jingle bells

“It’s just energy,” she sometimes says when I’m feeling something especially intimidating.

During one recent session, she commented that the energy had a sound.

“Nobody wants to hear that,” I said. But I did. I wanted to hear it. Later that week, I drove to the edge of a big parking lot and I sat in my car and screamed.

As the sound came out of me, I felt a crackling sensation rising up through the muscles on either side of my spine like sparks.

Later, driving home, I pictured seed pods bursting open. I thought of a bag of jingle bells that I had bought years ago to put in hats, and imagined prying them open and attaching them to the sculpture I’ve been working on.

Just like this:



showing my work, part 2

Writing about my process is also showing my work!

I’ve made a lot of progress on the newest girl. She has a name now: bad signal.

Before I started working, I hung this print up behind my workbench for inspiration:

Picture 005

There’s a lot of writing under the scribbling. There are also faces:

Picture 005

I started finding little objects with faces on them all over the studio, and decided to incorporate some of them into the sculpture.

This one is a bead made by a friend of mine a long time ago. I like how it looks like it’s trying to chew its way out of a cage. The green wire reminds me of tiny little fists on the ends of wiry arms.


In the print, the faces are scattered randomly. On the sculpture, they’ve ended up being placed along the milk lines (where you might find extra nipples), for no other reason than that it amuses me and makes me think of this email that my ex-boyfriend sent me many years ago:

Subject: A Moderne Taxonomie Of Ye Beastes

Kitties – Hair, fur, mammaries, usually nipples.

Chickens – Have feathers.  Also frequently beaks, bills, wattles,
beards, muffs, tufts, stripes, spots, quacks, clucks.

Fish – Cold blooded.  Frequently wet.  Not cuddly, but not too yukky.

Bugs – Cold blooded.  Yukky, or obviously bugs (there are some nice bugs).


Quail = chickens.
Elephants = kitties.
Lobsters = bugs.
Turtles = fish (cold blooded, not overtly yukky).
Snakes = fish or bugs, depending.  Doesn’t really matter.
Platypuses = Kitties (hair, mammaries, although no nipples).
Angels = Hard to classify – hair, feathers, nipples not found.

I suspect that, if you were to frisk your Arcturian Megachicken for nipples, you’ll find that it’s actually an Arcturian Megakitty.

(I still maintain that the Arcturian Megachicken is actually a megachicken. Those are not nipples. They are supernumerary beaks.)

(I don’t know if the Taxonomie is something he came up with himself, or if he found it somewhere. If it is yours, please let me know so I can give you credit!)


showing my work

People often ask me if I show my work anywhere. I know what they mean. They’re wondering if they can see it in a gallery or a museum. The answer is usually no, and that’s what I tell them. I usually tell them this while they’re standing in my studio, looking at my work. While I’m showing them my work. Sometimes it makes me laugh.

Sometimes people accuse me of being greedy, hoarding all my work in my studio like I do. They usually say that when they’re wanting to buy something. That makes me laugh even harder. How many people would get to see it if it were hanging in their living room?

It has (so far) always been true that I’ve been unwilling to sell my sculptures, which limits the possibility of showing them outside my studio. Recently I came to a further bit of clarity about showing them: they don’t want to leave the studio individually, and they don’t want to spend time in the company of work that they can’t relate to.

I imagine that at least one person at my next open studio will be flummoxed by this, and will say that nobody will ever show my work under those conditions. I have two responses to that.

First: that’s not necessarily true.


(dance in the body you have, waiting to be installed at the Attleboro Arts Museum)

And second: that’s okay.

Would a show outside my studio have a wider audience? Probably. Would it be a deeper or more satisfying experience than a good open studio? I doubt it.

I have enough money, and I had my fifteen minutes of fame on Usenet in the late 80s (at this point it feels like that happened to someone else, which is just fine). All I really want is a good conversation.



Sometimes the work ends up being harder and more complicated than I expect. Other times, like today, it ends up being simpler and easier. The sculpture told me, when I started working, that I should stop thinking about exotic fruits and other complicated structures. She said she would settle for zig-zagging horizontal lines and the wavy middle of the coil of wire.


A while back, Home Depot sold me a spool of wire that’s pretty much all wavy middle. It’s Hillman brand. It weighs two pounds, and is wound around a hollow plastic core. The wire I usually use is a 3.5 pound coil from Red Brand. Both are 19-gauge dark annealed steel wire. The guys at the hardware stores look at me like I’ve got two heads when I ask for that, though. Around here, they mostly seem to call it “stovepipe wire.”

My usual wire has a greasy coating on it that looks and smells like used motor oil. The Hillman wire has a powdery black coating, like finely ground charcoal. Here is what my hands looked like after working with it:


Boraxo powdered hand soap makes short work of both ground charcoal and used motor oil. If you live around here, they sell it at the Lebanon Co-op.

P.S. Nobody paid me or otherwise enticed me to talk about Red Brand wire, Hillman wire, Boraxo, or the Co-op.

i know what i know

I finished a new sculpture this week, which prompted a little existential crisis about the whole body of work.

My therapist said that whatever this new piece represents is so painful that my brain is trying to protect me from it by telling me that there is nothing worth doing. It’s unusual for her to make that sort of pronouncement. Usually she’s more given to soothing noises and difficult questions. Usually I’m not having an existential crisis about my work. Maybe she’s right.

The next morning, I read this little snippet of wisdom in an article that my sister-in-law posted on Facebook:

“In those moments when you feel discouraged or lost in the studio, or when you experience rejection, rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand. In many ways, making art is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it. Instead, try to relish in its profound mystery. Art is about taking the risk of engaging in something somewhat ridiculous and irrational simply because you need to get a closer look at it, you simply need to break it open to see what’s inside.”

– Teresita Fernández

Staring and relishing the ridiculousness and mystery has always been part of my process. I like to practice yoga in the front room of the studio, where all the girls are hanging. It’s especially important when I’ve just finished one. So I went back to the studio and unrolled my yoga mat.

Here is what the new girl (on the left) looks like when I’m lying on the floor:


I was going to call her “second brain,” but she insists that her name is “i know what i know.” When I’m feeling really sour, I think of her as “don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

The crisis seems to be over for now, and I probably won’t take all the sculptures down and flatten them before my next open studio (6 February 2015). The idea of flattening them still appeals to some parts of me, but maybe I’ll save it for when I’m older and maybe I’ll make it into a party and ask people to help me.

butterfly soup

I’ve been working on this for the better part of a year, and I think I’m finally finished.  It took me more than a week just to get her hung properly.  She insisted that she wanted to be in the corner of the studio.  It wasn’t until I photographed her that I understood why.  I think it’s fitting that something called “butterfly soup” should have ghostly wings:


Here she is with the light turned off:



Someone asked how much she weighs.  The answer is: not very much, she’s mostly air.  She may, in fact, weigh less than the chain she’s hanging from.  I’d be surprised if the chain and the sculpture together added up to even 10 pounds.

You can see her in person next Friday, August 1st, at my next open studio.


little bastards

These little bastards have been hanging out in my latest work.


They are probably either tineola bisselliella or tinea pellionella. I have ordered traps for both. I am not too concerned about the sculpture itself: the adult moths don’t chew. It’s the larvae that do the chewing, and they prefer dark places. I have numerous small felt-covered sculptures around the studio. They’ve been there for years, and nobody has chewed holes in them. Probably the caterpillars are nesting comfortably in a box of fleece. That’ll be a nasty not-quite-surprise when I find it.

I know they’re just minding their business, but still: little bastards.