Nature and Nurture I / by Heather Kapplow

Forest for the Tree (details)

Forest for the Tree (details)

I'm breaking this blog post into two posts because I want to do two things with it. This post, the first of the pair, is my usual update on what's been happening—what I've been working on and thinking about. The second will focus on one particular project that I did in the month of June. I'm breaking that one out because I'll distribute it a bit farther afield that I usually distribute these posts (which is not at all!), and so want to keep it focused for a specific audience that may not have interest in anything else I'm working on.

Forest for the Tree (detail)

Forest for the Tree (detail)

I've been fairly busy since April, but not in the ways I'd planned. I did NOT end up doing the residency at Diablo Glass School. For two reasons: There have been some staffing changes there that impact their residency programming, so trying to plot the structure and timing of my work there with the residency's director was taking so long that it was cutting into the time I had set aside in order to do the residency itself. Also, the project I want to work towards there will require at least some funding to realize its final phase, so I decided I should postpone doing the residency until I can find a viable funding source. I'll check in on the situation at Diablo towards the end of the Summer. Maybe the residency can happen in late-Fall or next Spring and I can continue to seek funding for its culminating event. If that doesn't seem realistic, I'll look for another glasswork residency to propose the project to.

Forest for the Tree (details)

Forest for the Tree (details)

Since April, I've made two public art projects, both in different forests, and one installation project that is decidedly city-sited.

Forest for the Tree (details)

Forest for the Tree (details)

I redirected my remaining time allotted for the Diablo residency towards making a simple installation for an exhibition in the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord, MA for a public art exhibition celebrating the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau. The project, called Forest for the Tree, is about the movement of consciousness or attention between the big picture and the more granular one. It brought specimens from the periphery of the larger forest to one, particular, old tree that lives fairly deep in its heart. It looked quite elegant when first installed (see photos here) in May, but I have to admit that when I went back to visit it for the opening event in mid-July, it no longer looked elegant. Some bits of it had been walked off with and/or altered by extreme weather. Much of what was still in place looked bedraggled or impacted by moisture to me. I do have extra materials for it that set aside for replacement and repair making, but it's difficult for me to get to the site and to get assistance and a ladder etc to make alterations. The small budget for the project has already been subsumed by gas, tolls, materials, etc. so I can't hire anyone to help.

Forest for the Tree (detail)

Forest for the Tree (detail)

This means I've made a conscious choice not to nurture the piece, to let it deteriorate in place, and I feel conflicted about it. It brings up a lot of questions for me about why I sometimes work in ways that I know are beyond the limitations of my capacity and why I would choose to make a project at all (and put my name on it!) if I'm not fully invested in nurturing it.

Forest for the Tree (detail)

Forest for the Tree (detail)

It's interesting to me as well that I'm filling this post with images of the piece, celebrating it in its prime rather than sharing documentation of its deteriorated state. We all do this—highlight the best of what we do or see ourselves to be, and this habit is a theme of one of the projects I've got kicking around in the world in proposal phase these days. To be fair to myself, when I went to the opening for this exhibition, I didn't bring a camera (or materials to repair the piece, which I might have if I'd known it needed it) because I didn't expect to have anything new to photograph. But maybe I will bring one when I de-install in October and capture the piece at its worst for this blog. Just as an exercise and to see what it feels like to showcase, unironically, the worst rather than the best.

Forest for the Tree (detail)

Forest for the Tree (detail)

The other forest-based project I did this Summer is the main subject of the 2nd part of this post, so I'll save it for that, but will mention here that between the two projects, I feel like my brain got re-wired in some new ways just from spending the amount of time I spent alone in the woods this Summer and that this particular type of re-wiring has been really interesting to me as an artist. I look at the ground differently now, and I listen differently than I used to...

All Right! (detail)

All Right! (detail)

The city-sited project, on view in a gallery through the rest of this month is as far from forest-influenced as things can get.

All Right! (detail)

All Right! (detail)

A collaboration with my friend Ernie Kim, who doesn't have a website because he's never made an art project before, All Right!, is a karaoke booth that only plays one song: Adriano Celentano's 1972 Italian pop hit, "Prisencolinensinainciusol." The song's lyrics are nonsense (except for the phrase 'all right') meant to sound like English to Italian speakers.

All Right! (detail)

All Right! (detail)

In the karaoke booth, efforts to sing along are pretty futile, but funny. Because they are sung so fast, the nonsense words (which sound like Italian to me, btw) whip across the screen too fast to sing more than partially and the overall effect is that of not being able to keep up with the patter of a foreign language. It's an experience I'm pretty familiar with from traveling and from growing up in a neighborhood where my native language (English) was not really the primary language spoken. For me, All Right! was an opportunity to both demonstrate that feeling, and to take Celentano's cue to be playful and make fun of it a bit rather than allowing the frustration and the sensation of being excluded be so dominant in the experience that it inhibits trying to deepen connection across language barriers. It's basically a reminder that where language fails, play, humor and even comfort with bumbling can be a bridge. Comfort with bumbling is something I'm trying to nurture in myself right now as an artist trying to move my career to whatever the next level is.

Ernie made the amazing signs that made the booth feel real. I did the installation and converted the music video into a karaoke video.

All Right! (detail)

All Right! (detail)

All Right! was made especially for an exhibition, Tongue Tied, exploring language diversity and set in the most language-diverse part of the world, Queens NY.

Finally, completely unrelated: I realize that I usually share my Summer reading list here this time of year. I haven't had a ton of reading time, but this is what I've been gobbling down bits of to nurture/inspire my mind and art this Summer so far:

  • Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties by Linda M. Montano (2000)
  • Catalog from Yoko Ono's 2015–2016 Andrea Rosen Gallery show The Riverbed
  • Draw it With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment by Paper Monument (2012)
  • Elizabeth Bishop's poem The Riverman
  • Manhattan Memories by John Wilcox (2009)
  • Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist by Nick Middleton (2015)