Sunday, January 25, 2009

rumination #4

Dear Thesis,

Did you know that I have a blog? It is called A Place in the Universe. You can visit it at

I think my blog is a true revelation of my artistic process. Most of my posts are more concerned with what inspires me than what I actually make out of that inspiration. Several readers have commented on the blurry line that I draw between the two. It's often unclear which work is my own, and which work was made by others. I find that delicate balance of differentiation extremely interesting. I recently read an article titled "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism" by Jonathan Lethem, author of The Gift. It questions the belief that one particular person can be credited as the sole owner or originator of their ideas. Lethem posits that, instead, ideas originate from their generator's exposure to the ideas of others, and that it's difficult to trace an idea back to its "original source". Lethem uses the word "cultural commons" to describe that process of idea-sharing, and compares it to the way that writers all employ the same themes and rearrange the same vocabulary to create their "own" prose. 

I have never felt like my ideas are solely my own. In fact, I have no idea where my ideas come from. I only know that I use words to explain them that I did not invent.  My work is never made by me alone. Rather, every piece is like a puzzle that I put together, of which each individual part is an opinion, action or idea that has been contributed by another person, be they Marcel Duchamp, my mentor, my peer, my mother, my mailman, or the viewer. 

One specific example of this is a piece I am in the process of making now. It was born one night at Wal-mart, when my two friends and I were getting our portraits taken at the photo department. We were dressed in silly outfits, and the Wal-mart employee seemed suspicious of us at first. But eventually she warmed up to us, and even liked one of our photographs so much that she said she would submit it to Wal-mart's studio photography competition. If we won, she said, we'd have our faces on the walls of every Wal-mart in the world. During the speech we were given about different packages we could purchase, we were told that we could get our portraits made into puzzles. My friend Philip mentioned, in passing, how interesting it would be to get our pictures taken individually, and then exchange the pieces from each puzzle so that our three images were combined into one person. It's now three years later, and I am doing exactly that, only with 12 images instead of 3. I am combining my landlord, my doctor, my teacher, my pharmacist, my mailman, my trash collector, my gynecologist, my hair dresser, my grocer, my accountant, my plumber, and myself into a portrait of my community. I emailed Philip to make sure he wouldn't resent me for "stealing" his idea, and of course he didn't mind at all. He would never have done it anyway.

Should I feel less proud of that creation, because I am not responsible for its original conception? I find comfort in the fact that I feel no shame in admitting to my exterior influences, no matter how great or small. I aim for complete transparency. And I would feel honored, rather than offended, on the day that someone stole from me.

Yours truly,

rumination #3

Dear Thesis,

One of my new years resolutions was to light candles more often. So I am writing this email by candlelight (and computer light, of course). I just thought you'd like to know that. 

My other new years resolution was to dance more often by myself. I think it would be fun to get over being shy at least around myself, to really let go, and release some dance moves I never knew were hiding in my muscles. My goal is to come up with some impressive footwork that I can eventually impart to the rest of the world. I have yet to begin acting on this resolution. Perhaps now is the time. I will take a small break and be back in a few minutes, hopefully out of breath. Here goes....

I'm back, and slightly out of breath, yes, but lacking the acquisition of any new dance moves as of yet. I guess it will take time. I had to dance with my eyes closed in order to resist feeling completely ridiculous and excruciatingly self-aware. By the end of the song I think I accomplished something, though. My shyness had abated ever so slightly. It's a small step towards unedited self-expression.

Speaking of unedited expression, I think there is an underlying element of that in these emails. I realized that the moment just before clicking 'send' is utterly terrifying. And then reading and re-reading the email after the fact is torturous. You are my thesis, after all. It's important that you get the right impression of me. It feels a little bit like Internet dating, but also like a prearranged marriage. Like meeting my prearranged life partner on the Internet. I am not taking this lightly, by any means. But perhaps revealing myself in this manner will be more honest than a thoroughly-edited, formal paper. That is my hope.

Yours truly,

silent mountain (a gift)

rumination #2

Dear Thesis,

I've been thinking a lot about that woman I see in the window washing her dishes, and wondering why it's so important for me to feel like I have something in common with her. Lately I wonder if it has to do with the way I was raised in the church, because my dad was a pastor. Religion tends to bring people of all kinds together, people who wouldn't normally associate with each other. Their shared faith automatically creates a common ground on which relationships are formed and entire communities are built. And what's beautiful about religion is that, in its most simple form, it is the belief in humanity. It is the acknowledgement of a very basic commonality - that we are all human. Obviously it gets complicated after that, with the belief in superhuman beings that have power over nature and human fortunes. But at the very beginning it's like someone said, "Hey, I'm human." And other people said, "Yeah, I'm human too." The problems arose when, instead of putting faith in themselves and in each other, people chose to doubt human nature, and underestimate our collective strength. I guess it's because we haven't yet figured out a way to avoid death. How can you truly believe in a thing that will not last forever? But what does?

I guess it's my secret hope for art to be like religion, for it to focus on our commonalities and bring people together, but without judgement. Art is the shared faith in humanity, the acknowledgment and acceptance of every conceivable aspect of human nature. Can't this faith be a foundation on which relationships are formed, between artists and non-artists alike? This is what I'm attempting to do every time I create - I am adding another stone to that foundation, along with other artists, adding their own stones, in hopes that this common ground will grow so large that it can support all of humanity.

Yours truly,

birthday bliss

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I found this picture while doing a google image search for "ramp." It made me smile.


I will brush my teeth with my left hand.
It will be an adventure.

(You should do it too! Except, if you're left handed you should use your right hand. And tell me how it goes.)

rumination #1

Dear Thesis,

How do I write you? 

I want to write like I would an email to my mom or a friend, and tell you about how small I feel when I look at the stars at night. Or about the window I walk by on my way home, the one at the white house on the corner of Terrace Street. It has a red curtain that glows so bright in the dark. I love to look at its folds and study its shadows. And sometimes I see a woman in the window next to it, but I can only ever see the top of her head. I think when I see her she's in the kitchen, washing the dishes after dinner. Her forehead and eyebrows peek over the windowsill above the sink. But I've never seen her face. And I want to tell you how sad that makes me, that I can't know that woman, that she never looks up as I'm walking by. Her eyes are always turned down to her task. And the wall between us feels so thick. But I can picture the way her hands are moving behind that wall, I can feel the warm water and smell the soap, and I can hear the sounds of silverware scraping the bottom of the sink as she reaches in to grab them. I can do this because I wash the dishes too. And I may not ever know that woman, but I know we have that in common.

Are these the kinds of things you want to hear?

Yours truly,

soon you'll understand why

"Screen" by Nadim Vardag


"Mirror Door" by Olafur Eliasson

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

we can make our own rainbows

"Being Here"
By Mark Garry - at the Mattress Factory
(see a video of it in the making here)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I performed in a dance that was choreographed by Layla Mrozowski for Alfred's December dance concerts. We danced on a wooden beam that was suspended over box fans. Check out a Flickr page of pictures here.

Anneke Dunnington!

(one of my favorite people from Alfred)
(one of my favorite people in the whole world!)
(pictures from her picasa gallery)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nele Azevedo’s Ice Sculptures of Melting Men

(found while doing a google image search for 'melting ice sculpture')

The Society For Asking Questions

"So we made ourselves into a society for asking questions. One of us was to visit a man-of-war; another was to hide herself in a scholar's study; another was to attend a meeting of business men; while all were to read books, look at pictures, go to concerts, keep our eyes open in the streets, and ask questions perpetually. We were very young. You can judge of our simplicity when I tell you that before parting that night we agreed that the objects of life were to produce good people and good books. Our questions were to be directed to find how far these objects were now attained by men. We vowed solemnly that we would not bear a single child until we were satisfied."

found here: 
(typed and taped to the door of another grad's studio)

(I think it was quoted from Virginia Woolf's book, "The Society")


(from the summer)

after the storm

(I laid on the ground 
and looked at the sky 
and laughed so hard!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

a horizon for the new year

This picture was emailed to my by a woman in Arizona, in response to my craigslist ad asking for people to send me pictures of their horizon. (It was not taken by her - I think she found it on the internet - but it is still wonderful. Someone took it somewhere, at some time, and that moment must have been so good).
inflatable sculpture and performance by Joaquin Sanchez
I am getting so INSPIRED!

this made me laugh out loud!

"Darth Vader Tries to Clean the Black Sea With Brita Filter", by Daniel Bozhkov

(found here)

Friday, January 9, 2009

When it's all quite dark, your existence is still clear?
Yes, because mommy knows I exist, even when I'm asleep.

(from FRANCE/TOUR/DETOUR/TWO/CHILDREN by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville)

ballooning into the sky

"Have you ever dreamed of being carried into the sky by a giant bouquet of colorful toy balloons? "

That's the idea behind cluster ballooning.
by Louise Bourgeois

Riitta Päiväläinen

found here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

sights and sounds of a day at home

snowfall, cacti, bird songs, sniffles, hot tea and 
the Be Good Tanyas

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


my landlord, my plumber, my doctor, my gynecologist, my mailman, my teacher, my trash collector, my grocer, my accountant, my pharmacist, my hair dresser, and me

(we're going to be made into puzzles!)

my website

Is up and running! There's still work to be done, but so far, so good. I'm very excited about it. Check it out. And let me know what you think.
The main thing that still needs working on is the "sort by concepts" page. Right now, the concepts are really just the works' titles. But I think I'm going to make this a forum for sharing my thoughts and asking questions. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

regarding my ruminations

I have decided to ignore conventions and approach my thesis a little more creatively. I've made an email address,, to which I send my thoughts. I'm going to copy some of those thoughts here, and I'd love to get responses to the issues I address and questions I propose. If you'd like to check the email address and read all the emails in their true form, the password is mfanyscc09 (log in at And if you'd like to share your thoughts, and possibly be incorporated into my thesis, please write directly to that email address above. It would be so great!

I'm not sure yet if these emails will end up being my thesis, in their raw form, or if they will eventually be edited and organized into a formal paper. But for now it's fun just to get it all out in a context within which I feel comfortable expressing myself. 

I like to imagine that my thesis will write back to me at the very end. Oh, boy! What will it say, I wonder? 

And what kind of junk mail will it get? Ha!