Lull seeks to create a visualization of the digital space the majority of Americans spend time everyday in.Read More
Reflection on my solo exhibition, Not an Aggregation, but a Symphony, at Next Gallery, Denver, CO.Read More
When I first started painting this mural in my studio, I was experimenting with how to make my mark making larger. I wanted to play with scale, as well as marks in relation to the architecture. I never thought that I would be making my marks in front of an audience of museum goers at the Denver Art Museum.
My demo, titled Sculptural Space, looked at the way that I create 3D work starting from a 2D realm. This, for me, meant that my gouache paintings and old studio drawings were going from flat planes of paper, to large-scale, free standing, false walls.
This also meant that I needed to build some walls. Lucky for me I am friends and collaborators with the great people at ReCreative Denver, and Matthew Shaw, an amazing custom woodworker, was able to help me build these walls from raw wood to final installation. I have minor experience with wood working, going through multiple sculpture classes in college, but preparing walls that were sturdy enough to be moved multiple times, as well as be worked on for six straight hours, take heavy amounts of water, and look good, was not something that was in my skill set.
After building the walls and transporting them from the shop at ReCreative to my studio and up to the roof, it was time to prepare them to live out their full lives. This meant multiple layers of sanding, priming, and filling to get the walls as smooth as possible. I had made them out of plywood for structure and resilience during the multiple times I needed to move them, so they were filled with slight imperfections that would not be found in typical drywall walls. Luckily the weather was beautiful for a December night, and my friend David Brookton was able to come join me, so it was a fun night rather than a task to get done.
Once the walls were done, there was only waiting and painting left to be done.
When installation was completed in the museum, I was filled with nerves and anxiety. I was anxious to get started and worried that I would not have enough time to finish the entire installation. The way that I had planned the demo to go was that the first day would be filled with painting and getting the base layer down, as well as the white top coat that obscures the color. The second day I had planned to begin the sculptural element made from the old studio drawings, and to put the finishing painting touches on the work before it was completed.
As I was creating I realized that I hadn’t gauged the speed at which I worked. I work really fast… I was practically finished with the piece within the first day of the demo. What I was worried about finishing in six hours, was almost completed by hour two. This pushed me to extend the original idea further than what was first conceived. By the end of day one I had the color layer on the walls, had most of the white wash layer on, and had started to add sculptural elements as well, with the result looking like this.
When I returned the next day I almost didn’t want to continue on the wall because I was in love with what was standing before me already. This brought me back to my thoughts on the importance of keeping work non-precious. I was there to create for two days, which meant that even though I was happy with the result of the first day, I needed to keep making the work. The second day, now having a more realistic view of the speed at which I work, I was able to slow down and really enjoy the process, rather than be afraid that I would run out of time.
This was the point in which I started to also really enjoy speaking with the visitors and people who stopped by to interact with me as I worked. Being afraid of the time limit, and setting myself up a to create and finish an installation during the two days, the first day of the demo was hard for me to focus on the people. This is something that I regret looking back, but luckily my boyfriend Aaron was there as my backup, and did a great job keeping people interested and answering questions as best as he could.
I found myself adding layers and layers of content and of material. Mixing the color with the white latex, watering down the latex more than usual to add transparency, as well as trying to mix the sculptural elements into the paint as well.
Another thing about day two: we tried to auction off the piece during the last few hours of its creation. I paired up with my friend and fellow artist Kaitlyn Tucek, who just launched a non-profit with her husband Matthew. Their nonprofit is highly personal, finding its inception because of their daughter Rowan, who was diagnosed with four heart defects upon birth, underwent heart surgery on her third day in the world, and had three more surgeries before she was a year old.
Because of their experience in the pediatric intensive care unit, and experiencing the isolation in which it brings for the mother, they created Create With Heart, a non-profit that aims to create arts programming for mothers and families that are in the PICA with their newborns. They are also working to support artists at the same time, allowing artists to get paid to create and run these programs for people in need of stimulation and companions.
My goal with the online auction (run through my Instagram feed) was to sell the work to some sort of company or business that could house the work and have space enough to enjoy it. The profits from the sale of the work would go towards reducing overhead for me and giving a donation to Create With Heart at the same time. I honestly over-shot my expectations of this auction, having not even one bid on the work, but I have not stopped in my quest to get this work into homes around the country.
After the work was completed it was displayed in the DAM for a few more days before I took in back to my studio. Just the other day I returned to the ReCreative workshop and am now left with a little over 50 square 12” x 12” panels of the walls. Shrinking down the scale, and the price, I am now looking to part with these small works for $15 each, with $5 from every sale going directly to Create With Heart. Some of the panels come directly from the wall, while others have small sculptural elements, and still some I am going back into and reworking on top of what remains from the demo. Each panel is unique and special, and I am excited to be able to offer small pieces of this amazing experience to the public.
My time at the Denver Art Museum was absolutely incredible, and having access to an amazing a staff as well as the gorgeous facilities was such a pleasure. This was also my first time working with a large museum and getting paid to create my own work for them. This is hopefully not my last time working with the team at the DAM and also not my last time working in front of an audience. Though not quite a performance, this experience was something that I will continue to use as a jumping off point as I continue to create my work.
Photos taken by Drew Austin and Katie McTiernan
*Let me begin by saying that this blog post will not be an accurate portrayal of how eye-opening, how earth-shaking, and how important this trip was to me, but if you wish to continue I would love for you to hear about my experience.*
The Wayfaring Band. A non-profit organization started by local advocates Andrea Moore and Pavel Reppo that seek to "create social experiences for our members to explore, connect, and engage with their communities through the lens of travel and adventure."
The Wayfaring Band: a group of incredible people who travel, experience life, and learn about each other over the course of a week. This organization is a neurodiverse group of travelers who are the most authentic, most upfront and honest, most positive-in-the-face-of-negativity minded band of people I have ever met. The staff is mind-blowingly good at their jobs and the band members are too perfect to even put into words.
Let me take a step back and walk you through my experience before this just turns into a gush-fest though.
I first met Andrea Moore through an event I was a part of with New Genres Club based out of Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. Once I heard about The Detached Garage (a residency she runs out of her backyard garage specifically designed for EMERGING ARTISTS) as well as The Wayfaring Band I was hooked and needed to know more about who she was as an individual. She just happened to be speaking at RMCAD a few weeks later, so after attending her lecture on The Wayfaring Band, we began talking about me being the potential artist in residence for the upcoming trip that was set to take on the Colorado Hot Springs Loop.
If you know nothing about me, know that I love a good bath, and a good hot spring is actually just a bath in the mountains, so of course I needed to attend this trip, as well as get my first art residency under my belt.
I agreed to be the Artist In Residence, and I dove headfirst into a week of discomfort, not knowing anyone, and traveling with a band of adults who experience cognitive disabilities, something I had never really been in contact with this closely before.
My first day was a shock, trying to learn names, trying to think of everyone as complete equals who all experience something unique to their person (whether that is a cognitive disability or depression/oppression/privilege/etc.), and also trying to be my best self all the while. After a day of bus travel, hot springs, and poorly cooked angel hair pasta in a hotel room filled with 16 people, I figured I was already in the thick of it and had no place to go now but deeper into it.
The thing is: even while I was experiencing this craziness, I felt completely at home because everyone was so accepting. There was zero judgment, there were plenty of snacks, and everyone had a fun, or not-so-fun, story to tell about themselves. I could write a whole book on the week-long trip that I had, but I think three of the biggest things that happened to me will recap the trip well enough for the time being.
**For sake of anonymity I will refer to the band members in these stories as Jill, Bill, and Phil**
Let me tell you about Jill. She was among the older of the band members was experiencing a lack of love in her life and mentioned numerous times her emotional desire to have a boyfriend, husband, or partner to share her life with. She ended up latching hard to a roadie (term used for the staff of the trip) as well as myself to temporarily fill that lack of love, always cuddling, hugging, and talking about us, well, more so the roadie than me, but I was a close second.
Jill knew that I am gay, have a boyfriend, and am in no way sexually attracted to women, but still confessed to me a few days into the trip that she had a crush on me. I turned to her and started saying, "I am flattered, and I wish I could express the same feelings, but I just----" and she cut me off with, "I know."
I have never before felt so understood, so thought about, and so considered than in that moment. Jill had this insane ability to pick up on people's emotions and inherently understand that person without even talking to them about what they are feeling. On numerous occasions, I walked into the same room in the morning as Jill and was instantly greeted with her asking me what was wrong or how was I doing. She could sense that something was off with me, having only known me a few days. Her sense of the human spectrum of emotions was something I had never seen before, and something I likely will never forget.
On the flipside, Bill was the exact opposite. The wonderful thing about The Wayfaring Band is that even though band members are experiencing different cognitive disabilities, the staff do not treat them ANY different than they would if they were neurotypical. More help is given to people if they need it, of course, but otherwise, no one is special, no one gets special treatment or opportunities, and everyone has to advocate for what they, as the individual, need. This leads me to the moment I blatantly called out Bill for making a homophobic comment one night during the trip.
I am usually pretty tolerant of people, but after a few days of stubborn behavior, not realizing the help he was being given, and not giving help back, plus a homophobic comment about sleeping with another man, I had had it. Many words were used, but I went at this band member in the same fashion that I would have spoken to anyone else who was acting in this way, and the staff did not say anything to me because he was being him, I was being me, and ultimately, Bill was just being a dick. This was a hard night because Bill was also one of the sweetest band members, at moments watching out for other band members, being genuinely interested in what people were doing or thinking, but in this moment all of that faded away.
Later in the trip, in a discussion about oppression, I brought up to him how making these sorts of comments in a space that was supposed to be judgement free made me feel very unsafe and like I don't belong, leading to more discussion about the topic and how it related to oppression and tears were shed and hugs were given and everyone got along once again. It was a moment where things needed to be aired out to get past them, and the rest of the trip went smooth between myself and Bill after it was brought up and talked about.
The simple fact that The Wayfaring Band is completely okay with calling someone experiencing a cognitive disability a dick is one of my favorite things about the organization. Guess what? Humans aren't always nice, humans are dicks sometimes, and just because you experience a developmental disability or autism or any other cognitive disability does not mean that you get to get away with being a dick to another human. Everyone was on a level playing field and it was amazing.
But the single most important thing that happened to me on this trip was getting to spend time in close proximity with Phil. Phil is non-verbal because of the severity of the disability he is experiencing, but this meant absolutely nothing in terms of how fluently or coherently he could communicate with everyone. Phil has a device that allows him to say basic words, but his tool of choice is usually a small laminated keyboard, in which with some help holding his hand up, he can type out words and hold a conversation with anyone. He had a particular way of communicating yes or no, showing you he was angry, frustrated, or extremely happy, and he had his own special way of being a dick (such as bringing you very close, face-to-face with him, and then poking your glasses, referring to the age-old insult of "Four-Eyes". He also likes to point at something so you turn away from his face, meanwhile, he will smack the rim of your backward hat and laugh uncontrollably about his prank).
Phil was this all-knowing central figure of the trip, helping us find hotels at night on dark roads by nudging a roadie seconds before we pass it, telling us all that we will be in a place with a bird feeder and bluebirds (four nights before we are in this cabin with bird feeders and bluebirds everywhere), and typing out poems that gave us insights into the mind of a human without capacity to verbalize his own thoughts. Phil is this amazing man who is essentially trapped within his own body and mind, the catch is that you just need to be willing to try and understand his language, rather than make him try to understand yours, to grasp even a sliver of his extraordinary brain-power.
Again, I could go on for days about each and every person on this trip, but I won't at this time.
This trip was equal in importance for me as an artist and as a human as my trip to Ireland was a few years ago. My mental capacity for understanding compassion has grown exponentially and I can not thank Andrea Moore enough for inviting me to be a part of this incredible trip. Now begins the art portion of this residency. The way that this non-profit runs the residency is that as the artist, you get to go on a trip with the band for no cost, and in exchange, within 90 days of returning from the residency you give back a piece of art in the form of an ode to the trip. I am currently working with digital collage and scans of my sketches and notes for this ode, but it is still highly in process.
If you have not clicked any of the above links I highly recommend it, or visit the ones below to find out more about The Wayfaring Band, New Genres Club, Andrea as an artist, and the shirts that Phil makes using his poems as inspiration. Donate to this group, learn more about them, and try to be involved in any way possible, they are an important group of people.
Keep in mind that this opinion is coming from someone who is in a great art making groove currently, but I have begun to believe that art blocks are, in fact, a good thing.
*gasp* *eye roll*
I know, I get it, they absolutely suck, but now looking back at the major art block I had two years ago (it took me this long to be okay with it) I am seeing how beneficial it was. And I realized it today looking at this collage:
Let me go back a little bit.
Somewhere between 2015 and 2016 I was making a lot of work that revolved around the space we most commonly refer to as the bedroom. I was making work with bed frames
making work with pillows
and photographing myself sleeping, as well as taking photos with my bed.
It really all had to do with space, with sexuality (I came out of the closet Feb 2015, so it was fresh in my mind) and about sex. Intimacy, privacy, calm, peace, sex, romance, fucking, masturbating, sleeping, relaxing, reading, cleaning. It all took place in the bedroom and that interested me immensely, so I made a lot of art about it. But when I met my boyfriend Aaron I no longer became interested in the bedroom anymore, and in fact the last two pieces in this body of work are still in progress, and have been since a few months after I met this amazing man. Below are some works in progress to keep you interested as I continue on about how this relates to art blocks.
After my interest faded I had no idea what to do. I was stuck, and when I'm stuck I turn to Béyonce and collage. Collage for me is something that very easily gets you in the mood to think visually. I think collage is an extremely hard medium to master, but I think it is quite easy to start and feel good about what you created, whereas sculpture or painting will just laugh in your face. So I started collaging a lot, and ended up with a few good ones....
"I think collage is an extremely hard medium to master,
but I think it is quite easy to start"
These are still collages I look back at, now not in an art block, and say "Well, shit, that's really good".
The work from the collage that convinced me of the beauty in art blocks has led me in so many different directions.
as well as color.
Everything I am doing now is in that collage. Everything I was thinking about subconsciously came out, and it has just taken me months and months of working through it to be able to realize. The kicker is, that I had this collage behind me in the studio every day, passing glances at it, but never stopping to look, and my subconscious brain must have found something in it to leech from every time I saw it.
I guess my point is that art blocks are natural, they are part of it, and everyone has them. Hell, The Jealous Curator has actually made a book about said blocks, also collage...... and I ended up picking up both books when I was stuck. I think that deep, deep, deep deepdeepdeep deep down what you make while in a block (which you should be doing to get past the block!) is actually what you are supposed to be making. Or at least something along the lines of what you will be making.
There is something there of significance. Take some time and hang up one thing you made that you like. Put it on a shelf, photograph it, scan it, whatever you need to do. Just look at it a little longer this time. Try and focus on what it is that makes it good, and then maybe go in that direction. Try it, you just never know. Art blocks are a time for you to pause and potentially reconsider your practice, or bring something new into it. Try a new material or find a new inspiration.
Enjoy the art block, because you will get out of it soon enough my friend, you will.