Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Being Brave

Being Brave
Family game with toy soldiers- positioning them in unforeseen places
and daughter's left-over apple core

Times she's burned dinner
Grease left over after cooking

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

new direction too

(place your image on the right)

The next seven years

These are the last two days of our first seven years together!

For me, there is such a sense of liminality; neither here nor there.
Aware, perhaps, observant.
I just am

Teresita Fernandez

What It Really Takes to Be an Artist: MacArthur Genius Teresita Fernández’s Magnificent Commencement Address

“Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth… will also become the raw material for the art you make.”
In 2005, artist Teresita Fernández — one of the most original and visionary sculptors of our time, whose work appears in the bewitching monograph Blind Landscape(public library) — received one of those legendary phone calls from the MacArthur Foundation. The mysterious caller informed her that the foundation’s secret committee had awarded the coveted MacArthur Fellowship — a generous $500,000 grant, with no strings attached, given solely so that the recipient can continue pursuing her or his creative work.
In May of 2013, two years after her appointment to President Barack Obama’s Commission of Fine Arts, Fernández delivered a spectacular keynote address to the graduating class at her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. Titled “On Amnesia, Broken Pottery, and the Inside of a Form,” the speech is a fine addition to the greatest commencement addresses of all time and a masterwork of the “connected irrelevance” that characterizes MacArthur “geniuses.” It is also an invaluable trove of hard-earned wisdom on the creative life, with great resonance for all stages of life. Annotated highlights below.
On the usefulness of “useless” knowledge, how we really learn about life, and the true seed of creative work:
For some inexplicable reason, we seem to believe most strongly not in the actual formal lessons, but rather in those details that get into our heads without our knowing exactly how they got there. Those pivotal lessons in our lives continue to work on us in subtle, subterranean ways.
This kind of amnesia is life’s built-in way of making sure you filter out what’s not very important. You graduate today after years of hard work, immersive years of learning, absorbing, processing, accumulating, cramming, finishing, focusing. There are no more reasons, really, to even make art unless you really truly want to. Of all you learned you probably don’t need to remember most of the technical or theoretical information, as that’s all easily accessible with a quick search. And what you will remember will have less to do with the past and more to do with how it triggers reactions for you in the present. Oddly enough, what we involuntarily do retain is meant to help us move forward. This forthcoming amnesia that awaits you is just another kind of graduation, another step in a lifetime of many graduations.
You are about to enter the much more difficult phase of unlearning everything you have learned in college, of questioning it, redefining it, challenging it, and reinventing it to call it your own. More than in any other vocation, being an artist means always starting from nothing. Our work as artists is courageous and scary. There is no brief that comes along with it, no problem solving that’s given as a task… An artist’s work is almost entirely inquiry based and self-regulated. It is a fragile process of teaching oneself to work alone, and focusing on how to hone your quirky creative obsessions so that they eventually become so oddly specific that they can only be your own.
Teresita Fernández: 'Fire,' 2005
She recounts being fascinated by an ancient Greek ostracon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — a piece of broken pottery or stone, engraved with a message, often used as a voting ballot — and how it reveals the fragmentary nature of creativity:
I was enamored with the idea of how what seemed broken, discarded, useless was transformed into a meaningful gesture… We are conditioned to think that what is broken is lost, or useless or a setback, and so when we set out with big ambitions we don’t necessarily recognize what the next graduation is supposed to look like. Unlearning everything you learned in college is just an exercise in learning to recognize how the fragments and small bits lead to something that is much more than the sum of its parts.
Echoing Nietzsche’s magnificent case for the value of difficulty, Fernández offers a wonderfully fresh perspective on failure amid a culture mired in “fail forward” clichés:
In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself. Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success. All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.
Fernández extends gentle assurance that art, like science, is driven by “thoroughly conscious ignorance”:
In those moments when you feel discouraged or lost in the studio, or when you experience rejection, rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand. In many ways, making art is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little a glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it. Instead, try to relish in its profound mystery. Art is about taking the risk of engaging in something somewhat ridiculous and irrational simply because you need to get a closer look at it, you simply need to break it open to see what’s inside.
With a bow to Georgia O’Keeffe’s undying wisdom on what it really means to be an artist — “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant—there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” — Fernández echoes Thoreau and exhorts us to break the tyranny of external definitions of success:
We live in a meritocratic society, where accomplishments are constantly being measured externally, where forms are always read from the outside, where comfort and lifestyle are often mistaken for success, or even happiness. Don’t be fooled. Our ideas regarding success should be our own, and I urge you to pursue it simultaneously from both the inside and the outside… As artists, it will be especially difficult to measure these ideas of what success may be because you have chosen a practice that is entirely dependent on being willing to possibly fail, over and over again regardless of any successes that do come your way.
In a sentiment that calls to mind John Steinbeck’s unforgettable moment of choosing creative integrity over outward success — “I beat poverty for a good many years and I’ll be damned if I’ll go down at the first little whiff of success.” — Fernández adds:
Success is just another form, with both an inside and outside.
For the most part people are aware of what the outside of success looks like… Outside success always seems to look terribly glamorous, and every once in a while it can be. But it still never means all that much, and it still never makes the work of the work any easier — if anything, it makes it a little harder because the stakes get higher; the possible humble failures become less private and more visible and more cruelly judged.
With assuring vulnerability, she reflects on her own experience of befriending that frightening moment after the completion of a major project, which she likens to a kind of creative hangover:
A kind of panic sets in the very next day, an urge to get into the studio because you know you have to start all over again, building something from nothing, seeking the company of those trusted beneficial failures, waiting for those absurd internal dialogues with your own gang of voices. It’s not a very glamorous scenario. But this is precisely what internal success looks like. It is visible only to yourself and while you can trick the rest of the world into thinking you are a good artist, you can never really convince yourself, which is why you keep trying. If you’re lucky and motivated enough to keep making art, life is quiet, you get to work at what you love doing, happily chipping away at something, constructing something, adjusting to a cycle of highs and lows and in betweens, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for two years or 50 years, the patterns remain exactly the same. The anxiety continues to set in, the doubts creep in, the baby steps towards mending fragments starts all over again, the cautious urge to peek between the cracks is there. When you find yourself in that place, that’s when you’ll know that the inside is driving the outside.
That hunger, that desire for success is nothing more than a fear of failure… And the odd thing is that when you are actually succeeding, it tends to be quiet and comes always quite unannounced and without a lot of fanfare. You will, in fact, be the only person who ever really grasps or recognizes the internal successes. The work of the work is visible only to yourself.
Work from Teresita Fernández's 2014 MASS MoCA solo show, 'As Above So Below'
At the end, Fernández offers graduates ten practical tips on being an artist that have been helpful on her own creative journey — but they double as an ennobling moral compass for being a decent human being in any walk of life:
  1. Art requires time — there’s a reason it’s called a studiopractice. Contrary to popular belief, moving to Bushwick, Brooklyn, this summer does not make you an artist. If in order to do this you have to share a space with five roommates and wait on tables, you will probably not make much art. What worked for me was spending five years building a body of work in a city where it was cheapest for me to live, and that allowed me the precious time and space I needed after grad school.
  2. Learn to write well and get into the habit of systematically applying for every grant you can find. If you don’t get it, keep applying. I lived from grant money for four years when I first graduated.
  3. Nobody reads artist’s statements. Learn to tell an interesting story about your work that people can relate to on a personal level.
  4. Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.
  5. Edit privately. As much as I believe in stumbling, I also think nobody else needs to watch you do it.
  6. When people say your work is good do two things. First, don’t believe them. Second, ask them, “Why”? If they can convince you of why they think your work is good, accept the compliment. If they can’t convince you (and most people can’t) dismiss it as superficial and recognize that most bad consensus is made by people simply repeating that they “like” something.
  7. Don’t ever feel like you have to give anything up in order to be an artist. I had babies and made art and traveled and still have a million things I’d like to do.
  8. You don’t need a lot of friends or curators or patrons or a huge following, just a few that really believe in you.
  9. Remind yourself to be gracious to everyone, whether they can help you or not. It will draw people to you over and over again and help build trust in professional relationships.
  10. And lastly, when other things in life get tough, when you’re going through family troubles, when you’re heartbroken, when you’re frustrated with money problems, focus on your work. It has saved me through every single difficult thing I have ever had to do, like a scaffolding that goes far beyond any traditional notions of a career.
Indeed, Fernández’s parting point is also her most poignant — a reminder that being human is the wider circle within which being an artist resides, and that our art is always the combinatorial product of the fragments of who we are, of our combinatorial character:
Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourselves, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components will also become the raw material for the art you make.
Complement with Debbie Millman’s fantastic commencement address on courage and the creative life and Jeanette Winterson on how art creates a sanctified space for the human spirit.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Red Library, Parallel Lines

Exhibition Description
“The Red Library, Parallel Lines” is an exhibition proposal of newly paired work by multi-disciplinary artists, Tereza Swanda and Angela Rose Voulgarelis.

Generated over the course of the last seven years, and shared via their collaborative blog: Art, Life (no separation), the proposed exhibition will mark the first presentation of the artists’ work side by side, out of the digital realm and into tangible space. Swanda and Voulgarelis have led significant, parallel experiences at different points in time. For example, they both studied at Lorenzo de' Medici, in Florence, Italy, 1995 and 1997 respectively. They were visiting artists at Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa, 2004 and 2007, three years apart. They continue residencies with “Rosenclaire,” in the same studio over the last decade and a half, but have yet to attend one together.

Their themes overlap. Voulgarelis’ work is informed by commonplace routines of domestic life, notions of interconnection, and impermanence and loss. Swanda questions notions of the other, male-female, brother-mother, victim-perpetrator, and husband-wife. Through painting, performance, and object making, both place two aspects of the same thing in the same space, drawing connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, images, and forms. They address the importance of equating the masculine/feminine in relation to domestic labor and notions of 'High Art.' Both individually and together, their work opens up dialogue between seemingly disparate ways of working and perceptions of duality. They create visual analogies. Much like two toddlers working side by side yet independently, the artists are inspired by the idea of "parallel play", in which they react, respond, and create, "working" together but remaining independent. They plan to reveal their creative processes, methodologies and bring to light the seriousness of two women 'playing' together within the absurdity inherent in the current political, social, and economic realm; our notion of reality.

The Red Library, or Cervena Knihovna, was an edition of romantic fiction bound by red cover targeting a female audience at the turn of last century in Swanda's native Czech Republic. The books were formulaic usually containing misogynistic content whose aim was to shape feminine stereotypes. In this show we intend to flip, play with and dismantle those stereotypes.

Angela Rose Voulgarelis received her BFA from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She also attended the Sculoa Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence Italy, where she studied under Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky (“Rosenclaire”) through whom she met Tereza Swanda. Swanda resides both in CZ as well as the US and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts; BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Swanda and Voulgarelis have exhibited nationally and abroad at educational and alternative spaces such as: The Berliner Kunstprojekt (Berlin); 450 Broadway Gallery (NYC); Chemeketa Community College Gallery (OR); One Mile Gallery (NY); Center on Contemporary Art (WA); both were visiting artists at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa; online in Art:21, Storyscape Journal, and, at AIR Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY. However, they have yet to exhibit together.

(For gallery layout, I took the largest walls and assigned the series/projects on our respective websites, mirroring each other. Inside, smaller spaces I wrote in for performances; Meaning Cleaning, Mutual Cleanse, Airing Dirty Laundry, Conscious Object Making, and nooks I reserved for small objects, paintings, videos and installation of our notebooks.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

something I needed to hear

makes a difference in the pile of rejections.

"Your work is a strong example of an investment in thought and material.  I could not stop thinking about the soap project of your grandmother, and the way you are able to seam disparate things- like ancient ceramics with a child's classroom.  Your investment in personal history transcends the personal and becomes universal, humorous and poignant.  "

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Red Library, Parallel Play

I begin the day with news of an acquaintance's son, at 12 diagnosed with cancer. I look at Jessica's recent work with taxidermy birds and songs. I think of the absurdity in life and how I often take myself way too seriously. With that:

 (The Red Library, Parallel Play)

Exhibition proposal of newly paired work by multidisciplinary artists, Tereza Swanda and Angela Rose Voulgarelis.

Generated over the course of the last seven years, and shared via their collaborative blog: Art, Life (no separation), the proposed exhibition will mark the first presentation of the artists work side by side, out of the digital realm and into physical space. Their themes address the importance of equating the masculine/feminine, domestic labor and 'high art.' They criticize historically accepted women's roles in relation to notions of the Domestic, confront violence against women, and openly share deeply personal narratives.

Both individually and together, their work opens up dialogue between seeming dichotomy. By using their blog posts and images as a point of departure, they aim to "parallel play" like two toddlers side by side but independently, revealing their creative processes, methodologies and the absurdity inherent in this physical realm. 

The Red Library, or Cervena Knihovna, was an edition of romantic fiction bound by red cover targeting a female audience at the turn of last century in Swanda's native Czech Republic. The books were formulaic usually containing misogynistic content whose aim was to shape feminine stereotypes. In this show we intend to flip, play with and dismantle this stereotype. 

Subject: Re: Art Life No Separation - Invitation to collaborate, Red Library
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:13:36 -0500

Also let's start the conceptual process.
What are we showing and how are we doing it? What about our process merits a show?
Personally, it's important to equate masculine/ feminine, domestic/low work and 'art', and speaking the truth. All public, through our blog.
When I think of our work, I think of two toddlers playing side by side but independently. "Parallel play" is what I think the term is called. I'm not sure we have to think about making overt connections between our work. To me it's obvious by who we are and what we do. Can we look at general themes and go from there? I agree the visual component is important, but I guess I also want to stress the concepts behind the work to inform the images we choose.
Sound good?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

RE: Art Life No Separation - Invitation to collaborate, Red Library

Let's start the visual process- we can treat this part as a process on it's own. 

Last night I was thinking how to start: 
The first thing that came up was our poem and your conscious object that came from it. 
(We could wear conscious objects at opening, artist talks, blue and red)
Our little red books would also look nice on display perhaps next to your conscious object on a shelf.

I have a folder of your works and a folder of mine. Let me send you an image of mine. Please respond by sending me a word/sound/object/image of yours? 

Then we can fit these duets accordingly by size into the space. What do you think??

I think our Named Girls Series, (Sculptures with paintings,) is strong and we should look at their installation. I have to think how I would display the sculptures: if a 2"x 1" sculpture would have a strong enough effect next to your paintings or if the sculptures have to be translated into projections/prints/transfers magnified to the right scale with your work next to it. 

In addition, I think it would be good to diversify including objects, videos, etc. 

More on the writing to come....

(old, transitional painting from 4B)


Varecha, story in our little red books

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Project with Anitra Haendel as part of Diane Jacob's $PEAK OUT
The following 40 quotes written by Anitra will be laser cut into 40 one and five dollar bills

Feel(s) like death.

First, we have to answer to ourselves alone

for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

How else will you morph?

I believe

I can see Beauty

I can sit with pain. of mine or yours. I can sit too long!

I fail.

I get discouraged, mom/man

I shout “Yes!” my “failures.”

I trust her

I want to fix the pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I will stand in the fire with you

It is a dark cold scary place, scared of living – I am not afraid of further pain

Listen to ourselves + our intuitions

Long live the dance of wildness

Love overcomes all grief.

Morph, shed skin

Most vulnerable most true and most alive!

My love for myself. My mom’s love.

My sorrow + grief –I want to get to that place of pain with someone close.

She will be safe!

She taught me how to love myself.

She wants to take care of them; but needs to take care of herself first. (FYI

Someone close. Most true. Does birthing a child take you there?

Sorry  sorry

the center of your own sorrow, fear of further pain. (with arrows)

This is the main question

This is the main question.

Trust myself

+ trust that pain is necessary

What more is there? (after

When all else falls away
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself

Yes I have touched the center of my sorrow.

Yes, I can

You keep the empty moments.

You must see outside that pain +

You're here to shout with me