by the skin of my teeth

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:

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:
One of Laura Swanson‘s 7 phenomenal self-obscuring photos:

…and then there’s the Wofford stuff.
I showed 3 videos, 3 color prints, and 3 original drawings:
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:
And the illustrations in better detail:
top floor: girl’s bedroom
middle floor: family room
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.
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.
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.
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.

Related Posts:

  • None

2 Responses to “by the skin of my teeth”

  1. Swanson Says:

    Thank you so much for talking more about your work on here – I definitely missed your presence at the opening and wanted to hear more about the inspirations behind your work. I knew that I recognized those drawings from somewhere, and now that you say they were from the Barbie Townhouse (not the “Dream House” which became popular in the early 80s), I am brought back to a very specific time in my life that I almost forgot about. My cousins are a generation older than me and had the Barbie Townhouse and whenever we went over to their house, I always wanted to play with it, but they were skeptical because I was around 4 or 5 and they didn’t know if I would treat it nicely. When I was older my Dad eventually bought me the Dream House but it wasn’t the same. The Townhouse was much more sophisticated. Anyway, as you can see how excited I am about your work and the references that are so close to me. As for obsession with spelling, I too was in a lot of spelling bees when I was a kid AND with the Imposter piece – I totally know what you are talking about. But it’s interesting to think about what kinds of pressure one is put under (whether it be by parents, friends, teachers, or strangers) to perform excellence. What is it about holding a coffee cup that signifies a certain type of behavior? Or is it really about holding it that performs or indicates a certain type of person to the people who see us?

  2. Tofu-silog Says:

    Love the renovation & can’t wait to see it. (Called you back on the day you called me to help out. Hope you at least got the message & don’t think I flaked out on you.) ps Volkswagen refused to put the cup holders in their Golf model cars in the German versions, but gave in and put them in the ones made for export to the US. You can’t drive on the Autobahn apparently while drinking a steaming, hot cup of Joe… Also, regarding Japanese culture, I heard it’s considered rude to walk & eat in Japan… Hot cup of coffee to go + talking on blue tooth ear piece + driving SUV = Perfect morning in the US

Leave a Reply