Monday, April 8, 2013

Greetings from Ragdale

My first artist residency that I can think of, where I'm just here to make art.   I have a beautiful studio in a new building on the prairie here in Lake Forest, IL.   Five floor-to-ceiling glass doors open out onto grass and trees and a pile of sticks and old christmas trees daring me to ignite them.  These doors and a clerestory allow in the even cool northern light I've always heard about but never experienced.

So, here I am with 12 days left.  I brought bodies of work from the past 15 years, many of which have languished while I pursued other things.  My challenge is to assimilate them, if possible, into a coherent whole.   Buddha at the Hot dog Stand, a series of materials afixed to rice paper squares, meet the watercolour process paintings that I hope will look like water rippling over pebbles, meet the Afghan war rug prints I've been making since 2003, meet the paintings on linen intended to manifest an idea via material and process.   Listening to public radio, a rare treat for this 9-to-5 bureaucrat, I hear from the women from the Afghan Learning Institute, followed by a report on the death of the suburban Chicago diplomat who was blown up while delivering text books to Afghan schoolchildren.  I wonder at the necessity and the futility of making art that encompasses those events without touching them, that somehow makes poetry out of material and can withstand markets and media.

So, buddha right now has new editions with firecrackers, with mandala sand, with bottlecaps and legal stickers, with rice crackers, with stamens, with mussel shells.  Kalishnikovs of pepper, sesame and sugar dissolve on the walls.  Some crazy-ass mess on linen with feathers and felt and washers and glitter dares me to reign it in.   And the watercolours just keep seducing me with their forgiving process process process.  Paint, play, erase, rub, play again, stop, erase, enjoy.  

Impossible holy mess.

Did I mention they burned the prairie the day after I arrived?