collaborative confluence

Collaboration is in the air… I have some percolating myself, but the immediate interesting confluence is between two shows here in Seattle at the moment.  Visions of the Robopocalypse just opened at the Seattle Pacific Art Center:

Visions of the Robopocalypse is a collaboration between Andrew Peterson and the Sanctuary Art Center, a non-profit art studio serving homeless youth and young adults. The installation features a collection of objects produced over several months by Andrew and SAC clients. Originally conceived as a robot-building endeavor, the project later expanded into other media while embracing a variety of dark and often humorous themes. Each aspect of the installation is the manifestation of a months-long, shared dialogue between Andrew and his young partners.

SAC + Peterson’s show is ragged and brilliant, including dancing shadow puppets on screen and robots in actual space who beep and blink their lashy plastic eyes in response to noise or draw mechanically shaky marker lines on paper taped to the floor.

Contemplate in alignment with Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (KOS), who have a historical survey up at the Frye:

In August 1981, Tim Rollins, then twenty-six years old, was recruited by George Gallego, principal of Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx, to develop a curriculum that incorporated art-making with reading and writing lessons for students classified as academically or emotionally “at risk.” Rollins told his students on that first day, “Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history.” Asked what he meant by “making history,” Rollins said:

“To dare to make history when you are young, when you are a minority, when you are working, or nonworking class, when you are voiceless in society, takes courage. Where we came from, just surviving is ‘making history.’ So many others, in the same situations, have not survived, physically, psychologically, spiritually, or socially. We were making our own history. We weren’t going to accept history as something given to us.”


beasts at table

I love these new pieces by Tamara Codor— flowers becoming monstrous in opulent magazine settings.  She also happens to paint interiors for clients who might live in spaces like these.  I love the parallel, imagining that Tamara’s preference in the spaces she embellishes would be to go further over the top… bear skin rugs draped over every surface in a hungry pile, gentle heads of hydrangea exploding into shrubbery-sized clouds that hover over genteel place settings and block the view.  Decoration that renders living spaces unlivable.

old loves, new loves

I just spent a blustery sunny couple of days in Chicago, and then a couple more in mid-Michigan, where dark herds of deer casually watched from smooth white hills as our rental car hurtled by.  (Knowing, from experience, what the heft of a deer’s body can do to a car, and what a car can do to a deer’s body, their quiet silhouettes enfold a tense undertone.  “Stay, stay, stay…” we whisper.)  Aside from family and friends who I miss, I have been so content to live in the Northwest.  I am pleased to be in a place where water and rock make up the landscape, where ferns and moss keep the ground green all winter long.  I love the bounty of the land year round– the fact that you can buy local produce any time, and learn the climate’s own rhythms in order to eat seasonally.

But here is what I have to say about some things that I miss.  I love feeling crisply cold air rush at me as I walk outside, and feeling my heart warm my extremities when I walk at a good clip, even while my face and lungs still feel the icy air.  I love old buildings in cities (like Chicago) that were built up considerably before the 1900s… coated with baroque ornament and guarded by carved beasts.  I love when snow makes the sky darker than the land, and when plum-green-brown stands of trees divide them at intervals.

some words about water

{ptg: Jose Gamarra  Vinculos 1983}


{Richard Hugo}

Quick and yet he moves like silt.
I envy dreams that see his curving
silver in the weeds. When stiff as snags
he blends with certain stones.
When evening pulls the ceiling tight
across his back he leaps for bugs.

I wedged hard water to validate his skin-
call it chrome, say red is on
his side like apples in a fog, gold
gills. Swirls always looked one way
until he carved the water into any
kinds of current with his nerve-edged nose.

And I have stared at steelhead teeth
to know him, savage in his sea-run growth,
to drug his facts, catalog his fins
with wings and arms, to bleach the black
back of the first I saw and frame the cries
that sent him snaking to oblivions of cress.


I am maybe a little preoccupied with the idea of artistic longevity. It’s gratifying to watch people who push through many stages as artists– visually, musically, or otherwise– but it can also be painful to watch a favorite go through awkward transitions. I was a devoted Cocteau Twins fan in high school. When I was in college, Elizabeth Fraser started commanding her angelic and passionate secret language into a sort of canned therapy session (“Are you the right man for me?  Are you safe?  Are you my friend?  Or are you toxic for me?  Will you betray my confidence?” ugh), and the music followed suit.  I lost interest. After that, the only thing I remember hearing and liking was a guest spot with Massive Attack (the instrumental part of which opens House M.D., if you swing that way).  So when, a couple days ago, I heard the above song, Moses, on the radio, I thought, “This is really great, but that singer is a total Elizabeth Fraser rip-off.”  Later (hooray for KEXP playlists online!) I checked, and it was the lady herself!

Any artist who works over decades of time seems to be required to have awkward stages, and often publicly.  If they don’t take big embarrassing risks, they tend to go soft and mediocre.  But you and I can probably think of many artists who have walked out of either spot to make more fresh and engaging work after a period of turning over the soil (or letting the ground lie fallow).

to what listens

I come to it again

and again, the thought of the wren

opening his song here

to no human ear–

no woman to look up,

no man to turn his head.

The farm will sink then

from all we have done and said.

Beauty will lie, fold

on fold, upon it.  Foreseeing

it so I cannot withhold

love.  But from the height

and distance of foresight,

how well I like it

as it is!  The river shining,

the bare trees on the bank,

the house set snug

as a stone in the hill’s flank,

the pasture behind it green.

Its songs and loves throb

in my head till like the wren

I sing– to what listens– again.

{Wendell Berry}

{sculpture: Virgil Scripcariu}