Moving to the Mountains


A few years ago I was in a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon. I was living in Italy and was only in Portland for a few days, on the road hopping from place to place. As I sat in that cafe sipping my americano, Built to Spill played over the speakers and to my surprise I almost started crying. Time ran backwards for a moment as I was enveloped memories of Seattle and I recognized just how far my life had gotten from my home.

I loved living in Italy, there are so many things to love about living in Italy – gelato, cobblestones,  church bells, wine, pasta, museums around every corner – but it was never intended to last.  The West is my home, always has been, always will be, even if I spend years of my life away The West is my culture; the music, the progressive thinking, the monumental landscapes, hiking, snowbanks, camping in the rain, etc. The culture of the West is the veil through which I feel the rest of the world.

And so I’ve spent the last couple of years steering my career West – residencies in Washington, a show in Hawaii, and on a whim last summer I applied to be the Lab Manager for Printmaking at Utah State University. I didn’t know what to expect from Utah or from Utah State University. I knew I wanted to be further west and I wanted to spend the majority of my time in a printshop instead of a digital studio.

What I have found here is beyond anything I could have hoped for – a beautiful home,  supportive fun colleagues, students who are excited about printmaking, a large well equipped studio, a fantastic art museum, monumental landscapes and easy access to all things West Coast.

I’ve accepted a promotion to Area Head and Assistant Professor of Printmaking for Utah State University. I’m so very happy to be putting down roots in the Rocky Mountains. This means I’ll be spending more time on research, traveling to document more domestic violence shelters, and teaching our fantastic students. I’ll also be headed to Los Angeles a few times a semester and Seattle of course.

I’m excited to see what comes next!




The Power of the Tangible

There’s an article on Politico by Jack Shafer questioning the success of print newspapers’ jump to invest in digital versions. After all this time physical prints still have higher perceived value than the digital versions.

…online editions tend to be perceived as inferior to the paid-for print product because they’re free, plus the “tangible” nature of newsprint gives it an edge in readers’ minds over the pixel product.

This is, of course, very human. Even in the face of so much intangible passing around our culture, we are still hard-wired to value material objects and tangible markers of time.

I’ll point you in the direction of Ellen Dissanayake for some of the reasons.

Early on as a printmaker I latched on to the poetic righteousness of Print’s role in marking time and disseminating knowledge. It is still one of the things that drives my days.

Here’s to the hope that on the other side of this era of cultural upheaval there are some really great steakhouse quality newspapers waiting for us.

(Read the article for that analogy to make sense.)

Thu-Van Tran – La Venice Biennale di Arte

In a series of works Thu-Van Tran reproduces fragments of a rubber plantation in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale di Arte.

Casts of hevea tree trunks are laid out in front of photograms of tropical foliage and a video of people carving the bark of the hevea tree to extract rubber. The photograms make the ephemeral moment of light hitting leaves durable, and the mark of the worker’s hand is evident in the casts of the trees. Looking like bones, the trees are displayed on crates reminding me of something being packed and stored like an artifact, no longer a part of its true ecosystem. Together the pieces broadcast an experience of work, colonial domination, and nature.

I’ve been reading some of Walter Benjamin’s writings on mechanical reproduction and the “aura of the original.” He creates an argument that contradicts itself almost immediately, or at least pales over the intervening years.  He places the reproduction in the realm of the “other” or alien; something that is not quite right as a way of devaluing it in comparison to “the real”. I assert that the otherness or the mediated state of reproduction in and of itself creates an experience all its own – a new realness.

In this case we are presented, through mechanical reproduction, with the weight of the nature and action of the plantation. Pain and beauty are both present in the collection of these seemingly prosaic objects and views, until the video decodes the signs for the viewer.

Benjamin and I are going to be healthy sparing partners.

Again, again, over and over, that’s when it starts to get interesting.




Printmaking and Catalan Independence

Catalonians are fighting to vote on whether to secede from Spain.

In this week’s On the Media journalist Vincent Partal speaks about the roll of media in the Catalan independence referendum: Catalonia Crackdown.

Partal mentions the importance of printed materials in the battle between Spanish and Catalonian officials. In an attempt to stop the referendum voting the Spanish government confiscated pamphlets, posters, and ballots.

In response Catalonians printed new ballots in a secret location (see video above) and created posters that could be printed at home.

Print Power and democratic distribution in action.

Kristen Schaal is a Horse

Kristen on a horse

A still from Bob’s Burgers episode Warf Horse

Sorry, this post has nothing to do with Bob’s Burgers but it IS about Kristen Schaal’s genius (she voices the little lady in the pink eared hat in the image above) and there IS a horse… sooo… yeah.


There’s a joke that I like to tell. It’s the Two Whales joke. If you’ve heard me tell it you’ll remember. Ask me the next time I see you.

The humor of the joke depends on repetition and a kind of variation in performance that as a viewer I can find super annoying unless it’s done really well. I’m not going to tell you the secret of the Two Whale joke here, just in case you do find an opportunity to ask me about it.

But Radio Lab explains repetition specifically loops and they begin the show with a clip of Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler performing Kristen Schaal is a Horse.

Our delightful pattern seeking brains see something looping or repeating and we instantly ask, why? Why is this __unit__ repeating?

In the case of Kristen Schaal is a Horse…well… you should listen to this:

Kristen Schaal is a Horse on Radio Lab’s Loops Episode

Again, again, over and over – that’s when it starts to get interesting.




ABETARE – Petrit Halilaj



ABETARE – Petrit Halilaj – Wallpaper installation, scans from a book

There was a special focus on the book, as an object and as inspiration, in this year’s Venetian Biennale di Arte. Christine Macel, Curator of the 57th International Art Exhibition, even referred to the nine main sections of the exhibition as chapters.  The Pavilion of Artists and Books, rooted in an exploration of artistic practice, opens with works that illustrate the continuum of  otium and negotium, idleness and action, the fits and starts of intuitive creative production.

The pavilion, there’s no physical separation between the conceptual pavilions they flow into each other room to room, highlights artists’ relationship with books and knowledge as both inspiration and object.

Halilaj’s piece is a deconstructed a book spread over the surface of a few walls.

A digitally printed wallpaper is made from images of pages from Halilaj’s childhood alphabet book. Ubiquitous across cultures, alphabet books are used to teach children the basics of language as well as a social behavior and norms, two kinds of knowledge imparted.

The original book was passed from family to family in an effort to protect cultural identity during a time of oppression and lack. Reproducing the pages in this way, across a wall, in ABETARE the information is disseminated all at once, urgently, as an announcement across the viewer field of vision. There is a radical nature to exposing information that was once passed hand to hand to avoid detection.

The images are printed on a plasticky vinyl maybe, self adhered to the wall. The all-over-ness and encompassing environment is disrupted only by the work’s location in a hallway to the bathroom.

Again, again, over and over – that’s when it starts to get interesting.