Saturday, October 23, 2021

How We Connect these days

"How We Connect" WIP
I have just come back from Germany again. This time I took my daughter Mona (12) with me, now vaccinated. She's been missing her family over there, especially my sister, her aunt, and my mom, her grandmother. They are close, the pandemic didn't change that. 

Right after we had arrived we went to see my mom. She has been living in a nursing home, her Parkinson's is progressing fast. She cried when she saw Mona and hugged her as tightly as she could. Mona had crocheted a life-size duck for her, sunny yellow, so soft, and with a nice little smile. Something to hold while she's not there, she said.

We all went on a long afternoon walk and then had dinner together in her room until we had to leave because of the restricted visiting hours. It was such a good day.

The next day my mom was brought to the emergency room, some infection and a neurological unknown. She stayed in the hospital until we had to fly back after two weeks. I was able to see her one hour per day. Mona wasn't allowed in at all but at least the duck was. And we treasure that one day that we spent together.

We'll go back over the holidays, all of us.  It's less then eight weeks away while there are lots of things left to accomplish before then. Two shows coming up, for example. One of them is the exhibit of the projects of a 2020 virtual residency which I was gladly part of.

One more left to do: the largest sphere, 5"

I'm doing pretty well with my "How to Connect" piece, I'd say. One more sphere to cover with names, then sealing everything. With 353 spheres that may take a while though. And also, I want to make a video about it so viewers will be able to experience the interactive piece without touching it. 

There are days when I think I cannot make it, it's all too much, but today is not one of those days. Today is a I-can-do-it day even though I'm feeling completely overwhelmed at the same time. Does that even make sense?

Anyways. I've kept the largest sphere for last. The big finale, yes. I'm looking forward to seeing these balls, these groups of people together. One thing is for sure, this 5" sphere will cause a lot of commotion in the bowl.


Friday, September 24, 2021

More or less

WIP "How We Connect"

Clipping names, gluing on names, reading names, thinking about names.

About 330 names go on these 2 1/8" balls. I can complete one per day of this size plus get a few started.

All together, I have 345 spheres finished. There are only five more to do while three of them are halfway done. Now this sounds like I'm getting close to the finish line despite the fact that the remaining two are humongous with their 4" and 5" diameters compared to the tiny 1/4" ones.

Originally, I came up with the number 350 because I had tried various combinations, and this amount made a good pile in the bowl and looked just right all together. And it seemed doable, too (sort of). 

I found out that the number 350 is considered an "angel number" and as such is a symbol of positive vibrations and energy, of peace and, most of all, inevitable change. I do like the ring of all this, yes, I like it a lot. But I don't quite relate to the belief in angels. 

So I will go a different route: I will leave one sphere off or make three more to get to a prime number. A prime number seems to be a perfect metaphor for a social contract and how the social contract regulates the freedom of the individual and of a people. In this sense, a people is not divisible: A people is a people, even if it constantly changes. It can only be divided by one and by itself. 

WIP "How We Connect"

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

350 Puzzles

September used to be the month when I produce 30 pieces in 30 days. Last year I decided to take it slow. Because - you know. I still worked intensely during the challenge but I tried to breathe more and to focus on my inner peace. I completed a good number of images for my "Earth" series, not 30 but maybe seven or eight. - Meanwhile I'm at my last Earth piece. It's been resting in my studio, halfway done, because at some point I realized that I underestimated the time that I will need to finish my residency project: "How We Connect."
350 spheres have to be covered with names. I can fit ten names on the tiniest sphere, 1/4". Currently, I am at the 2 1/4" size balls which probably have room for 500 names each. Finding and clipping the names is one thing, but pasting on the names is what makes the process so incredibly time-consuming because it's about finding the right sizes of names for certain spots on each sphere. Because the way how the names are arranged says something about the group they represent and about the constellation of its members. Who is connected with whom? Therefore I try to avoid any overlapping of names, I want every name to be readable. And I don't want wrinkles. That's 350 puzzles to solve.

Monday, September 6, 2021

New Post - finally.

Long time no see, but here I am writing my first post after I had taken a year-long break from blogging. Being absent wasn't on purpose really, actually there were quite a few things happening that would have been worth sharing. Things that were inspiring and positive, stories of success. But I didn't feel like talking about those things. Life had exhausted me. I was too tired and too sad to share my thoughts. I'm in a much better place now, not that things have changed but I've found ways to deal with them in healthier ways.

I've been in my studio a lot. I have worked on my 24-piece "Earth" series, and the final piece is about to be finished. But before I can get back to it, I have to complete another large project, "How We Connect". It's an interactive 3-D piece about, well, you've guessed it, how we connect. It's about people in a society, the small and the large groups they form, the stratification, the movements, the random encounters, the temporary networks and systemic relationships.

For each group of people I am covering a wooden sphere with names. There are 350 spheres in various sizes - between 1/4" and 5" in diameter - which will be contained in a shallow and wobbly wooden bowl, piled up high. A fragile composition. I wrote about this project in more detail just a few posts ago.

I started working on this in the context of a virtual art residency which I was part of last May/June. An exhibit of the residents' projects is scheduled for the month of December. There's a significant amount of work to be done still, even though I have 300 spheres done already. But every single one, small or large, comes with its own challenge: the tiny ones are tough to hold, and the curvature makes it difficult to glue on even the shortest name. The large ones on the other hand, are easy to work on but very time-consuming as they can fit hundreds or thousands of names. So - not much time to dilly-dally, I have to clip clip clip and paste paste paste.

Friday, July 31, 2020


ART ON 45 has turned five, and the auction event was supposed to be on March 14th. Yes, that's right, on Pi Day.

I loved the idea of having the anniversary event on Pi Day. It seemed so perfect to celebrate a project that is all about the circular dimension of a song in both a mathematical and in an artful way. I had various things planned to make the event memorable. And then it didn't happen after all because of the coronavirus situation.

I postponed the event just two days before its scheduled date. It was the right thing to do, but disappointing nonetheless. Each auction event is the culmination of one year's work (and delight) for me, and right after it's over I am already planning for the next round.

A couple of weeks before the original date I had hung up the 42 pieces of the 2020 edition.

I had also installed the exhibit of reproductions showing the 150 art pieces which were created during the first four years of the project. I wanted to showcase, once again, these many amazing works that are such a joy to look at and be inspired by. I wanted people to see the many innovative and diverse ways of how these wonderful artists have approached the vinyl to make it into something new and unexpected. At the same time I wanted to honor the artists who have supported ART ON 45 so generously.

Hanging up all these prints in neat rows took me all day and most of the night plus the help of a close friend and fellow artist. It was an impressive wall of art indeed.

I was wonderful to have all that nice wall space of this year's event venue, a beautiful downtown store named Fine Line Supply, which is all about fine art, from selling supplies to reproducing and displaying original art. I love that store and all the friendly and knowledgeable people working there. Moreover, the kind-hearted owner of this small business has done so much for the growing art scene in our town and for our community in general - including ART ON 45.

A number of people went to see the ART ON 45 show before the shut-down came.

Back then, I expected a few weeks of sheltering in place and then slowly getting back to life. Well, obviously it didn't happen like that at all, unfortunately.

Things continue to be on hold or they are falling apart.

Meanwhile it has become clear that in-person events like the ART ON 45 auction are not going to be possible in the foreseeable future.

Tomorrow is the first day of August. The ART ON 45 exhibit has been up since March - but for the longest time behind locked doors. "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" George Berkeley once asked. Good question. Time to rethink this whole affair.

Meanwhile, the retrospective part of the ART ON 45 show has come down. And the auction event is going to be held in a virtual space this year, August 12-15. It's okay, really.

Now that it is round the corner, I am getting quite excited about the online event. I am trusting that the outcome of the auction itself will be just as successful as in the previous years, and I want to believe that the community feel will come in spirit, infinitely and easy as Pi.

2020 ART ON 45
Please visit the facebook event page for details and link to the auction site.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

How We Connect

Another good thing in my life has been the virtual residency that I was invited to by the local arts council NCLAC and the regional non-profit Ross Lynn Foundation. It was the very first residency for me, and I felt honored and excited about it - but also instantly overwhelmed when I received the invite. More pressure, I thought, more schedules, more stress.

But then it turned out that this residency was exactly what I needed. 19 artists mostly from the area but also from other states came together for eight weeks of zoom meetings in May and June. We shared our works, our processes, our thoughts, our blockages and inspirations. It was good and helpful and enriching.

For the residency, I decided not to make a 2-D collage. I put my "Earth" series on hold for a while too. Instead, I started working on an interactive 3-D object about human connections.

I love making 3-D projects in general but other than as school projects I don't really do them a lot. The last sculpture I made is "Undo" (2016) which is about my relationship to my biological father.

When I think about it, I only work in 3-D when I go through deep painful emotions. When I am finding myself in a deep valley I have the strong urge to work on something that I can not only touch and hold but physically embrace.

In addition to the 3-D aspect, I felt that my residency project should respond to my need to have a work process with lots of repetition. I often use repetitive elements in my work. They seem to make a message louder and shriller. And, according to the common (German) saying, repetition produces truth. I want the project to give me time to reflect. And I hope I will find myself in it.

I had the vague vision of this project when I picked up this large wooden salad bowl from a thrift store years ago. It's a beautiful bowl despite and because of its many imperfections: It has a large crack that obviously someone tried to fix with glue (didn't work), the bottom is uneven, and there are many tiny cracks, chips, scratches, and stains at the rim and on the inside.
 To me, this bowl was an image of a society, and I immediately felt that I wanted to fill it with people.

The bowl has been sitting untouched in my studio ever since I bought it. I was glad to finally use it now. With "How We Connect" I am indeed making a reference to the metaphoric "salad bowls" versus "melting pots" that have been used to describe diverse societies. Obviously there can't be such thing as a melting pot when social and systemic dynamics of a society don't allow or encourage any blending of groups. The image of a salad bowl society seems to fit much better, where all the ingredients are in the same container but stay alongside each other. Some are on top, some in the middle, some at the bottom. Some are at the margin, some are hidden, some are exposed. Some are so small that they will always fall through, no matter where they are. Not all are touching each other, and even if they do, those connections are scant, unstable, temporary. 

However, my project is not about making a specific model of a diverse society. It's about how people connect in general, the groups they form, and about the dynamics of these groups within a changing society. An interactive sculpture about how we are functioning (or not) as a society.

I am making the groups of people using wooden balls which I am covering with names cut from many different paper sources to have a wide variety of old and new names from as many cultures as possible. I have 350 spheres in different sizes, 1/4" to 5", to go into the bowl.

I want to make the bowl very full so that it is difficult to stir in it. Some balls will fall out when you do, while the ones left in the bowl will be getting closer to each other. As I said, the bowl has a wobbly bottom and a crack on the side. Altogether it's a fragile construction.

Work In Progress.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Windows Should Be Able to Dance

Yes, indeed, they should!

Friedensreich Hundertwasser said that. He is one of my very favorite artists. His work is not only beautiful, inspiring, timeless and timely but it contains every little piece of his soul and his longing for a wholesome peaceful world. His works make me feel the things he was feeling, the pain about people losing touch with nature and with themselves. His paintings are vibrant and playful. Though he got most recognition for his not-straightlined architecture, and for the boring buildings that he transformed into fairytalish treasures.

Because of all that, I have done a lot of Hundertwasser inspired projects with students of all ages, and it is always wonderful to see how well everyone responds to his art.

Anyways. Summertime usually is the time when I teach art camps at my studio. I love working with children and I love seeing their excitement and joy while they are working on a challenging yet captivating project. I am not teaching in-person this summer and who knows what next summer will be like. And the school year. I don't trust that I will be teaching face-to-face any time soon.

So I have been thinking about guided projects that children (and adults!) can do on their own. Projects which combine many different techniques and materials to make the project a fun experience. At the same time I want to create projects that makes the maker contemplate during the process. This is a difficult time for everyone. Diversion is good but reflection is necessary.

This is the first project that I am offering: a Hundertwasser Birdhouse. All ingredients that are needed to make one are included in the kit, except everyday tools like scissors, and craft paints and brushes. I have prepared detailed instructions with lots of photos and examples. However, there is plenty of room for individual expression. Contact me, if you would like to purchase a kit or two.
More projects to come.