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!!!)

2016. by Heather Kapplow

Ha! I couldn't think of a title for this blog post so I lazed out with "2016" which immediately made me feel as if I needed to launch into a list of resolutions.

I don't have any—except maybe to make sure my work this year has me sitting less and walking around more as, despite having not written here since October (!!), I feel like I spend way more time in front of a computer than I should. Anyway, happy 2016, and apologies for the long silence. 

Now that I've called this "2016" it's a bit awkward to look back on 2015, but I feel like I should at least summarize what happened in the time between my last posting and this one. Really, it was just that I completed and installed WATER and was exhausted but very happy, and then it was Thanksgiving, and then all of the other holidays piled into place, and now it's now.

WATER  (Detail) [Photo Credit: Jerry Mann]

WATER (Detail) [Photo Credit: Jerry Mann]

I've used what down time I've had to kind of clean up and dig out of backlogged stuff that I lost track of when things were at their busiest, and have also been doing some writing... 

Art-wise, at the very tail end of 2015, I tried to replicate the performance/photography series Days After the Darkest Day (currently on view at the Mass Convention Center,) that I did at the end of 2014, but had a technical failure that I still have to figure out whether there's a possible way to recover from.

Next up is (very tentatively) a possible project focused on my anxieties around friendships for (maybe) inclusion in a very low key show in NYC later this month (but I'm still not sure whether this will happen. Need to figure this out tonight really.) And also (very tentatively) a possible performance-sound collaboration thing might be in the works. Oh, and I've also dragged a few large objects from the street into my studio that I want to do something with, but I'm not sure what yet. All of this is far too nebulous-feeling to bother talking about.

So 2016 is pretty much a blank slate. I'll let you know when that starts to change....

Actually, a little addendum.

If I learned anything from my time as an artist on hiatus last year, I learned this: art making happens in mysterious ways and you don't always know when you are and aren't making art or having something in progress. I'm trying hard these days to pay better attention to smaller art-making-related impulses. Towards that end, I'm adding one note to this posting.

Near the end of last year I had this recurring urge to paint my fingernails black. I tried to shake it off because nailpolish has always made me feel as if my fingernails were suffocating, and because it felt childish. But the urge never went away, and so finally, a few weeks ago, in a 99 cents store in Williamsburg, I gave in to the urge and bought some cheapo black nailpolish.

Proof. (Also, can you believe this tiny hand is the hand of an adult person?! It's my hand but it shocks me anyway..)

Proof. (Also, can you believe this tiny hand is the hand of an adult person?! It's my hand but it shocks me anyway..)

I have the smallest most gnawed fingernails in the world, and can't keep polish on them for more than a day without it being destroyed by how I use my hands, but I've been dutifully repainting them once the polish completely disappears, and despite how often people tell me it looks ridiculous.

I can sense that by following this dictate (which I imagine is coming from some very adolescent part of myself!) I'm paying attention to something muse-like that may reveal itself later (or perhaps at least eventually choose a form other than black nailpolish for its expression.) So 2016 is actually not a 100% blank slate. It has a few scrappy little spots of black enamel on it...

Culture by Heather Kapplow

It looks like this time I really missed the 1 month mark completely! Sorry about that. It's been a pretty busy art time. Not busier than planned for, but with much more shuffling around and scrambling than expected. I'm not going to feel too bad about it as I have yet to encounter anyone who admits to actually reading this blog. But I'll make this long enough for two months to make up for it.

I'll update first and then reflect on the notion of culture a bit.

Install for   Ovation   in progress (at Fenway Park.)

Install for Ovation in progress (at Fenway Park.)

Since the end of August, I've been hacking away at the several big projects mentioned in previous posts. Ovation and Driving Culture are completed now; (Eau D' Wilderness Grove) is out for review before a final round of refinement; and the fourth (WATER) is still in the depths of progress, but due soon.

Roving public artwork,   Driving Culture  , parked on Boston's City Hall Plaza.

Roving public artwork, Driving Culture, parked on Boston's City Hall Plaza.

As I've been working almost exclusively as an artist these last few months, I've been experiencing phenomena that I'm used to in work-work contexts, but not art contexts. Namely, that of making things by a deadline that are not quite what I'd hoped they would be, but having to “publish” them anyway.

The good news is that sometimes people can't tell when things aren't quite what they were supposed to be, and they love them anyway, and you feel like they are “good enough” even if not perfect. Other times, people just won't to tell you if something falls short of the concept. Which sort of sucks but I guess is the best thing when there's no space for making improvements.

The best case scenario is neither: it's when something is close to what you'd hoped for and people around you are willing to point out its weaknesses and have the patience to let you keep pushing closer to the ideal for awhile.

But most commonly in my experience? People say nothing. You do things that you know are good, bad or meh and there's very little recognition of the effort, and in my case, zero press coverage. Getting better press coverage of my work (and better documentation in general) should probably start moving higher up on my list of priorities, but it's just painfully difficult for me to give those kinds of considerations as much “mental real estate” as actually devising art projects.

My documentation of a colleague's work (Shaw Pong Liu) during  Boston Creates .

My documentation of a colleague's work (Shaw Pong Liu) during Boston Creates.

Also on my mind, and hinted at above is the culture of my arts community. It's been awhile since I've been so exclusively focused on/in Boston. And the arts culture here—which I have long been a part of, but have always stayed just slightly removed from—is sometimes kind of intense.

I've been in a zone for a while where I almost prefer to collaborate with people than to work on my own. Definitely I prefer projects that put me in contact with people I would not normally meet on my own to working in a solitary mode right now. But I've been feeling this way in the context of a loose-knit arts community that is spread out fairly widely around the world, and am not sure how applicable it is locally in the long run. Culturally, this city's arts community could do more to encourage collaborative practices as much as it encourages individual practices.

So I'm thinking about culture in the anthropological sense; about the conditions of the production of culture in the “cultural plan” sense; and actually I'm also thinking a lot about culture in the fermentation or oyster bed sense of the word. My art-heart wants so much for things to build on things in Boston—for them to swell up and expand like sourdough starter, ready to be passed around and nurtured by everyone, and making an endless supply of bread.

1st sourdough bread by a filmmaker friend (Katya Gorker) in Philadelphia using starter originally received from a Boston musician (Shaw Pong Liu).

1st sourdough bread by a filmmaker friend (Katya Gorker) in Philadelphia using starter originally received from a Boston musician (Shaw Pong Liu).

And in fact, as a kind of an aside to any particular project, I'm excited to have set the wheels in motion to begin tracking the movement of an actual sourdough culture through a loose association of creative types in Boston and beyond. I don't know how yet, but I feel like the key to some problem I'm trying to solve about the mindset here may lie in an informal, longitudinal study of the life of a special little batch of sourdough starter. Perhaps a super goofy mockumentary style biopic is ultimately in the cards for this particular ball of yeastiness...we'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to how WATER will come together. I'll be thinking about this almost non-stop for the next two + weeks, and then heading to Ohio to make it real.

I'm also looking forward to two sort of educational opportunities on my immediate horizon. One is a local symposium next week on Black Mountain College (I think I wrote in here about my obsession with these folks and my visit to their museum in NC last year...) focused on its impact on collaborative processes in the arts. I signed up at first because I'm slated to do an article about a related exhibition at Boston's ICA, but also feel like it might be relevant to things I'm trying to figure out right now personally.

I'm also registered to take an online course for journalists on data visualization through December. I'm not actually interested in data visualization itself. I'm interested in what makes people trust it so much. Gotta figure out how to apply the same principles to smells.

I'm curious to see how these dips into slightly more academic realms impact my art making...