Moving to the Mountains

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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!

 

 

 

ABETARE – Petrit Halilaj

 

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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.

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Back in Italy

It’s my first time back to Italy since moving from Cortona to Arkansas last year.

It’s reall fantastic to be here and not be worried about finding work or transporting art. Right now I’m just here to help my students and enjoy the sea.

I’m here with three ladies from the States. We’re focusing on the contemporary art exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Art. 
First impressions of being back? My Italian is better than I remember and it’s easier to try new words when I’m not overwhelmed. I think Italian grocery stores are my favorite in the whole world. Truffle, artichoke, and yoghurt are some flavors that are way more present here than in Arkansas. No one walks with their phones out, actually not much phone use in public at all. Tiny cappuccinos are still silky amazing. I’ve missed being surrounded by layers of history and strata of materials.

Venice is spectacular as always and more dear than ever before. 

So very grateful to return.

Excellent and Weird Studio Videos

I like having something on while I work in the studio. Usually it’s a TV show that I’ve already seen… like all of The Office or Parks n Rec so that I can work without really noticing it. These two You Tube videos are also good studio fodder. Soothingly nerdy and mostly plotless.

Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars – Mixtape is a 1.5 hour series of clips and b-sides from the hight of Star Wars cultural infiltration.  It’s rich with weird bits and call-backs.

 

Jurassic Park Walk-through by Research Indicates is 3.5 hours of watching someone play one of the worst video games of all time and soothingly narrated. This clip is only the teaser / history chapter, it goes on in further chapters of restrained humor.