Monday, December 3, 2007

Summary but not summery

This Wednesday, the Portland Art Center's fund-raiser PDX Panels show opens (300 panels by 300 artists), along with It Takes a Village, a show of volunteer's work which I'll be in. This is the first showing of Plait, which will continue to expand and be reconfigured (image above).

Returning to the world of sound, it looks like I'll be making a multi-channel sound installation for Diapason Sound Gallery in 2008 and perhaps have the opportunity to work with a dance company in NYC. And I'm glad to say that Sonoris will release my new solo CD Flock & Tumble this Spring (most of which was used as a score for Circus Me Around by Linda Austin Dance last month).

The plastic on the studio windows is billowing, the rain is pouring, the kerosense heater is burning, the music is playing and I am drawing.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Pondering a random stacking of pieces today, I recognized something that is close to my original mental image of these pieces. Meanwhile, there is a hesitant start on a drawing to be held in place by a large pieces of glass, behind the wood pieces. And a series of smaller graphite drawings which will be mounted on the wall behind tempered glass.

Framed or unframed, clusters or compositions... These days I am craving a clear voice in my head which would say "Stop now, go here, try this." Especially the "stop now". There are so many places to be charmed along the way, so many potential combinations. Lack of wall space complicates things a bit by crowding together different series. That's why we're going to take apart the loft in the studio and turn it into a large work surface. We haven't been sitting up there anyway... Though the sunsets over the West Hills from the 8th floor can be nice, it makes me depressed to view the constant stream of cars on the Interstate, slowly burning through the last of the oil.

Anyway, a recent tip on where to buy large sheets of used tempered glass suggests an opportunity to play with multiple clusterings/layerings. Questioning the form of these many bits which make up a whole, I conclude not to conclude - deferring the decision to adapt to a particular space.

A weekend in Gull Harbor, WA with Kelly offered the chance to reconnect with natural patterns - ferns, moss, shells, ripples in wood, mother-of-pearl. On the bookshelf of the B&B (where we were gifted a free room), a chance encounter with the book "A Pattern Language". There's something intriguing here, though I'm not sure yet what it is. The idea of a "living" city or "living" house, "living" courtyard, etc. is not so much different from a living painting. And certainly my interest in pattern has not abated...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


From about 2003 - 2006, I was asking myself questions about the possibilities of communication in drawing. I was questioning the ability of clear "speech" through art and, in doing so, seemed to reify the doubt, making illegible work (about illegibility).
I'm realizing today that I have shifted away from those concerns and I hope that in turn my work has become more coherent. I've drifted from questions about communication with the landscape of memory to the landscape itself. I am still interested in the ways we "read" the environment, but in the new work, the answer is more certain. These are artifacts which depict the becoming of their own artifactness. Coring down under the surface, the conclusion is clear: the inevitable large-scale collapse and eventual renewal of the landscape (and of course the species within that landscape).
This work (through a kind of absence) concerns the interdependent nature of species and environment - figure and ground. There is a triple folding-in of character and landscape. The earth pigment drawings are figure on the ground of the wood panels, which are themselves figure on the ground of glass/paper/wall. But the earth pigment drawings are themselves also landscapes... grounds for absent (or more accurately - buried) figures.
This shift arises from two larger questions, one global (how to continue in the face of things) and one personal (how to find a voice, both in my work and in a larger community). Two questions I would like to return to later...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Accumulation of raw shapes...

Layering and sanding

Plait is a series of drawing/sculpture works very much in progress. New series often begin with a meeting point between an idea and some kind of material resource (or limitation). In this case, the desire to make drawings on solid panels (rather than the fabric and/or paper of the last few years) was met with the chance encounter of a construction company which provides scraps of high-quality plywood for the taking. I had in mind an image of stacks of strips, layers upon layers. The odd sizes and damaged corners of this source wood provoked the accumulative shape building. Pieces of found glass provided the opportunity for transparency and depth.

These individual "puzzle pieces" are cut, sanded and primed, and then layers of lines are built up through successive applications of earth pigment and gesso, and subtracted or exposed through sanding and rubbing. A continuing "play" with these pieces leads to arrangement of larger forms.

Plait follows a long-standing fascination with the merging of horizontal and vertical time, which has been strengthened by reading Jared Diamond's descriptions of archeological sleuthing in Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse. Plait is a landscape made up of layers. There is a potential for meaning to arise from fragments and cross-sections of layered material. Information is buried - hidden in accumulation, waiting to be discovered and decoded. It asks for a reading of the ground, finding an alphabet in the dirt, grass and stars, coaxing words from objects - a reconstruction of history from artifacts.

Occasionally when working on these drawings, I think of Mrs Cunningham's 3rd grade class, which had an exciting new kind of organization. The classroom was set up in a series of stations, at which students would find projects to complete before moving on to the next station. At least, it seemed exciting and new, at first but quickly became tiresome, a daily repetition. The first station every morning consisted of hand tracing, and then filling in the hand with parallel lines - across the fingers and palm of the hand shape, as even, close and neat as possible. The intention of the exercise was to strengthen hand-eye coordination. I remember being both fascinated and annoyed with this activity. I disliked the repetition, but enjoyed the loosening of time which occurred when I focused on the meditative, simple drawing of parallel lines. When I explained this activity at home, my father traced his hand and we spent an evening filling it with spirals, stars, swirls and other shapes, a response which felt like a slightly dangerous breaking of the rules. Both the meditative process and the rebellion found their way deep into my conception of drawing as activity...


This blog grows out of a general re-orientation in the way I'm thinking about my work, one based on an erasure (or rather, a letting go) of divisions between various modes of making (and therefore thinking) - sound, drawing, sculpture, video, performance, collaborations. In equalizing my work in all of these practices, I begin to think of them them as parallel. They may exist separately or in various reconfigured groups. I'm still wondering what an exhibition might require - what might it include or exclude? How much is enough, how much is too much? I am interested in adaptiveness and overlap... Adapting to a particular space (without being entirely site specific, at least in a strict use of the term) through overlapping various modes. In thought, this leads to a place where meaning can drift across media - forming complexes of distinct but complementing bodies of work. Quite practically, this approach grows from the fact that I have been drifting in the studio, moving from drawing to sound to video editing to writing to sitting and staring...

A large part of this recent re-orientation is a (perhaps gratuitous) matter of self-definition. After ten years, I have a growing feeling that I am no longer interested in calling myself an "experimental musician". For one thing, I am no longer interested in making "music". It's more that I want to make sounds about music - which means paradoxically that the work has become more "musical" - in order to comment on music. A subtle but important distinction, at least in terms of the self-perception of why I do what I do.

Also fading in my mind is the term "sound artist". As I have been equalizing practices, I come to all of them as containing or embodying a kind of "listening in". I will try to return to this idea, which grows from thoughts about the mirroring empathy of physiological body sensation. Sound is often said to be the most physical of materials because it operates in close union with touch, moving through and around the body. Recently I have been moving towards a consideration of all forms of apperception as forms of "listening" - which then leads me towards various prepositions: "listening into", "listening with", "listening under", "listening through", etc. etc. This is the engine which drives my current work...