Tracing the Former World

June 6, 2017

The Mojave National Preserve is a special place, and has come to feel like a home to me as I’ve focused my work there throughout the past few months. I’ve been keenly interested in parts of the Mojave ever since learning of its particular landscapes from Dr. Mark Sweeney, a geologist who studies sand and dust. When I arrived in the Mojave myself and saw the huge Kelso Dunes with my own eyes, a particular area of study that Sweeney focuses on, I suddenly became as inspired to understand them as any scientist. My interest is not only driven by geology but a passion to represent the natural world with an emotional honesty.

In The Joshua Trees, 2017

I’ll start at the dunes, because that’s as a compelling place to start as anywhere. When you drive upon them, no matter which direction you’re coming from, or what time of day, they are imposing. Massive and glowing, they stand apart from the surrounding mountains like a beacon. The dunes are formed mostly from the sand that travelled from the ancient Mojave River, with a slightly rosy tinge. Accumulating over thousands of years, these giants have nowhere to go, so they just keep growing, staying mostly in place in the basin between the surrounding mountains. When I saw it on a map, it didn’t immediately click, but standing in the fan from the Providence mountains and looking toward the dunes, I clearly understood why they were there. The dunes are stuck, and have nowhere to go but up, and no place to migrate except in small little movements. Lots of new vegetation is helping to keep them in place now, too.

the massive Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve

Looking at these landforms gave me a feeling of immediate excitement, and curiosity still echoes through me. Did the ancient people who lived near and drank from the Mojave River see these dunes when they were half this size? What did they think of this massive land feature? Am I seeing something that is only a fraction of the size it may be in the future? I think a lot about the way that humans interpret the land and especially make meaning out of it. For me, the time and special circumstances it takes to build dunes like these is a unique offering that the Mojave captures.

exploring facies near the Cinder Cones region

In my exhibition, I pursue the same complexity of how time works within the Mojave and how we interpret it. The exhibition title, Tracing the Former World, is inspired by the writer John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World. It is a collection of his writing that assembles his insights with his ride-alongs with geologists into the field. The concept of a “former world” is one that I use to frame the past, and to help me structure my work in the realm of scientific thought. Geologists are very good at peeling back layers of the present in order to reveal a past topography. In my work, I want to share the ideas of a time and place that may not have occurred, or which only happened in the mind. There are parallels in this realm that I find compelling and I return to the science of geology to create a terminology for my landscapes. Places that you travel to in your mind, or revisit through pictures or memories, are not only intangible but are just fossils to the lived experience of the era that existed. I love the idea of the past, but I feel as though I spend my life trying to understand it and extrapolate from it. The work that I did in the Mojave was a scraping back of a thin layer of dust.

Meaning in the Rocks, 2017

Mojave Dreams

March 25, 2017

I recently returned from the first part of my artist residency at the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. The desert environment there is rich, multi-faceted, and full of life that is as diverse as the landscapes I encountered. There are forests of joshua trees, beds of ancient lavas, ephemeral streams that feed cottonwoods, vast playas of evaporite minerals, and huge sand dunes that I can only imagine will become taller as they age. If you know me at all, you know I am fascinated with rocks, and all of these forces are the ways in which the earth creates or destroys the current minerals that it has on hand into new constituent parts. I get now why my geology professor is attuned to this place and loves working here, but I think what I see is a kind of laboratory. There are all sorts of moving parts to this place that can be easily seen (trees, buildings, cars, asphalts, etc don't get in the way of observing here), and if you want to follow a wash for 500 yards, you can. Just watch out for snakes.

The Mojave Road near Kelbaker Road

This is a short glimpse of my travels along the historic Mojave Road, a dirt road that exists because it was a trail used by regional Native Americans for years as a path between watering holes and as a trade route. The only way missionaries, settlers, or early pioneers entered this desert landscape was because of this well established route. I've stopped to ponder the age and length of this trail, and inspect the "young" lava flow that reaches from the nearby Cinder Cones area and toward the road. It's amazing to think about human and earth's time scales here on the Mojave Road.

Here is where two time periods meet. The time of humans and the time of earth. If these young lavas were flowing anywhere from 8-10,000 years ago, early humans in North America were surely a witness to them. I find it remarkable to think of these events, moved by seeing the site of the basalt still sitting there today, right next to the trail I now walk on, believing somewhere in the myth-enduring part of my brain that this strange tongue of lava has reached its way from the mouth of the earth to lick at the humans walking by.

Molehills and Mountainbuilding

January 17, 2017

At An Angle

I hope you are all having a wonderful new year so far. As for me, I am struggling to regain my strength and my voice, as I feel very disheartened by the recent anti-science and pro-wall sentiments that seem to surround me. My choice now is to join with others that wish to see a brighter future, not one driven by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I cannot help but to make art and writing that is influenced by this particular moment in history. To that end, I will be sharing my new works next month as funded by my grant from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio. The reception will take place on February 11 from 7-10pm at Studio 111 at 111 Lone Star Boulevard in San Antonio. My exhibition, titled "At An Angle," looks at the everyday pain and disturbance of the world from a different perspective. My goal with this show is to shine light on suffering, and to create small monuments to the moments that we let pass, with no record of their existence.

I will create a mountain out of a molehill, because the molehill is the every day, the ignored, and the forgotten.

Buy The Book Fair 2016

October 23, 2016

Buy The Book Fair 2016

Buy the Book is an annual event held at Central Booking, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As part of New York Print Week, Buy the Book 2016 will feature printmaking and book artists with exhibitors from around the country and the world in an intimate gallery setting. I'll be showing several of my recent works, including the artist books I created after my residency in Scotland this spring, and of course the wonderful project Fossils and Whispers that I created with Cat Snapp last summer.

Fossils & Whispers interior

MAPC 2016!

October 14, 2016

I just returned from the Mid-America Print Council Conference (in Louisville this year) and it was a pretty good time. I didn't get a chance to see nearly as many things as I planned to see, but I got to see people, and to me, that's what makes these things all worth the effort. I have realized over the years that I am privileged to have an extended group of friends that have become family, and to a much larger extent, a community of reliable and dependable co-workers, even if we aren't at the same institution. I feel like I followed the right path. People matter so much to me.

I finally saw Michelle again!

I'm not sure if there's anything else I want to add. I used to write more about what I saw and the amazing prints and "Whoa, how did they do that!"-- but now, I'm aging into the realm of being able to understand the intricacies of perfection. My expertise is not that of a master, but I find demos to be more engaging now that I can understand more of the concepts behind dot pattern warpage and paper shrinkage than I could as an early printmaker. But now I'm so tired of editioning that I hate the perfection. I embrace the idiosyncrasies and 22-year-old me would hate me for it.

I got to do a panel presentation at this MAPC with Lisette Chavez. We worked all summer on interviews and research for "The Printmaker as Collector" and it was a really fun and (I think) cool topic to share with other printmakers at the conference. We spoke about the overlaps between printmakers and collectors, including the need to have more than one of something, and the importance of variables and holding on to the tangible object. We delved into how collections influence certain artists and their work, especially the act of collecting, and what the whole process says about what we do as printmakers. Making multiples in a time of digitized media.

Me and Lisette getting stoked to give our presentation

All in all, MAPC was a great meeting of friends, as always. I miss them already.

The Print Show

September 30, 2016

"The Print Show" at Moberg Gallery

Curated by artists Mary Jones and Catherine Dreiss, "The Print Show" will showcase the work of over 20 artists at the Moberg Gallery in Des Moines, Iowa. Work will range from traditional prints on paper to installations that challenge and expand the definition of printmaking. I'm excited to be an invited artist to this expansive and excellent show of print work!

"Protected and Alone," 2015

Work I sent to this show includes several monotypes I created last summer at my residency at the SparkBox Studio in Canada. The techniques used are intentional: to replicate the idea of moments in time that cannot be reproduced or relived. These images are enriched by my affinity for rocks and their unique stories, including the ones that I make up for them. I like to ask questions like, "Can rocks be lonely?" I want to pursue these feelings in my work without sacrificing a scientific process to understanding the reality of their histories.

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.


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