses I loved were always doomed to be inhabited by the spirits of someone who had lived there long ago – certainly everything else in life seemed haunted in this way, with everything from today piled upon everything from yesterday, this never-ending heap of circumstances and experiences that would never go away.
A couple of details:
(Someday I will have a studio not so crammed full of stuff and maybe then I can take better pictures… until such time as that happens, I hope you can at least sort of see what I’m up to here!)
More to come; I have several underway…
I really can’t get enough of pop-ups. As frustrating and difficult as the last few weeks have been, I’m still fascinated by them largely for what I take as being their metaphoric possibility – this idea of the world inside the teeny tiny thing, which is completely hidden from view but is beautiful and complex once opened.
I started playing around with origamic architecture this weekend. It’s this incredibly obsessive hobby that involves translating favorite buildings into cut paper; the end result is usually left completely bare white (which actually reminds me a bit of Yuken Teruya’s bag/forests).
Anyway, after trolling the web and looking at one origamic architecture site after another (there’s a ton of them! and each is more jaw-dropping than the last… pretty amazing), I felt pretty sucky about my pop-up skills… and knew I had to get to work.
So here’s the first I finished. It’s a relatively simply one and I’ve painted on the paper, but I think you can see the pop up elements relatively well:
Don’t know if you can tell it from the picture, but there is a tiny door that is actually partially ajar.
One of the things that’s nice about the medium is all this negative space each cut out leaves. I backed the pop up with a sheet of paper painted black with a layer of walnut ink, so that the gaps look like shadows.
The text reads:
I wanted so much to have real experiences. The world just opened up to me there in a way that made me forget I was a part of it. I surrounded myself with things I knew to be alive in order to buffer me from the things I suspected weren’t.
Wanting to take the project a step further, I added an interactive element with the chimney. “Smoke” comes out of it:
It reads: I felt an affinity to cast-offs like smoke through a chimney or just a speck of dust.
Anyway, very exciting to get started on something new! Of course, I have a million ideas…