Sunday, July 02, 2006

Luis Jimenez

My husband and I spent the morning of June 11 with Luis. He took us on a tour of his studio (told us the ins and outs of his public art pieces), then drove us up a bumpy dirt road through a small valley to see his home (and goats), and then off to a little resturant, just down the road from Hondo, for burritos. He and my husband hit it off well, telling one another stories of bow hunting and bird watching. More and more stories each worth listening to, each bringing a smile or a laugh. Our day with Luis concluded with him sketching on a napkin a map of must see parts of New Mexico for us. We began our NM adventure following his map. So it came as quite a shock to find that he passed away a few days after our visit due to a studio accident.
Luis' was a master of bringing out the best in other artists.

Becoming bête comme un peintre six straight hours every Wednesday for three months under the guidance of Luis in the Figure Drawing Studio at the University of Houston.

Six hours. Naked model. My arm seeks across the page. Brain tires. Arm sags. I prop it up with the other. Finally the deadening weight is too great. Grease pencil shifted to recessive hand. Brain shuts off. Only sense of sight and touch remain intact. Searching lines find form. Tactile pleasure. Luis strokes ego.

How is it that everyone in the class improves? No, really everyone. It is Luis coming around and deciphering the one thing that is working in each students drawing. Quietly he points it out to the student (who cherishes his praise). Suddenly this one element in the drawing begins taking over more and more of each successive drawing. Each student maintains his or her own voice, but it becomes more clear, stronger, and much more interesting.

Luis brings out in me an inclination and passion for form making. I pursue it because of him. I am artist because of him.

My path is changed because of this man. I am deeply saddened by his untimely death.

The Shadowlands

The angst of modern cultural addictions permeates my existence. The dictates of mediated culture, the dictates of self are so commingled they are indistinguishable—inseparable. Where I begin and end is lost.

As society moves further and further away from direct experience and once, twice removed becomes the norm with intermediaries carefully massaging the information we receive, I am compelled to work in a very direct manner. The more distanced and disconnected I become from that which seems real, the more I empty myself into the tactility of my work. A direct, raw connection is forged and it becomes a visceral response to my struggle with self, capital culture, and the enormity of the vast slippery feeling I have that something is terribly wrong within
our mediated cosmos.

Black and white cease in purity. Decay’s reference to ensuing death serves only to bare witness to life. Each becomes embedded with an otherness. And my own darkness pierces me.

Recurrent patterns/habits emanate from the brokenness of self. Tension resides where my good and shadows run alongside one another. I am deeply tarnished. Conflicted with contradictions. The very thing I hate, the thing I swear I won’t do or say, that is exactly what I do.

Abstract and organic fields of discarded urban refuse embedded in industrial materials becomes a metaphor for self. Simultaneously the self becomes a stand-in for a cultural expression of communal beliefs and emotion which for the most part are denied.

I am in the shadowlands. YET. Not embracing, but in spite of, I find hope wrestled from these shadows—an emergent beauty, an odd sense of wholeness and redemption.

The Shadowlands installation

Installation at the Blaffer Gallery
Houston, Texas
April 2006

I hate the idea of surrender

I hate the idea of surrender. I am not saying you're wrong in that I may need to do this but the thought of surrender is well so very ...
unpullyourselfupbythebootstraps! And I am still pulling.

64 blocks, ~9'x9'
4"x4"x5" each block
tar, plaster, baling wire

I hate the idea of surrender

This infers war.
Am I at war? War with whom? Myself? God? Other? Surrender to whom? Surrender to what?

102 blocks, ~2'x6',
4"x4"x5" each block
tar, plaster, wooden shelf

I love my husband; why can't I be nice

Black painting
triptych, 2'x6' each
found boards, tar
found rope, tar

Consciousness empties itself of its content; I just keep talking

Black painting
triptych, 2'x6' each
tar, tires on board

The Shadowlands

Black painting
triptych, 2x6 each
nails, tar, rust on board
tires, tar on board
tar, rust, rope on board

White painting
2'x2' each
satin (from 1950s)
paint chips

July 2005

I am dysfunction; I function. My own darkness pierces me

Steel ring, tar, tree, cinder blocks, wire.


Both my sculpture and writing skim the surface of the construct of the self, and it leaves me wanting. In that wanting, I realize a loss, an absence. I present the self as an isolated, autonomous, masterful object, when in fact it is the self under the influence—the influence of cultural context. The self functions as a variable, a container, in which the dictates of culture define its value and form. Thus, the self is incomplete, empty; culture completes it.

I dissect the self only to discover it is but a mere flesh wound.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The disconnected connects

The disconnected connects

I have fallen into a void where there is no individuality, no unique private world, no authorship or originality. I find myself not in utopia but dystopia. There is no space; there is no silence. All inventions have been invented and recombination replaces creation. I fight the void. I become incapable of representing my current experience except through things that already exist. I dredge the archives seeking new meaning through new combinations. A rapid rhythm of change accelerates as I move through the limited number of combinations. Empty space is filled up. I consume all. Signifiers fail to link into coherent wholes. I pile up the appropriated fragments ceaselessly and empty them of their significance. The promise of new meaning evades me. The narrative stands still. Reality becomes that which is defined by media. Life is subordinate to the laws of the market. High and low culture merge. I sense loss and I drink Diet Coke like a dog gets excited about going for a walk ON A LEASH.

Resistance is futile.

As I am assimilated, I assimilate. I find myself in the present where a strange sense of continuity yet materializes. What appears disconnected connects. Information and experiences are absorbed. I bring them into myself. Distill them. Discard what does not fit. They become my own. This bioaccumulation of all that I have ingested, both toxic and nontoxic, has formed my current state of being. The last three years of accretion have snapped into clarity this being. The bulk of this assimilated data and change results from my immersion in 20th century art, research and collaborative analysis of design, experiments in painting and sculpture, and acceptance.

My initial studies in 20th century design and art were purely academic, the laying of a foundation. Impressionism. Futurism. Dada. Surrealism. As my studies progressed to the more contemporary, I found myself unable to simply respond to those works intellectually. I was compelled to make, and make is what I did. My first bastardization, a Pollock-de Kooning in under 5 minutes. Bad painting, combines, first generation feminism. Fast, freely. Pink—discovered spontaneously. House paint flying everywhere. Ruined pants. Ruined shirts. Ruined shoes. The sacredness of art demystified. It was OK to make bad art. I didn’t have to make something beautiful or meaningful. I just had to make. And I did. Making good. Making bad. Making. Concerned design professors averted their eyes from the accumulating pile of paintings in my small studio space. The frenzy was great. Occasionally I would look up to see that my studio mates had joined me in pushing paint.

The internal changing, the tide that I was unable or unwilling to divert, culminated with my exposure to abstract expressionism and the movements which followed immediately on its heels. The works resonated with me. A gnawing to move into the third dimension began. The questions about self, life, and culture could be explored in these visual languages I was discovering.

What is black? What is white? How is it that my own goodness gets lost in my shadow? Robert Rauschenberg’s black and white painting series and his combines embedded with everyday objects brought out my own inclination toward darkness and light. Eva Hesse’s explorations in abstracted expression and minimal form via industrial materials created an urgency within me to work with similar materials in a tactile manner. Louise Bourgeois showed me how to use abstracted forms as expressions of self with undercurrents of cultural communal beliefs and emotions where self and society could be interchangeable. Physicality compounded by weight and size of Richard Serra’s monumental sculptures spoke to the significance of mass and space.

Concurrent with these artists, Mother Teresa was working with the poorest of the poor dying on the streets of Calcutta. She bestowed dignity on the discarded, ruined, and social outcast collected from the street. In a feeble gesture of redemption, I found myself collecting discarded objects, cherishing them, and embedding them in my work.

Elements of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Bad Painting, First Generation Feminism had been absorbed. Greenburg, Rauschenberg, Bourgeois, Serra and EVA HESSE assimilated. Ideas of the serial, field painting, experimentation with industrial materials, found objects, and a black and white painting series had been planted within me. But more importantly I found passion. And I liked it.


Experiential to theoretical. Plodding through dense texts of 20th century literary, cultural, art and design theory, I find rereading required. Dissection. Backtracking. Vast amounts of time consumed. Circular and convoluted logic slides through my clenching fists. Slow torturous grasping. An inkling of understanding finally emerges with visions of theory overlaying culture. Theory and culture weave together. Sheer fascination. Gathering with studio mates, we push and pull this woven theory/culture image into something coherent—attempting to make it reproducible within two dimensions. Fiery conversations pursued. Culture. Truth. Value. The instant. The wanting. The flatness of a world made small by speed. Mixed ideologies crash. Peaceful co-existence abides. RAYification. EDIfication. Finally Kathified. An original thought acquired. DAMN. Original thought collectively discarded as NOT original. AGAIN.

Design professors encourage, REQUIRE, DEMAND, FORCE, me off the computer. Command Z no longer an option. Unexpected paths filled with delight. Thanks Fiona McGettigan. Delight becomes overshadowed by analysis. Analysis consumes all [studio time]. Image making occurs in the periphery. The intellect elevated above all. Struggle to appear smart. Provocative. Hard work. Tired. Incredible stress. Unmerciful pressure. Self induced? Probably. Do it right. Make it right. Design. Redesign. Meaning altered. Backtrack. Move forward. Print. Scratch. Start over. Crap. You sunk my battleship.

Expanded vocabulary.

Amazingly, I walk away with a sense of wonder and pleasure in research based work and collaboration. I will not be able to discard these acts of research or the intellectual sharpening that comes with collective critical analysis. I have come to hunger for it. And I see that extruded through these theories and scrutiny, my work improves. The work has become dominated with interpretations of consumptive patterns and critique of the socially constructed self. This, I actually do like.

Ummm. The tactile.

Becoming bête comme un peintre six straight hours every Wednesday for three months. Naked model. My arm seeks across the page. Brain tires. Arm sags. I prop it up with the other. Finally the deadening weight is too great. Grease pencil shifted to recessive hand. Brain shuts off. Only sense of sight and touch remain intact. Searching lines find form. Tactile pleasure. Naked form appeals.

Direction unsure. Design questioned. Luis Jimenez strokes ego.

I spend a month in San Miguel Allende studying the form alongside artists Margaritte Dawit and Nacho, her husband. Returning, I continue my figure studies. Artery. Art League. Direction remains unresolved. Ego stroking no longer required.

Line to mass. Clay working between my fingers, additive and subtractive processes of sculpture experienced. Three-dimensional form making. Innate? Possibly. Materials explored. Tremendous sensual pleasure derived. Paul Kittelson, in passing, suggests jumping ship from design to sculpture. Figure studies, design research, and sculptural processes begin informing one another. Eva Hesse inspires. Direction unknown. Hunger.


I cut classes and go to Europe. For three weeks, I am alone with myself drifting through the city [Roma, Firenza, Paris]. Wandering. The spectacle of the pope’s carcass avoided during the week of his funeral. Ten hours a day of meandering back passages. Slipping in and out of all contemporary art exhibits and museums that I stumble upon. Munch. Emilio Greco. Rodin. Picasso. Hesse and her contemporaries. I climb through the habitrail of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Explore the vaulted caverns of the Picasso museum. Am astounded by the sculptures. I experience first hand the works I had only viewed and mimicked from afar. More drifting.

Do I draw what I see? No. Do I paint my response? No. Design? No. For the most part I speak to no one. I devour Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle over arugala salad, a croissant and hot tea.6 Aimless I continue drifting. Like Walter Benjamin, I lose myself in the city. I smell the air, dry, dusty and old. Feel the sun full on my cheeks and the chill drafting through my jacket. Evening descends, I return to the four walls of my hotel room. It takes three days of this to become comfortable in each space. Yet still I do not draw, design, or paint what I see.

Absorption. Assimilation.

Illuminated by a single lamp in the darkened room, I sit alone at the little desk in front of the hotel mirror thinking and writing. What comes out is not about these spaces. It is me. It is the past three years. Distillation occurs against this alternate backdrop. I am designer. I AM ARTIST. Sigh of relief. Acceptance.

What appears disconnected connects.

Goods control

I allow myself to be DIVERTED
via consumptive patterns
which in turn neutralizes me
as a factor in self and social change
with an increasing sense
of my own powerlessness
my attitude of ENTITLEMENT
becomes all the more overwhelming
consequently leading me back
to the acquisition of
additional consumer GOODs
where I can exert my CONTROL
in my ability to choose...
red or blue

How is it that within the self,
impotence and entitlement
become linked?

In that moment before sleep

It is myself that I chase
with hidden hope unrealized
putting on other to find self
push me pull me swallowing the trail
significance denied but sought
not smart enough or talented enough or
beautiful enough or witty enough yet
the hope that a secret grandeur resides
within is pushed below the surface
and I skim across this placid self
the mirror to which I hear
glass pressed close eyes shut tight
it burns me

Not to be safe

I step to the edge of change and wavier there until my own demons pull me back. No. I choose to follow them back. I give myself over. Change is screaming to me and I know it is what I need, what I want. What I CRAVE!

Simultaneously, the lure of safe sameness calls to me, beckoning me back from the edge, yet I find that my toes curl tightly to this edge. I am stretched, torn, yet, I am not returning to the safe sameness! I will process the fear, redirect it. I am not beating my head on the same wall, or at least it looks different, feels different?

What is not different are the demons. They are not new. Every time I step into/toward change, they approach me­—steal my thoughts, riveting them on old fears. I require, demand, to push through, not to give in, NOT TO BE SAFE.

I have chosen not to dream, but now they break over me in a rushing onslaught. Not the dream of sleep have I fled, but the dream of future-casting. And now I taste the dream rolling across the back of my tongue and it scares the hell out of me!

Artist statement

The dictates of mediated culture, the dictates of self are so commingled they are indistinguishable—inseparable. Black and white cease in purity. Each becomes embedded with an otherness. The very thing I hate, the thing I swear I won’t do or say, that is exactly what I do.

I empty myself—forging a direct and raw connection with my work. It is my visceral response to the struggle with self, capital culture and the vast slippery feeling that something is terribly wrong within our mediated cosmos.

I am in the shadowlands. Not embracing, but in spite of, I find hope wrestled from these shadows—an emergent beauty, an odd sense of wholeness and redemption.


I thought I had it.
Then I lost it.
Came to the finishline only to recall
that I could not recollect it.
I was trying to be so very clear.

My process

I trust the process—research, collective critical analysis, emergent forms from visceral object making, alternate views that manifest themselves via found objects, questioning my assumptions about the nature of things, and daily writing.

In silence, I disentangle coagulated knowledge and experience.
In silence, I bite my tongue, still my brain, and listen.
In silence, I make.
In silence, I collect.
In silence, I become transparent.
In silence, I write.

But most importantly I have found that if I force myself to remain open, open to alternate views, open to outside direction, I learn. To learn requires me to make mistakes, to be wrong. By allowing for failure, attempting to not avoid that which hurts, I am able to explore new things in that illusive space where sense and nonsense become interchangeable and comprehensible. Often this type of experimentation surprisingly produces something quite coherent. Silent openness also allows me to recognize the herd (the mechanical, human drone-state which avoids painful mental, physical, and social conflict resulting in a deadening of the potentiality for change (as noted by David, fellow student, in his presentation)) and to navigate to its outer edges. I cannot avoid the herd (I am the herd); I cannot avoid culture (I am my culture). But on the skirts of the herd, where there is silence, my movement and exploration is less hampered by cultural dictates; more options are available to me; my assumptions become more transparent. Openness, even when everything within me screams “NO!,” improves me. Without it, I would remain the same. And what a boring life that would be.

Generational feminism. Jock straps, tassels, rusted steel, placards.

Placard text:
(1) I burned my bra and saw that I was beautiful (2) The inequities were such that it pissed me off and I donned my own strap (3) Today, I shop.


I enter silence

Writing is about silence. Silence creates an empty space into which I may enter, a place where change may be instigated. Silence is a loud space filled with life, filled with questions, a place to explore pain and delight, future and failure, a place to dream where sense and nonsense become irrelevant and connected. It is a place where words fall away and the objects infinite possibilities are reclaimed. It is a space I want to enter into, be enveloped, comforted. I dissect my transparent assumptions about the nature of existence in this safe haven. I learn to connect to people and events more deeply, to be more attentive, alert, to live more richly. Not the richness of stuff but that of the fullness of life. But, the pleasure of fullness comes from emptiness and the process of filling which requires an openness in space in which to impart that filling. Silence is this space and I enter it through writing.


Silence is space. In fullness, silence seizes emptiness. In absence, silence seizes presence. Sense and nonsense merge. The temporal dissociates. The knotted unknots. The cluttered, clotted mass of knowledge and experience unravels. Memory is reanimated and edited. Seeing becomes hearing and hearing seeing. Silence disrupts normalcy, bypasses logic. Silence enables transparency of being, knowing, becoming. Silence is empty space. In this space, change becomes possible. The degree of silence determines both the depth of space and how one enters that space—skimming, grazing, wading, or immersing. In silence, I awaken.

Where I begin and end is lost. rope, wood, pipes, faucets