Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hands, Palm to Palm, Together

To leave flowers to the wind, to leave birds to the seasons, are also acts of giving.
(Eihei Dogen)

The Earth gives and gives and gives - every second of every day.  It's not such a bad idea to say thank you once in a while.

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reflecting on the Value of Making Art in a Society That Thinks Art is Either a Cute Little Hobby or for Romantic But Useless Souls That Are Easily Dismissed for Their Silly Irrelevance. (Subtitle: A Small Amount of Self-Pity Might Be Encountered Here - Be Warned)

It's not so uncommon to have a bit of post-project letdown after a big project is completed.  For months, life has a definite purpose - and deadline.  No question arises about how to organize the day or even one's thoughts.  The goal is relatively clear and the clock is (always) ticking.   There is a beautiful simplicity to it all.

What if you have TWO big projects and two smaller projects?  Is the post-project letdown two- or three- or four-times greater?  Especially if one of them involves driving part-way across the country and back, having your name emblazoned on the wall and the world's best newscast/performance art piece as a result?

In my case, the answer is: no.  I thought I might get sick just because of general exhaustion but I even dodged that bullet (thank you, yoga).  No illness, no depression, no sense of listless aimlessness.  Yet, it has caused me to reflect a bit on some various things that came up during and around the process of making these project - things people said and how the whole crazy time seemed to be perceived by those around me.

I'll start with the many times that I heard something along the lines of "you mean, they just emailed you and asked you to make a show?" as if this was an unbelievable thing that should never had happened.  It was usually followed by some exclamation of how amazing it was.  And it was amazing!  I know I teeter on the edge of a level of success with my art that the vast majority of people who go to art school never see.  At the same time: 30 years, people.  I have been at this thing for 30 years.  Or even longer if you start counting when I wrote that little piece in Grade One saying that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.  And I kind of do.  Starting counting from then, that is.

I have been working as an artist and working seriously at it - meaning it has been my first concern (well, until I had children but even then it was a close second), my main career and vocation - for a long, long time.  If, finally, someone throws me a bone, well, it's about time!  If someone were a doctor, lawyer, bricklayer, car mechanic or florist for that long, I think few would act so surprised if they received a bit of recognition for their work.  Am I right?  So what's up with it when it comes to art making?  Is it because we still believe that making art isn't work?  Or that it is work but of a nature that doesn't deserve to be recognized or paid or both?  Why?  Because it seems rewarding or fun or that the people doing it aren't having their souls crushed beneath the giant oppressive boot of The Man?

These pre-project exclamations of disbelief that I was not only invited to make a project but paid to do it have been followed by comments about how I was essentially galavanting across the country on a lark, leaving behind others to do the "real" work.


Of course this kind of attitude does infect my own thoughts far too frequently.  Is what I do really of use to anyone?  Am I benefitting the world or just a waste of space and resources?  When I presented this dilemma to a person who is far wiser than myself, he simply asked me, "do you want to live in a world without art?"

Yeah.  I think it really is that simple.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Fierce Heart is a Tender Heart (more pix)

Finally downloaded the pictures in my camera that I took the day before I left South Dakota.  There are some goodies!  Personally, I am loving the many, little colour moments that happen.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


When I was still married, we had a joke that, while some people marry into money, Dan married into knitting.  There was never any shortage of fresh handknits appearing in the pipeline.  On my end, I would say that I married into planning.  I am not sure but I suspect that some members of Dan's family enjoy the planning of various events more than the event itself.  Certainly the planning sessions around events often lasted longer than the event.  This is all fine because people should spend their time doing what they love!

It has been curious for me, however, to see how I fare without the back-up of eight master planners (Dan is from a large family).  I only make lists when things reach a fever pitch and even then, it is with reluctance.  There have been a few times when I realized that I was unprepared for something but, for the most part, things have a way of working out.  Mostly, I am cool with relying on that vague sense that things will continue to move forward whether or not I have a clue how it will all unfold.

So it came to pass that I organized and created a huge installation in South Dakota and it wasn't until I was packing up my stuff to drive out there that I realized that I was going to have to leave my spinning wheel there for several months.  Somehow I just never made the connection.  Throughout the planning and making of the project, I would glance over at my wheel, gathering dust, and think, "soon, baby, soon!"  After all the work was done, I would have no other commitments and I could hang out with my spinning wheel once again.  I never took the next step to realize that baby was on a one-way trip to South Dakota.  Well, at least temporarily.

My wheel is part of the SpinCycle room in the fun house and it is most definitely still in South Dakota as I type this.  I had a little (large) moment of panic - my mind racing to come up with solutions.  Spindle spinning just wasn't going to cut it (sorry).  I actually contemplated buying another wheel although I really didn't want to because (1) they cost a fortune and (2) they take up space.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  First world problems.  I get it!  Still the anxiety of a spinning wheel-less existence was feeling pretty real to me.  The day after I returned, I was bemoaning my fate to a friend who said, "can you rent one?"  Whaa?

One Facebook post and two hours later and I had my rental wheel!

Thank you, Helen!  This wheel was gathering dust over at her house so now it is happily doing what wheels want to do, which is spin.  Payment shall be in yarn, which also works out perfectly because it allows me to do what I want to do, which is spin (and it allows Helen to do what she wants to do, which is knit).

Sometimes the stars align and a complete lack of planning results in just the right thing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Now These Laurels are for Resting Upon

Arrived back in NYC to see that little green things have begun poking up through the leaves from last fall.  I even see full blossoms getting ever fuller on the daffodils.  Can blooms be far behind?

Here is what it looks like in Newfoundland currently:

This is NOT an April Fools joke...although I am sure the good citizens of Gillams wish that it were.

This was taken by my next door neighbor (there is our little blue house!!) on Sunday.  Another friend told me that her snowbanks are about 15' high at the moment.  So, if you have snowbanks shorter than 15', consider yourself among the lucky.  Spring will come.  I promise.

Other than feeling lucky about the size of my snowbanks, there are yet a few more things are going on here.  One is that I am very pleased to be included in a new project undertaken by a collective in Hamilton, ON, called Pulling Strings.  They are creating a reference library for textile workers based on selections from people they call their "textile heroes".  

But what's a hero?

Personally, I consider myself more of a she-ro but, nonetheless, it is an honour to be included.  My contribution, with accompanying blurb was among the first to appear on their blog and will be included in the actual library at Needleworks, a store in Hamilton.

Check it out!

Extra thanks to Tara Bursey for be the driving force behind my inclusion in this great project.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Story at 11

Thrilled to get some good local press for A Fierce Heart is a Tender Heart!  Getting on the front page of the paper apparently generated some interest from other media outlets.  I hope it means people in the community will stop by!

KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Also, it is kind of hilarious to hear some of my ideas spoken in newscaster-ese.  She missed some of the  more subtle aspect of the work, but I am glad to see the art students getting their day in the sun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Fierce Heart is a Tender Heart: Robyn Love's Fun House of Vulnerability

Entrance to the gallery space - two curtains with a video projection.
Back story:  this took about four tries to record in a somewhat decent manner.  It was very tricky to get the lighting correct so that you can see into the hole and it wanted to shift around during the unraveling so that it would unravel and reveal...the bridge of Lucy's nose.  Also, cranky teenage helper's litany of criticisms throughout was not so helpful.

Lucy's eye, ten feet wide!
Do you feel vulnerable yet?

I didn't get any photos of the security guards but they would pop into the room I was in now and then to tell what fun they were having, hugging people.

The first room is SpinCycle, recreated here from its debut at The Brooklyn Museum almost a year ago.

A bike was donated for the project and we made it work here, which still seems miraculous to me.  I was performing (that is to say, spinning) during the opening last night.  

It's all about the mirror...and the story prompts.
Am I allowed to say how much I love this project?  It blew me away when I first did it - how much people shared and how intimate the space in the mirror became (we can see each other's face, but not our own).  It was no different here.  People started telling their stories (they pick a story prompt card if they can't think of one on the spot) and they just open up.  Often it is the person I least expect who starts telling me things that are so poignant and beautiful....yes, I love this project.

The next room is called Draw the Line.

Everyone, artist or not, is invited to draw a line, any line.  They can bring it home or pin it up on the wall.

Leading on...around a corner...

The Utopia Tent, which you may remember from last summer in Saskatoon.  Re-created here, indoors. Remarkably, it maintained its magical quality that caused people to just want to sit and hang out and chat.

Still had to wash your feet, however!  Apparently, many people were very shy about the state of their winter feet so there was some embarrassment about it.  I had not thought of that!

 And then...

 The Hall of Mirrors.  Yup, over 1500 mirrors and could have used more.  It is still a pretty amazing space in there.

 And I was extra pleased to see that the project made it onto the front page (!) of the local newspaper.   It actually drew some people to the opening, so that was extra great.  One person even said, "I have to start coming to art galleries more often..this was fun!"  I didn't want to tell them that most art galleries are probably not quite as fun as this one in its current incarnation, but who knows, maybe they will become diehard art lovers.

Are those irony quotes?
The installation will be up officially until May 16th but rumour has it that they will keep it up through the summer.  So...should you be in South Dakota...please drop by.  Lincoln Gallery, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Artist, Heal Thyself

All the walls are up!  With the assistance of many of the art students and two of the art faculty (and their two exceptionally cute children), the structure is all there.  Actually "assistance" is not quite correct.  Frankly, they did all the hard work of it.  I supervised and tended to other tasks while they balanced on ladders and suspended many hundreds of pounds of knit and crochet in the air.

Installing The Hall of Mirrors.

It's the giant fort you always wanted to build.

A couple of times this past week I have almost started crying because I just can't believe how generous and hardworking everyone is as they help bring this abstract idea into reality.

Apparently the vulnerability in this Fun House of Vulnerability is all mine to experience.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Oh interdependence, how I love you!

Now, stop standing there taking pictures and lend a hand...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

So Much Stuff

By freak accident, the gallery is located in the business school at Northern State University.  This means that business students and faculty wander by all day, glancing in and sometimes coming and asking questions.  The professor who has his office across the hall apparently enjoys his role as art critic-in-residence.  He told the curator that "there is some woman in the gallery throwing afghans around."  Buddy, you don't know the half of it!

Yesterday, he told me that, if it didn't piss him off then it wasn't art.  At first I tried to assure him that my work isn't about pissing people off but then I thought about how he will be watching a video clip of crochet unraveling to reveal Lucy's eye for three months.  He might be a little pissed come May 16th.

So it goes.

Today I will work with art students all day and I am hoping that we start hanging the walls by the end of the day.

These are three of the rooms.  They are all constructed and waiting to be hung up.

The floor of the gallery is covered with pieces.  I think I have enough at this point but I won't know until we get it all up.  I am extremely grateful to the art students who have been helping me - some coming on their off hours to crochet, which allows me to do other things.

One young woman came in and just said, "Wow! So much stuff!"  And, oh my, she is right.  Stuff is everywhere.  I even have my trusty Bernina.  I love you, baby!

Yesterday, I took a break from sewing miles of white seams to make the first of two "security guard" costumes.  They are padded so they can offer warm (and very non-sexual) embraces to people to help them feel secure in the fun house.  I am hoping to recruit two extroverted students to wear them for the opening.

The fourth room is The Hall of Mirrors.  I glued over 1500 mirrors on the walls yesterday.  Remarkably I could have used more.  Still, it will be pretty cool when it is up.  Now I am just anxiously awaiting the moment of truth when everything is lifted off the ground - feels like the rest of it is just details.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Clean, Mean and Aberdeen

The road to Toledo was clear the day after the big storm.  It was littered with the wrecks of 18-wheelers that did not heed the sage advice of Ohio's DoT, however.  As disturbing as it was to witness so many huge vehicles skidded and toppled over into the roadside ditches, it made me feel better (and less wimpy) about delaying my trip for a day.  

Toledo is behind me now.  As is my lovely visit with the blogless Janine (just outside of Madison, WI). I managed to arrive just in time to attend the annual Madison Knitters Guild Knit-in, which is kind of like a mini-Rhinebeck.  Fortunately, my car was already packed with my exhibition materials so I had no room to spare for yarn or fleece.  BTW, Janine is not entirely blogless anymore - she now writes a column for the MKG that you can read online for free.  It seems that, even among hardcore Wisconsin knitters/farmers, Janine's activities stand out.  (Sorry, tried to make a link but I am having trouble...look around, it is called "Janine and Ewe".)

Wisconsin also behind me, I barreled ahead to Aberdeen, South Dakota, home to the Northern State University Wolves.  Go Wolves!

I am being put up in the University guest house - and here it is:

I have the whole house to myself!  And a driveway!  It is so cute and so very brown.

But let's cut to the chase.  I am here to work and I have a ton of work to do.  Here is the gallery as I found it yesterday:

Things are always different in person than in photographs and this was true yesterday.  I was wishing that I could have visited the campus and gallery prior to deciding on my project because the space has a very interesting history (it was used as a meet-up place for young women and their dates when the building was an all-women's residence hall).  It has a fireplace and these funky columns that have mirrors on them.  For my purposes, all of these interesting details will be totally erased.  Yet, as Greg, the curator and one of the art professors here said, it will again be used as a social space, so I feel a little better about that.

All my boxes arrived and I unloaded my car and began the work of laying out the space, praying that I had enough materials to create what I want to create.  The other thing about working site-unseen is that it is very hard to really know what the real world, physical realities of the space will be, so all plans have to be ready to change at a moment's notice.

I wasn't too far off, fortunately.  I do not have quite enough materials but I think I will be able to gather more via local thrift shops and from donations among students and faculty.  Fingers crossed!  

Today, I will work with students to finish the corridor of the fun house and begin sewing the fabric for each of the four rooms.  This is the most complicated part so getting it finished will be A Big Deal.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Holy Toledo

My trip westward is delayed one day while Toledo, OH, endures another winter storm.  The weather website said that, at present, Toledo is experiencing "heavy snow and freezing fog".  Not exactly sure what freezing fog is but I am glad I am not driving in it.

I am grateful for this delay (fortunately I worked in extra days in my trip just for this reason) because it means I have one more day to get organized and packed.

Never has devil's dandruff been so welcome!

What the heck am I talking about?  Please, go here right now.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Upon These Laurels Thou Shalt Not Rest

First, a few pictures from the opening reception of Say Something at bkbx last Friday evening:

Hides Nothing, 2013. Ceramic 12" x 12"

A selection of bowls and little assemblages.

Trippy fabric and three drawings.  No, I didn't make the fabric myself.  It was totally good luck that I pulled that roll out of a huge pile of prints at Mood.

The much talked-about motorized crochet.  To say that it did not quite reach its potential hardly describes its state of claptrap-ness.  Let us call it a "work in progress" and move on.  (Pictures with the kind hearted Ryan, who offered to bike to Brooklyn on his day off to help me figure out the technical challenges after my first motor broke.  I didn't take him up on it, btw.)

Do Nothing, 2013.  Crocheted yarn, 98" x 72"

Not Stained Not Pure, 2008.  Crocheted yarn, 80" x 96".  Also, Lucy.
The exhibition has been well-received so far.  It will be up for the rest of the month, so stop in if you can.  I haven't posted photos of everything - there are still some surprises!

All photos by Rami Efal.

After the MoMa workshop and getting this show up, my inclination is to put my feet up and take a little break.  Alas, this is not what is happening.  Indeed, the largest and most challenging project remains to be created.  I may have shed a few tears this morning during yoga practice...it's feeling a little overwhelming to be honest.  But I know the solution isn't to make my mat slippery with salty tears but to get back into it and make what needs to be made.  Plus, rumour has it that I will have student help once I get to South Dakota...