so it’s almost the end of the semester. this program has been super challenging. when i look back on the last few months i feel like i haven’t gotten much work made, certainly no where near the amounts of productivity i was at during my residency. but after my last crit i felt like what i wasn’t making in quantity i was making in quality. the work is no where near resolved but i feel so great about it. i feel like it’s moving forward and coming closer to the images in my head, i’m so glad!
i’ve never been the kind of person to look inside things, take them apart or try to fix them. but over the last few months i’ve been following our studio tech around trying to pick up some skills in the electric kiln department. it’s kind of fun, he’s a really good teacher and it’s starting to make sense.
well, i’m settling down in yet another temporary home. i guess i’m starting to get good at this. anyway, i am now in gainesville, fl doing a year of post-baccalaureate studies at the university of florida. gainesville and uf are both quite nice places. really a breath of fresh, oxygen rich air after philadelphia. philly is a amazing city but i am amazed at the unconscious sigh of relief i breathe when i look around and see so much green. proximity is much improved. i’m back to an 8 block (ish) bike ride to the studio which is sweet. this is a much bigger program then i’ve ever been a part of so space is limited, there is a snap of my work space above. this decrease in personal space is more than made up for in the huge and wonderful community, faculty and facility.
my favorite piece of equipment, at the moment, is the test soda kiln. it’s a small soda kiln that shares a chimney with a regular sized soda kiln(very similar to the soda kiln at the clay co.). it’s just one shelf (12×24) deep and you can stack 3-5 up depending on what your making. it’s firing away right now. very excited to see what comes out.
i recently aquired these images from my bfa exhibition. i have minimal documentation, at best, from this show, mostly in the form of black and white images taken and hand developed by my brother. so i was happy when g.m. found these on his comp and copied them to my thumb drive. a mix of low fire glazed work and hand built gas fired raw porcelain. some things change and some things stay the same.
this work was completed in 2003. most of it was made in the semester leading up to my exhibition. up until that point i was making a lot of figurative work with little cubbies and found objects (i’ll have to post some of that work one day) so it represented a new vein of work which was far less representational.
i have really fond memories of going to local farms with my family and picking tons of tomatoes and eggplants. eating them fresh for weeks and freezing or pickling (pickled eggplant!) what we couldn’t finish. of course growing up in florida, you can’t really help but eat local, with the mass amounts of oranges, lemons, mangos, avacados and grapefruits literally falling of trees into your hands. i’ve stopped at a strangers house to ask if i could pick their tangerines, and they grab the grocery sacks, press them into your hands and and say “yes, please, there are too many for us to eat.” at my parents place i grew up plucking loquats, mulberries, prickly pears and papayas off the plant and sticking them in my mouth (ok, ok, not the prickly pears. they require use of a special picking tool and complex cleaning to avoid cactus needles in your face).
despite this, markets are full of seasonless imports and most of us have gotten into the habit of expecting anything anytime, i know i have.
but a few weeks ago i went to a workshop on sustainability and education. hearing about so many awesome ideas and projects really got me fired up. my favorite lecture of the day was about economics (a class which i fully slept through in high school and have never revisited) and the local foods movement and it illuminated SO MUCH for me. all of the attendees got a copy of barbara kingsolver’s “animal, vegetable, miracle” which (like her fiction, which i’m a big fan of) was an amazing and engrossing story.
and now, like so many others (thankfully) i am getting amped to go local.
i think the local foods movement should just be called being awesome! i mean, you give your money to actual real people in your community who work really hard doing something they love. and then, you casually get to eat fruits, vegetables and meat that actually taste like fruits, vegetables and meat.
so i’m gradually trying to educate myself on what comes from where here in pennsylvania and starting to research what i can expect to find once i move to gainesville, fl. incidentally i’ve gotten a renewed sense of excitement about cooking and baking.
being back on familiar ground will be nice, things falling of trees will be nice and getting to know the more agricultural central florida will be awesome. yay exciting!
once again i’ll em bark on the turtle life. pack up all my stuff into my little house on my back and roll on to the next stop. my next destination is gainesville, florida where i’ll be enrolled in the post-baccalaureate program at UF.
it has been a very interesting, challenging and often amazing 6 months in the city of brotherly love. i am always lucky to meet friends wherever i go and in this short amount of time i’m delighted to have met and connected with so many awesome people, my roommate and neighbors in west philly, inspiring artists and teachers of the philadelphia art scene and my friends and coworkers at pp.
every step you take in one direction means not taking other steps in other directions and i always kind of struggle with that. i want to do everything! but i feel confident that as i bumble along, on my own path, i’ll figure out the right way to go. this crazy turtle life has taken my a lot of places and on many adventures. i guess this is the most wild adventure of all. bringing it all together and making dreams come true.
i guess i’ve always had a special connection with my father. i grew up with stories of my mother’s and his lives in tunisia and italy (where they each respectively lived until emigrating to the united states when they were teens). he says “there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are italian and those who want to be italian.” reminding me daily that while we might live in the united states and have american citizenship we were certainly more italian then american. after living for 3 years in japan, i can understand that sentiment. no matter how much you may like your adopted country it’s natural, i suppose, to romanticize your country of origin. anyway, back to those stories of far off places. for as long as i could remember i wanted to get away and travel. and my father has been central to some of my favorite travel stories, even though he wasn’t with me physically. he was a little bird in my ear telling me where to go. or maybe leaving a trail of breadcrumbs is more accurate. here are a couple of those favorite stories.
since i moved abroad in 2005 there have been some pretty intense leaps in technology, or at least in the accessability. now-a-days, even a technophobe like me can look up directions on google maps, or for that matter, take a snippet of information and google my way to an address and phone number. but in the early 2000’s i didn’t even own a computer and cell phones didn’t have gps on them yet. so when i decided in the winter of 2001/02 to hitchhike to new york city to see the metropolitan museum of art’s show of works by caravaggio and the father and daughter orazio and artemisia gentileschi it was with the aid of a map, made of paper. imagine. i didn’t even own a cell phone yet. my only other destination was arthur avenue, the “real” little italy, in the bronx. armed with the crossroads (186th st. and arthur ave.), crytic details (look for a deli with a star of david tile on the sidewalk out front, that’s the best deli in the area) and a list of requests(pepper biscuits, a few pounds of proscuito de parma, etc.) i took a day and headed there with my friend kat who had hitched up with me. from a friend’s place in washington heights, we took various buses and walked a fair distance, honing in on these crossroads, until finally, we found ourselves in the the little italy of the bronx. walking through the streets i kept my eyes peeled for the star of david tile in the doorways. finally i found it, affixed to the sidewalk in front of teitel brother’s deli. kat was a little amazed that we had found it. but for some reason i knew all along that we would find it. of course now the teitel brother’s deli has a website, as does arthur ave which spell out for you exactly which publix transit to take there but who needs internet when you can rely on psychic connection?
fast forward to the following summer. i have been in school at fau for a year and decided to do the study abroad program in italy for the summer. basically, i spent a month and a half in florence, italy learning italian and studying rennaicance art history (pretty amazing) but the real amazement came afterwards, when i spent a month traveling alone throughout italy. there were just a few relatives still in the country that my parents were in touch with, namely my mother’s 2 cousins. one in san remo and one in partineco (sicily). i spent a few days in san remo and about a week in partineco. both were really good visits but stories for another day. on my dad’s side of the family we weren’t really in touch with anyone. but again, i had a list from my dad. names of people and villages (in an email, actually, via my mother). once i arrived in the tiny, tiny train stop at ponte’ (during siesta, which is no good), stumble into an empty bar and am pointed in the right direction i start walking. and walking. and walking…..finally i flag a small car down. the car’s driver happily takes me to casaldune, the small village outside of which my father grew up. once there he tells me that the bus in front of us is leaving and it’s the last bus out of casaldune. it’s not like this place has a hotel! so i thank him and jump out. pulling out my camera, i snap a picture in one direction! turn and snap another, call up to the bus driver to please espeta just a minute while i take another photo. catching on he yells to me “la fontagna, la fontagna!”. to my left i see a small set of basins with spigots and snap a picture of it as well, hoping it’s the fountain he’s speaking of and jump on the bus. the driver takes me back to benevento station (benavento being a proper city with a proper station) and i find out from him when the morning bus runs for future reference. later that day when i talk to my dad, the first thing he says is “did you see the fountain?!”. thanks bus driver!
a few weeks later, literally 36 hours before my departure, while making my way from sicily to milan, i decide i have to try again. this time i start out at benevento station, but the earliest i can get there and get the bus (same bus driver) has me arrive just as siesta is beginning. sheesh! i haven’t written down the names my father had given me but i assume that i will call them from a payphone using an international calling card once i arrive. (the funny part was assuming there would be a pay phone!). i walked into a tiny grocery store and ask in my rough italian “where’s a pay phone?” I am introduced to this analog machine that will definitely not be taking a calling card. someone asks me, what are you doing here? when i try to explain (to the entire store, all of whom are listening now) that i am searching for my father’s long lost relatives someone gets a brilliant idea, runs off and returns with a woman who speaks proper british english. she, at the urging of everyone in the store, asks me a series of questions. what’s my father’s name? his father’s name? what village did they live in? and on and on. eventually everyone disappears, and the owners of the grocery store make me a mortadella sandwich (which they refuse to let me pay for) and things settle down for siesta. i wonder around, take photos and eploring casaldune. eventually the chief of police shows up and in his broken aussie english (everyone seems to have spent their youth being educated by the commonwealth) explains to me that we are going to the house my father grew up in. crazy! i can’t remember everyone’s name now, but i met a couple of people who knew my father’s family before they left. i get to see the house he grew up in (now a small shed really, with a giant modern house attached, with tons of drying garlic and a huge pot of sauce brewing inside), the house he lived in the year before leaving, slightly closer to town and eventually, through these people we learn that my great uncle still lives near by so we pop in on my uncle rocco and his wife. they are totally delightful, we have a quick chat and they ask me in for coffee. unfortunately well into siesta, the police chief’s wife is calling him on his cell, insisting he come home and there is no way for me to stay with out missing my flight out of milan. so we say an equally quick good bye, but i snap photos of each of them and write down their phone number for my dad before i go. the police chief takes me back to benevento and i head north to milan and eventually home feeling like i have had a pretty fantastic adventure.
since then my parents stayed in touch with uncle rocco and a couple of years following my trip, they returned to italy for the first time since their teens and visited. i never saw uncle rocco again and this spring he passed away. in a way, though, he was my favorite relative because we shared such a special story together.
i think i got my sense of adventure and exploration from my parents, inspired by their stories and lives. i’ll always kind of blindly trust those lists of names, places and cryptic clues and know i’ll find my way to another great adventure, even without gps.
here’s a pic of uncle rocco taken by my sister a couple of years ago when my parents, sister and brother all went to italy. my photos of my trip are all film and paper and stored in florida right now but jackie was nice enough to send this one to me.
i put a test of the blue porcelain in the gas kiln last week. didn’t look so hot. the body didn’t melt which was good but it got a little burned/dirty looking in reduction. in the electric it stayed a nice bright blue. the particular mason stain i used had vanadium in so it has a little yellowish hue which really came out in the reduction firing. i decided to go ahead and fire the little blue wall pieces to cone 6 oxidation with a wash of gerstley borate since it had worked so well on the white piece. the next day, while i was at work, one of my studio mates sent me a phone pic of the piece finished. i couldn’t totally tell what was going on but i was pretty excited. it looked amphibious……
i finally got to see it yesterday in person:
so now i’m wondering, is that what happens to gerstley borate at cone 6, or is some kind glaze forming between the gb and the mason stain components. lot’s of questions. love it. especially love to see the BRAINS surface.
spent most of monday and tuesday of last week at the galleries at the moore school of art de-installing two large installations by paula winokur and nan smith. 2 days working with 2 lovely ladies.
today i spent the day helping install a show at a gallery in old city. it was great to spend the day with 3 such well established, interesting and very amicable artists. i find it very important and inspiring to be around people you respect, especially really amazing women. i wish i would have thought to take a picture or two of installation but anyway, if you’re in the area, definitely check out the show at the rosenfeld gallery.