Monday, February 25, 2013

close cover before striking

Throughout this month, I have been thinking a lot about last February at Vermont Studio Center. I posted regularly enough, but there was plenty I did not manage to say regarding my beautiful and intense experience there; it was often just too much for me to process at the time. I painted and wrote what I could, I slept, ate, took pictures, each day in front of the last like footprints in deep snow. Walking the paths between my studio in the old church, the dining room, my sleeping quarters. Writing in the snow-dusted night street with a knitting needle, blunting its tip. So many things I would think about much later. Starting to remember so many details, mostly quiet ones. I decided, a year later, I am going to unpack some of those details I stored, and shelve them in one post or another. This February is nearly over now. I filled it mostly with the activity of the gallery project, which I'm glad for (as we are off to an encouraging start). 
In Vermont, I needed to sleep a lot and to keep warm. I needed to talk to all these extremely talented people all around me, and I also often needed to be by myself. I meant to go through some of my notes and ideas but the memories blurred before I could transcribe them. This happens all the time. I went back to the photos. I barely left town all month, but one day a 'field trip' took us past this Museum of Everyday Life, and since I was driving, I pulled over to the snowy side of the road and made everyone go with me to check it out. 

Embarking on a mission of glorious obscurity.
Besides the permanent exhibit of various, gloriously obscure objects, there was an exhibition of Phillumeny, the hobby of collecting or creating match-related items. The place was ironically chilly, but we wandered around until I realized one by one they had all retreated back to my car.

 I remember that after I returned home, it didn't seem as important to write about everything that made up this extraordinary, ordinary month. I even felt that I hadn't lived it as fully as I'd hoped to. Sometimes it takes me a year to feel the effects- again- to take them out and handle them. Rough, cold surfaces. "Feeling vague," I wrote more than once. Then something would catch and hold.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

at the office

Did I post this already, our sign for the gallery window? Jon built it and I painted it.

Another day at the phonebooth office. Thinking, I really ought to update my blog, seeing as no calls are coming in.

Installation view as you enter the gallery. The heart draws you in and the turning wheel hooks you.

I put these tulips my mother gave me in the phone booth before I even realized how apropos they were, tulips being among the chattier flowers. Two lips? (Weak pun?)

I made this drawing a year ago and finished it last month.  Pencil/pastel, framed 12"x16". Followed by small Carvel painting with black background- as I'd seen the sign at night- but I had a batch of brightly colored paper. Felt carnivalesque. I still have a lot of the paper and I should use it, even the screaming blue and speckled violet sheets.

Friday, February 15, 2013

february snowy morning

I awoke in Brewster, in the house where I grew up, yesterday before sunrise to find the world transformed by a couple inches of snow. I pulled on boots and crunched out to the woodyard with its whitened branches aglow in morning light. Boxes of firewood, blanketed with snow, sat quietly in rows on what was once our sledding hill. I went for a walk along the road with my mother as the sun rose gradually over the trees. In my life I have taken hundreds of walks on our road, and this was one of the most extraordinary. Mist hung thickly in the air over the reservoir, making the land appear to dissolve into clouds. By the time we turned back, the sun had climbed high enough to burn off the fog and the sky had brightened to a clear pale blue.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the work is the calling (is the work)

How do I go about making a Very Large Painting when I've never gone bigger than 36", and usually smaller than that? How do I work on it in my 100 sq ft studio? And why would I choose to paint a phone booth when I've got the real thing right there, and I've done perfectly respectable paintings of phone booths over the years in various sizes, from 4"x6" to 14"x17"? Because a friend gave me heaps of raw canvas, because someone else said, "Why not?" and because I just want to see what it will look like, and if I can even do it. So I pin it to the wall outside my studio and draw and redraw, I stand on a chair and stand back and leap down and pull it onto the floor, lay it down and work on it flat and un-stretched, crawling around getting paint on my knees. I do a simple flat graphic depiction of my booth, just line and shape and lettering. I make it life size, which means 8 feet tall and 28" wide. Floor lint and stray threads and crumbs and hair get stuck in the paint. I use too much oil medium (I am a casual and messy mixer) and it stays tacky for days. Other parts have been thinned too much and dry oddly. In the meantime I am preparing with my friend Jon to open a gallery and here is my chance to hang this awkward painting with nobody to tell me I can't or shouldn't. It's wrinkled. I buy wood and Jon builds a  53"x100" stretcher for me. Two nights before the opening, the painting's still wet and snow is predicted, so I drag the canvas outside like a bridal train sweeping down the steps, and drape it over the bed of my truck and drive to the gallery. In the morning, armed with my staple gun, I begin. Stretching a painted never-stretched canvas can be difficult, but a 5x10-foot one is even more awkward than I'd thought. I pull and staple and flip and repeat and pry out staples and pull again. Jon helps and we wrestle the wrinkles into near-submission, but some remain. By nightfall, snow is knee-deep outside, whirling beneath the streetlamps. We hang the painting on blocks screwed to the wall. The day of the show, after a morning of snow-shoveling, I mix up a slightly wrong color to cover patches of bare or smudged canvas. (This in addition to hanging/lighting the rest of our paintings, including Jon's kinetic wood wheel wall piece with its movable parts, and preparing the gallery for its first opening.)
I feel elated and flustered and gratified. Later, people come in, and talk, they walk around, they go inside the real phone booth. Children also like the booth itself and to watch Jon's colorful wheel slowly turn; we'll post about his piece soon, too. The efforts always make sense, if I wait and watch and listen, to others, to my own process, to the paint and the grubbiness, the frustration and the pleasure.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

website for catalyst

Our website and blog for Catalyst Gallery is now up,! It currently has the basic information about the gallery space and about Beacon, and we will continue to add photos, updates and content. Now I have to keep up with two blogs. There may be some cross-posting, I suspect. I'm doing it already- the below is from today's first 'welcome' post, even though I wrote about it last week. Putting the word out, however, will be a big part of what will make it work:

We are two artists, Erica Hauser and Jon Reichert, who live in Beacon. Recently, a beautiful storefront became available in a prime location on the west end of Main St. We decided to rent it and in turn, make it available to others to rent on a monthly basis for exhibitions, installations, or any sort of creative project. The tenant before last was a successful gallery, so the smooth white walls, clean floors and lighting were already in place. We built a wall and door to divide our gallery space from the back, where we have small studio spaces and a rear door to a parking lot. This left us with over 400 square feet and plenty of wall space to offer to artists interested in using it for a show, a temporary shop, a performance, a new curatorial venue...  Possibilities abound!
A short-term rental situation makes it possible for people to try out an idea or find new exposure for their work in a vibrant community that supports the arts. Beacon is only 60 miles north of NYC and draws lots of visitors from the city, many of whom see our windows right away as they walk along Main St.
We are looking forward to exhibiting our own work at Catalyst, and we're excited to be able to offer the space as an independent alternative to a more standard gallery model. It will bring something new to town each month, and we won't be sure just what, but we know it will be interesting.