Monday, June 08, 2015


The last Sunday of our Saltonstall residency was given over to a public open house event that included readings by the writers and open studios for the visual artists.  It was a glorious day and there was a healthy turn out of people hungry for art.  I would like to think we delivered.

It was a little sad to clean up my studio, knowing that the mojo developed over the course of the past three weeks would not fully return.  At the same time, it was nice to step back and give each thing some space and see it all in a newer, cleaner, context.

I set out a table of materials because it seemed like people would enjoy handling things - and they did!

This is the last piece I made from my childhood pillow case series.  Each piece became more and more elaborate and, to my mind, more painterly.  I am totally grooving on the colors and patterns, each stitch like a brush stroke (only better).  I honestly have no idea how they read to anyone else.  I am not sure where I will take it from here.  So, more questions than answers in this department.

I also had a table of natural and unnatural wonders - things I collected and made during the course of the month.  I didn't pursue this line of thinking and exploring very far but it has potential.  People seemed to react and engage with the things.  

Including Mr. Snake.

He has a long story behind him, which I won't recall except to say that he, in his ever increasing state of decomposition, has been my daily companion outside my door.  Finally, I brought him in to the studio - him and the ants that died as they tried to eat his dead body.  Poisoned?  We don't know.

Devon Moore, the poet in residence, wrote a poem about Mr. Snake, whom we found at our feet the first day she arrived.  Here she is reading that poem:

Her first book of poetry is just out and you can get it here.  As she is an incredibly talented poet, I highly recommend that you do get it.  She is the only poet I know that can elicit audible gasps from the audience when one of her lines cuts especially close to the bone.  

She also wrote a beautiful poem about sleeping in Connie Saltonstall's bedroom this month for the book that we made together.  I can't say it is an edition because they are all different.  They are almost-an-edition of six.

We decided to title it "Four Weeks with Nira" or, actually, 4WKS W/NIRA.  It is named after the most wonderful dog in the world, Stephen Kuusisto's seeing eye dog, Nira.  

Rabbits!  I smell rabbits!
There she is!  I can't imagine this month without her delightful tail wagging, crumb eating, loving gaze giving self around.  She is about to retire as Steve's seeing eye dog, being a mature lady of ten years.  I wish her many more years of well-earned leisure and much fulfilled sniffing!

I could wax poetic about Nira all day long but perhaps I should add that Steve is pretty great too.  He is here finishing the final draft of his next book, which is a memoir/history of seeing eye dogs.  As the extrovert of our group, he has been a most welcome dinnertime companion.  The small bit of the book I was honored to read left me a bit misty about the eyes.  He is a most talented writer as well.

I have left out the two other visual artists here only because I had to be in my studio while they were in theirs.  Let me correct that now!

Nydia Blas is a photographer (mostly) who makes sharp, smart work about women and girls and how they are perceived in a racial, sexualized, gendered culture.  What does that mean - go look for yourself.

Camille Laoang uses pens to create meticulous and elaborate mandalas that are partly a rendering of her personal experiences and part spiritual practice.  May I add that it was sometimes kind of intense to be working below Camille, knowing that she was above me silently working with such focus and attention.  We are, shall we say, on different ends of the scale in terms of neatness and working methods.  Who knows, maybe she was up there laying on her bed, reading Us Weekly and eating Doritos.  Whatever the case, she was a foil for my own wandering thoughts and I am very grateful for her presence, real or imagined.

Finally, I want to thank Patti, who drove all way from Rochester (!!), and Alex and Nuala, for coming yesterday.  I especially want to thank Lesley Williamson, the director of The Saltonstall Foundation, for her devoted hard work to make this whole month happen.  Herding cats does not even begin to describe it.  And, of course, The Saltonstall Foundation itself - this month has been such a gift. I am sure that I will be experiencing the results for years to come.

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