New York City Art and My 19th Artiversary
16 May 2022 | 6:03 pm

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

New York has never had as strong a hold on me as it has on some artists. I mean, I love the history of New York as a scrumptious tossed salad of creativity, but I’ve also always been a bit grossed out by the idea that artists have to be in a massively expensive, mightily crowded city in order to make anything that’s truly valuable. It’s not that amazing things can’t be accomplished in New York—of course they can! But plenty of extraordinary art is being made everywhere, all the time.

I think my resistance to New York’s aura of importance stems from the same place in me that has always seen celebrity portraits as a no-no. I hate to think that one person’s humanity is more important than another’s just because they’re famous, and it’s same-same, but for cities and their city-ness when it comes to the Big Apple.

That’s why I love that my first ever experience of my art being exhibited in New York was maybe the opposite of celebrity portraiture. It was portraits of workers from across the country who’ve brought their communities together to make change, including Heather and Allyson, two educators who were part of the 2018 teachers’ strike in West Virginia. Like all of the people portrayed in the book The Future We Need, Heather and Allyson are super stars, just not the kind that usually get their portrait painted.

Showing this work at the Ford Foundation building for the book launch event feels like an excellent way to celebrate my 19th artiversary. It’s an affirmation of my values both as a person and as an artist. And I love that the way my art finally made it to New York was through a connection that probably only ever happened because one of the authors and I were living in the same conservative region where everyone who wasn’t a Trumper knew each other.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t the right artist for the job, but it is an excellent reminder that, while a successful art career is certainly helped by the daily effort of making interesting artwork, it also requires a good deal of luck and an openness to working on the projects that come your way.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!


Elevating My Art Practice
11 May 2022 | 9:00 pm

If you’re curious about the piece that teenage me was working on in this video, that image is featured here. The photo in the basement was taken by the lovely and talented Stephanie Yao for The Oregonian when that paper did a big spread about my art to celebrate this show.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

For most of my life, I’ve painted on the floor.

I started off setting up anywhere that made sense. In this case, it’s possible that sixteen year old me been asked to take my art-making outside, where rain would eventually wash away any watercolor drips.

And once I became a professional artist, I stuck to the floor, even in this unfinished basement space, where the chill and humidity seeped into my bones through the cracked concrete.

Then, when I was 24, I met my favorite person in the whole world, and, a few years later, we moved in together. He was the one who suggested that I invest in studio rugs—rugs that might get covered in paint, but that would protect the carpet of our apartment.

And these rugs ended up becoming an indispensable part of my studio, following me on our many moves and bringing with them the feel of my space. Literally. It’s the texture of these rugs under my feet that grounds me, no matter where I end up moving to.

Still, the rugs aren’t everything I’ve ever wanted for myself as an artist. For a few years now, I’ve been fantasizing about building a platform to paint on, but as a renter—and especially as a renter on the low end of the market where owners feel entitled to be less-than-lovely—I’ve never felt settled enough to commit to elevating my art practice.

That is until now!

With my recent move to Lambertville, I’m still renting and still living in an upsetting state of housing insecurity that is the reality of most renters in America, but I’m also forty and coming up on my twenty year anniversary as a professional artist. I didn’t want to delay any longer.

I love how I now get to truly step into my painting space. I love that the dust that kicks around our apartment doesn’t always end up in my studio. I love that I did this thing instead of waiting for the timing to be exactly right. And I love how these six little inches of extra lift make me feel about my art.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!


When Art Only Makes Sense with the Help of Your Community
7 May 2022 | 7:30 pm

When Art Only Makes Sense with the Help of Your Community

May 7, 2022

I couldn’t see it. I mean, I got why Maus was dangerous to the American right wing. They invented modern eugenics in the early part of the 20th century, and the party hasn’t changed all that much in the last hundred years—certainly not when it comes to finding ingenious ways to prop up systemic racism. It made sense that supporters of the GQP would work to get this graphic novel censored.

What I didn’t get as I read Maus for the first time was why people thought the work was so groundbreaking.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus by Art Spiegelman

All I saw in those pages were my grandparents and that generation of my family, many of whom played a role in the Resistance during World War II and one of whom barely survived a concentration camp. I saw what I’d already been taught on the streets of their tiny French village, where we still avoided certain people fifty years after the war ended because those people or their families had collaborated with the Nazis. When I read Maus, I saw a history that was already very much alive for me.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
exerpt from Maus by Art Spiegelman

In fact, it wasn’t until I attended a group discussion of the book that I started to understand what makes this graphic novel so vital.

Where I saw family, my fellow book club members saw characters that clarified the war in a new way. According to them, a big part of the appeal of Maus as opposed to other narratives of World War II was the back-and-forth between present and past. The humanity of the artist-son and his survivor-dad along with their complicated relationship made the Holocaust less about unfathomable numbers and more deeply human.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
exerpt from Maus by Art Spiegelman

Suddenly, Maus clicked into focus for me. I got the genius of the child telling the father’s story and making it his own, and I also understood that art can make you feel less alone when you appreciate it on your own, but that, when you dive into it with others, the feeling of connection is magnified in astounding ways.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
exerpt from Maus by Art Spiegelman

And there’s no greater threat to fascism than that human connection.

It’s why Maus was banned in Russia in 2015, just two years after it had finally been translated into Russian. It’s why Republicans don’t want kids reading the book today.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!

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