Winged Creature on Trike by Ana Consuelo Matiella

This is the way the story goes…
You can’t sleep anymore this morning.  You can’t tell the difference between the dog snores and the snores of the guy next to you.  You are in Portland and the feeble January sun has not even made an attempt to rise.  You sit up in bed and look up at the purple streetlight and through the sheer curtain, it looks like a winged creature has perched itself there.  And you look again. You tell yourself it is just the glare of the light through the fabric of the transparent curtain combined with your blurred early morning vision. 
This is your vision now, at your age, before coffee. 
And all the time you stare at the streetlight you think of your life, not here in Portland where you are now, but in your other home, in Santa Fe, where by this time you could hear the coyotes howling and the wind whispering through the cottonwood’s dry leaves, the ones that stubbornly hold on and never fall to the ground. You now imagine how the Sangres would look if you got up and looked north from the kitchen window as you wait for your coffee to make that sound it makes when it’s ready, or how the Ortiz mountains would look if you looked south from the den.
Like in a fast dream you realize that only seconds have passed since you have been staring at the streetlight, and you see the winged creature glide down. 
As you get out of bed, you know it’s not your bad vision. Now you know there really was some winged creature thing sitting on top of the light pole like a bored angel.  And when you rush to the window to move the curtain and get a better look at where the thing landed, you see an old Asian lady rummaging through your recycling can.  She is wearing a Coolie hat over her knit cap and baggy, oversized gloves.  She looks up holding an empty diet Coke can and she shakes it at you like a rattle. 
You wave back, embarrassed as if you have her caught her doing something private.  She hurries down your driveway, mounts her giant tricycle and peddles away. 
Now the purple dawn turns into a wet silver morning, and you see her canvas coat flapping in the wind as she rides down the shiny street.
And you tell yourself, “What is a phantasm, anyway, if not a figment of your imagination?”
But you are not convinced.

Miriam Sagan on Nancy Holt

The great land artist Nancy Holt died earlier this month. Coincidentally, I’d been writing about her for a rather eccentric memoir piece I’ve been working on. Working title–“Geographic” as in the mental health slang phrase “pull a geographic.” (i.e. “Those junkies should have gone into rehab but instead they just pulled a geographic and left Brooklyn for Vermont, hoping it would work.”) The memoir is about my relationship to time and space.
So here, in honor of Nancy Holt:

I identified with Nancy Holt because she and I were both married to men named Robert who died young.
However, her husband was Robert Smithson.
Her work fascinated me because so much of it was about location.
We lived in the same town, knew people in common, but when I heard her lecture I sat in the back and was overcome with unaccustomed shyness as she signed a copy of her book.
I published poems about her but was too embarrassed to send them to her.
She seemed “real” in some kind of luminous way, although rationally I assumed she was quite ordinary in her daily life.
She was a tie to a mythic age of heroic artistic endeavor, but more than that, her art shocked me. I did not know that anyone could think like that (although it was a way I was perilously close to myself).
I walked in her piece Dark Star Park in suburbs outside of Washington. D.C. Although the site is about location in time, it also seemed to be about grief.
Each year we unwittingly pass the day of our deaths. And when young, passed dates we couldn’t yet see–anniversaries both ecstatic and abysmal.
I have never seen Holt’s iconic work, Sun Tunnels, although I was close. I was living in a tiny trailer out on the salt flats in Utah, in the abandoned Wendover air force base. Easy to say, but not that easy to do–scary, windy, desolate.
I shared this residency with the Center for Land Use Interpretation with a young photographer from East Berlin, call her “Vi.” We were glad of the company at night, both of us nervous.
A rainy day, creatively dry, east Nevada blacked-out for electrical work. We thought about heading to Sun Tunnels but somehow daunted ended up exploring mining roads and a redneck bar that Vi, no American, assumed would be fine. Which it surprisingly was. We drank cold coffee and when the lights came back on treated ourselves to a steak dinner in a casino.
A year later, we crossed paths for a minute–Vi, car packed, was leaving the residence as I arrived for a second stint.
I spent a week alone in the rattling wind. All fear had left me. I was calm and happy, in a direct confrontation with this world as it was. I looked at the sun too long and burned a retinal after image–a tiny image of the sun that projected itself everywhere I looked for over an hour.
Vi was headed for Sun Tunnels on her way back to Salt Lake, and home.

Not Built by Aliens: On Google Maps

To some viewers, it looks like a landing strip for extraterrestrial spacecraft — or perhaps the portal to a parallel universe, if not an ancient monument to a benevolent deity who had a keen eye for design and symmetry.

But what people are actually seeing in the desolate reaches of the Egyptian desert, just a short distance from the shores of the Red Sea, is in fact an environmental art installation. And it’s been baffling tourists and armchair travelers since it was constructed in March 1997.


Interview with Kate McCahill on Teaching

1. What kind of teaching are you doing?
2. Do you find that teaching helps your own creativity, hinders it, or affects it in some way? Apart from the issue of energy–teaching may take time away from writing etc.–how do you find teaching and writing interface?
3. If you could communicate one central thing to your students, what would it be?

1.)    I am teaching a range of courses- Advanced ESL, for English Language Learners, is one of my favorite classes to teach, because I get students of all ages and from all walks of life. This semester I have students from Asia, Africa, and Central America, and their stories, values, and languages are fascinating to hear about. Plus, I know what it’s like to try and learn a language as an adult, because I spent one year backpacking around Latin America, and so I like to think that my background as a learner helps me to be a better teacher.  I’m also fortunate enough to be teaching English 120- Exploring Creative Writing- and so far, the course is a great success. We’re reading ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King, and it’s given us much to talk about.
Also, I teach Travel Writing in Continuing Education. This is my second time teaching that course, and it’s truly been wonderful. The students are traveled and have such interesting lives, and so it’s wonderful to come here on Saturdays and talk about writing with people who, well, love to talk about it, too. When we’re talking and writing, or talking, or writing, I think to myself, “I have my dream job.”
2.)    When I come home from school, I feel exhausted and exhilarated both. My mind is racing, poring over the events and conversations of the day. So I sit down at my desk, put my hands on the keyboard, and unload. I made it my New Year’s Resolution to write every day for at least ten minutes, and my classes have helped me to accomplish that. I freewrite with my students in each class, and on most mornings I’m up at five to write. I’m trying to finish a book, and I want to get it done by the time I turn thirty…which is coming up soon. This is how it was for me in graduate school, as well; I worked full-time and completed my assignments in the darkness of morning and evening. And it worked. Sometimes, when I have too much time on my hands, I don’t get any work done, and so, although I don’t sleep enough, I manage to write every day, at least a little. Plus, many of my colleagues at the community college are writers, too, and so I feel like I’m surrounded by writing all day, from morning until night. Writing is what I love, and so here, I feel blessed.
3.)    I always tell my students that each of our lives could be made into a book. Our lives are important, the details we surround ourselves with are important, our triumphs and traumas and disappointments are important. What we write is important, and so is what we read. We all have something to give to the world, some lesson we’ve learned, some advice we’ve come across, some experience we have endured, and when we write those things down, we’re giving ourselves a gift. Even if no one else ever reads what we put down on the page, we have done important work.  Our voices are distinctive, our work is necessary, and every day matters.

I AM an installation artist I am an installation artist I Am I Am I Am

An artist I admire told me that when he was starting out he did a kind of self hypnosis, telling himself he could paint in the manner of those he admired. He suggested a similar meditation.
I took to sitting quietly, telling myself–I am the Christo and Jean-Claude of words…I wrap the world in text…
Two weekends ago I tried another approach. We were in Albuquerque. I indulged in that pseudo New Age affirmation thing–live the life you want as if you already had it…
If I was an installation artist, what would I do? Go the flea market, of course! It was a huge amount of fun. Rich wanted an egg beater but bought a keyboard. I debated gumball machines. This sure could use a giant installation, I thought.
Then realized: This IS a giant installation.




A British student following in the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy…

Bethany Hyde

Since moving to Bath in October 2013, I began to create art work using leaves. Why? Because they were EVERYWHERE – they were the most beautiful, cheapest (which is important to a student) and most easily found material to use.

Furthermore, I love the temporary quality of autumn leaves: they are the markers of a season, they show the passing of time, the changing of the weather and the life cycle of nature.

‘River of leaves’ was a curving line of leaves I created by pinning flat leaves together with long pointed, pin-shaped leaves I found in Victoria Park.

_DSC0016_2_2 Detail of the leaves pinned together

I began by collecting the fallen leaves from a particular tree in the University grounds, bringing them into the studio and arranging them in order of colour, which took AGES!

The whole process was very delicate, time consuming and repetitive – qualities that are not often…

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