Monday, December 06, 2010

A Hot Time in the Cold Town Tonight

So I think I've finished the encaustic piece I introduced you loyal 2.3 readers to a couple of posts ago, although I may not have ... I'm not sure. There's a lot of conceptual heaviness and confusion that go with this work, although being so used to conceptual heaviness and confusion at this point, I'm not terribly stressed about it. In art, as with other things in my life, if I don't understand it now, I'm pretty sure I'll understand it later. It may be brilliant, or it may be another "growth opportunity," but it's okay, I don't have to know which it is right now to get something out of it.

Anyway. I started this piece a week or so ago. It features a dissected stamped image on paper, a crouching woman cut into three segments. She's got a red thread emanating from her heart. Half of it trails off into the ether behind her, and the other half goes up, into her hands, through her grip, and off the top edge of the panel. She could be doing a lot of things, holding that thread in her hands; I'm not blind at all to the many potential implications of it. And I know it was important to me to get the thread exactly right, whatever that means. (An earlier, more experimental version of this wound up being a "growth opportunity" largely because the thread wasn't right, nor was the motivation, which was not only transparent but temporary.)

Still more important, however, were the deep channels I cut into the wax overlying the white strips of board where the segments separated. I knew something would go in them, a color. At first, I thought of crimson. Then I thought, no, crimson is obvious. Well, loyal readers, here's a news flash. Sometimes something is obvious because it's what you're supposed to do.

Once I understood what the color had to be, I knew I had a choice between painting into the channels with oil paint or using a technique I'd never attempted called "overfill." Overfill is a very straightforward name for what the technique actually is: you overfill the channels with pigmented wax, then scrape off the excess until you "find" your line. This seemed very mysterious to me and I was dubious about how it might work, but I decided that nothing I did would "ruin" this piece, that I'd just let it become whatever the materials suggested, and take it all in stride. So I fired up my fancy thrift store encaustic set (electric frying pan and cat food cans, now labeled for the colors they hold with orange sharpie, plus $2 paint brushes from the hardware store), and overfilled my carefully cut channels with crimson-pigmented wax.

At first, I was a bit unhappy. The wax was blobbish and bubbly and obliterated my carefully-cut channels, my pretty straight lines. I didn't see what paring it down was going to do. But I let the wax cool for a day or so, and started using one of the flat blades on my Speedball Lino carver (which has never even seen Lino, much less cut any) to slowly scrape away the red wax.

This went on for hours and was spread out over a couple of days. You use a light hand when scraping away overfill, and I didn't want to mar the rest of the piece, so I used utmost caution. I began mixing up my tools, sometimes using my fine-bladed Xacto or one of the surgical blades I have in my collection, sometimes picking bits of wax away from the surface with my needle awl, sometimes using my thumbnail.

Suddenly, to my enormous surprise, a hint of a crisp line emerged. I had found the edge of my channel buried underneath all that wax.

I kept working until I had revealed both lines, crisp and sharp, to my satisfaction. I had accepted the piece with the strange blobby gloppiness of the wax lines, and now I was rewarded with my originally-planned beautiful crisp lines highlighted with red (not to mention a much more clear understanding of the technique). I admired the piece in this state for a couple of days, and then decided it was done and ready to finish off.

Hope is in the Body
3" x 5"
E. Marie Robertson, 2010
Tonight I fused the piece, adding in a few bits of metalic leaf to the red channels. But my fusing made the wax liquid again, and some of it flowed outside the confines of the channels. It's no longer crisp and sharp, but it's far from being as messy as it had been, and now it looks more right in this state, somehow. Maybe I had to go through the whole process to find my crisp lines and see how they looked, admire them and appreciate them, to understand the way the looser wax flow works with the piece. But I think I actually like them the way they are now, a little bit loose but still constrained. Overall, not my crisp sharp lines, but still more "intentional" than the gloppy mess I was met with before my days of paring away the excess.

Of course, if I change my mind, all I need are time and my Speedball cutter to take them back to their crisp state. This is simultaneously one of the biggest advantages and confounding elements of encaustic--even when you think you're done, you still have the option of not being done yet. It is a real exercise in self-editing.

The piece is called "Hope is in the Body." I don't know why, and I don't know where it came from. It was just in my head one day, trying to get out, and this is the result. I do know that, like my photography, it has a story to tell me, that it's explaining something to me that earlier versions of it failed to convey. I'm not 100% certain I know what that story is just yet. But like my photography, I'm sure that eventually it will come to me. And in the meantime, my psyche--and the psyche of anyone who looks at this particular piece--will have a story embedded in it, waiting for the time when it needs to emerge. This, to me, is one of the most wonderful things about art--when at its best, it leaves a story (sometimes a hidden secret story) in your head. And better still, the story it leaves in my head may be--and probably will be--completely different from the story it leaves in yours, with neither being more important or more grand or more right.  Really, what could be better?

Friday, December 03, 2010

ArtLife After Teaching Art

" ... I might turn into a unicorn!"
--Martha M., Art 3536 student

So the semester has come to a close, and I not only lived through it, I loved it. I'm talking, of course, about my first semester teaching at the Very Nice College, which you will already know about if you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog. As it turns out, it may be my last semester teaching at the Very Nice College, for even as nice as it is, they could only offer me two classes for spring and a schedule that had me leaving Boone at 7 pm at night. Which is fine during the fall, but Boone is up in the mountains, and in the winter that means dealing with a sometimes substantial amount of snow and ice and sleet. Between time, money, and fear of death, added to the great unlikelihood of being made full-time (much less full-time tenure-track), I felt like I had no choice but to call into play that great euphemism, "elect to explore other opportunities." Which means I'm back to living off my savings and looking for work closer to home.

I was a little bit weepy on the last night of class; many of these students feel more like friends or family rather than strangers I just met a few months ago. I really want to keep up with them and watch their progress in the world, even if I'm not a big part of their lives. This is the cool thing about teaching college students; you can see who they are and who they can become, the seriousness of them, the specific flares of potential and talent and capability. To me, it's far more exciting than working with children. (It's all a matter of perspective, I supposed, but from my specific point of view, all I can say is that I'm not here to mold unformed lumps of clay, I'm here to help travelers already on their way see the paths before them.)

I still have lots of grading to do, but an interesting thing has happened. All semester, my thoughts were entirely consumed with teaching and my students. I was grading, planning classes, pondering how to help my students get more out of our assignments, thinking about issues with particular students, wondering if I was doing a good job, etc. etc. etc. I really only thought about school all semester long. Classes are now over and I'm sad about it, but my brain has changed.

Suddenly, all I can think about is art. My art. And my intense longing to get back to it.

While I have all this grading to do, I have to avoid my studio. Even walking into it means I will lose track of time, my dinner will burn, the horse will go unfed, the downstairs will grow dark and cold as I sink into planning and thinking and wondering and feeling my way though creation. I want to start half a dozen new projects. I have calls for entries to no less than five upcoming shows on my desktop. I attempt moderation, just an  hour or two here and there, but it is futile. My teacher mind has stepped back into the shadows, my artist mind has come roaring to the forefront. It is as if I have become some mythical and barely remembered creature; it is, as my student Martha once said, competely apropos of nothing and utterly without context, as though I have turned into a unicorn. And as much as I love teaching, as much as I adore my students and will miss the time I got to spend with them every week, I can hardly wait for the transformation to be complete.

This blog entry is dedicated to Rachel, Martha, Addie, Alex, Jenna, Genna, Jennifer, Larissa, Jon, Eric, Natalie, Shay, Stacey, Keegan, Arika and Nick from 3536; to Katie K., Katie W., Whitney, Shay, Kelly, James, Ashley, Kathryn, Carly, Annie, Sam, Cristina, Rachel, Jennifer, Garrett, Nick, Daniel, Bailey, Abigail and Jackie from 2022.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waxing Eloquent

If you're one of the loyal 2.3 readers of this blog, you'll know that I recently tried my hand at encaustic. I've been interested in encaustic ever since I saw what the Starn Twins were doing with black and white silver gelatin prints and beeswax, and a few more encounters with very creative and intensively fine-art uses of the medium really piqued my interest. Simultaneously, I was a bit hesitant; it's one of those areas that can start to feel a bit craftish ... not that there's anything wrong with that, I do kind of craft-y things all the time. But I wasn't looking for another hobby material, I specifically wanted to expand my fine art range. So I signed up for an encaustic collage class with a nationally-recognized artist who, although she was a painter for many years, now works exclusively with encaustic.

my on-the-cheap setup
 The bar to entry is pretty low with encaustic. Thanks to my previous goofing around with things like acrylic paint and embossing, I already had a selection of natural bristle brushes and a handy little heat gun. I was able to forgo the fancy electric "heated palette" (about $600) and special tins and instead I use a thrift-shop electric frying pan (with a thrift shop hotplate for back-up), and cat food cans to hold my pigmented wax selection. So to start this adventure, I wound up buying a few encaustic boards (although you can use anything absorbant and rigid, including plain old plywood) and some encaustic medium and pigmented wax, for a grand total of about $45. A few extra $2 brushes from the hardware store, and I was set. At that point I was guessing I probably wouldn't take to it, since any artistic practice that costs less than a million dollars to start and maintain doesn't seem to be my thing.

But I must say, my days of staring jealously at people who can be artistically fulfilled for the price of a pencil and a sketchbook may be coming to an end.

Fly, 3x5 inches

It's been a couple of weeks now and I've produced a handful of pieces; I like each one I do better than the last. The kind of flailing "how does this work again?" approach has been replaced by more deliberation, conceptual ideas, and artistic intent. The pieces have titles, and a point. Although it's possible (probable) that "eloquent" is the wrong word for the way I'm approaching encaustic. Enthusiastic might be better; experimental definitely fits. I'm taking it on with the same nutty intensity I have for my photo and video work, and I'm actively thinking of ways to integrate my photographic work with the wax. I get to use a lot of my weird predilections and art stuff I've collected over the years without really knowing what I was going to do with them: the massive paper and fabric collections, the rubber stamps, the weird carving and impression-making devices I was never sure why I had. My little random wire wiggles now have a place to go, and all those thread embellishments will find their way onto wax-coated panels at some point, too. Beads and scraps of polymer clay experiments and pigments and burnishers all potentially have a place. I get to use everything, and I get to use my hands. It doesn't require even one second in front of the computer. And I get to work small. Really small. My largest piece to date has been 8 x 10 inches. For someone used to printing color photos 30 x 40, this is a treat indeed.

Textures of Fall
5x7 inches
 I'm enjoying working with texture, as well; even though my photographs are often OF texture, by virtue of their medium they are themselves texture-free. So I'm finding a lot to like, and I'm feeling pretty content with encaustic right now. I have the basic techniques down, but I'm giving myself a lot of latitude to try things and experiment and not be attached to things working in a particular way--or even working at all. It might just be because it's all still new, but I'm finding it fascinating, and it actually feels like I'm finding my voice. At any rate, I'm definitely learning to appreciate the different approaches available to me and the effects I'm able to achieve even with my limited experience and "on the cheap" set-up. It seems to respond very nicely to intent, and to vision, and the possibilities seem almost limitless.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Learning, Teaching, Thinking

If you are one of the 2.3 regular followers of this blog, you already know that I have spent the past semester teaching art at a Very Nice College. This has been a terrific experience for me, and I just can't say enough good things about the creativity and bravery of my students, and the real overall Niceness of this Very Nice College. We are coming to the end of the semester, and I'm thinking about my teaching and how I think I did; I know I learned quite a lot along the way (and I can only hope my students did too).

Before my debut at the Very Nice College, it had been a long, long time since I taught a college-level course ... well, since I formally taught a college-level course; I know a few people from my graduate school days who would claim I pretty much taught every class I was in. I did spend a significant amount of time after class "translating" for one professor in particular. That aside, however, the last time I was officially a teacher was in the 1980s, and I team-taught graphic design for business communications with a tenured full professor who was, frankly, one of the most wonderful people I've ever met. He taught the lecture sessions, and I taught the lab sessions. Remember I said a long time ago? Well, this was back in the days when people used waxers and color key and typesetting machines and all these things resided in the graphics lab. (And fully three-quarters of my massive and loyal 2.3 reader base just went "wtf are those things?" See? I wasn't kidding. Looooong time ago.)

Anyway, this professor was fiercely devoted to his students, completely committed to making sure they got the expertise they were going to need, and passionately interested in their success, even after they had graduated and gone out into the world. I counted at least two former students in his office per quarter, some there just to fill him in on their progress in the world, some weeping or otherwise panicking over something they'd been asked to accomplish at their jobs that they weren't quite sure how to do. He never ever refused to help a former student, no matter how long it had been since they'd been in his class, and no matter how well or poorly they'd performed. The students who had struggled got his time the same as the star students did. He was 100% in it for the students, and I really admired that about him.

He had a really interesting technique in the classroom, however. I'll just call it "scare the crap out of them first and let them like you later."

You didn't talk out of turn in his class. You didn't goof off. You didn't crack jokes. No excuses were accepted--for anything. And god forbid, you didn't fall asleep in his class. Ohhhh no. Every quarter someone had to be the first. And every quarter, he would observe the sleeper, quietly pick up a stack of books he always had on the podium, walk gently to the sleeper's desk, and then slam them down on the desk next to the unfortunate sleeper's head, as hard as he could.

Yeah. There usually wasn't a second person who fell asleep in class.

By the time they got to me, the students were terrified. They thought he was a monster. They would all ask me how I worked with him, how I managed not to be intimidated. They were dreading the rest of the semester.

They didn't yet realize how much he loved them all.

But after the first few weeks, they started to understand. They realized that things went smoothly in class, that there were none of the disruptions and derailments they experienced in their other classes. They realized they had a voice in the class, that he was actually interested in their ideas, and that they were respected for their contributions and points of view. They realized they were actually learning things. By the end of the quarter, they had learned a lot about graphic design for business communications, but they had also learned a lot about how to behave in a professional environment, without even realizing they were learning it.

For my part, it seemed that what the students needed to get from me (in addition to 50 Things You Can Do With Color Key Which Are Now All Obsolete) was confidence in their ideas; the strength to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them; and a lot of listening. These are, as my 2.3 regular readers probably know, important keys in business, art, and academics.

I tried to always be helpful and to never have attitude about a student's efforts or abilities. A little bit of the tenured professor rubbed off on me and I found myself calmly showing the door to students who showed up drunk, caused disruptions for the class, or didn't seem to be there to work. The students who were there to work really appreciated it. The students who got shown the door got some time to sober up or calm down or think things through and most of the time they came back more serious and ready to work.

At the Very Nice College, I've put my past experience into practice again, and have expanded on it. I have students who are brave and I make sure they are applauded; I have students who are timid and I make sure they are encouraged. I have students who are so talented it's all a cakewalk for them and I celebrate their creativity and brilliance; I have students who struggle and are insecure and I celebrate their determination and their devotion to the "try." And I listen, and respond, and try to be empathetic and helpful. It's college, not some game show where the goal is "stump the student." Just as I want my artwork to make people think, I want my teaching to make my students think--actually think, not just memorize and regurgitate facts and processes and details.

When thinking happens, everybody wins.

Monday, October 04, 2010

On the Cheap with E. Marie ... Encaustic!

Thanks to a basically nonexistant budget for supplies and a few other unfortunate factors, my students and I have been footing the cost of art supplies for my more hands-on Creativity class. That means we've been doing art on the cheap: using crayons and sharpies and recycled materials, rubber stamps and old magazines and glue and paint and glitter. They're great students, though, and they deserve more. So I asked them recently what kind of specific artforms they would like to see demonstrated and play a bit with in class, without having to go out and buy all the stuff themselves, and along with tie-dye, photography and bookmaking, encaustic came up.

Well, okay. It came up because I brought it up.

I've never done encaustic. I like the idea of it, painting with hot wax, and I've seen some pretty impressive uses of the technique, like the Starn Twins' encaustic-layered photographs. I'm captivated by some of the  videos I've seen: blowing hot wet colored wax into swirls and patterns, carving into layers of wax to reveal striations of color. And it seems like one of those media that can produce fascinating results almost entirely by accident, which given my blissful freedom from any formal knowledge of technique, will pretty much be what encaustic is about for me. When I mentioned it, faces all around the room broke into big smiles and excited expressions. The word "cool" was heard. Everyone seemed to think that would be a great idea.

As it turns out, it can be a really expensive idea. The "studio starter kit" at Jerry's Artarama includes an "electric palette" and a series of heated tools along with the basic wax and medium, and crests $600. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's not something I can manage on my massive adjunct salary, which nets me right about $1000 per month. Second of all, I'd like to show my students something they can manage to replicate on their own if they choose, and none of them seem to have $600 extra dollars either ... nor should they have to spend that just to try out an artistic medium that they might or might not find a resonnance for later on.

So I'm making the World's Cheapest Encaustic Kit. I'll have to test these things and see how well they work out before dragging them into class, but I'm game to do it if it works.

Here's what the WCEK includes:
1. "electric palette" aka known as a hotplate, with an alternate "electric palette" aka as a teflon-coated electric frypan. Both of these were acquired at thrift shops in Berkeley, most likely neither cost more than $5.

2. Heat gun. I happen to have a small heat gun which I used for embossing. I'm not sure it's hot enough for encaustic, but I'll test it and see.

3. Pallette thermometer ... I have several cooking thermometers that I imagine will work just fine. If not, they're also inexpensive.

4. Pallette cups. These specialized containers are basically cans. Other web sites recommend muffin tins. I'm not a baker so I don't have any muffin tins, but they're easy to find in thrift shops also. One thing I do have is cat food cans--lots and lots of cat food cans. I'm thinking they'll make fabulous pallette cups.

That just leaves brushes or something to get the medium onto the board or paper, scrapers and manipulation tools (which can be anything), another heating source (old hand iron, anyone?), and the encaustic medium and colors themselves. The "intro set" of encaustic medium and colors is a whopping $42. Not free, but way better than $600. I'm guessing my Encaustic-on-the-Cheap kit will not top $100.

Testing starts soon ... I'll keep you posted on the results.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Lawn Art

I mowed my lawn yesterday.

Well, sort of.

I didn't do the whole yard (which is 4.5 acres), just the part in front of the house, which is big enough. And I didn't so much mow it as kind of sculpt it.

My problem--and the reason (excuse?) my lawn is usually so extensively unmowed--is that I'm really deeply aware of my yard as habitat. I'm pretty sure my neighbors look at my big expanse of waving weeds and grasses and see a mess. I look at it, and see a home for the leaf-hoppers and crickets and the azure and orange butterflies I love; a soft spot where bunnies rest and dine; the little shady nest where the neighbor's cat likes to sleep on sunny days. Those waving weeds serve a purpose for someone, and in that, they are of value to me. So I'm sensitive about that and it bothers me to make so many creatures inconvenienced and homeless, especially since I live out in the country and my lawn is kind of hidden from the road so most likely no one living near me knows or cares if I've mowed it or not. Destruction of habitat for ... what, exactly? The weird suburban American predilection for "natural" environments that are tightly controlled?

the west 40
Another problem lies in my dominant interest in looking at everything, especially everything that grows. This has two effects. The first is that it makes me a very slow mower. When I'm riding around on my lawn tractor, I'm not zipping along feeling the wind in my hair like my funny neighbor. I'm treating it more like an intimate tour of my own yard, so I go a lot slower than I have to, and I look. And unlike the guy who owned my house before me, I'm not looking down at my own pecs thinking what a stud I am, I'm looking at the ground, at the plants I'm rolling by and at the grasshoppers and moths and butterflies and damselflies scooting away from the noise and trauma of the mower. I'm also looking closely for snakes, not because I'm worried about them but because I'm worried for them ... I would hate to hit a little snake with the lawn mower, and if they're the size of the one I found in my garage not too long ago, only close inspection of the ground will prevent such a tragedy.

The second effect is, as a slow-and-looky-mower, I see a lot of things that are interesting to me. And when I spot an unusually-formed or -colored plant, I immediately want to photograph it, find out what it is, learn all about it, see where it goes from where it is. Will those tiny white blossoms always stay tiny, even if the plant gets taller? And what are those little purple starlike things, will they turn into blooms or just fall away?

yard mohawk
The end result is, I kind of give my lawn a bit of a haircut more than a mow. It has something of a mohawk at one point (lots of interesting little flowers and so many pretty butterflies who flew out of it when I went motoring by, clearly a little island of important green on my somewhat scraggy lawn), and sideburns and a couple of places you might consider ear hair (more interesting plants). An ordinary person might think of it as a home maintenance fail, but I'm an artist, and in the spirit of Mierele Laderman Ukeles, I'm declaring that everything I do is art, is art. Including my yard, which now qualifies as land art. So it's not Spiral Jetty, exactly, but I'm not Robert Smithson. It all works out in the end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Art as Rorschach Test

I think we (meaning human beings) are all on a lifelong quest to understand ourselves, even the most unenlightened among us. Like gravity, the drive for self-comprehension is a force that does not really require our conscious and active participation. It influences us daily whether we seek it out or not, whether we are aware of what we are doing or not. Everything we do has contained within it an element of us trying to figure out who--and why--we are.

This is, I believe, especially true of artists. We have a unique opportunity to make our questions of self more concrete than other people; rather than the fleeting moment of "now why did I do that?" that might drift through other's brains, we often have a photo or a painting or a construction that we can study and ponder and interpret until it all suddenly makes sense. Non-artists often think that we (artists) actually know what we're doing when we do it; in my own experience both as a visual artist and as a writer, my process at least seems to be more a matter of "this is what's happening and I'm just along for the ride." I know a lot of other artists who feel this way as well. Art school teaches us to come up with plausible-sounding, arty, conceptual answers for questions about our work, when in reality the answer to why we photographed that dead leaf in the driveway 80 times or why we used barbed wire instead of copper or why we glazed this particular painting until it looked like a sheet of glass is "I really have no fucking idea, but it'll come to me later."

I took a photograph recently that I am very taken with. Like so many of my recent images that seem especially transportive to me, it was made with my iPhone, which means its ultimate public display can only be one of two sizes: very, very small (as in, on a screen or a 4x6 inch print) or very, very large (as in, via projection). I think this might be another reason I'm taken with making images on my iPhone, but that's another Rorschach Test for another time.

This image combines two re-emerging themes for me: pathways, and dead things. Given my current situation in life, the general meaning might seem obvious to some, but I think there are subtleties here that can only be read by understanding how I feel about the image.

My first response is to the textures. The pebbly surface of the drive, the crispy texture of the dead blossom (yes, it's a former flower, although it looks somewhat like some kind of bug as well--this embraces my other favorite re-emerging theme, ambiguity), the soft texture of the grass in the background. If I had shot this with my DSLR or one of my film cameras, I would have most likely cranked the depth-of-field so that the grass was not very distinct at all, just a swath of color, but that would have been a different image altogether, a different read altogether.

But first response is just about aesthetics, because that's the way I'm wired. Looking at this more deeply, I find a sense of movement in it. The image includes the dead thing, looks at it, but looks beyond it. It's in the frame but it's not the real point of the frame--the real point of the frame is actually beyond our line of sight. I, as both the viewer and the artist, am not stopping to ponder the dead thing. I'm taking note of it, giving it its due, but stepping over it and continuing moving forward. I feel a fondness for the dead thing, a nostalgia for it. In my own read of this self-made Rorschach Test, I see the dead thing as a part of me, part of my personality, a way of being that I was used to. That part of me no longer has a function, it no longer takes center stage. I see it, I honor it, but it no longer defines me.

Looking back at other images, I see I've been trying to make this photograph in a bunch of different, not-exactly-successful ways, for a couple of months now.

You may see something quite different in this image. And, frankly, my own opinion is that if the piece is any good, you WILL. You will see a part of your story, of your psyche, here. The best art--the only true art--takes something that is personal to the artist and makes it universal; it allows every viewer to see themselves in the work somehow, to find a hook that feels unique and individual, despite how vastly different one viewer may be from another. Art should not simply speak to people, it should offer them the opportunity to speak to themselves.

I find myself trying to read others through their work, but I know this is risky business. Is it meaningful that my friend, who is more "crafty" than "artistic," who has turned out dozens of cute and pretty and sweet little things over the years, has suddenly produced a work that is spidery and twisty, asymetrical, off-balance and all black? That is, for her, harsh and jarring and aesthetically strange, and so much more strangely conscious than she has ever done before?

She doesn't think so; she isn't an artist (she says), she just makes things. Her media are ceramics and polymer clay; frequently she uses molds designed by other people so "it's not the same as being an artist." Well. She has been known to remake things several times because they "didn't feel right," and I've never seen her make anything from a mold that she didn't tweak or alter or "improve" somehow. Now she's made this piece because, she tells me, "something inside" made her want to try "something different." She has given it a floofy title that seems designed to deflect any deep thought about the piece and to distance it further from her deeper self. To me, these are all clues, all parts of the Rorschach; I'm reading her and wondering what it is that she is on the edge of discovering. It would be interesting to get her to talk about the piece and how she feels about it, but for now she is resolute; it's just another thing she made. I wonder if she will look at it in a few weeks or months or possibly years, and see it as a beacon, a harbinger of something else, instead.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Adjunct Angst

I think all of us who went into art degree programs did so with the knowledge that this path would make us perhaps spiritually richer but would not do anything to enhance the state of our bank accounts. Those of us interested in teaching figured our MFAs would get us positions as adjuncts and that we would maybe struggle for awhile, eventually move into full-time positions, make enough money to get by but also have enough time to continue to make our artwork. Anticipating this, I even moved to a place where I figured I could actually survive on the money I made teaching art.

I did land a job as an adjunct, thanks as much to who I know as to what I know. I've spent the last four weeks or so getting ready for these two classes, and have invested substantial hours in planning and pondering. And I know I'll put a lot more time into tweaking the syllabus, reviewing and grading, meeting with students, and all the other things that go into being a good teacher. I'm excited about teaching and looking forward to the experience.

Yesterday, I applied for a deferrment on my student loans, which I've paid faithfully every month for four years. I'm also considering dropping my health coverage, because the money I'll be making over the next four months will cover slightly less than half of my expenses. And this is without factoring in the increased gas costs I'll incur from commuting the 150 miles to my part-time job.

This is not because I live in a super-expensive area; in fact, I moved away from one specifically because I anticipated a big reduction in my earning power once I moved into teaching and art full-time. I also don't live a lavish lifestyle. I'm not supporting children or elderly parents. My expensive hobbies have all been put on hold. If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of my blog, you know that I love shoes, but you may not realize that all my shoes come from either Desiger Shoe Warehouse, the sales on, or the "unloved shoe racks" at Macys. I don't belong to a gym. I get my hair done at the local beauty college by students. I don't eat out. I don't go to concerts or plays or travel abroad. I don't buy jewelry. And these are all things I used to do, but stopped doing because I wanted to be able to live within my means.

Yet, I cannot do so. And worse still, I have a creeping suspicion that the combination of commuting and teaching (and all the things that go with it) are going to eat away most of the time I have to make, consider, and promote my own artwork.

And I'm not the only person in this situation. I know other MFAs, very fine artists, who are in the same boat. We work, we work hard, and our debt load gets bigger rather than smaller.

Maybe there is a rhythm that I will find where I can pull all the pieces together, but at the moment, I'm not entirely sure. I feel that I'm drifting and hoping to bump into the right thing, when I don't even know what that thing might actually be.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Art Afoot?

Today I'm going to blog about an artform that might seem a little out in left field to some of you ... but maybe not. If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you know that I'm a photographer and videographer, as well as maintaining a keen interest in new media (whatever that is. Or, are. Whatever.).

A few things you might not know about me is that I am a bonafide stamp nerd (own many many rubber stamps), that I make books that look like installations, and that I have a huge box of all different kinds of fabric that I have no idea what I will do with, as I have nothing even approaching the patience for (much less an interest in) quilting, sewing, or anything of that nature.

But this is all neither here nor there, except to prove the point that you might not know me artistically as well as you have been thinking, and to wit, today's topic.


Yes, I said shoes. As in, shoes one buys and wears on one's feet when passing through the out-of-doors or going to a club or traversing the mall. I love shoes. I have always loved shoes. My ex once said he'd never seen me walk through the San Francisco Nordstrom without buying a pair of shoes. When I lived in California, Designer Shoe Warehouse was across the bridge and required the committment of driving into the city and finding parking, which has derailed many a carefully-planned event, never mind something spontaneous. And did not yet exist.

But alas. Here in the Triangle area, Designer Shoe Warehouse has the temerity to be next door to the PetSmart, where I buy kitty litter and cat food. Next door to it! And parking ... well, as always seems to be the case around here, parking is ample and easy to find.

I had slacked off shoe-buying in California. Didn't need fancy shoes to wear to work, never went out, didn't find myself attending any "special shoe-appropriate" events, just wore my sneakers to the office and my paddock boots to the barn, and that was pretty much it. Kind of in the same way I had slacked off photographing things. Just didn't see the point for a moment, I guess. But when I moved to North Carolina, my perspective seems to have gotten a big adjustment. I started photographing again almost nonstop, even without benefit of a theory-laden concept (which my 2.3 regular readers will know is my absolute favorite) or a carefully-defined artistic project (my other absolute favorite).

And even though I had no specially-defined place to wear them, I started buying shoes again.

Lots and lots of shoes.

I'm buying shoes with very high heels and platforms and many strappy straps in interesting patterns and colors. I think I equate these shoes with art. The ones I like best all have an interesting sculptural quality to them and tend to not look like everybody else's shoes, even though they're right there for sale to the general public. They also tend to look substantially less utilitarian than most shoes, although they all fit my feet well and I can walk in them easily (this I attribute to Pilates; my ankles used to be dreadfully weak and I would roll them on an almost weekly basis, a situation my trainer and I undertook to correct using the reformer ... hi Karinne!).

The other thing my shoes have in common with art is they are almost impossibly sexy and sensual. They nearly purr by themselves. My response to really amazing art is a visceral one and very sensual; that describes my response to these shoes as well.

So. Are Carlos Santana, Madden Girl, Rampage, Impo, Nine West and Alfani really the next great artists of our time? Or is all this an elaborate justification for a footwear fetish?

Oh please. Like it matters. Duh.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now I Are A Educator ...

Well, it looks like I'll be joining the ranks of adjunct faculty across the land. That's right, I am taking on a teaching gig at Appalachian State in the Fall. Barring some unforseen catastrophe, I Are a Educator.

As both a perpetual student and an employee on the staff side of not one but two Universities in the past, I've had a lot of exposure to faculty. Attending the College Art Association conferences has given me some, er, insights into art faculty in particular. There are many different styles, approaches and attitudes, and I have to say I've learned as much by negative example as I have by positive. I don't know what kind of teacher I will be, although I know I'll work really hard to be a good one, whatever that means. But I am fairly certain already what kind of instructor I will NOT be. To wit:

I will NOT suffer from Omnipotent Faculty Syndrome. This means I refuse to pontificate about something I know nothing about and have no experience with. If someone (anyone) asks me my opinion of something I know nothing about and have no experience with, I will not assume the mere fact of having been asked gives me license to invent an opinon on the spot.

I will NOT pretend the classroom is a chance for me to live out my fantasy as a rock star, or to impress students with how fabulously clever I am. I am not The Entertainer, they are not An Audience. They are, in effect, my clients, and they are paying me to give them something. I will give them what they are paying for. If they find it engaging along the way, that's a bonus.

I will NOT take the atittude that student questions are an interruption of my valuable pontificating time. Any student asking a relevant question will have that question answered or at least discussed. If my  students are not understanding something, I will try explaining it a different way. And I will keep at it until I find the right approach.

I will NOT be overwhelmingly cerebral, hopelessly flaky, or irritatingly distant, in the classroom or outside of it.

I will NOT behave as though there is something ever so much more important I need to be doing than my JOB for which I am being PAID.

I will NOT pretend that I am 21 and we are all just great pals. Because I'm not 21.

I will NOT pretend that tenured faculty are either gods who walk the earth or The Enemy. In reality, they are neither.

I will NOT labor under the illusion that staff are staff because they're not clever enough to be faculty.

The best and most successful faculty I've had the priviledge of studying with or knowing were passionate about their subject matter and anxious to share their knowledge of it with others. They took their (frequently massive) understanding of the subject at hand, rolled it out before everyone like a red carpet, and then asked with an air of excitement, "What can you do with this?" or "What do you think?" They provided foundations on which students were then invited to build, and guided and encouraged students as required. They offered constructive criticism, but kept a positive attitude. They were genuinely excited by the contributions of others. They were interested in how their students thought, and made adjustments in their teaching to accomodate different means of processing information. And most of all, they just seemed interested to be there. I hope that's the kind of teacher I will be; that's what I'm shooting for, anyway. I guess in a few months, we'll know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More App Love ...

You may be sick of reading about iPhone apps at this stage, but I just can't get enough. I've got five more to report on, and once again they run the gamut from fabulous to just so-so.

I was pondering earlier the performance of the iPhone camera in low light--it's not, as you might imagine, very easy to adapt to low-light conditions. Of course, I guessed that someone must have an app for that, and skulked around until I found Night Camera. This turned out to be a lot more than just a low-light app, however. Night Camera does offer an "accelerometer-assisted" camera mode that fires the shutter when the camera is stable, which could conceivably assist you in low-light situations. But it also has shooting modes that enable you to make a double-exposure, overlay red and cyan versions of an image to create a "3D" effect, and fire the shutter with sound. (Mixed media girl that I am, this feature pinged my "oooh" meter almost immediately, and I'm awash with ideas for using it, although when an ordinary person might use it is kind of mysterious to me ...  anyway, I tried it out and it works as promised.) The image at left is the standard "accelerometer-assisted" low-light photograph.

Add to this options for fullscreen shutter mode (touch the screen area to activate the shutter), a 4x digital zoom (swipe to zoom, no tiny slider to work), grid lines to aid in composition, optional on-picture time stamp and other interesting features like adjustable image ratios and resolution, color or b/w "processing," an auto-timer and automatic "rapid-fire," and you have a pretty full-featured app. By Sudobility, 99 cents.

Next to catch my attention was Camera Bag. This app apparently got some good press from the New York Times, and I admit that it's a fun little add on that goes beyond the usual collection of color and border effects. Either using an image from your Camera Roll or something you shoot on the fly, Camera Bag lets you emulate 12 different films, cameras, and processes, including cult favorites Holga and Lomo, infrared film, crossprocessing, and silver print. Includes easy in-app email or upload. Image at right is the approximation of infrared.  By Nevercenter Ltd., $1.99.

I checked out Camera Flash Deluxe because I was still thinking about the low-light issue, and it claimed to offer "flash." It actually offers a fairly ordinary lightening or darkening process, albeit rather more subtle than some of the others I've seen. You can also add effects like fog, sepia, invert or black-and-white. This app will also let you "flip" the image in-camera. By Haiwen Soft Inc., 99 cents

I had really high hopes when I downloaded ArtCamera, as it claimed I would be able to make my images "micmic art styles of famous artists like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and others." The sample images looked intriguing. ArtCamera turns to be a series of filters that we've all seen a few million times if we use Photoshop and Illustrator with any degree of proficiency at all, and that we've all avoided as "cheesy;" see old favorites "neon" and "pencil" below.  I guess my expectations were a bit too high. Anyway, it can still be a fun app to goof around with, and lets you apply the filters to images from your library or those you shoot on the fly. You can also vary resolution from 320 to 2048. By MacPhun LLC, $1.99.

My last app this evening is Photo Fx. When I saw the maker (Tiffen--that's right, the pro photo filter people), I thought I might have something interesting here. I was not wrong in that assessment. This app puts at your disposal 67 photo filters, many of which emulate proprietary photographic filters made by the company. All are adjustable, but each filter is "packaged" with a substantial number of presets; the total comes to a whopping 780. Filters are organized by a loose group affiliation: Face FX, Classic FX, Lens FX, and Portrait FX are three of the nine groups. Within those groups you'll find some familiar names (polarizer, Color-Grad, Soft FX, Pro-Mist, Glimmerglass) and some truly funky effects, like light pattern application. You can use your finger to create "masks" on the touch screen and then apply the effects only to the mask. This app also permits you to work in layers, applying one filter over the other; you can select images from your Camera Roll or shoot fresh from the app. By The Tiffen Company, $2.99.

So far, I've reviewed quite a few iPhone photo apps. In my next post, I'll attempt to assemble what I think is the Essential iPhone Photographer's Tool Kit, with a summary of what I like best and why. Your Mileage May Vary, of course, and if you'd like to weigh in on any app I've missed or offer a different opinion of an app I've reviewed, please do post a comment.

As always please note that comments in languages other than English or French will be discarded, as will comments that do not advance the discussion in any way from people I do not know. (I don't have to know you if you're making a useful comment. Those will always be published.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lost in App Land

I admit it. I've made a few shots with my Big Girl camera over the last couple of weeks, but for the most part, I'm lost in Appland.

That's right, Apple had made more money off of me on photographic apps. I've downloaded a few new ones, and I've continued to play with the ones I wrote about in my last blog post on the subject, becoming more conversant with them. I've started to combine and layer the different apps, because they all have strengths and weaknesses.

TiltShiftGenerator - Fake DSLR offers just a few features, but one really makes it stand out. If any of you 2.3 regular readers of this blog are also fans of my artwork, you'll know that I dig a tight depth of field and a fully-blown aperture. TiltShiftGen enables me to get an extreme variation of that affect with my iPhone. A variable position and size "blur zone" lets the user close in on what they want to highlight; it reminds me of the Lensbaby, which my friend Mark Lindsay highlighted recently in a Facebook post. Other less-interesting settings enable the user to vary saturation, brightness, and contrast, as well as apply a variable-degree vignetting effect. Your source photo can be from your iPhone's Camera Roll or you can shoot on the fly. On the left you'll see the source photo; on the right, the same image after applying this app's effects. $1.99 by Art & Mobile.

Kim Criswell asked me recently about camera zoom apps. The lack of any sort of native zoom capability on the iPhone's camera is one of my biggest pet peeves; as far as I can tell, application developers have managed to make up for that absence only in a limited fashion. One I like for its simplicity is CameraZoom Pro. CamZoom Pro supplies no filters or effects, focusing instead on zoom, resolution, and "camera burst." You can select the size of your image (ranging from 640 x 480 to 1280 x 960) and customize "burst count" (ie, the number of "frames" shot), selecting from one, three, five or seven. The app offers gridlines to help you stabilize the camera as much as possible during the shot, and enables you to preview your image before saving it. The zoom function works reasonably well in very good light but basically dwindles down to "nearly useless" in very poor lighting or indoors ... which is what I expected. First you'll see the true distance image with the raw zoom below it, both shot at 800 x 600. Below that, two comparable zoomed images, on the left shot at 800 x 600, on the right shot at 1280 x 960. The final image, as a bonus, is the zoomed bird feeder image with applied effects using Best Camera. By Punicasoft, 99 cents. There's also a free version.

An app I've just recently downloaded but haven't had time to play with very much yet goes by the bold descriptive name of 7.0 Megapixel Camera + ZOOM. It uses a "custom algorithym" to boost your iPhone camera performance to what it estimates to be 7.0 and 5.0 megapixel resolutions in addition to zoom, a self-timer that can be set for 3, 5, 10, 15 or 30 seconds; and a time-lapse option from 15 seconds to 15 minutes. One major convenience already easily noticeable: you snap a picture by simply touching the screen anywhere, rather than having to aim for a small and sometimes awkwardly-placed button. By CrowdCafe, 99 cents.

More images and more apps coming. Do you have apps installed on your Droid or iPhone? Let's see some samples of your work! Send a couple of images to me via email along with a few details about the app and I'll post them here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Social Studies on BlogTalkRadio: Digital Media for Promotion of Art and Artists!

It's time for another installment of Social Studies on BlogTalkRadio, hosted by me! This time we'll look at Digital Media for promoting art and artists. Special guests for this episode are Mark Lindsay of Mark Lindsay Art and Washington DC-based artist Dana Ellyn. Both of these folks are working the social networks hard to get their work and their names out into the public eye. We'll hear all about their tips, tricks, trials, and tribulations. Whether you're an old hand at promotions or just beginning to think about using the web, digital media and social networking, you're sure to learn a little something from these two cutting-edge professionals!

TUNE IN SATURDAY at 7:30 pm EASTERN STANDARD TIME to listen live, or come back any time to check out the show on-demand!

Either way, you'll find us on my show page at BlogTalkRadio! Or, use the widget in the blog sidebar to access the show.

Then head back here to my blog for further discussion and commentary!

Join us!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photographic AppTitude

Many fine art photographers have had the cringe-inducing experience of being approached in the field by a stranger and told with great enthusiasm, "Oh, I'm a photographer too!" This exclamation was often followed by the stranger producing a digital point-and-shoot or SLR never taken off "auto" and showing a string of pedestrian snapshots in an attempt to demonstrate their point. This began happening with startling regularity as 35mm SLR cameras became popular in the consumer market. I admit that, in part, I moved from 35mm photography to medium format largely because NO ONE ever looked at my four-and-a-half-pounds-without-the-finder-or-the-lens Pentax 67 and thought for a moment that their Canon Rebel was roughly equivalent.

I've gradually come to accept the fact that digital photography is here to stay and has some interesting qualities that are worth exploration/exploitation. I have only recently purchased my first digital SLR (a Nikon--old habits die hard) and am gradually becoming comfortable with it, producing images that look simply like "my" work. Digital cameras are, after all, simply tools; ultimately it is the intent, skill, creativity and vision of the user that distinguishes artist from hobbyist from dweeb-with-a-camera. Interestingly enough, my favorite digital camera these days started out as my least-favorite digital camera--I'm talking about the camera on my iPhone.

Before I got the iPhone, I was using a Samsung Blackjack which had a tremendous camera with optical zoom and a host of in-camera adjustment options. It took wonderful images, so when I fired up the camera on my iPhone and found it largely optionless, with no zoom and no adjustment settings, I was extremely disappointed. But I've recently been exploring photo apps for the iPhone, and my disappointment has been largely erased by fascination.

Here are a few of my favorite Apps:

Best Camera was my first iPhone camera app. It provides 14 "effects" that can be applied to newly shot images or to images from the phone's image library. You can choose from basic changes like light, dark, warm, cool, contrast or desaturation or apply color tone effects like candy, jewel, or Paris. You can also change the presentation of the image (make it square or apply a frame) and the app's settings let you select working sizes ranging from 480 x 480 to 1600 x 1600, in addition to the image's original size. It also makes image sharing particularly easy, with in-app sharing links directly to your Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter accounts, as well as your email. By Ubermind, $2.99.

If you're a Polaroid enthusiast, you'll love ShakeIt. Wildly simple, this app from Nick Sayes and Kevin Wong lets you choose your frame (instant picture, peel-apart, or frameless) and apply it to a new or existing image. The image then "develops" on the phone screen while you watch; shaking the phone speeds the process along. The resulting image doesn't have the crazy cyan overtones of true SX-70 images, but the colors are flat and soft like the Polaroid pictures you might remember from childhood. 99 cents; there's also a free ShakeIt Lite.

Still more options are offered for your image-making fun by the Hipstamatic. This seductive little package is a camera-within-your-camera, and comes with a selection of different "lenses," "films," and "flashes" all of which produce unique effects in live-shot images. Insidiously enough, there are additional lenses, films, flashes and packages that you can purchase (and of course I got them all and had spent $8 at the App Store before I even realized it). You can mix and match them all, depending on your mood. Loads of fun, and a genius time- and bandwidth-waster, with easy in-App upload to Facebook, Flickr, or email. By Synthetic Corp. Basic package is $1.99, but a warning ... you won't want to stop there! The four optional "Hipstapaks" are 99 cents each.

Retro Camera is another option-packed PhotoApp that lets you apply a huge variety of special effects to either newly made or already-saved images. In addition to basic edits like size, position, and rotation, Retro Camera offers you a "toolbox" that enables you to choose your "film," as well as alter the image's contrast, grain noise, and texture. You can apply blur, or color effects, and select from more than 20 frames in 16 colors. One caveat--your images will not automatically save, so remember to "save" after you're satisfied with the final result. The free version leaves a logo at the bottom of your finished image (easily removed with Photoshop, if you're so inclined) and runs ads at the top of the app; the paid version is only $1.99. By CLBITZ Ubiquitous Communications.

There are, of course, literally HUNDREDS of camera apps out there; I've already identified more I would love to play with. I'm coming to consider my iPhone images their own art form. If you're an iPhone user, I'd love to hear from you about your favorite camera apps; if you've got the Droid or another App-based phone, let's hear what kind of creative chops you've been able to discover! Meanwhile, you can check out some more fun App-based images on Facebook.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gallery as Experience

My most recent installment of Social Studies, my BlogTalkRadio show, was quite interesting. If you are one of its 3.9 regular listeners, you'll know that the topic was the role of brick and mortar galleries in the current climate. I obtained comments from a range of folks, including gallerists, artists, collectors and art patrons ... I also drew from my own experience with galleries and alternative spaces, as well as the anecdotes of friends.

I found surprising the incredible range of interpretation of essentially every aspect of the question I was investigating. The notion of "art" ran the gammut from anything exhibitable (and some things not exhibitable) to Work By Dead Masters. The value of art was identified as monetary, aesthetic, cultural, spiritual. "Galleries" were viewed as "formalized spaces for exhibitions" to "only named and recognized venues in the Major Art Capitols" to "storefronts for the commerce of art."

However, all the commenters referrenced the brick-and-mortar art gallery as a place to be with art. Not a place to buy, not a place to sell, not a place to show, but a place to experience.

My favorite comment on this point came from Laura McConnell, a friend and art patron from Baltimore, MD. "Just as print media and books have their tactile experiences, galleries give a sensory and tactile experience for both the artist and the viewer that other promotional mediums just can’t offer."

So. If we consider the provision or creation of a sensory, tactile shared experience as the real raison d'etre for brick-and-mortar galleries, where does that leave us? How can galleries enhance and capitalize on this idea? What new expectations does this set up for the artist? For the gallerist? For the art-viewing public? I'll try to tackle those questions on a future segment of Social Studies; in the meantime, I welcome your comments here (as long as they are in a language I read, which means ENGLISH or FRENCH, and advance the discussion and aren't "i like ur article" spam--those comments will be rejected, sorry.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Social Studies on BlogTalkRadio: LET'S PLAY WITH OUR FOOD!

We're going down on the farm for the second installment of Social Studies, my BlogTalkRadio show. Join me on April 24 at 7:30 pm EST to hear the live wrap-up and commentary on my day's adventures, along with pre-recorded interviews, sound clips, and miscellaneous craziness. I'll also be posting to Facebook in real time, and you should check back here for photos, video, recipes, and more!

Just use the embedded player below to listen in; call in to 347-215-8403 to join me on the air! Can't make it at 7:30? No problem! Use the player or access the show page at BlogTalkRadio and check it out on-demand!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Art Life Now on BlogTalkRadio!

I've started a BlogTalkRadio show!

SOCIAL STUDIES debuts today at 6:30 pm EST. Our topic for this first show is (duh) Art Life Balance, where I hope to discuss the measures we take to keep the art flowing while also managing our family lives, paying the bills and so forth.

It's a live show, so listeners can call in and offer their own perspectives and comments. Details below:

When: Saturday, April 3, at 6:30 to 7 pm, EST.

How: all you have to do is register as a listener at
and tune in to

Want to chat with me live on-air? Just call 347-215-8403 during the broadcast and I'll patch you in.

Can't catch it live? Just go to anytime after the
broadcast and listen on-demand or access it as a podcast via iTunes.

I hope all 2.3 readers of this blog will join me :)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Small Moments of Feeling Small

I got dissed today by an organization I really respected, and it's made me feel really, really small.

And for once, it was not about my art. It was, of all things, about a non-art job. But it was a job I was, I'm sure, supremely qualified for, with an organization I have a long-standing respect for. I had lots of great ideas and was very excited about the prospect of contributing to the success of this organization. The application process was odd, to be sure ... an initial application was to be a letter, the "second interview" a second letter, the third level a phone interview. This despite the emphasis in the job description on the importance of collaboration and teamwork among the staff, and the implied value of fitting in and getting along. My initial application letter was apparently reasonably well received and I was invited to write a second letter, and take a written proofreading test ... all this for a "digital-media" (sic) position. But I wrote the second letter with great pleasure, took the proofreading test, and popped them into the mail, looking forward to moving further in the process for this job that I was already thinking of as "my job."

Then I saw the job announcement reposted in a strange location on, of all places, CraigsList, and began to feel uneasy.

I got the "thanks but no thanks" note from them today. It was at once cheerful and dismissive, saying they had taken my candidacy seriously but needed someone who was "adept at a wide range of things." And yet their interview process had tested my capacity to follow directions, write two letters, proofread for grammar and punctuation errors, read for comprehension, and use the US mail. Again, for a job in "digital-media" (sic).

Granted, things are not so good right now. I'm very sick with some kind of flulike thing and my outlook is not the best. I'm maybe a little bit lonely and struggling to keep up with housecleaning. My animals are causing me stress and worrying me. So it's possible that this has hit me a little harder than it might have otherwise, but I'm finding it hard to shake off the feeling of insult and unfairness, this notion that I was not given a chance, that my actual capabilities were not valued but instead I was judged based on some capricious secret handshake.

Truth is, I don't want to be evaluated based on whether or not I fit into the secret club. I don't want to work for someone who doesn't believe in what I'm doing, doesn't see the interent value in it. I don't want to be part of a team that's not sure whether I should be a member. There is a substantial chance that this position would have suffered all those indiginities,and that other positions out there would provide more challenge and other organizations value my contribution more highly. Yet I am affected still by this rejection; as I said, it was an organization I respected (and still do respect) so I can't just write them off as stupid ... and yet, the dismissal of me from consideration for this position that I was so completely qualified for with so little examination of my real qualifications seems odd at best.

I hope tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow WILL be better. But right now, it is still today and I remain disturbed.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

On Writing: Part 1

North Carolina has a sort of "Twilight Zone" quality to it. I mean that in the nicest imaginable way; things just sort of come out of left field here, and what you expect is almost never what you get. Strange, given that this seems to be a state that likes literality in its place names--in the course of a 40 minute drive today, I crossed the Deep River, the Rocky River and the Big River, and discovered a town park called "Town Park." But the people here, born-and-bred Carolinians--they're the surprises.

For example: my farrier. Good guy, does good work. Funny. His favorite descriptive word appears to be "peckerhead." He's "a little bit of a bigot" (his words), but honest and straightforward. I like him; my horse likes him. Upside down under my horse, he mentions that he's been meaning to write. "I have connections in the literary circles here," he says. I tell him he should definitely write if he feels the urge, literary connections or no. "Clyde says the same thing," he says, shifting my horse's foot to get a better angle. She yanks back for a moment, prompting him to interrupt his train of thought with a gentle but firm "Now you stop that."

When she gives in, he comes back to topic, talking and filing at the same time. Clyde is encouraging him to write. Other friends too, and his wife. A few more first names get mentioned. I tell him that I "used to write" and that I'm a voracious reader, and he lights up a little bit more. He lets my horse take her foot back and pats her on the flank, standing up straight to stretch his back and give them both a little rest. "You might have heard of some of my friends, then," he says, and then without a hint of pretense rattles off a who's who of North Carolina authors, all old friends. "Clyde" turns out to be Clyde Edgerton. When he gets to Jill McCorkle, I stop him. "You really do have some outstanding literary friends," I say. He nods. "Yeah," he says, tapping my horse's leg to ask her to lift another foot for him. "Anyway, I keep meaning to write, but I just haven't gotten around to it."

In California, my farrier was pure farrier, not meaning to do anything but trim and shoe horses and spend weekends in Reno with his wife and adult children, gambling. When he worked on my horse, we talked about how silly the politicians in Sacramento were being, about horses and other horse people. In North Carolina, my farrier is a writer and a reader and a friend to some very big names. Undoubtedly when he visits we'll talk about how silly the politicians in Raleigh are being, and about horses and other horse people. But we'll also talk about books, and reading and writing, and what his literary limelight friends are doing.

When he finally does do some writing, I know it will be something interesting.

Me, I've also been meaning to write. But so far, all I've managed to do is blog. And that's the topic for my next post. :)