Archive for October, 2007

down there

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

See, the thing about California being so tall and thin is that you have this whole “northern CA/southern CA” thing. It’s a lot like the east coast, except it’s one state, no Reconstruction (but plenty of segregation, nonetheless! Although that’s kind of different.) I envy the Dakotas and the Carolinas their separate statehoods, although California does seem to sort of willfully act as if it’s two states, anyway.

I keep trying to get those of us Up Here to start referring to Southern Cali as “Down There”, not because I’m at all averse to the area: mostly, I just like thinking of it as the slightly unmentionable, below-the-waist, part of our state. I’m not sure if this would hold up geographically, but San Luis Obispo, and more importantly, the Madonna Inn, seems to be the belt around California’s middle that keeps the up there tucked in, and the down there from dropping its pants and inadvertently showing off its nether regions.


Sigh. Madonna Inn. I love you so. Be my pink belt. Please.

Anyway. I’m back up above the waist these days, after an extended stay in the underpants of California. Gave my lecture at UC Santa Barbara last Tuesday night, then rolled on down to LA to cat-sit and see art for a few more days. (Yeah, the old “art-lecture-and-cat-sit” circuit. You know.)

The first two nights in Santa Barbara were really marvelous, despite the ominous ash in the air, and some extra wheezing here and there. Kim Yasuda was just the kindest host, and it was super-wonderful getting to know her and her family (hello: her 9-year-old daughter is as obsessed with the Madonna Inn as I: need I say more about the profundity of these bonds?). Prior to my lecture, Kim toured me around campus a bit, and shared the phenomenal Open Container collaborative projects her students have been working on since last year:



(Hellooo: Dwell Magazine? Feature article, just waiting for you write it… )




The images link through to a large archive of images on Flickr. Check ‘em out, and be astounded. Some further reading and history on the Container Project is here.

After the container tour, I met individually with several grad students, to discuss their work. Damn, it’s weird being on the other side of the fence now: a year ago, I was on the receiving end of these studio visits as a grad student myself. Hopefully, it was productive and not too traumatic for them: sharing work in grad school is such a fragile process in general, and only exacerbated further by the regular intrusions of random strangers at points when one is least sure of the work’s presentability…anyway, the three women I visited with were at varying stages of newness with their studio projects: it was pretty fun to spend time with them, and learn more about their process(es).

The lecture itself went well: nobody appeared to be sleeping, anyway. (For those of you, sitting in the dark, thinking you’re anonymous: it actually really matters to those of us presenting that you’re engaged. We do notice.) The audience was really warm and receptive: there were a few points where I think I lost ‘em, but that’s how these things go, here and there.Before even speaking, however, I opened with a screening of Woffords, Paint. It seemed like folks weren’t initially quite sure whether it was OK to laugh or not, but they got going after a minute. Paint-eating always loosens ‘em up. Other than a big old video glitch with Mail Order Bride of Frankenstein (which you can watch online here- scroll down a bit) which torpedoed that particular screening, everything went smoothly. Although peeps were reticent to participate in a traditional Q & A, a few women (and interestingly, no men) came up afterwards to talk to me, ask a couple of questions, and express their enthusiasm, which always feels nice.

Afterwards, Kim and I went to dinner with Julianne (sp?), Billy and Celine, and got all rowdy and excitable talking and conspiring about our various projects and intersections. Gawd, this is what I love: these evenings of extended gabbing and plotting, in all the best possible ways. It gives me this weird kind of hope that despite all of the challenges and various and sundry culture wars, there are forces of good at work, and that we’re all on track, after all. (This is, of course, an utterly biased opinion, but that’s OK.)

Wednesday, Kim showed me around UCIRA and UCSB a bit more, before I finally got out of her hair, and pushed onwards into the valley of all VPLs that is greater Los Angeles, to meet my cat-sitting destiny. More on that later. Stay tuned!


from the backyard to the sideyard

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Sunday nite dinner, au chez Wofford Pere et Mere:

Wofford: “Hey. Who’s Mom on the phone with?”

Wofford Dad: “Your Aunt Jane.”

Wofford: “Oh. Say hi to her for me!”

Wofford Mom (now off phone): “Aunt Jane knows about everything you’ve been up to! She reads your–what’s it called again? Blog.”

Wofford Sister: “You have a blog?”

Wofford Dad: “Yes. What’s that all about?”

For some folks, blogging is precisely what they don’t want their families knowing about. It’s private, there are pseudonyms involved, etc etc. For others, it seems to be the best way for their families and other interested parties to keep up with what they’re doing, particularly if time and distance are issues.

For mine…hmm. Well, I didn’t start woffling in order to keep my relatives and other extended F&Fs informed, but I’m finding it really charming that they’re interested enough to check in. And I’m finding it hilarious that my poor nuclears, who see me more than any other family members, are strangely in the dark about the whole endeavor. Dear old Pops Woff remarked, upon initially spending time perusing the pre-blog Wofflehouse, said that he learned more about me and my art through my website than in all the years I’ve been an artist. I’m not sure if that’s an indictment of my general communication skills, or praise at my web communication skills. In any case, it’s funny, the ongoing push-pull of intimacy and conversations we have with our families, and how the web mediates that in all sorts of fun ways. And extra-funny that neither Dad, Mom nor Camille have quite gotten the memo about the blog. Well, maybe now.

Having entered the blogging fray super-late, mostly I just expected folks to roll their eyes when I threw my wordpress-embossed hat into the ring. But it’s really nice, and still quite unexpected, when folks tell me that they actually follow it. I started woffling initially because I figured it was about time to step it up a bit in terms of having my voice heard in an immediate way, and having a venue to rep for friends, causes, and other art stuff that I felt needed a little bit more of an internuts breadcrumb trail for others to follow. And while I like being personal on this forum to degrees, I feel a little ill about the tendencies to divulge too much, and live too publicly, that the web enables.

Anyway. On to to other things and updates in the next couple of posts. The Wofford family sitcom was just too funny last night not to reflect on. (And Aunt Jane, hate to break it to you: you’re not alone. There are at least 4 others who read this. But they’re not the aforementioned bloodtypes).


Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Dang. I leave today for Southern California, and it seems as if I’m descending into the Inferno (Sandow Birk’s version) itself. Between last week’s tragic collision/explosion in the I-5 tunnel, and this weekend’s fires in Malibu and surrounding areas, I kind of feel like I’m in for it:





(photos from the LA Times)

Gnarly! And not in a good way. My condolences to all those affected by this fire (although it does feel a little weird to be offering condolences to folks in plushy Malibu, fires stink, all the same, no matter who or where you are.)

I’m off this Monday for a week in Southern California, first to do grad studio visits and to give a lecture at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, next to go house-sit/cat-sit, look at art and catch up with friends for a few days in LA. I’ve been really looking forward to it, but it’s looking pretty apocalyptic all around…I’m kind of thinking I need to procure a copy of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, just so’s I can have the full “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” experience as I descend into the flames…

It’s weird: I’ve been a teacher long enough, and given enough public lectures at this point to feel very comfortable with the process, but it never ceases to make me a teensy bit nervous. Mostly, it’s the lack of predictability with audience: I know what works with some audiences, but not with others. My gracious UCSB hostess, Kim Yasuda, gave me the sense that the crowd in attendance will be a mix of art dept peeps and asian american studies peeps: this is kind of my dream audience, but it does leave me curious about the questions that might get thrown at me during Q and A. Am I gonna get the “what kind of paint do you use?” questions, the “what is your stance on critical transnational women of color feminist issues?” questions? Maybe both, maybe neither?


That said, I do love doing these lectures. It’s fun to get to share stuff, it’s fun to to see what a new audience gets out of it, and what they throw back at me. It’s super-fun when the audience is engaged, kind of a drag when they’re checked out. There’s a definite discomfort factor for me, getting up and doing these, but I’m a big fan of improv and fate, and what emerges out of these situations that’s really out of my control is always a good learning experience. Still, I’ve been to enough artist lectures to have a strong sense of what makes a good or bad lecture, and I feel constantly mindful of my obligations to A, make an audience feel like they got their money’s worth (well, you know what I mean), and B, not make an utter ass of myself.

Anyway, if you’re around SB, and aren’t planning on being affected by all the inSANE wildfires that have broken out slightly south of there, please come to my lecture! (Unless you’re sick of me rambling, already. I do tend to.) I’ll be talking about my solo work, Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. work, and Galleon Trade. Maybe other stuff, too. We’ll just have to wait and see…either way, I’m looking forward to it enormously.

Wofford at UCSB
Tuesday, October 23
Isla Vista Theatre, UCSB, 5 pm

seinfeld vs ondaatje vs wofford

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007


An unhappy Elaine sits at the counter as the waitress pours her coffee.

WAITRESS: Rough night?

ELAINE: Ugh. You wouldn’t believe it. My boyfriend dumped me. My friends, who
I don’t even like, they won’t talk to me. (face-pulling) All because I don’t
like that stupid English Patient movie.

WAITRESS: Really? I thought it was pretty good.

ELAINE: Oh, come on. Good? What was good about it? (scoffs) Those sex scenes!
I mean, please! Gimme something I can use!

WAITRESS: (sour) Well, I liked it.

The waitress takes the coffee pot and walks away into the back.

ELAINE: (calling after) Hey. You forgot about my piece of pie. Hello?
(irritated) You know, sex in a tub. That doesn’t work!

Okay, so I’d never seen the Seinfeld “The English Patient” episode. I know, I know. And you thought I was cultured. I caught it by accident last week, and it just cracked me up to no end. Because, while I loved Michael Ondaatje‘s novel when it first came out, I got seriously sick of everyone swanning on and on about the frickin’ movie a few years down the line. It almost ruined the book for me.

The movie was okay. Ralph Fiennes smoldered (no pun intended) and restrained his passion, repressed men everywhere identified with him. Kristen Scott Thomas got in a bath tub: people found a skinny naked blond chick strangely compelling, for the first time ever in cinema. Willem Dafoe was all-thumbs, no-thumbs. It was heartbreaking. Epic. Heroic. Lovely. Crispy. Cave-y. Etc. Etc.

The movie wasn’t particularly hateful, I mostly just got sick of people lauding it. And I think I also just resented the fact that I of course had to go see it, too, even though I knew better. (Lemming. Dope.) And while Ondaatje’s basic story did lend itself easily to cinematic storytelling, his language was infinitely more intimate, tender and complex than the blunt romantic narrative a 2 hour mainstream feature film could synopsize. The quiet, interior space that the book had provided me with was tagged over by the melodramatic visuals I got stuck with after the movie. Something very private and ambiguous became something aggravatingly public and explicit. My bad.

I went on to read In The Skin of A Lion(1987) and Anil’s Ghost (2000) after TEP(1992), and loved them both, as well. Different novels, but still imbued with that spareness, subtle faceting, and visual curiosity that Ondaatje’s got such a line in on. I have a habit of mini-dog-earing any page in a book with a good sentence or phrase in it: with his books, I might as well fold every page, at times. But after Anil’s Ghost in 2000, Home-slice didn’t publish another book of fiction until just now. I moved on to other writers, and less and less fiction.

Something’s shifting now, though. I’m having one of those delicious returns to reading fiction that often seem to coincide with autumn. What is it: does the cooling weather calm the brain down enough to let language saturate better, more slowly? Ondaatje’s finally got around to writing a new novel, just in time for my mushy, battered, theory-abused, post-grad-school brain to be really grateful for. Divisadero is giving me much to find delicious. I’d forgotten, or maybe I never realized, just how artfully, willfully abstract Ondaatje’s narratives are (and why this might be so compelling to me as an artist). How, even in a straightforward scene, he pulls some visual moment, some quiet stunt of imagination, that just gets me every time. And how even as a male writer, there’s something almost gender-neutral, in the way he shifts between characters’ voices so carefully and respectfully.

I hesitate to wander into the territory of literary criticism here, since I’m a hack: I can only assert that his writing has been food for me, is probably nutritious for other artists, too. Lots of other civilians, too, in fact. In this weird way, just remembering/reflecting on how his writing has informally, unconsciously affected me over the years, is reminding me that some of the narrative experiments I’ve been working on with the various nurse projects I’ve been working on for some time now, are much more deeply influenced by poetry and nonlinear narrative fiction than I’d been conscious of. Duh.

I’m just past half way, so maybe Divisadero will still turn around and be awful, but that’s looking doubtful. I’ll let you know. (Incidentally, the book is set primarily in Northern California, and also France. It’s just like the English Patient, but with poker, crack addicts, public defendants, and Petaluma!) In the meantime, if anyone’s got any other good contemporary fiction recommendations, I think I’m about to go on a fall reading binge…

[Movie Theatre]

Peterman and Elaine are still in front of The English Patient. Peterman
stares, enraptured, at the screen. Elaine is totally frantic with boredom.

PETERMAN: Elaine, I hope you’re watching the clothes, because I can’t take my
eyes off the passion.

ELAINE: (quiet vehemence) Oh. No. I can’t do this any more. I can’t. It’s too
long. (to the screen) Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid
desert, and just die already! (louder) Die!!

The other movie patrons turn and shush Elaine, who sits back in her seat.

PETERMAN: (surprised) Elaine. You don’t like the movie?

ELAINE: (shouts) I hate it!!

vic goes bigtime in the pokey

Friday, October 12th, 2007

One of my oldest friends, Vic Blue, has been slowly but surely making a name for himself as a photojournalist of enormous talent. He’s living and working in Stockton these days: Vic is a staff photographer at the Stockton Record here in California, but he’s traveled and photographed all over the US and Central America.

Ted Koppel’s producers came across Vic’s phenomenal photos of Maras and prisoners in Central America, and contracted him to accompany Big Ted to Solano Prison and do a project there, as part of Koppel’s Discovery Channel show.


While these images are Vic’s bigger-stage debut in some ways, they’re also only the most recent in a body of raw, compassionate, political work I’ve been proud to witness grow and deepen over the dozen-odd years I’ve known him. Who knew when we were just kids, messing around working in a one-hour photo lab together, that he’d be doing this amazing work now?

If you want to know more about his work, as well as his favorite burrito joint in SF, here’s a great interview with Vic here on the Fecal Face website, too. Holla.

Honolulu: the Lagaso/Goldberg edition

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Just received links to a couple of great articles in the Honolulu Advertiser about the contemporary art scene there. David Goldberg and Trisha Lagaso Goldberg are both amazing creative and intellectual heavyweights who moved from the Bay Area back to Hawaii a few years ago. While many of us miss them dearly, it’s always nice to receive news that they’re over there, kicking butts and taking names, and continuing to contribute to culture in a meaningful, effective way.

There’s a nice little feature on Trisha here:


And a great article about Honolulu’s arts landscape written by David here:



Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

I think it’s finally okay to mention that I was recently awarded a 2009 Eureka Fellowship. (The Fleishhacker Foundation gives 12 of these awards to artists every 3 years, and distributes the awards out, 4 to a year, hence the advance notice) To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s… kind of a big deal. Ha haa. The official press release is not quite out yet, but all of the applicants/ nominees now know, so I think I can blab about it. It’s pretty thrilling: I did not think I stood a chance at all. I wasn’t even thinking about it. In fact, I was actually having one of my periodic “gaaaaah”¦why do I even TRY to be an artist”¦why why why” Tourette’s episodes of self-doubt when I got the good news call from the good folks at the foundation, which contained my cussing, quick-style. So it kind of just goes to show you that things really can turn on a dime.

This brings me to the peaks-and-valley nature of this art venture many of us participate in. In talking to friends lately about our various applications for everything from exhibition opportunities, to residencies, to grants, fellowships, grad school apps, it’s really easy to lose sight of one’s own inherent self-worth, or the reasons we started liking art, and wanting to make it, and share it, to begin with. It’s so easy to get totally consumed by the game, or the usual attendant rounds of compulsive doubt that many creatives endure. The other night, an artist friend and I were discussing how no matter how good it feels for that minute that you have a great show, or you get a new opportunity or award, how it’s oftentimes utterly scuttled the next minute that you get a rejection letter for something you’ve applied to. And why? Now, said friend is someone whom I consider to have an exemplary career (critical success, national and international exhibitions, commercial representation, indie-cred still intact, Wofford likes his work, yada yada yada), but he was confessing to some humbling moments he’s had recently. I started commiserating about a couple of rejections I also received recently, which just seemed twisted to even feel bad about, in light of good stuff that’s happened recently.

But this feeling comes up for many of us, all too often: why do we make things, why do we want to continue doing this art-thing, when we’re all basically fighting for scraps: some public exposure, maybe some critical validation, occasionally some actual money. We pay for opportunities out of our own pockets more often than not, and accept this as part of the deal, until often, we eventually burn out, give up, pack it up, and move on. There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of despair. I’ve done my best to stay in the game, but honestly, there are many, many moments (whether I’m doing well or not) where I’ve wondered why I bother. For me, the hugest things that keep me going are just trying to hang on to those moments of actual joy and wonder that are still part of this process: what it means to have a great break-through on an art project, or to hear someone tell me that they’ve been genuinely touched by something I’ve made. And, as long as I live in the US, I’m also motivated by the incredible homogeneity and elitism that’s still pervasive in the art world: if I leave or quit, I’m just one more woman of color whose voice isn’t getting heard. I don’t like being motivated my own obstinacy in the face of hostility/indifference, as has sometimes been the case, but it sure beats just feeling defeated. So really, it’s like this: I’m loving these moments where I’m beginning to get some accolades, but I’m also trying to keep in check the fact that those honors are NOT why I make things and share things.

It’s important, in the face of rejection, to be very real about the terms/expectations of the applications you’ve filed, to be thorough about having a trusted/experienced friend review your application honestly and critically, and to really remember how arbitrary, and/or how subjective, the criteria for selecting an artist can be. I used to sit on Southern Exposure’s curatorial committee, and while we were quite fair in our decision-making process for selecting artists, many folks also had certain pet agendas that were both implicit and explicit, which immediately removed a number of talented artists from consideration. And this is very normal. Frequently, it’s not about a quality assessment, it’s about whether one’s agenda/portfolio as an artist meshes well with the agenda of the jury, committee or organization considering your materials. I’ve been both accepted and rejected for applications many times. Sometimes, I’ve realized why I was chosen/not chosen as soon as I saw who had been on the jury after the fact. Other times, I’ve had utterly NO idea why I was picked/not picked. It’s unpredictable. So. Having now rambled about this for a minute with no particularly tidy conclusions, I’m just saying that being an artist is hard. And fun. So don’t give up, because some of this is arbitrary, putting together applications does get better and easier the more you do them, and finally, this shit really does turn on a dime.

wofflehouse, randomhouse

Monday, October 8th, 2007

It’s been a strange fall thus far, given all the sputtering and such here at wofflings: in trying to explain to folks where I’m at, I’m beginning to realize that it’s kind of mimicking the trouble I had describing my first few months of grad school: stuff’s happening and growing, but it’s kind of like being pregnant. (Or so I hear. Not that I plan to find out. But shout-outs to Dobras, Dumesnil, and any of my other friends who’ve gone through the real deal.) Anyway, it’s gestation, as far as I can tell: it’s not quite here yet, and it’s kind of weird describing something interior. Some woff beasts are slouching towards bethlehem to be born, but nothing’s popped out of any chambers officially yet. And let’s not take that Yeats allusion too far. And while I do get snacky cravings, I think that’s different.

I turned down some pretty cool fall job opps because I had plans to be in and out of town too much to commit to them. The financial reality turned out to be that I, er, couldn’t afford to be in and out of town as much as I’d deluded myself. This has led to an entertaining series of escapades involving Wofford getting her hustle on: substitute-teaching at Leadership High School, the odd lecture here and there, a few small graphic design gigs, selling drawings to friends. I’ve been trawling craiglist for opps: selling random stuff from my house, and looking for one-off work gigs. I found a posting which paid me to drive a Hindu priest round-trip from Oakland to Napa to officiate at a wedding. In a week or two, I might be getting photographed for some calendar on motorcycling women. And then I might have to sell my bike, ironically, to pay some bills. I might be tutoring, as well as becoming an ad hoc college counselor. There’s a lot of randomness happening, but it’s pretty fun, actually. If you have a random (paying. paying) job for me, let me know. The random-mer, the better.

Beyond some scraping and reorganizing of my post-grad-school life, some cool artsy stuff’s been coming down the pipe (pipeline?) that is forcing me out of randomness, and into more focused action, right about now. It’s kind of amazing how a little minute of stasis can make it feel like momentum will never pick up again, but all it takes is a little bit of wind in one’s sails to move on from the doldrums”¦So. I’m going down to Santa Barbara in a couple of weeks to give a lecture, and do some MFA studio visits, at the invitation of UCSB’s Kim Yasuda. And I’m speaking in Kelsey Nicholson and Jason Jagel’s class at CCA, as well as in Greg Choy’s class at UC Berkeley, this fall as well.

And I’m finally about to start cranking away in the studio again, so prepare yourselves (all 3 of you) for more process-based artsy wankery! I’ve got a solo show at Southern Exposure’s new 14st Street SF digs in January (I’m in the back space, the mighty Chris Bell has a solo project in the front space), and I’m also in the second MFA Biennial at the DiRosa Preserve, in Napa, the same month. There’s still the installation in YBCA to fully flesh out this spring, plus Patricia Maloney has just asked me to participate in a group show at the SF Arts Commission Gallery that she’s curating. And I’m officially teaching (assuming that my courses build) at CCA, USF, and DVC come January, as well. So all of a sudden, I’m busy! So stay tuned, loyal readers. Action-packed drama, soon to unfold!

October 4, 1957

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.”


I made this ink drawing in 2002 as part of a group of 16 inter-related drawings known collectively as Sputnik. I’d been reading Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart at the time, which of course really had very little to do with the Russian satellite itself, but did a lovely job of digging under my skin, anyway. Incidentally, “Sputnik” translates as either “companion,” or “travelling companion,” in Russian. But you probably already knew that.

Yay, Sputnik. Happy Birthday.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Gaw. Is this what happens once beginner’s enthusiasm wears off with a blog? Surely someone has written a Kubler-Ross-esque treatise on the 5 stages of blogging: if not, given what I’m doing/not doing, and performing some basic forensic analysis of the wasted hulls of abandoned blogs littering the internet, I suspect it would go something like:

1. beginner’s enthusiasm
2. TMI
3. distraction from blog by living of actual life
4. password log-in amnesia
5. abandonment

Last night was a pretty big hoot: my good friend Jonn Herschend premiered his twisted, wonderful infomercial- gone- terribly- astray, “Everything Is Better Now“, at Oakland’s cinematic gem, the Parkway Speakeasy Theater. (Cinematic gem not in some Beaux-Arts fanciness way, cinematic gem in that “pitchers of beer and pizza with your movie” way. I don’t even like beer, but I like the idea of beer in a pitcher with my movie).

Since he didn’t want to be caught holding the bag, Jonn implicated a bunch of his friends and co-conspirators in the premiere by organizing “Guilt By Association,” a screening of a number of artsy video shorts to accompany his magnum opus.



I’m prolly biased, since Woffords, Paint was one of the videos screened, but it was a really fun, dynamic mix of work that really seemed to resonate well with one another. I’ve been thinking lately about how often shows in galleries/museums don’t add up quite right, even when the art is great: the works are good individually, but poorly served by the curatorial premise and/or overall installation of pieces in relation to one another. With Guilt By Association, I was struck by how well the works flowed from one to the next, and how they seemed to inform one another in a variety of quirky, engaging strategies. I’d seen a number of the videos individually in the past, and I really enjoyed them much more in concert with other works. Nerdy, artsy humor was a significant thread that made things flow: even works that I hadn’t actually found that funny prior to last night, worked much better in relation to works where this was more overt. Anyway, good times.


Go bears: UC Berkeley MFA alumni and Guilt By Association auteurs Woff, Jonn, Joe, and Will, gameface-mode, outside the Parkway after Guilt By Association.