Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Winding Down

SAIC students reviewing work at floor looms
(Jongock Kim showing the honeycomb she is working on)

Students reviewing cloth woven on the TC-1 loom this past week

Monday we reviewed the past week's work. First we moved around the room looking at work being done on floor looms, then we looked at the cloth that had been made on the TC-1 loom. On floor looms, students are making honeycomb, block double weave in plain weave, double cloth using huck and plain weave, gingham woven with fine sewing thread, summer and winter, pleated double cloth, overshot, brocaded twills and plain weave, undulating twills, variations on an 8-shaft threading, white on white stripes, and a few other things. I find it so interesting that each loom reflects the interests of the maker, and is quite distinct than their neighbors' work. The jacquard cloth is mostly variations of shaded structures, some using metallic or plastic wefts, others using linen or tencel. One student made an interesting huck jacquard, which inspired another to use huck in a weft-backed cloth. We will have the final review on Thursday afternoon, which doesn't sound like much time but I saw several students setting up looms with ambitious new warps today, and I believe they will be finished in time.

Akemi and Chris

Monday evening was festive in my apartment. Chris and Zoe were there, having arrived the night before around midnight from Michigan, Ann from Arizona, Akemi and Jack from Chicago, though Akemi had just returned from a visit to her family in Japan, and me from Vermont. Chris, Akemi and I were classmates at Cranbrook, now we are chosen family. Zoe is starting to visit different colleges to decide where she should apply and she and Chris visited Columbia College on Monday. Chris runs a studio that teaches young people how to do animation and both her daughters have won impressive prizes for their work. Zoe also does photography. It gives me hope for the future watching how the children of my friends are all growing into interesting adults. I took a picture of Chris and Zoe this morning as we said goodbye on Michigan Avenue--me going to school and they off to the Apple Store (Ann and I visited it on Sunday!). Note they both are wearing Keene's. They might be out of fashion in Chicago but my friends, all over, are still wearing them. They are comfortable.

Chris and Zoe Allan-Wickler, note their Keenes

Since all the students are busy working now, hardly needing any help from me, I decided to set up a loom with linen and make some plain weave that I might sew into curtains. When i am teaching I want my students to feel comfortable interrupting me at any moment with whatever questions they have. When I am doing my own work, I get intensely focused and hate being interrupted, so I generally don't try to do any of my own work. So today I told the class that they must break into my concentration and remember they come first. But I was hardly interrupted and managed to weave almost all the warp. I did jump up at one point and take pictures of each student at their loom. I was thinking that Andy Warhol would definitely have a blog if he was alive today, and post his daily round of people pictures.

Here is Jennifer Coster who dressed to match her double cloth today. She is going to start graduate school at Maryland Art Institute in the fall, in sculpture. I don't know whether weaving will be part of her future work, nor any of the students in the class for that matter, but they all seem to have grasped the principles quickly and have a facility for weaving, so i do hope some of them will continue.

Jennifer Coster weaving block double weave

Linen Plain Weave being woven by Bhakti Ziek

The class decided to go out for dinner together tonight at a Korean restaurant and Jongock Kim made arrangements, guided us there on the Brown Line, and ordered a feast that we shared. We had hoped that Katie Loomis and Janette Ramirez would join us, but they had a busy day stretching new covers on the print tables and decided they couldn't. I posted an image of Janette in a previous post. Here is Katie, who worked with me for months before my arrival and made sure that everything was set up correctly. She really made these three weeks go smoothly for me.

Katie Loomis, Administrative Assistant in Fiber & Material Studies Department

Fabulous students and fabulous dinner at Korean restaurant

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Final Chicago Weekend

A night view of Chicago

The second week of school was extremely productive, and the students and I will review that work tomorrow. Meanwhile i had an extremely busy weekend in Chicago, my last for this trip. I have been thoroughly enjoying myself, but I do look forward to going home. My friend Ann Morton, from Phoenix, joined me for a few days and we have travelled all over the city. We spent Saturday going to galleries in River North and the West Side. The Doug Dawson Gallery is always my favorite and this was no exception. He has a beautiful mixture of textiles and objects on display now. His place is like an oasis of beauty in the midst of debris. I got to see the city at night since Ann and I went out to Evanston for dinner with Anne Wilson and Teddy Zehner, who was in from Wisconsin. Teddy and I shared a wonderful trip to Turkey together in 2001, with a group of textile enthusiasts, and it was great to see her again.

Swimming pool at apartment

This morning for the first time I actually used the pool at the apartment building where I am staying. I had checked it out the first day, but haven't had time to go down before. Okay, I admit it, I always need a friend to get me to exercise. So Ann was the catalyst that got me in the water. It felt great and I look forward to returning to a regular regime back in Randolph. By the way, I just realized the other day how strange it is that I live in Randolph, VT and am staying just off Randolph Street here in Chicago.

View of buildings from Brown Line

After swimming we got on the subway and went to Argyle Street to have dim sum at the other branch of Furama. On the way to the restaurant Ann found a lost textile. She is doing an interesting multi-leveled project that includes the documentation of the location where she finds these objects. Today she found an umbrella, a pair of gloves, a spiderman hat, and a button.

Ann Morton documenting the find of a lost umbrella

After lunch we wandered around. There were lots of stores with the typical abundance of silly toys but in one Ann found these wonderful chia animals. Four for a dollar!

Display in store on Argyle Street

Chia animals--can't wait to see grass grow on them

In the afternoon we went to the Contemporary Art Musuem which had inspiring exhibitions on each floor. The top floor not only had a great Buckminister Fuller exhibit (he was so right that if we don't get it right for the planet we are all in trouble) there was also an exhibit of some work from their permanent collection which included work by Claire Zeisler and Anne Wilson. I admit that I felt starstruck and excited that I know Anne.
Entrance to Contemporary Art Museum

On the way back home we saw the Taste of Chicago going on in Grant Park. We were tired, but the music drew us down. So we caught the end of the concert by the Wallflowers. Any of you that know me well know that I am Bob Dylan all the way. It is no joke, the four day drive moving to Vermont was a four day Dylan marathon for me, one of many I have had since the mid-60's when I first heard him. So it wasn't him, but it was his son's group--and they were good.

Taste of Chicago in the distance

Wallflowers on stage and a projection of the lead singer

Tonight we are having a real pajama party here, as my friend Chris Allen-Wickler and her daughter Zoe have arrived for two days. Zoe will interview at Columbia College while they are here. Amazing to see my friends' children grown and going to college already. They drove here straight from a fair they did near Detroit. We will probably talk late into the night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

City Life is Busy (Not in Smallville Anymore)

Chicago looking like Metropolis

I keep getting in situations where I think I am in Metropolis instead of Smallville and any minute now Superman is going to swoop down and save me. I have lost my city mojo. In the past, it always returned as soon as I walked city streets, but now it seems to have abandoned me. Nothing dangerous has actually happened, but it is annoying to watch your train come in and go out while you are trying to figure out what direction to put the card into the gate so you can access the train. Walking back from exploring the other side of the river, I crossed the river and the road went into a long underpass. I knew I should climb the steps there and go to the upper roads, which I knew, but I wanted to see if there was an exit to Randolph from the under road. Not a good decision when you are tired and carrying groceries. It was kind of creepy down there and when I got to under Randolph I could see the road coming out, but walking down led to a long walled road with no pedestrian exit probably until Madison--too far. So I went back under and walked towards the lake. Several people were approaching me and we met at a place that turned out to be a staircase up--which we all took. I was surprised to find myself almost fainting when I reached air and sky--I guess I was more panicked than I realized.

Segway tours are popular here

Next morning I walked through the park and along the lake to the Field Museum. The walk the day before showed me some contrasts between regions of the country. No Keene's on people's feet in Chicago, whereas they are practically the only shoe you see in NM and VT. Besides the pair on my feet, I have only seen one other pair in Chicago--and I think those were imitations. On the other hand, I have never seen a segway anywhere except in Chicago, and now you see groups of them since segway tours are very popular. There are windows of shoes in one of the displays at the Field so I took this picture to show the type of shoes I am seeing on women here--flip flops are in fashion.

Display at Field Museum

I used to like the Field Museum but this might have been my last visit there. Most of the exhibits have been made "playful" and interactive for kids. It feels dumbed down and numbingly simple. I liked the displays chock full of items where you never could see everything at once and you felt you had to return to look again. I liked getting exhausted by so many interesting objects that I couldn't grasp or see anything else. But a sign said that displays like that are no longer acceptable modes of display in museums. It must be another sign of the decline of the American empire. If it doesn't toot or light up when you turn a faucet then it is obsolete. One display of the innards of a giraffe had several children holding their hands over their mouths in disgust. It looked like modern sculpture to me.

Field Museum display of innards of a giraffe

The last really satisfying visit to the Field for me took place during a mini-gathering in Chicago of friends from my graduate class at Cranbrook. It must have been 15 or 16 years ago. Liz Billings was teaching at SAIC and some of us gathered at her apartment for a few days. One day we went to the Field, and went separate ways. in grad school we always had notebooks at hand and really used them. In fact, on a trip to Mexico as a class, we were assigned to fill our notebook with images, rather than take photographs (photographs were acceptable as additions but the sketchbooks were primary). After a couple of hours, when we met in the lobby (there was seating there then and the museum was less busy), and we looked at each others sketchbooks, three of us had drawn the same basket. Considering that there must have been a zillion objects on display and we had all gone off in different directions, this was an amazing coincidence. That basket was hot! (Was that the sign about the future--the three of us, Liz, Marianne and I, all live near each other in Vermont now?)

So I had a mission. Find that basket. I knew approximately where it was, but with so much rearranged I wasn't sure it would still be there. In fact, i was quite doubtful about finding it. I had a clear memory of a shape that was wide at top and tapered at the bottom and of a weave that went from large elements at the bottom to smaller ones at the top, and that it was on the main floor. I started at the North American Indians and proceeded through that whole display and found the basket in the Northwest/Alaskan section. I almost missed it but there was this really big basket behind it. In fact, at first I thought, is that it? It is so large. Then I realized that a sign was placed in front of the prized basket and it was impossible to really see it. For me that was the last straw. The Field is now on my list of places that I will relegate to memory. I took some pictures to show you.

Two whaling baskets in the Field Museum

Attempt to show you bottom of front basket where weave elements are larger than at top

Sign is impeding view of basket that i searched to find

After several hours in the Field, I decided to find the small Powell's bookstore which is located in Printers Row area--another past memory. The first time I taught at SAIC the apartment Mark and I and Montgomery (our cat) stayed in was near that store. It was incredible and I think I spent my entire salary there. On the way over to Wabash I passed the Magdelena Abakanowicz sculptures in the park, which had not been there on my previous Chicago visits. Walking among them I felt really small, in contrast to the exhibit of soil at the Field where I was suppose to feel like a particle of soil but just felt stupid.

Magdelena Abakanowicz sculptures

Sunday I had an appointment to attend Anne Wilson's bobbin winding session as part of her Local Industry, Chicago to Knoxville project. Several of my SAIC students also attended. I never was very good at making paper bobbins but Anne gave clear directions and we all sat and made them for two hours. I left with new skill and a paper pattern so I can make them in my own studio. You can see Anne below with Tali Weinberg on the left (she is going to start graduate work at NYU this fall and is currently in my SAIC class) and Emily Nachison on the right. Emily is a graduate student at Cranbrook spending the summer in Chicago assisting Anne on this project.

Anne Wilson in center directing bobbin winding, Tali Weinberg on left and Emily Nachison on right

Plastic bins that were empty at the start are filling up with colorful quills of yarn

The rest of the day was really busy. I had lunch with Judith from my class at Wishbone and she pointed out Oprah's building where she does her show. I was a groupie and took a photo (but not posting). Then i met Laura Foster Nicholson who was up from Indiana for the day and spent the night at my apartment. Her daughter is taking summer school at SAIC. We went to a few interesting stores, shopped at Trader Joe's, and then had appetizers at Whole Foods. I do miss both those stores, which were my main grocery stores in Santa Fe, and sitting in Whole Foods eating great bread, drinking wine, and talking to a wonderful friend felt like grace. At the Crate and Barrel outlet near Trader Joe's I was able to buy two sets of dishtowels designed by Laura. I love using items designed by her. Then we met our friend Nick Cave for dinner. Nick and I were in the same class at Cranbrook and it is always a joy to see him and watch the success he has achieved. He is one of the hardest working people I know, always has done two or three things simultaneously and done them all to perfections. He teaches in the Fashion Department at SAIC now and at the same time has a thriving career as an artist. After dinner he gave us each copies of the new book on his work--Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the World. This is one of the great things about getting old and having a history--that one can meet someone early in their career and be sure that they will be successful, and then watch the unfolding, and see it happen in a path expected but even more beautiful and wonderful than anticipated.

Laura Foster Nicholson talking to SAIC class about her work, including her ribbon collection

Monday, Laura came to my class and gave a generous talk to the students about her career, which spans work as an artist, designer, and creative maker. She does it all. I have a small collection of her ribbons and brought some to show, and she brought the rings of samples that had most of the designs. Since students had learned weft brocade, they had some idea of how the ribbon designs are executed in weaving.

After Laura's talk we had a review of the work done the first week in the class. You can see the TC-1 jacquard cloth before it was cut into sections. They wove a bit over 8 yards. Now the sign-up sheet is filling in and lots more will be woven this week and next. It means constant work for Janette Ramirez who has the job of taking care of the technical aspects of the department. She has been so helpful and the weaving studio is in great shape due to her efforts.

First pieces off the TC-1

Janette Ramirez getting ready to retension the TC-1 warp at SAIC

Thursday, June 18, 2009

4th Day Equals 4th Week

Jungock Kim, SAIC graduate student, starting 3-block double cloth

In a three-week semester, each day is equivalent to one week, so today, day four is really week four. All the students have woven on the TC-1 and two have done sizeable pieces. Almost all of them have finished dressing their floor looms and have begun to weave. Jungock Kim, a graduate in the SAIC program, has set up an ambitious three-block double cloth. She and I figured out a "scaffold tie-up" so she can access any of the three blocks variations with 12 pedals. She is doing double plain and has 12 shafts on the loom. I have had many Korean students in my teaching career, and it is a pleasure to work with her. I made her laugh saying I knew some Korean--I can say "kimchi" and "bulgulgi" and "pajeon". Korean food is right up there with dim sum on my list of what is missing in Randolph.

The Sea of Looms in SAIC Weaving Studio includes a TC-1

Judith Querciagrossa Danaher testing her shaded satin image

Judith Q. Danaher is another student in the class. She is an experienced weaver taking the class to learn more, but not because she is pursing a degree. She is always cheerful and helpful and I am really enjoying her pleasure in learning. If the class continues to be this much fun, I am not going to want to go home in July. We will have our first review on Monday and if the students give me permission, I will post some images of their work here.

My walk home (a nice afternoon after another soaking walk home yesterday and more rain this morning so I took the bus) took me through Millennium Park--past the Crown Fountain and the Bean and then I was drawn to Gehry's Music Pavilion by the sounds of Indian (India) music. Part of the Chicago Free Events is Music Without Borders. There were people picnicking on the grass and more in the seats, and I went and sat down in the Pavilion to listen for awhile. 

Children playing in water at Crown Fountain

View of "Bean"

Frank Gehry's Music Pavllion

View of Indian Musicians from inside Pavilon

View of Building from seat in Pavilon

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dim Sum and Art

Dim Sum at Furama Restaurant

Top on my list of what is missing in Randolph is dim sum. So I was besides myself the other morning meeting two friends, Elyse Koren-Camarra and Lialia Kuchman for dim sum. I know I can go to Boston to get some, and i do have a couple of cookbooks with recipes, but what a pleasure to just hop on public transportation and get to Furama Restaurant and be served from the little carts full of delicious tiny morsels of heaven.

Elyse, Lailai, and me

Both Elyse and Lialia are multi-faceted, energetic, creative women--good role models for the people that come in contact with them. Lialia was in the last class i taught at SAIC and Elyse is in the current one, but both have been artists and scholars and curators for years and Elyse is also a college professor. Who could ask for better students and friends?

After lunch I did visit the Art Institute of Chicago. Walked down the central hallway from the main entrance enjoying the re-established sculptures and art (missed the textiles though) to get to the New Wing. Looking at people and overhearing conversations was as much fun as looking at the art. I was hungry for art since I haven't been in a large museum with a great collection for some time.

Lobby of New Wing of Chicago Art institute

Looking down at lobby of New Wing

The New Wing is housing the contemporary art, which in some cases is ancient to my current students who probably were all born in the 1990s or late 1980s. For me, it was like a reunion with old friends. Sometimes the art was amazingly fresh and exciting, and other times I saw how age has not been kind to it. I took lots of pictures (no flash, of course) and surprised myself with some of the images, but then I was already thinking of the upcoming class and first project of a two-color image--so I snapped images of ceramics, and iron work, and carved stone that I thought might translate into interesting 2-color images as examples. I won't bore you with them here but I do love how city environments spur on my ideas for teaching and making.

Brancusi sculpture

The Brancusi suclptures were old friends but I only liked his bases this time. In fact, I would like Mark to make us a table like the stone one pictured above. I was so surprised to come upon this Vito Acconci work called Estimations where he paced off walks and wrote the number of steps he estimated and then the number of actual steps. It reminded me of my current weavings where I write the ppi and then add addendums with the actual ppi. I don't hear about Acconci very much these days (though i admit I don't read many current journals so maybe he is being written about) but his work was so varied and startling and important and young people should not overlook him. I know Bruce Nauman is seen as relevant (there was a room with his clown videos and judging from the conversations I overheard in it, I was not the only one to still find them disturbing; they are actually called "Clown Torture" and he made them in 1987) but I will have to ask my students if they know Acconci's work and what they think.

Vito Acconci work called Estimations from 1970

Some of the funniest conversations I overheard were in the rooms of work that i find most inspiring. I have always loved minimal work like Robert Ryman's white paintings, but never could give myself permission to be so basic. One group of viewers peeked in and the man said, "this room must be under construction" and he totally would not believe his wife (assumption) when she said she thought "that was the art." Another group stood in front of a wonderful Agnes Martin in total disgust and disbelief that this was hanging in the museum. To me it was a wonder that this work, which is definitely not new, is still eliciting these strong feelings against it. Amazing that people still think minimalist and other contemporary movements are jokes made against them, or insults directed at them. 

Robert Ryman painting

City view from Robert Ryman room in museum

I wasn't the only one taking pictures of the Chicago cityscape from the Robert Ryman room. It was a beautiful day and window views were powerful. Almost unfair to put them there next to the Ryman's--or maybe one could say a perfect juxtaposition.

3 Views of Being Not Truthful Always Works Against Me by Stefan Sagmeister and Ralph Ammer

In the rooms about architecture I enjoyed watching and participating in making Stefan Sagmeister and Ralph Ammer's interactive Not Being Truthful Always Works Against Me move and distort and dissolve and come together again. A spider web of course is going to attract a weaver. Especially one who is remembering in the back of her mind that school was starting the next day. I walked home through the crowds gathering for the last night of the Blues Festival, exhausted, and looked down at the view of The Field Museum, which I will visit this coming weekend. 

School has started, today is day three which is equivalent to the third week, and it feels like three weeks. The students are amazing, every one of them is focused and working hard. Warps have been made and today some of them will be weaving on them, and all of them have woven on the TC-1 already. I was telling the beginners that some day, if they stick with weaving, they will tell their friends or students that their first weaving was on the TC-1--that they simultaneously began at both ends of the continuum that we call weaving.

Gate House into Park looking down towards Field Museum

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Chicago skyline as I walk to work

I am in Chicago! No problems getting here and my friends Akemi and Jack Cohn picked me up at the airport and took me to my apartment. I have a view of Lake Michigan and a mooring of sailboats. The city ambient light and the excitement of being here kept me up most of the first night.

Walking to work with Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavillion in foreground

I had an appointment at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) yesterday morning for the summer chair, Amy Honchell, to show me the facilities and give me an ID so I can have access to the building. It was raining but I wanted to walk to school to see how long it would take. I just go down Randolph Avenue to Michigan Avenue and then left past Millennium Park to Monroe, where I turn right and find the temporary entrance on Monroe and Wabash. Look at the great views I will see each morning as I go to work.

Bicycles being rented, even in the rain

Even in the rain, people went into the building above to rent bicycles. It is so amazing how clean everything looked and how careful Chicago is to have good signage for visitors and locals. I was completely impressed and happy to be here again. I don't know if I will take advantage of any of the free events going on but there are plenty. I will be teaching 9 to 4:30 every weekday for the next three weeks, so I might just be crawling back to the apartment exhausted. Or I will be so energized by my class that I will wander into Grant's Park for some of the activities.

Some of the free events available in Chicago

View of Gehry's building from Michigan Avenue

Both Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavillion and Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate are on my walk. The way the Cloud Gate, often referred to as The Bean, blended into the overcast sky was just thrilling. I have seen both these places before but had not been thinking of either, so when I came upon them, in sequence, I felt such a jolt of city joy. As a native New Yorker (born in Manhattan and lived there my most formative years--until I was 4.5--if you follow Freudian theory) I always have a sense of coming home when I am in a big city.

Anish Kapoor's Cloud, often called the Bean

Good signage at Millennium Park

Another wonderful place in Millennium Park is the Crown Fountain created by Jaume Piensa. I am sure I will return and take more pictures for you to see on this blog. I love sitting and watching people in general, and there, on a nice day, with children splashing and videos changing, and the buzz of Michigan Avenue, it is just spectacular.

Glimpse of Crown Fountain at Millennium Park

When I got to Michigan and Monroe, where I had to turn right, I looked over at the new wing of the Art Institute. I am going to go there today, after my morning appointment, which I will tell you about after it happens.

First View for me of New Wing of Art Institute of Chicago

I was told that the city of Chicago has decided to spruce up the area on Wabash known as Jewler's Row, where the normal entrance to SAIC is located. So there is this temporary entrance on Monroe. Again, the rain, the buildings (Chicago has the best), the tourist trolly, the bus, the speeding cars, the lights, the construction--I was just breathing in "city" and loving it.

Temporary Entrance to SAIC

Amy gave me a thorough comprehensive tour of the facilities and I am feeling confident that this is going to be a terrific class. After lunch I took a long way back to my apartment, trying to see if I could cross the river closer to my apartment, only to find myself having to back track and the rain getting harder. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I got back to the apartment. After a rest I had to go out to meet Akemi at Lillstreet Art Center where she was teaching a class. She is an expert on rice paste resist, but also on most aspects of surface design and this class was on nuno felting. The students had great results and all were pleased. She took me home for dinner and later she and Jack drove me home again. She is off to Japan so I won't get to see her again until the end of my stay.

Akemi teaching at Lillstreet Art Center