Thursday, October 30, 2014

cleaning shift

I picked up a cleaning shift at A's school.
One day a week for three hours.
I started documenting the work - will post again after my shift tonight

cycle, spiral, repetition, Dear Mary

Dear Mary, 

Please excuse the informality, it is not from any disrespect, quite the opposite, with great admiration for your work and your life's transformation. 

I write to you as my one-and-some-month old naps, tucked in his stroller, breathing to the sounds of the waves.

I have listened to your music and the NPR interviews and am interested in the connection you speak of: not a relationship, but in relation. I write this letter in hope of and in search of this connection. I am a thirty-six yr. old artist who happens to be raising two children, one age 9 and the other is the baby I already mentioned. I'm looking for a way to "wake up" to my parenting reality and truly see it as an art form that it is. 

Sitting here however, I feel infinitesimally small. I go about most of my day picking up socks, cleaning dust balls from the corners, singing to my son, dancing with my daughter, cooking (and occasionally reflecting on all of it in the studio.)

I realize how we undervalue our own experience, (Until I listened to your songs, that is.) "Mercy Now," played on pandora as I was casting soaps of George Washington's profile.
The song, the lyrics but more so, the way it was sung sparked a connection. 

My hope is that you agree to having a correspondence like this one in which I send videos, images, text, that I find relevant to your songs. Mostly, I want to share with you rmy mothering process, something I neglect. It is unique to me and to the two individuals we label, my children. My hope is you can find some resonance, some idea of perhaps what your biological mother went through, birthing- but more so to expand upon your process; seeing personal images, sounds of baby nursing in the middle of the night, bathing. The connection all human beings are naturally programmed for. I'm not sure any of us get this ideal experience as life is fraught with trouble and suffering. None-the-less, would you be open to this dialogue?

My dear art partner, Anitra Haendel, committed suicide the month my son was born last July. She was my listener, my dialogue, my art partner for over a decade and a helpful ear while I raised my daughter. I treasure the letters now as I understand their significance beyond their materiality. They are that true connection whether they speak of shit or birth/death. 

Thanks for your time in reading this letter.
With great admiration,


Attached image is of mine and my daughter's umbilical cord, the color of which I found significant in our birth process. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The Mark Paintings of Catherine Lee.
Made on raw, unstretched sections of canvas, using only small, uniform marks in black or white, Lee likens her work to handprints on a cave wall, marking her presence with small repeated strokes. Lee exhibited The Mark Paintings at Galerie Lelong, 528 W. 26th St, New York, NY in 2012

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

coming back to life

little by little, coming back to life.
peripheral vision widening, black surround sound dissipating slowly.
It feels indulgent to write about this here - I really have nothing to complain about.
But who else do I have to talk to?
How else can I convey what it is that's making me feel so upset and angry all the time?

I actually slept last night
and now, it's only 7:21 pm and my kid put himself to sleep twenty minutes ago.
I have up to 3 full hours to myself before I pass out from exhaustion.
That hasn't been the case for quite some time.
My studio would take that long to heat up - I'm moving all the paints inside, wondering where I'll work during the winter. I don't even know what I'll be working on. I don't even feel like I am an artist right now.

I wrote to T that I feel like I'm in a cage inside my own head - so much in there, but when the words, thoughts, phrases, ideas come out, they often sound so different than what I intend. I find that I can't say what I mean, and what comes out sounds all wrong. I have such trouble seeing the big picture, and feel like when I'm relating to him at least, he can't understand me. I don't know if this is particular to us, or to couples in general who decide to have kids.

I don't even have the strength to forge ahead in studio most days.
I've lost interest in most of what I used to love doing.
I see the days pass and I don't really care that I haven't done anything productive.
It feels ridiculous to waste this time on the planet feeling so sorry for myself!

Monday, October 27, 2014

mercy now

Thoughts on molding and mass production:

Taking things slow. I am still mass producing, one at a time, to forty-eight. Each soap the same, yet each slightly different.

Questioning, What are we multiplying? (As Anitra copied my image with child,)
Are there ever two that are the same and why the insistence on the copy? Thinking of the education system.
What/who is the source?

He grows more gentle, more uncertain, opening his eyes:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


after the

After yesterday's process and reading about John Cage, I see it now. So simple, just noticing the dimensions. Here is my piece for, after the (10 bulls):

Untitled, (4'33 and 12)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Bulls- One who is not attached to "form" need not be "reformed."

Rereading the Ten Bulls the Comment from 9. Reaching the Source stuck me and made me review my work in this new light. One who is not attached to "form" need not be "reformed."
Possibilities for our show:

Ten heads in a dish, (Impermanent Foundation Series)
Unfired clay suspended in water
Size can range from miniature roughly 4x4 inches
or can be life-size on dinner plates roughly 11" in diameter

Twelve Dollars (Capital Cleanse)
Cast soap, 2" in diameter, Box of 48 George Washington's
I would provide soap for the gallery bathroom for the duration of the show. $12 represent money exchanged for a girl sold in Nigeria, April 2014.

Gauze, 3x roughly 4x3", unrolled gauze is 4'x3"
These may be nice in dialogue other works in the show.

Just Looking While Breathing, (Anitra Haendel Series)
3 part drawing, ink and graphite on pencil, 26"x40"
Am not sure the gallery has space for these, but was thinking about including Anitra in this group show as the location is so close to where we lived from 2000-2005.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


“For me the important thing was my school, I wanted to learn, I wanted to be a doctor at that time, it was my dream. But in 2009 education was banned and at that time I could not even believe that would it be possible that I would remain just uneducated woman for my whole life and then I would get married and my only job is to give birth to children and take care of my husband and my mother in law and my children and that’s it.

I could never be who I am.”

Ok, now I have the education, but everything (except the mother in law) remains the same. It is a fleeting time and I know this will not be forever. I also want and realize this is an important job. However, I still cannot be who I am (most of the day.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation video

Video for Robert Rauschenberg Foundation from Tereza Swanda on Vimeo.

while reading Where the Heart Beats I question

How is the everyday related to art?
How much of the daily grime, is the beauty?

Awakening to my life:
How is my seeing, smelling, tasting, noticing dust-balls
     the urine in diapers,
     which I have realized is a smell I associate with home
    The hollering of grandma's, the noise, in between the Calm Meditation Radio on Pandora
     the never-ending dishes
     "We are always just doing the dishes" (Emily Orling)
     never-ending laundry
     never-ending food preparation
     Anitra's shit paintings


"It's not what you do, it's how you do it." (RnC)
Am I present? Not often, not during chores, they're never-ending. In this way my process is never-ending.
Everything I do is not art- just moments.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Today I turned 40.

It rained all night and into today; I woke up to the sound of raindrops on the roof.

My parents arrived yesterday, so Ale stayed in his bed with Nonna this morning. We got a reprieve, and actually slept until 7:30 AM. It's their 42nd wedding anniversary as well, so a good time to celebrate together.

Our creek was flowing, instead of being bone dry (its condition for the last 2 months).

The plants and trees looked full, not droopy.
I went to the gym and then helped clean up the garden with my mom. It's still the best way to curb the mounting depression that's making its way out of the periphery and into my center. 
T and my dad moved a huge log to span across the creek so we have a bridge to the other side.

I feel like I'm coming out of my melancholia, even though nothing has really changed.

Everything is fine, it's always been fine. I have nothing to complain about. 

R&C sent out their newsletter - did you receive it?

I found it inspiring - it helped me remember my part of the liver.

...I know I have no right to be sad. Even when I describe what I'm doing to others, I feel ridiculous feeling anything but gratitude. With every terrible thing that is happening in the world, with all the brutality, racism, killing and climate change, I feel incredibly self-centered even writing this entry to you, Tereza. 

But that weight of parenthood is still here. The anxiety of responsibility, the dread of the Domestic, creeps in on me on an almost daily basis. 

These are the questions I want to ask them for my skype crit, but in these questions are the very answers I am looking for:

What am I missing?
What am I not seeing?
What connections am I not making?
What's the "thing" I need to see, need to say?

What are the common threads that can weave through the more figurative work and into this more lyrical work?
I don't know how to convey gesture without being completely literal about it.
What about atmosphere? What I see has so little to do with calm...

How do I work with aspects of the more figurative work with this newer approach?
Without being totally fragmented?

Is this work an extension of the work from SAP 3, or a tangent? I still don't recognize a lot of it, as the more intuitive work has always been kept on the side, in the margins, on the periphery...

What pieces still need to be made?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sometimes repetition feels like walking in circles in jail.
I'm not learning anything.

art in context of life in context of art

I just found these images again going through a "clean-up" of my computer desktop.
Making connections at a glacial pace, I think I understand context in a different way.
My work reads so much better when it's seen in its context.

(I also miss Anitra and wanted to post her image again. From your posts, I can tell you do too).


Friday, October 10, 2014

In my lifetime: projects

Less of a straight line, more of the atmosphere:

Recognize my marks
Don't withdraw
Take responsibility for my place in the (art) world, and all the other worlds.
Support my family
Support myself
Don't procrastinate


...I also realize this stint of self pity has everything to do with staying STUCK to ideas, concepts, perceptions ... about so much. So much VELCRO. Time to unstick!!

Thanks Ann Hamilton

re: Girls series cannot remain Untitled, Love Your Titles

I was taken by the visual analogies you made with our work.
I have been thinking about them in terms of working together in the future - how to make our blog real (in another way)

Using our blog as a starting point, why don't we create work based on the images that resonate with us?
I mean, we've found a way to get our blog to print - very literally.
Are you interested in doing something more lyrical?

Thinking about WSW - they have a regional grant that I could apply for.
Their printmaking studio is amazing, as is their paper making studio.

Initial thoughts: we could create a monoprint edition or body of work based on our blog - working independently but side by side. The residency is for a month. Something you see and want to respond to, something I see and want to respond to. I'm more inclined to follow that thread, based on the visual analogies you put together from earlier last month.
We could use those images as application images...?
Deadline for WSW is October 15. We have five days. Interested?

with love

thank you so much for continuing to post, Tereza.
For the last few weeks, I have felt the crushing weight of my decision to start a family.
And even though this blog was created as an intimate conversation between us, I don't want to take it for granted and spew about my "problems". I'm fine, really, if filled with melancholy.

Thank you for posting
Thank you for posting
Thank you for posting

I am making it back here, slowly

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Conversation at the end of time

Re: Just checking your website!
From: Anitra Haendel
Sent: Mon 10/27/08 4:07 PM
To: Tereza Swanda
oh sweety. I wish I was there for you more!          "I wish I was there" underlined in blue. You are...

Now I can see the details...
and I yours, the small bits of red speckeled on the edge of a torn paper. One Snoopy extending a hand to the other while the other keeps his hands to himself. 

not only are the sanded lines delicate but so are the images in their fleeting lights and structures

                                                                                "fleeting lights and structures" underlined in blue.
The process is still about impermanence, so much so that now I recognize the body as shell, as temporary, as the universe expanding, shifting, changing constant, reading "A Universe from Nothing."

seems like that is part of it - the ephemerality of places - that they can be destroyed so easily via earthquakes, floods, bombs and the like - if they even exist at all outside the memory --

Krauss discusses the view of the universe by future astronomers. They will not see the expanding universe as it will be beyond their view horizon. It will be a view of nothing in one mega galaxy. Will there be a trace of our view, the Big Bang? Our memories? How do we leave a trace, art? 

they are also planetary and of the large picture of the universe - matter and atoms and energy flowing -- cities and places after all are very small - (see Dorothea Rockburne's work - she is into science and whiteness and darkness and fuzz i think)!1972/c76v

energy flowing underlined in blue

i think they are also about your czech childhood. having a clear memory of some place but a fuzz a haze of others - perhaps the feeling of the scratches and the marks of the sand are just the feeling of those memories - - 
feeling circled in blue
my ground- my czech childhood, postcards, sanded
making space, clearing space, a space that is something out of nothing

sand is also pieces of rock and sea and it also is part of erosion - these are maybe a recognition of the natural erosion and fading away of certain feelings places etc - -
underlined in blue
my memories with you, clear and fuzzy, fleeting light in our self-made McKibbin structure
questioning classical analyses bust, in ocean, eroded

and then by you putting them down again in a different way they have been re[con]figured 
but can never be the same...

How do we best preserve you? honor your being, now refigured. unfigured
the shell cracked, energy, nothingness.
Is there something?
"but can never be the same" underlined in blue

just thoughts                                                                                                              just          thoughts

I find the sanding very interesting. the noise of it.                               the sound of it, the pause after
"the noise of it" circled in blue

maybe record the noise. (the scratch, the agitation, the movement,) you have always been interested in sanding and in work. i think the work aspect is important - the basic drudgery of sanding and also the meditative 
underlined blue
Cage's 4,33, record motherhood/cleaning for 4,33
for 5-10 hours a day
5-7 days a week

Maybe instead of making a painting of the postcard like angela suggested, sand off a big picture. You could get a photo enlarged and sand away on your spare time. just be sure to collect the dust and to wear a mask!

Sand a large picture of you, 
fine grit, recording sound, breath
wear a mask of  Mictecacihuatl like you did
I will send you some photos of my new paintings now. 
I love you!

good scissors are such a joy to cut with!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke

Letter Seven

May 14, 1904

My dear Mr. Kappus, 

Much time has passed since I received your last letter. Please don't hold that against me; first it was work, then a number of interruptions, and finally poor health that again and again kept me from answering, because I wanted my answer to come to you out of peaceful and happy days. Now I feel somewhat better again (the beginning of spring with its moody, bad-tempered transitions was hard to bear here too) and once again, dear Mr. Kappus, I can greet you and talk to you (which I do with real pleasure) about this and that in response to your letter, as well as I can. 

You see: I have copied out your sonnet, because I found that it is lovely and simple and born in the shape that it moves in with such quiet decorum. It is the best poem of yours that you have let me read. And now I am giving you this copy because I know that it is important and full of new experience to rediscover a work of one's own in someone else's handwriting. Read the poem as if you had never seen it before, and you will feel in your innermost being how very much it is your own. 

It was a pleasure for me to read this sonnet and your letter, often; I thank you for both. 

And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything, in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. 

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves ("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough. 

But this is what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment... And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human experience is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love life as an amusement, it also had to give it and easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.

It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they have landed in livable and fruitful in their own, personal way. For their nature tells them that the questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are questions, intimate questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer. But how can they, who have already flung themselves together and can no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?

They act out of mutual helplessness, and then if, with the best of intentions, they try to escape the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example), they fall into the clutches of some less obvious but just as deadly conventional solution. For then everything around them is convention. Wherever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional: every relation that such confusion leads to had its own convention, however unusual (i.e., in the ordinary sense immoral) it may be; even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit.

Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived; and for both these tasks, which we carry wrapped up and hand, on without opening, there is no general, agreed-upon rule that can be discovered. But in the same measure in which we begin to test life as individuals, these great Things will come to meet us, the individuals, with greater intimacy. The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them. But if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as a burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us. That would be much.

We are only just now beginning to consider the relation of one individual to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and out attempts to live such relationships have no model before them. And yet in the changes that time has brought about there are already many things that can help our timid novitiate.

The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off  the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.

This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman. And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.

And one more thing: Don't think that the great love which was once granted to you, when you were a boy, has been lost; how can you know whether vast and generous wishes didn't ripen in you at that time, and purposes by which you are still living today? I believe that that love remains so strong and intense in your memory because it was your first deep aloneness and the first inner work that you did on your life. -All good wishes to you, dear Mr. Kappus!

Ranier Maria Rilke