Sunday, December 30, 2007


I'm here, with you...

Phew! With the model train running, the robotic vacuum cleaner going and stacks of leftovers on every table... after holiday blues, I know them well.
Let's talk about the gray. I take pictures of the sky- every day if possible, when I'm disciplined. It is winter, and cold, the weather fierce and we are very small in this case. I feel my feeble stature. When I feel the worst I lie on the deck and watch the clouds pass as my mood rolls over me.

Painting gray: I am working with cool transparent colors: lemon yellow, permanent madder, cobalt. With these and white some amazing grays and browns happen (also a touch of indian yellow) thinking about painting the gray sky (limitless task here).

Will post images of studio shortly, missing you.. our next family adventure (after end of schooling and loans) building a cob house for the fam. So excited by your process of growth in your structure!

New Year's Eve eve

Today on the news there was the long list of people who died this year. At least the people who the newscasters deemed worthy of remembering on TV. Iconic (mostly American) personalities. Pavarotti. US soldiers. Norman Mailer. Ike Turner.

Something inside me feels numb about all this passing, all this death. I feel this way almost every New Year's Eve: depressed and despondent. With Benazir Bhutto's assassination, and remembering Those Who Died, it makes me wonder what kind of people are we as a human race?

When I look back at my own image from New Year's pictures, there is almost always a vacancy of gaze, a palpable blankness. I kind of hate celebrating New Year's Eve, but then regret if I "stay in" and withdraw. Next year I'd like to be on my way somewhere else. Last year I was on my way to Cape Town, South Africa. Next year we'll be on our way to Peru hopefully. I don't know.

Like the sky outside my studio, I feel grey.

Friday, December 28, 2007

On site

Another day, another day at the job site...

Our trusty cellar windows, arrived safe and sound from over the mountains and through the woods. This picture may not look like a lot, but it's one step closer to COMPLETION of our building project. It means every window we ordered has arrived on site and is ready to be installed. Woo hoo!

This very long truck was ordered to drive our cellar patio doors down from Canada. From Canada! The doors are only 2.5 meters x 6 meters for crying out loud! Another genius move by building manufacturers whose actions clearly do not support the environment.

Our trusty building in relation to the new(er) construction site. I want to document a lot of this change now, as I'm sure my memory will fade over time and I'll not have the proper documentation to support my ramblings of how our building was the newest on the block, etc.

Street view of "before" ... namely, before the monstrosity goes into production. I know some of my neighbors probably think the same about our building, so I'm not saying anything new...

Our trusty building under wraps today, as the brick facade gets tenderly and aptly applied. It's all happening!

Another view of the demolition. Both buildings are coming down to accommodate for a super big one. The only thing saving us is the height limit for R6 zone: 55 feet. If it weren't for that, we'd be looking at yet another high rise "luxury condo". urgh.

Demolition of a neighboring building...I'm sorry to say the new monstrosity will shortly be blocking our entire view of the city's skyline. Oh well, I guess we'll have to make friends with the penthouse folks and go to their house for 4th of July parties. The architecture firm that has been hired for this new construction project is the same one responsible for the high rises in and around MacCarren Park. I only hope the design sense of the client here is less "spec and run" than the client of the Park condos.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy birthday mom

It's my mother's 64th birthday today. We started out the day at her favorite junk store in Brooklyn, after singing "happy birthday" over red velvet cupcakes. She was also saddened by Bhutto's death.

But many people are born the same day many other people die. I'm not saying anything new. But it's interesting to consider.

Bhutto and Redding

Last night, In the cold, rainy night of Post-Christmas, I watched a documentary about Stax Records on PBS. It was fascinating to learn about a part of US history that was, until last night, unknown to me: the origins of a record label based in Memphis, TN that propelled the soul music industry from its roots into international acclaim. Otis Redding, in his prime, was highlighted as Stax's rising star...until his fatal plane crash at the age of 27.

Then this morning, I learned Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan. The news was of course very sad. I had been following her story for some time, interested yet keenly aware that I was very much in the dark about her position, relying solely on the international media as my source material.

But I have been inspired by her dedication, the fact that she is a woman, and by her resolve for change in her country.

I think it's fitting to join Otis Redding and Benazir Bhutto today.

Benazir Bhutto, 54, Lived in Eye of Pakistan Storm

Charismatic, striking and a canny political operator, Benazir Bhutto, 54, was reared in the violent and turbulent world of Pakistani politics and became the country’s and the Muslim world’s first female prime leader.

A deeply polarizing figure, the “daughter of Pakistan” was twice elected prime minister and twice expelled from office in a swirl of corruption charges that propelled her into self-imposed exile in London for much of the past decade. She returned home this fall, billing herself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism and a tribune of democracy.

She was killed on Thursday in a combined shooting and bombing attack at a rally in Rawalpindi, one of a series of open events she attended in spite of a failed assassination attempt the day she returned to Pakistan in October and of repeated warnings.

A woman of grand ambitions with a taste for complex political maneuvering, Ms. Bhutto was first elected prime minister in 1988 at the age of 35. The daughter of one of Pakistan’s most flamboyant and democratically inclined prime ministers, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, she inherited from him the mantle of the populist People’s Party, which she came to personify.

Even from exile, her leadership was virtually unchallenged. She staged a high-profile return to her home city of Karachi, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters to an 11-hour rally and leading a series of political demonstrations in opposition to the country’s military leader, President Pervez Musharraf.

Ms. Bhutto often spoke of how her father encouraged her to study the lives of legendary female leaders ranging from Indira Gandhi to Joan of Arc and, as a young woman, closely observed his political maneuvering.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the best present

I am almost always riveted each time I read about Frida Kahlo, see reproductions of her work, see a picture of her.

Her work is inspiring in so many ways.

For Christmas I bought a great book for my cousin about Frida, with never published photographs and letters between her and her lover after Diego. She bought me the same book.

It makes me wonder if I'll ever dedicate myself to my work enough to have written really great letters that are discovered years after my death. I wonder if I'll ever make art that transforms anyone else, or myself for that matter.


visitors from other countries and from other US cities make me really happy this season.
Christmas dinner was thankfully low-key; lots of salty old men being grouchy towards each other while we all ate too much.

Friday, December 21, 2007


building from the back

building from the front

My five year wedding anniversary was yesterday. It's too bad my husband and I were both too sick to enjoy it. Wah.

We did blow out candles on red velvet cupcakes and sang "happy anniversary to us". That was a nice moment.

It's hard not to think of all the things we were hoping to have accomplished by now: we wanted to have our anniversary party/housewarming at our new home. For the past two years we've had really nice anniversary parties (in lieu of actually having a wedding ceremony and party), and we were looking forward to sharing this special anniversary and housewarming with our family and friends. Secretly, I was also looking forward to planning a really fun event.

As is the case with almost all construction jobs, ours is hopelessly delayed. We're still sleeping on the proverbial couch, house-sitting next week and moving into our sublet in the new year. It frustrates me that we even had to find a sublet at all. I've started writing emails to myself NOT sent to our builder about all the things I'd like to see change on site. I am ready for this not to be so much a part of my life.

On the other hand, I have to thank the stars for everything I DO have now, based on all the hard work we've done to ensure as great and healthy a building as possible. It's also hard not to sound like a spoiled brat, but until I find the right support group of women-who-work-with-their-husbands-building-new-construction-projects-for-the-first-time, this blog will have to do.

Tereza I miss writing to you, with you. Where have you gone?

It's been almost one year since i started writing my journals online. Another anniversary.
At this time last year I was getting ready to go to South Africa, and unbeknownst to me at the time, confront my deepest pains from my past. It's hard not to get emotional about that milestone. To admit to others, and begin to work with, sexual assault and public/pubic humiliation at 12, and then date rape at 19 was indescribably transformative. If I wasn't going to confront my past in a place like South Africa, where on Earth was I going to confront it?

Capetown townsip

Although the building project has been a formative project this year, working more consistently in studio on my artwork has become more regular in my days. I'm thankful for that. I'm proud that I made that choice to not withdraw but to work towards a new understanding of my life without so much fear.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cubes and the golden ratio

Our new home is turning into one composed of perfect squares, mathematical harmony, and golden means.

We are in the final stages.
Windows are getting delivered.
Reclaimed lumber is getting delivered. From Kentucky.
Our bricks are outside "weathering".

With all the complications, mess-ups, wrongly installed trades, etc., almost every room on almost every floor is turning into either a perfect square or the golden mean. It's almost a miracle. I wonder if it's the builder's secret gift to us. I won't say anything in the hopes that it is.

That's a little magic that entered into our lives today.

My despondency is lifting as the clouds are moving. I'm almost done with another sheet for airing my dirty laundry. I cannot wait until spring. For now, cubes and golden ratios.

I bought a homeless woman a cup of coffee today and also gave her two dollars. She opened the door of the bank for me. She was being virtually ignored by everybody else. Most of the times I have to admit I would have ignored her too. There is so much need in the world...actually, I can't believe I live in a country rich enough with the capacity to support the whole world, and careless enough to have (what I can see as a growing) homeless population in such a city like New York. I felt so badly. She got a large coffee light and sweet.

The New Orleans residents in FEMA trailers are getting evicted. Right in time for Christmas. I'm building my home. On what foundation? There are so many variables in the world, and in the end it doesn't even matter because we are but specks of dust in the universe. I feel that so profoundly that often I feel so out of place in urban contexts.

Out of the darkness comes the light.
Neither the beginning nor the end; the end gets swallowed up by the beginning. I read that today.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sadness and regret

During the tree planting process this week. a lot of family information was shared with me, mostly in a sad and regretful way.

This building project and the tree planting experience cannot be more of a symbol for transformation and home (putting one's "roots" down, building one's home, etc). Over the past two years many family dynamics have come up that I've had to confront, deal with, synthesize, and help transform. This week was no different, if only a bit more intense because the information was told in confidence, without shouting or yelling but sharing in a different way. A lot more intimate.

Hearing stories about time after time either poor choices made, properties stolen from out from under one, family members also stealing ideas and land, loosing a bid by five minutes or five dollars, always being second runner up never the winner. Never the winner. Never the winner. Hearing story after story about life 35 years ago in the same environment but 35 years later like it was yesterday put me in a listening position but there was nothing I could "do".

I quietly reminded myself in my head that it was 2007 and not 1977. What was I supposed to do?

I felt full and sad and remorseful myself since I listened to those stories in the car. Yesterday I went to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at the Angelika and was confronted again with sadness and regret, this time in cinematic form. The movie was wonderful, beautiful and very sad...of course bringing me to tears during the whole thing. I broke down after the movie, and I think it's because this is the first year I've begun to feel anything deeper than anger and happiness. I feel more now than I ever have before in my whole life, and everything it seems leaves very deep impressions on me.

I'm tired of holding it together for everyone else.

I let it all out after the movie.

I talked my way through it (another first) which was also important because I've been able to communicate more this year than I ever have before in my life. Through my work, through the way I walk down the street, through everything. Many old friends don't even pretend to be interested. I find myself mostly alone. However many newer friends are etching themselves in my life for the long term and for that I am grateful.

I feel propelled by sadness. I know I wrote about that earlier. This unraveling is so informational, and I feel like I'm making up for decades of lost time with my father. Can one keep on making the same mistakes year after year, over a lifetime, before one learns from the mistake, thereby changing one's brain pattern? I will never give up thinking that YES a person can change one's entire life in an instant.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A tree grows in Brooklyn

A Quality Housing requirement for the NYC Buildings Department is for the home owner to plant a street tree either in front of their new home or somewhere nearby (same block or neighborhood). That was my task this week. Along with my father, we planted our first street tree together. A Japanese Zelkovatree, apparently impervious to the devastating longhorn beetle, was chosen in conjunction with the Parks Department.

I had an amazing time planting the street tree. I never had the opportunity before, only knowing how to take care of windowsill gardens. It felt like I was part of something larger than myself. I really liked getting my hand dirty and working outside. I felt like I was bringing back the wolf by bringing back a tree.

My father also had a great time. We are so similar that at times we really got on each other's nerves and stepped on each other's toes, both proverbially and literally. He worked really, really hard that day. Lots of heavy lifting. He's staking out the soil for the tree-helpers (so the tree won't fall over this year)

Another view of us with our lovely neighbor (not a fan of street trees herself, but interesting in chatting us up a bit), and our progress with our street tree.

Around midday, a reporter and her crew found us. They are/were doing a story about "holes", and found ours to be newsworthy. They shot some footage in the street tree pit. It was a very nice experience for all of us.

Another view of the reporter and her great crew.

Our street tree, with not quite enough soil, not any mulch, but planted. A successful collaboration between father and daughter! We made it without killing each other or the tree. Job well done

My father and I in and around the street tree pit

When we arrived on site for the tree planting, we noticed the dumpster that was there for weeks on end had been taken away. The trash underneath it, however, had not been addressed yet. Job for meaningcleaning!! We cleaned the street to start our day. I think that was even more important, or as important rather, than planting the tree.

Our street in process.

Another view of the progress.

A view of the cleaner but not yet perfect street. Meaningcleaning still needs some work.


Not to speak is to speak
not to act is to act

Appropriate for today, for this week really.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Angry marks

I went to the Kara Walker show at the Whitney on Friday. Now I know what an angry mark can feel like. I had questions about how one can recognize angry marks, empathetic marks, still was pretty apparent that Kara Walker has learned how to channel her rage and anger into amazingly powerful work.

The show was curated really well. It inspired me to be less afraid as an artist. Again, to use one's pain and trauma as a propellor, even the trauma of the past before one was born (or using what one was born into). There was all her PROCESS work which made her more finished and presented work make so much more sense!! Loads of drawings, small and large alike, and text pieces on index cards which were so simple and so powerful. Strength in the confrontation. Certainly not a subtle show at all. Loads and loads of work!

I went with my partner, a colleague and some of her high school students from the Bronx. We were all blown away, I can imagine for very different reasons. The students made some astute observations, comparing Kara Walker to other contemporary musical artists who channel their anger into their work ("but better!")...I was impressed by the clarity of the images and was taken by how crazy and wacky her drawings are. She's really intense. Excellent draftswoman.

I would like to go again.

Another connection

A friend of a friend, Sara Schnadt; really interesting artist with whom I reconnected with last month. I feel connected to the direction of her work, and am thinking about her today as I look at her latest postcard on my wall in studio. Among other things, we spoke about the interesting opportunities for artists in Chicago, where she is based, and a lack thereof in New York City, where I am based.

It seemed like a lot of the conversation that night was about the changes and differences between the two cities over the past decade or so; about how expensive and actually uncreative New York City has gotten, and how Chicago still retains a lot of experimental spaces for artists, spaces where "emerging" or un(der) represented artists have a chance to exhibit without the behemoth of the Art Market breathing down their necks. I've never lived in Chicago so I can't say, but my experience of being an artist in New York has certainly proved a lot about the direction of this city and the parallel but distinctly divergent direction of my own work. I've never felt I really belonged here; I haven't ever thought I had to "conquer" New York because I was born and raised here.

Hearing that echo from another artist in a clear and concise way (in North America even!) was refreshing, if still a little melancholy because I'm still in New York (at least for the next year)...but to hear a different opinion, one I share about the confines about the city and to see the proverbial Emperor's New Clothes was GREAT.

I wish I could have seen her performance in Chicago. I hope we can collaborate in the future.

The stain of memory

Hanging dirty laundry
sweeping the floor
casting/mold making
collaborating with women
the spirit of Aloha
embroidery "women's work"
memory of trauma embedded in the body
distortion of repression
the regret
the shadow
angry marks

Below is a video I tried to link to about a year ago, but didn't know how to in blog-land. It's a video by Tania Katan, an artist whose work has inspired my own. Transforming her own experience with breast cancer into an entire body of work that (as I understand it) confronts, processes, and deals with trauma, tragedy and her own body. It's helped me lose a lot of fear about confronting my own issues of body trauma, pain, and art making.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

letter reading

I was waiting for a train to studio this afternoon, and a woman sat next to me, reading a letter written on yellow legal paper. Of course I looked over her shoulder to read part of the letter...part nostalgia at the letters I used to write, part pure nosiness...the letter was so sad.

It was written by someone who is in jail, whose son is living with his grandmother, who adopted him; his son's mother and new boyfriend are on drugs (or so the letter writer thinks); his father just got out of jail after 22 years inside; his mother is terminally ill and doesn't have health insurance; his niece is on a Christian mission in Honduras (the only one to get out); his other family is overwhelmed by too many children, not enough partners sticking around, and not enough money to go around; his other children are also adopted by other family members; another son is also serving time (3 years)...

I felt so sad for the letter writer as well as the letter reader. Reading hand-written letters has always been such a joy for me; an account of someone else's life that was important enough to share in writing. No one does this anymore; we have the internet. I miss letter writing. It's bittersweet that the first letter I've read (albeit over someone's shoulder) is from someone in prison. In a way it pours salt on the wound.

I can't help but think of Diane Jacobs' work in Santa Ana: "Do you know someone who is incarcerated?" with all the fingerprints. Identification. Incarceration. Laceration.

I wonder where that woman was going who was reading the letter. She didn't get on my train but was waiting for another.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I love it when I'm actually doing my own work I don't think about being judgmental towards others. I think that's really interesting about the creative process.