Keepers by Heather Kapplow

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

I tell myself I'm writing this blog for you, but I'm realizing that I write this blog for myself. It's rarely actually about my work in progress in terms of technique or strategy, but about the ups and downs of living as a non-commercial artist. I'm writing about the navigation of the experiences involved in seeing my efforts as worthwhile: Not justifying them in terms of value to an art market or a community, but justifying them in terms of how much time and energy I put into developing the ideas and/or their realization and what I get out of that time. I also write about the evolution of my understanding of community is as it has developed and been defined through my relationships with those around me, working in similar ways.

Each of my blog posts lately seems to have a similar formula: an update about what's going on; a critical assessment of the last thing I've worked on or what I'm working on in the moment; and then some reflection on my milieu.

Since I'm very aware that I'm writing this for myself today, I'm feeling a little lazy about following the formula. I really just want to post pictures.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

But there's nothing that isn't implicated in the larger conversation I'm having with myself here. The photos came out of (or generated) a conversation that felt meaningful and like it might be a bridge to other things. The performance being documented, though it (like most of my recent projects,) did not meet many of the goals I had for it, accomplished things that I value just as much: a more detailed inspection than ever of my beliefs about how best to work with other people, and how teaching and learning work. And it forced me to think about masks and costumes and spectacles from a position directly opposite to the one I've been most rooted in for the last year or so. All these things feel useful to me.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Today I went to see two performances by other artists: one in an unaffiliated, non-commercial gallery space, and one at an academic institution. Then I had a long conversation about what and who this non-commercial art is for. What it all adds up to or intends. It was also a conversation about utopian urges and cultural gatekeepers (curators, museums, galleries, grant-making foundations etc.,)

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

My old friends at The Residency for Artists on Hiatus (who are wonderfully supportive in an ongoing way) were thinking about this theme this month too. And where I landed (on the walk home from the conversation) was that the main difference between the part of the non-commercial art world that I live in and the more institutionalized art-community that stands between (and maybe buffers?) us from the true art market, is the difference between gate keepers and keepers. I'm realizing I live among the keepers of an amorphous, ever-changing tradition, and that the institutions that essentially act as gatekeepers to the commercial art world are also (perhaps inadvertently) acting as gatekeepers from the infectious influence of the commercial art world. And suddenly, for the first time ever, I find myself deeply grateful for the gates.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

What I'm doing next (starting pretty much this week, but the web copy is not quite in place anywhere yet,) is a residency at the Diablo Glass School. I'll be experimenting with flame and breaking glass and thinking about how vulnerable our bodies are and how fleeting life is. Plus hopefully getting my chain constantly yanked by the school's most down to earth, scathingly sarcastic owner, because who the hell doesn't need to be knocked off their high horse a few times a week?

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.  

Detail of Mirror Man and Naked Man Play Rock Paper Scissors.

 

Hmmm by Heather Kapplow

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase II)

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase II)

Some of the pieces I make never make it onto "pages" on this website, and often don't get really documented either, so I try to write about them in here.

I've got a piece (Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases) in a show that closes this upcoming weekend that falls into this category. It's small, simple, emotional, and involved some soul searching. I think it was also a failure in many ways.

It's just a collection of stuff, with a narrative (that only a jury saw) to tie it together. It also had a series of actions, but none of them happened the way that they were supposed to. Which is okay.

Here is the main lesson I learned, as expressed in an email about logistics addressed to gallery staff:

"This experience is a good reminder that honoring intention sometimes has to trump aesthetic desire in a conceptual work."

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase II)

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase II)

That said, the psychicor psychologicalstuff of this piece that I was going for never really emerged completely either, so I'm not even sure it worked on the deepest conceptual levels, despite my best efforts to create and follow formulas that I hoped would force these dimensions to the surface.

And it was a bit anti-climatic on the pragmatic level as well, in that it would have or should have culminated in some explanation on a panel discussion, but the panel got reconfigured so it won't be covered now.

It's possible that the theme of the piece was just too heavy and sad to achieve any buoyancy. Or maybe it was just a private piece that I made for myself that just happened to happen in a public space. And if that's the case, it hasn't yet satisfied my needs, but maybe something miraculous will happen in these last few days...

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase III)

Detail of Hermeneutic Cycle: Three Phases (Phase III)

In any case, up next: another small, simple piece. Hopefully not too simple, and ideally a little more successful, but who knows what will happen. Maybe it's a symptom of this new era that everything creative feels just slightly flat. We'll see. But I'll make time to write about that project soon after it happens (mid-March) rather than waiting another month or two to write here.

Other than that, I've made a lot of proposals that aren't being realized, and am gearing up to begin my first 2017 residency in about a month, which I will also talk more about next time.

End of an Era? by Heather Kapplow

Dream Jar, created by Moira Williams and photographed by Christina Freeman.

Dream Jar, created by Moira Williams and photographed by Christina Freeman.

I guess I should start by picking up where I left off last.

My work in progress at the time culminated in a simple installation called 96 Franklin in a group show that closed at the beginning of December. It was primarily an audio piece, with a huge pile of sawdust and a (rather wonky) overhead projection. I don't think it was formally documented (the perpetual problem...) but I'll post a cellphone shot of a detail I captured while installing below.

I ended up doing less reflecting than I expected on the "Roaming Assembly" art project/artist retreat (led by the indefatigable Moira Williams, co-founder of Walk Exchange) that I was heading out for when I wrote last. But it was a unique and wonderful way to connect with a group of strangers-now-friends and the incredible beauty/arts community in the Hudson Valley.

Right now, I'm doing not much. I haven't completed anything since 96 Franklin, but have begun work on a small video piece that I want to (hopefully) show at AMP next Summer. I've also been putting a lot of my free-time into volunteering for two local arts organizations. As the year winds down, I'm feeling especially grateful for my arts communities and creative networks, near and far. I have strong concerns that the new political administration taking control of the US in 2017 will change this landscape in ways that I can't predict yet, so I'm in part just savoring this moment where everything still looks familiar.

In fact, everything that I currently have locked down for 2017 (two context-specific works slated for group shows in January and March; two invitations to residencies) is rooted in the work of these kinds of communities. So I'll know in real time I guess what this horizon will morph into.

Detail (of installation in progress) of 96 Franklin.

Detail (of installation in progress) of 96 Franklin.

Center Finding by Heather Kapplow

Study for 96 Franklin

Study for 96 Franklin

Worked until 2 last night then was up at 6 this morning to get the right light to begin thinking about "placemaking" in a place that I love that is in danger of disappearing (because of placemaking.) Ironically, it's a place for making, and even more ironically, the piece I'm working on will be shown in a gallery that is part of the very placemaking that is doing the displacement. It's dizzying.

I was about to put the camera away, when the object pictured above caught my eye. So it's the title and lead photo here today. (Which is definitely more than a month after my last post, so I will officially change the description of this blog when I'm done writing this post.)

I'm making breakfast for houseguests as I type this, so won't talk in any depth about what I'm working on, developing, my process... I will only say that I have been facing new and interesting challenges as an artist lately and that I am trying to rise to these challenges with grace and a little less sleep deprivation, but not quite succeeding at the latter at the moment. That, and maybe that I'm finding myself vacillating at a much more rapid rate between performance/engagement based practices and whatever the hell I should be calling the more instal-ly/environmental kind of stuff I do.

Ephemera from What?!?, performed at Panoply Lab on 10/13/16.

Ephemera from What?!?, performed at Panoply Lab on 10/13/16.

I'm thinking a lot about time and pace: trying to (and failing so far) to believe that I can move—am allowed to move—at my own pace and that there is enough time for "everything" to happen.

But I'm about to go on a "Roaming Assembly" of women artists, walking, contemplating and camping for four days in the Hudson valley. So I'm sure I'll find my "center" by the next post!

Will also try to add portfolio pages this weekend for a few projects I've done since July that haven't made it online yet. Well, to be more realistic, maybe just one...

 

Rainy Day Reflection by Heather Kapplow

Still from a 2007 video project "Observation Work" that I'm currently revisiting/deconstructing for an installation in August called Microburst.

Still from a 2007 video project "Observation Work" that I'm currently revisiting/deconstructing for an installation in August called Microburst.

I should probably change the part of this page that says that I update this blog once a month as it's been getting to be more like once every two months. I'll put that on my to do list for my next round of web-updates if the pattern continues through the Fall.

Meanwhile, it's the first rainy day we've had all Summer (at least that I've been home for) so I'm taking the gloomy light as an excuse to turn inward a little bit.

True to my word last month, I did do some culling of my featured pages and added new pages for two 2016 projects (Petitions to Poseidon and Mix & LOVE) and will likely add another one or two soon—as imagery rolls in. I've also just started looking through my older video projects (thus the still above, which is from a piece I'll be recycling for an installation in August called Microburst.) I still haven't started the studio project—oh wait!—that's not true, I actually have! I took one swipe at it in late-May. I'll see if I can find an image and put it at the bottom of this post.

At the moment, when not overwhelmed by the fact that this week will involve the installation of pieces in three different shows before it ends, I'm thinking a lot about collaboration.

I had a very interesting experience this month producing a piece of mine remotely at Flesh Crisis, a performance art festival in Kansas City, MO that I wasn't able to attend in person. It was the most distant I've ever felt from a project, but also opened up a whole bunch of new ideas about letting someone else interpret my work. It's also helped me think about an upcoming role I'll be playing as an interpreter of someone else's ideas in a month or so...

I'm also currently working on two collaborative projects—one that is a second iteration of the project I mentioned last time, which got some nice press, and went really well, but which I'm not ready to talk about or represent here in any detail yet because it's still in a state of great evolution—and another that is for an event mid-August. This one, Warren, Echo, Salt, is a piece I'm creating with Caitlin Foley for a program called "Inside/Outside" on the Boston Harbor Islands. All of these experiences are pushing me to think harder about why I often prefer to develop an idea with someone else rather than by myself, but also about what makes me happiest and least happy when I work this way so that I can get better at it—refine collaboration itself as one of my mediums.

Install view (before) of I want to feel comfortable here, but I don't think I ever will.

Install view (before) of I want to feel comfortable here, but I don't think I ever will.

In addition to the collaborative stuff, I'm doing a tiny (super, super tiny) performance piece called I want to feel comfortable here, but I don't think I ever will. at the end of this week as a part of the show "You Think It's_____, But It's Really ______." and then the ephemera from the performance will remain in place until early September.

I think that's everything except this, as promised above:

Temporary installation (May 2016) on George's Island in Boston Harbor that is already gone.

Temporary installation (May 2016) on George's Island in Boston Harbor that is already gone.

Small Things by Heather Kapplow

Specification test for "Petitions to Poseidon"

Specification test for "Petitions to Poseidon"

It looks like I skipped April. Not sure why. Maybe travel interfered? I was definitely away/offline mid-month, which is when I usually try to post here... Not too much to say except that I've been meeting a lot of other artists who are doing amazing things and that's amplifying my sense that I am not doing very amazing things right now. But I'm doing some very small things.

Above is an image of a tiny ship in a tiny bottle that is a test run for a simple engagement piece about climate change which will be part of a tiny arts festival about tiny ships next weekend. I think I didn't mention it last time, but I've also got a small collaborative project in a small show about real estate development. After next weekend, I'll be assembling another (also little) bathroom project for installation in Provincetown in June. I'm supposed to be collaborating with a group of Brooklyn/Nairobi-based artist-consultant folks for a temporary public art installation in June as well, but details of that arrangement have yet to become clear and time is getting short for making something meaningful.

That's all of the news that's fit to print except that I finally have an idea and the tools I need to do a studio-based project that I'm excited about. But I just found out that the building where my studio space is located is being put on the market by the family that owns it, and I'd be very, very surprised if it sits there long. The whole neighborhood is being turned into luxury condos very, very quickly and this little building's footprint is perfect for another lil chunk of luxury to match the one that sprung up across the street from it literally while I was away in March.

Oh, one more note: I'm noticing that I haven't made any "pages" on this site for the things I've done this year yet. I'm not sure why. In part maybe because they all feel like very small scale projects. Too small maybe to deserve a whole page, which I sort of save for things that are bigger endeavors (even if their end results are small). They also (the perpetual problem) haven't been documented well enough. In some cases, the projects I'm doing now may grow over time, and then may end up here. In other cases, I suspect they never will. In general, I might do a little consolidating and weeding of what's featured here sometime soon. I also found a case full of DVDs of older video projects recently, so hope to upload those to Vimeo sometime soon and add them to the meager collection of video that's currently up. I might also move some or all of the Weather Shmether project into the video section of the site at some point.

Okay. That's really it. I'm basically just trying to make the smallest stuff ever seem worth mentioning so that I can say I posted here in May. Thanks for bothering to read this far. If you bothered to read this far. Coming next time: a better attitude!

Toy Boats by Heather Kapplow

The title here is a little bit inexplicable. Or rather an inside joke, and also a note to myself, reminding me not to forget something that I can't believe I forgot so quickly. I'm not going to explain it. I'm just leaving it here for myself. To grab later when needed.

It's 4:12 am and the fourth night in a row that I've stayed up working on things because I haven't been able to sleep. I tried to go to bed. It didn't work.

I'm in Queens, making art that is really only barely art, but being reminded of the art of artful communities.

It's nice to be made aware again that belonging can be a loosely-knit and widely disbursed experience, but still a strong, dynamic, living thing.

Patience, Possibility by Heather Kapplow

February is a slow month for me every year. I have less work-work in this month usually than any other, and this year, not much art going on either. I'm lucky to have been commissioned to do a little writing and reflection on my art-making processes for a web/book/video project that's keeping me busy (and financially afloat, along with a few other small projects) through the slow time. So I am just appreciating the quietness of this moment. And the radical weather we've been having here.

I've been listening to wads of weird music lately which is keeping my mind very limber. But the only thing I've actually made this year so far is a tiny video for a friend's birthday. (See still below.)

Still from "Do Something" (2016)

Still from "Do Something" (2016)

The installation elements from WATER arrived at my door last week, so that is the end of the last real project.

The two tentative opportunities I mentioned last month did not pan out. (Well, one has not panned out yet, but still could, and I got too sick to follow through on the other one. But a small, quiet, amorphous thing is maybe evolving out of it's failure. Too soon to tell...)

The large objects are still sitting at my studio, and have now been joined by a few boxes of materials that can be reused from WATER if I want, and someone gave me a new (old) piece of AV equipment that I'm starting to think about how I'll work with. But it's been difficult for me to get to my studio for some reason. Really difficult.

In March, it looks like I'm going to be doing a performance/interactive piece (title TBD) as a part of the Fung Wah Biennial. I'm doing a little talk/tour during the Biennial's Boston visit, and then a thing on the Biennial bus going from Boston to NYC, and then another thing in NYC later in the week that follows from it, with a mini-residency at Flux Factory in between for development.

I also just got invited to do a longer (2-3+ month) residency at a local arts organization that I love later this year, and I'm excited about it because it's going to involve working with a medium that I've never set hands on before. Details TBD so I I'll wait to talk about it here until I've figured it out the shape of things a little better, but I'm honored to have been asked. Beyond honored.

Other than that, I have a lot of proposals out there in the ether, but no sense of whether they'll be successful in any way. More soon. And hopefully the next post will include some images of experiments with the new (old) device, big objects, or stuff returned to me from WATER. (I just have to get myself to my damned studio!!!)