Septober Update!

Sculpture Workshop with Susan Wakeen

I spent time at Susan's studio in Litchfield, CT learning how to use water-based clay, sculpture tools, foil and wire to construct a bust of a live model.  Attending this workshop taught me a lot about the process of sculpting, especially pieces I was ignoring when starting my first sculptures. Creating the armature was our first assignment, and something I'd never done.  I struggled placing limbs on my clay figures in the past, lacking the support they needed to stand without cracking or falling off.  After creating the armature it became clear that utilizing materials such as foil, newspaper, and wire would assist me with structural issues in future work.  

I also used tools for the first time.  I used calipers to ensure correct measurements and proportion--something I estimated or fabricated in past works.  I used wooden tools and scraping wire tools, rubber-tipped tools and tulle to smooth, indent, soften, and carve.  I realized how the materials interacted with the clay at different stages of drying, and felt a more intuitive handle on what to use when by the end of the workshop.

Most importantly, I learned how to see better.  I learned how my mind was enlarging things or exaggerating them to try to capture character in a way that was more illustrative than realistic.  Over time, I calmed my exaggeration to something more true to Sarah, our model.  

Here are images from the workshop, in order from beginning to end.



Figure Sketching with Clay

On Tuesdays, I attended a figure drawing long pose session that allowed me an hour to render a figure.  I became much faster at rendering the parts of the figure after the first session, which felt very incomplete.  The model on the wooden table is from the second session, whereas the white podium indicates my first attempt.




Here are a few paintings I worked on in response to my animal head fixation/the idea of masking. One is a version of my first sculpture, the other is from my want to capture the invisible/masked nature of mountain lions (had lots of strange dreams featuring them at the time, and needed to explore them).



Now that summer has come to a close and I've started working more, I've had trouble finding time to practice and explore what I find striking and enjoyable.  I'm grateful to have attended the sculpture workshop presented by Susan Wakeen because it reminded me of what it felt like to be in a creative space with other individuals and to have planned working time for a project of my own.  I appreciated the direction and the structure surrounding the workshop.  In the future I think I will have to structure my days around production and research as it ensured a more focused effort not easily swayed or lost in competition with other obligations.  

I'm having a hard time building a concept that I feel really motivated by.  I'm starting to think that, as enjoyable as it is to push and pull an object into existence, I still prefer painting over sculpture. Painting feels like more of a home space.  Granted, my paintings lack the depth of someone who has learned proper technique.  I believe my next stop would be to take courses with Susan focusing on oil painting technique.  Though I understand how to accomplish certain techniques such as washes and dry brushing, I'm missing a lot of information about medium and design that would greatly improve what I make.




Look, Listen, Feel: Art CPR

Having trouble finding a focus, I'm applying the civilian first responder rules to my art-mergency: "Look, listen, and feel for breathing," (American Red Cross).

If you need to save a life, look here

This is not an emergency so much as a ritual for emergence of artistic concept.   We start now. 



In life or death terms, this is where you check the scene and see who and what's around and if it's at all safe to delve into. 

In this case, I'm looking to my advisor's list of artists that might be relevant to my future work.  I have looked at all recommended artists and their works via Artstor.



After looking, I listened for resonance.   Resonance can be heard in a physical sense, through neural tingle and pull of the eye.  It's not scientific.  It's like a hunch.  I've made a comprehensive list of "whos" and "whats" from the artist recommendations determined by works that resonated most within me, see:  



What: Empirical Construction, Istanbul, 2003.  Ink and Synthetic Polymer Paint on Canvas.

Grey Area exhibited at the Guggenheim in 2010

Why:  Map-like, similar to my "brain map" from first blog post


  • layered like topographical structure
  • geometric structure using boldness of line and curve to dictate levels and motion
  • between layers are sketches like terrain, texture


  • Create visual mindmaps, but incorporate texture as scribbled or written word to add language layer (process?) 
  • Working in layers to isolate functions--colors to develop layers: muted=Static/back layer, black and gray =Texture/mid layer, bold colors=motion/front layer
  • Need to use multiple planes for a fuller, rounder image. My current work is "flatter" 




What: I Want to Believe exhibited at the Guggenheim in 2008

Why:  Temporary clay figures allow art to be "transient" and temporary


  • MOTION--the momentum and potential energy of the sculptures is loaded/pregnant.  The drag and pull motions of the people and their slope-like positioning cause the eye to feel tension.
  • The direction and positioning of the sculptures (the wolves and the clay sculptures, especially) guide the viewer through the experience and almost envelop him/her.
  • There is a sense of urgency developed from the spacing of the figures.


  • Don't look at art as permanent or timeless constructs, allow them to have a mind of their own and to show the wear and tear of time.
  • Overlaps with Wendy Jacobs's (my mentor's) suggestion about beginning sculptures--do not practice with the intention of making something to last, it's practice.
  • Try positioning multiple models/figurines so that they create time and movement for the viewer.  
  • Maybe allow plastilina to stay plastilina?  Why do I have the urge to replicate in plastic or resin?




What: In the Carpet Shop, 1979.  Chromogenic print.
The Way Things Go, film, 1987

Why: Funny, Strange sense of humor


  • Uses things already in existence and creates comparisons of them through title and perspective: Bologna and Salami as different rugs laid out in a carpet shop, 
  • The perspective and choice of "characters" or actors (deli meat) show the absurdity of the literal situation (a carpet shop)
  • Allowing "things" to become actors through witnessing.


  • Use film as a way to document "inanimate" as though it is an actor.
  • Witnessing confessions from objects through video.  
  • Elevating things to a human level through appropriated attention.




Winter Night, 2000.  Oil paint.

Why:  another way to look at landscape/painting


  • Layering NOT blending
  • Not trying to DEFINE a figure, allowing SHAPES to be raw definitions


  • Not trying to force a vision
  • Having faith in the eye and how the brain processes objects in relation to each other
  • Simplicity.




Using your cheek, check for breathing.  

After typing this out, a pattern is emerging.  Like breath, it is amorphous but distinguishable from the surrounding air, defined only by sensation.  


  • Allowing objects to make their own confessions.  
  • Letting things be what they are.  
  • Stop trying to define things and make them more "human", because other humans will already liken them to humans, as each person is drawing only from human perspective.
  • Trust the viewer to have a brain and make his/her own connections
  • Understate, and give attention to the understated
  • Giving attention is NOT the same as exaggerating
  • Let the objects be the objects, and let the eye make the assumptions
  • Humans are wired to compare and draw inferences
  • Bearing witness by letting things account for themselves as things, in their own "thing" language.
  • Do not try to interpret for things, just shed light so they can be seen.


finding a practice


Continuing a project inspired by Beth Carter, I began documenting my work through silicone molds and plastic and polyester resin casts.

My first attempt used a plastic asking and silicone pour-method mold kit from Brick in the Yard.  I din't have enough material, and had to order larger quantities for future attempts.



My second attempt used a smooth--on mold kit and polyester resin (which smelled like chemical death and was extremely messy).  I screwed up and made too thin a layer of paste, resulting in a hole-some, fragile mold.  I then tried to block holes with a mashup of clear and black glue and glue gun.  The resin continued to seep through things, and I patched as it seeped and prayed for the deluge to stop, and then this happened somehow.  I like the black glue and how it looks with the polyester resin.  I would incorporate this again somehow.

My third attempt returns to the pour method and plastic casting material.  After receiving a larger quantity of materials, I was able to attempt the more complicated giraffe-head sculpture.  I hadn't properly accounted for an air bubble at the base of the chin, which I will anticipate the next attempt.


Next steps

After this round of experimentation, my mentor Wendy suggested to focus more on the plastilina figures rather than the molding and casting of them.  

Some ideas that occurred to me as I sculpted and photographed this line of figures:

  • Create faceless women with sheets bound/blinding them using similar bodies
  • Creating motion from the pieces by lining up multiple figures like dominos
  • giving each figure a more gestural feeling through arms and hands
  • Using a sheer material to connect forms or create drapery to slip, grip, or trip figures
  • Paint the aftermath of the positioned figures and the motion of the positions as a network.


I've started recording minutes of action, determining a "character" like water and allowing it to execute its action on its own.  Instead of fabricating an action or function for my subject, I'm working to allow the subject to define itself by its action.  Here are some of the videos I've recorded.















Next steps:

I would like to continue recording anything that strikes me.

I would like to paint stills of these recordings as portraits of the subject doing its life's work, possibly abstracting this to the motion of the subject over time.

I have taken photographs of familiar feet in motion, unbeknownst to the feet or their owner (therefore I believe their position natural and not some strange pontification).  I might also paint these.


thoughts on vulnerability and strange practices to make myself more vulnerable

While talking about artists I found inspiring upon first meeting my mentor, I mentioned the psychological element Accanci used in Seedbed and how much strange glee it brought me to think of the potential thoughts of the people who partook in the installation.  I explained to her installation ideas I had that spurred from thinking about Seedbed, interactivity, and human tendency.  Nearly all of my ideas were related to some form of trickery or shaming the viewer for something rather innocent or natural.  To this, she highlighted an important point that I'd completely overlooked about Accanci's Seedbed: he was as vulnerable as the viewers.  He was completing an act under watch.  Accanci was exposed in this performance and the audience was given a choice to do what they pleased above.

Vulnerability is something my ideas lacked.  I wanted to create scenarios where I could step out of the way and distance myself from the work.  To practice committing to the strange thoughts, actions, and inclinations that come naturally to me or pique my curiosity, I've started recording myself doing things I normally do in my house.  I've used a go pro to record myself walking around my house and talking to myself naked (the only way I walk around my house).  I've recorded myself in the middle of cleaning my room and trying on strange clothes, killing spiders and generating musical numbers about my day (a frequent occurrence when I have access to mirrors and too much time).  Possibly these things that occur naturally to me will become foundations of future work.

Of course, I'm afraid to post the videos.  I'm not sure if I'm crazy or obscene or genius or just extremely stupid, and I don't know if I'm ready for the public to validate any of those potential strands.  I'm going to keep recording things that I do that I don't want other people to see.  Counterintuitive.  Let's keep it going.

My Mentor Says

This week I visited MassMoCA and the Brooklyn Museum, SoWa galleries in Boston, and met my mentor.  

Before beginning this process, I'd installed work in MAC650 Gallery, including a landscape that I'd "banged out" in the short time between the residency and the show.  I noticed small differences in the way I rendered this landscape versus past renderings. After the residency and after exposure to more Modern and Contemporary art than I'd ever been exposed to, the landscape became more gestural than realistic and I'd strayed from the colors in the original image I'd taken.  

Golden, CO . 24x48in Acrylic on Canvas

Golden, CO. 24x48in Acrylic on Canvas

Museums and Galleries 

After the show, I headed to Boston for a group trip to MassMoCA .  I was able to make First Friday at the SoWa galleries, and came across the work of Beth Carter

Beth Carter's sculptures are haunting and somber bronze casts.   The sculptures marry the male figure with beast. I felt shame, alienation, and inadequacy from the sculptures.  Some forms hold small books and read them intently, the books too small to be easily read.  The books seem sacred and secret to the figures.  The heads are bowed, heavy and resigned.   


The next morning, we visited MassMoCA.  The Nick Cave installation was most impactful for me, specifically a piece that spelled "Flow" in tinsel hung on a rack and blown by a dozen or so fans.  Before entering the room I thought I heard rain because of the rustling tinsel.  The white noise was both calming and alarming.  Within the room, black, sapphire, and silver tinsel wriggled ahead forming the word "FLOW." The Nick Cave exhibit explored environment through tactile, visual, and audible modalities.  The sound was most striking to me and makes me wish to explore sound in future work. 

Cloud Installation by Nick Cave

Cloud Installation by Nick Cave

Nick Cave installation, photo from

Nick Cave installation, photo from

Meeting my Mentor 

I met Wendy Jacob in Boston after the MassMoCA visit.  I was recommended Wendy during my final critique at residency. After researching her work and wondering how in the hell anyone could have a brain like that, I'd sent her an email requesting her guidance.  Among many other achievements, Wendy adjusts environments through installation art and functional furniture. I found Wendy's ceiling and doorway installations most breathtaking.  The breathing architectural structures seem like living organisms occupied by people. It's soothing and satisfying to see the life act of breathing reflected in usually inanimate objects.  Wendy Jacob's "Walls" installation at The Whitney in 1991 shows the breathing here


After looking over my portfolio and discussing my residency with Wendy, she made recommendations of research and practice I should accomplish before we meet again.


Recommendations from Wendy 

  1. Look at art
    1. Kiki Smith **because of my interest in the female figure and Beth Carter's work
    2. Tim Rollins KOS **because of my role as a teacher and how I can use this role to inform art
    3. Antony Gormley **because of my response to Beth Carter's work and interest in sculpted figures
  2. Read
    1. Georges Bataille "Big Toe" **because of my Catholic background and its inescapable seepage into all of my ideas, and because of my interest in feet, connection, and the way feet are treated
    2. Golem and jewish folklore of men from clay **response to sculpture and my interest in developing base humans from clay
  3. Produce, Produce, Produce
    1. Use plasticine to practice sculpture and understand what I like about the process
    2. Take painting classes to cover the basic mechanics I'm missing due to a lack of formal background
      1. Learn to stretch canvas
      2. Learn to use a variety of brushes
      3. Learn from people, not online
      4. Work in acrylics because I have a background in it
    3. Paint the sculptures I make
    4. ITERATION as a way to uncover concept and DEVELOP FOCUS
    5. Pay attention to what I pay attention to--what am I attracted to and how can I incorporate it

Making Headway

Almost immediately after returning home from Boston I bought plastilina, another name for plasticine, and started sculpting a response to Beth Carter's work.  I knew that I wanted to explore a female figure and that instead of shame, I wanted confrontation.  I had a feeling that beast-headed men convey a lowering or lessening of power while beast women somehow elevated power.  Though the first head has a similar somberness to Beth Carter, it seems more peaceful than shamed.  The foreshortening of the giraffe neck seems confrontational and unbalanced, which makes me think of common views of assertive females in a patriarchy.  I can continue to analyze my own work but really I just made it because it felt like I was going to make it, and then I did.

Instead of spending money on a full course, I'm working with a local grad who'd just completed his BFA at the Hartford Art School.  Aedan O'Brien worked under the instruction of Cat Balco and other notable professors while completing his studies in painting.  Yesterday he taught me to stretch and prime a canvas.  He'll also instruct me on some mechanics of painting in the near future as our schedules allow.  The benefit of this alliance is the one-on-one experience without paying for college credit.  I'm fortunate to work with someone fresh out of a program focusing on professional painting technique.  He is awesome, and here's what we did.


Today, I'm in Brooklyn.  I've just finished a visit at the Brooklyn Museum.  I'd gone to view a Georgia O'Keeffe installation (closing July 23rd), which was recommended by Wendy.  Wendy wanted me to pay attention to the planning and preparation that went into Georgia O'Keeffe's image.  From her collection of personally designed clothing to the color-tinted hills outside of her home in New Mexico, she controlled everything.  

Her clothes mimic the simplicity and light/shadow relationship of her paintings.

I have more to share, but I'll probably use it in a future post alongside created product.  Overall, I'm most fascinated with plastilina and am trying to develop molds to make the sculptures more permanent.  I'm excited for future work.

"Group 1"

This first residency, I joined a 10-person family called group 1. In the first few days of the residency I felt really uncomfortable with what I had been making in the past. I came knowing that I wanted to explore other media and somehow focus on making viewers more engaged with the work. I wanted to make experiences more than paintings.  

The critical theory readings and seminar affirmed this feeling as I realized what I was making before lacked a palpable driving force or need, despite how enjoyable painting was as I made them.  My paintings before were made out of momentary delight and a need to distract myself from other obligations rather than a social or personal statement. 

The critiques brought me through intense emotional highs and lows and further distanced me from my past work.  I found myself damning innocent words like "kitsch" or "literal", making them out to be evil when they are simply adjectives.  Looking around at the other people's work in my crit space, I saw a concrete divide between what they make and what I had been making. Theirs looked real to me and appeared as evidence of some conceptual underpinning that my work lacked.  The cohesion of the work made this feeling stronger. Each of my pieces was alone with little connection to another in its arrangement. My peers' work had common threads that reinforced the significance of it. 

Overnight, between the first and the second critique, my brain had switched from failure mode to "get your shit together" mode, and I felt reinvigorated and detached from what I'd made in a freeing and refreshing way. As I started to explain myself and what I wanted during the critique, I started to better grasp the direction I might actually move toward.  

My brain over this week did something like this: 


In the mix, here's what I've learned: 


  • Prime with mix of modeling paste and heavy gel medium
  • Stretch your own canvas on heavy-duty bars with 10 oz canvas sheet
  • Try Golden A-Z kit to play with texture
  • Try oil paint, especially if painting portraits
  • Stop straddling this literal, perfectly kitsch line that is painfully predictable.  
  • Abstract, abstract, abstract.  


  • Write ideas down, then circle the most important/key words and redefine them through other symbols or images to abstract
  • Take pictures of things that tickle me in everyday life
  • Research human tendency
  • Research feet
  • Allow ideas to be half-baked.   
  • Stop jumping to conclusions, let things process. PROCESS.  


 --Connection --

In Vonnegut's made up religion, Bokononism, touching feet together with another person is so intimate it's more vulgar than sex.  Why did he choose feet?  Possible significance: It's a body part we purposefully desensitize and turn to callous to withstand the harshness of our own impact/weight.  There is something significant about trying to connect through an intentionally numbed outlet.  This reminds me of Biblical washing of feet. 

The idea of connection also reminds me of I Heart Huckabees  and how everything is "the blanket." One of the most impactful scenes for me is this:

Dustin Hoffman plays an existential detective/coach and reminds Mark Whalberg's character that despite his crisis, he is everything, and so nothing is right or wrong or gone.  

Dustin Hoffman plays an existential detective/coach and reminds Mark Whalberg's character that despite his crisis, he is everything, and so nothing is right or wrong or gone.  

I enjoy this scene because it reminds me of the truth--that there are little gaps between atoms that only seem to create concrete matter. I enjoy imagining that some of my atoms are actually sinking between the atoms of the chair I sit on, and I imagine it looks a lot like this image. 


  1. Between 2 framed panes of glass, I will arrange found object such as feathers, pieces of foil, etc to represent the space between two hands or hand and foot, whatever.  They will bleed into each other.
  2. Attach Go Pro to my face and wash strangers feet.  I will have people describe the experience to the camera as I am washing.   I might project video over cheesecloth or other filmy, creamy textured clothes that resemble sloughs of skin. 


After contemplating connection, I ran into the wall of disconnection.  It seems that diconnection is a loaded topic and might be too large to attack. I thought about my own inability to connect with others, specifically romantically, and how I've created a self-relient system that I now seem dedicated to.  This mode of thought might be blocking me from future connections as I grow comfortable.  

"Replacing people with things" just kind of flashed in front of my head. I thought about sex dolls. I'd seen them before. Not the blow up variation, but the silicone, detailed, humanoid versions sold at true sex shops. I thought about how porn has been working in a similar manner, exploring territories partners aren't willing to or exercising taboo fantasies as a replacement of the real. I wondered if these products were desensitizing people the same way we desensitize our feet, by overwhelming them with extreme terrain and beating them down until it's what they know (I'm sorry feet).  I thought about how this seemingly "safe" space--where people can explore without risk of disease, backlash from partners, or judgement--is also a blocking mechanism. 

Here are 2 projects re. Sex dolls that I imagine completing: 

  1. creating grotesque, faceless, amorphous sculptures with embed found materials that become dangerous to touch--screws, bottle caps, glass shards, pencils--until the "sex doll" is untouchable.  
  2. Placing objects that protect or block, such as a traffic cone, in front of a projected recording of someone trying to use it for sexual release. Grunts, sighs, and "I love you" would be heard over the short film. The realization that the object is a sex toy would change the way the viewer interacts with it.  I want to know if the viewer blames the object or the user. 


Ok, that's just about everything!  

"No manure, no magic" --I Heart Huckabees