Archive for March, 2010

the F, the Rule, the BBP

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

So: what was I up to in Bogliasco (besides over-eating)? Couple of things:

The F Word
A show at Evergreen Valley College Gallery, in San Jose. Curator Sana Makhoul contacted me a couple of weeks before my fellowship started, asking me if I wanted to participate in a feminism-themed show. It was rather last-minute, but hey, so am I. And I figured that I could use an excuse to crank out some new work, so the first couple of weeks of the residency were spent working on what is to become an ongoing series, before moving on to the new Big Bogliasco Project.

The work I made for the F Word was inspired by The Rule, this comic by the phenomenal Alison Bechdel, way back in 1985. A film only passes the Bechdel Rule if: 
1) there are at least two named female characters, who 
2) talk to each other about 
3) something other than a man. Unfortunately, 25 years later, it’s still more apt than it should be. Hence, this first incarnation of my new project, “Studies for The Rule”, which is a series of illustrations of film stills.

The 4 movies I chose for this initial batch are hardly the definitive statement on women in film: All About My Mother, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Reno 911!: Miami, and The Apologies (a short film that Sam Chanse and I are making that isn’t actually even finished yet).  They are only the first of more images to come, and for this reason, I’ll keep adding to this series as the muse strikes. (Aside: I think this might be a fun one to do commissions for, if anyone out there wants to send me stills from one of your fave films that meets the criteria for The Rule.)

the whale

If there is anything that does bind these 4 together a bit more, it’s the presence of comedy in each film, as well as a similar palette of neutrals. While 2 of the films I’ve illustrated are overt comedies, the other 2 dip into darker, more melancholic terrain as well. The comedy is not necessarily literally in each frame, but it is important: my sense is that comedy, laughter and an embrace of ridiculous behavior between women in films is often even more rare than any conversation between women at all. 

Aaand, as someone with as deep an enthusiasm for comics as for cinema, and to bring The Rule back to its initial form, I also felt that it was somehow important to return the film stills to a comic-like, hand-drawn and painted, form.

the apologies

While I do adhere to a semi-realistic comic-like style in general, I definitely realized that working from film stills and well-known actresses creates a new kind of challenge of faithfulness to my source imagery. And in the work that I continued with on the 2nd half of my residency, I’ve continued to learn the hard way how challenging this kind of specificity is, vis-à-vis celebrity. The new Big Bogliasco Project, the one I wrote my proposal for,  is a series of images of 2 women, dead ringers  for the middle-aged Eartha Kitt and Imelda Marcos, arriving on the Italian Riviera and getting into shenanigans. While they are not *technically* Eartha and Imelda, they are still doppelgangers, which means while I’ve had a little wiggle room on accuracy, I’ve really had to do a number of straightforward investigatory portrait sketches in order to get the right attitude. It’s slow-going, highly-detailed work, so I don’t have too many images of finished art yet to post: here are a couple of studio sketches to entertain you with, in the meantime.

the ladies

Wofford hopes to build on momentum for next season

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As I sit here in Prague, sorting out my own next moves, post-Bogliasco, truer words were never spoken.
Article on the Wofford Terriers, here.
Semi-related article on Wofford Basketball, here.

Jamar Diggs (5) and the Wofford Terriers should be preseason SoCon favorites for next season.

Go Terriers! Intaminatis fulget honoribus!

prossima scadenza: 1 maggio

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Next Bogliasco application deadline: May 1!
Start getting your materials and rec letters in order, kids…
Link to application details here.

Bogliasco Fellowships are awarded to qualified persons working in the various disciplines of the Arts and Humanities without regard to nationality, age, race, or gender.

To be eligible for the award of a Fellowship, applicants should demonstrate significant achievement in their disciplines, commensurate with their age and experience. The Foundation gives preference to persons whose applications suggest that they would be comfortable working in an intimate, international, multi-lingual community of scholars and artists. Beginning with Fellowships during 2010-2011, the Bogliasco Foundation will accept only applications submitted online.

The following materials are required of all candidates for Fellowships. The written documents may be submitted in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

(1) The completed application form.
(2) A short-form curriculum vitae, three pages in length.
(3) A description, one page in length, of the project that the applicant would pursue during her/his stay at the Liguria Study Center.
(4) Three letters of reference, which must be sent to the Foundation under separate cover.
(5) A sample of the applicant’s work that has been published, performed, exhibited, or otherwise publicly presented during the last five years.

There are certain practical issues that may influence the granting or scheduling of a Fellowship:

Reapplications: Persons who have previously been awarded Bogliasco Fellowships are eligible to reapply for subsequent Fellowships, but only after a period of three years has elapsed. For example, Bogliasco Fellows who were in residence during the winter-spring 2008 semester are eligible to reapply for winter-spring 2011.

Practical Restrictions: Before preparing an application you should consult with an officer of the Foundation ( if you or your spouse/companion have either of the following:

— food allergies or other dietary restrictions (woff-warning: vegans will not do well here)
— problems walking up and down stairs or steep inclines. (they aren’t kidding. there are a lot of stairs)

If you decide to submit an application for a Bogliasco Fellowship, and have questions, please feel free to contact the Foundation office. Questions sent via email are preferred.

Next deadline for the submission of applications: May 1, 2010, for the winter-spring semester beginning in February 2011.

Notification date for the award of Fellowships: July 1, 2010 for Fellowships during the winter-spring semester beginning in February 2011.

Again, link to application details here.

il bel sogno

Friday, March 19th, 2010

A month. An eyeblink. And now back in Prague. Did that just happen?

I had thought to post every delicious detail about my residency whilst there, but as it turned out, I just wanted to immerse in it, instead. I did take a ton of photos, however: some conversations early on in the residency encouraged me to appoint myself the embedded photographer for our Feb-March session of Bogliasco Fellows, and to create a Flickr account for our group to share. (Perhaps 282 pictures are worth 282,000 words. At the very least, they’re more concise, with less likelihood of spelling errors.)

Sunday was my my last full day in Bogliasco, and I was feeling my usual mix of melancholy about leaving a place I’d grown very attached to. It was gorgeous and sunny out: the sea was calm,  sailboats leisurely poking along the shore.  In between packing, I had a beautiful, simple lunch in the main villa with an early-arrival Fellow from the group following ours, and then I attempted to soak up some sun on my balcony, since it’s likely to be a little while before I have, oooh, another private Riviera mountainside villa veranda to myself. These things don’t grow on trees, you know.

People fall in love with Italy. This is a statement of the obvious. I probably fell in love with Italy the first time when I was 15, and watched A Room With A View. Italy soon moved from background to foreground when I took history and art history courses in college, making me itch to see it for myself. As soon as I was of legal age, I backpacked through Venice, Florence, and Rome, and came back for more a couple of years later. A few years after that, I spent a month traveling around Tuscany and Umbria:  a few years after that, I spent a little time in Torino. And then that was it for about seven years. Last summer, I got my first taste of Liguria for a friend’s wedding: this past month and a half, I got the full 5-course meal.

At risk of being platitudinous, I’ve been reflecting today on a series of very simple things related to this residency experience, to the work I accomplished, and to this fantastical setting I was lucky enough to be in.

1. Living by the sea makes everything better. It’s just so comforting. It’s not just the Californian in me, it’s all the years growing up, playing on beaches in Asia and the Middle East, too. In Prague, we live by the river, which is comforting and lovely too, of course. But the seeea! The salt. The air. The expansiveness of it all. I will live by an ocean again. Without a doubt.

2. Italian food makes me believe in the divine. Any food writer can say it about a thousand times better than I, but what struck me more than ever this time around was the almost sacred (but never precious or formal) relationship Ligurians have with their food: fresh ingredients, intense flavors, and good lord, all that focaccia and pasta and seafood. My stomach has been hurting from over-use: I couldn’t stop eating because I was afraid I would miss something! The meals at the villa were amazing, but simple: beautiful risottos, soups, pastas, fresh fish, lovely desserts. I haven’t eaten with such urgency since P’s and my trip to Malaysian and Singapore in 2005. At the time, we couldn’t imagine a better eating trip, and I remember thinking that probably the only other place it could probably happen would be…Italy.

3. Good company makes me productive and inspired, especially when shared meals and excursions are also involved: communitas just works for me.  (Alienation, not so much.) While I’d slowly but surely been making some fine new friends in Prague, I’d still been craving a more intense dose of academic and creative conversation.  While some people might need a little bit more solitude and less scheduling in their residencies, the collegiality engendered by the de rigueur nightly cocktails and dinner was really critical for me. I was also the youngest Fellow in our session, which was unexpectedly nice. It was so comforting and inspiring to absorb what these more experienced, accomplished scholars, poets, choreographers, composers and musicians had to share: it was also reassuring, in the midst of my present career limbo/uncertainty, to be around folks who really have been able to make a long life of this work. And it was also wonderful that our partners were welcomed at the Center, which also invited a healthy, happy balance of the sometimes-clashing nature of our solitary and social pursuits.

4. I may never live this well again, and I’m OK with that: I can die happy and well-fed.

5. Making work in a real studio makes a difference. I’d somehow forgotten this. My first-year studio in grad school was unusable, so I worked at home. My second-year studio was phenomenal (but that was 3 years ago). After that, I did projects on-site or worked at home. I’m fine working in non-traditional studios: regular rooms, cafes, trains, but wow: space to spread out, to make a little bit more of a mess, to pin stuff up and step back to check it out, made the quality of my studio experience at Bogliasco extraordinary.

6. Respect and generosity hopefully beget more respect and generosity. I feel so utterly overwhelmed by the consideration with which all the Fellows were treated: we were living under such extraordinary conditions at the Center, and treated in ways that I don’t know we could ever afford to treat ourselves. The beauty of the villa. The meals. The views. The warmth, care and friendliness of the staff. The attention to detail. And yet, it never collapsed into just being a glorified holiday. It was simply the most optimal conditions for work that I’ve ever experienced. Little details: Bus and train tickets so we didn’t have to go find our own. When it was cold, they found another space heater to put in my studio, and there was a kettle, tea and sugar to keep me cozy, as well. Utterly nurturing, in the best way possible. The bigness of it all makes me want to be bigger, better artist and person, too.

I wrote about what I love about residencies in general in more detail here, while I was at Solyst, in Denmark, in 2008: all of my experiences with residencies have been very different, but equally rewarding.  They’re not the best environment for everyone: some are too social, others, too isolated.  For me, though, they’re a perfect fit: I enjoy the new company, and I thrive in new environments.

It’s never clear at the conclusion of a residency just what exactly  was accomplished, and this past month is no different: while I’m pleased with what I’ve thrown myself into, the work feels more the blooming of something new and exciting, rather than the culmination of  a grand gesamtkunstwerk. I’ve learned to trust that the residency experience often makes other work more possible later: Motel Cucaracha couldn’t have happened without La Napoule first: Flor 1973-78 couldn’t have happened without Solyst beforehand. So, with Bogliasco, I have faith that all of the richness provided will spur me on with imagination and vision.

One last thing I’ll say for those of you applying for residencies: apply for more than one. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get in. I’ve written about the crapshoot that is any competitive application process, but just to put things in perspective, I applied to 8 residencies/residency-type programs in the past year, of which I was accepted into just 1. And damn, if I’m not beyond dumbfounded and deliriously happy that this happened to be the one I was invited for. I’ll happily plow through another 8 or more applications if there’s a chance that one of them might bring me someplace wondrous and inspiring like this again.