Tuesday, July 29, 2008

sad news

I was, and still am, so out of touch with news that I didn't know till yesterday that Bruce Conner had died three weeks ago. Only 74- that seems so young to me now although when my mother died at 72 it didn't seem unreasonably young...

I saw "Gonzo," the movie about Hunter Thompson a couple of weeks ago at the campus movie theater. I thought it was great, and in my mind his life is a little connected to Bruce Conner and all those crazy "beatniks." But Conner's work on paper was so beautiful and spiritual- it revealed something in him that was not self-mocking or nihilistic at all. Anyone familiar with his work and mine would see the influence. He himself claimed some 3000 plus artists who influenced him. But I would stare at those pages of tiny blots in wonder and amazement. I saw a show of them quite recently, and he is in the Carnegie International even now with his "angel" series of photograms.

I saw Dennis Hopper at MoMA last year, being escorted through the galleries. I feel like that generation is disappearing. Ride easy, Bruce and Hunter.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I did get a chance to talk to Wael Shawky for a while the day of open studios. He's a very pleasant, open person, with an engaging smile. With all the success he's had in the art world so far (I had not realized he was in the Venice Biennale five years ago, and he's only 36) he doesn't take any shit from anyone, but at the same time, he's quite willing to talk about his life.

We talked about Sufism. This is something I never gave a second thought to- but after he described it to me, it stuck with me a little, because he said it was related to mysticism and Kaballah. Then in Sunday's paper there was one of those Deborah Solomon interviews with Doris Lessing, and she said she practices it. Of course, this was an opportunity for Solomon to pounce on the Islam thing. Wael is very religious. He said it all "makes perfect sense." I would love to go to Egypt and see some of the things he was describing to me. Maybe this will happen. It's so wonderful having this time to experiment- I've got four different things going on and I switch around depending on what interests me that particular day. I can't let go of my hand being in the work, no matter how much it's mediated by computer imaging. I'm learning a lot about what's important to me in my work.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

the interview, redux

I'm not sure if I can upload the shortened interview from santacaferadio to the blog- Alana made an mp3 file with just the three of us on it, but it's still pretty big (maybe I upload as a video?) I'll look into this.

Meanwhile, I posted just my part of it on my website.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

around the compound

Something I notice whenever I'm out doing errands or whatever is that there are a lot of big cars and trucks here, as well as a lot of Prius' like mine. The trucks take up a lot of room in the parking spaces, and I've already gotten a little dent on my car from someone opening a door on it. I do not feel sorry for these people who are moaning about gas prices. You really see the smackdown in communities here. There is so much stuff to buy- today I went over to the Plaza and meandered around the Spanish Art Fair (like the Sono Art Fair in Norwalk, but with 80% of the artisans showing religious art.) But where we are located on campus, we're closer to the Walmart and the Smith's grocery store is indicative of local tastes, not those of the newcomers'.

I'm posting a few photos that I took before open studios of my studio, all cleaned-up like. I can see that requiring artists to take part in the open studios is a major motivator for some, since all of a sudden everyone's studio had finished work in it. The next day the residency director, Gabe, took some photos of me for their files. This weekend there is no hot water and this is the third time it's gone out. We may not get it back till Monday. I'm going to try not to sweat, but a cold shower is better than none.

Friday, July 25, 2008

video killed the radio star

You can hear the interview on the radio here

I'm going to get one of the residents who has an audio editing program on her computer to cut it down, but for now if you want to hear us, we're in the second half of the show so you have to move the slider down halfway...and I'm at the very end so if you want to skip the rest, move the slider at least 3/4 of the way down. I didn't sound too bad, just a lot of "ums" as I was trying to think- since I had no idea what she was going to ask. I'm sure I do the same thing in my classes as I try to think of a word. For instance, in the interview I started to tell her about when I showed one of my book pieces to Louise Bourgeois. (That link is one of many about her.) So I was saying, "here's a little....." then I stopped, because I wanted to say- what? vignette? anecdote? I settled on "story" which certainly could have popped out of my mouth a lot easier than it did.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

one less artist

I found a dead mouse in the trunk of my car last night. It must have climbed in there before I left and died when the car sat in the sun at the airport. I noticed a horrible smell in the car, but I thought it was my cooler with maybe some old food smell. In fact I said to someone, "my car smells like something died in it." It was an expression! But when the smell didn't go away, I had to look and there was the poor critter in an empty Trader Joe's bag.

While I was away the troublesome artist was asked to leave. I won't go into what pushed the staff (and us) over the edge. We got an email from him that was a lot of "poor me" stuff, and I hope he doesn't cause problems for people here. He was here as a "refugee" artist- sfai offers studio space and a place to live for people who have lost their homes for one reason or another. I was told today that of 140 applicants, 29 visual artists were chosen, and some very interesting people looked at the work, so that made me feel good about getting accepted.

So we now have 7 artists and 4 writers: Adria Pecora, David Bratton, Jen Dohne, Michael Brohman, Jessica Maloney, and Kaili Chun are the artists; Ellen Schnepel, Nikki Louis, Christian Champagne and Alana DiGiacomo are the writers. I notice as I post these links that I'm one of the only people I know who couldn't get my name as my website domain name. And that other Donna Ruff doesn't even use it! (Grr.) It reminds me of Larry Miller, the Fluxus artist. His website is onlyonelarrymiller.com.

The documentary we saw last night was -eh.- It was an interesting subject, the dances of these indigenous people in Mexico, and the most interesting part was when people were interviewed. They are dancers for a period of three years and it's a major commitment to the community to do so. As is the case with Native American ritual dances, there is a lot of repetition of steps. I found myself trying to stay awake but I chalked that up to my vestigial Chicago fatigue. Then today several people said they had dozed off. I felt bad for the artists but really they could have done a more interesting film, it was such a rich subject- but then I think it was the first one they've done, and they did so much good work for the community that I have a lot of respect for them.

This morning three of us were interviewed for a radio program that will be available as a podcast- I will post when I get it. I think I sounded non-idiotic, but when I hear it I'm sure I'll cringe.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lorin took this photo with his iPhone

time out

I was in Chicago this past weekend for my cousin's wedding and came back yesterday in utter exhaustion. I will say this for Albuquerque airport: it's civilized. I parked my car in a long term lot where there is a van that meets you AS YOU ARE PARKING YOUR CAR and a friendly driver who puts your suitcase in the van and takes you immediately to the airport. You are given a card with your space number on it, so when you return you give the driver this card, and the process is reversed. Fee: $4 a day.

We're having open studios Thursday night which has me in a slight panic mode. Everything I've got is in process, the encyclopedia has taken many hours of my time here, so I'm trying to get a lot done in the next three or four days. There's a lecture on campus tonight by some ethno-videographers (I made that word up.)

More c-types, on Japanese paper today just for fun to see how they look.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

maybe getting somewhere

I had an aHa moment when we were at the panel last week. Since I was struggling with the cyanotypes, I decided to cut them up and cover the wall with them as if they are tiles. This kind of builds on something I thought of before coming here, which was to use the cyanotypes like bricks to build something that would be reminiscent of the Gate of Ishtar or one of the many blue mosques.

I've now become pretty adept at making the cyanotypes. I've set up a low-tech darkroom in my bathroom- since I've got the disabled suite (one of two) I don't have a skylight in there and it's very roomy. I brought in a table to coat the paper with chemicals and I can close the door with the vent on inside while they dry. They are not super-light sensitive anyway. I can use a 75 w. bulb in there while I work.

My studio has some angles in it so I'm working from the corner out. It's in very early stages- maybe there will be some dimension to it other than the wall angles. It reminds me of my blot series. The blues are quite beautiful and I'm trying to vary exposure and coating so that different shades result. Conceptually, it's very important that the images are all made by the sun.

I'm also working on my encyclopedia project and some small works on paper with sliced book pages. Today a few of us went to a gallery to see a show by Barry LeVa. The gallery was on an unpaved road in a very industrial area, and it was a wonderful space. The gallerist formerly ran a foundry in the building and did multiples for many blue-chip artists. He very generously showed us his living area and his collection of art. At one point he pointed to a group of very small works on paper that seemed very similar to what I'm doing with the book pages. I had sort of a strong reaction, which kind of amused everyone. Well, not the first time I've seen something that is related to what I'm doing. I loved the LeVa show. The gallery and the gallerist were so different from everything else going on in Santa Fe- it was a great pleasure to talk to him and see the show. He and his wife are hopping in their airstream trailer and going up to the mountains this weekend.

We had a lively game of charades last night. I highly recommend charades for a lot of laughs. Sometimes I think I would do just fine living communally like this. Meanwhile. the heavy rains come and go. We had major leaks in the studio last night.

Monday, July 14, 2008

when the going gets tough the tough go shopping

Saturday one of the other artists and I went to the Folk Art Market. This takes place every year at Museum Hill, where the Folk Art Museum and several other museums are located. They charge to get in but we managed to sidle along the side at the entrance along with a slew of other people. We spent plenty of $$$ there so we didn't feel at all guilty.

The other artist, Kaili, is from Hawaii and is a native Hawaiian. She was a little irritated at the way artisans from other countries were trotted out to be put on display at their booths. There was beautiful work there, though. I bought a few goodies for Christmas gifts and two scarves from an Indian artisan who ties tiny string knots on silk in a pattern, then dyes the silk and takes out the knots, which are done with one long piece of string.

We ran into the artist I had seen on the panel, Rose Simpson (she is the niece of Nora Naranjo Morse.) I got a little flustered (as I often do) telling her how we enjoyed her talk. She looked bemused. She's a beautiful young woman with a small silver spike going through her nostrils. It's quite striking, but for me, with constant nasal leakage, it would be a nightmare that would result in a lot of shredded tissues.

I wanted to talk to Wael Shawky, the artist from Egypt, who was with Rose and another guy. I've met him a couple of times, since he stayed here and knows Kaili and a writer who has been here for a few months. He's Muslim and did a performance piece once where he read the Koran in a church, so he's thinking about cultural and religious overlap. I'd like to see the Koran read in a synagogue, ha. As if.

I took out my pen and a card to write down my cell phone and the pen started to drip ink all over the place, getting on my shirt, my purse, and the ground. Wael took the pen from me and threw it away. Staples special, they work for a while but this isn't the first one that has leaked. Anyway. Today Wael is supposed to come over here for something, so maybe we can talk for a bit.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

3 AM

I have a habit of sometimes waking up at 3 AM and not being able to fall back asleep till 6 AM. It's like clockwork. Last night there was a lot of noise outside at 3 AM- like someone vacuuming the entire campus (usually it's very quiet here.) So I decided to go online and poke around.

I googled my name and discovered that the other Donna Ruffs were moving up in the google standings, but my website was still the first listing. I also discovered something really great, this blog entry.

Gotta love the internets!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Most mornings I go for a walk around the College of Santa Fe campus, where sfai is located. It's a pretty campus, not in the Princeton ivy kind of way, but it's open and nicely landscaped, with some sculpture scattered here and there. You'd have to like the adobe style architecture to be happy here, because that is all there is. Even new buildings like the one we're in refers to the vernacular, and everything is low-rise.

This morning the clouds are low. They're sitting on the mountains and seem within reach above me. I always see rabbits on my walks, and lots of birds- robins mostly, but also some little wrens (I assume) and big black birds- crows, maybe, or grackles. I've seen one prairie dog so far- they're cute little fellas, bigger than a meercat but in that family. At least I think they're bigger, since I've never seen a meercat.

We were told last night that there were 8 comped tickets to the vernissage of Art Santa Fe, and that there was a dinner, so the 8 visual artists got to go hobnob with the art glitterati of Santa Fe (free food!.) There was no dinner, unless you consider a tray of maybe 20 tiny crostini of various sorts being brought around on a semi-regular basis and a glass of champagne dinner. A few of us decided to loiter where the trays were coming out, but the waiters caught on and started taking a swift turn in the other direction. Not being a regular at these things, I wondered why anyone would pay $75 to go see what they could see for $8 on the following day, but obviously it's not about economy, or I should say it IS about economy, but in a very different way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

the local and the global

There is so much going on in Santa Fe in the summer. This weekend, for instance, there's the Folk Art Market and Art Santa Fe, an art fair, in which the gallery that I'm in for the summer show will participate (not with my work, though, only their signed on artists.) I haven't even thought about visiting Chimayo, Abiquiu, Bandalier park, or any of the places I've driven through on past visits, nor have I gone to Museum Hill to see the wonderful Folk Art Museum again. If I hadn't been here before, I'd never get a bit of work done.

Last night we went to a panel discussion at Site Santa Fe, where the Biennial is now in progress. It was curated by Lance Fung, whose process was a little different than most Biennials. Read about it here.

The panel was very interesting and inspiring-three artists from Santa Clara pueblo (mother, daughter, and niece, the Naranjo-Morse family) who participated in the Biennial, and an artist from Bulgaria. The discussion was about place, identity, and community. The women were so articulate, thoughtful and aware; not only of their place and function as the "tour guides" in a sense to the artists who came from elsewhere, but aware of the changing nature of indigenous communities, especially in Santa Fe. So many artists live far from where they are from, whether they settle in Berlin, New York, or wherever- but these women have been in the same place for generations, and pointed out that wherever you go, you take your sense of place with you. Their work in the show is a collaborative piece- an adobe "line" that snakes around the city, looping onto buildings, going through trees, being buried, then emerging from the ground. Santa Clara is famous for pottery, yet one of the women said "we don't 'own' clay as a material- many cultures use clay." She talked about how the many stories of her people get "put in a box" for consumption- i.e., Indian Market.

I haven't had a chance to see the exhibition in detail, and a lot of it is off-site, in various locations around the city. My first impression is that it's a mixed result. I'm really glad I went to the panel, because the dialog that took place was so sincere and generous, that it made me glad to be an artist in fellowship with other artists.

I couldn't get any photos off the Site Santa Fe website to post, because it's all Flash animation, but if you're interested in seeing some of the work and the artists, it's at sitesantafe.org

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

the group conscience

It's always a changeable dynamic when you get 12 people (especially creative types) together in a community that isn't self-selected. There's often a scapegoat or an outsider who got that way by being difficult. In our case, there's a guy who has been provocative and argumentative at best, and truly offensive at worst. We're not sure if his CV is fabricated- his work is awful and he doesn't seem to work much anyway. He will be receiving a written warning today- honestly, he scares me a little and his studio is next to mine, all the way in the back.

Our group is a pretty friendly one, very active. I managed to dodge a volleyball game yesterday but I might be pulled in today later on. They don't realize how hideously bad I play volleyball and most other sports that involve contact with a round object.

One thing the difficult man said amused me- they call Santa Fe "City of Enchantment," but he said it was more like "City of Entrapment" because so many people come here for a short stay and then never leave. In my usual way, I peruse the real estate section. Rents here are low. I met a guy in the art supply store (paper department) who came here from San Francisco and said that his rent, internet, cable and phone were $650- about what he paid to park his car in SF. I've already met a number of people who came for a residency and decided to stay.

I worked on my encyclopedia project all day yesterday. I'm cutting the pages and there are over 1000 (but that's only 500 something actual pages) I might not do all the pages, though, because the way I'm cutting them I'll only get about halfway through before I reach the outer edge of the book. I thought at that point I'll start adding to the pages, but I'll decide that when I get there. I just don't want it to look like I was too lazy to do all the pages.

Speaking of pages, there was a nice review of the Philadelphia show in the Inquirer over the weekend.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Feeling the space

I've never blogged before, and I figure there's not much I can say that is worth putting into the blogosphere- but this is a good way to keep track of my progress and let people know what and how I'm doing. That is, if they're interested enough. So here goes.

This is my third day here, not counting Wednesday, when I was completely overwhelmed with the newness of it all. This is a beautiful place, as photos show. The weather is wonderful- sunny, sunny mornings and so far a shower every afternoon. The clouds build up over the mountains in threatening dark masses, then the rain comes, but usually the rain is sporadic and the heat makes the sidewalks dry instantly. We've had a few constant rains- it's what they call the monsoon season here.

Everyone says New Mexico is so dry, and I guess it is, but the swamp cooler in this building keeps things rather damp. It shows in the paper I work with and in my hair, which frizzes like I'm in Florida. It's cool inside, I often need a sweater.

I'm feeling a lack of energy today. I've tried making some cyanotypes with the patterns I use for the burn drawings, but so far I'm not too satisfied that they'll add up to anything interesting. Cyanotypes are a kind of contact photograph that is made with the light of the sun. Because the chemicals cause the image to print in cyan blue, they're called cyanotypes. I've printed out transparencies from the computer to use as "negatives" for the prints. I put them outside on top of the coated paper, then wait 10 or 15 minutes, bring them in and wash them out with water. It's a very simple process. In fact, you can buy "sun print" kits for kids to use.

There are 12 of us here- 8 artists and 4 writers. It's a very mixed group. Last night we had a barbecue and most people were downing margaritas like mad. Those people do not feel well this morning. Anyway, apparently there was an altercation between a writer from New Orleans and an artist from Montana. I'm glad I went to bed earlier and that I didn't drink margaritas.