Archive for March 30th, 2008

by the skin of my teeth

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Surprise, surprise: my profound radio silence the past couple of weeks is an indicator of just how hectic it’s been. I’m in the home stretch now, with another week of nuttiness yet to come, but up to today, it’s been ultra-nuts. With whipped cream and a cherry on top, to boot.

The first of the two back-to-back shows I’m in, Make You Notice, opened on Thursday: as I mentioned before, I wasn’t able to go to the opening, but the word on the street is that the reception was jam-packed bubbling good times, and the work in the show has been really well-received.

I was able to swing by the gallery for a minute on Friday, and took a few photos. The show was nicely installed– great choice having Kate Gilmore‘s “star” piece front and center at the entry:

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View from inside the space: another Kate Gilmore monitor, with Lisa Anne Auerbach‘s posters, zines, and excellent knit “Independent Woman P II” scarf running around the top edge of the walls:
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One of Laura Swanson‘s 7 phenomenal self-obscuring photos:
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…and then there’s the Wofford stuff.
I showed 3 videos, 3 color prints, and 3 original drawings:
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I made three ink drawings inspired by the ridiculously over-the-top trompe l’oeil backdrops from each level of the triple-decker 1970′s Barbie Townhouse (which is sort of like a pre-pubescent Madonna Inn).

The illustrations as exhibited:
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And the illustrations in better detail:
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top floor: girl’s bedroom
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middle floor: family room
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ground floor: kitchen, dining room, pool

I colored the drawings in Photoshop, tinted them a variety of ways, then made each “floor” of the townhouse into a cartoon-ish backdrop for each of the 3 videos.

Video I: Ground Floor
The ground floor became the entrance point for a video piece called “Walking With Coffee“, featuring myself, my girlfriends, and family member obsessively staggering around clutching cups of coffee, set to a jazzy little Filipino cha-cha tune. Most of this piece was shot outdoors, with the ground floor backdrop scenes bookending the other action.

While I’m as guilty as the next person of doing it, I can’t help but find it funny and sad how compulsive Americans are about their beverages to-go. Can we really not just sit and chill for a few minutes? When I was in France on a residency a few years ago, I went to Cannes with an American girlfriend who was consumed with the need to find a cup of coffee to go. We scoured the city in search of one for her, to no avail. Quelle surprise.
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Video II: Middle Floor
The middle floor, as purgatory of sorts, was the setting for a video called “Impostor“. I alternated blurring the foreground Wofford and the background room in most of the shots.

The piece is one of my few scripted, dialogue-based works: in it, I play a variety of female characters, all saying things that indicate varying permutations of impostor syndrome/ impostor phenomenon, a condition fraught with unnecessary self-doubt that maddens me when I catch myself, and many many high-achieving women and peeples of color I know, doing it. There’s a lot of “I’m not experienced enough,” “I’m not qualified to do that”-type commentary.
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Video III: Top Floor
Lastly, top floor as ivory tower of intellectual non-compromise! The piece I situated in the girl’s bedroom is called “Spellchecker“.

For those of you who haven’t heard my bragging, I was something of a spelling mercenary as a kid (won a lot of bees, that kind of thing. Ahem). I’ve come across a few choice quotes denigrating proper spelling as the domain of nitpicky schoolmarms: it felt time to provide my own kind of surreal retort to such nonsense. Well-spelled words and unusual vocabulary have always been a source of great pleasure: there’s something about the precision and specificity of language in this context that I love. This piece has me spelling out entire lines and sentences by writers I’ve enjoyed as if they were actual dialogue, as opposed to mere strings of letters and spaces. It’s a very private, hermetic language which felt right to correlate with a space made to appear like a child’s private domain.
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I feel really pleased about this new work, and there were some breakthroughs that will likely inform the direction of future projects. But. The process of getting this body of work finished in time was harrowing, to say the least.

While I’ve come to accept that I’m an 11th-hour achiever, and that there’s a certain kind of clarity in my creative process that consistently emerges late in the game, I have to confess that this round of frenzied production purt near killed me: the video work was far more complicated than I’d anticipated, and there were several incidents of utter panic that brought me as close to crisis as I’ve been in quite some time. And while yet again, the work got done and looks good, this was a pretty pointed lesson learned in why it’s time to restructure some of the ways that I make art. It’s just too painful to do things this way. Kudos and gratitude to Patricia Maloney, Meg Shiffler, and Dana Hemenway for their consistent grace and patience this past week. Many, many thanks to Max, Rick, Eliza, Michael Hall, and Ken Lo for technical support, and to Christine, Johanna, Mom, Camille, Mr D, Bryce and Elisa for consenting to appear in one of the videos.