Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 5:44 pm.
New York Mills – November 28, 2012
Yesterday, I took a road trip into North Dakota to see the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Historic Site aka Oscar – Zero. I am still marveling at what a surreal place it was to be: surreal that it existed and surreal that I was standing in the spot where they could have launched 10 of the 150 nuclear missiles in this wing alone into the Soviet Union (there were 6 wings total, with nearly 1000 missiles, through the end of the Cold War – more about this at the end).
Because it wasn’t the regular tourist season, they only gave tours by appointment. Needless to say, I was the only one on my tour with my tour guide, Nathaniel, an early 20-something white guy with shaggy hair in his eyes, a blue hoodie with the historic site’s logo on it, jeans, and loosely laced skater sneakers.
He showed me around, and I badgered him with questions. Now the first thing I noticed (see the 2nd-to-top photo and the 2nd-to-last photo) is that there are no silos in sight. I guess I’d always assumed the missiles were disguised in those silos like farmers have. But no, the silos are under ground. Hm. But once you know what these sites look like, they’re easy to spot. Just look for lots of barbed wire fences around nothing special in the middle of the corn field. On my way back home, I noticed one of the other Launch Command Centers (that’s the top photo and where most of my photos and the tour took place) in a cornfield to the east of me. All the ones in this area of North Dakota (see map below) were deactivated after the START signing by George H W Bush and Mikail Gorbachev in 1991, though they didn’t officially close until 1997. Which makes it all the more strange: to visit an historic site that has only been closed for 15 years, though it had been in operation since 1966.
Most of these photos are from the underground capsule where they monitor and launch the missiles. We were ~60 feet underground that yellow building, inside a welded steel and concrete encapsulated space with a door like a safe only even thicker (see below and more info here). It was a pretty intense place to be because not only is this where they could have launched the missiles, but this space was also designed to save them from nuclear counter-attack. There was even an escape hatch. Two military people would be down in here at all times, two because that’s better than 1 in case something goes wrong–same reason there are 2 pilots on a plane. They had 24-hour shifts. Upstairs, their support staff of 8 came in 3-day shifts. There was even a rec room, straight out of the 80s with a pool table, a ping pong table, and a foos ball table. But the 2 people down here in the capsule were all business. Except as the Cold War dragged on and nothing was happening, they did eventually give them a tv to watch. And behind the tv is a giant mural-size poster of the Virgin Islands. (See above.) A stark contrast to the snowy fields of North Dakota that were actually surrounding them.
This, in case it isn’t obvious, is the key to launching the missiles. There is a multi-step process to get to this point where the key goes in and turns to launch: an order from the President, encrypted codes coming in via phone and a typewriter and something like “email” and who knows what else, then a red box with 2 padlocks on it. Each person in the capsule has their own padlock with their secret code, and so both commanders have to be alive/awake/whatever in order to get into that red box to get to the decoding book. I think there’s even a few more steps in there before the key can go into the key hole and turned to launch.
These last two photos of mine are from the nearby missile silo November-33. As you can see, there’s not much silo-like about it. The tall white thing that looks like a miniature missile is a motion detector. And the big concrete patch that is surrounded by the black outline is the lid to where the ~60 ft tall missile was stored. That’s pretty much it.
The above map is of all the Minuteman Missile sites in the U.S. Three are still active, including the one around Minot, ND. I think the other 2 active ones are in Wyoming and Montana. That’s 450 missile for anyone who is counting, still probably enough to take out most if not all of the people on the planet. Each missile has about 300 kilotons of TNT. Which is a whole fucking lot, just to be clear.
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 5:44 pm.
My Minnesota State Arts Board supported animation, "Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds," will be premiered on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, MN, in companion with Last Vacation Before the End of the World (Part 1), a multimedia participatory experience (see below). I have been working on this animation with the support of the grant since early 2016, but you may recognize some of the images from as far back as 2011 when I created the participatory performance Dearest. This dream-like, hand-drawn animation explores the historical context and lived realities of the current nuclear age. The animation also features original sound by Duluth-based composer Kathy McTavish.
Kelley A Meister is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
I want you to think about the end of the world.* Where will you go when the bombs fall? What songs will you serenade it with? What will you bring? As a companion to the premiere of “Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds,” I would like to invite you to accompany me on our Last Vacation Before the End of the World (Part 1), June 14, 2017.
*world as we know it, an anthro-centric view, shall we say
On view May 4, 2017-August 30, 2017: Where Do We Go From Here?, a three-channel video collage installation that explores the possibilities of what Minnesota and the Upper Mississippi River Valley will look like 150 years from now. More info here.
See Crush Project (2007) at Feminist Video Quarterly, #6. What does it mean to be crushing? And why are they so crushing? This project explores the development of a crush, sharing intimately with the audience my crushes, objects I've given and received from crushes, and other tidbits as an homage to Sadie Benning, my ultimate artist-crush.
Jerome Travel/Study 2017 Recipient - Stay Tuned!
In Spring 2018, I will be traveling throughout the southwest US to research nuclear testing sites, thanks to the Jerome Travel/Study fund.
I am so excited and mildly terrified to see these places in person. This research will inform a longer version of “Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” , Part 2 of Last Vacation Before the End of the World, and much more work in the future.
From the BBC - a great video on world nuclear proliferation - I can't embed it, but follow this LINK.
As August exits this year to September, I realize I am full of memories from my residency in Red Wing, MN, in August 2014. I documented it on my old website blog (archive here - it's a little clunky b/c the wordpress formatting is lost to time - if you get an error message, just change the "www" to "archive" in the URL and you should be back in business), but I wanted to bring back some highlights.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Greetings from Red Wing, Minnesota. I am spending the month of August at the Anderson Center, enjoying lots of time to work and think and be and dream and relax and make and do and photograph and draw and film and paint and read and research and and and and and and…!
I am also refamiliarizing myself with this area – rereading Mni Sota Makoce. As always, when I spend time in the landscape, I think about what’s different and what’s the same…which trees might have been around before the white settlers first occupied this Dakota homeland, which bluffs and islands are still visible and which have been destroyed or eroded, what the waterways might have looked like several hundred years ago and how they look and are used now. Forts were built in this area – one possibly on what is now Prairie Island, just up the Mississippi River from Red Wing and current site of the Prairie Island Reservation and the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant – ostensibly to help peace efforts with the Ojibwe and Dakota. Reflecting on the U.S.’s 200+ year history of starting conflicts through covert and overt means and then strategizing “peace negotiations” so that we have the best outcome of resources at our disposal – from the land I write this on to much of the countries in Latin America throughout my childhood and on into much of the Middle East as I entered adulthood. Thinking about imperialism and what it means to be an artist living in the comfort of paid residencies in this imperialist nation as I wonder how much longer we can continue to be at the “top” of this precarious ladder.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
The first half of the month was endless sunny days, and the second half was rolling thunderstorms. Both completely enjoyable. I feel truly grateful to have had this opportunity – to take a break from life, from $jobs$, from alarm clocks, from cooking dinners, from the city, and from major responsibilities beyond taking care of myself and making art. This is my third residency, and it was by far the most productive, inspiring, and fun one thus far. Part of it was the luck of having a really excellent group of people as co-residents – sharing a big house and kitchen is just a lot more enjoyable when you like all the people you share it with. It’s kind of a fish bowl – plus you never know who will be there with you, as that is dependent on those who read your applications. I really lucked out because the most wonderful and amazing artist AriCoco was my next door neighbor (in home and in the studios)! Dream-team!
Sunday, August 31, 2014 (cont.)
In terms of my art, I took 938 photos (there’s still 12 hours left, so I’m hoping to hit 1K!), 25 movies, and made 22 different animation tests (most of which can be found here or just look back through my blog posts). I painted a 20 foot long gouache/watercolor painting, drew a couple hundred animals (rabbits, bears, squirrels, coyote, foxes, bats, and mosquitoes) with both my left and right hands, made 3 potholders and 5 shrinky-dinks, and gave myself one very tiny tattoo!
Sunday, August 31, 2014 (cont.)
I rode my bicycle so many miles on the Cannon Valley Trail, enjoyed scenic walks and hikes around Red Wing, and spent much time just sitting outside (or in the huge screened-in porch) watching the chipmunks/gophers run around and the monarchs flutter. While there was a dearth of swimming this month, I did spend much time near the Mississippi and Cannon Rivers. I spent several evenings climbing the 76 steps up to the top of the water tower to take photos of the clouds rolling over the ridges and the sun setting behind them.
Sunday, August 31, 2014 (cont.)
And yes, that is the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Generator on the horizon – hashtagFULLCIRCLE. In other news – I spent an hour at the Goodhue County Historical Society yesterday reading up on the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Generator. I learned a lot of really interesting things, but my favorite story I found was about all the protests in the early 90s against storing radioactive waste onsite (which the plant did end up doing – and still does FYI), like the one in August 1992 that was “sponsored by the Minnesota Green’s conference, the Twin Cities Anarchist Federation, the Prairie Island Coalition against Nuclear Storage and other groups, met on the West Bank at Murphy Square and proceeded to NSP headquarters to protest what they called, ‘NSP’s rascist attempt to store radioactive waste at Prairie Island.’”
This summer has been flying by, and I am frantically trying to catch up and get back on schedule. I have this week off from work, so I am treating it like a mini-residency, devoting many hours every day to the studio (or the MN Historical Society Research Library). I'm trying to get a handle on the bigger picture, as I'm feeling swallowed up by the minutiae and stumbling to find the next step always. At the same time, I'm trying to embrace the intuitive process that I know works best for me. I saw the director of Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden) speak at the Walker Art Center in June about taking 5 or something years to make that movie and that she just filmed and made decisions along the way, and it made me feel empowered to make this movie the way I work best - intuitively rather than so planned out and preconceived. Not that I need 5 years, though, hopefully!
So I'm concentrating on creating the images and trusting that I can edit them together in the way I want after I make them. Truely nonlinear editing.
I'm doing a lot of experiments currently, thinking about possibilities of taking the images beyond the confines of that little sheet of aged newsprint - such as tearing it, using green screen to insert archival footage into the torn bits, growing/shrinking its size, inversing the color of the images, trying out other methods like cyanotypes to make images - are they more radioactive looking? for certain scenes, and tinting the paper with watercolor, etc.
I'm also hanging out at the MN Historical Society's research library this week and getting some more info on the stuff here in Minnesota - the power plants, the protests, etc. Which will hopefully prove fruitful.
Between my heart being in so many different places this summer - from Philando Castile's shooting north of St. Paul (who was a friend of a friend and a member of the educator community I am part of here) to the resistance to the oil pipelines in North Dakota and Minnesota to theclimate change caused flooding in Louisiana to the anniversary of Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson and just so so so much more, it's been hard to stay focused. I've been distracting myself with screenprinting silly cat shirts and students' designs when it gets to hard to think about nuclear annihilation on top of all the above and all that's happening in the world and in my heart.
Emmett Ramstad (co-studio-sharer, friend, and collaborator) and I are featured on the current blog post for the Weisman Art Museum Collective blog, the student (U of MN) voice of the museum, for LGBTQ month. It is with esteemed queer company that we are mentioned for having a piece in the Weisman's collection. Pretty awesome! Scroll down to see me @ #14. Click on title of article below to see full article and images or go here: https://wamcollective.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/wam-pride/
WAM PrideIn honor of June being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, the WAM Collective has pulled together a list of 15 LGBTQ artists we are proud to have in the Weisman Art Museum’s collection. The artists and works ranging from the mid 19th century to today, covering a unique range of subjects and mediums. Some of the featured works can be seen on a visit to the galleries today! Works that are not currently on display can be viewed with an appointment in our Art Study room. To schedule an Art Study visit, contact Rosa Corral firstname.lastname@example.org.
PORTRAIT OF MARSDEN HARTLEY BY CARL VAN VECHTENMarsden Hartley was one of the great American Modernist painters. Working in the company of Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, and Alfred Stieglitz, Hartley spent time traveling to Paris, London, Munich and Berlin. He is known for his broad, bold brush strokes and vibrant colors. In 1912, Hartley was introduced to the cousin of artist ArnoldRönnebeck, the Prussian lieutenant Karl von Freyburg. The men quickly fell in love and Hartley moved to Berlin to be with him before the two moved together to Munich. Just two short years later, Karl von Freyburg was killed in World War I leaving Hartley devastated. Throughout the rest of his career, Hartley’s paintings were marked with symbols of grief and mourning and often featured coded references to his lost love.
2. Georgia O’Keeffe
PORTRAIT OF GEORGIA O’KEEFFE BY ALFRED STIEGLITZDescribed as the “Mother of American Modernism”, Georgia O’Keeffe was a prominent abstract and modernist painter who rose to fame in the 1920’s. After showing work with, and then marrying, Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe came to run in the circles of many of her contemporaries, including Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, and the aforementioned Marsden Hartley. O’Keeffe is best known for her yonic paintings of flora and fauna, as well as her later works depicting the American southwest. Though married to a man most of her adult life, O’Keeffe spoke often of her attraction to women and took several female lovers outside of her marriage, including Rebecca Strand, the wife of fellow artist, photographer Paul Strand.
3. Berenice Abbott
SELF PORTRAIT BY BERENICE ABBOTTBerenice Abbott was a revolutionary documentary photographer. She is best known for her black and white photographs documenting New York City in the early 20th century. Influenced by artists Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, Abbott began her career taking portraits of artists affiliated with Dada and other avant-garde art movements before moving on to documentary photography in the 1930’s. Though Berenice Abbott spent most of her career long term relationships with her business partner, Jane Heath, and actress Georgette Leblanc, she rejected labeling her sexuality and insisted her personal life be kept distinct from her art work, famously declaring in 1985 “I am a photographer, not a lesbian”.
4. Louise Nevelson
PORTRAIT OF LOUISE NEVELSON BY RICHARD AVEDONLouise Nevelson was a Russian born, American artist known for her monochromatic sculptures and environments, often constructed from found wood objects and displayed in box like forms. Nevelson was one of the first artists to defy the constraints and expectations placed on women artists and is often credited with triggering the feminist art movement. Nevelson thrived off of the celebritydom surrounding her, often wearing dramatic costumes with colorful headscarves and elaborate mink eyelashes. She received a National Medal of Arts from President Ronald Reagan and represented the United States in the Venice Biennale in 1962. Nevelson lived with a long time partner Diana MacKown for twenty-six years though the women rejected labeling their relationship.
5. John Cage
PORTRAIT OF JOHN CAGE BY BETTY FREEMANJohn Cage was an American avant-garde artist and composer who greatly influenced visual and performing arts alike. Cage was heavily influenced by Zen Buddhist and Indian philosophy and was the first to draw on the philosophical concept of indeterminacy in relation to music and art. He was inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp and built upon Duchamp’s use of the found object and “readymade”. Cage was in a long term domestic, artistic and romantic partnership with choreographer Merce Cunningham.
6. Robert Rauschenberg
PORTAIT OF ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG BY ROBERT MAPLETHORPERobert Rauschenberg was an incredibly active American artist who filled the roles of painter, photographer, printmaker, sculptor, choreographer, performer and even composer. He challenged the lines between mediums, and often utilize more than one simultaneously. Rauschenberg was significant in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to American Pop Art and laid the groundwork for decades of multi-media artists to come. Rauschenberg identified as gay and had relationships with artists Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns, though his sexuality remained publicly closeted until his passing.
7. Jasper Johns
JASPER JOHNS SELF PORTRAITJasper Johns is an American artist who rose to fame in the 1950’s. Like Rauschenberg, Johns was critical in moving the American art world from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art and Minimalism, with his influential use of icons and symbols such as maps, targets, numbers and flags. Johns met Robert Rauschenberg while working together to create window displays for Tiffany’s and the two fell in love, living and working together for six years before breaking up due to the public scrutiny surrounding their relationship. At the end of their romance, Johns departed from New York City, eventually settling in Connecticut where he currently resides. In 2011 Johns received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
8. David Hockney
PORTRAIT OF DAVID HOCKNEY BY YVONNE GEORGINA PUIGDavid Hockney is an English painter, photographer and printmaker who was critical in the development of British Pop Art. Hockney has lived back and forth between Britain and America and has often been inspired by elements of his environment. After visiting California, Hockney began a series of paintings of swimming pools, for which he has become well known. Hockney is openly gay and often explores queerness as a subject matter in his portraiture.
9. Harmony Hammond
PHOTO OF HARMONY HAMMOND, PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWNHarmony Hammond is an American artist, writer, curator and activist, who often explores and challenges the intersections of these roles. Her work asserts the validity of “feminine qualities” as subject matter, exploring ideas surrounding emotionality, domesticity, and corporeality. Her paintings are bold in color and texture often revealing in their strokes the process of their creation. Hammond is openly lesbian and curated A Lesbian Show in 1978. In 2000, she published Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History, the first complete history of lesbian art in the United States.
10. Annie Liebovitz
ANNIE LIEBOVITZ SELF PORTRAITAnnie Liebovitz is widely considered one of America’s best portrait photographers. Working for Rolling Stone magazine, Vanity Fair, and several high profile advertising campaigns, Liebovitz developed a signature style of bold colors and often controversial poses. Annie Liebovitz is openly lesbian and was in a 15 year relationship with Susan Sontag, before Sontag’s death in 2004.
11. Keith Haring
PORTRAIT OF KEITH HARING BY PETER BELLAMYKeith Haring was an American grafitti artist and activist. In the 1980’s Haring gained international recognition for his bright, accessible imagery that challenged the divide between high and low art. Haring used his platform as an artist to bring attention to different cultural and political issues across the world including the AIDS epidemic, safe sex, gay rights, drug addiction, and apartheid. Haring was openly gay and reflected on his identity often. In 1988, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He established the Keith Haring Foundation the following year to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programing. He died in 1990 of AIDS related complications.
12. Laura Migliorino
PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE FACEBOOK PROFILE OF LAURA MIGLIORINOLaura Migliorino is an American artist who lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through her photography, she explores communities, environments and the boundaries that surround them. Her featured photograph is part of the series The Hidden Suburbs: A Portrait,which seeks to dispel the stereotype of the suburbs being only for, and occupied by, white, heterosexual families. Migliorino is openly lesbian and teaches Photography at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
13. Julie Mehretu
PORTRAIT OF JULIE MEHRETU BY MARK HANAUERJulie Mehretu is an Ethiopian born artist who currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Mehretu creates thinly layered compositions that reference maps, networks and architecture. She slowly builds up the surfaces of her paintings over months of time, creating physical and visual depth through the negative spaces of each layer. Mehretu is in a long term partnership with Australian artist Jessica Rankin and the two women have four children together.
14. Kelley A. Meister
PORTRAIT OF KELLEY MEISTER BY JAFFA AHARONOVKelley Meister is an interdisciplinary artist that creates work combining sculpture, printmaking and drawing with time-based media such as film and performance. Meister’s work explores concepts of home, belonging and personal history. Recently ze has been exploring the Mississippi River Valley as a site of history, conflict and production.
15. Emmett Ramstad
PORTRAIT OF EMMETT RAMSTAD BY JACQUES-JEAN TIZIOUEmmett Ramstad is a Minneapolis based interdisciplinary artist who investigates intimacy and the ordinary. His work presents and challenges notions of public versus private spaces, domesticity and detritus. Ramstad recently had a solo show in the MAEP Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where he investigated and demonstrated queer archival practices, collecting personal objects and mementos such as toothbrushes, socks, and underwear.
Elise Armani is a fourth year BFA candidate studying Studio Art and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Art History. Elise is an aspiring curator and currently works at WAM as the projects and programs assistant, as well as the gallery learning and education intern. When not at WAM, you can find her at home with a bowl of vegan mac, a book and a lap full of pets.
In March 2016, I received the MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to fund work on a new animation, tentatively titled “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” a reference to Oppenheimer's (aka the creator of the atom bomb) quoting of the Bhagavad Gita when he saw the first atom bomb test. This work has been a long time coming - I've been making work about living in a nuclear world for many years now, including starting work on what would become the seed of this project in 2012 as an artist-in-residence at the New York Mills Regional Arts Center. What's truly the most exciting for me about this grant is that it allows me to pay the wonderful Kathy McTavish to compose the soundtrack for this piece. I can't even describe in words how excited I am about this.
I present to you today the first 140 frames of this new batch of work. It's a rough cut - still need to figure out the ins and outs of the new software I'm using (Dragonframe, in case you care), but it's really gratifying to see the images move and take shape.
My goal is to make a 7 minute animation. This may seem feeble, but that is going to look like approximately 2,500 different paintings, which takes a lot of work. It's taken me the last month to do these 140. So this is no small task. Am I daunted? A little. But I will persevere. Cuz it doesn't paint itself. Feel free to send encouragement!
April Artist Spotlight: Interdisciplinary Initiator, Kelley Meister
April 20, 2016
* Hey Kelley, thanks so much for taking the time to do an interview! Can you tell us what your art forms are? Can you define them for us?
I am an interdisciplinary artist whose work combines drawing, video, and performance into installations and stand-alone films. My artistic practice relies upon the accumulation and exploration of what constitutes a landscape. I am interested in the natural and social ecosystems of environments – both as a means of exploration of artistic material and as a means of public engagement.
* Do you remember when you first became interested in the arts? How did it happen? Did you have any big influences?
I have been making art for as long as I can remember. My great-grandmother Hortense Kelley studied painting with Thomas Hart Benton; my grandmother was also a painter. Both of them were teachers as well. My mother is a writer and has taught composition at various community colleges over the years. Additionally, there are a lot of musicians and musical talent in my family. As a child, I took Bob Ross-style oil painting classes, ballet, and piano lessons. Throughout junior and senior high, I was an avid member of the band/orchestra. I thought I was going to become a professional musician, but I was overcome with anxiety the older I got every time I had an audition. I eventually gave it up when I went to college because I couldn’t handle the pressure of college auditions. I thought I was going to be a journalist/writer, but during my second semester of college, I took an Art Appreciation class and fell in love with feminist artists like Hannah Wilke, Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendiata, and Claude Cahun. I wanted to use my body as the canvas, like these artists I admired, so I abandoned the Journalism school and shifted to fine art as my major. I haven’t looked back since, though my artistic mediums have spanned oil painting, watercolor, printmaking, papermaking, photography and film, and more recently, new media and animation with a secret ceramics practice on the side.
* What does teaching offer you that creating your own artwork does not?
Working with other people to capture their creative visions is an ever-inspiring process. I am always so tickled by what my students make and how they choose to creatively solve the problems I set out for them. I am a very social person - and teaching is a great way to engage my social side with art-making. Growing strong relationships with each student is a priority in the work that I do. Each class is an opportunity to creatively collaborate and get to know so many new people and their creative expressions. I especially enjoy working with young people to make movies (live or animated). Older elementary school and higher students are discouraged from playing and imagining - but when making movies, students get to engage those creative muscles and really revel in the play of it. I deeply appreciate watching students go there and facilitating that process for them.
* What do you hope participants of your programs learn or come away with?
I want participants to come away with the idea that making art and being creative are rewarding endeavors in and of themselves, and that the process of getting from the beginning to the end of a project can be more valuable than the finished project. I also like to reinforce the moments in the creative process where participants have agency to make their own aesthetic or creative choices. I often emphasize the challenge that they are working on and that their job as the artist is to work through that challenge.
* What projects or programs have you been working on recently?
This winter I’ve been busy! I went up to Stephen and Argyle, Minnesota, which are about 50 miles from Canada and 25 miles from North Dakota, three times this winter to work with students from grades 3rd through 12th grade on making movies and digital stories. In March, I did a residency at Maxfield Elementary here in St. Paul making animations with the 4th grade. And I also did a couple quick animated gif workshops over in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, recently with middle schoolers.
* You’ve been on the COMPAS roster for about four years now, what’s it like to be a COMPAS artist?
I love getting to meet people all over the state, share my art forms with them, and see what they make. It’s a dream job. I also really like that the people at COMPAS have my back. Before I was on the roster, I was getting teaching artist gigs on my own. I landed in a few tricky situations where I wished I had had the support of an organization behind me in validating my requests, whether it be for the equipment I needed to do the work or for financial negotiations. I also really enjoy getting to meet other COMPAS artists. When we get together for our annual meeting, I can feel the experience and creativity bursting out of the room.
* Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?
Like I said in my bio earlier, I studied music in junior and senior high school. That was awesome, but I also really wanted to take fine art classes. There simply wasn’t room in my academic schedule for more than one art elective, though, and I always felt extremely frustrated with that. For me, the arts are vital to how I relate to the world, how I input and output information, how I synthesize information and ideas, how I engage as a citizen, and so forth. I see arts as the center point of academics - all other disciplines can be mediated, experienced, explored, and digested through the arts. As if other academic disciplines created a multi-pointed asterisk/star and the arts lie at the center focal point. I think that arts education has the possibility to open up a space to consider our ecological, social, economical context by working to reveal the complexity of our belief systems and the emotional responses that inform the decisions we choose to make. And for that reason, I believe it is indispensable.
* In addition to your work at COMPAS, you also work at the Science Museum. Do you see benefits in teaching the arts and sciences simultaneously? What are they?
My own art practice encompasses thorough research into historical and scientific topics as the starting point for most of my projects. Because of that, I really see art as a way to encourage community-dialogues about pertinent topics, using art to synthesize complex ideas into a digestible, thought-provoking package. I have never put much stock in the idea that academic disciplines are as separate as they are constructed to be within our current educational model. I think that the natural inquiry we all have about the world around us (aka “science”) is as vital to art-making as the skill of holding a brush or a pencil.
* Does living in Minnesota have any influence on your work?
Throughout my youth, my family relocated numerous times from coast to coast and throughout the Midwest due to my father’s job in the resource extraction industry. As a result, I have never been able to determine where I am actually “from.” During 2012, I worked at the Minnesota State Capitol as an historical interpreter, and while there, I learned more about Minnesota history than I had ever before been able to retain about any other place. That immersive year suddenly gave me a way of looking at this place, a lens of history with which to understand the present.
Recently, I started to integrate some of that research into my work. Starting in 2014, I began developing a three-channel interactive video installation Where Do We Go From Here? that explores the possibilities of what our planet, specifically Minnesota’s Upper Mississippi River Valley, will look like 150 years from now. Using scientific research and historical analysis, Where Do We Go From Here? combines hand-drawn animations with high-definition video of the Minnesota landscape and field recordings to imagine what the future may hold. I focused on the Upper Mississippi River Valley because it is a place of rich and stirring juxtapositions. At the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, sacred Dakota sites such as Mni Owe Sni – Coldwater Springs – stand alongside the nearly two-century-old Fort Snelling and the contemporary landmark of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Many places along its shores are still relatively wild, yet the river also serves as the location of two nuclear power plants and the largest coal-burning power plant in the state. In this work, I’m asking questions like Will the waters rise? Will the invasive species proliferate? Will the endangered survive? And what might be the ramifications of all this change?
* How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?
I think that making things and responding creatively to challenges is completely innate for me. I am a very intuitive artist, and I think that follows as well in my everyday life. I listen to my gut, I try to recognize the complexity of situations, and I create multiple possibilities for solutions or responses to the challenges I face. I think that way of thinking comes from being an artist, particularly from working as a conceptual artist.
We lost someone this week whose art I mostly loved, on occasion hated, and always felt pushed by: Jaime Carrera. He made provocative, weird art. The first time I saw him perform was the Choreographer's Evening in 2007? 2008? at the Walker Art Center. He stood naked in the middle of the stage except for a very long wig (like floor-length) and high heels. He swayed the hair back and forth then slowly posed in "muscle-man" poses. My parents, along with most other people there, couldn't stop talking about it. Nastalie and I were instantly in love and had to meet this person. Not long after, we performed with Jaime at countless cabarets and shows. He performed in my work, and I in his. The last work I saw of his was the most controversial, in my mind, I'd seen, at Patrick's Cabaret last June. I was offended and challenged by it. I didn't think it was one of his best pieces, nor did I think the offensive part was very purposeful or thought out, but it was Jaime. And I watched him revel in the controversy. I think, actually, that might even have been the last time I saw him. I wonder if he might have changed his mind about the piece as time passed, but now we'll never know. Nonetheless, I always felt very tender about him. In looking back through my archive, I found several very sweet exchanges between us over email and facebook. I am reflecting on how amazing it was that he agreed to be part of my 2010 Naked Stages piece. I think it wasn't really much his thing to be in other people's work, but for some reason, he said yes to me. Here's some excerpts:
And here are a few of my favorite pieces of his:
Here's a quick sample of what I'm doing. By tilting the tablet in my hands, I can move the smaller animation (fox) around the screen. By moving some of the sliders on my tablet, I can change the scale, contrast, etc. Step 1 towards making my installation interactive!