wonder box

Work on the wonder box continues. This week’s adventures include final tweaks to the cyclorama, paint, light tests, stars…




…and, soon, using these materials I ‘bought’ during a walk in the park (seen here in the bag and bucket)

Question: Let’s say you stumbled across a plain black box in an art museum that turned out to be a magic portal to a July night. Would you want to share that experience with others? How would you most like to share? Or would you want to keep it a secret for yourself?

The Suit of Swords

The Suit of Swords :

A potentially prickly and cold suit-

all sharp blades and sad faces and high gusts of wind

You will find no soft comforts or ‘There, there”s here,

but neither will you find untruths.

Just as the ready knives can cut through wood (or bone),

they can just as easily cut through lies to clear the way for Truth, Knowledge and,


(if you are brave and face the swords,

which are really all in your head anyway)







HALP? (A moment of vulnerability)

Creating my piece for Remnants* was not only a great and cathartic way for me to clean out my scary-hoarder-nest paper collection, it’s also been a great reminder of the joy that can come from working large, and working in a gallery space with parameters to flex up against. Keeping this in mind, I approach the ever-looming deadline of ROY’s 2016 call for entries. As usual, pulling together images, updating my resume and filling out the actual entry form have all, combined, cost less time and worry than the damn artist’s statement. (It probably doesn’t help that this is the first time I’ve really written an artist’s statement from scratch since college). Because I have somehow managed to scrape together something coherent a few days before the actual deadline (Monday, 6/22) and in the spirit of collaboration, trust/vulnerability and communicating how much I value your unique voice(s) and insight(s), I’ve decided to share it with you as a fragile, just barely-first-blush-of-a-first-draft.

            While my work tends to include a variety of materials, the thread that runs through it all, is a love of stories. Stories (the good ones, at least) are very rarely static. They grow and evolve and lead lives of their own. Even (/especially) the big stories we call History and Truth shift in ways that depend on who is telling them and who is listening. I am fascinated not just in the stories themselves, but also the ways in which they are passed from one person to the next. Especially intriguing are the beautifully ambiguous areas between reality, legend and myth.

Creating objects and environments is how I best like to tell stories. Sometimes these stories are pure fiction- an elongated ‘what if?’ Other times they draw from my own life, though even these tend to be so buried under symbolism, metaphor and hyperbole as to be unrecognizable as fact. In the same way that objects accumulate meaning over time, my work tends to accumulate in different ways as well. Whether I build up or overwork delicate materials, or elaborate upon back-story for an invented secret society, I enjoy the new connections mad as each subsequent layer begins to talk to the previous ones and vice versa.

Stories come alive most when authorship is shared. The more forces who join the telling, the more likely the story is to twist and turn in ways that are exciting to all involved. For this reason, I prefer to keep my work open and interactive and, whenever I can, to invite explicit collaboration. I see the invitation to pause, to make one’s own meaning, to play and to create together as a gift.

Other themes in my work include time, process, humor, obsession and decomposition, especially of that which seems rigid and fixed. Tough the materials I use change, depending on what story I’m telling (or trying to solicit from the viewer), my favorites include thread, found imagery and paper. On a purely practical level, paper is remarkably cheap, abundant and easy to come by in a huge variety of beautiful textures. This makes it unintimidating to work with, both as the maker and as the viewer. Conceptually, I’m drawn to its humbleness. Paper (and works on paper) can feel fragile and temporary but also unprecious. In the Grand Scheme of Art, they’re the quiet ‘to-do’ lists and doodles when held up against more permanent materials.

I invite your honest constructive feedback and thank you in advance for your time and your brains.

*pictures/thoughts to come soon!

*Everything since then has been either a rehash/slight fluffing-up of that one, or a short statement about one piece or body of work, which feels so much easier to get one’s arms around.

This is for you: Children, art and gifting.

I had originally intended to share this work along with some thoughtful musing about the natural way children give art as gifts, the specialness that soaks into mundane objects when labored over or given with love and the ways in which working with children and experiencing this gifting first-hand have me thinking differently about art, exchange, gifts, gift-economies, value and the gallery gig-

But I’m having one of those weeks where a rare lull in studio work AND work-work have allowed me to get excited about new ideas, and now there are too many thoughts about too many things happening all at once in my head for me to do anything other than mull. Also it’s Friday. And warm. And now a cat is laying on my arm, greatly reducing my capacity to type.


:A collection of spontaneous art-gifts from children, generously given and joyfully received over the past year (an incomplete list)

a boat caring loved ones on an adventure (L) attached to an illustration of said adventure (R)

a boat caring loved ones on an adventure (L) attached to an illustration of said adventure (R)

A double gift: both a creature and a new interesting way to think about puff balls as a starting point.

A double gift: both a creature and a new interesting way to think about puff balls as a starting point.

Another gift that's many gifts: A custom-made wand that came with a) a tutorial on how to make more wands for other friends b) the power to transform the classroom into rainbow colors and c) an invitation to make magic and play together.

Another gift that’s many gifts: A custom-made wand that came with a) a tutorial on how to make more wands for other friends b) the power to transform the classroom into rainbow colors and c) an invitation to make magic and play together.

A first edition hand-made book by Chiara.

A first edition hand-made book by a new friend…

An explanation of Easter rituals (bunny, kids and EGG)

…withn explanation of Easter rituals (bunny, kids and EGG)…

...And interesting and inexplicably hilarious juxtapositions (as seen here with 'Ice' and "ice cream'.)

…And interesting and inexplicably hilarious juxtapositions (as seen here with ‘Ice’ and “ice cream’.)

Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

I recently read a really lovely post on Brain Pickings by my new best friend Maria Popova.* In true Brain Pickings fashion, it touches on a lot of things, but the one of those things that really struck a chord with me was silence- including its role as a necessary catalyst to creative acts and deep searching.

In a 1986 paper about ‘Wait Time,’ researcher Mary Budd Rowe found that by increasing the wait time (or teacher-silence) after asking students a question by just a few seconds had tremendous changes on both students and teachers. Students answers grew in length and complexity (sometimes as much as 700%), while teachers became more flexible and began to refine their own questions to be more thoughtful and intentional.

Silence comes up in my own teaching practice all the time. To be able to follow student interest or accurately gauge the reaction of an adult learner to something said, I need to be a good listener. I’ve found silence to be a great tool to help build this skill (which makes sense- how can I listen if  I don’t shut-up now and again?). It’s empowering to learners to have the power to co-construct a conversation but more selfishly, it feels good as an educator to know that it’s not up to me to fill time or perform.

That’s not to say that silence is always, or should always be, a zen-like contemplative experience. Sometimes Frequently, we find silence to be uncomfortable or even downright scary. My own completely unscientific hypothesis about why this is is twofold: First, when we pause to listen, we get a chance to hear our own insecurities and small voices, ‘Are they listening? Are they zoning out? Am I boring?’ Second, and even more unsettling, though, is that when we allow for silence we open ourselves up to the Unknown, and to the human mind, little else is as scary as what we don’t know.

Cartoon Network’s miniseries, Over The Garden Wall uses our fear of what we don’t know/can’t see to great effect. It’s also the manifestation of everything I love. Go watch it so we can drink tea together and freak out about how good it is.

In contrast, in the Reggio Emilia approach, foundational to my own approach to working with children and adults, self-enforced silence is seen as selfish. If the aim of education is to foster community and engagement with the world around us, then keeping your thoughts to yourself is selfish- you’re withholding from the group insights which could enrich the conversation.

As with most things, I have two opinions (‘Do  I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself…”) Silence is good. Silence is bad. Ultimately, silence is a tool, and like any tool there are times when it’s the tool that’s useful and times when it’s not.

This is true in the home studio as well.
Sometimes I need noise:


and sometimes,  I need silence:


What about you-

What audio or ‘visual decibel’ do you need to be successful is it always the same? And if not, then how do you know when it’s time to change?

*No, we haven’t met, but seriously, Maria, if you’re ever in Columbus hit me up- I will buy you Jeni’s and we can talk about books. Or you can talk and I can just listen in wonder- whatever works for you..