Rhyme and Reason by Kerri McGill

My knee twinges, begging me to call it a day. I know this must be my last run, the last run of the season.

And so, upon reaching the top of the mountain, I sit down in the snow to take a last look. The power of cold air on a mountaintop is undeniable. There are two trails down. I choose Rhyme, the one I have not been down as my last run. I had time to make a solid decision on the ride up in a squeaky outdated chairlift.

Only a few are left on the slopes at this time of the day.

There is a thin gentleman in a pale yellow snow jacket with a matching cell phone. He’s easily in his 70s. He looks from his phone to the lift and mountains beyond. He must be waiting for friends on the lift.

I pick myself up and move toward my chosen trail and wish him a good day. He holds his phone out to me. “Will you take a picture of me?” Oh. He is alone. And his soft accent whispers of the Alps. He is alone and he is far from home. Curiosities well up about who this man is, what he has been through and how he ended up here. I take pictures of him with mountains this way and that, hoping one will capture his lone adventure properly.

The lift is closing, a sure sign of the finality of this run and a certain kinship of we two strangers. You see in this moment, we own this mountain top, we two are friends, if only for a moment.

I wonder how far he’s traveled, who he’s with, if my pictures are good enough to capture his visit (they never are from a phone) He thanks me as I hand the pale yellow phone back to him. I strap into my snowboard and he deftly swooshes down Reason, the trail I’ve already been. I almost follow, so we might be friends for that much longer. But he is faster than my made up mind. He chose Reason and I chose Rhyme.

The base of this painting is a collage of unrelated maps. These maps fade in and out of the image and the key figure as well. This painting is not about the man, nor the mountain. It is the fleeting moment when you connect with another person and the strange assortment of trails taken to cross paths.

On the Periphery, the Edge of Sight.... Curator's Note and the Artists! by Kerri McGill

On the Periphery, The Edge of Sight

Uforge Gallery

presents its first guest curated exhibit. Guest curator 

Kerri McGill

 pulls 12 artists from Boston’s wealth of skill and vision. These painters, sculptors and photographers play with that ephemeral line between our daily pedestrian existence and those realities that lie in the periphery and explore the politics of identity.

_______________________________

Curator's Note

We crave order and stability. When we focus on an object, a path, or a goal, we lose our peripheral vision. It’s a necessary blindness that assists concentration, and simultaneously deters us from a deeper understanding of matters.

Our internal structures and expectations help make categorical judgments in a split second. This fills our world with

dualities and personal mythologies.

The artist pays heed, sees deeply, and responds thoughtfully. The artist picks through layers of reality and identity with an awareness of how one informs the other.

This show challenges our ideas of chosen realities, how we define ourselves and how our environment, in turn, defines us

. The artwork creates a dynamic visual dialogue and a space that fosters expansive thought and encourages the viewer to re-inform active sight and self-definition.

~Kerri McGill, curator

The Artists

Ruth Rosner’s

powerful Totems greet you. These “guardians of the voiceless”, made of wire, plaster and found objects often aged and rusted, speak of identity through imbued power. “The source of their vulnerability is the source of their strength and power”.

Ivor Scott's

oils present the multiple realities of war, game and identity. Are you the person safe in the room playing a game or the dying soldier on the screen? Is the deconstructed “glitching”game-body enough visual information to recognize as a person?

Tricia Neumyer

also tackles ideas of war, game and chosen identity in her Pennsic War series. The truth of documentary style photographs balance fanciful costume and cardboard armatures. The graphic nature of uniforms and crests underscores the elements of design that simultaneously break up the human form into abstraction and decree a very specific identity.

Rebecca Rose Greene’s

paper sculptures bring the creature to the crest. It is the undeniable power of the beast that serves its function- the visual identity of a group, family or clan. The large bird attains a physical power and solid presence in spite of the delicate materials it’s made from.

While the Totem series of heft heavy metal beast heads from

Wolftits

have a spacious delicate quality, the metal line of the creature has the motion of a quick hand gesture, a doodle in spite of the metal it’s made of. The street-artist, Wolftits, himself, toys with the idea of identity. Is identity self proclaimed or bestowed by the environment in which one thrives?

C.D’Shoto

alters components of the identifiable “self” through disorienting environments and design. Her “people” are only identified as such by shape and a minimal detail, be it face or arm. She denies access to her subjects when she replaces the face with pattern.

Her environments offer little narrative help in defining the people within them.

Dinora Justice

uses the same elements of design for opposite means. Beautiful landscapes please us. Hers are beautiful but unfamiliar. She instills trees with individual personalities of their own through design. “Rather than representing or imitating nature, I paint the uncanny situation we are in - a world that flows in and out of states of recognition.”

Sasha Parfenova

also combines elements of the identifiable world with estranged environment in her collage works. At a distance, Sasha’s compositions have a peaceful dreamlike quality that turns darker as one looks closer. “

The fragility of nature is exposed. The consequences of human intervention and influences are undeniable.”

Rich Sepulveda

’s c

hildhood artifacts invite viewers to think on darker corners of our society and ourselves.

Horrific events on the news blend in w/weather and distort reality and empathy.

The combination of fantastical environments and the medium of photography offer a different type of reality.

“I hope that these images can be reminders that help reignite empathy for our human family.”

Pecan

brings in the humor of pop culture. Like Sepulveda, childhood objects are key players. Even in the warmth of nostalgia, Pecan changes the identity by placing them in environments beyond their reality. The images give the tiny toys the strength survive space and make our concrete structures into fragile things.

Ktron

packs her compositions tight with the bounty of life to a point of anxiety. The amount of life beyond our daily reality is dense, unified and grand. Man is an observer or a voyeur? “

Things lurk within the landscapes around us. There is so much more than meets the eye.  The world is filled with creatures that you only notice if you look hard enough.”

Kerri McGill’s

map collages connect the grids and highways of torn maps as the underpinnings of invented lands. These images are metaphors for our thought process. We force new information into familiar old patterns; maps that may not match up with the actual landscape. The environment is continually redefined by the person who encounters it.

Dream by Kerri McGill

Your dream is bold and clear. The path is obvious. Maybe it includes a timeline. As you proceed forward with determination and optimism, unforeseen aspects of life make the path less straightforward. Other realities come to light and the goal is far less attainable than when first conceived. In fact, you have to put your dream away for a small while and attend to other matters. It will only be a short while…

Time slips by. A break turns into a hiatus. When there is finally an opportunity to return to the dream, you are not the same person, your life is a different place and even the dream looks different.  Will you rework it or leave it behind?

Dream (painting)
This painting is in response to a dream that came true. Painted as an anchor piece for a body of work to be created in a Buenos Aires art residency. It explores ideas of anticipation, imagination and reality. This piece will endure the physical tribulations that often occur philosophically to a dream.

The painting came about so quickly it felt reactionary. I didn’t think twice about size or color. It was clear and bold. It was like making something that I had memorized plans to… I guess it wasn’t supposed to fit through a door.

I pack the piece up and travel through Patagonia. In Buenos Aires,  I plan to use the blemishes of travel and rework “reality” into this “Dream”. The residency vetoes my project. This hefty beast I’d been lugging through South America is now a mute thing. It stays packed up. I create a very different project.

It remains packed away tight for two more years. The creases and folds have a life of their own.  I don’t have the proper stretcher bars and the damn thing wouldn’t fit out the door if I did anyway.


I miss it though. And here is the day I pull it off the shelf, fuss with wrinkles, folds and crush marks, put it back on the wall and reexamine this Dream.

Maps, Landscapes, and your Bossy Brain by Kerri McGill

The Map became a key player in my life last year. I traveled to the opposite side of the world and back and even at home, my jobs and living spaces changed frequently. The image I spend most of my time examining is not a masterpiece with a complex and subtle brush strokes..It is a simple graph overlaid with flat color and unwavering line quality.

I've never experienced such colossal space as in Patagonia. Any sense of space, scale or time is usurped by a landscape that reinvents itself at every turn. Mountains, glaciers, cliffs, tundras, waterfalls, forests appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly like ghosts...


In Buenos Aires, I cling to maps. On the bus I watch for landmarks, memorize street names and count the jogs in the grid which deviate into webs of confusion.

They say memory is an emotional process...
In my fear of traveling without grasp of language, the map became life guidance, the one sure thing to guide me through the confusion of the city and navigate my personal turmoil. The grid holds strong.


A year of constant motion and map gazing begs the question –

How do I convey space, time and the effects our environment has on us? 
How has my past affected how I view the new environments I find myself in?

One of the fundamental functions of our brain is mapping our location: where we came from, where we are, and how many ways there are to get to the next place. Another key action, our brains continually search for familiar patterns, even in the middle of the unknown.  Actually, our brains are not great at taking in new information. They much prefer to imprint expectations based on past knowledge.  The brain tries very hard to transform new things into what is familiar.

Maybe this lends to the magic in Patagonia..
I had nothing to compare it to. I was in continual awe. 

My life in New England created an internal map that is my basis for organizing and understanding any other Space I inhabit...even if it is completely different. 



I am in search of a visual vocabulary. These new works use the map as a starting point and play with the idea of how we use past knowledge to organize what lies before us.

Work from Buenos Aires Art Residency by Kerri McGill

LPEP Art Residency

Buenos Aires is a powerful and passionate city. The layers of history weave a fabric of paradox as each generation past speaks as loudly as the bands playing the street corner today. European architecture and statues loom by contemporary street art. Tango and intricate sign painting are unique to the city. Music from protest chants to carnival drums fills all corners. I live by the tattered scraps of map in my pocket.

How will I make a sincere body of work about such a massive and complex place in only a few weeks? 

I pull materials from the street to talk about those very streets: plaster, cardboard, paint, billboard advertisements...

I lay down an image, cover it with plaster and a second image.  I break through the first.. It’s a physically literal extension of the potent layers of BA

Each piece is a humble response to the different realities in the evolving landscape of the labyrinth that is BA.I sample protest chanting, drumming, Carnival bands, and the president’s address.  This becomes the soundscape for the show.

Because of size and mixed media such as plaster, many works staid behind. The piece exhibited here was sliced into pieces for traveling.  The disjointed pieces lend a sense of distress and disjointedness appropriate for the theme.

There is a heartbreak in leaving my artwork behind. The loss becomes a conceptual layer…As it comes from the city streets to speak about the city, so too may it return to the streets.

As I held on so tightly to a little ripped gray map with one hand,
I had to let go of my own artwork with the other.

Art residency: cemeteries by Kerri McGill

By the second week in the artist residency,  my only real accomplishment is the purchase of a crappy pair of sneakers... The only art I've made aside from a few sketches, is a piddly little gauche painting.  My days are filled w/stumbling through the city, Spanish class in Palermo, and getting lost- usually in Palermo after class. 

The residency, LPEP, has specific programs dealing with technology, recycling, and politics. Frank hopes I make art in response to the city and themes of the programs.  The only thoughts in my head are the effects of physical space on a person.  In Patagonia every turn opened up new space.  In Buenos Aires, every turn offered a wall, another tight turn on an eroding sidewalk, a maze...Borge's labyrinth.  When I sit down to my work space, I have only tiny pads of paper, tiny for the sake of travel.  My ideas are enormous. This little gauche is not cutting it.  I don't know politics. I have no background in technology.  I have never been interested in making recycle-collage**On this note, the most astounding and moving artwork I have seen is Xu Ping's "Phoenixes" at Mass MOCA** -Here is more about that:  http://kerrimcgill.blogspot.com.ar/2013/02/creative-process-let-concept-simmer.html

Frank inquires about my "project".  I can only tell him: "When I define my ideas, I will make a plan and work very quickly."  I am overwhelmed with thought, but I trust the process.  Frank on the other hand is unsure. This is perfect.  I tend to excel where there is doubt.

In conversation, two words are added to my Spanish, "latente" - a deep underlying thought, and "inquietud"- a racing mind. The racing mind prevents a deep thought from surfacing.  The artist observes, sees connections and reconnects things with a new context. Too much information/ too many ideas muddle any work of art. 

This is when to trust the gut feeling without judgment. Who and what stands out and stays w/me. The architecture is amazing, yet I am forever watching cracks in the sidewalk. The artisan fairs bustle with vitality.. But why is it I can't get the "cartones"(garbage pickers) out of my head? There are so many museums here..Why am I in the cemetery following the cleaning crew around? All of the books tell me to find tango, and here I am on the edge of a protest led by masked men with sticks.  If I want to make sincere work about a place I know very little about, I must respect those things that stand out.

The second wknd the house is empty. I wake up early and go for a run around the cemetary, to clear my head.  I cut through good old Warnes Ave, the auto body street. I know whatever it is I do it will be big.  What materials can I get my hands on?  With a life of cars in need, I love auto parts.  I peak in every shop fron as I jog through Warnes.  I see the hoods of cars wrapped in large cardboard.  Ah. Yes. Cheap, big cardboard.  I will go home, script a simple conversation in Spanish and return.  Whe I return home, I see someone on the street has just put large boxes by the trash.  Perfect! I grab them beforE the next inevitable rain shower.  

The next day I wake up very early to get to the Recolletta cemetary.  The light changes so quickly you won't get any good photographs after 9:00. The sun is too bright.  The Moslems are impressive. There is a serious maintenance crew.  Strange.  Some moseliums are cared for down to a good dusting with a feather duster, and others, become maintenance storage shed... With buckets of paint stacked next to the coffins!



Still contemplating Borges, I have the address of a spot bearing his name.  This search leads me to ave Florida, The spot to shop and get mugged.  Annoyed but on task, I trot through a Miriam of stores, tourists and shouts of "Cambio!"  These are the black market guys. The financial climate is bizarre here. American dollars are gold- and I've got none- the normal rate is the black market rate,  the government makes the black market guys look like the heroes. Strange. 

I wonder if the word cambio has the same double meaning as the English word change. I will ask next Spanish class. It would be fun to record them. 

Art residency, Buenos Aires- The Madres by Kerri McGill


The thundering storms make mornings good research time.  I pour over books and websites and bus schedules to piece my days together. One tour guide touts SanTelmo's "faded grandeur".  Another the bright colors of Boca... A poverty stricken barrio that became the most colorful after using boatyard leftovers to paint the homes. The tour books make it very clear it is still a poor area and whatever you do do not leave the tourist area. Tourists books are a little strange.

They celebrate Chinese New Year here--perfect!  My second day in the art residency at Buenos Aires and celebration of a new start! There is a large Chinese population here with a run on small food markets. The announcer explains the story of the dragon dance.  At one point he says: "The next time you buy your groceries, know this is what all those ppl working in fruit markets believe is true..." Apperntly this celebration is also an introduction to the holiday.

I dutifully visit the list of museums and openings Frank gives me. It seems like standard homework that leads me to a touristy area and the Museo Nacional de Bello Artes. A beautiful collection of European art. Sadly the second  floor w/regional artists is under construction. I traipse to the top floor for work from a contemporary photographer. Black and white portraits, extremely close, extremely large.  The walls are filled with faces of old woman. There are two photos of each woman: one with the fluffy hairdos of woman of that age. The other, with a white kerchief around, tying their hair back.  Without the fluffiness of hair, the shape of the face Is different.  I can't help but meditate on the cause behind ages' deep wrinkles .With and without a white scarf hair. There is no longer a visual balance to the deep austere lines of age of many if the faces. I don't understand much of the text. Not sure if the scarf is a social comment or traditional symbol but I like the idea of alter egos. Like a super hero cape.

That evening as I do my homework, I catch a few pages about history. The Madres. Their loss at the hands of the government, children disappeared-Their march-Their strength and persistence. Many of them still march every Thursday.  I read these word and mark it on the map for tomorrow, Thursday. 


They march in the Plaza del Mayo, in front of Casa Rosada (the pink equivalent to the White House).  A crowd cheers as they climb out from a minivan.  They walk with a banner chanting nd singing. At the end, a speach.  Her voice is powerful, maybe a voice and a strength you wouldn't expect.  I am moved to tears even though I don't understand her words. 

It is plain that Spanish lessons are a necessity. As someone who enjoys conversation, the inability to understand others is upsetting in the most painful sense of the word.  How can I know a city if I can't understand anyone? 

On the way home, another thunderous storm appears. My Chinatown umbrella doesn't stand a chance and is blown into oblivion. I run to the corner pizzeria. The house is only a few blocks away, but the rain says; "Stay. Have an empanada and a beer."  The server speaks no English but he is kind and patient as I hack up his language.  We wait out the rain and watch the local fúrbol match. With the help of my dictionary, I find out the teams, His team, and the schedule for the wknd games.  Maybe there's hope for me after all... 

Art Residency: Buenos Aires by Kerri McGill


I've made a monstrous miscalculation, an enormous error in judgement...

As dreams are clean streamlined versions of reality, my dream of travel in Arg leaves a hefty something out. That something is the city, itself.

After years of working in city spaces, the idea of traveling the Goliath space of Patagonia followed by making art seemed complete. Buenos Aires, the spot to contemplate ideas of time and space in cities vs natural setting: sitting in a quiet cafe reading and sketching, working in a studio, trading ideas w/other artists... A satisfying plan.

As the plane circles BA to land, my heart sinks a little. The city reaches as far as the eye can see without break or deviation. The city is All. My plan does not take into account the shear power charisma and magnitude of this city, this city, unknown to me. Of course I mean to explore this city. I just had no idea how much city there is!

The taxi driver grimaces when I tell him the address. It's a good drive away from the city center. Paternal is a working class neighborhood. The Main Street is lined w/kiosks(bodegas) fruit stands, and the type if stores you'd find on the edge of Chinatown. The sidewalks are broken. There is construction everywhere. Construction looks like holes in the dirt. 

The residency is a homey apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 cats and a studio space. There is a roof deck and a small apartment where's he organizer,  Frank, lives. 

When I speak about my project idea. The reaction: it would be good if you make work about Buenos Aires.

Of course. This makes sense. But my Lord I just got here! Have you seen the size if this city? How do I approach an unexpected unknown subject and make honest work? Even if I use Patagonia as a point if departure, I fear coming off as the typical tourist. How can I know this city well enough to make a sincere comment?

Things become more complex...
The rain storms of the first two weeks hold me captive. This is not weather, this is a beast that shakes the walls and infiltrates the house. All of the cracked sidewalks and dirt-hole construction turn walkways into mud.  Storms own the mornings and often appear from nowhere in the afternoon. When I say there are sheets of rain, I refer more to sheets of plywood and less to sheets of Egyptian cotton. The weather fluctuates from cold rains to debilitating heat and humidity, and the rain in the evening is dealer's choice. This is not conducive to exploring.

In packing, I have only hiking boots or sandals. My sandals rub the skin off my feet, give me blisters and disintegrate in the mud bathed walks within a week. A hunt for shoes takes up more time than I'd like. It's hard to find something between a $10Flipflops and $180 Nikes. I get lost easily. My, first day I trek  along Warnes Ave- an unending avenue full of auto body shops with unending piles of motors and parts. I cannot explain what it is that makes this greasy street enchanting in some way.


A window in the rain allows me, bandaged feet an all, to get to a few of the museums, artisan markets and cafés.  I spend so much time avoiding sidewalk hazards, I often miss the details of architecture that fill the city with magic.  But the street art stands out at every corner.


In my favor I came armed w/George's Luis Borges Ficciones. When I had enough of fighting the city storms, I hide in a cafe and read. I had enough for thought to know his work is full of possibilities, a connection factor. His stories are full of labyrinths, double realities, twisted time space. He might as well be a quantum physicist. 

Time moves quickly. There is still much to see.  Between thoughts of Patagonia, the depths of BA, and the cpmplexity of Borges.. I am overflowing w/thought. How to pear down and focus... I still need shoes.






ADVENTURE: ARGENTINA by Kerri McGill

My Art Residency asked for a project.  I didn't really have a solid thought when I applied.  As I went through older paintings, one image stood out...and I ran with it.  It's a great image and a universal concept:
The line between the imagined and reality

On a large piece of muslin I paint the imagined South America with colors and shapes made out of dreams. The 10x9' muslin will be folded tight to the size of a small pillow 9x10", folded like a map and crushed into my backpack. It will stay with me as I travel through Argentina. It will be used as a pillow for the physical element of sleep and dreams. The painting becomes an art object, a map, a dream catcher of sorts. It will be altered, maybe damaged, as dreams are...it will change shape, maybe loose color, paint may chip or stick. Maybe it gets torn, left behind or stolen!

I arrive in January, meet with Andres in Satiago, friend's will remember Andres' Story .  Santiago is home to Pablo Neruda, a huge influence of mine.  We will travel to Padagonia from there.  As we travel, I will sketch the real Arg, real colors shapes experiences...Will it be bold and dramatic like my imagined landscape, or will they resemble my familiar sketches of NY's subways and Boston's cafés?

In Feb I arrive at LPEP for a month as artist in residence. I will pull out the large drop, check it for physical damage....Has the dream staid intact? I will compare the sketches and the dream piece ..

Installation- large drop (imagined) vs small sketches (reality)

Old unfinished wedding gift---New Brilliant Future.. by Kerri McGill


Artists run into a specific problem when it comes to artwork as a gift.  The magic combination of inspiration, emotional content and studio time don't always come together to produce a piece of art for your loved one by the appropriate gift deadline.

The unfinished painting I write about is a wedding gift for a best friend. He and his wife travel for work and adventure.  He is a water engineer that also works on solar power projects.  She is a pediatric opthalmologist who sets up programs in less fortunate countries. To celebrate their new life together I make a dreamscape of their South American adventure.  It maps out their future journey with elements of challenge and reward, with the couple at the beginning to their most amazing adventure to date.

They were married three and a half years ago.  That's when I started the piece.... in a year that held little work and much time for painting.  But then I got a job, my roof fell in, I moved out and my would-be boyfriend got deported.  The years that follow were full of work and the gift remained unfinished.  With all the work, I had little time in the studio.  I didn't have the confidence to work on a piece that meant so much. 

This year I am an artist in residence program in Buenos Aires.  It started as a dream vacation to meet up with my deported friend and turned into a spot in LPAP as a visiting artist.  I have a lot of planning to do. I've never traveled this far for this long.  I've never been away from work for this long.  I have no idea what I promised them or what my project will be.  My dreams are coming true, but I'm in a dead panic!

Work is non-stop now, and I try to fit open studios in too.  I flip through old canvases in a dash to organize.  The unfinished canvas from three years ago grabs me.  How funny, trying to paint South America all those years ago, and now I'm going there myself!

I work on it a bit.  It remains unfinished for the open studios, but I show it anyway.  As I think about the coincidence, a project begins to grow. This is the image that will lead me into the residency... 

The image has many layers...different elements of relationships and life.  The couple is at the edge of a deep forest.  A field of flowers surrounds the perimeter.  They are tall.  A path cannot be made without crushing a few of the lovely flowers.  The thick and winding forest leads in different directions..in the distance hills red barren and mountains steep and far.. Some of the mountains are a solid blue, others fade in a mist.  On the hills are the blue horses of Blaue Reiter painter, Franz Marc, which represent harmony and spirituality...a higher existence. Where the fields are earthy gold, the sky is yellow, the color of hope.  There are two bodies of water. The first is dark and stormy the second calm reflecting the bright sky. 

This is the image that will hold an even more robust concept, that of fantasy vs reality.  I pull out a stash of muslin and stretch it 8'x10' and begin the painting that will travel to the other side of the world with me...


Creative Process: Information Intake by Kerri McGill

 Immerse yourself in source material.  Go ahead.  It's everywhere.  You're an artist.

Source material is a more defined list of facts for the lawyer, the urban planner, the chef and the realtor.  But you are an artist and everything is source material.  In fact the one thing you don't jot down may be the very key to the next phase of your work.  

With notetaking/sketches come ideas. Your work evolves...but what happens when studio time is so scarce that ideas and sketches stack up?  You want to see your ideas through, but before you can work out an image, you bump into new ideas: architecture, mapping, strength of the common man...  All of the sketches in all of the sketch books become homework waiting to happen, a philosophical tsunami of unrealized ponderings.

I work as a scenic painter for film in NY.  I live in Boston.  I drive a lot.  The driving is tough because it is lots of thinking and no drawing.  Scenic painting is great in that I learn many things and many materials.  I am basically a glorified house painter.  My hands are often full.  Days are long, work is grueling and coffee breaks are sacred.

All of this cuts back on my drawing.  The Rhodia 5x5 pocket sketch book w/graph lines has become my favorite.  It is discreet.  Jotting ideas down at work doesn't involve a wood shim or sandpaper, and drawing people on the subway is less of an ordeal.  I appreciate that.

The trick - take in the information.  Let the ideas simmer.  Show up at the studio with a solid plan.  If I don't have time to put together a full body of work, or even a series, make one solid image...

Pablo Neruda series, XII of 20 Love Poems by Kerri McGill

XII

Your breast is enough for my heart,
and my wings for your freedom.
What was sleeping above your soul will rise
out of my mouth to heaven.

IN you is the illusion of each day.
You arrive like the dew to the cupped flowers.
You undermine the horizon with your absence.
Eternally in flight like the wave.

I have said that you sang in the wind
like the pines and like the masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul.

Pablo Neruda


Creative Process: Let It Simmer by Kerri McGill


Idea to action...
That is success.  The idea energizes immediate action and grand results.  The concept erupts into being and the audience goes wild!

Isn't that how it goes?

"Creating something new requires leaps of imagination... A hunch, immersing yourself in source materials.. Things need time to simmer, connect...Somewhere along the way...Click...everything falls into place."(Davis&McIntosh)

Xu Bing scribbles a bird into a sketchbook.  Maybe he has just returned to Bejing.  Maybe he is in the galleries of NY.  Maybe the little sketch has followed him from his days in China's countryside.  A small scribbled bird becomes two cranes.  The cranes are rejected and evolve into  The Phoenix Project; a male and a female phoenix, 100' each and over 20 tons collectively.  The exhibit program (Mass MoCA) dates the project as "(2007-2010)...Created over a period of two years."  This implies that the first year mentioned is dedicated to the concept.  When your birds carry the weight of socioeconomic class differences that structure China's growth, this time span is reasonable.

For most, the neglected part of the creative process is the "simmering" stage.... That part where we sit still and let the idea set for a while...take it in.  Immediate result-driven action undermines the potency of the idea.  Complexity and detail fall by the wayside.

We take in so much.  Some things stick and some are forgotten.  A scribble turns into a sketch.  Time goes by.  We observe and absorb.  Ideas grow. The sketch sits.  The idea outgrows the sketch.  We need more sketches.

"Xu Bing is known for mining a subject in depth over the course of many years."(Mass MoCA)  His Phoenixes are made from the waste materials of the skyscraper constructions in Bejing.  Small LEDs line the birds.  When the sun sets, the mythical pair turns into a constellation.

Their original home was to be the Cesar Pelli-designed World Financial Tower. The contrast of the luxury building and the course nature of the sculpture's materials emphasized all of the underlying themes.  "The original commissioner abandoned the project."(Mass MoCA)

The Phoenix Project astounds at every level: physicality, layered concepts, the materials and the relationship between concept, process and material.

It is about the simmering.

Xu Bing was sure it would only take 6 months to complete.  What shadow of a phoenix would he have come up with in that time frame?








Little Red Ridinghood by Kerri McGill


I have an interdisciplinary partner in crime.  Every artist needs a good musician or scientist, or philosopher friend.  My musical friend has the voice of an angle and the schedule of a working mom.  In between teaching voice, performing, running a small business and taking care of two kids, she directs the occasional small opera geared towards kids.

Last year it was the operatic version of the Three Pigs (to Mozart, mind you).  She wanted to keep it simple...a doorframe that can switch from brick to stick to straw, a chimney, some signage ("Francis Bacon University"), and a pig statue... a "Smart" pig statue.
Piggy Project Details


This year it's Little Red Ridinghood, the opera.  I'm relieved to the Sound of Music is finished and we can borrow a tree or two.  Adding to an existing set takes the pressure off building.  As much as I would like to have a bit of carpenter in me, I am a 2D person at heart.  We confiscate some Sound of Music scenery and amp it up for an opera version of Little Red Ridinghood.  Trees must become forest, with critters and birds, and Red needs a strawberry patch.

I love an excuse to paint on the ground! I finally have the space too!  This project wouldn't have worked in my old studio spaces...One was a basement and the other a closet.







This is a great turn from my last job.  As a set painter for movies, you can't say too much until a movie is released.. but I'm sure it won't hurt anyone to say I was shoveling snow off an ark outdoors in Long Island before the sun rose.

The warmth of bright little sets for a kid's opera feels pretty damn good.

Christmas Eve 2010 by Kerri McGill


I told your Mom you're coming home- nothing else...
~Is she okay with it?~
yes.very happy.  

This was a relief as I had made sucha big deal about telling her I was NOT going to be at Christmas.  We spent the whole day together.  I made dinner.  I told her over tea...She gave me a funeral hug on the way out, you know, the long lingering  type used in heavy emotional situations, as opposed to our usual frat-boy hug - one arm wrap with a back tap.  Ha, all that effort and now I'm coming back.

As my uncle and I text, the sun rises, warming the  Greyhound bus on my 5am ride.  The manajory of bus smells intensifies- tired travelers, stale food, tobacco smoke, body odor, all more pungent.  These observations become overwhelming as I call  DUA to reinstate my unemployment.  I'm in my wallmart sweats that I bought when my friend's boyfriend locked us out of the house two nights before in a fit of rage.  Could I be in a more white trash moment right now?

At least I'm on the bus.  Thank God for Deb! hauling my ass to the bus station at 4:30am!  It didn't occur to me they'd have a security check before getting on the bus.  The line was so long I thought for sure I'd miss it...not to mention I have a bag with snap blades in it.  (I use them to sharpen my drawing pencils.  When it was my turn, I held the mixed bag to the security, pencils on top, blades in the palm of my hand.) 

On arriving, I'm happy to see this bus station has lockers, even after 911.  I call the hostel to let them know they won't have to hold my luggage for me.  I hear the releif in the girl's voice.  She's kind- but noone wants to oblige strange requests on Christmas eve.  I change in the ladies room from comfy cotton and sneaks to spashy polyester and pleather pumps, mash my belongings in the locker, save my wallet, lipstick and  the plastic red moneybag that reads "show me the money".  I pull out my yellow legal pad itinerary and find my way to the local buses. I was glad I chose this outfit over the shiny club dress.  Conservative as it was, the look drew hollers from the locals- the kind that started their drinking before noon.  

It's a straight shot from the station to my destination, but I'm nervous.  I watch the arrow inch up the map's line.  I ask the driver about my stop even though GPS says it's a way's off.  I don't trust my fancy map phone.  Good thing.  The driver immedialtely pulls over.  We had passed it two blocks ago. 

I had a great visit!  All the trouble and money to change flights, find a bus - all worth my little two hour visit.  I leave beaming.  With a good 20 minutes til the next bus, I drop into a bar and trade my story for a beer.  An enourmous black man(very proud of the size of his toungue) and his plain pale girlfriend and I are the only ones.  Timing - perfect! 

I head to the bus stop..search pockets- no bus pass- back to the bar - not there either-- and out the door again to see the bus zoom by- not even slowing down!   Back to the bar, where my latest edition gets me another free round while I figure things out.  The next bus in an hour.  I am now in danger of missing my flight out.  The bartender says a train is much faster.  The station is a 20 min walk.  The next train is in 20 minutes.  So that works out nicely..... I dash out. 

It's not warm. 65 degrees. But it's FLA dammit.
This place is all highway and nothing.  They do provide sidewalks - not a usual highway acrutriment.  I start jogging in my pleather pumps by the side of the highway, polyester blouse flopping about me.  I follow the bartender's directions but  nothing fits his description.  I run in a bar- This one's pretty full for a sunny afternoon...
~Hey wheres the train station?~
 Oh it's through the parking lot, behind the next building.
~ I'll be back if I miss my train~
 We hope you miss your train!! says a chorus.
~Fuck you!~
I dash away.

I see posts!  I hear the train!  I see a cement wall, 5ft high and like amilion miles long.  I grab a tree branch and fling myself over.  The train rolls in.  I'm on the wrong side and there is another wire fence dividing the two sides.  I yell to a very large black woman  "Hold the train if I don't get over there!!"  If anyone could stop a train this chick could.... I dash by the ticket kyosk and into the train.  I sit very erect with my makeshift paperbag purse ready for the conducter...ready to play the dumb card...
~I'd like to buy a ticket please.~  to a perfect vision of a train conductor, white man in his late 50s, thick perfect mustache, the whole get-up, hat and all...His slight wince and tight smile calls me on my attempt.  
Thats not how it works Dear.
~I'm so sorry. I'm a little flustered today.  I've been traveling since 5am, bussed down from Orlando, to fit a visit in to a friend in jail before he gets deported and I fly back up to Boston.. They're predicting snow storms too...(exasperated sigh)  How is your Christmas Eve?~  His face softens and he sits down across from me.
Oh Dear!  You must have gotten on at the Myrtle stop...
~No.  I got on at the last stop.~
He sighs and with an exagerated air 
I said you must have gotten on at the Myrtle stop...The one with the broken ticket printer
~No.  I got on at the - ohhhh. Yes. that's exactly where I got on.~
A smile of aproval and we fall into a pleasant banter.  He is from Oregon, did plenty of military service traveled to Haitii and other places and retired to FLA because he loves the weather. 
 " You have to love the weather... The people are assholes.  No one told me I was moving to South South Jersey."

He flirts a little, as a rougish older man will do, telling me to stay and if only he were younger and this and that.. I had to shake a bus # out of him.  I need a bus to get back to my locker and then to my flight.  Nothing's far away,  but I'm unfamiliar and a misrouted move can jeapordize my plans.  The jog to the train was my one mishap.  I can't afford another.

I get to a line of buses, all with closed doors and no #s.  I looked so visibly confused one of the doors swings open.
I jokingly say "Are you my bus?"  A thick island accent says, " I'll take you where you need to go."  He says the bus station is close-by, no problem.  Others get on, about five others.  He drops each one off.  I feel the panic of time passing.  I am the last on the bus.  "Is it up here?"  " Why do you want to leave?  Boston is cold.  I don't want you to leave."  I realize this bus driver may not be as helpful as I supposed.  We seem to be driving in circles. Now I'm pissed.  

I lean over him and say in a low voice, " If I end up missing that flight,  I'll make you wish I hadn't"  I'm not very big, and I don't think that even made much sense...but I was menacing enough that he "remembered" where the bus station was pretty quickly. 

Grab my stuff...grab a cab...add some whiskey to my travel mug of tea.  Get to the airport with 5 minutes to spare.  It doesn't take me that to finish my tea and go through security.  Yes.  They pull my empty travel mug to examine it for what? I don't even know.  
~It's not a bomb !!- It's a toddy!!~ 
They don't put whiskey in their tea in Florida.

I made it back in time for Christmas brunch and mass.



A WORD is Worth Thousand Paintings...Saudade and other untranslatable words by Kerri McGill

My posts to this point focus on images.  Today I write about the word.  


We rely on language for all transactions, emotional, business and everything inbetween.   Written or spoken, the word can fall short sometimes.  Delve into something beyond banter, something below the surface of social interaction to emotions deeper felt, those driving forces of our daily actions.... This is when verbal communication lacks the accuracy to articulate emotion.  This is when the artist (visual or audial) reaffirms a hold on a deeper type of communication.

This thought is indebted to another's search, posted publicly:

I've been hunting down this word for years... And it's finally in my grasp. This is a perfect word for how this reality makes me feel most of the time:
Saudade
(The definition is mostly from Wikipedia)
Saudade is a Portuguese word that has no translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing/yearning for an absent something or someone that one loves, often one whose whereabouts are unknown, a lost lover or a family member gone missing.  It carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return. 
Saudade describes "the love that remains" after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone or something should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence.  One can have 'saudade' of someone whom one is with, feeling a loss towards the past or the future (e.g. unrealized/unfulfilled expectations).  While saudade conveys longing for a past that can never return as well as a future that will never happen, acceptance of the reality is also built into the word.  It embodies all that is positive of a time or feeling that is no longer, while deeply acknowledging the sadness of this truth.
In Brazil, the day of saudade is officially celebrated on January 30...
(I admit I am most curious about this holiday of heartache.)

Communication is a tricky game.  Similar background provides us with the same set of words that we combine in different formations and toss back and forth to each other.  We agree on meanings for all of these words, though different interpretations are inevitable.  There are times we search for just the right word.  Sometimes we never find that word.  It may not exist in our native language.  

A list of 20 untranslatable words gives more examples of things missing from our English.
(I really love #2 as well - Mamihlapinatapei)


The continual hunt is a constant for any artist.  They say the painter paints the same painting his whole life.  Like searching for the right word to convey the thought, the artist searches color, composition and subject to find the most powerful presentation of the idea.

The idea behind this one word, Saudade, is the source of hundreds of artist.  Hopper comes to mind quickest.

A painting may be worth a million words, 
but you can make a million paintings from the seed of one word... the right word.


Gift Given, Gift Received by Kerri McGill


The Blind Drink, the Seeing Hold Sky
The Gift
A recurring theme in my images is The GIFT... most plainly expressed in the Vessel series.  It took me a while to see the recurring part until my dear friend and artist, Soapheap Pich, moved back to Cambodia.  His last painted works are a Sacred Vessels series.

His idea of the vessel stays with me, Greek burials, alms bowls, the Grail.  I revisit my flower sketches.  I notice how my people clutch things, like the potted orchid in my "Gift".   The idea is already there... It's in the damn title for Christ's sake!

I ran with it.  I veer from flower paintings in favor of the pots and bowls that hold them.  Oranges are a traditional gift, for Buddha, Chinese dragons, good children, monks, and travelers.  Many of the images have a perspective that flattens out.  This is something I love in 4x5 photography, changing the plane of the negative.  It stays with me in painting still.  I love qualities of the two dimensional.

One Gives, One Recieves
Receive a Gift with Grace
A gift...Give and receive, the action between empty and full embody these images.  Release something to another and make room for something new.  The physical action: one extends something into the personal space of another, one takes something in allowing another's action to impact them.  We are in flux.  Every moment we have something to offer another and we are in desperate need of something just out of our reach.

There is vulnerability in needing.  It is a harrowing terrifying humbling place to be. Even in deepest moments of need, we are so full there is always something to offer, to give to another.





Evolution of Studio Space by Kerri McGill



Establishing a studio space after college means something at home.  To make art between the waitress shifts, art shows, and general mayhem of daily life on no budget, my home needs some type of extra corner, just an extra something... and low and behold, I come across an apartment with a walk-in closet.


The closet is cozy to say the least.  A fan is always on so the oil fumes don't make it into m bedroom.  I have to step back into my bedroom to look at my paintings...But if Weegee used the trunk of his car for a darkroom, then I have no worries. (more details in "Artist in the Closet" post)                                                    


So the roof fell in and I fell into a beautiful new apartment with room in the basement for a studio space.  It's so much larger!  I was excited... So  excited I gave it a good cleaning, a special "anti-moisture" paint job and spent the next two years rearranging things.    It never quite took off. 

I thought I was just being spoiled, wanting some kind of natural light...I mean if Monet can have a boat studio, why can't I have a basement studio?

It turns out, general consensus says basements are challenging studio spaces.  Apparently dark and dank is tougher than wind and waves.


On a random day filled with random tasks, I drive down an unfrequented street.  There is a huge brick building, door propped open with a small handwritten sign: "studio sale".  I stop for yard sales, tag sales and church bake sales.  This fits right in... I use the opportunity to ask about renting studio space... "..two year waiting list..maybe try your luck posting on the bulletin board.." 

I did.  Just as I poked the thumbtack in, a voice from a man trotting down the stairs- "Hey what are you doing? Are you looking for space?.. This door shouldn't be open.." and he pulls the wedge. 
The door locks shut. 

 But I am already in. 

Now I have a beautiful sunny spot at 6 Vernon Street Studios in Somerville...Let the painting begin.