MFA Thesis Show: Cornered

August 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

I finally received the installation shots from my MFA Thesis Show: Cornered! It feels fantastic to see these images to remind me that 8 hours of install time, and 3 straight months of construction, really payed off. I’m so proud of the work that I completed; being able to see visitors interact with the quilts and listen to them share their personal experiences of the installation with me, was truly worthwhile. Here’s the wall label that accompanied the show:

This project interrogates woman’s relationship to the domestic space, themes of the gothic, and the haunting dependence that some women have with the home, historically and even in the present. To articulate this idea, I used my own writing combined with language from the diaries of the Brontë sisters, as a lens through which to explore the woman whose home and most intimate surroundings are the very instruments of the imprisonment of her mind, body and personhood.

The Brontë sisters wrote wildly imaginative stories, while their real lives were restricted and controlled by their father. How is this struggle towards duality represented in the secret spaces of the home, in the language of the walls, corners, doorways and other charged locations? By interrogating this relationship, I used it as a metaphor to explore the line between public and private, where that line is, and when it is blurred. The Brontës frequently turned towards their intimate surroundings as a metaphor for emotions and feelings that they were forbidden to express outright in the home. Many aspects of the self are buried in this landscape. I’m interested in excavating these sites, to uncover what is obstructed behind the façade, to remove the myth of an idealized home, and examine what lingers.

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Cornered: Get the Book

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cornered | To buy a copy of the book of poetry for my thesis show, visit blurb.com

The Book is the Body: MFA Thesis Show

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Wow. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly three years of hard work, inspiration, challenges, learning, pushing limits, stumbling, picking myself back up, and growing as an artist and a writer, but my thesis show is finally here!

Tonight is the opening and I’m feeling pumped. On Wednesday, I went to the gallery and installed my piece, Cornered, a 25 x 15 foot installation of love, sweat and tears, consisting of over 1000 yards of linen thread, and 300 parent sheets of handmade lokta paper. It’s been such a rewarding process, conceptualizing this project and seeing it come alive after months of work.

The Book is the Body: Mills College MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing Thesis Show

The Book is the Body: Mills College MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing Thesis Show

To celebrate the first official graduating class for Mills College’s MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing, I was interviewed for their newspaper, The Campanil. Here’s the full interview I did:

How would you describe the upcoming exhibit, and your project for it?

The upcoming exhibition is the culmination of two and a half years of intense work and study by myself and the other three graduates. It’s a celebration of what we’ve learned, as well as a hint as to where we see ourselves heading creatively after graduate school. My thesis project is called Cornered and is essentially a human sized tunnel book made up of 10 large scale, hand-embroidered paper quilts, that the viewer can walk between. I wanted the viewer’s interaction with the piece to inform its meaning.

What was the inspiration behind your project?

By using history as a lens to examine the female body, I’m able to explore the charged awareness of my own identity. The inspiration behind my project was the Brontë sisters. They wrote wildly imaginative stories, while their real lives were restricted and controlled by their father. My project interrogates woman’s relationship to the domestic space, themes of the gothic, and the haunting dependence that some women have with the home, historically and even in the present. Many aspects of the self are buried in this landscape. I’m interested in excavating these sites, to uncover what is obstructed behind the façade, to remove the myth of an idealized home, and examine what lingers.

How did you get into book arts?

I got in to book arts when I was a senior at Brandeis University working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. My advising professor who was supervising my thesis in Poetry, encouraged me to think about how the book I made to hold my thesis could reflect and enhance the content. Thinking about my writing in a visual way, inspired me to also think sculpturally and texturally about my work, and lead me to explore the world of book art.

What attracted you to the program at Mills?

I was attracted to the program at Mills because it is the only masters program that offers a curriculum that bridges the creative writing department and the book art department. I view myself as both a writer and an artist, and was drawn to Mills because it acknowledges how these practices can meet in book art. I also loved the location, as an East Coaster I had always wanted to see what it was like to live in the Bay Area.

What has been the best or most rewarding experience throughout this program?

The most rewarding experience throughout this program has been how I have grown as an artist and a writer, in addition to the discipline I have gained through practice that will position me to embark on a career in this unique field. The relationships with my professors have also been immensely rewarding. I’ve learned so much from them, and am grateful that they pushed me when I needed to be challenged.

Are you nervous about the upcoming exhibit?

I’m mostly excited about the upcoming exhibit, I’ve worked so hard on my thesis project and it’s been a long time in the making. I’m at the point where I can’t wait to see it installed and celebrate with my colleagues, friends and family.

To buy a copy of the book for my Thesis Show, check it out at Blurb.com

Settling in to my Studio

October 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been busy getting intimately acquainted with my studio at Kala. There’s a balance to making an empty white room yours. You want it to feel homey, but not too comfortable so that you aren’t overstimulated. You want to keep it open and uncluttered, so that your ideas can flow freely, but you also want it to be fully functional. There’s also the matter of impermanence with this space; I’m fortunate enough to be in residence until the beginning of December when I’m moving back to NYC, but having a space for a limited amount of time has made me measure my decisions in settling in to the studio.

Nevertheless, I’ve strived for balance in my studio space, and so far I’ve created 10 of the paper quilts for my thesis project, a test version of which you can see in the slideshow below. Little touches, like additional lighting, hanging the work I’ve completed so far, and creating a window of inspiration that I glance up at whenever I get stuck in my ‘thinking place’, have helped transform it. It feels like quite an accomplishment and so I’m celebrating with a little homage to the workspace that made it happen. I’m not sure I would have been so productive if I had just been working at home, or if it hadn’t felt so private. As a result, I’m ready for the next step: to line and hem the quilts, then embroider them with text. Onward, ho!

Writer’s Groups: The Importance of Being Earnest

September 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Coming out of an intensive MFA program, you’d think I would have gotten all of my best feedback as a result of workshops. Well, that’s only partially true. Towards the end of my first year, my writing advisor suggested that I form a writer’s group with some of my peers to sustain us through out the summer, and keep the conversation going that we’d started in class. Luckily, I found two other women who were in The Craft of Poetry with me, and we decided to start up some informal gatherings.

In our meetings we always:

-bring around 3 poems to share
-present any books or collections that have inspired us recently
-share publications we’d sent our work out to
-discuss upcoming readings we can attend together
-announce any relevant contests or prizes; opportunities in the field
-vent about our poetic processes
-tackle stumbling blocks in our writing
-catch up on our real lives

Even though my writing group is small, the support and trust that I’ve developed with the other women has helped me find the strength to push through my projects, or leave them for the time being, and move on to something else. They help me figure out what it is I’m really trying to say, on the page, and in general, the feedback I get in our writer’s group often is channeled in to my visual art, too.

The inspiration I gather from my fellow poets always sparks a creative awakening in me, even when I’ve gone in to the session not as prepared as I would have liked, or when I’m stuck within a poem, and I leave each meeting ready to dive back in. It reminds me each time why I write, and make art, like Anaïs Nin said:

We write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.

I think the key to a successful writer’s group, isn’t its size, or how regulated it is, it’s finding other writers or artists who really see what you’re trying to do with your work. By surrounding yourself with people like this, they’ll only help you to jolt yourself awake and see more clearly, through your writing, and if they’re particularly good, they’ll remind you each time why the page calls to you.

Wildness & Process by Unai San Martin

September 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

While perusing the artists who have pieces in the collection at the Kala Art Institute, I came upon the work of Unai San Martin. Martin is a Bay Area artist who hails from the Basque region of Spain, who focuses his practice on the photogravure technique. It is a 19th century process that creates a highly detailed intaglio print, which emulates the same continuous tone and exactness of a photograph. The result is a haunting image that straddles the line between an etching and a photograph, at once eerily precise while maintaining a soft, rich focus.

I was particularly struck by his landscape series that depict paths through various stretches of wilderness. They seem meditative on the act of traveling, as if to remind the viewer to focus on the road instead of the horizon line. Living in Northern California, I feel like I’m constantly trying to capture fog through the lens of my digital SLR, only to find it slip through my fingers (pun intended).

The fact that Martin manages to articulate these atmospheric ghosts in his prints, makes his images, and the craft of photogravure, that much more astonishing. His work makes me think about how else an artist can capture imprints of fleeting experiences, and make casts of moments in time.

Miwok Trail by Unai San Martin

Miwok Trail by Unai San Martin

Camino al Vacio by Unai San Martin

Camino al Vacio by Unai San Martin

Eucalyptus Path by Unai San Martin

Eucalyptus Path by Unai San Martin

Starting an Artist Residency at Kala Art Institute

September 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Kala Art Institute & Gallery

After a summer of whirlwind traveling and two intense years taking classes and teaching as part of the MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing at Mills College, I’m thrilled to be embarking on the next step in earning my degree. This Fall I’ll be an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. I have a dedicated studio space there to work on my thesis: Cornered, which involves poetry, the Brontë Sisters, a sewing machine, handmade paper, and thousands of tiny threads.

I’m really looking forward to having a room that can act as a blank canvas for this project. I’ve been lucky in that we have a second bedroom/office space in our little house that I’ve been able to use in the planning stages, as well as a writing room, Etsy workshop and artist studio, but there’s something really magical about letting a space act as a sort of sanctuary, or lab for a specific creative project. I’ll be documenting the studio and the process of making Cornered over the coming weeks and months. Wish me luck!

Kala Art Institute

Kala Art Institute & Gallery