Mojave Preserve Residency

August 25, 2016

destination: Mojave National Preserve

I'm so happy that on this day, the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service, I get to announce my next residency. In the spring of 2017, I'll be traveling to the Mojave National Preserve in Southern California to do several weeks of drawing, filming, and research in the desert. I am so thrilled by this exciting opportunity that almost every day I wake up and think of something new that I can try when I make it out west. Most of all, I'm really pleased that I'll be somewhat following in the footsteps of one of the professors of my graduate committee, Dr. Mark Sweeney, whose research on dust often takes him to the Mojave and the various playas and dunes located in the region.

photo by Dr. Mark Sweeney

I will be staying at the Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx, which is a Cal State facility that harbors labs and equipment for a variety of scientists, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to talk with geologists and biologists who will also be working in the region. At the beginning of summer, I will have an exhibition at the Kelso Depot, which is pretty centrally located within the Preserve and has survived since the early 20th century. I'm already excitedly thinking about the new work that I can produce out in the desert, inspired by these very different surroundings and amazing opportunities.

yesterday again

July 15, 2016

Siccar Point

artist book, 3.25” x 10.25”, monoprint and type on mulberry, with handcut edges and screenprinted details

I'm very thankful for everyone who came out my solo show "Omissions" at Provenance Gallery during the month of June. I love the great interaction provided by Provenance and the nature of my work fit so well into the small space of the gallery. I think a lot about the ways that different pieces can be affected by how they are displayed or shared, and the meanings that artwork can take based on its presentation or its craft.

New Exhibition: Omissions

June 2, 2016

The exhibition Omissions is a culmination of work created during and after my residency in Scotland in the spring of 2016. I was selected for the Hospitalfield Interdisciplinary Residency, and used the time to respond to place and the meaning I found in the rocks of the surrounding area. I traveled to particularly important geologic sites such as Siccar Point at the North Sea, and studied other ephemera as it applied to my memory of the visit, including smells, weather, and even the bruises I got in traversing the landscape. In Omissions, I make connections to the story in the rocks and the telling of our own stories: leaving out some details, coloring the narrative, and the eventual erosion from our memories. These geologic sites helped me to see our stories much like a book, layered and lithified, but altogether a glimpse that is bright and tangible one minute and grayed out the next.

Omissions : Exhibition Reception
Saturday, June 11, 2016
7-10 p.m.
1906 Guadalupe

Post-Residency Roundup : Part 2 of 2

May 3, 2016

Today I'm wrapping up the second of my posts about my trip to Scotland, and this entry includes the residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath. I'm so happy that as I traveled, I could do updates via social media outlets like Instagram and, with so much support and interest while I worked, I didn't feel like I was that far away!

I departed Edinburgh on Monday morning, after resting all night in a hotel that overlooked the railway, Calton Hill, and parts of Old Town. I was looking forward to being in one place for awhile rather than moving around almost every day, dragging my bag around behind me. On the train ride up to Arbroath, I accidentally slipped while moving my luggage and twisted my ankle, which really swelled and put me in a sour mood. Luckily, I did this after the major hikes I'd planned were done. I felt sad and ashamed that I'd hurt myself, so I called my husband for a pep talk, in which he stated, "Cheer up; remember where you are. You're in Scotland!" He said other really helpful things, too, but this was what I remember.

drawing I made at a coffee shop, waiting for a ride to Hospitalfield

The first evening at Hospitalfield was a sea change. I met so many new people (including other artists of the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency), saw the grounds again on a brief tour, and had a large group dinner with everyone in the galley. It was such an exciting time. I felt so much like I wanted to hug everyone, yet the wounded part of me wanted to open a bottle of whisky and go to bed. But what a bed it was! Staying at a residency in a house that dates from different eras, some going as far back as the 17th century, is certainly part of the experience.

my room at Hospitalfield

Each of the interdisciplinary artists had space to work in that was all their own, and I was assigned the Kinpurnie Print Studio. I ended up using this space a lot less than I had originally planned. I spent a few days wrestling with the fact that my plans didn't match my reality: what was happening for me at the residency was a period of growth, collection, and reflection. I began by simply walking (hobbling) around the grounds, and feasting my eyes upon all the small things there were to observe and interact with. My first action at Hospitalfield was to make a small installation from found objects and leave it, either for someone to find or for it to fall apart.

On site installation with found items, 2016. Hospitalfield

I next worked slowly on a series of monotypes for a book I'm currently finishing in my home studio. These prints were inspired directly by the red, rich sandstones I'd explored the week before down the coast, and partially by my incessant interest in deep time and exploring ways to relate that through my print work. I consistently worked for about three hours per day in the print studio before the cold got into my bones and I felt I had to get inside the house and hug a cup of tea and work on something else. Sometimes I went to the joint mixed media studios in the evenings to see what some of the other artists, Jude Hagan and Charlie Cousins were working on, and warmed myself with a whisky and my laptop. It works.

work things, cold things

When I wasn't in the Kinpurnie Print Studio, I used my time to go on longer walks around Arbroath and the coast. As my ankle healed up, I found I was able to make it further everyday, and by the first weekend, I had a lovely 7.5 mile walk up a very geologically interesting trail around the Seaton Cliffs. If I had continued to follow it, it would lead all the way up to Auchmithie, an old fishing village. I also had a fabulous visit from my friend Amanda Thomson who made a drive all the way out from Glasgow to see me. It did my soul some good to see her again and have long chats about prints, politics, and all things between.

a rock arch known locally as the Needle E'e

I also spent a fair amount of time at the residency wandering the house and grounds, getting familiar with the different rooms and artworks inside, finding different places to become engulfed. I spent more than my fair share of time collecting rocks and sitting at the beach, observing it for all the time I could, and I found inspiration in unintentional places.

drawing in the drawing room

collecting sand and rock samples

a drawing inspired by my bruising

It's very difficult to put a period on or an ending to what happened at my residency. I had to physically leave Hospitalfield House after 2 weeks, but the spirit of creative freedom that I realized in that moment was a thing that has been captured, to a certain extent by my experiences with rocks that make up the surrounding coast and countryside, but also by a particular looking away from traditional methods of working. The time for reflection and writing was fruitful, and timed perfectly with the invitation by my friend Jacob Leveton to come and do a talk in Paris.

presentation time!

Giving a talk about my work at this stage is exciting because it culminates in so much interest in geology, memory, and the attempt to both understand and explain the earth. Concepts about deep time, the Anthropocene, and global warming are interesting, but what really excites me is how much these ideas mimic or are associated with human emotion and complexity. In many ways, printmaking is the ideal medium with which to express these thoughts, and even lends itself to talking about geological "moments." I found myself wondering how it is that I got to be so lucky to be in Paris, sharing my passion with other people.

Jacob and I ended the night sharing crepes from his favorite stand near the Fondation des États-Unis, talking not of the past but of the future. It was the best ending to a trip I could imagine.

Post-Residency Roundup : Part 1 of 2

May 2, 2016

It's taken me about a month to process the experiences I had during my residency in March. Writing about them has been an important part of digesting the journey. I spent about three weeks in Scotland, which was the kind of trip I spent so much time preparing for that once I arrived, it felt like I was walking in a dream. I knew I would be going to places that were important to my work, but to actually be there felt surreal. I think that this post is as much for me as it is for anyone interested in my process or what I did while I was away. It's not only a documentation of my residency and rock adventure, but a look back on the wonderful privelage of travel that I've enjoyed.

city wall at Dunbar, composed of Old Red sandstone

After arriving in Edinburgh, I rested up for a night and then immediately departed via train for Dunbar, the town closest to Siccar Point, one of the most important destinations of my trip, and the reason I was arriving a week before my residency. This is a kind of mecca for students of geology, and although Scotland is filled with geological wonders and sites that could keep you busy for an entire lifetime, nothing compares to this one place for me. After settling into my room at Dunbar, I walked around the High Street for awhile. I still felt as if I was half awake, not really grasping that I was in Scotland yet. I visited the birthplace of John Muir, a gorgeous white building at the north end of the street, with extremely helpful folks inside. I met a local artist named Gordon who helped me plan my journey to Siccar Point, giving me advice on the best way to get there. I think at this point I started to feel like my feet were on the ground.

from John Muir's Birthplace

After a lunch of chips and haggis (which I promised myself I had to try this time), I set off down to the bay for an afternoon walk full of exploration. I wandered around the remains of Dunbar Castle, then scrambled onto the rocks of Lamer Island, tracing the lines of the dikes in the sandstones. I found and collected amazing samples, inculding some slate with pyrite inclusions that I held up like a treasure. I wanted someone else to witness my find! But I was alone and digging around where no one cared what I did. My pockets started to get heavy with how many rocks I was sticking in them, when I realized that this was only my first day in Scotland. I tried to be more selective with what I was picking up, but it was difficult. I went north along the John Muir Way, walking the coast and stopping every 100 yards or so to bask in the richness of the view. I was absolutely astounded at what I was taking in, but moreso, I was getting my bearings. This was the place I had read about, dreamt about, and wished to see -- and here it was in front of me.

walking the John Muir Way with Dunbar Castle in the distance

I ended the evening with a delicious whisky in the bar of the hotel I was staying at, listening the sound of the locals' voices telling stories about their jobs, their babies, and their boyfriends. I knew the next day would take me to Siccar Point, and as I tried to fall asleep back in my room, I could only imagine what the rocks would look like in real life. On Saturday morning, after a full Scottish breakfast, I began my hike out to that fabled point at the entrance of the James Hutton Trail.

entering at Hutton Trail

After 20 to 30 minutes of hiking, my face burned by the cold winds, I finally reached the entrace to Siccar Point. It can be best described as a rocky promontory that juts out into the North Sea like a picture of the broken past. I was standing on the grassy hill above it, looking down.

I'll save the romanticized tales of its visage for another time, however this was truly a moving moment for me. One I won't soon forget.

looking down onto the rocks at Siccar Point

I recall the difficulty at making it down the hill, slipping with each step I took, my shoes caked in mud, and the eventual decision to slide down on my butt toward the bottom. How would I get back up? I'd figure that out later. When I finally reached the end of the steep trail, I was relieved as you can probably imagine. Now warm, I shed layers and left them on the first boulder I found, and set my sights toward the contact point that I'd so longed to touch. Careful not to slip (for one wrong move left me stranded), I reached the boundary of Silurian and Devonian, a ground up conglomerate settled somewhere between the two. I ran my fingers along the tilted greywackes. I found myself giddy, quite like John Playfair when he arrived with Hutton in 1788, but at the notion that these rocks seemed to tell me a story.

looking out onto the North Sea between the boundaries

After all my hours of exploration at Siccar Point, I knew I'd need to begin the journey out, and I'd have to give myself at least an hour to catch my ride back to Dunbar. I started climbing the hill back out, which was not a walk or even a steep hike but a literal free climb along the side of the hill. The hill was stepped in such a way that it was "easy," however I am not accostomed to any sort of wall or rock climbing. I really talked myself through that one like a champ. Once I reached the crest of the hill (cliff), I celebrated by collapsing. Then I took a picture of my tired-ass self.

I went to Siccar Point and all I got was this photo

The following day I returned to Edinburgh with the express purpose of visiting Arthur's Seat. I had one day left until I departed for my residency and I was, in effect, following in Hutton's footsteps. There are some amazing geological features to see at this site, the remains of an ancient volcanic plug. I am not as well-versed in igneous rocks as I am sedimentary ones, but so much of Scotland's geological history includes volcanic activity as an agent of change. I was mainly interested in seeing the Salisbury Crags and then leaving, as I was exhaused from my previous day's trip and still wished to rest up. After four hours of hiking, and one accidental tumble down some rock steps when I lost my balance, I finally came to the crags. I'll again summarize that this is actually another outcrop in which Hutton recognized that previous beliefs about how the earth worked, its cycles and its age, had to be incorrect because of what was factually present just by "reading the rocks." I find his tenacity and ability to understand rocks something of a fascination, to say the least.

Hutton's Section at Salisbury Crags

Tomorrow, I will publish a post that delves into what I worked on at my residency at Hospitalfield, who I met there, and my trip to Paris afterwards.
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