right now!     ian g. cozzens updates, news, photos, and thoughts

further activist imagery

January 15, 2016 at 6:47 am

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you want to use this graphic for the purpose of supporting the Black Lives Matter project/movement/etc. you can! See the bottom of this post. However, DO NOT modify them to say other stuff… Especially (and I shouldn’t even have to say this) that “Blue” or “All” lives matter. Come on, folks. Just google it if you need more info, better people than me have written about why not to do that.

ALSO: If you want to make a graphic of different words in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, please DRAW YOUR OWN letterforms: don’t adapt these letterforms, it’s like putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say. Thank you! — Ian


large letters in red and white that say: BLACK LIVES MATTER

I cut these letters extremely tiny out of rubylith a little more than a year ago, while I was working epic hours on an unrelated project & was feeling horrified and shocked by national events, and inspired by protestors’ responses to them. Lara Henderson & some friends at the AS220 Printshop printed up a bunch of them much, much larger on some rigid chipboard, cause I didn’t have time to, which was great cause they were able to be used by protestors in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement here in Providence, in a timely fashion.

screenshot of the Providence Journal website showing a photograph of protestors holding Black Lives Matter signs
[this photo is by Maria Caporizzo]

Sometime in mid-2015, I printed about 200 more of them, giving them to friends & distributing them through AS220… those were also soon gone. This past fall, an activist group in Providence asked me if they could print some more, and I said yes and finally made a scalable vector file. They were printed by local artist Nina Ruelle and they are available around town.

That group describes itself thus:

“…a newish group in RI called the White Noise Collective. This is an anti-racism organization specifically interested in engaging white people in the struggle against racism and white supremacy. The group specifically examines and works from the intersection of white supremacy and gender oppression. Here’s a link to the organization’s chapter from Oakland. In addition, we are affiliated with showing up for racial justice (SURJ).”

The money that the RI chapter of the White Noise Collective brings in from selling the prints is going to the national Black Lives Matter organization and also to the local Providence organization DARE (Direct Action for Rights & Equality).

Since I apparently don’t have time to keep the posters in print myself (despite my intentions of doing so), and since they could be useful to folks outside RI, I wanted to make the image file available to the general public to print, copy, and distribute in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I have three requests to go along with the images:

1) use them for purposes consistent with & supporting the Black Lives Matter movement/contribution/project.

2) if you sell them or accept donations for them, please put any money made (beyond your printing costs) towards:

  • local organizations in your community that are Black-led and are supporting Black people’s lives & life chances (maybe you are part of one of these organizations! if so, feel free to use/sell this image as you need to.)
  • the national BLM movement and/or BLM protestors’ bail funds/jail support

3) [persnickety design nerd request!] please don’t stretch or squish the image in either direction — you can make it larger or smaller, but keep it proportional. To do this in Photoshop or Illustrator, click on the “direct selection tool” (that first one at the top of the tools menu, the “black arrow”) then hold down SHIFT to keep the proportions, while using your cursor to drag the arrow at one of the corners. request #3 is less important the above two, obviously! no fits will be thrown, it’s just my innermost heart’s desire, but not ultimately necessary. ;)

here are the files! these are download links to Adobe Illustrator and PDF files, so they may not show up “correctly” in your browser — if it doesn’t begin a download, just go to Save Page As under the File menu to save them to your computer.

8.5×11-page-size PDF file (ready to print out)

11×17-page-size PDF file (ready to print out, if your printer can print 11″x17″!)

Adobe Illustrator vector file

ENJOY, utilize, give me credit if you feel like it, but if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t convenient, don’t worry about it. :) Send me a picture if you print them & use them: secretdoorprojects (a) gmail dot com.

a hand with black nail polish pointing to a pile of screenprinted signs that say: Black Lives Matter
[thanks to Shey Rivera for this photo!]


I’m assuming most folks reading this would be familiar with the context & origins of the Black Lives Matter phrase & movement, but I came across these articles which I learned some more from:
http://thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/
http://inthesetimes.com/article/17551/the_women_behind_blacklivesmatter

If there are any more relevant links or information that I should put here, please let me know and I would be happy to add them!


ps. have I been spelling “protestor” wrong this whole time aka. my entire life? … “protestEr” just doesn’t look right!!!

breaking time & space at Slater Mill

May 31, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I just busted out a project that I am really excited about. I finally got to make some really big three-dimensional letters… it is for a show celebrating labor protest history… and it is in a great old industrial building.

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It is part of a show at Slater Mill Historic Site, a museum that is in the location of the first installation of the “Arkwright Method” of factory textile production in the United States. The exhibit is called The Mother Of All Strikes, focusing on the first factory labor walkout in US history, which happened at Slater Mill in 1824 when women loom operatives walked off their jobs and protested successfully for the restoration of their cut wages. It’s up till July 31st so there is lots of time to check it out — if you want to see it, contact me (secretdoorprojects@gmail) and I think it’s possible to arrange a free visit.

The show includes historical information & imagery, as well as artwork made specifically for it by Christine Ashley, Chelsea Carl, Priscilla Carrion, and Kristina Brown, and me!

I don’t have great pictures of the final installation yet, but here are some process shots and blurry phone pictures of the real thing, with more writing & good pictures to follow!

Slater Mill’s interior, with various textile machines from different eras (some still operational!):

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A little chunk of a project description I wrote for a reporter this week:

The piece I made for Slater Mill, and for the anniversary of the 1824 strike, is called, straightforwardly, “Autonomía” — which translates to “Autonomy” in English. The large letters (made of cardboard and silk-screened paper) are staggered in space and take over six bays of the factory building, getting in people’s way — just a little bit! — as they walk around. From one end of the building you can see that they spell a word; from other viewpoints, the shapes of the letters are visible but it’s not quite clear how they fit together.

The idea of autonomy is the idea that everyone should have control over their own lives, projects, work, and associations — it’s a specific way of talking about freedom that is about self-determination and cooperation as well as about independence.

The word was created using a perspectival illusion, based on combining an architectural drawing with a drawing of the letterforms. The furthest-away letters are the largest, and as they come towards you they get smaller, so from a specific viewpoint they all appear to be the same size, floating in space, not subject to the rules of perspective. This was a way of breaking the ordered, regular spacing of the building’s structure, which was part of the control system that Slater & his partners imposed on their workers. The word is only legible in denial of the factory’s regularity, contradicting how objects are “supposed to” behave in space.

I wanted to connect workers’ struggles today to the struggles of workers in the past, and make it clear that the fight continues — right now, with the struggles of fast-food workers across the U.S. and here in Rhode Island for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, among many other battles. The word is in Spanish to allow it to communicate directly to Spanish-speaking museum visitors — and to remind English-speaking visitors that these struggles are happening all over the Americas and the world. (And also to make it clear that I am *not* quoting the 1824 workers, since we don’t have any first-hand quotes from their speeches or meetings in the historical record.)

Some epic process notes….!

Based on the building’s plan, and on my own measurements of vertical elements, I made a perspective drawing (here ghosted out under a couple layers of vellum) and then drew the letters of the word I wanted to build in such a way that it would fit into the museum’s space:

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Here’s a detail of projecting the letters, these largest ones cut up into overlapping pieces, back in space onto the “picture plane” (a perspective-drawing concept, the plane where all the elements have a “true height” to scale) to figure out how large I would have to build them to get them to look the same height in person…

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The largest letter was six feet three inches tall, the smallest was about 18 inches tall.

(Most of this drawing was made on a drafting desk with a parallel ruler, but I did have to take it to my parents’ house in Philadelphia with me when I went back for a family wedding in the middle of the crunch time… here it is on their dining room table, with the plan of Slater Mill above the perspective drawing…)

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The thing I wish I’d done differently in the drawing process: I should have made the original plan at a larger scale; it should have been 1 foot to 1/4 inch instead of 1/8 inch! (or even bigger?) Then I would have had more ability to get accurate detail from the drawing instead of having to do complicated proportional translation. Luckily I had this trusty analog tool:

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The proportional scale! Which I don’t use all the time, but when I do use it, I can’t think of anything that could replace it.

Drawings were scaled up and then transferred to cardboard. I got all this two-ply bike-box cardboard which was nice & rigid (thanks, bike shop pals!), and perfect for being able to create a gluing surface on the edges, by peeling off one layer of corrugation, and bending back the other layer to give the hot glue something to hold on to.

Draw letter, add a 3/8″ border, cut partway through & peel:

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Cut through the middle flat layer:

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Gently bend back the bottom corrugated layer, and squish the corrugations down:

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Cut two-inch strips of cardboard and hot-glue them to the folded-down edges (the paper-wrapped bricks are weights to hold the whole thing in place & keep the glued parts pressed tight together while the glue cools):

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If you drop your razor knife with the blade fully extended like that, don’t try to catch it! (I didn’t… but just barely)

Some complete letters stacked in a nice-looking pile…

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Each letter had its height divided in four, and I made four stripes of this pink paper that Alison Nitkiewicz & I screenprinted more than two years ago

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(the Os extend a little beyond the top & bottom line of the letters, so they got a tiny stripe of another color pink added on the top…)

The biggest letters (the first ones that were done!) loaded in the van to go to the mill (and yes, the colors did look completely different in the daylight vs. in the studio lighting):

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Late nite install:

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Scøtt was a crucial, crucial helper in the hanging process, I really wouldn’t have gotten it done without his help… the timeframe was tight enough that we didn’t take any installation shots except this one, when we were almost done:

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Jeremy Ferris took this nice picture at the opening, really showing the size & scale of the largest letters:

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And here are another couple pictures I took as things were winding down:

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And… just some of the smaller scraps of pink paper left over in the studio afterwards:

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… and while we’re looking at letters, here are two variant proportions for the same letters from stops along the C subway line in Brooklyn.

These are different shapes, to fit a different size panel & with different street names (the first one is Nostrand Ave, the second one is Kingston-Throop Av), so the angles are all different… BUT the small tiles are the same size, and the “style guide” for how the tiles are cut and placed is the same, including the extension of the top point of the A and bottom point of the V past the bounding line for the rest of the letters.

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kingston-throop-av

Things I like to look at!

I have been posting a lot of found letterforms, also cool architectural things, process work, and occasional cats, on my instagram recently, I’ve been really psyched about that format for internet interaction… follow if you’re into it!

“I feel like… sometimes…” (in the new year, part 2!)

April 3, 2014 at 5:50 am

Yikes, I meant to write about this a while ago! The short version: I have a piece in a show at the Carpenter Center at Harvard U. in Cambridge, MA; it’s up till April 6th, 2014; you can see it for free. The whole show is vast & awesome, featuring some hyperlocal as well as global “social practice / art & activism” projects. The work in the show is generally extremely generous, inspiring, & great.

My piece was made specifically for this show and context, & the way you look at it (through a viewport hole, at a certain height) is an important part of it! I hope all y’all New Englanders get a chance to check it out before Monday!

More details & background follow…

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Late last year, I was asked to be part of a group installation along with other former and current members of the Dirt Palace, a feminist / women’s art space here in Providence. My relationship to the Dirtpal has always been a little complicated, which meant I didn’t automatically agree to participate… but I did my research about the larger show that the installation was going to be a part of, called Living As Form, and the approach the Dirt Palace’s owners were taking to the whole thing — asking every person who had ever been a member of the space to contribute a piece of their current art that would be assembled into an installation — and I got psyched about making something… also because one of my stated goals for 2014 was to “make more three dimensional letters”, and this would give me a chance to do it.

So then in the fall I was really really busy, with the fall & holiday art sale seasons, moving stuff out of Building 16, my show at URI, etc. The first two weeks of January I spent doing a lot of house & general life projects that had gotten put off since, like, September… Then in the third week of January I realized that the deadline for the Dirt Palace installation was upon me! So I worked really hard for FIVE DAYS (!?) & busted out a thing.

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I had known I wanted to make a three-dimensional diorama, based on the awesome time I had had making the poster for my show… the Dirtpal folks had given me the maximum dimensions that the work needed to fit within, and I had told them that I wanted a 6″-diameter hole in the wall that all the art works / dioramas / slide-viewers were going to be set behind. I built this box out of plywood… & made a cardboard mock-up to show the placement of the viewing port… & started drawing and cutting out letters.

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The words in the box make a sentence that is a lil’ joke on me, a lil’ joke on Dirt Palace house meetings, and also a really true idea that might be the most important thing I learned while participating in the group processes & workdays of the Dirt Pal.

(…and I’m not gonna say “it’s supposed to be illegible”, cause that’s a little bit of a cop-out, but I will say “it is definitely intentional that it should take a certain amount of effort to read” — that’s for real.*)

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This was fun fun fun to make and I worked really directly and I moved things around and when I liked where they were (from the viewpoint determined by the porthole) I glued them down with hot glue. YES! (ahem, excuse me, “thermoplastic adhesive”…) Part of the reason I hope folks can go see this in its installed context is that it is meant to be seen from a specific angle and I don’t know when the next chance will be to display it that way…

Also because it was made specifically about the Dirt Palace, and for this show Living as Form which talks about “social practices” and “community engaged art” and a whole bunch of other buzzwords which I am all for as real things, but which, as words, often get bandied around without people’s feet being on the ground. In figuring out what to make, I wondered: what is a way I can talk about real horizontality, true non-hierarchy? And I feel that, like washing your own dishes, shutting up can be a deeply radical act — especially when practiced by those who aren’t often required to shut up (aka. white, masculine-appearing know-it-alls like myself). !!!

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ALSO! the whole Dirt Palace installation wall (seen above) is great, and does an excellent job of celebrating the history of the building and the contributions of all the alumnae (& alumni) of the D.Pal — while also extending to all those people an opportunity to have their current personal work showcased in an international show, at a fancy institution.

So much work went into the installation on the part of Pippi Zornoza and Xander Marro, Arley-Rose Torsone who drew the wall text, and many other helpers & installation workers, not to mention all the artists themselves! The labor of all the people who have worked to build the Dirt Palace into what it is today often gets erased in the magical-seeming glow of the physical building as a desirable object, and by the oft-told, simple narrative that tends to glorify the owners of the building… and it’s way more complicated than that. This installation begins to get at the multifariousness of the 40+ people who have lived & worked at the Dirtpal over the past 14 years!

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In some aspects, this felt like a reunion — though we didn’t all live at the Dirt Palace at the same time, of course — and this was actually the first time I had really met a couple of these people. I was struck by the honor and delight I felt at being able to exist in this awesome company — being able to be associated with this intense, thoughtful, & creative multigenerational crew.

Here’s the one other piece in the Dirt Palace wall that I took a picture of, “Chosen Family” by the brilliant Samuel Lopes:

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And here’s a picture from what was, in my opinion, the best project of the show, whereby a Harvard Business School associate seated at a desk offers financial advice to gallery-goers… the associate puts each question through a pneumatic tube through the wall behind them… on the other side of the wall, a child writes an answer to the question and sends it back. !

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Some close-ups of my “RIGHT” letters, which kinda get lost in the back of the diorama… construction process:

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Graphite, white colored pencil, and watercolor on pink paper:

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and… infinite shout outs from me & JR to the butches, fags, gender-non-conforming folks, & queers of the dirt palace and the hive archive (its previous, collective incarnation)! “we are everywhere, making foolish smiles”

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(n.b. all photos by me, except for: Emmy Bright took the “horses” picture & the picture of me & JR… and I am not sure who took the group Dirt Palace picture, I snagged it off their blog!)


*if your device can’t display the hover-over title text on the diorama images, the sentence is: “I feel like… sometimes… to create a truly anti-authoritarian space, … the people who know the *right* way to do things… might just have to… shut up…(question mark)?”

interim photo post

December 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

Stuff is sad (understatement) cause two good people died recently — Providence artist & musician Joe Buzzell, who I knew glancingly from around town, whose art I admired, who I always wanted to collaborate on a project with — and writer & theorist José Esteban Muñoz, who I didn’t know, but whose writing really shaped the way I see the possibility latent in the world, the potential in queerness, the crucial importance of fighting towards utopia. I want to write more about it, but I’m really busy, aah…. so here are some pictures from the past recent times cause things are also beautiful and here we are, alive.

Building 16, now that it’s over it feels like a dream that we didn’t appreciate enough while we had it….

I built some shelves

and filled them up with stuff.

I have definitely done this in my time as a bike rider:

Epic two-day ink-sort-out, dealing with all the random ink containers (30+ ?) that had accumulated after rainbow rolls that I’d never “put away” properly, for maybe the past two years…?

There’s always a container into which I scrape all the gross crap that shouldn’t go back into the good ink but also shouldn’t go down the drain, just started a new one, here it is:

testing

In my friend’s secret repository of slightly water-damaged paper:

I acquired all this paper (the biggest sheets here are 40″x26″, the stack is about 1.5 feet tall) WHOOPS

This building is on Public St on the south side, go see it before they put walls on/in it & you can no longer witness this epic structural situation:

I picked up some old wooden casement windows out of the trash today for the first time in a long time. I kind of swore off doing that a while ago (it’s just too tempting, there are so many, and you (I) will never really do anything with them!). BUT today was a “save for some reason” day, except now I know the reason: saving a thing and appreciating its beauty, or planning to do a project with it, is a tiny promise against death, for a little while, completely ineffective, but hopeful in its own illogical way…

feelings of love, & fear

October 24, 2013 at 3:43 am

Last night & tonight I’ve been powering through the final incarnations of the project that I was making those three-dimensional letters for. Here’s the first one, the poster for my upcoming show (which will be printed by the URI printing services!):

material_resistance_poster_smaller

So I think it was worth many hours of adjusting objects tiny amounts while squinting through the viewfinder???!!! Big thanks to photographer Matthew Clowney for helping me out with photoshop adjusting some lighting levels, sharpening, and making the pencil text more legible! and also huge gratitude to Scott for putting up with a giant door/table, tripod, and light stand (a.k.a. a mic stand that he let me borrow) in the middle of our shared studio for 48 hours…

Tonight I’m feeling exhausted by computer work / sitting at the compy all day doing layout — last night I was feeling SUPER energized & in love with all the tools I use and even feeling psyched about the digital tools — camera and photoshop — which I always feel like I am just starting to learn how to use. So — that excitement continues, but is always ready to flop over into overwhelmed-ness by all the different things you can do with digital tools… sometimes it’s nice to have a tool that just does one thing?

Here are some moments in this process that I had never done before, and which felt pretttty confusing / scary at times:

… initial thoughts towards text arrangement…

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… got all the elements I had initially planned for in there, but it looks pretty barren & empty… hmm…

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… some of my tools were on the table, what if I start putting the tools in there too? oh, that’s better. okay…

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… at some point I realized I had to modify the chipboard holding up these little letters so that the light could shine through them…

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… which gives me a new understanding of the term “drop shadow”…

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… here’s the studio while I was shooting / adjusting / shooting / adjusting / etc. it really was pretty impossible to move around…

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… and then here’s the second setup, for the postcard design, on which photoshop / layout is almost done. this camera & object setup went a lot faster, unsurprisingly! you can see how chaotic the table had become…

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It was really fun to make a mess like this for the camera; it was crucial, I guess, to be doing it under time pressure so I had to bring it to a conclusion instead of fooling around; it made me want to be doing stop motion animation or something? or building dioramas of buildings to draw them? or just making lots more three dimensional letters? We’ll see… not right now, now I have to get the actual art ready for this show!


Here are some photos of the aftermath of the talk / presentation I did at the RISD Museum on Sunday:

A table of tools, including some of the drawings / watercolors I made of the Allens Ave warehouse demolition process this summer:

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Erik Dardan & Scott talk in the background of poster process material spanning 11 years:

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And this is for evidence of my “digital workflow” — scanning some of the three-dimensional letters to make them into the text for the back of the show postcard.

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This is my 2005 (!) powerbook, with the bottom third of the screen non-functional, but luckily still choogling along, since my newer computer can’t run the ol’ crappy scanner (and I do love this old compy). These moments of going back & forth between digital & physical, in somewhat (very?) inefficient ways, strike me as totally hilarious and also a nice hallmark of living in ‘the future’, the real future, which feels terrifyingly and authentically science-fictiony… There’s never a clean jump into the future, we’re always dragging our old rapidograph pens and film line cutters and proportional scales and rusty 1970s pickup trucks and ninety-year-old buildings and crappy scanners that haven’t completely broken yet into the future with us… And we’re using them right next to our unimaginably high-resolution digital capture devices, at the same moment as we check in with our constantly-interconnected, instantaneously-updated, internet personality profiles…


There’s one more spot left in my Transparent Colors & Hand-Cut Stencils advanced silkscreen class at AS220! Starts October 30th, the awesome Jen Hall will be the T.A! Come hang out with us & learn some intense / cool screenprinting techniques!

cutting up nice things

October 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Finally I get my act together to make some three dimensional letters. This has been a written-down goal on the list for about 3 years now.

Three-dimensional letters, version one:

  • freehand-cut slightly ‘wacky’ letters out of overlapping test print
  • cut meticulous z-axis part out of screenprinted paper, with lots of lil tabs, tiny folds, & vigorous cursing
  • glue z-axis part to back of letter with white glue, toothpick, bone folder, and more cursing
  • glue traced/cut copy of letter (out of orange paper) to the back of the z-axis part to complete ‘box’ of letter
  • realize they look cooler incomplete, also this is taking WAY too darn long, so leave a bunch incomplete (for now)

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three-dimensional letters, version two:

  • take an old print of which you have a lot of non-edition/”slightly messed up” copies that have been sitting around in the studio for 3+ years
  • cut letters out of it, slice slice! selecting for cool color/pattern moments
  • use a little template card to get the angle and widths consistent, curves are by eye/hand
  • cut up a lot of cardboard pieces, don’t cut yourself or hurt your wrist, ok?
  • stack stack stack!

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(template guy, knife for scale)

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Okay!

“what does that say?”

May 12, 2013 at 3:22 am

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It says: dissonance.

Here are the two colorways of the actual print, a green that’s somewhere between forest & olive, & a bright orange. It’s about 27.5″ x 12.5″, a large one. The below images link to the prints newly in the store!

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So… why “dissonance” ?

This print springs directly out of drawing (in mid-summer 2012) all the letters for the “our complexity is the world” print (some process details; buy one!); and feeling just a little fed up with drawing so many lowercase letters in the same form; and my handwriting slipping into sketchiness when writing “dissonance”…

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Then I realized that there was no need to pull those letters back into linear alignment, and that that was a word that I wanted to celebrate further in another print…

Late summer 2012 found me sitting on a rock on Conanicut, above the waves, mostly naked (as friends & I were a lot last summer), drawing it in my sketchbook:

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page

(Here’s past process notes from some color decisions, and some color testing and weird-overlap-printing. More process shots from printing are below; hover over them for details.)

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“Sooooo….. uh. Why dissonance?”

The application of this word to trans stuff or gender issues originates with the awesome writer and scientist Julia Serano, in her book Whipping Girl:

gender dissonance:
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

When I was first reading about trans stuff, Whipping Girl (which I highly recommend), was really important to me, not least because of finding Serano’s definition quoted above. Her extended explication of her use of the word “dissonance” gave me a handle on the way I felt about my body, which I had had no words for before. I had felt that way pretty much all the time since my early teenage-hood, and, partly because of having no words for it, had assumed all women felt the same way about their bodies.

In the couple of years since first reading that, the word “dissonance” has continued to be super relevant to my existence. As time has gone on, through conversations and meeting people and the internet and witnessing the multifariousness of the possibilities of gendered existence in the world, I’ve relaxed some of my harsh demands on my own gendered existence… I’ve allowed myself to be a person who has a complicated gender & complicated body, and I’ve complicated that gender & body for myself further… and come to embrace the ambiguity and positivity that come along with the word “dissonance”.

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It’s more useful for wrapping around my gender or body feelings than the commonly used term “dysphoria” — which is all medicalized, seems decisively negative, and makes you feel like there’s something “wrong” with you. Dissonance is originally a word for talking about sound or music, it’s the opposite of “consonance”, which is “things sounding similar” or “things in harmony” — but neither consonance or dissonance are necessarily good or bad, they’re just descriptions of two states of existing or relating.

Sometimes dissonance can be really incomprehensible, confusing, and make you feel unbalanced & weird, when two notes are not in tune or two frequencies are not quite lining up & there are weird noises that you think you might be imagining…

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BUT when you listen carefully it might also sound pretty awesome and interesting, and more complicated than just some Mozart or whatever, and there’s a lot to hear there that you might not have listened for if everything had been all sounding-good to start with…

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BUT even if you’re making this music yourself, on purpose, cause you like it, it might still be hard or painful to listen to… BUT you feel compelled to make it and/or other music is just boring and/or it’s the only thing you’re interested in and/or you don’t know how to make any other kinds of sounds…

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SO you keep making it even though it feels weird sometimes. Or, all the time. Or rather, it feels TOTALLY WEIRD and TOTALLY AWESOME at the same time, or so closely alternating / simultaneous that you can’t actually tell how you feel about it. Even figuring that out is confusing & takes up a lot of your mental energy, but ultimately it’s worth it cause you don’t really know another way to be… you don’t have a choice. OR maybe you do — the “born that way” doctrine is kind of obnoxious & determinist, after all, and you are indeed making a choice — as this guy has said, your choice is to be here with us.

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So yeah, DISSONANCE. All right.

“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

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How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!

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I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

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The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…

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…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:

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Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:

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2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:

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3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:

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4. …and then fill in the final gap:

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5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:

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Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:

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And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:

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2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):

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3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):

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One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


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Full text of the poster:


so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world


In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?

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drawing fonts / trading projects

February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap

Oh, the assistance of a tiny dog… so crucial for drawing this typeface for Liz Novak’s jewelry line / personal-world-creating self-actualization project, With Care… !

Liz (“E. Elizabeth”) is a skilled pal who I don’t get to see often enough, maybe because we both work a ton? or maybe because I am mega distractable and don’t realize that actually months & months have gone by since I have seen some of my friends? Unclear. In any case, it’s unfortunate… and partly with the ulterior motive of ***hangouts*** I asked her for help with the bandana project that I began for the “Practical Tools For Shifting Reality” show at AS220. She had asked me for help with a letterform project at the end of last year (which I had actually forgotten about in the chaos of holiday-sale-december-time — yikes), so it was a great chance for a work/project trade!

Liz is a jewelry-maker, a proud New-Jersey-ite (and also a loyal adopted Providencian like myself), a seamstress at the local bad-ass-lady-run business I’m Your Present, and a SERIOUS flea-market-hunter and collector of visual & graphic ephemera (check the instagram!). She also makes costumes… knows a ton about fabric & sewing & clothing… & has helped me in the past in various self- and gender-actualization-through-clothing-modification projects!

hankies in progress spread out all over a couch, with a cat on the shelf above[photo by liz]

In the lead-up to the AS220 show, she advised me on some of the fabric stuff for the bandanas, did a bunch of ironing, figured out the use of the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine to sew the tight hems, did a bunch of the sewing, and taught me how to use the rolled hem foot so I could keep doing it on my own… Her help was super crucial to that hanky project actually happening. At the end of our second day of working together, Liz said something like “You know what I really like? Working hard.” I never really think about this, possibly I just take it for granted? But I’m on the same page. And indeed, working hard together was especially fun.

hemmed & folded hankies...[photo by liz]

It helped that the bandanas looked super awesome when we were done!

In return for helping with that project, she had asked me to help her with font & logo design for With Care… which I was super psyched to do, since I had just been in the very rewarding realm of drawing lots of fonts/letterforms for the show.

two words, "correia" and "fabrik", in 1920's letters

Liz had collected together a bunch of objects, decorative items, and (of course) historic letterforms, which I (of course) love looking at, and which gave me an idea of what kind of letters she was interested in for the logotype, and some graphic/visual context to work from…

the back cover of an old magazine titled "your health", with the titles of articles

two words, "charm" and "ferragamo", in old typefaces

So we sat around & talked about different kinds of letterforms (& various other important community news, what some might disparage as ‘gossip’, but is actually crucial) and I drew some letters! It’s a pure delight to take this set of letterform-drawing skills that I have & turn it towards creating a ‘brand’ identity for someone a) who is a friend, b) whose taste I really respect, c) who also respects my aesthetic judgment, and d) who has a very strong vision for what the aesthetic world of their creative project/business is. Wearing my ‘designer’ hat, it’s really nice to be able to perceive someone’s aesthetic and try to follow & amplify it! I hope I succeeded…

Getting ready for some kerning — the letters in “CARE” are awkwardly spaced here, and I wanted to even out the curve to make it more symmetrical:

a drawing of letters with overlapping curving guidelines

The drawing scenario, with bright light (clip lamp) at Liz’s kitchen table, showing bristol board (original drawing), tracing paper (kerned letters), and small black jewelry box which this rectangle is designed to eventually go on:

different tracings of letters "with care" arranged on a table

Final drawing, with gemstone — somehow I have never drawn a gemstone before?

a person's hands holding a tracing of a gemstone onto a drawing of letters
[photo by liz]

Next steps for this guy are a little bit of cutting & pasting, to make it fit the differently-proportioned rectangles that Liz needs (Etsy-store header banner, two different jewelry boxes, postcard), rubylith cut-out (to get clean-but-slightly-wobbly lines without using a computer), scan rubylith & clean up on the computer. At some point I might draw some different versions of it at different weights or with a three-dimensional shadow on it… infinite possibilities… !


postscript: Clearly, the “animal in proximity to project” scenario is not unfamiliar to me:

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap [Martin, at Liz’s house]

a person trying to work at a computer with a cat sitting between them and the computer [Buio, at my house]

“practical tools for shifting reality” – snapshots & statement

February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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The show is up! & I am on to the next projects (and of course finishing the things that I didn’t have time to complete for the show itself!). Here is an assortment of snapshot-based documentation, plus the artist statement — written the night before the opening, but based on ideas that have been rumbling around for a couple years now, as usual.

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Practical Tools for Shifting Reality
artist statement

I was a nearsighted, nerdy, artistic, attention-hungry, weird little kid: fascinated by printed objects around me, terrified of losing unique things (and pretty much everything, even trash, fell into this category), captivated by odd dreams of creating my own brand of notebooks, and compelled to learn to draw horses realistically. The horses thing kind of faded away (for the better, probably), and I long ago stopped collecting boogers & dust balls (for the better, definitely), but the rest of it remained — along with all the drawing practice I had done, and the terror of loss — as a great recipe for becoming a meticulous maker of screenprinted posters.

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Additionally, I was a boyish kid who didn’t really understand why she couldn’t be in the Boy Scouts, have short hair like her brothers, or be called “Keith” on a regular basis. In recent years, as I realized that I didn’t actually have to be “a girl”, and became aware of the validity and realness of my gender variance, I worried that much and maybe all of my single-minded, perfectionist, intense-work-ethic art- & poster-making had been born from the combination of the attention-hungry kid with the teenage girl who didn’t identify at all with her perceptible, supposedly “girl” body. This person figured out that if they could draw the most complicated drawings, make them into neat-looking screenprints, and distribute them, that people would pay more attention to the images than to the physicality of the human behind them…

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This tactic worked for almost a decade; it was a good one! But it stopped working when I realized I had the chance to figure out an embodiment and a physical presence that would potentially feel more true to myself. The fact that the posters were no longer the point of my life revealed the fact that they had been: that much of my identity and even my physical presence in the world was wrapped up in the work I had made. For a long while after that, when I was working on art, it felt like I was actively avoiding having a gendered body — a continuation, perhaps, of the avoidance/distraction/dazzle-camouflage scenario that I had been constructing for so many years.

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At the same time, I knew that that was not the only purpose my work had served. As a poster-maker with my art practice founded in my community of friends, I knew that screenprinted posters & prints, distributed as limited multiples, become important objects to other humans, and carry strong associations for everybody whose lives they touch: “that was the gallery opening where my partner and I first kissed”, “that was the last show in our house before we got evicted”, “that was my favorite building before they tore it down”, “that poster was above our kitchen sink for six years, I looked at it every day…”

These printed objects hold power for creating our lives & realities, for piecing our stories together, for sharing them with each other, based on memory, imagination, delight, the irrational, the impossible, the failed & beautiful. Shared self-made graphics allow our lives to be located outside of a dominant or market-logic paradigm, through a visual language that we teach each other & make up together as we go along. I realized that I wanted to turn this power towards furthering validity for trans, queer, and gender-variant existences like mine — towards making complexity visible, and by showing what I saw of it, to create chances for further complexity in the world.

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I wanted to put visual tools in the hands of others like myself, who might occasionally need a reminder that they are real, when from many sides they are told that their existences are impossible. I also wanted to get to do more of the practices that are the most engaging & interesting for me — drawing, first of all, and also printing, but not printing epic, grueling editions (which I do enough of already): “fun printing.”

So, the work brought together in the gallery here is a beginning stab at both those projects. There are lots of hand-drawn words & letterforms, which hopefully reveal my discovery & delight in the drawing of them as well as the self-imposed limits (and also delights!) of following a system, creating a graphic space that is coherent and includes weirdness, and learning deeply from drawing things seen in the world around me.

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The “word prints” (the ones in white frames, two of which are in the photos below) are a group in which there are no mistakes. Each one is different; every print that gets made is part of the continuing whole, and any strange or unexpected color layer simply presents a challenge to figure out what the next layer and color on that print will be, and/or a (parallel) challenge to understand the existing combination as complete and unified.

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All of this work involves interference between patterns, scales & layers, as well as colors and images overlapping by chance and by intention. Language as action, graphics as tools, words as accumulated structures. Printed things as evidence of thought, of having an idea & making it real & sharing it with the people around you, providing them yet another piece of structural existence to build their own selves with. The dissonant territory between “reading” and “looking”, between up close & from across the room, between what we can see & what we can’t see. Creating reality, creating our bodies and existences, and the world around us, through strategic and/or magical language and significant objects — as well as through improvisation, accident, making do with what is there, making it into something else, making it into what we want to see in the world…

February 1, 2013

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[from the wall with the letterform drawings on index cards, this text says: “To wrap something in stories rather than in theory is to let words work at its strangeness rather than at its credibility. — Robin Evans, Translations From Drawing to Building” … I couldn’t resist the (un-posed) reflection of a gallery visitor reading the hanky tags near the opposite wall…]

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[I drew & printed the bandanas — the color is ink, the white lines are negative space, Liz Novak and I hemmed them all on the sewing machine! Somewhat impulsively, in the middle of a late night, I sent some emails asking the people who had requested a specific color how they wear their hanky (or hankies), what color(s), and why… It soon became clear that those statements would be a really crucial part of the project, and that the accumulation of different colors of hankies and of written statements of visible desires, attached to these significant, coded, yet potentially infinitely varying objects, is its own project and will probably go on for a while… If you’d like to contribute thoughts about how & why you wear a hanky, please get in touch!]

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[“…starting the revolution by publicly announcing the object of your desire, and asking in public who desires you…” this Guy Hocquenghem quote was on the wall of hankies/bandanas.]

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[this Robert Venturi quote has been kicking around on the bulletin boards in my room for about four years… I think I’ve finally made some of the work that can properly have this text displayed alongside it, in my general realm of “thinking about bodies like thinking about buildings”, and possibly even “thinking about words like thinking about bodies”…]

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[A friend bought this little print, which is a rectangle cut from a chaotic test print that I have been printing on since 2010 or earlier… the orange curlicue & blue-gray rectangles are elements of a test from when Meg Turner was printing this poster in my studio a couple of years ago!]

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[The “our complexity is the world” print, originally made for this portfolio, serves as the textual & conceptual backbone of all the work in this show, I hope…]

[below, a shot from while I was installing… (if you haven’t, please read Mark Aguhar’s blog.) These are re-prints of the stickers that Meg Powers & other friends & I made this summer; they’ve now been Risographed by Walker Mettling (and look beautiful but the ink is smudgy, so they don’t make great stickers as such — it was experimental anyways!)… BUT look how nice & serious & real things look when they are behind a little sheet of glass!]

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