I found this card in one of my boxes of ephemera. I don’t know who sent it, or who wrote it.
I found this envelope in the box I had on the top shelf of my studio closet, out of which I'm pulling photos, post card, scraps, and ephemera. This has the mark of the hand of Jan Baker, who for decades was an inspiration for hundreds of design students at RISD. I understand she died this past spring. In this envelope I see an image of our drawing trip and picnic out at Swan Point Cemetery, where she has been buried. I hear her voice reflecting as I was complaining about "not getting the perspective" right on a drawing during one of our sketching trips somewhere on the streets of Providence, with the road arching sharply up hill. Something like "we always criticize our work for not being what we think it should be instead of appreciating it for what it is." Dear Jan, RIP. Your heart and soul live on through generations of students. Do you think she knows that?
Cleaning off my desk and sorting through notes from my meeting with Andrea Kohashi in the Special Collections at Cabell Library. I think we talked about our personal stake in the issue of documentation, and shared a reluctance to call a piece done and document it. But that isn't what I recorded with these notes. Although some of what we talked about was shared conversation as artists, about our work and our personal attitudes about documentation. All I have to recall that is my memory of that conversation, what I did record relates more to a professional interest in documentation and the study of documents. These notes reference language and texts that address this issue within the context of the library science discipline. This begs the question about science and the necessity of providing documentation to back up theory. Documentation of observation. Two ideas stand out to me from our conversation (well, more than two. there is the delight of engaging in conversation with a friend and artist but that is a feeling that takes on a life of its own. is this conversation "off the record"?): documentation as a reference, and documentation as a surrogate. I enjoy the "otherness" this begs. Maybe it's time to revisit Susan Sonntag (In Plato's Cave) and Plato's analogy itself..
This is an image from the graduate thesis review. in 19??. Left to right is Tom Ockerse, Jan Baker (RIP), Sharon Poggenpohl, Krystof Lenk and Preston McClanahan. I created this event from a headline or maybe an ad slogan ("the future is now") that caught my attention and was incorporated into one of my "daily"s, a collage created every day for a semester. The impulse to maintain a daily practice stretches way back, and connects directly to the documentary impulse that has been on my back, or in my craw, or on my mind for decades. Decades. There is not a single issue that I can point to. It's a moving target, or a complex set of issues. This now become a diagram in my mind of emotional, intellectual, spiritual and pragmatic concerns. I am reminded of something a friend said years ago relative to Jungian psychology, that we "live out our story" every day. Documentation as practice is a collection of physical artifacts that form patterns to who we are, what we see, what makes sense to us and how we make sense of the world we live in. It helps us trace themes, and so give meaning to the details that otherwise seem arbitrary when I would suggest nothing is arbitrary, only unexamined.
I asked the grad students to maintain a daily blog and I've not been doing that myself. Here's a second attempt. Yesterday what began as a basic adjustment of a shelf in the mudroom turned into a major cleaning and organizing. I cleaned out a large box of accumulating ephemera, and culled a large pile of negatives and contact sheets. I might regret, at some point, tossing some negative sheets but if I haven't thought of them in decades, I most likely will not miss them.
I have a small stack of photographs that need filing. On top is a photograph of Gregg's dog Arlo who lived with us in Boston. Just below that was this postcard from my dad when he was traveling for a conference. I don't quite know why he would have been in Paris and maybe, later, Rome but I have this card that reminds me of his kindness, and gentleness with me as a child. It led me to recall one image I have in my memory archive that connects to a few others. One snapshot connected to another that form defining moments. As I see the story, I am sitting on the stone or brick wall that lined the drive way to our house in Pittsburgh. The wall became progressively higher off the ground as the driveway stretched from the road to the basement level of the house. If there was a garage, I can't see it. I fell, or maybe jumped to the ground and somehow scraped my thigh. In the image I recall best, I'm sitting on a chair on the dining area of the house just off the kitchen, and my dad is putting first aid cream on and bandaging me up. I think my mother was mad at me. Or at least, that's how the memory tells it.
The current scrapped piecing sits assembled and basted on my table, ready for decorative overstitching on the machine. I was asking myself today if I need to add content. Maybe sewn text of some sort. Or maybe scraps from the boxes full of journals (not), or ephemera that I've been collecting for decades.
Or maybe the piece hangs on the wall and serves as a thangka. Or not. I'm suspicious of ascribing content to this piece but the aesthetic, the choices of color and materials all matter. Soft pastel colors and white, bleached light tints that somehow feel pure and cleansed. The heat of the day, cycling across fields stretching across to the horizon. Or, swimming out into a cove on a foggy day when the sky and ocean become one, and I'm swimming through cold greyness. Pure. Refreshing. Renewal.