Archive for January, 2011

Ice Jellies in Another Formation

It has been such a fun time this past week methodically making hundreds of colored ice sculptures, that in the next few weeks will be happily smashed to smithereens by the residents here at VSC, in a Happening on the bridge in the town of Johnson, Vermont. The production of these little beauties has been hindered by my wait for food coloring to arrive, from the only place I could locate that had good volumes of the stuff, a company in California. Just doing my part, bringing the east and west coast together in a cathartic act of primary and secondary destruction.

The sculptures for the ice skeet shooting that will be going on, no guns involved I might add, are resembling bright, colorful, glass Whoopie Pies with delicate white frosting centers. I must make some edible versions to consume on the day, as they also look like French Macaroons as they sit in their stacks of bright colors and crisp precision for their immanent color collisions. Molding as many sculptures as I can before the day of action, with hand coverings of thin knitted gloves, and orange dishwashing ones atop, that are so ill advised for heat retention that after about an hour, I have to soak my hands in hot water to get the feeling back into them. Feet soaked through, now matter how carefully I tread in my own footsteps in the powdery light drifts, graced with a million refractions. So cowboy boots are not the best choice of cold weather footwear when negotiating deep snow but that’s what happens when you get used to a lack of true northern weather and your hiking boots get soaked through.

Perfect fresh packing snow, sparkled in the light of the moon, which happened to be sporting a moon dog around its sleepy crescent last night, as I started collecting massive bags of fresh snow from the mini blizzard of the past day. A fence hid most of the light spilling from the sculpture shops back porch, to make the fire pit and its now, snow lantern covered and unidentifiable shapes feel like a magic glade. In the daytime while working, I keep hearing the sound of ducks honking and carrying on. This is so strange, as I have not seen any paddling about in the river, and surely it is too cold for them. After a few days of this soundtrack, which made me think of a duck hunter practicing his call enthusiastically, it was revealed that one of the founders keeps ducks. I will have to go in search of them, to the realm of the mystical snow ducks of Vermont.

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The Underworld

The River by the Red Mill in Johnson, Vermont

As the curator of The Museum of Urban Design, I will be continuing to research new works while waiting for the years season of designing, planting and growing to begin in MUD’s new location. What better way to start the New Year than to be in a residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, for a month of adventure. After 2010’s non-stop work-a-thon, this is a welcome break to develop new happenings and sculptural/ photographic and ephemeral works.

In a cruel twist of fate I some how managed to cut my finger on the left hand, again, not again, that’s twice now in a space of three months, a personal record. This time the slice was made in the kitchen right into the middle of my index fingers nail, a feat that I never accomplished in all my years of professional chefing. Into the nail bed, wow, ouch, ironic also that it was the first time I have worn silver-black nail polish, so it can not visually be assessed as to the damage caused to the flesh beneath and there is no way, acetone is going to be put on it to check it out. As per the last time, I am too scared to open up the bandage to see the full damage. Hopefully a trip to the emergency room won’t be necessary. During the breakfast break before my self-impalement, there had been a vibrant discussion about the length of emergency room visits and medical insurance dramas. Now, was that precognition or predetermination?

I had been pondering the symbolism of silver-black nail polish while applying it the night before. The color of a cadaver’s nail bed and inky black water, its subsequent flashes, small bindings of silver reflectivity. There will be a slash in my nail for a long time, a permanent reminder of my visit here, a self-scarification event. A resident writer here showed me a gash he had made 15 years ago in his nail that looked startlingly, rather fresh. A small narrow chasm running from the uppermost tip of his nail with its sides of clean icy white with a minute divide of pale peach rather than an injured rosy skin, stretching straight downward. A long way down.

Hmmm, scarification, could I steel myself into the iron bound will required to make a matching gash, to create a permanent x pattern. Alas, I have none of the fortitude to make a personal visual statement with my own flesh as canvas. The white x that would result would offer up to much pain in my imagination, no mater the personal strength the marking would engender. The underworld, the surface ice and snow, the hidden and revealed waters flow, river bottom, nail bed and soft flesh foundation.

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Bus Stuck in the Snow on 7th Ave Brooklyn

As I lay awake again, woken by the slap, slosh, slurp of what I now know is the sewer junction below the bedroom floor, fighting against the incoming high tide of the harbor, in its attempt to enter the basement, I reflected of the past year. A year in which I unwittingly engaged in constant sleep deprivation, due to the then new apartment’s only bedroom, being beside the buildings entrance hallway and its double set of doors. This included a row of mailboxes cut into the drywall and without any insulation, it created the resonant sound of a freight train unloading at mail delivery and resident mail checking time.

My hazy perceptual existence coupled with the constant stress of self imposed deadlines of The Museum of Urban Design’s planting, materials reclamation rounds, and of course the CVES constructions, created a year without rest, relaxation or holidays. I worked full time on the project with the assistance of my partner, when he was home from work on the weekends and some evenings. Having to teach him along the way added to the exhaustion. Not having a moment to reflect on choices but to be driven by time and budget constraints only to react to situations, without hesitation and the need to create structures that were perfect, workable and without flaws the first time around, added heaps of challenge to the mountain of stress. Coupled with this freefall, it was my first time designing, planning and building anything. The edifice had to be watertight, livable and 100% vermin proof, perfect the first time, no mistakes, this worked its accumulated effect, creating an almost unbearable exhaustion in me at times.

Joining this physical and mental Olympics was the extreme weather in New York. It started with one of the hottest summers on record, which began early and just kept pumping out heat. It progressed to an unprecedented amount of mulberry fruit dropping on the building site, from an impressive height, which lasted for months and resulted in painful impacts on the spine and head and precipitated a fly and mosquitoes explosion. Then there were the many windstorms that ripped the siding off of part of the building and the next-door lots, for sale sign. Next there was a tornado, which I was nearly in, the two concurrent floods in the basement, which I alone cleaned up, the hail, and the coup de grace of the 6th largest winter storm to hit New York, ever, with accumulations of 18 inches of snow or more, on the day that CVES Mark I and part of the apartment was to be moved. The aftereffects of this was an even more frenetic move between blocked roads and snow piles.

There was the learning curve of my first time chicken rearing and keeping, with the added fission of having to keep them indoors because CVES just kept having setbacks and delays in completion. This created the need for the chickens to be kept indoors for far too long, in alternatively larger and larger brooders that had to be first built and then maintained daily for freshness. This ended when they lived for a time in the basement washroom, which was thankfully tiled and then cardboarded up for its protection. It flooded one morning in a torrential downpour at 4am and I just managed to grab the chickens off of the floor before a wall of cold sewage water reached them. They had constant respiratory problems due to the buildings poor air quality and had to be put outside in a temporary and unsecured run, as often as possible, to clear their lungs and let them indulge with the necessities of chickeny dust bathing and scratching the ground. This meant I had to be near them, to hear their calls in case of feral cat or raccoon attack. There was a raccoon that in mid summer had killed some cats a few houses down the street and they will, kill chickens for sport.

The move to the new apartment meant a new building for the chickens had to be built. CVES Mark II was created again on the fly, in between hefting over 10,000 lbs of soil and wood, to the new apartment at the new location. It was a sleep deprivation, cold and wind endurance marathon, lasting three days. The basic structure was not completed until 11pm Christmas Eve. CVES Mark I was disassembled in a record time in the first apartment, early the next morning at 8am Christmas Day, in a desperate attempt to race the oncoming storm. The snow pack wedged into the unprotected corners of the structure, as we frantically disassembled the interior panels, then reattached them. The insulation foam most likely will have to be redone. Snow covered the flat pack designed buildings panels and walls, as the two of us hefted its massive bulk around, under sheer will power and adrenaline. Tarping it just as the blizzard increased in tempo, soon it was covered it in a drift 8 feet high of blowing powdery snow. The gale force winds lasted for two days, creating a snowdrift mountain range. Two attempts to get it moved so far have failed due to weather or miscommunication. It now looks as though it will not be completed in the near future, as planned and instead of being hefted over 5 neighbors fences, it will go into storage somewhere awaiting redeployment. Complicating all of this, is the emotional fallout from the realization that my husband of many years, likes me pretty much only for my mental faculty and project ideas. I have to lobby for kisses. What the hell is that all about? I am now heading to Vermont for an artist’s residency, which will hopefully make this year a more splendid, spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally one. Gosh darn it, I deserve it.

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