Plastic Fantastic at TRFE19


Image credit: BeauMonde Originals

Wow it was a whirlwind of activity February through April reigniting Plastic Fantastic for an iteration at the Tiny Room for Elephants Festival 2019 (#TRFE19). We had an amazing time getting back in that groove, discovering new ways to work with the plastic bottles, working and installing with the TRFE artists and being part of the festival!

Taking time to reflect and then gear up for the next iteration at the National Folk Festival. More on both soon!

Nomadic Monument for Women in Robotics

The Nomadic Monument for Women in Robotics returns to the Philadelphia Science Festival this Saturday, 5/4/19.


The Nomadic Monument for Women in Robotics, designed by Diedra Krieger and Gaby Alfaro, celebrates the innovations of eight women pioneers in the field of robotics:

  1. Ruzena Bajcsy
  2. Lynne Parker
  3. Hadas Kress-Gazit
  4. Lydia Kavraki
  5. Ayanna Howard
  6. Daniela Rus
  7. Helen Grenier
  8. Katherine Kuchenbecker

Its goal is to create a community of women eagerly inviting aspiring pioneers to join them when entering the dome. The portraits and descriptions of women roboticists challenge stereotypes about who can be an engineer, allowing young girls to start developing a sense of belonging in an informal STEM learning environment. Joey Hartmann-Dow’s near life-sized portraits of the pioneers at eye level around the inside of the dome create a space that allows for a visual connection between the visitors and the roboticists. Visitors can read quotes of key moments or experiences that inspired them. Stereotype challenge, sense of belonging to a community, and having same-gender role models correlate with interest in engineering by women and girls. The Monument was sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Festival and The GRASP Lab.

More about the project here.



Lenka Clayton at Fabric Workshop


We – friends (and artists) who were in town for our pal’s baby shower! – decided to hit up the Fabric Workshop last Monday which also happened to be my birthday, a great excuse to take the day off and spend with friends. My hsband and our two year old joined the outing. It was a great day! That baby got to play at a park even though it was quite misty out, running, climbing, opening and closing gates, chattering, swinging on the swing and bringing so much joy. His head is resting on my shoulder, fast asleep, as I write. I am writing and blogging! Baby, art, friends, family, I barely recognize myself lol. I am gently smiling thinking about such things. 

I have been making videos with baby about motherhood, trying to video document our studio adventures together. It’s a way of fitting art time in and spending time getting to know my son better and introduce my art practice and materials to him. His way of exploring introduces new ideas to me about the same. It’s a special time being able to share this with him and learn together. He has really motivated me to get back into the studio so to speak, as he literally insists on going in there to paint or use the camera. Wow I’ve barely had a moment to reflect on this and all I can say is I am filled joy thinking about these interactions and explorations.

So wholly bonanza when we stumbled upon Lenka Clayton’s life size video installation at The Fabric Workshop. In the 3 consecutive short videos, a toddler, who looks about my son’s age, runs some distance measured in yards away from the camera and mom before she sprints after the baby. One setting looked like a rural driveway, one was in a field and the last one I happened to catch on video with my toddler in the foreground was at a supermarket. I can’t remember the exact distances but they were all just beyond my tolerance of how far I could handle letting my baby do the same. It makes you think about how close our toddlers are physically to another care giver, or myself at any given time. And how it falls on us of course to keep them safe. Also the videos were pretty hilarious. Innocent child meandering off exploring the environment around him, and crazy mom sprinting urgently to his side, second guessing allowing him to get so far away in just a few moments. It’s all that matters in those moments. Clearly these were staged given how they were filmed, and you know the baby will be fine, and perhaps even the speed of the run is a performance of an idea about the distance. I wonder if Clayton got permission in the supermarket or just went for it. Even so, out in the everyday you have to be on your guard and ready when minding your toddler. It’s no joke how distance and time are all critical. What an intense experiment and experience.

Then I think of all the small accidents that have happened to my son when he was right next to me…like a bike slowly tipping over onto him, cutting his finger on a beer can and needing stitches, falling out of bed after climbing on laundry on it and hitting his head, etc etc etc

Yoga, Art and Music Benefit for Standing Rock 2/10/17

standing-rock-2Plastic Fantastic is pleased to team up with Hot Yoga Philadelphia’s Sweat for a Cause to present its first foray into fundraising with a Yoga, Art and Music Benefit for Standing Rock on Friday, February 10th, 2017. The funds raised will go to Standing Rock’s Water Protector Legal Collective, the on-the-ground legal support team for Standing Rock. This will be a ludic night of community support for the water protectors, featuring artists: Angel McQuillan, Brujo de la Mancha, Corey Bechelli, Gina Rubinetti, Justin Duerr, Mandy Katz, Orkan Telhan, Robyn King, Shawn Beeks, Us and We Art, musicians: Jonagold, The Late Saints, The Invasive Species and Mambisa, trunk show by Yogangster and hot yoga class with Gerardo Candolino. Table by Philly with Standing Rock, a coalition of Natives and non-Natives in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Defenders to STOP the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A visit to Queens for Art and Machines

Mierle Laderman Ukeles has a retrospective as the Queens Museum. I motivated to make the journey there when the World Maker Faire was at the New York Hall of Science, just a short walk away. I’m taking up an interest in robotics and art, exploring ways it fits within my practice, thinking about postconsumer water bottles in a post-human robot populated world, with a Dada flair. The Maker Faire was pretty inspiring with a Puppet Phactory, a dinosaur robot, and shared bicycles. I was sorry I didn’t get to see the marching band. It had a pretty great art and music festival vibe, with makers sharing their work and thousands of curious visitors.

I drove into Manhattan with baby and two friends who went off to see a musical while I met up with two friends who live in the city. We chilled out on a Sunday at their apartment for quite some time before motivating to actually go to Queens. We decided to drive since it was only 20 minutes by car vs an hour 20 min by train. $8 to go over the bridge to get to Queens (and $8 again to return to the city) and then $10 to park since we were going to the Queens Museum (another $10 or so) (way better than the Maker Fair $35 for parking). My friends walked us over to the Faire but decided not to go – $45 for a few hours was not worth it unplanned. I had a ticket for free because I attended the Educators Forum on Friday as part of work. Baby and I stayed probably for about an hour walking around outside looking at robots and all the action along that corridor. I really loved the Puppet Phactory, where they take found and obsolete objects and turn them into puppet characters. You could stay and make your own if you liked. I wasn’t really interested in the netted area for the “drone” obstacle course, though it seemed wildly popular. Probably if you were making a day of the event, the $45 made sense, but not for an hour or two. All the makers self-fund to attend. It did feel like if I succeed in the coming year in creating the a robot shell from Plastic Fantastic debris, that the Maker Faire would be super fun to do again next year with it.

While I love visiting New York, it doesn’t happen that frequently, so I was keen to get the Queens Museum too and see Ukeles’ retrospective. The amazing thing Ukeles did, or rather one of, is that she got the barges and the garbage trucks to perform as a ballet, speaking of machine based art! The motion was so graceful and the idea of these large trucks and boats taking on gestures outside of their everyday purpose just made my heart sing with joy. I did try to show baby this visual, conceptual delight (he was 17 months old at the time) and he seemed to watch it for a minute, maybe. He was more interested in the way the video project was displayed in the middle of the room on a giant screen. The room was lined with smaller video monitors and photographs documenting the Maintenance Art Work. The giant screen hung on a diagonal and started about a foot from the ground, perfect to baby’s eye line.

As I have been delving into a body of work documenting my experience of motherhood and making that a way to fit in art with baby (baby started sleeping until 7am and I started writing at 6am, after waking up around 5:15am unable to return to sleep, I fell asleep during the debate last night, and I used to wonder how artists with kids made time when before I had baby the challenge for time for art with full time work was difficult enough…anyway! Here I am a year later blogging!), Ukeles “Maintenance Art Questionnaire: 1973 – 76” hit a nerve and dare I say transformed the possibility of what is art, continuing the conversation of art is life and life is art. Selections from my life experiences become shared experience and art performance through video documentation. Below I’ll post the “Questions about Maintenance Tasks” and my answers.

  1. What is your main job(s)? artist, lab coordinator, mother, wife, friend, family member, not sure these are all jobs but things I do, home owner
  2. How much of your time do you spend on maintenance tasks? Not enough! Not enough. A lot. Depends on the day. My day job is 30%+ maintenance. Evenings I mean is meal prep maintenance? Keeping us fed and cared for.
  3. How do you feel about doing them? I like folding the napkins and putting them away. Sometimes it feels meditative. Mostly it feels like not enough time. There’s a bunch sitting in a laundry basket waiting to be folded and put away.
  4. How do you feel about other people doing them for you? –Is that a possibility? My husband (! We just got married in September) does some of them for me. We split some tasks. I’m ok with it. In fact I’m grateful.
  5. What do you think would happen if you didn’t do them? bugs and mice would take over if I never cleaned up after making meals. So that wouldn’t be cool. The messes would get to me, they already do.
  6. What would happen to you if you didn’t do them? I’d be disappointed and frustrated at the mess. I would have to let that frustration go. I’d have less control. Or maybe I’d have more time.
  7. How do you feel about repetition? Love it when it is the same over and over, becomes meditative, or maybe boring, depends
  8. Is there any inherent value in doing maintenance? It can start to feel like self-care.
  9. Are some maintenance tasks more important than others? Is there a hierarchy of values in maintenance? Not sure it’s a hierarchy but I always clean the kitchen up before say vacuuming. I’d put laundry away before cleaning. Bathroom is last. Kitchen has an urgency that other spaces don’t. But those spaces get neglected and then that accumulation of neglect creates its own urgency.
  10. Does the energy used on maintenance affect how you spend time on development (non maintenance ) – free you, drain you , dull you?
  11. Do you get involved in doing maintenance well – “beautifully”; is there an esthetic to maintenance? I love the idea of taking pride in maintenance work, mostly I’m just trying to get it done and out of the way. To slow down and aestheticize it turns it from something often avoided to something I’d want to do. And if it is incorporated into artist practice, then it becomes part of my work. I wish I could organize video files and media with aesthetics in mind. I guess this question makes me realize that it could be beautifully done and that inspires me. This is the best question on here.
  12. What is the relationship in your life between maintenance and freedom? I’m interested in the left overs, the discarded, the evidence of something that was, that something happened. But I don’t want to see that evidence in my home. I appreciate that I have a home and that is exciting to me, this beautiful place to live. I want to respect the space with the care and maintenance and bogged down by not doing it all. It’s a constant struggle and friction. Time for maintenance. Is it free time? How else would you spend it? Is it a practice of my freedom to be able to take care of myself, my family and my home? Must it be considered an act of liberation in order for it not to seem like a burden, chore, and obstacle? It must. Maintenance is liberation, the highest self-care and creates the space needed for thinking and making art.

Other thoughts visiting the exhibition raised: consider shaking every sanitation workers hand as social practice art. By participating in the survey, it feels like another layer of experience of Ukeles’ art.



Old Enough to Know Better

I’m excited to be part of the exhibition “Old Enough to Know Better” juried by Eileen Neff and Diane Burko, sponsored by the Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia at Crane Arts Gallery 105. It’s a wonderful exhibition featuring 67 art works by mid-career and emerging women, and women-identified, artists 35 years and older. The opening reception was Thursday, November 12th, 2015 and the exhibition run through November 28th.

Below is my 25 second video in the exhibition. Many of the nearby works are paintings, drawings and photographs of the natural environment. For me, it provided a meditative experience, a welcomed respite from the busyness of the everyday.

BabyOprep couldn’t join us, having had his 6 month shots earlier that evening, making him very tired. Fortunately the grandparents on dad’s side were on call to take care of him for a couple of hours.

Mattress Factory

I’ve known about the Mattress Factory since around 2002 and it was one of my first exposures to the idea of installation art. Finally, 13 years later, and well into my own journey into making installations of 1% of the imagination, I made the journey there with my partner and our 3 month old baby. It was amazing!

(image above in Chiharu Shioto’s “Trace of Memory”. The rooms of the entire row home were woven with black string blurring the spaces.  )

We were there so long I ended up nursing baby twice and we ran out of time to go to the Warhol Museum. At one of the James Turrell installations – perhaps the darkest art work I’ve ever experienced. We walked up the ramp in a narrow hall way with a hand rail into the space and cheated by using a phone to see. It felt like a sight seeing look out at some place like a mountain range. We left, read the sign and went back into it, this time with no phone or other light source and sat there for the 15 minutes or so that was recommended to see it. That’s where I nursed baby and of course could not help but reflect on his time in the womb and how dark it must have been in there. It was nice to have the visual sensory deprivation. No photos from that one!

Our stop in Pittsburgh was on our way to Toledo with Plastic Fantastic to mark the one year anniversary of the toxic algae bloom, and at Mattress Factory we came across this installation where the artists (an architect and scientist) created an imagined  living room / domestic situation where people grew micro algae.

This was also where I nursed the second time that afternoon. A perfect environment.

image of Julie Schenkelberg‘s The Color of Temperance: Energy Embodied   And a video I loved how she broke down perhaps what was a bedroom from how it should be constructed and its purpose; what seems like should be debris and discarded, is given new life.

I enjoyed how the artists were focused on domestic spaces and our relationships to them.