The sweet anxiety in the worlds of Jennifer Zwick

Seattle-based artist Jennifer Zwick has a new installation, “I’m Pretty Sure This is Exactly Right,” up until June 28th, that has quietly infiltrated a public street space with a window into a private realm — that of the divided human consciousness.  This piece is a part of the Storefronts Seattle program that seeks to “revitalize neighborhoods” by putting art and art experiences into empty storefronts, keeping the vibrant neighborhood culture alive while businesses try to heal from this recession.   To me this is a perfect fit for her work, a tiny peek into a flip-flopped world where art helps out business, and the divide between multiple states of being is not really as clear as it may first appear.  Though primarily known for her photographs, this little constructed world — of a dark jungle scene on top and a domestic interior mirrored and suspended below — reflects much of what I feel when I see most of her work.

It’s like almost being able to touch the slightly off-kilter images of nature she presents, but still keeping us confined behind glass.  The anxiety it makes me feel is like a subtle itch, but then her anxiety slides up beside and takes the hand of my anxiety and we all skip off together with hell in our hand-basket.  I’m sucked in because I know the ship is going down, but her work lets me know it might just all be okay with one tiny flip of perspective.  I did a free-association cherry pick of her work I felt drawn to, and when looking at the pieces all together like tea-leaves I found my own concerns reflected back, that of the anxious human standing on the threshold between wanting to vanish into nature and wanting to be a part of polite society, of losing self but also wanting to.  Our big brain and vulnerable bodies give us the ability to compartmentalize and separate ourselves from even our own bodies and desires, in order to survive.


The Explorers



But it is these compartments that Zwick teases apart with a self-deprecating tomfoolery until the divide only seems like a shadow of the same thing.  It will (never) get better, unless and especially if you break through and dive into the other side of yourself, outside of yourself.  The installation is at 409 Maynard Avenue South (the lower space, looking onto Maynard Ave), in Seattle, Wa. until June 28th.

Hello 2

Hello 2

What Might Go Wrong: 37.  Miss All Opportunities

What Might Go Wrong: 37. Miss All Opportunities

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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.

Wyly’s dandelions

I’ve been meaning to post about this  for a while now, my friend Wyly Astley’s installation from the Arts and Nature Festival a few years ago.  Wyly and I just spent a few weeks together, as she is from time to time a studio assistant for me when I manage to scrape together some funding.  She is a very present person, quiet sometimes and always bright, not as one might use the word to mean “smart” but like something glowing.  She, as an artist, person, mother, really reminds me of this installation of brilliant blue dandelions that were subtly sprinkled about the grounds of Camp Long during the festival.

This work was so straightforward. Simple and direct, about a beautiful healing plant so often viewed with disdain for silly reasons,  and it also filled me with a glee that I kinda stifled because I’m a dumb adult.  But the children didn’t stifle and loved and raced about the park finding the flowers.  She once did a temporary art installation for children at a school, where outside the window of their classroom a colorful grove of fabric mushrooms grew overnight.  These same mushrooms popped up in my yard on the morning of my son’s birthday, and he has never stopped talking about it.  It created a particular path in his mind about how he saw the world, and what kind of magic was possible.  I have been from time to time been asked to make art for children (by adults) and it is hard, nerve wracking…but Wyly does it effortlessly, because she is present and knows how to listen to the natural intellect of the child.  I admire her.  I also shared this installation with my high school class at Centrum on environmental installation, and those young artists particularly were drawn to this piece because it’s just craft felt but some how transcends itself.  We talked a lot about how and why this can happen with art…I’m still not sure I get it, but Wyly seems to.  She’ll be doing another installation at this years Arts and Nature Festival, which I eagerly await.

Wyly also makes lovely things for children to wear that you can find here at her Etsy shop.

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Zoe|Juniper need your help to make genius art…

Seattle-based, world-touring, kick ass dance visual art company Zoe|Juniper need your help funding their latest adventure “A Crack in Everything”.  I’ve known Juniper and admired his visual performance-based multi-media work for years, and when he teamed up with his wife Zoe Scofield, I could just never get enough.  Many have described Zoe’s choreography, probably much better than I can, but when I see her perform, my eyes water because I just can’t blink I don’t want to miss anything.

“Feral Ballet” has been used again and again to describe her….she’s tiny and giant at the same time, androgynous and feminine, vulnerable only enough to let you see the ferocious strength of vulnerability.  I always feel like she has a direct line to some kind of elemental human magma when I see her perform, something boiling up from the ground through her legs and exploding out. Anyway…words aren’t really what it is about.

I had the great privilege of getting to collaborate with Zoe on the performance aspect of my project Mater Matrix Mother and Medium in 2009, and it left me wanting more and more of her and Juniper.  Zoe would do anything I asked of her, anything…(“here… wear this 50 pound costume tied to 200 feet of yarn, of and pull these hundred pounds or so of rocks out of a pond“….no complaints).  She was game for anything, humble and tough as nails and created something that literally made the people around me gasp.  And I will always be grateful to her for her generosity of fitting me into her and Juniper’s very packed performance/residency schedule.

They do so much on such little amounts of money.  As with most artists who produce big things, the financial burden usually falls on their shoulders even with grants, etc.  They’ve now teamed up with United States Artists to raise money for their newest production “A Crack in Everything”.  They haven’t yet met their financial goal, which means they won’t get any of the money pledged so far unless they do.  So please, check out their work, spread their work around and donate a few buck or a lot of bucks.  Donate here!

You also can see Zoe|Juniper perform at On the Boards on January 27th, 2011 as part of the A.W.A.R.D. Show, along with a flurry of other Seattle movement/dance/performance innovators, and vote for who gets the money (hard!).

You can follow their blog here:

And find them on Facebook here , and wade waist deep into their world on their website here:

Also grab a copy of their book ‘White Teeth’

All images by Juniper Shuey

help me remember the art film….

I saw in in Miami 2008 at the fairs…it’s a house that has been totally frozen, with some women in grey felt clothing working this mill thing-of sorts…

know what I’m talking about?

This isn’t it…but research for homeschool lessons, but instantly reminded me of how much I loved that film and had never gone to find out more about it…


Water Mill on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.