I spent the first month of summer in my backyard in southern Minnesota. Sounds dreamy, right? Well, maybe not quite as dreamy when I add that I was spray painting hundreds of pieces of paper! Some months earlier, I’d been invited to be part of an exhibition called Paper Work. Everything about the exhibition was enticing: The location (Denver!), the gallery (the lovely Center for Visual Art at Metropolitan State University of Denver !), and the other artists, who are amazing: (Anne Hallam ! , Jennifer Ghormley !, Bovey Lee ! , Diane Martonis !, Dawn McFadden !, Mia Pearlman !, Susan Porteous !). There was just one catch: In order to effectively participate in this exhibition, it seemed that I would have to complete an installation entirely from paper. Minor detail.
Honestly, up until recently, I’ve always kind of frowned upon the idea of using paper for my site-specific works. Sure, it’s readily available. Sure, it’s recyclable. But wouldn’t my work lose some of its tactile edge? Would it not be less sturdy, less strong, even less assertive? Having now completed my first work entirely comprised of paper, I can say that the answer to all of these things is, in some measure, yes. In order to work with paper, I had to let go of some of the qualities I’ve valued in previous projects. But I think that I was able to more than make up for the qualities lost with new, positive attributes.
The work I created for the exhibition, Splendiferous Jungle Warfare, splices sources in a way that is freer and less inhibited than in previous projects. Weapon imagery still figures into this installation. But so does fashion. And home decor. And the topography of the jungle. My work has always been fiction, based in part on fact. But in this work, I was a little freer with the fiction…and the spray paint! No longer limited to a set palette of craft felt, I found myself interested in pattern combinations that would prove both beautiful and edgy. I created intense symmetry…and then challenged the symmetry in subtle ways. I created harmonious color…and then threw a wrench in it with several color combos that are gag-worthy close-up.
My favorite thing about this work is that I can’t explain it entirely. It is ahead of me. I think, as artists, we are always trying to control the outcome. But often, the best outcome is when the work leads you somewhere new. It’s as though all the things I do and see and absorb that have seemed meaningless finally found a place in this new work. I couldn’t be happier about it.
This Denver experience, like my previous one, was awesome. I haven’t been to Denver since 2012, when I had a solo exhibition at David B. Smith Gallery. The Paper Work exhibition features some smaller works on paper from my earlier David B. Smith exhibition. It felt like a wonderful way to connect the exhibitions, and also a way to mark the change that has occurred in my work from then until now. Some things, though, never change. It took me ten seconds to find my way back to Rockmount Ranch Wear, where I had purchased celeste green boots in 2012. This time, I bought some beautiful red boots. Say…isn’t it time for me to return to Denver already?! It seems that Denver has been very good to me :)
My project would not have been possible without the incredible staff at CVA-Metropolitan State University of Denver. A very special thank you to Curator and Creative Director Cecily Cullen and Gallery Manager Stacy Sturdy, along with the many other employees, interns, and volunteers that assisted me during my stay. Likewise, a huge thank you to David B. Smith and David B. Smith Gallery, who lent work for the exhibition, and who first introduced my work to the Denver community. And last but not least, a shout out to my Minnesota friend Sarah Rapp, who volunteered her time to help me iron paper during her Colorado vacation.
Flying home from Denver was bittersweet. I was ready to sleep for a week. But…wait for it: I had more work to do: The next morning my husband and I ran the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN. In my younger days, I was reasonably speedy. This time around, I was just thrilled to finish. But let it be known: Our time was over a minute faster than the average! I’ve had several people comment recently that athletics and art don’t mix. I think the contrary is true. Anyone who has done large-scale, site-specific installations will have no trouble understanding how it’s not that different from running a marathon!
Next up: A big permanent project at Schmidt Artist Lofts in St. Paul. To be installed by July 14th! When I’m not sleeping, I’ll be in the studio! Thanks for reading everyone. Happy summer!