The white-haired man

Have you talked to your psychiatrist about this? asks the white-haired man coming up the stairs. He watches me sticking small pieces of paper one at a time to the wall, because you know they have a term for it, it's called obsessive-compulsive disorder and they can medicate it. Ah I reply but then I wouldn't make art anymore. Oh he says genuinely surprised, It's art! I thought you were...I thought you had...I wasn't sure what you were doing...

The man in the cap

I am working down low near the floor. I see him out of the corner of my eye. He was watching me work on the ladder a few nights ago, the man in the cap. He holds a finger up to catch my eye. I saw you he says, working up there (he nods to the Bell detail) but upstairs when I walked up just now it was like whoa! He raises both hands above his head. It goes up hiiiiigh he says and drops his arms like a roller coaster, then it swoooops, dooown like this!

The Paper Queen will not concede

(That's me) it's alive and growing! I'm continuing to add to my Heighten installation at the University Heights Center in Seattle up until the second opening on Friday, March 16 from 4-7pm.

It will stay up into April then gradually start to disappear.

I'll be posting a detailed invitation soon. Meanwhile stop by anytime at 5031 University Way NE to see what's going on. I ♥ visitors.

It looks like fireworks!

...the woman exclaims walking by as I tape yet another strip of paper to the cascade under Old Glory. She couldn't have known it but that's one of the ways I've been thinking about this entire project, as a firework display, each area orchestrated in a different configuration, a different kind of explosion and pattern.

Heighten in City Living Seattle

Vera Chan-Poole from City Living Seattle came to interview me while I worked on my installation recently. The only thing I'd change is that the emergency signs are fair game! I won't obscure them, of course...but they will be heightened along with all the other "ignorable" elements I come across.

The project is continuing to grow up to the closing reception Friday, March 16. I like how that makes it sound like it happens all by itself...

Read the Heighten article on City Living Seattle's website here

Expanding minds

Is it snow? asks the Metro driver glancing quizzically at the walls on his break, snow I say sure if you see snow it's snow. But what is it really he wants to know. I glance up scissors in hand, you mean to me I say, yes he says.

Well to me all these things are breaking out of their boundaries and kind of bursting onto the wall and the wall is drifting down into the wainscoting and vice versa I say. I get it he says. Are they paying you a lot of money he asks, is this a million dollar project, yes I say a million dollars, no I say, it's good.

Right, he says watching me climb up, I'm gonna say I knew you. When you're on TV he says I'm gonna say I saw her going up a painted ladder!

He disappears into the bathroom and comes back over on his way out, you know the way I see it he says (he steps back and spreads his arms, fingers splayed, surveying the collaged wall above the vending machine), this is expanding the minds of the kids.

He looks for my reaction, hands outstretched. This is an educational facility right he says, right I say. He drops his hands and steps in closer, so when you get that million I'm just saying ten percent. Ten percent I say, mmhm cause you can SELL that idea he says one hand sweeping across the wall still looking at me. You're expaaaaaanding their minds. I'll think about that I say. Think about it he says, walking toward the stairs.

An opening and a new phase

Heighten, Fire Extinguisher detailThere were certain things I wanted to see in place for the opening that night. I was exhausted, running on too little sleep (I had worked on site till 10 the night before and come home wired) and these magic green Chinese pills from a friend that were thankfully drying up the last of the cold that wouldn't die.

It was the kind of state where the slightest irritation feels unbearable - someone talking too loudly too near you in the hall, someone asking you how you're doing when you're obviously in a frenzy - I had no reserves to handle anything more than the work I was doing.

It's amazing how the vision of something can drive you forward...

I kept working till 4:30. The opening was at 6. I kept telling myself this was unnecessary - no one could possibly know what I had in my head that I wanted to see, and besides, the whole point is that this is a work in progress - yet at the risk of feeling like I was cramming for midterms, I kept at it till the emergency cutoff time sounded on my phone and I forced myself to climb down off the vending machine where I was working. Stubborn I guess, or just plain excited about my idea, despite the exhaustion.

I made it home on the bus, showered and changed into the dress version of what has become my default look of a black miniskirt, black/gray top, black boots and tights or for this occasion, macro polka dot nylons. I felt myself slowly reviving and shifting into opening mode.

What a night. The University Heights folks did a beautiful job of making the place welcoming and warm, with a hearty food and drink table and a nice display about the project and the center. The sounds of live jazz guitar drifted from the landing on the stairs. People began trickling in and by 7:15 or so there was a wonderful crowd and a buzz. It was especially good to see so many of my students, several of whom had contributed their skills and hours of their time to the project.

I know it's a good opening when I don't take a single picture. I wish I had but for once, it didn't even occur to me. I was too busy talking and enjoying myself.

It was a huge milestone and I've been recuperating the past couple of days, getting ready to go back in for the next phase. The piece is well on its way but as the gigantic three-dimensional painting I envision, its many parts are not quite yet doing what I want them to do.

It will take many more hours of work to see if I can close the gap between my idea and my realization of it. It's never an entirely closeable gap and things keep morphing, but I'm going to keep going till I emerge with some version of the plan that satisfies me. What more can an artist do?

The edge of madness. Also, Sol le Witt at Mass MoCA

Photo by Elizabeth Emery MoriOkay "madness" is a little dramatic but I am a touch delirious after a day of teaching followed by a night of installing. Tape and tape and little bits of paper and more tape...I never get as much done as I'd like, but it's coming.

I put in a solid ten hours on Monday and it felt great. I've been stressed out about how much there still is to do and how few blocks of time I have to do it. While I can get a fair bit done in one spot in two hours, there's nothing like an unbroken stretch where I can dig in, spread out, and cover ground.

It's pretty funny really as the entire thing is self-imposed. This project is for no reason other than that I feel compelled to do it. I'm an artist, so help me God (please, like could you magically extend this ladder so I can reach the ceiling, that would be huge).

You'd think the most efficient thing when faced with seeming acres of wall to cover would be to keep it minimal, yet perversely I tend to get more elaborate. For me efficiency is making it work in a way that I like. I do best when I'm excited about the plan.

Each area of the piece now has a name - the Smear, the Pour, the Drip, the Sonic Boom, the Sol le Witt Awning...this last along with the Fire Extinguisher may be my favorite part. It's influenced by my trip to Mass MoCA in December and the Wall Drawings I saw there, filling three floors and my eyes with geometry, color, line and shape, ideas bursting in every variation le Witt could conceive.

My tribute is ripped, cut and stuck, and very much not measured or ruled.

Today I found that with the direct sun on that wall in the afternoon (there was in fact some sun today) some of the strips had peeled off the wall or delaminated as I said wryly to myself as if giving it a technical name might help me maintain a calm approach to the problem. I'll have to figure out a firmer way to attach them.

I spent tonight unifying the stairwell down across the window and up the other side toward the exit sign at the top, then beginning to finesse the Pour into shape. I'm excited by how it's coming together. Yet there's so much more I want to do.

Instead of being a finished, static show that goes up and is done, it will continue to grow all the way up until the closing reception.

Which is appropriate given that I am always teaching my students that art is process. This entire thing is a gigantic experiment both in area and in concept. I don't know yet if it's working. I don't think I'll know till after today's frenzy.
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Sol le Witt at Mass MoCA