Wednesday, October 1, 2014
One week post radioactivity. Yesterday I thought I detected a very metallic taste and odor. Does radiation taste. It passed. Pink insulation on the side of the road reminds me of flesh. Flesh with blood drained out, fur thrown free. I soaked in the tub and scrubbed my skin until it gave up little radioactive flesh rolls that look like gray splinters. I take extra care when I rinse the bathtub but is it enough? I don't feel capable of dealing with radioactive material unsupervised. Is the radioactivity hiding there, an invisible cloud. Or is it just inside me. At the weekend, we decide not to make love, as a precaution. All of my secretions are suspect. I discard my toothbrush and used q-tips. At the border I set the radiation alarm off as predicted but inside behind a special closed door 2 detectors fail to read what's actually in me. The device guesses Industrial Barium. I wait 45 minutes and then am approved to go home. The exercise is ridiculous and the border officer jokes with me and I am forced to joke back. My flesh knows how to react to many situations. At the hospital before the scan they wrap me up in warm blankets and the bed vibrates gently as they image me from head to toe. I drift in and out, it is not unpleasant, my flesh relaxes and I stay so still, I want to make a good image.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I am now radioactive. 4mc. I have managed to make it to this moment despite feeling so wimpy yesterday. I even slept well last night. There were a lot more people in the nuke med waiting room today. An 80 yr old woman and her 50 something daughter waiting for testing, a woman with her husband dozing in a wheelchair. A single girl with a pink iPhone and slicked down hair. And me and my umbrella. My song for today is Radioactivity by Kraftwerk. I say this sort of tongue-in-cheek but somehow it lightened my mood about the whole thing.
I learned a bunch of new stuff about Facebook today and the algorithms that control our experience there which I have known but today it really hit home. I have been really exploring my feelings about Social Media lately. I forgot about the treatments and thought about the future for a little while. So that was good.
I'm fine, itchy but fine.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Thinking about William Morris
Between you and me, I'm overwhelmed. Everything feels very touch and go. I am one day away from swallowing the prescribed radioactive iodine and I can't say I don't have reservations about what is about to take place. I've been to the hospital twice in two days to receive a shot deep into my ass muscle that will hide the effects of the synthetic hormone Liothyronine during the prescribed nuclear scan.
I discovered a few days ago that I have likely been under dosing my Liothyronine. My lifeline. I've been brain foggy and was feeling like my world was closing in on me. I was pretty sure it was the early signs of dementia, seriously. I was doing everything slowly. I found myself in a kitchen filled with young people buzzing about and I could not keep up with the conversation. It was frightening. I thought it was hunger from the prescribed diet and that was probably a factor but it wasn't the whole story. In 9 months I have gone from having one healthy thyroid that I thought worked pretty well—although now I have some doubts—to half a healthy thyroid, and now no thyroid. At first the medication made me jittery so backing off on it seemed the right thing to do but I went too far obviously.
I am struck. I am without a part of my body that I barely noticed or even understood and now I am tasked with accepting the reality of living with a dependency on medication that I don't quite recognize the effects of. It all makes me want to break down and cry. In the hospital yesterday morning waiting for Mark to park the car I just wanted to weep big poor-me-tears. In that vast waiting area, so somber, so many sick people coming in and out. It felt scary and bewildering. I felt lonely there and loneliness is not something I generally think about but this whole process makes me feel profoundly lonely. It is my job alone to carry my body through this medical obstacle course. The shots make me feel sick so I can't do too much, the whole thing is distracting me from what I would rather be thinking about. Stress causes cancer you know. This is the ridiculousness of the whole exercise. Dealing with cancer can give you cancer.
My friend who has the same cancer as me but in more sites started her low-iodine odyssey yesterday. I stopped by today to give her a hug. She reminded me that I was almost done. Friday is the scan and then I can return to normal. Another new normal.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Lunch of turkey, tomato, baba ghanouj, hummus, cashews and banana.
Here I am on Monday again. 8 days into the diet. I think I am doing a reasonable job but I must admit I am hungry. We sailed on Saturday and on our way home I bought a huge container of cashews (unsalted) and stood outside the store eating them, I resisted the urge to open them in the store and start gorging myself before I had even paid for them. I couldn't go any farther without eating something. So there I stood in an underground parking lot on 4th avenue in Vancouver oblivious to everything, trying to get my blood sugar back up. The danger with this diet is avoiding defaulting to too much sugar and choosing protein instead, but finding protein that is free of salt is tough also.
Beyond all the diet issues of the last week I had to face some other tough issues in my personal life. Learning to reign in my enormous ability to be horrible to those around me when I am feeling frustrated. I have dented something sacred and will work harder to control myself. I cannot afford to lose one ounce of the love I am the recipient of.
I saw my stepmother on Sunday and was moved by how much she has deteriorated since I last saw her in the Spring. She did not know me, could not meet my gaze. I choked back my sad tears and held her hands, moistening them with some nice cream and massaging them, and her arms and shoulders gently. I told her little stories adding little physical actions, walking my fingers across her small hands, making little nibbles on her arms with my fingers and scratching her head. The story was about fleas. She smiled into her lap but never looked at me. Someone is in there, somewhere.
I went home and felt grateful for my crappy lunch and my ability to feed myself and for the person across from me who loves me so well. We sailed in the afternoon and somehow the conversation of the day before helped us both work together better getting the boat in and out of the water with mutual cooperation and kindness. I am humbled.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
So I started my low iodine diet yesterday. It's advertised as a 2 week process but it turns out it's really for 3 weeks ending with a nuclear scan. I suspect in the third week you feel so weird from being shot up with all the crap they put into you pre-scan, eating might not matter that much. When I first started this process last December I had total faith in every step of it. This radioactive bit has me concerned. I don't relish being vaguely poisoned, but I am going along with it. I am nothing if not a good dutiful girl.
The long and short of this diet is no dairy, or anything containing iodine which is a dubious substance and is not really listed in the ingredients of things. Oh well. I eat whole food, I should be fine. No seafood for 3 weeks.
So... that leaves a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts. The challenge for me will be to avoid sugar as a way to comfort myself. Poor me. Boo Hoo.
Yesterday I ate the following:
Blueberries, home-made granola, ginger tea, raw cashews, dates, carrots, more cashews. Avocado, coleslaw, baba ghanouj. More dates, cashews now gone. Wine. Almonds. Brown rice, various greens, onions, celery, beef, fresh ginger. One measly piece of crystalized ginger covered in white sugar.
At some point during the day it occurred to me that instead of thinking about food and feeling grumpy I could get busy. I made tomato sauce with some of the bounty from the Urban Farm. And wouldn't you know it, I was cheered up right away.
Went to the big vintage trailer meet last weekend. It was a good one for sure. I still can't quite believe the absurdity of this event and my role in it but I find the people to be so interesting and sincere. We listened to some musicians play by campfire and had a big out of tune sing along. Pearl sitting next to me exclaiming "this is wonderful". And it was. Here are some pictures! I even managed some sketches as well as some knitting.
Friday, September 5, 2014
The architect and artist Maya Lin (Photo by Walter Smith)
Maya Lin on Using Art to Awaken Audiences to Our Ecological Plight
By Andrew M. Goldstein
Aug. 29, 2014
World-famous from the day she won the commission for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while still a 21-year-old undergraduate at Yale, Maya Lin evolved into one of the most versatile practitioners of architecture today, designing everything from private residences to corporate compounds to the memorials that she terms "memory works." From the beginning, she has also pursued a parallel and often intersecting career as a fine artist, creating subtle yet impactful sculptures and installations—such as the renowned Wave Field at Storm King—that are aimed at making viewers aware of the sensitive ecology surrounding them.
Lin is now the subject of a concentrated survey at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, featuring artworks that make visible, in transmuted form, the region's waterways. The show essentially revolves around various modes of cartography: on the wall are silver sculptures shaped like bodies of water in the Hamptons—including the iconic Georgica Pond—as well as the epic Pin River — Sandy, an assemblage of countless tiny metal pins that delineate the watery footprint left by Hurricane Sandy. Then, as the centerpiece, there are also three nested rings of marble whose surfaces are topographical sections of New York City, the equator, and the arctic circle. It's a quiet presentation, and one that draws the visitor to meditate on the power and precariousness of the substance that has fascinated Lin throughout the course of her career: water.
To explore the themes embedded within the work, Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew M. Goldstein spoke to Lin about her show, on view through October 13.
What is the concept behind the show?
The works in the exhibition incorporate my interest in mappings and focusing attention on natural terrain or phenomena—I like to be site-specific—so I started looking at the environment of the Hamptons. I created Pin River – Sandy for an earlier exhibition that focused attention on New York, and it was a natural to include it at the Parrish since so much of the flooding occurred along the coastal areas. The three bodies of water cast in recycled silver bring into play my interest in revealing the figure/ground reversal of looking at the water as the positive of the map rather than negative space—something we don't focus as much attention on. This show combines my interest in utilizing scientific approaches like cartography and satellite views to reveal aspects of the natural world that we may not be thinking about.
Your work has been positioned within the legacy of Land Art since your first project, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which presented a stark black gash of stone as a wound in the earth itself. You have specifically been working with water since your second installation, Aligning Reeds, in which you planted blue metal rods amid reeds on a riverbank near Yale. What is it about bodies of water that you find so compelling as a subject for art?
Perhaps it's because of water's ability to easily exist in three states—ice, mist or steam, and liquid—and that it's so transmutable in form, or perhaps because it's so critical for life on earth. We just aren't thinking about how degraded these freshwater and ocean systems are.
For your Civil Rights Memorial, you inscribed the wall behind one of your cascading "water tables" with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "… until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Do you also treat water symbolically—or metaphorically—in your work, and if so, how?
I think mapping and cartography approaches water more in its exactitude, and in a somewhat analytic form. The water tables probably come the closest to treating water as a metaphor, with the quiet underground groundswell of information and the stillness of the water until you touch the flat table's surface. But in my new sculptures I'm interested in seeing or revealing actual existing waterways, and trying to see them as whole systems.
In much of your recent work, including Pin River — Sandy, you use a multitude of small components to make up a sweeping whole. In 2011, for instance, you filled one of Pace's Chelsea galleries with thousands of wooden blocks at various heights that together created a giant undulation resembling a wave-like topographical map. What inspires you to take this approach?
It depends on the form I'm sculpting. Water can be seen with more defined edges sometimes—we all tend to map a river as a solid line—but at times water, especially in estuaries or in certain riverine conditions, is much more about dispersal and floodplains. Think of estuaries, salt marshes, or the ambiguity in coast plains. I find the pins to be much better at formally capturing that dispersal, and the ambiguity between land and water.
You're known for making work that's extraordinarily ecologically conscious, drawing your viewers' attention to the catastrophic effects of climate change and the depredation of our natural resources. What do you hope these viewers will take away from experiencing your art?
Curiosity—and a desire to pay closer attention to the natural worlds.
The Parrish refers to you as "one of the most important public artists of our time." Do you think of yourself as a "public" artist, and if so, what does that mean?
I think the "public" part comes from my earlier works, but in the past decade I've found much more of a balance between the outdoor public works and the museum and gallery exhibits. It's just that the large-scale outdoor works came to attention first—even though the smaller scaled artworks have really been the genesis for almost all my work.
You're working now on something called "What Is Missing," a project intended to bring attention to habitat loss and other ecological crises that has been described as your final memorial. Could you talk a little bit about what this project is, and how it came about?
I've been drawn to memorials in the past—the Vietnam memorial, the Civil Rights Memorial, the Women's Table, the Confluence Project—and they're basically history or memory works that focus attention on some of the key sociopolitical shifts in our time. I was approached to do those works, but I've known for almost 20 years that I myself would instigate the project that would be my last memorial, "What Is Missing?," and that it would complete the series. I almost always work in series—it affords me the chance to study a subject more in depth. I knew that "What Is Missing?" would be the project that would take my concern for the environment and the subject of species and habitat loss and transform it into a memorial.
For me, memorials are and always have been a way we can look at history and learn from past events—to see history not in a didactic manner, but to simply present facts and allow people to absorb them and then decide on their own what they'll take away from it. In "What Is Missing?" I do focus on what has been and is being lost, but I also have stepped much more into advocacy at times by presenting information about what each one of us can do to help. I'm currently working on the last part, "Greenprint," which will envision plausible future scenarios that will balance our needs with those of the planet. As an artist, perhaps I can put these issues in a new light—to get us to think differently about what the issues are and what the solutions could be.
What other projects are you working on now?
I am installing an exhibition in Madrid for Ivory Press entitled "Rivers and Mountains," and I have another show that will open at the Brower Center at Berkeley focused on "What is Missing?" and the San Francisco Bay. I'll also be exhibiting and discussing "What is Missing?" at the Nevada Museum of Art—this is all in September.
At the same time, I'm building out the last two parts of the Confluence Project, which focuses attention on the history of the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. On the architecture front, I'm in the process of building the Novartic headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with private residences in New York and Colorado.
So it's a balance between the art, architecture, and the memory works.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
I spent a lot of time in the library this August while my daughter attended Driver's Education class in the town next to mine. Mostly I worked and tried not to look at books but eventually the temptation was too much and one day I walked straight up to and grabbed "Breakfast of Champions" from the staff pics book display. I went straight back to atrium and began to read. I read "Breakfast of Champions" the first time when I was around 15. It rarely occurs to me to read something again but in this case I felt like it was the right thing to do. I had no idea how much Vonnegut's world view shaped my own at that tender age. I guess I am grateful for it although reading the book again 40 years after it was written is slightly depressing. All of the things he shed light on about human behavior has not changed one iota. We're ruining the planet and our cultures. What would he say about the Kardashians and the tendency in the media to manipulate the population into caring about things that really have no bearing on our existence here on earth. I finished the book yesterday and I feel a bit melancholy today. I worry about the future and it's hard to keep under wraps. So that's what I'm dragging around.
Friday, August 29, 2014
It's always a bit bumpy the first few days back to school. The air is changing, invisible bubbles filled with cool air pop as I move past them. I reminded myself of this, this morning while I walked on the road. It's always a bit bumpy the first few days back. Visiting summer guests have left, laundry is folded. Only bird voices on the deck. Nuts dropping on the garage roof.
I took this photo at Golden Ears Provincial Park. There are old growth stumps in these woods as big as cars. I stood there and tried to imagine what it must have looked like. The trees were monsters and much farther apart in contrast to these 3rd growth Fir that seem to be packed tight, barely any light coming through the canopy. I am reminded of Emily Carr of course. She got to see the old growth forests firsthand. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have little interest in painting the woods but I like to take the odd picture if the light is just right. This is in keeping with my naturalist spirit.
I am feeling at sixes and sevens, not quite here, not quite there. I need to get back to work of course, break the summertime habits of broken up time and late starts. Make some fucking money! With 10 empty hours stretched out ahead of me I felt a bit directionless and on edge this week. I've let a lot of things slide over the summer and the danger is to think about them all at once. I decide to be kind and take a few days to adjust to what is coming next.
I decide to mow the lawn.
Running the lawnmower means you have to be aware of your extremities and the grasses extremities and all the plants too. So it gave me some time to think about various things while performing a physical task which seems to help the brain make sense of things. Change is always a bit startling and I think it's important to sort of sit with things sometimes.
There is no point in arguing with my inertia when it comes to certain work. It's an ugly road to go down so I think it's reasonable to surrender and do something else rather than grouse and do nothing. As far as art goes. I have no answers. I'm thinking. I'm reading. All I know is when I slip into making something time passes and I feel productive. Those questions, why? Why do it? Why this? are quick to appear though and honestly I am baffled about it all. I try to carry on.
Even now, blogging with the pressure of a client deadline looming over me, I am having a hard time feeling committed to the activity of writing but I also can't stop myself because the longer I write the more I sink into it the more is revealed. Sorry to constantly repeat that metaphor for doing creative work, but that is how it feels to me, falling in, being overcome by, and I never know what I can reasonably put off while I take the time to explore this world of artmaking, whatever that means. Painting, sewing, felting, god forbid writing.
Today I spent time painting the big barn doors on my rental. It's a job that has been needing attention for two years. It took 3 hours. And I enjoyed doing it. Fuck! So the point is to do something and in between think about the projects I am working on and don't feel like I have to be at my desk to do this work, necessarily. The point is to accomplish something everyday and enjoy the process. Everyday could be rainbows and unicorns! The point is I have to work at all this stuff all the time and I can't stop because I want to find out what I have to say.
My dad at VAG with Douglas Coupland
I saw the Douglas Coupland show with my dad. We went spontaneously one Sunday afternoon in late July. We flew through it like a couple of maniacs, but it almost seemed like it was set up that way, the ideas were very clear, the pieces were well executed, it felt familiar, based on furnishings, pop art and everyday products. It was interesting. Smart and stylish with a narrative I could relate to. My dad was a bit skeptical, but it's no wonder. They are of different generations and DC has always been about a very generational specific viewpoint. My dad had trouble with the idea that a writer was making paintings. I can relate to the work, he is organizing the things he likes and understands and that is a damn good exercise and what I guess I am doing here.
P.S. My dad is fine. We've seen him a few times over the summer. I probably have a lot more to say on that topic but seeing this show with him was like exercising a long practiced ritual. My dad took me to the VAG at about age 10 when I first saw a work by Ed Ruscha.
It's starting to rain now. The cloud cover makes it darker than it really is. I did see the last gasp of the suns rays on the tops of the cedars to the east. The rain stops and starts, rattles the leaves, cools the air, breaks the tension.
School always starts on the Wednesday before Labor Day so that it takes 2 weeks before the kids have a full 5 day week. I appreciate this humane build up to full operating speed. After a two month break it takes time to get back to the routine of working long days. Practice, practice, practice, get back to the practice.