mouse manifesto

More from the pandemic diary canvas:This time the words came to me while I walked the labyrinth this morning:

“in the eye of the storm, in the mouth of the predator, with or without you, i dance”

I wish I had a very pale pink Sharpie to give her feet some color.  But I don’t, and I am committed for the moment to using only what I’ve got in the studio, so she has little ghosty feet.

Fun fact: I found a mouse like this in my desk once.  I scooped her out and put her in a bucket while I went out and bought a cage for her.  She was my office-mate for three years.  I called her The Poopsmith because of what she’d done in my desk.

a prayer

This is from a canvas I’ve been working on – a sort of pandemic diary:

The words came to me while I was drawing:

i pray for enough light and courage to take one small step

 

swarm

I’m not sure when I started her.  How can I say when these things begin?  Is it when I start taking steps towards making a tangible object?  The earliest photo I have is from late 2018, but by then she was pretty far along.  Is it when the idea first appears in my head, having arrived from who-knows-where?  I was writing about her in late 2017.

And what about when it begins as one thing and turns into something completely different?  What then?  Who’s to say she wasn’t always a swarm of smaller sculptures waiting to happen?  She had a name, but I have forgotten it.

It was mid-February when I started taking her apart.  I’d moved everything into the new studio a few weeks before that, and had finally done enough unpacking to begin to feel at home.  I was grieving, like I do when something ends.  Like I do, for longer than most people would say is reasonable.  Like I do, even when it’s been over for years and life is actually not so bad.  I sometimes think that when-life-is-not-so-bad is the best time for grieving.

Anyway: I was enormously sad, and I started taking her apart.  Here she is, without her lower half, without her back.

I made a couple of smaller sculptures with the wire I salvaged, plus other things I found around the studio – a handful of blue beads, an assortment of washers and springs, a worn wire brush that someone left behind after cleaning a furnace.

And I started to feel a little less bereft.  And I made a couple more.

And then we were in the middle of a pandemic.  Remember the year you thought you were going to have?  Kiss it goodbye.

I kept making little sculptures until I had used up all the salvaged wire.  As I worked, it seemed more and more appropriate to be giving up the thing I had thought I would be doing.  They had names, these smaller sculptures.  They had names, but I have forgotten them.  By the time I finished, I wasn’t sad about the same things I’d been sad about when I started.

People sometimes ask me how long it takes to make a sculpture.  The answer is: however many years I’ve been alive when I finish it.  This swarm of little sculptures took me 52 years.

it’s like this

I’m here.

I’m here, and it’s like this:

Last month I punched one of those talking gas pumps because it wouldn’t shut up. The screen turned orange and displayed an error message. I don’t know how difficult it was to fix. I wasn’t sorry then, and I am still not sorry. Citgo and Gas Station TV can kiss my lumpy white ass.

This morning I went for a walk, and there was a baby robin in the road. So I stopped and googled “what to do if you find a baby bird.” And I read that most birds people find are fledglings and they probably don’t need our help. So I didn’t go back to the house to get gloves and a box and call someone who knows what to do. But this bird was sitting in the road and I didn’t want it to get run over. I took another step towards it and asked it, “Can you move?” And it squawked, and it hopped and flopped into the weeds by the side of the road. Good enough.

I walked away and left it. I’m sure it was terrified. And I thought: maybe some people are like that. Maybe they cross our paths to scare us away from something worse.

Halfway up the hill, a neighbor’s dog came out of the woods to walk with me. She followed me home, and she is still sitting on my back step enjoying the day. On my way into the house, I called her by one of our cat’s nicknames: KittyCake.

We’ve had this cat for four months. It’s been about five months since our old cat (Tiki) died, and this is the first time since then that I haven’t accidentally called someone else’s pet Tiki-Teeks. It felt like a milestone.

KittyCake is not happy about the dog.I don’t know the neighbor’s phone number, and I threw away most of our phone books last summer when our house was overrun with mold. Oh well. The dog is not hurting anyone, and at some point she’ll get hungry and go home.

I’m trying to get together enough people to hold a grief ritual soon. This morning it occurred to me that a grief ritual is like a sculpture with a lot of moving parts. I don’t have much formal training in making sculptures, or in facilitating grief rituals, but that never seems to stop me.

I have not been able to settle down and work in my studio for a good long while. Part of it is that I have come to hate a lot of things about the studio. Another part is that I seem to be undergoing some kind of internal remodeling.

Last year I finally gave up on the studio and started building a new one across the street from my house. It’s almost finished.

Maybe I’ll say more about that someday. For now, it seems like I need to break the silence by chattering.

Hi. I’m here.

lumpy crossing

Over the winter, I finally made another sculpture.  I call her “lumpy crossing.”  She’s full of spray foam insulation, which I added during a severe cold snap that left people nervously watching the gauges on their propane and oil tanks.  Adding the foam was a very slow process: if you add it all at once, it blorps out all over the floor.

The name comes from a story about the name of a place in the Northern of Ireland, Corrymeela:

Corrymeela is often translated from the original Irish as “Hill of Harmony” or “Hill of Sweetness.”  But there is another and more probable translation.  The name comes from a neighbouring townland, Corrymellagh, in the parish of Culfeightrin.  Culfeightrin means in Irish “The Corner of the Stranger.”  Corrymellagh means “The Lumpy Crossing Place.”

Perhaps the latter etymology is more apt for us: a place where differing groups, strangers to each other, are offered the opportunity to cross over into another space.  And the crossing is “lumpy,” not easy, full of pitfalls.

What can I say about this last year?  Not much.  Except, maybe, that it has been a lumpy crossing.

Kali has her day

(Actually, I think it is Kali’s year)

Here’s what the Kali canvas looks like after February 3rd’s open studio:

Somebody wrote on it in Arabic!  He wouldn’t tell me what it meant.  If you know, would you please tell me?

A small girl insisted on drawing a winged unicorn (with help from her mom):

And then she drew a cat:

Later in the evening, a friend told me about a cat who stole green beans whenever she cooked them.  And I told her about a cat who loved potato chips.

2016 in photos from my phone

Someone I know posted an album of photos from their phone on Facebook to sum up the year.  Since I don’t seem to have much to say lately, and I hate Facebook, I thought I’d do that here.  So here are some things that happened last year:

I finished cleaning out the attic.

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The morning light in my studio is really dramatic.

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Sculpture output this year: 1

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I drew a lot of bugs.

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I helped a friend build a labyrinth.

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This little guy and his or her sibling hatched and fledged on my porch while I was waiting for the contractors to reinstall the screens.

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I took some of my girls out to get them professionally photographed.

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I made a bunch of plaster casts of other people, and started working on making sculptures from those.

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I didn’t just draw bugs.  I photographed them too.

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I went for a lot of walks. This photo is heavily filtered, which is the only way to convey how magical my neighbors’ pasture looked that morning.

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I made a lot of beaded leaves for a sculpture I’m still working on.

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My poor cat had to have major dental surgery. It was rough.

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She recovered well, though, and now she makes this face when she wants something. She never used to sneer like that when she had teeth.

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By late October, the labyrinth looked like this:

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And Hannah found this peace sign in one of the chunks of sumac that mark the perimeter:

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Seen in a public restroom in Manchester, NH:

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On Thanksgiving, the labyrinth looked like this:

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Just before my last open studio, I drew this picture of Kali and hung it up in the studio. I hoped people would write on it.

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Nobody wrote on Kali, though, because they were too busy getting orange makeup smeared on their faces and putting on a Trump wig and getting photographed by my friend Julie (an advanced Inner Beauty Treatment that she calls “the trumpover.”)

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That’s okay.  Kali will still be there next time.