Chris Larson’s Deep North

I saw Chris Larson’s film ‘Deep North’ in 2008 while at the Miami Basel Art explosion, and out of the overstimulating art overload my eyeballs took in that week these images of quiet and cold have stuck with me.  I wish there was a way to watch the film…What these images don’t really show are the women dressed in grey felt or flannel jerkins, pushing a huge wooden machine that seems to make tubes of ice, all crammed into a little country home.  The rhythmic, ritualistic movements seems at once devoid of any meaning, but oh so human in our ability to carry on, business as usual, with the world falling apart.  After the fact, I realize this little film had a great deal of influence on the performance I just completed……

I know this isn’t really what this work was meant to convey, but it’s like ‘eco art’ in reverse.  Rather than some sort of ‘intervention’ in the natural landscape, it is as if it is the built environment that is painfully intervened upon.  Which of course raises the notion that these boundaries between these two states are, on a larger scale, fabricated in our own sense of how we exist in the world.

What Climate Change Might Look Like: Chris Larson’s Deep North.

Haruko Nishimura and the Red Shoes

I have been thinking a great deal lately about learning and sharing during the process of making art….I’m working on the planning stages of an interactive residency at The Project Room in Seattle, where I will be doing my very first stitch on a project, then will show the results more than a year later.  It has me pondering/picking apart what is it like, how does it unfold when we begin without knowing how to do something or be something or reach something within ourselves that we aim to share with other people, and then there is this process we go through where something that was once unknown becomes a part of us.  These thoughts bring me again and again back to Haruko Nishimura of Degenerate Art Ensemble, and these images of her shot by photographer/architect Rex Hohlbein for her Red Shoe Butoh Journal.

They were made at the very beginning — more than a year ago– of a project , “Red Shoes“, that now in the next few weeks approaches its end.  I like to think about what Haruko didn’t know then and what she does know now.  She began doing her Butoh training outside in parks rather than a rehearsal space, mainly because she was broke after a huge show….and now “Red Shoes”, the final production created with DAE and the Frye Art Museum, is a multi-sited performance that will spill out onto those streets.

Did this early beginning of solo practice in the midst of the bustle of real life in parks and public squares lead to staging this fairy tale in the streets?  Red Shoes will be a transformative experience for those that get to see it….it sold out within hours of tickets coming online (a testament to the impact and devotion that DAE inspires in its fans).  It will be a HUGE multi-disciplinary, multi-artist, multi-location collaborative beautifully terrifying experience, but I wanted to just harken back and call attention to those quiet, solo moments of Haruko in the park two winters ago, where the spark of something began…it’s like she put on the red shoes then and has been dancing for her life ever since.

I also love Rex’s images because Haruko is wearing a dress that I made for her character Shiro from the “Sonic Tales“.  I spent more than 100 hours on the whole costume, bringing little bits of leather glove with me to stitch together when I watched my son swim or play in the park.  Those tiny stitches where remnants of quiet moments in my day to day life.  I like how, through Rex’s images, something I began, that then moved through life with Haruko, is reframed through Rex’s process and eyes and seems to have a life of its own.  The dress bodice also has a linear thread all the way back to another piece of mine from 1999, “Skin Tight”, that Haruko saw at the Bellevue Arts Museum when they did a survey of my work in 2008.

She wanted to feel what it would be like to have the skin tight leather stretched over her spine, like it was stretched around the laurel stump in my piece.  The piece for me, was a way to create a fetish of the tree stump, to anthropomorphize the muscular forms of the wood, while at the same time “animalize” the women’s kidskin gloves (so recognized as a symbol for purity) by boiling them, making the leather shrink tight around the stump and turn back into a thick rawhide texture.

Both stump and gloves (skin) where leftovers from something that was once alive, now very dead…so it was only fitting that the Shiro character Haruko inhabited was a ghost.  I loved having her show me something new about my own work.

"Skin Tight, 1999"

"Skin Tight, 1999"

Haruko is one of the most determined and dedicated artists to the development of her own practice, and it shows when she performs —  a thousand expressions and lives pass through her body and face.  With the sheer weight of the talent she carries around with her, she might have licence to be a diva, but she never carries herself that way.  I’ve had the honor of working with her several times and seeing the way she works with her collaborators…always as a student, always learning, observing and present.  I’ve likewise learned a mountain of infinite things from her, watching her performances and getting to participate at times.  I’m a bit gleeful about the impending experience of “Red Shoes” and what sort of delightful rubbed-raw emotions I will feel coming away from that, and what it might reveal about the intensity of the desire to create, and how that just won’t let us go.

Red Shoe Butoh Journal: RaiNY dAY and test shoots with Rex.

Here’s another view of Haruko performing captured by long-time DAE collaborator Bruce Tom, who has frozen her astounding movements in my costume for “Shiro” in “Sonic Tales”!  Please go see ‘Degenerate Art Ensemble” at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, until June 19th, 2011.

Ryden: Allegory of the Four Elements

I’ve been a busy little artist working on the drawings, plans and (gasp) technical drawings for a public commission at an Elementary school here in the Seattle area, Seatac (named for our airport, for real).  The installation is a cycle of hanging worlds, the four seasons overlaid with imagery of the four elements, overlaid with mythology of birds, trees and herbs.  It’s a tangled parfait of mythologies from around the world and throughout time, each a symbolic reference to guardians and protectors of children.  These four little girls of Mark Ryden‘s making seem to have that magical charm in spades.  I love this painting….I can’t wait to make my own little potion of protection for the 50 years of children that will see my work as they head to class…..

Study of black by Maria Baranova

I adore this photograph, plain and simple.  Adore.  I can’t understand that it isn’t paint, from a long time ago, when women sat by  smokey candles, throwing bobbins around making lace.  And the composition just holds me, the entire image is really about the roundness of black clothe and a small defiant look.

Moscow-based Maria Baranova has much more to share on her website.  Finding her work is just one of the reasons I swim through flickr everyday, and I look forward to keeping up with her work.

Here’s another favorite if mine…

 

Study of black I on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.