Ok, so we aren't always brilliant are we?
Michael and I needed to be at the gallery to give an interview this morning at 10am (for those not keeping score that would be a full three hours earlier than normal, not complaining, just updating). Ok, 10am. What does that mean? It means that I did less sleep than normal so I could do prosaic household things. Also it means that I didn't have all of my accustomed caffeine. I am a tea junkie ok? AAAAAAAAAA!
I wanted to get a rank of feathers done today. Did I? Did I nonsense? I got half of one done, and lucky at that.
The Artist's Block
Ok, artist's block is myth. It's more artsulk. I do artsulk very well, quite dignified really. I had a serious case of artsulk today. I tried, really I did... I was valiant. Ok Michael was more valiant. He finished the half of the hide he was working on. I worked on charm today. I talked to people. We had some fun people in the gallery today. Most were there on purpose. The fantastic Ed Madrill came to say hi. Ed is a member of the Native Advisory Committee at the de Young. He is a friend. He is an epic dancer. See Ed hoop dance if you can, he's amazing, graceful, patient in his explanations. I was happy to see him. One of my best friends, educator Jilma Ortiz stopped by. Jilma teaches second grade here in SF. She's wonderful. We had other guests: one from New Zealand, a group from Korea, various others. We had staff, we had interns, beading was done by the interns...It was a surprisingly calm day. Out the window we could see a very long line for the Academy of Sciences, in the foyer we could see many many folk come to see the Impressionists show. In our studio we had a steady but rational stream of guests. I should have got more done. I will tomorrow.
(obviously the blogs are on the writings page, I only include this one for continuity)
You may be in for a fun day when you find a hawk feather coming in to work. You may be in for a fun day when your first visitor in the studio asks great questions and listens to the answers. It's been a fun day when a mom tells you that you 'made everyone happy' with some oil pastels and butcher paper (grinning kids and interesting drawings and all). There is a serious trickster theme running through this residency. I'm a devotee of Rabbit (southeastern Trickster). I'm beading a Raven (Northwest Coast Trickster, though that isn't who is on the piece I'm doing). On our 'strike the show Friday' (June 25 from 6pm to 8:30 in the Kimball and the Koret) we've invited performance artist DeCoy Gallerina to bring Coyotess for a visit (there will also be some amazing poets reading their work including the spectacular devorah major). I am sensing a theme, how about you? This blog is evidently causing some confusion, more trickster I suspect, and I am going to move it to my website in order to resolve the issue. Whatever entries remain up on this site will still be linked through the events page on www.kimshuck.com and future blurbs with be available there also. This should help with the trouble folk were having finding the posts and to be honest I think that most of the readers were coming from a pool of people who already know my work . Come on over to my site, kick your shoes off and we'll chat honestly and directly about the day.
Coyotess sightings in both the Kimball and the Koret! We had an art visit from some curious coyote folk. This visit promised good things to come. Coyote Stories were shared, conversations happened, joy and mischief were passed out by the handful. DeCoy Gallerina visited this afternoon to the delight of those present. The 25th should be a blast.
We have some really interesting interns working with us. I think that both Michael and I are fairly self-sufficient. I'm probably less so. Having no major redecorating or candy sorting for our interns to busy themselves with has allowed them to enjoy picking out selections from the Native music we've been playing and to explore the group beading project. We've identified a few folk with some real talent in this area. Palm trees are going on the piece now and it's making me really happy. Come in to the gallery and see.
I am often floored by the things that people think they get to ask each other. I should have been keeping count of how many folk have asked me about my religion. I should have been, I didn't. Sigh.
Most of the people who come into the Kimball are respectful and engaged. There does seem to be a major confusion about bringing glasses of wine in (big sigh this time, NO FOOD OR DRINKS... still with the wine). At least the wine bearers were careful. We like careful. Still most of the folk who come in are fun, some of our guests are even gems. Some... some are taxing. We have had just the most intrusive questions. Even the intrusive questions aren't as disturbing as the people who will ask something off the wall and then want to argue with the answer (seriously, my Polish mom was a Campfire Girl and taught me to do loomed beading... really and yes, I know it isn't the picturesque answer). So the purple gorilla in the room whenever Native people go anywhere to talk about anything (rocket science, family planning, elbow macaroni) is that fact that many have been taught that there are no Native people left. Then there is the film industry contribution: most incidental Native roles used to be played by either Italian or Dine actors (yes the Dine are a Native group... one of many and often with a specific look). Many Native people playing Native people are made up to look darker based on the existing stereotypes. Between the belief that we are gone and the misconceptions about what we look like, whenever Native activists/scientists/humorists speak there is always some wit who points out that we do not look Native. We are a whole continent of different groups. There are five hundred mumble federally recognized flavors of Native but there are well over 1000 different bands, language groups or culture groups in the US existing at some level. We are a multiplicity. Irish folk may or may not look like Albanians. Seminoles may or may not look like Tlingits. I understand the stereotyping, really. I taught Native Studies classes at a University. I get it. What I don't get is the way that people will insist, angrily, that not fulfilling their stereotype makes one somehow inauthentic. They want to argue about it. They want blood quantum. They tend to refuse to learn. Here we come to my assumptions.
I assumed that the vast majority of people visiting a high-profile museum would be coming to learn things, not to reinforce their already held beliefs. I understand the disappointment when assumptions are proven wrong. My belief in people's inherent desire to evolve is dying a long death... haven't given up (sound of teeth grinding). Often when I am really at the end of my patience, after an encounter with someone who is sad that I didn't arrive at a presentation in a canoe, when faced once again with a gift wrapped stereotype, at that tenuous moment there usually arrives some form of bliss. This has not been my favorite week. A few things have happened, one in particular, which got seriously up my nose. I am, not to put to fine a point on it, in a bit of a snit. I am trying to shake it off, I will eventually succeed. Not there yet. It is in these moments when I am generally given an encounter that justifies my faith in peopleness. Today it was Will.
Most kids coming into the gallery have wanted to do Michael's drawing activity rather than my beading activity. I don't know if that's a caregiver looking at a sharp thing and deciding for them, or their own actual impulse. There were a few kids tonight who wanted to bead. Will came in at the end of two very capable young ladies' experiment. They tried, neither loved it, they moved on. While I was replacing the thread Will asked if he could try. If he'd been allowed he's have sat there the rest of the evening working on the group project. When someone else came to sit at the table he explained the process to her. It was successful for both of them. YAY! I'm obsolete.
Conclusion? People who come to the table open to learn, interested and patient, leave the table with new skills. I keep reminding myself to only ask questions I want a real answer to. I keep reminding myself to hold my assumptions and presumed knowledge with a light hand. Tomorrow we get up and do it.
We have had a few slow days, we've had some buzzing days. Today was a gas. Jerry Ferraz, natoyiininastumiik and Ed Dang came to play music for us and that was only the beginning. At one point there must have been 30 people in the gallery and most of them were poets or artists of some form or another. I'm not sure where to begin...
Barbara Shapiro, friend and Textile Arts Council member stopped by before a meeting they were having. We got a bit of a visit, which was fun. James Downs, poet and editor and Joyce Downs, poet and editor, came by and enjoyed music and such with us. Barbara sent folk from the TAC meeting down to see. Jerry had advertised being here and about half a dozen of his friends and fellow poets came through. It was quite a party. Imagine if the book Stone Soup was about a music/poem party and then imagine that everyone who added something was someone you liked but hadn't seen in ages. Imagine that the day was lovely and you had the best window view going. Imagine that there was a nearby pond with basking turtles. I sure didn't get much beading done, but I did write a few poems.
This residency has been a bit like a set of Chinese boxes. Each one has had more inside. My main project changed. The poems are not what I thought I'd write. I'm leaving the space with more work to do than I came in with. It's a bit daunting. It was good to have some loving friends come reset my mental cursor.
Oh... and the raven has most of a top wing edge. Come see.
So, I'm used to working at my place. If I feel like it I change out of my pjs but I don't usually feel like it. One of my favorite cures for a slow day is to put on Dire Straits or Cream or The Band (my musical tastes are fairly eclectic, these are just my best art funk cures). I curl up under a blanket with the project in my lap, comfy clothes, my music on fairly loud and get on with the project. Under those conditions I would have pretty much finished the bird I'm beading by now... Well, here it would probably be a bit creepy if I was cuddled up in a blanket, I must be wearing clothes, not pjs and I'd sort of decided to play Native music because folk aren't much familiar with it. My kids don't talk to me when they hear certain music coming from my studio. They have generally found it unproductive. Instead they periodically leave tea near me without speaking and don't trouble me with trifles like, 'the washing machine is peeing on the floor'. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that my life sounds unbearably difficult. Well, it's a tricky thing making mosaic out of 1mm glass beads. It really does require a degree of focus not usually achieved on a daily basis. When I'm working I can be a bit awkward. Not everyone is excited by glow-in-the-dark seed beads. I think that most artists spend a good deal of time 'goofing off'. It is essential to do this. We would all be utterly mad if we didn't. Michael has been training Bob to break up his day.
Bob is one of our sitting balls. He is a problem. He flirts with his cousins. He causes trouble and blames the other sitting balls. Michael is making progress. I, on the other hand, haven't been taking out of gallery breaks. I've been writing when I'm not beading or talking to people or pacing the floor. I may be going a bit berk. I have found the solution I think.
In the sculpture garden there is a sort of kiva structure. I should attribute this sculpture. There was an artist for it, it has a name... can't remember it. You should go see. It's a rounded structure in the hillside with a hole in the roof open to the sky. When empty the thing is really cool. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent in the de Young since 2005. I think we can securely say that it's many. I've wandered all over the place. I'd never seen the kiva thing. It's really really good. It may well take me through the remaining week.
On the subject of the remaining week... do come by the gallery. When I'm not gibbering I can share interesting facts about beading. Come meet Bob. Come see Michael's wonderful paintings. Our interns are quite charming. I promise I'll be making frequent visits to the sculpture garden.