moss (some side reflections on coastal oregon)

All is mossy and grows on itself

All is growing and climbs on itself

All is climbing and waves in the wind

All is waving and drips in the rain

All is raining and pools in the hollows

All is pooling and flows back and forth

All is flowing from salt to fresh

All is salty and green on the tongue

The tongue is a slug and a snake on the roadway

The road is a flat snake that curves against the hills

The last of the river in the flood-sculpted flatlands is a snake at the feet of the bear-like rocks


part 2: the work

(a continuation of this post)

One day during my two-week stint at Sitka, I found myself walking through rain on my way back to the studio from lunch, and daydreaming about some of the tools in Julia D’Amario’s collection. I didn’t use a great number of them to make the prints I was working on, but they were so beautiful, and so rich in history. Julia had worked with Aldo Crommelynck at Pace Editions in New York, and Aldo had worked with small fries like Picasso, Braque and Matisse. When Aldo passed away, Julia inherited some of his tools, and these were the ones in my daydream, tucked into a roll of pocketed canvas, and looking like jewels in themselves. Some of my favorites were the stone-tipped burnishers (one is shown below, along with a few of the others). I don’t know if these tools have any special residual art-power in them, but this fact, and the fact that I had been graced with the mentorship and experience of Julia’s mind and hands, made me feel indebted and not a little bit awed.

Selection of Julia D'Amario's handed-down tools (photo: Brent Wojahn/ The Oregonian))

So I worked. We worked– 9 to 5– a schedule I have honestly never had the opportunity to have as an artist, nor perhaps the inclination. And by the end, there were four prints ready to pull (bon a tirer) into editions.

The greatest challenge for me was doing away with the crutch of multiple and endless hues. My drawings lately almost always are festooned with some flashes of geometric color. Julia assured me that I could add hand-painted elements, but I decided to see if I could work out some ideas with the possibilities of drawing and printmaking methods more than painting or coloring. In the end, three of the four pieces are one-plate prints, but each with a slight variation on black ink (one leans more blue, one brown, one terra cotta), and then one print was reserved for the experiment of two-plate printing:

"The Brothers"

“The Brothers” are related to “Watcher,” a piece that was an experiment in making actual landscape. I thought that I was fabricating the Watcher landscape when I constructed it, because of my own inexperience with landscape, but also because I flinch a little at traditional framing of the land. I was so surprised to arrive at this particular part of the Oregon coast, where strong old basalt chunks jut out of the frequently flooded and variable coast line, leaving land-locked rocky islands of trees surrounded by grass. Others end up in the ocean, as if part of a migrating herd of mountains:

So it was fun to be in the land of Watchers, and thinking about the flexibility of geology, the human sense of time compared to rocks’, the comparably flimsy structures that we build in their sight.

To see all of the prints go here.

head to the hammered strings

My dad plays piano, and it was always a comfort to hear that sound (wooden, golden, airy and percussive– a choir of non-human vibrations so handily channeling human sentiment) inhabiting the house. Yesterday, my husband Zack listened to Bill Evans in the car as he drove out to the mountains to hunt mushrooms. At the same time, with no communication between us, I streamed Bill Evans for three straight hours, no other music sounding quite right in the house-bound rainy Sunday afternoon while I struggled to keep the kids off of TV and video games and into paper and scissors and tape. I don’t know if it’s the photos I’ve seen of Evans slumped over the keys, as if magnetized to the strung strings by the crown of his head, or if his entranced self is transferrable auditorily, but his playing has an effect on me similar to the way that my childhood home felt when the piano was played. My dad didn’t play with Miles Davis, but he had (and has) a connection to music that is utterly catching, deeply convincing.

From Enrico Pieranunzi, “Bill Evans: The Pianist as an Artist”:

Even though he was no longer part of the group, Miles Davis called him to record an album that very quickly would prove to be one of the all-time masterpieces of jazz. Destined to become a cult album for the most informed of jazz fans, it was, and still is, also able to attract an audience usually drawn to other forms of music. Kind Of Blue [CL1355; CK64935] was recorded in two sessions, one on March 2nd and the other on April 22nd [1959]. Evans played on four selections, two per session: So What and Blue in Green for the first, and Flamenco Sketches and All Blues for the second. It was Evans who wrote the album’s liner notes, and it is very interesting to read with what penetrating clarity he analyzes the process of improvisation.

Taking Japanese painting as a model, he observes that “these artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.” Further on he adds: “this conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique discipline of the jazz or improvising musician.”

‘Discipline’ is a term to which Evans would often refer in order to clear up the common understanding of improvisation as a sort of game where “anything goes”. He consistently repeated that the opposite was true, that freedom in music only makes sense when there is a solid foundation; otherwise you get lost in arbitrary disorder and reduce the aesthetic value of a piece.


(detail from "Everythingallatonceforever" by yours truly)

What gives? I keep forecasting the appearance of the post about “the work” of the residency. The simple hold up is that I just received the finished edition and I’ve not yet documented the pieces, so as soon as that’s here, I’ll fill in the blanks. In the meantime, let’s talk about the fabric of the cosmos.

Airing in parts lately on PBS is a series by that name—“The Fabric of the Cosmos”—the sort of programming that makes me salivate. Anything that can break my mind free of my own scale and sense of importance is grand grand grand. There are all sorts of great mind-benders contained in the program—ways to comprehend the distances between things in the universe, ways to think about time and space as variables instead of the constants that they seem to us in these bodies, on this planet. But the one that has me spinning is the relatively recent theory that the entire 3 dimensional world may be a hologram of one 2 dimensional map of information. This is contested by even more recent research, but still… it makes everything feel like a collapsible piece of origami. It makes my organs tickle.

I’m reminded of a fever dream I had when I was small. There’s no conveying it in words, because it was an extreme and very visceral experience, but the closest I can come is by saying that everything that ever existed seemed collapsed into a 2-dimensional sheet. Silent, heavy. A flicker of light or sound would appear in the periphery, and then everything became everything, all at once. The most sound and light and texture that can be imagined. It was terrifying. And then all would shut down and recompress, and the dream would repeat. After having given birth a few times, I’ve mused about whether it was actually an impression of childbirth. My own birth, that is. But the holographic universe as a concept is not that dissimilar.