sketches in the forest and in water – posted at Kaaysa art residency in Brazil, October 8, 2018

esboços na floresta e na água

These are very simple sketches in photoshop in the forest and in the water.

They are the beginnings of  ideas for drawings and also for still camera performances.

I am thinking of using fabrics again – transparent red fabric and nude fabric and a white fabric.

 

 

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I am just getting started! There is alot of rain here in the Mata Atlântica !!!!!!

 

looking for Mira / procurando por Mira – posted in São Paulo on September 30th 2018

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Yes / sim I have been in São Paulo for 5 days now – looking for the works of Mira Schendel and also experiencing the vast array of contemporary art and architecture that São Paulo offers. It is strange because I am aware of the big political problems in Brazil and the demonstrations that are going on in São Paulo, but I have not experienced this in the art museums and the hotel that I am staying in. Though I have discussed the politics with some friends of friends I have been introduced to here.  I will be going to the coast to the Kaaysa Art Residency tomorrow and I hope I will learn more about the current situation from Brazilian artists.

Sometimes I question this drive I have to go to the territory of these artists that I admire, to travel long distances and try to connect with art in a “foreign” land. Once I am in the experience, in the new territory, I do not question it. It is incredibly stimulating to do this “embodied research” as my friend Sandra Firmin has described this part of my artistic process. Other friends have likened this search to a “treasure hunt.” But there is also the aspect of a strange land that I do not understand. Perhaps this is a little bit similar to Mira Schendel’s experience many years ago.

Mira Schendel (1919-1988) was born in Switzerland and immigrated to Brazil in 1949, a refugee of WWII. Schendel was raised Roman Catholic, though she had Jewish heritage. Mira had studied philosophy in Italy and maintained her interests in philosophy her whole life. Her artistic production began in Brazil – she was self-taught as an artist. Mira worked over a period of 4 decades across many mediums in Brazil. She was a prolific artist. Her work is collected by museums, of course, but it is also in many private collections so it is not always easy to find.

Please excuse me if I do not date and title all the works of Mira Schendel in this blog post. Many of her works are untitled. And I do not have access right now to the information on all the works.

Before coming to São Paulo I had researched the museums and galleries that hold collections of Mira’s work and are actively exhibiting her work. There were two recent exhibitions in São Paulo, both of which I missed but which I wanted to find out more about.

One was at MAM-SP (The São Paulo Museum of Modern Art) curated by Paulo Venancio Filho titled “Sinais / Signals.” It looks like it was a small but vital exhibit of Mira’s graphic works. I have the beautiful catalogue as well. Here are two images from this exhibition below.

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MAM-SP holds the largest collection of Mira Schendels’ work (I think this is true). So I contacted the collections department at MAM – SP and communicated that since I had missed the exhibition “Sinais / Signals” I would like to see some of Mira Schendel’s work in person that is in the permanent collection of MAM- SP. Two wonderful women from the collections department met with me on Friday to talk to me about the possibility of seeing Mira’s works in person. This is a difficult request the works are in storage… However I might get to see some works in person on my way back through São Paulo at the end of October. They printed a document for me of every piece in the collection. They also took me to the library to look at the many catalogues of Mira Schendel’s work.

Here are a few of the pieces I would like to see if the museum can arrange it. I am very grateful to the hospitality that the staff of MAM-SP has shown me.

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I went to Bergamin & Gomide Gallery yesterday and was able to see a few of Mira’s works in person. It is a beautiful gallery in the Jardins district of São Paulo – small but more museum like then gallery like in its curation and presentation. Here are a few of my “experiences” with Mira’s work… thank you for the hospitality shown me at Bergamin & Gomide and please excuse my bad I phone images too…

I think this is one of her early paintings. The texture and quality of the surface is subtle and beautiful – I think it is green tempera paint and then gold vertical stripes on the sides….

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Here is another small painting at Bergomine & Gomide. I think this is tempera as well and you can see the burlap canvas texture.

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Below is the back, you see her name on the burlap.

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I was able to see two of the monotypes, one mounted In acrylic, the other mounted on paper. She she produced thousands of these monotypes on Japanese rice paper, so spare and beautiful…

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Today, my last day in São Paulo, I went to the wonderful Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. It is one of the most important art museums in Brazil. I found three more works of Mira’s along with other wonderful art works.

This collage with tempera was kind of a surprise to me, I had never seen anything like this. It is untitled from 1964.

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Also this very formal painting of Mira’s from 1962, untitled. It is tempera on canvas which I believe a lot of her early paintings are.

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Finally I love the quality of this colorful little collage on paper, untitled, from 1976. Seeing this up close was wonderful. The small gold inscriptions and characters are beautiful and it reminds me of something like Tantric symbols and has some similarities with some of my works on paper.

 

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So I am off to the Kaaysa Art Residency tomorrow on the coast at Praia de Boicucanga for the month of October. I will be posting about the residency and my work from there. I am so happy that I have had these experiences in São Paulo looking for Mira and also seeing other wonderful art and architecture. I am also excited about a more “grounded” experience at Kaaysa, by the ocean and in the rainforest with other artists from Brazil (and around the world) with whom I hope to meet and get to know. Vamos ver… we will see…

Link to the Kaaysa Art Residency:

https://www.kaaysa.com.br/

 

 

 

 

Mira e Brasil– posted in Colorado, September 2, 2018

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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1966, watercolor and oil stick on paper.

The Portuguese words “que beleza” in the image above by Mira Schendel can be translated in several ways into English. They could mean “what a beauty,” or “what beauty,” or “how beautiful.” I love this ambiguity and multiplicity of meaning. Even though I know very little Portuguese I understand it to be a subtle and beautiful language.

I posted about Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919 – 1988) in September of 2017 before my last trip to Portugal. Mira (as she was known) has been on my mind for several years now. I am going to Brasil September 25th to study her work in the museums of São Paulo and then travel to a small coastal village near São Sebastião and stay at the Kaaysa Artist Residency for four weeks: https://www.kaaysa.com.br/

I am beginning my research and intersubjective process now with this remarkable woman artist of the 20th century. I have been reticent to take on a new artist with my specific form of “embodied research” that I have enacted with Portuguese conceptualist Helena Almeida (b.1934), Russian/ American avant- garde filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961) and Indian minimalist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990). My process, research and travel with these three artists has been remarkably productive and has pushed the boundaries of my work in drawing, performance and photography. I have surrendered in some way with each artist, a form of falling in love and mirroring my own work in theirs. The results have been potent, particularly the performative works I accomplished in Portugal with Helena Almeida as my initial inspiration. So now the process begins again with Mira…

I am compelled by Schendel’s work for many reasons. I am interested in the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of her work, her use of language and symbols, the looseness as well as the specific meaning of her paintings and drawings. We share common interests in phenomenology, though she was much more studied in philosophy than I will ever be. We also have shared cosmological and spiritual interests in Eastern philosophy and very specifically in the I-Ching.

I am also interested in her as a transnational and refugee artist moving from Europe to South America after WWII. Mira spoke 4 or 5 languages- German, Italian, Portuguese, French and English and used language in her work in a wonderful way. In São Paulo she was involved with philosophers and concrete poets as well as other artists involved in the South American modernist movement. I will be going to São Paulo to look for her work in the museums there and I hope to meet curators who have studied her work and written about her. I will also learn more about contemporary Brazilian art – São Paulo has a sophisticated cultural scene and by coincidence the Bienal de São Paulo will be going on while I am there.

Mira Schendel is considered one of the most original and important artists of her time in Brasil but she is little known here in the U.S. Mira was a prolific artist with works on paper and on acrylic, paintings as well as sculpture and installation. There was a large exhibit of her work at the Tate Modern and at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in 2014, that exhibition traveled to the Serralves in Porto. I also missed the recent exhibition Mira Schendel:  Sinais/Signals  at the Museo de Arte Moderna de São Paulo. So I  do have the beautiful catalogues and I will perservere to see how I can see her works in person while in São Paulo.

 

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Mira Schendel, The Return of Achilles, 1964, oil on canvas.

This is a short biography from the exhibition at the Serralves website:

“Mira Schendel was born Myrrha Dagmar Dub in Zurich in 1919, to parents of Jewish heritage. She was brought up in Italy as a Catholic, studying philosophy at the Catholic University in Milan. During World War II, because of her Jewish roots, she was forced to leave university and stripped of her Italian nationality. Becoming a refugee, she travelled through Switzerland and Austria to what was then Yugoslavia. In 1949, she emigrated to Brazil, where she began her trajectory as an artist. She recalled: ‘I started painting in Brazil. Life was very hard, I had no money to pay for paint, but I bought cheap paint and painted passionately. It was a matter of life and death.’ In Brazil in these early years, largely self-taught, she adopted new approaches to painting, learning from the example of artists such as Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Klee. From around 1953, when she moved to São Paulo, Mira Schendel began signing her works simply Mira.”

 

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Mira Schendel, untitled (Todos), 1964. oil on canvas.

 

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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1965, oil transfer drawing on rice paper.

 

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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1965, oil transfer drawing on rice paper.

 

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Mira Schendel, Objecto Graphico / Graphic Object , 1967, graphite, transfer lettering and oil on rice paper with acrylic.

 

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 Mira Schendel, Still waves of probability / Ondas paradas de probabilidade, 1969, first installed at the Bienal de São Paulo, (shown here installed at the Tate Modern, 2014).

 

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Mira Schendel, I Ching, 1970, watercolor on paper.

 

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Mira Schendel, I Ching, 1970, watercolor on paper.

 

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Mira Schendel, Untitled, c. 1985, tempera and gold leaf on wood.

 

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Mira Schendel – I am not sure when she did this one but she did a whole series of Mandala paintings and I particularly like this one.

 

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Mira in front of her painting Todos (which was painted in 1964).

I am excited about Mira and Brasil for many reasons. Of course I am excited about São Paulo and the the Bienal de São Paulo. Alternately the Kaaysa Residency is on the Atlantic coast in a small fishing village on the Praia de Boiçucanga. It looks beautiful and a whole new territory for me – there are rain forests and waterfalls and a new group of artists whom I hope to get to know (even with my limited Portuguese). I hope to work on my own drawings, photographs and possibly some new performative works in the landscapes/waterscapes of Brasil. Vamos ver…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing Outside – posted July 11, 2018 in Boulder, CO

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I am back from 2 ½ weeks in Northern California – drawing almost every day in my “outside studio” on a brick patio right next to a tributary of the Russian River under a beautiful mountain. It was wonderful to work outside, though a little clumsy for this fairly technical India ink method I am using. I am “drawing from” some of the images from my performative work in Portugal over the last 3 years. These performative photographs shot by Luís Branco were all taken outdoors – on a mountaintop, in a deep ravine, in a lake, by a river, in a ruined mill, etc. I relate the photographic images and the abstract drawings I am making to some of the I-Ching imagery and hexagrams. Most of the hexagrams in the I-Ching are related to archetypal landscapes and elements. The I-Ching relates emotion and spirit to these elementary landscapes (and I do too).

I want to do a lot more of this size drawing at 20” x 16” and perhaps go back to the larger size paper I have been using too at 41” x 29”. The drawing process is a little finicky and takes some time but I love the India ink and the palette I have chosen. I am using black, silver, gold, blue and red inks and very little graphite.

The photographic images shown with the drawings are small prints (10” x 8”) the “real” prints are much larger 48” x 32”. Maybe someday I will exhibit the drawings and the large performative photographs together… but for now I just want to keep drawing.

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A blue tailed lizard got caught in my silver paint dish, I got him out and I hope he makes it, I think this image will become a drawing someday soon…

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I threw the I – Ching hexagram Tui – Two Lakes last September just before I went to Portugal to work on a series in the water and landscapes of Portugal. I think this image below that Luís Branco took in a high mountain lake is beautiful.

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I am “drawing from it” in the drawing below. I would like to make this drawing in the big size 29″ x 41″, I think it would be stunning. In fact most of these drawings are like preparatory sketches for bigger drawings.

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The black and white image below was taken by Luís Branco on my first trip to Portugal in 2015. It was taken on the top of Evoramonte mountain. I think this image is very much about feminine power and creativity. I relate this image to the first image in the I-Ching which is Ch’ien and relates Heaven with The Creative.

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This is the last drawing I made on Saturday in California. I like the spareness of this line drawing.

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The drawing (and performative photograph) below relates to the second hexagram in the I-Ching – Kun/ The Receptive, Earth and to the beautiful performative photograph Luís Branco took at the magical Pego do Sino (Canyon of the Bells) in 2016.

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It was wonderful to get back to a drawing practice and one that is related to the landscape and to have such a beautiful environment to work in. Thanks to my dear Cydney for setting up this opportunity for us, she also gots lots of work done plus we had plenty of lovely conversations and meals together and Kevin and some friends came to visit too…

 

 

 

 

Inner Truth – posted June 10, 2018 in Boulder, CO

all images by Sherry Wiggins and Luís Branco

I often throw the I Ching (the ancient book of Chinese wisdom) in transitionary times. I am not a particularly knowledgeable student of the I Ching, however when I throw it – it often resonates with my psychological and spiritual situation as well as my worldly situation. I recently threw hexagram 61 – “Inner Truth.”

The eight basic hexagrams (Heaven, Earth, Water, Fire, Thunder, Mountain, Wind and the Lake) in the I Ching each portray different types of elemental landscapes or archetypal situations. When they are placed above or below each other they convey a different situation or wisdom. These situations and wisdoms are always in the process of change and movement.

Hexagram 61 Chung Fu/Inner Truth is comprised of the hexagram Sun or The Gentle Wind (above) and Tui or The Joyous Lake (below).Here is a quote from Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching on the hexagram 61 or Inner Truth:

 “The attributes of the two trigrams are: above, gentleness, forbearance toward inferiors: below, joyousness in obeying superiors. Such conditions create the basis of a mutual confidence that makes achievements possible. The character fu (“truth”) is actually the picture of a bird’s foot over a fledgling. It suggests the idea of brooding. An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life is to be awakened. Far-reaching speculations can be linked with these ideas.”

This idea of brooding fits with my present state. I want to work in a more internal fashion for a period. Drawing has been a contemplative and “interior” practice for me in the past. Much of the performative photographic work from Portugal in the landscape and environments of the Alentejo have an inward and contemplative quality and there are elemental “truths” and archetypal situations revealed in many of the images. This is something that evolved very naturally for me in my work in collaboration with photographer Luís Branco. I would like to further explore the “Inner Truth” of some of these images in drawings. I will be using eight of the performative images from the last several years in Portugal as templates for abstract drawings. These eight images (for me) relate to the eight basic hexagrams in the I-Ching. Each of the eight basic hexagrams has a name, an attribute and an image associated with it. I have chosen eight of the more “elemental” photographic images made in Portugal to match with these hexagrams.

 

Ch’ien – the Creative – strong – heaven

1 72 _DSC7061 copyb copy 3Woman on Evoramonte, 2015.

 

K’un – the Receptive – devoted and yielding – earth

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K’an – the Abysmal – dangerous – water

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Li – the Clinging – light giving – fire

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Chen – the Arousing – incited movement – thunder

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Ken – Keeping Still – resting – mountain

 6 72 _DSC6656 copy 4Veiled Woman, 2015.

 

Sun – the Gentle – penetrating – wind and wood

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Tui – the Joyous – joyful – lake

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I am not sure how this new drawing process will go – I will be starting with smaller drawings in ink and graphite and working up to large drawings. In a few days I am going to the countryside in Northern California for three weeks for an art and drawing retreat with a dear friend. Happy summer!

the eyes of the skin – posted April 1, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado

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‘The hands want to see the eyes want to caress.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I continue to sort through, edit and find new meaning in the almost 3000 images I made with Luís Branco in Portugal last fall. The images were taken during multiple photo shoots at locations all over the Alentejo region – the Rio Sever, a beautiful lake near Marvão, the magical Pego do Sino and the dry reservoir at Santa Susanna. I keep finding images that have meaning for me, I print them at different sizes and install them in my studio. The images I am posting here were all shot in the Pego do Sino (the Canyon of the Bells) near the Obras Artist Residency. This special place resonates for me in many ways – I first visited the upper part of the canyon in 2015 with Noortje and Akiko and Cydney and I have returned to this place every time I am at Obras. It is a beautiful and mystical place. Last fall was the first time I actually entered into the deep part of the canyon. Luís and I shot all these images with the red fabric down in there. The energy and the beauty of this place is palpable.

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My friend Jack Quinan and I were talking about our mutual interest in phenomenology and Jack asked “do you know the book titled The Eyes of the Skin by Finnish architect and writer Juhanni Pallasmaa?” Surprisingly I did not, but I looked it up right away. In this little gem of a book Pallasmaa argues against the hegemony of the visual sense and argues for other modes of perception. I love this idea of “the eyes of the skin” as an artist, as someone committed to the perception of space, to the performance and representation of space – yes our skin has eyes!

In the introductory chapter titled Touching the World Pallasmaa states:

“Touch is the sensory mode that integrates our experiences of the world and of ourselves. Even visual perceptions are fused and integrated into the haptic continuum of the self; my body remembers who I am and how I am located in the world. My body is truly the navel of my world, not in the sense of the viewing point of the central perspective, but as the very locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration. All the senses, including vision, are extensions of the tactile sense; the senses are specializations of skin tissue, and all sensory experiences are modes of touching, and thus related to tactility. Our contact with the world takes place at the boundary line of the self through specialized parts of our enveloping membrane.”

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There is a lot of touch and skin in this sequence of images. The red fabric acts as another sheath or ‘skin’ for my body. It is as if my skin and the red membrane of the cloth are touching the world, the water, the rocks, and the air in the canyon. My skin and my body are obviously those of an older woman, there is vulnerability and contrarily vibrancy and sensuality in this old skin and the red fabric ‘touching the world.’

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“The skin is the oldest and most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient protector. Even the transparent cornea of the eye is overlain by a layer of modified skin. Touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It is the sense which became differentiated into the others, a fact that seems to be recognized in the age-old evaluation of touch as ‘the mother of the senses.’ – Ashley Montague “Touching: the Human Significance of the Skin,” pg. 3.

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These images from the Pego do Sino are a little dramatic. I blame this on the mythical deusa / goddess who is supposed to abide in this canyon. I have heard she is fierce and strong and I feel a special affinity with her. I will also blame it on the ‘eyes of the skin.’

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Why the body? Why my body? posted in Boulder, CO March 3, 2018

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all images by Luís Branco

“Our body is not in space like things; it inhabits or haunts space. It applies itself to space like a hand to an instrument, and when we wish to move about we do not move the body as we move an object. We transport it without instruments as if by magic, since it is ours and because through it we have direct access to space. For us the body is much more than an instrument or a means; it is our expression in the world, the visible form of our intentions. Even our most secret affective movements, those most deeply tied to the humoral infrastructure, help to shape our perception of things.” – Maurice Merleau-Ponty from “The Primacy of Perception”

I have been thinking about the body and why and how I have been using my body/the body in my work of the last few years in Portugal in performative works with photographer Luís Branco. I have been re-reading parts of Amelia Jones’ book “Body Art – Performing the Subject.” She quotes Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the French phenomenological philosopher, often and also synthesizes his work as applicable to art and specifically body art. This is handy because Merleau-Ponty’s work is pretty dense stuff  but nether-the less very relevant to my own thinking and art making.

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The images above and below are from a sub-series of images I made with Luís Branco at the dry reservoir at Santa Susana in Portugal in October.  I am showing just a few of the many images.  There was no rehearsal or choreography involved in these images. We did not use props or extra fabric like we have in other photo-shoots. My movements are sometimes awkward and the cracked earth is hard to navigate. However I think that the body/my body in this abstract space (seemingly apocalyptic) of dry cracked earth portrays this connection of the body to space that Merleau-Ponty describes above.

The odd and undefined space of the dry reservoir combined with the body / subject of the older woman/me in a black dress also prescribes something intimate and fragile – a real and existential loss… of water, of youth…

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Amelia Jones describes the general idea of Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the chiasm in her book “Body Art – Performing the Subject” intertwining Merleau-Ponty’s words with her own on pg. 41:

“His “The Chiasm-The Intertwining,” published posthumously in 1964, is especially rich in relation to body art. In this text, Merleau-Ponty embeds vision in touch, touch in vision, and their chiasmic crossing is the flesh of the world/the body itself: differentiating modes of vision (color and visibles) is a tissue that is ‘not a thing but a possibility, a latency, and a flesh of things.’ The chiasmus is the ‘doubled and crossed situating of the visible in the tangible and of the tangible in the visible,’ and the flesh of the visible indicates the carnal being-at once subjective and objectified. There is a ‘reciprocal insertion and intertwining’ of the seeing body in the visible body: we are both subject and object simultaneously, and our ‘flesh’ merges with the flesh that is the world. There is no limit or boundary between the body and the world since the world is flesh.”

How cool is that – ‘the world is flesh’?

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I might call this series of images The Chiasm or Body and Earth or The World is Flesh. What do you think? These images hold some power for me. I like the unity, the informality and fragility of the body / my body and the space / earth.

And I heard good news from friends Carolien and Ludger in Portugal that it is raining this spring, so I am hoping that this dry reservoir at Santa Susana is replenishing and that the Alentejo will come out of drought. Again all this work was accomplished with the support of the Obras Artist Residency.

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