Archive for the ‘Ox-Bow’ Category

Post-Ox-Bow: thinking about thinking


Part of having the summers off means being self-disciplined with my art practice and planning benchmarks for myself in time for Thesis. Besides teaching a children’s course at SAIC, I’m showing some work at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival next weekend as well as preparing ideas to present at Core Project’s concrits coming up next month. It’s a lot harder to stay motivated without a class structure or project deadlines but considering I left my job to pursue my graduate work, I have no excuses not to excel in the goals I’ve set for myself. I’ve been feeling this underlying pressure the past two years in my personal life to meet specific expectations of where I should be by a certain age. Not having met all of them yet, I’m still more confident about who I am now than I was when I was younger. I imagine life gets richer with age, but richer is not to be mistaken with easier.

I never considered my work to be autobiographical, but reflecting on a span of reoccurring themes in my art has revealed parallels in my life. I approach my art making in 2 different ways. There is that of the pleasure principle: simply making work that I love or makes me happy. Once making art becomes a chore, the joy of creating in the first place is diminished. The inspiration for work that comes from this place of pleasure is woven into ordinary things and everyday life such as a lovely shape I see in the shadow of a tree, or when I notice how a window becomes a frame for the cityscape. The second approach is art as inquiry. This is where my conceptual work is born as I start with a question I want to investigate and pursue strategies to find an answer. I’ve been balancing both ends as I read as research and make screenprints to sell at ShopColumbia. Speaking of which, here’s a bit of pleasure I have to share:

Ox-Bow Day 13


Last day today. I think I’m ready to go back to real life. Even though I’ve been blogging everyday I haven’t heard or seen any news or talked to friends or family for the past two weeks. I love Ox-Bow but I kinda miss home. I’ll wrap it up with a scene from tonight’s costume party. I haven’t hula hooped in a loooong time….it was fun. So goodbye cow bell, goodbye good food, goodbye midnight toast bar, goodbye deet, goodbye mosquitos, fleas, ticks & spiders, goodbye beer at 5pm, goodbye bonfire & moonwalk in the meadow & crow’s nest, goodbye random people…. hello NPR and laundry and barefeet and texting. Bittersweet, really.

Ox-Bow Day 12


Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within. -Tennyson

So a few things worked & didn’t work today. I hand cut stencils of text from the box as well as screenprinting doilies onto a long tablecloth. There are six placeholders. I like to think in pairs, so when thinking about how many, two reference a date, four feels like a family, six is like a dinner party, eight seemed too many. The doilies for me reference something sweet, proper and table etiquette. The tablecloth makes if more formal, hence this piece is an installation on the dining room table. I like the ghostly white text with white doilies on white cloth, but it’s too subtle to read. I did however, play with the idea of the accidental spill. From a glass of wine or cup of coffee that stains the cloth and reveals the text it makes sense that what we really mean to say sometimes come out as Freudian slips. The act of cleaning or wiping up seems appropriate for the content of the text. I need to think about this more…. Another thing I tried was embroidering white cloth napkins with white text. I might try hand towels next. It’s my first attempt at embroidering anything so it looked pretty sloppy. I feel like yesterday was my f-up day and now I need another week to refine my techniques and get better materials such as a tablecloth with a subtle design on it so I can integrate the text into the actual fabric. I need to practice printing and embroidery. I was really hoping to have something more finalized after the two I SAID I MEANT variations but now I know I want to continue this exploration with the tablecloth. It’ll just have to be post-Ox-Bow.


Ox-Bow Day 11


Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. -Roland Barthes

I started looking at individual sheets  from the box today and found there wasn’t a huge different from the first variation. However the re-occurring theme was relationships. There were a lot of secrets, doubt, pretending, fears, and even hope. This experiment has given me different results than what I was after but I’m fine with that.  After looking at Gillian Wearing‘s Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say, I’ve been thinking about how I can implicate myself in the piece by wearing some of the text.  I’m also fascinated by Wearing’s series of photographic self-portraits that investigate the separation between self and other within a family. In the meantime, I cut stencils of select text fragments to put back into the spaces where they were found. Instead of using spraypaint, I want to  temporarily transfer the fleeting thoughts by using mediums related to the space such as as salt & pepper for the kitchen table or smudgeprints on mirrors. I’ll be documenting them with photographs and expect these mini-installations to last no longer than a day. I’m also going to embroider text onto napkins & screenprint doilies onto a tablecloth to reference the polite pleasantries and gestures that are associated with tableside manners.

Ox-Bow Day 10


My work space today:

Ox-Bow Day 9: On longing…a kind of ache


I had my third critique today and I have a few things to reconsider with the I SAID I MEANT piece. My initial intention was to use the responses I gather from these variations to investigate how we use language as a mediator to communicate meaning. The conflict between the inner & outer has always interested me and I still question if it’s possible to capture what gets lost in translation between the mind & body. Some of the feedback I got suggests that I no longer need to post the writings on the web anymore. The act of putting your thoughts into an anonymous box that goes to an unmarked source romanticizes the nature of your intentions going unknown. When you say something, but you mean something else that meaning is lost in this void. If I were to literalize that lost voice, I would make it a performative piece, like floating the box away in the stream or lighting it on fire or feeding the paper into a shredder. Then that might even suggest catharsis. It wouldn’t matter if anyone read them or not. With the first variation, it was pointed out to me that it was comforting reading what other people wrote on the list since it was open to the public, while making it apparent that we constantly censor ourselves in our interactions with others. This leads me to think of two possible ways to present my investigation:

Stephanie suggested that all this information might turn into an overarching text piece that state something like: “I mean 60% of what I say.” The location of the statement can range from shirts to signage to putting it back where conversations happen. The second idea would be a continuation of strategies that promote self-awareness. Just as the act of writing is a form of recognition that mimics what we do cognitively so is saying out loud a task as you do it. This can take shape as an actual confession booth, although I wouldn’t call it that name. You’re ‘confessions’ would be a voice recording or video…..

In the meantime, I started reading On Longing by Susan Stewart. This is extremely timely for me since I am trying to resolve this issue in other areas of my work. Here’s an excerpt:

Narrative is seen in this essay as a structure of desire, a structure that both invents and distances its object and thereby inscribes again and again the gap between signifier and signified that is the place of generation for the symbolic.

Ox-Bow Day 8


“When words can’t be heard, language is translated to what is visual.”

Joseph Grigely

Today I’m trying a variation of I SAID I MEANT since there’s a new group of people coming into Ox-Bow, I might get different responses. With the open list format, people were reading the previous responses before writing their own, so it influenced their thoughts. To make it more anonymous and survey like, I put out a drop box with individual cards with I SAID on the front and I MEANT on the back. I’m working on a separate blog site where I will be posting the list of responses and images of where they were found.

Ox-Bow: birthday song


Today is my birthday & I’m spending it away from friends and family :/ but my buddy Kevin wrote a song and sang it on the guitar during dinner tonight. I was honestly caught off guard but it was a sweet gesture and I really appreciate his effort. Especially since it’s in response to the text piece I’ve been working on at Ox-bow. Too bad there isn’t a live version for youtube! I’d like to share it:

Ox-Bow Birthday Song

Ox-Bow Day 7


The lists have been up for 2 days now. A few of them already filled up and were even flipped and continued on the other side. It’s exciting to see the dialogue that happens through writing with a simple prompt: I SAID and I MEANT. I’ve been casually observing people’s interaction with the piece as they encounter it on the table or wall. I observed the same people re-visting the piece to see if anything new was added, or possibly if someone responded to what they already wrote. Some gathered in clusters and laughed at what they read. For the more private locations, I saw a guy go into the outdoor restroom where a list is posted…with a sharpie in hand, he glanced over his shoulder to see who was around.

selection of text from the bathroom:

I SAID I miss you I MEANT I’m cheating on you

I SAID I’ll be fine I MEANT until I fall a part

selection from the dining room:

I SAID I really like that book too     I MEANT I really like you

I SAID let’s collaborate     I MEANT I’m out of ideas

selection from the patio:

I SAID yes, you are very pretty        I MEANT quit asking me that fucking question over and over again when you know you are the prettiest and this is a boring conversation

As I started to collect & read the lists, it started to raise questions about privacy, censorship, anonymity, secrets, & confessions. I also think of websites that have shared authorship like PostSecret and Automated Beacon that have a similar tension in the work. A lot of the dialogue seemed centered around distant intimacy and politeness strategies. I think the location of the lists also lends itself to revealing a range that is sweet to funny to dark to intimate.

Ox-Bow Day 6


The unique thing about Ox-bow is the different people you meet everyday. Since it’s a small community, I see the same faces several times a day, especially at meals. It’s normal to smile and say hi to strangers and start a conversation before exchanging names. Sometimes, we even skip the “What do you do?” and dive into “What are you wearing to the costume party?”  It’s like overnight camp for adults where you can become bff’s with someone you meet at the toast bar at midnight. Yes, we have a toast bar. It terrific. All the dwelling spaces have a personal touch, that makes it inviting & arsty, from the hand-painted signs to refurbished furniture. People interact here in a more personable way, not via text and facebook…although that might also have to do with poor cellphone reception and internet connection…

So I’ve been utilizing Ox-Bow’s community to expand the text I use in my work.  Still working in line with my interest in mealtime conversations, I placed lists marked I SAID & I MEANT in shared spaces. This one was on a table in the breezeway to the dining room where people stand in line to get their food. I put others on bulletin boards, an outdoor bench, and even bathrooms. I’m hoping this method of collective authorship & anonymity will allow for more open, candid responses rather than contrived. I think this approach will help remove the filter that shortens the gap between language and subtext.

Ox-Bow Day 5: Hold that thought…hold it…


Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.
—J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232).

Metacognition is “cognition about cognition”, or “knowing about knowing.” I want to apply this sudden self-awareness of the waking mind in the context of conversations. What do our unfiltered thoughts sound like? How can I materialize it? How does that change the way we communicate when we recognize the gap between language and meaning?

Strategy: Thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations of one’s thoughts and knowledge to realize & visualize thoughts.

Device: Use recordings of conversations as a source to study what fills the gap. Eavesdrop to gain intimate access to private “thoughts”. The fleeting, barely-there language of interior monologue contrasted against the self-actualization of spoken dialogue.

Materialize the process/language of conversation using elements that point back to the thing itself (text: stagger, break a apart, directness vs. ambiguity). Look at concrete poetry & John Cage’s experimental music.
Space: kitchen table; meals as sharing, communal, generosity
Object: utensils, teacups, plates, napkins (think in pairs & multiples)

I’m thinking about unattainable stuff like this way too much. I’m exhausted.

Ox-Bow Day 4


We had our first critique today. I’ve been working on a video installation to display from the windows of my inn but I have very limited access to media related equipment which has been a little frustrating. The video I’m working with is the silhouette version of Digital Portraits. In the meantime I did an exercise with paint swatches outdoors. I’m not so much interested in matching the colors as I am in seeing how the names romanticize nature. The hike to Crow’s Nest made me think of how many artists create a picturesque image of the outdoors. The names of colors such as Summer Pudding, Koi Pond, Arresting Auburn, etc. appeal to our consumerist desires to create a sense of artificial closeness to nature while further removing us from the actual thing. This image is from a experiential piece by the lagoon. We shared a beer & tried to catch a breeze that skimmed our bottle and whistled. It actually worked!

Ox-Bow Day 3


Since I got here I’ve been so consumed with reading & writing that I haven’t made anything yet….so I started playing around with things that put me at ease: cutting stencils of text. That led to trying screenprinting for the first time at 1 am. I like its immediacy once the screen is prepared and the possibilites of hand-pulled multiples. This is my screen with a set of text to be printed with white ink on canvas. I haven’t decided where I’m going to install them yet.

Ox-Bow Day 2: this & that


I had an individual meeting with the Stephanie Brooks today. It was refreshing to show my work to new eyes. Based on clips of She Said Look, She Said Yes, Digital Portraits & Minding The Gap, she repeated my key words back to me, which means I’m getting somewhere:

fragmented text
push & pull
desire longing
distant personal intimacy

I also looked at the work of Ellen Rothenberg and instantly felt a connection to her installation pieces, especially Public Address, which is mostly bold text from a third-person point of view. Next on my reading list is On Longing by Susan Stewart and The Female Complaint by Lauren Berlant, a feminist cultural theorist. Just as I started to branch off from the female perspective, I’m moving back towards it, but in a more refined way. I’m liking where I’m headed & want to get there sooner.

Strategy for materializing Here & There:
Replace with This & That. Replace with image for 2D work & object for 3D work.

We took a hike to the Crow’s nest today:

Ox-Bow Day 1


This time I got lodging in the Janie…hooray! It’s a lovely purple cabin with new wood floors, ceiling fans & a separate living area. I stayed in the old inn the past two summers so this space feels like a luxury already.

So for our first class meeting tonight we met in the new printmaking studio. I perked up at the row of colorful ductape, stencil letters, spray paint, & huge rolls of paper along one end of the wall. This is right up my alley. :) I love D.I.Y. & visual culture stuff. I brought an old window frame I saved from my house renovation and hope to incorporate it into an outdoor installation. It sounds like I’ll have access to a video camera and projector as well which I’m super excited about.

My first reading was an excerpt from Six Years by Lucy Lippard. It revolves around the question, “What is a dematerialized art object?” Even though this book was written in the 60′s, it sparks a conversation about conceptual art. I personally think it’s something that is evidence, residue, or a documentation of an ephemeral moment or idea. Kind of like the Fluxus movement started in the 1950′s explored by John Cage with his experimental music. Sometimes what is leftover from a movement or idea is the art object itself, even if it is a piece of paper with writing on it. When wondering why it is that traditional forms of art such as painting and sculpture is in some ways still valued more than conceptual art, it makes sense that the notion of art as commodity supports the gallery and museum institutions. How do you sell an idea when it’s not in a physical form? Art has no monetary value unless someone is willing to pay for it. I think new media work such as video, installation & sound art looks outside of these traditional settings to seek validation from a wider audience, making it accessible to anyone who has access to the internet. Since a lot of media work is not object based and speak a similar language to popular culture today (film, youtube, interactive video games, portable technology on cellphones, etc.) it can risk easily slipping between the fine line of art versus entertainment. However ephemeral it might be, putting art into the hands of more people through media can be a powerful & effective tool. I think of Miranda July’s website, Learning To Love You More, as an example of conceptual art using the internet as a public sharing forum.



I’m counting down til Ox-bow. I’ve been retreating to Saugatuck, MI for the past two summers and I always have an amazing time, meet interesting people and make unexpected work. This year I’ll be taking Conceptual Practices with Stephanie Brooks. I plan on immersing myself in thesis work. Here are some ideas I want to explore in my two weeks there:

I am interested in contradictions & multiple meanings & pairs. In some of my past work, I’ve explored the notion of duality through the revealing & concealing of layers. Now I’m interested in exposing both sides at the same time. I think opposites work harmoniously rather than negating the other. What something is is defined by what it is not.

[film a long duration of the horizon (sky & lagoon) and keep a time log---backlit projection onto window frames covered with white vellum---suspend in exact location & space where the footage was taken---start playing video 12 hours from the time recorded so that day 'meets' night---variation would be to film an inside space and show it outside or vis versa]

[sculptural paper installation---combine with video projection or internal sound piece (zoom mic).]

[appropriate by assigning new associations to existing visual languages (ie. signage, public symbols) using text & typography; ask the viewer to imagine or fill in the meaning---construct dimensional object referring to an experience of something else (a metaphor/physical placeholder) using material that's easy to carve or make molds from---wood, wire & plaster OR using found ephemeral material that rusts & decomposes left outdoors---think multiples---think location---think conceptual title]

[negative space cutouts from colored felt draped from branches]

[stop-motion film depicting 'the bonus']


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