Friday, March 28, 2014

Here we go, love. A journey with Anitra Haendel!

We talked about attending this residency together three years ago after reading Savage Beauty. Here is our spot: Millay Colony, June 2014

Dear Tereza, 

We have a Virtual Residency spot available for you at Millay Colony, either for the June or August residency, depending on your studio needs. Are you interested in attending? 

The requirements for the Virtual Residency is that during your residency month that you work on the proposal as stated in your application, with a stipend provided from the colony to help offset child care costs. You also also required to stay at least 4 days at the colony. The dates and number of days over four that you choose is entirely up to you, I will just need to know in advance your final plans. 

Let me know as soon as possible if you're available. 

All the best, 
Calliope Nicholas


At the Millay Colony, I intend to create an installation using objects, text and images from mine and a fellow artist’s, decade long collaboration. I want to reconnect with Anitra Haendel who was a very close friend, collaborator and fellow artist, and who unfortunately took her life, this year on July 23rd . I want to redefine death, seeing it not as an end, but a point in a continuum. The reason I specifically chose the Millay Colony was because Ani and I planned on attending together, having read and been inspired by, “Savage Beauty,” less than three years ago. I hope to fulfill that promise and continue our over decade long collaboration.

I question time, its linearity, and work with materials that are malleable in order to express transfiguration. Be it postcards, clay, canvas, egg shells, paper, dust on contact paper, salvaged bars of soap, or my grandmother’s bandages that she wraps around her knees daily for her aches and pains cursing my grandfather for making her ride on his motorcycle in the cold Czech winters.  Each item carries a history that I rework and then rewrite.  I erase, sand, paint, reveal, melt of one substance into another, stick, melt again, and perhaps evaporate. In What Remains?,  I paint my grandfather’s portrait in clay on a porcelain cup, fill the cup with water and let it spill, washing my grandfather’s face nearly off. (images 6 &7)  Another example is Mutual Cleanse, where I rub an Oil of Olay bar with a portrait of my great-grandmother on it on my pregnant belly nearly fading her image. (image 10)

I’ve been working with the dead since my cousin’s passing (I never asked how) twenty years ago. Her untimely death in her mid-thirties, was a shock that I could slowly cope with through working with her image, her letters, and her drawings. The small scraps left over.  But the theme of loss comes from much earlier in childhood, as we emigrated from the Czech Republic and left everyone behind not being able to return for 5 years. To an 8 year old, five years equals a lifetime. First it was the objects, the precious mail sent between my grandparents and I. Little remnants of ‘home.’ Upon my return to CZ in my teens and every two years thereafter, I had to acknowledge the continuum, not only my own, but also that of my native land.  Things don’t disappear. They change.

The theme of a continuum past death and now as a parent of before and after birth is what motivates the bulk of my work. I question our physicality. The investigation gets more and more subtle and the material becomes more and more immaterial in its final form. 

I'm reminded of your eagle paintings and Jess's beautiful girls in landscapes. I just need to build the frame of a home around you and take away the ground. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

  • love to your son!‏

To: Tereza Swanda

I am so happy for you. A boy amongst all the pretty girls. You'll have to buy him new clothes, no hammy downs! And Will will have a son to play ball with and tinker on the car with. Unless Ali already does that stuff.
Is Ali still a dancer and singer?   I watch "So you think you can dance" and I think of you and remember when you gave me your dancing shoes and sparkly blue outfit. Which I wore just last year!
Are you birthing in water again? This time it'll be easier.I remember the photos of you - so red in the face! I wonder if you will make umbilical chord artwork again.
I gotta go to a group therapy session now...I love you always.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Goodies are up, "To and From Othering"

Transient Forms
Detail (below)

Memory Without Attachment

No Preexisting Answer
Details (below)

The gallery walls are grey and at least 4 feet taller than I have in the studio. (I will be taking additional tidbits just in case...) I like sitting among them, (am happy that I did not "kill" the work in process.) It is slowly seeping in that this is my language. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mothering Reframed, From Within

Installation is taking shape and changes daily, more precisely, moment to moment.

Dance of Transient Forms

No Preexisting Answer                                                             Memory Without Attachment

Wash Your Hands Of Patriarchy, Great-Grandparents

Friday, March 14, 2014

questions arising in the studio

a gestural language that is never really pinned down

implied movement

mothering redefined/undefined/un,learning

things that loosely stick

blurring blood memory

no preexisting answer

dance of transient forms

cut out

space of indeterminacy

What is this resistance to framing?

this holds the key:

fram•ing (ˈfreɪ mɪŋ) 

1. the act, process, or manner of constructing anything.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

art life

I have to talk about the 'feel' of your images from the last post. (Albeit the images now speak for themselves.)

I FEEL THEM! That is so important for me. Before although I felt them, it was subconscious. I did not understand why I was drawn to them. Of course, now I also know your life to a greater degree and the images are that much more powerful.

I keep going between this writing and another window I have open of the images and one more that contains your writing. I'm learning how to read those marks, the color, and the last image hits me like a ton of bricks. (So disturbing!) And "Wished for" in the manner it is written, breaks my heart. I think you have a show with just those images.

I also have time to contemplate the images in the slide show format.I have time to pause between them. "What happens when nothing happens?" relates to that pause. I am learning it is crucial to give something space/time for contemplation. (This is all going through my head in-between nursings when I can't sleep planning the installation this month for "To/From Mothering".)

Space/time contemplation is what this blog has been. (Besides the evident pause from my everyday household chores and child rearing. What a ridiculous word.)

I find the definition of words fascinating because I always find a new nuance than the one I started with. Example:
gerund or present participle: rearing
  1. 1.
    bring up and care for (a child) until they are fully grown, esp. in a particular manner or place
    "he was born and reared in New York City"
    synonyms:bring up, raise, care for, look after, nurtureparentMore

  2. 2.
    (of a horse or other animal) raise itself upright on its hind legs.
    "the horse reared in terror"

So it does not define how a child should be reared although it is in a 'particular manner'. I find definition 2 in relation to the first definition disturbing. I'm assuming the second definition came first and then someone applied it to a child! The image of a "horse reared in terror." The power struggle ingrained already within language!

I would like to see our collaboration take on many forms. Firstly, I love our dialogue online and off. It was also significant to meet at MassMoca. The Sol Lewitt instructions are very interesting. He died the year we started the blog, 2007. In relation to what one leaves behind, it is something to think about in our work. 

I still want to see the blog in a tangible form like a book, unedited. Just to be able to run our fingers through.
Then I would like to do what you suggest: take what is relevant to us now and do a book of that. Then, instillation, live-in the space and pass ideas physically back and forth.

In the mean time, I also want to continue this here, in the moment responding one post at a time.

Love, T

Healing Wounds, 2004
oil and transfer on paper

Trust Fall, 2004
oil and transfer on paper

Healing Wounds, 2007
oil on canvas (4'x6')

Thursday, March 6, 2014

art, life (no separation)

I wish I could scan in what I wrote after our last conversation -
where to "go" with our collaboration, what to "do".

I think about the phrase: " what happens when nothing happens?"

performance, ongoing


we started this online conversation, prompted by the suggestion of one of our teachers.
now we have a desire to explode it into 3 (or more) dimensions.
what's at the crux of this desire?
I know what liminal means.

Literal translation of blog entries into book seems, well, too literal.
Perhaps we can extract the posts we feel most connected to in terms of theme and personal resonance and create a book from those. I mean, we have over 2,000 entries to choose from!

Installation. A response.
A wall a mile long.
Visual anthology of the last seven years for the next seven years (and beyond...)
What kind of responses are we interested in making?
How do our individual practices affect, relate to, influence our collective practice?
Is there any overlap? I think yes, of course, but how to explain...?
The spiral continues upward, northward...

Focus on one month of our blog, or one theme, each time we see each other
-repetition - as act of meditation, as part of being alive
-silent communication (the written word. Are words actually silent?)
-Felt, not Literal

Spoken word "interviews", actual conversations recorded

A necklace for two people

Roll dice or consult I Ching to understand what the nature of this collaboration is
Use chance to see where we begin, for how long, where to "go"...

I found these images from the past seven years.
Still have a lot to learn from them

Mixed Media

Lost or drawn over

Last One Standing

Behind Closed Doors

Crosses Corset
Mixed Media on Canvas
Painted over or thrown away


Studio wall

An homage to Annette Messager and Sue Williams

Wished For
Found Photograph

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

book, installation, large

Maybe that's what we are for each other

Why not write each other's statements - another collab!

OK I'm getting used to the idea of creating a ginormous installation. Do you want to apply for the Bemis residency? That would give us time and space, and stipend, to create it.

Here is the link:

I mean, why not apply?

Nature as a whole

“When I’m working with materials its not just the leaf or the stone, it’s the processes that are behind them that are important. That’s what I’m trying to understand, not a single isolated object but nature as a whole”  - Andy Goldsworthy

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the perspective I currently love the most: from the inside, out

Ostrich egg, carved, drilled and painted, photographed from the inside
(I couldn't resist the little red dot!)

Monday, March 3, 2014

7 Years, An Open Book, Live-in Installation

perspective and distance- a not knowing

I totally agree- we need this kind of distance and am thinking THIS LARGE for the book. It's like the measurement taken when a child spreads his arm and says I love you "this much" with their arm span open all the way! (Your artwork example I love much more than LeWitt, but I found the image for the perspective aspect, and I initially imagined our book installed no other place than the Mass MOCA.)

Somehow through this kind of distancing, I find, that the ego is more absorbed. It does not mean that it doesn't exist, but it really is muffled by a larger picture. And I don't think we need to necessarily KNOW the larger picture ahead of time. I think this is where we both are. I feel that although I have a few projects simultaneously in mind, when I sit and concentrate, I pay attention to what is in front of me. Not what is in front of me, with all my Betties, insecurities, judgement. (Some of that comes in after I continue working.) But in the moment of work, I focus. And so do you.

This presence makes the difference. We are not just responding from ourselves. We allow for something else. (It might be the dot on the periphery. But we allow it to be there.)

This statement I find fantastic: "I surprise myself by realizing how little I actually know." Being of the culture we are, of the age that we are, very few can admit that there is still so much to know, to learn. Many stop at the age of 22 when they get out of college (seemingly.) But the process continues for a life-time. There is no end to learning. However, many operate from "knowing:" a habit that one understands and does in order to function with relative ease and safety.

The much more scary way to practice is not to know. What a feat to admit not to know! From what then does one go on?

Look at your current work- your paper installation. The work speaks for itself. It is not self conscious, no Betties. It simply speaks of the things you are interested in and reflects this whole paragraph:

the metaphor of Above and Below:
microcosm of one's everyday life and
the relationship we have with the illusory nature of time
thoughts forming consciousness
impressions of memory on one's body
chance and serendipity

Now look at the definition of liminal. I see it clearly. Do you?

Maybe that is what we are for each other. Each having the distance to see clearly the other's work. Maybe we should write each other's statements. 

I love the image of Xu Bing's installation. Is that the printing block at the front highlighted by yellow light? I love the scroll formation and the text directly on wall. How would it be to print our words directly on the walls of an institution? (Then of course paint over them at the end of the show.) And have them permanently (albeit invisible) therefore embedded into the structure. 

Let's play...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seven Year Sprial: why think small?

Xu Bing’ s installation A book from sky (1989) an example.
I'm looking forward to being with you to discuss possible forms of our book installation.
Even if we don't get the WSW grant, I would still like to make this piece with you.
What do you think?

another iteration, words











whole, an open book- installation

perspective and distance 

thoughts on a cold night

why is it that when I think I'm doing something, and return to it later and realize that it contains very little, if any, of the essence I hoped to convey? Whenever I think I'm doing something rather than actually doing the thing I'm doing, I'm doing the exact opposite of what it is I want to do. 

I find I limit my own potential by ascribing value to every move I make. Not just value, judgment. However, when the flow continues and those thoughts trail away into timelessness, connections are made out of time, out of my own ego. With all that we've recently been talking about here and over the phone, I surprise myself by realizing how little I actually know.

By the way: Happy anniversary!

For example, I have always been interested in the metaphor of Above and Below:
microcosm of one's everyday life and
the relationship we have with the illusory nature of time
thoughts forming consciousness
impressions of memory on one's body
chance and serendipity

...but when I look at my work and re-read any of the seemingly endless revisions of my artist statement, I don't find that vigor, the investigation, the right words, the focus. When I see myself through my work, I can only piece it together over very long periods of time. I don't see an overarching theme - so much seems scattered and circuitous. Maybe that is the theme...

There are so many things I still want to do; I'm anxious that all I'll ever be in this lifetime is a really good mother and a very supportive partner. I still have so many paintings to paint.
It seems like I allow the vigor to continue to get trumped by the realities of having a family and not making a lot of money through my day job. 

Or is this just some pity party I'm having for myself?