The Class in Review


WInding Up/ Winding Down

Very good last class on Monday. It was a pleasure meeting and speaking and dining on delicious food with all of you this semester.

I am so freaked out by the oncoming end-of-term, but at the same time, I am beginning to feel that all the things I need to do are not as overwhelming as they looked from afar- like a wave that you see building in the ocean that look like it will become huge, and ends up breaking gently on the shoreline.

I have to say that I’m really looking forward to that month long break. I feel like I have been inhaling all this work and that I’m at the last of my air, and really need a nice, big inhale more than anything. I’m so excited to see my family again, having the chance to relax, to think, to revamp this website, consider new art ideas, and to make plans for the near future- all the things I don’t really have time for right now.

I had a visit with Fred Stonehouse on Thursday, and it was good to finally get the chance to talk with him. He had some great suggestions and as he put it- ‘I think some of your work wants to go bigger.’

Bigger and longer are definitely in my plans right now for the next semester, among other things.

This semester my goals were:

  • Making as much work as possible (covering the walls)
  • getting a deeper knowledge of comics specifically, and words + images in general
  • get accustomed to working long hours
  • get a general sense of the university and grad school.

Next semester I hope to:

  • explore (geographically and academically)
  • get some cross disciplinary activity going
  • experiment a little bit with different forms
  • go bigger, longer, and deeper

I wasn’t as happy with my TA interview as I could be. I practiced first at Tom’s independent study (It was a flop- that’s what you get when you don’t practice before hand!) I went to about five mock interviews, and things were sounding pretty solid until I got into the room. My voice went all squeaky and uncertain, and just decided to roll over and play dead in general. Damned voice anyway.

Here’s a great big hug for all of you. (spider hugs are the best… they are warm and fuzzy and have 8 legs to hold you with.)






Between getting ready for my library show and getting ready for my T.A. interview, I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep these last couple of days. It doesn’t help that my brain has decided to take vacation week seriously. But after finally getting the chance to revise my interview, I think it is FINALLY coming together. I’ve gone to four practice interviews so far, but the last one with Jamie and Gaby, was the one I first one Idid after I had the chance to revise and edit.

I’m excited about the library show too. I’ve made some progress printing my conversation pieces, which I will probably scan and make into handouts for people to draw upon. And I suspect that the make-your-own carnival board I created for open studios will fare much better in this environment than holed up in the weird room where it was before. I’m shipping old art over here and buying frames for all of my new stuff.

I heard once that the time it takes to do a task fills the time we have to do it in, and I think that is true… to a point. In terms of art-making, part of me feels that I working as hard, if not harder than I did at the beginning of the semester, but getting less done. Exhaustion and stress is a big factor. There this really annoying thing in me that rises up when I feel overwhelmed, that just wants to throw up its hands and hide under the blankets and watch Dr. Who instead of dealing with whatever is freaking me out. I had to really grapple with that thing over the holidays.  I think I mostly have it under control now, and I no longer feel that everything is totally impossible. (there could be some seasonal stuff contributing to that malaise too. Vitamin D’s where it’s at!)

Another big thing is the rise of all the non creative tasks I have to fill since the funding application reared its ugly head. Paperwork is never fun, even though it is necessary, and I do wish that the interviews were not happening just as everything has started to ramp up in earnest.

I’m working on some projects that are way bigger and take way more time than the things I made when I first arrived. Lynda’s having us churn out a bunch of larger and more complex comics within class, and it’s good that what I am making actually gets accounted for in the class structure, but I really, look forward to working on larger paper, even if it slows me down even more.

Still, this is still the fastest I’ve worked in a years. I’ve gotten used to the pace of printmaking, of planning every inch of a project, and looking at it inside out and upside-down and backwards. I love printmaking and hate to admit this, but putting it on the backburner feels almost like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.  I can work through ideas so much more rapidly, without getting bogged down in the intricacy of the process (as beautiful as it is. )

Speed is a funny thing.  It can lead to slapdash work and lack of the loving little details and depth of thought that are put into something made over a long period of time.  Stressing over deadlines can also just drain the fun out of anything.  But working quickly also gives me the momentum to get over creative blocks, grants clarity, and can cut through the tangle of a gordian knot.  There’s this thing in physics called the Heisenberg uncertainty principal, that I think also applies to art.  a scientist can know about the position of an electron,  but at the expense of knowing about its movement, and visa versa. This mass vs. energy tradeoff has always seemed to be an issue in creating, too.

I haven’t talked about the post colloquium dinners me and a few others had going for a while in this blog. But I dearly I miss them as we have all been busy with our various tasks in the intervening weeks. Hopefully, we can get them going again soon. I did go to Paul’s house over thanksgiving at least.

As promised, here are some images of the characters I made at the Chazen. The image quality isn’t great, but I had to sneak them out of the grading box for documentation…..

Geology Museum and the Museum of Physics

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Geology Museum:


Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 4:30pm Saturday: 9:00am – 1:00pm

This is an amazing museum that I cannot recommend enough.  I admit I’m a bit biased- I really like science and I’ve never met a geologist who wasn’t awesome (see last week’s comic).  If you can figure out their secret hiding spot, the people who run the museum will happily emerge and tell you all they know.  The Geology is free to the public and hosts tours, classes and activities for both children and adults.  It’s been around about as long as the university has, and has the collection to show for it- over 120,000 different specimens including meteors, minerals, and lots and lots of fossils.  Its also a scientific researching tool, but for us artists, it probably is most valuable as a visual library.  If your work involves the natural world or the environment at all, I’d say it’s especially helpful; many of the fossils there are utterly mind bending, and it’s wonderful to see the plants and animals who walked the earth millions of years ago and who are so different than the kinds of creatures who inhabit this planet today.


Physics Museum:

1150 University Avenue Madison, WI 53706

Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm

When I wandered into this museum (towards the end of the day on a Thursday), it did not seem to be opened, but it did not seem to be closed either; there simply was no one there.  It seemed designed to be interactive, so I did play with some of their machines and hopefully did not break any of the rules doing so. They had classic toys, like newton’s balls (and a likeness of him in a party hat) and less predictable things, like a booth where you could view the cosmic rays currently raining down on us from the sky. In total, there are about 60 exhibits, some of them in rotation. The museum seems to especially stress its guided tours- in fact, one of the first things I found upon entering was a giant sign encouraging people to join.If you want to do something completely different from making art for a bit, that’s something to consider. Also, if your work involves anything with moving or mechanical parts, this museum may be a great inspiration for  you and perhaps you can find a physicist to consult!

BONUS Chazen Adventures:

After my library shift on Thursday, I found out (by walking outside) that the Chazen was having a night at the museum, which included food, coloring books, mug decorations, and most crucially, flashlight tours. I went on one of those and while the interior wasn’t terribly dim, making the shadows dance and flicker brought a new dynamism, especially to peices that might be overlooked.  Professor Hantu had sent us all to the museum the day before to draw 20 characters found in the art; I tried to document figures that were small or tucked away or which might go unnoticed. I’ll post some of those later this week for your enjoyment ;).

Field Trips and Acknowledgements

spooksgeologist-rockWhew! After a lot of running around like a headless chicken, Open Studios is over and done! Now I have to make cards (and cookies for those who eat them) for the people who assisted me. At the forefront are Susan, who did some matting for me and Bill, who took over a project. Thank you also to Anwar, who pointed me towards the black box where the project was to take place, and Vicky, who covered a library shift for me so that I could attend a lecture.

I couldn’t get Saturday off.. (c’est la vie) but I did meet with and have a few good discussions with faculty, as well as a studio visit from Josh. I think I want to make some BIG projects while I am here, and I have started to draw up a grad school bucket list, which includes making:

  • a game
  • street art/stencils
  • some interactive 3d things
  • a graph or chart of some sort

Thursday I took the afternoon to explore some science things- I really want to get some scientific ideas back in my work. I attended the aforementioned lecture on time travel paradoxes, which was both packed, and presented by exactly the sort of person you’d expect to find to be giving such a lecture in an old movies. I also visited the geology museum and the physics museum for today’s presentation.

I’m glad Lynda has decided to move communal comics day to sunday. Though she was sick and wasnt able to go, there were a lot of people in there making stuff and having some very interesting conversations!

Tipping Point

Over the last week, the idea of the end of nature has been coming up a lot, and I want to tear that idea apart right now.  I’ve started reading ‘Art in the Anthropocene’, which states ‘The Anthropocene can be framed as the global condition of being born into a world that no longer exists,’.  I heard a bit of  that thinking in Catarina Leitao’s presentation too- the idea that the wild has become a consumable commodity, and that much of the nature we surround ourselves with is artificial.   The main thrust seems to be that human presence has permanently contaminated the once pristine environment, that the very earth may end forever because of our folly. angry-environment-comic-1.jpg

That isn’t to say that we aren’t in a terrible crisis.  I’m writing this because a few days ago, WWF released a report that 60 percent of life on earth is gone because of us.  the week before that, scientists released a report that we only have a fifteen year window to radically reduce our carbon emissions before the consequences get far worse than they already have.  I’m writing this because my family has had to about every other summer. My sister was teaching in Sonoma at the time that it burned; some of her students lost their homes.  My grandmother has been evacuated multiple times from her nursing home in Santa Barbara.

angry-environment-comic-4  I’ve had to go to work and paste a smile on my face for the visitors as helicopters dropped red fire retardant on flames only three or four miles away, as the light turned an oily orange and ash drifted down like snow. Even when the park shut down and I drove down to see my friends in L.A. that summer, I encountered at least three other big fires on the way.  I’m writing this because on my train ride to the midwest this summer, the smoke followed me.  It crept through the vineyards of  the central valley.  It smudged the  sea of tumbleweeds and sand that is Nevada and the alien plateaus of Utah.  It hung over the high-rising canyons of Colorado, and remained inescapable until I got to Iowa.  I had only just arrived in Madison when the flooding started. I’ve acquired an occasional smokers cough that I didn’t have five years ago.  I’ve never been a smoker.

I think one of the big problems is that we have stopped seeing the natural world as something that we are a part of.  Even in environmental narratives, nature has become become something of a damsel in distress, a victorian maiden that is fragile and pure, and beautiful.  We’ve segregated the ‘natural’ from the ‘manmade’, never mind that we and everything that we do is a part of nature, as much as the trees along the highway, the web of  a spider, the viruses that infect us, and a cow’s methane laden farts. We may have changed our environment dramatically, but we have not tamed it- not like we think and not for long. angry-environment-comic-2.jpg

We have not managed to install any permanent colonies in space, so for the foreseeable future, we aren’t going to burn the world down and weasel out of  the consequences by moving to another planet. our fate is the earths’s fate and saving the environment means saving the campsites we visited with our families, the mountains we have traversed, the  lakes and oceans where we have swam and gotten sunburns. It also means saving  our childhood homes, the water we drink, our parents our children, our friends and our co-workers, because they are a part of this world, too.

About three years ago, I had to attend the funeral of one of my friends.  While I was there, her dad told about a time when she was quite young, and asked him out of the blue, ‘ Why is the right thing to do always the hardest?’ That question still haunts me.  This was at a time when a chapter of my life was coming to a close- one filled with acute depression and disappointment,  when I had  to learn over and over that sometimes, the worst thing you could possibly do is nothing.  It took a long time to shift my thinking about the environment as something distant to something right there in front of me, to get through the distractions and the fear of discomfort that change and confrontation bring.  I am as much to blame for my passivity as anyone

And in spite of this, I am hopeful about the future.  The systems that are in place have always been unsustainable and destructive, but we are starting to realize the imminent threat- and that can push us towards taking action. As the old way of doing things become unsustainable, we can learn from those mistakes and create something still imperfect, but better.

Things are dire but not hopeless. We have faced terrible challenges and overcome them before.  In the last 150 years alone, we have utterly transformed the way we live through cars, electricity, and the internet. We’ve regulated exploitive companies and monopolies (and yes, we can do it again.) We’ve been to the moon for heaven’s sake. I’m terribly proud that my native California is leading the fight against climate change, already getting a third of its energy from renewable sources.     We can use the push to create clean power to create jobs, to innovate and to heal many of the wounds that drive us apart.  On that train trip through the country, I saw devastation, but I also passed three or four wind farms, turbines slowly spinning like pinwheels planted in a garden.  The world was obscured by smoke, but  still there, foraging on.  Life is nothing if not resilient and adaptable, blossoming again after a catastrophe like a forest after a forest fire

Martin shaw, a student of myth, when asked what he would tell his  son  about the seeming hopelessness of the world said ‘ I’d tell him, you were born for these times.’ This is our fight. We may not be able to fix all the terrible things we have done as a species, or anything at all, but we cannot go on the way we have been either.

Be well friend, and go forth with eyes open  and the courage in your heart to change.  and try to remember: you and I have so much more power than we think.