East Coast Road Trip to Brown

Thursday March 9th- After two frantic days of packing, Cam and I left after my middle school classes to begin our trip.  We detoured to the Mac store where my computer was being repaired, again.  Finally on the road, we arrived at 11:30 at our grad school friend, Brian Priest's apartment.  He was living in a very cool artist building.  He said that soon it would be converted and that many artists were not living in the space any longer.
Two of his long time artist friends came over, we got to hear about their lives as artists.  One was a photographer and his wife was making it big as a surrealist artist.  The other friend was a prolific painter, his day job was working at a printing business.  He brought us to his studio where we were able to view many of his works.  He was working with ways to use mass printing techniques in combination with hand painted elements.  He was painting highly detailed images of animals made from fractured triangular shapes, they reminded me of MC Escher and tiles I'd seen in Morrocco and Spain.  He had not had a show in several years, despite having an enormous body of work.  We talked about how he would have one and surprise everyone.  He was a dedicated artist and making was more important to him than exhibiting.  Brian shared many of his adventures traveling and exhibiting before we went to bed.  He had recentlty been to Germany, and felt he had found this place in the world.
Brian and I outside of his rehab project.
Friday March 10th- We woke up and ate brunch with Brian.  After eating, we went to see Brian's house he iwas fixing up.  There was a bike path recently added throughout downtown Indianapolis and near the art district.  Brian's house was here and it multiplied the value of his rehab.  All around him other homes were being flipped and in many cases modernized, at times with strange "Beetlegeuse" elements. (If you've seen the movie and remember their modern house).  Brian's house was very cool, an old Italianite, he had gutted it and was slowly rebuilding the structure.  We got to hear his vision for the house and walk around the framing.  I was energized to see how Brian's sculptural skills were being utilized to create a building, it was very similar to Cam's experience with our building.  While our visit with Brian was less than 24 hours, we were reminded how it is easy to catch up with good friends and the nature of the artist network- the way in which we can support each other by offering places for people to stay during travel or provide first hand accounts on the lives of places.
Old and New Stairwell Brian's house
We drove on towards Pittsburg.  Mid drive, we stopped at a massive antique mall, so large we did not get to see it all in an hour.  We didn't buy anything because we were trying to save money for our trip, but it did give me good insight into the history of places we were driving through.  I often think antique stores are like a vernacular history museum.
Raggedy Ann Collection
Arriving in Pittsburg late, we checked into our Air B and B and then went out to eat pizza.  At the restaurant, Cam and I got into an argument at the counter about who was ordering.  In retrospect it was funny, in the moment I felt irritated from hunger and the pressure of the line. The pizza was delicious good crust, with lots of cheese, we were used to sharing a thin STL style pizza medium which we could eat together, this larger medium became our lunch and snack the next day in the car.

Saturday March 11th- We woke up and drove to the Mattress Factory, a sculpture and installation space I had been hearing about for quite some time.  We started in a newer space that was occupying an old house down the street, it was filled with a collaborative ongoing installation made from objects original to the house and collected items.  It had a mix of video and sculptural elements utilizing things such as dollhouse miniatures, old furniture parts, magazines, and other ephemera.  I loved this space and thought we could easily have something like this in St. Louis.  We headed over to the larger building and walked through permanent and temporary exhibits.  Overall, there was a nice mix of sculpture and installation.  This was a great way to spend the morning.

Next we headed onto New Hope, PA.  We would be meeting our friends Alex and Tina at an Air B & B space in this hippie town.  We arrived before dinner time and spent some time catching up and meeting their adorable son Louis.  Tina had thankfully arranged some meals for cooking so we had a great home cooked meal. We stayed up late talking over wine laughing about what had been happening in our lives, as only old friends can do.

Sunday March 12th- Alex and Tina made a delicious breakfast.  We hung out and talked about the world as we were entertained by the ever energetic, Louis.  I sang some songs with him and we had fun watching him as he really got into playing with a broom and doing a comedic fall with the broom.  We drove into New Hope town and walked around.  I ate a delicious cookie from a small bakery and we went into a cute toy store. It was getting late, so we left town and headed into New York City.

Alex and Tina lived in Jackson Heights, they had offered us the ability to stay at their place that night.  We wanted to spend more time with them so we said, Yes! Meanwhile, the news was starting report a pending blizzard that would arrive on Monday night.  We ordered Indian Food, it was delicious.  That afternoon we hung out, listened to records, and Louis became my buddy.  He was in a super fun stage of life because he loved to do stuff and there was lots of discovery in everything.  We played playdoh, read books, he jumped on his trampoline, and he discovered he loved my water bottle.  That night Cam and I walked to the grocery store and bought snacks, we came back and we all hung out eating cheese, veggies, and drinking wine.  Alex had an amazing record collection so we enjoyed hearing all the music he had to share.  Cam has known Tina for a very long time, they went to school together, there was a way she could hear his life and reflect to him, that is very grounding for him, and nurturing, like a sister.  She also helped me, by letting me show some of my work that was going up at Brown and talking through what I was thinking.  (I had an artist talk to prepare).  This visit reminded me of that sometimes what the soul needs is not to be out doing a million things, but rather to just have quality conversations with old friends.

Cam and I with Louis.
Monday March 13th- Cam and I headed into the city with our backpacks. Tina and Alex offered that we could come back and stay with them the following night, if we could not leave town, due to the blizzard. We left our car and suitcases at their house.  We took the subway into the city and then headed to the New School to look at a show on Immigration.  On the way, we stopped by Strand books and I picked up a book to read for fun.  The New School show was great, one powerful piece was a wall of things that had been left along the border, these items were mostly backpacks, it was shocking to the see the scale of this installation, that itself replicated a wall, and also to imagine what had happened to the people that owned these items.  Another memorable series was the photo documentation of items found on unidentified bodies.  Leaving the space, Cam and I decided to just walk.  We went to a bookstore that specializes in Japanese papers and writing supplies.  Cam bought pens and I bought a book for Louis by my favorite kids author Taro Gomi.  Next, we went to our hotel in the upper west side.  After checking in, we ate Peruvian food at Pio, Pio.  We had pollo a la brasa and Chifa rice (chinese fried rice Peruvian style).  Back at the hotel, I worked on my artist talk.  It was weighing on my mentally to the point that I felt like I was avoiding it so I sat in the bed and wrote.  As a treat, we went out before bed to try the cookies at Momo Fuku.  I had a compost cookie that was delicious.  Cam tried their cereal milk, which tasted like Cap'n Crunch milk, not my thing, but apparently people love this stuff. As we walked back we looked for Cam's Uncle's apartment he had lived in during this thirties.  Cam visited him there as a 10 year old.  I liked to imagine young Cam walking around the city.
Installation of backpacks at exhibit "State of Exception"
Tuesday March 14th- The blizzard came, and it was not quite a blizzard, but nonetheless, everything was shut down and I once again found myself in New York with the wrong shoes. (No snow shoes) On my phone, I looked up all the art spaces I'd planned to visit, closed, closed, closed. The hotel recommended a diner nearby, so we ate there.  Outside I watched people walk by all bundled up, the streets were quieter than usual, and I saw kids stop to play in the snow.  The only thing open was the movie theater at Lincoln center and so Cam and I headed there to see the James Baldwin Film, "I am Not your Negro".  We walked towards Central Park, trying to avoid the massive snow drifts formed by the plows.  The park was a beautiful site, people of all ages were sledding.  A man brought bird food for the pigeons and I watched them fly around.  A group started an impromptu snow ball fight. I enjoyed seeing so many people having fun on this day off.  When we entered the movie theater, I was surprised to see no one there.  After a few moments a few people arrived, but it felt like a private screening.  The film was fantastic and I have been thinking about it since the screening. I especially liked how contemporary footage and movie icon were woven throughout the film to illustrate false American mythologies.  I am still thinking about Baldwin's ending question: Why did white people invent or need the idea of "negro"?  The content helped me write my talk and will no doubt contribute to future work.

Sledding at Central Park
Birds in Flight
We went back to Jackson Heights and stopped at an empanada store for a snack. Yum, just like our favorite snack in Chile! Back at Alex and Tina's house, we settled into hanging out with them for the night.  I played with Louis, now my BFF.  Their home was a welcome refuge from the cold snow storm and it was so comforting to spend time with them, it made use feel like we were on vacation.
Amazing yellow at the Empanada restaurant.
Wednesday March 15th-  We needed to get to Providence.  First Cam and I spent an hour digging out the van.  We only had minor fights, so I considered that a success.  After saying goodbye, to Tina and Louis, we drove towards Providence. The roads weren't that bad.  We stopped at an amazing sandwich shop in Connecticut.  Then we decided to drive along the coast between CT and RI.  We passed through some cute beach towns with names like, Mystic and Narrangansett.  Cam and I got out in Narragansett and stretched our legs while we drank coffee.  We walked towards the water, I was surprised to see surfers on that chilly day.  Around 6pm, we arrived in Providence.  Liz Wolfson met us at the Gallery space at John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities.  We were staying in the carriage space in the apartment above.  Liz took us to a great restaurant where I ate a brussel sprouts salad.  We talked over dinner about her program, the schedule of events, our lives.  After dinner we had beer at local bar that reminded me of Cheers.  The bartender said "here's you sushi" and gave us a bowl of goldfish.  It was a nice touch.  Back at the apartment, I worked on my artist talk and then went to bed.

Thursday March 16th- We woke up and then headed down the street to a coffee shop that served bagel sandwiches (Cam's fav. east coast tradition).  After breakfast, we found the copy store so I could print out my talk.  Back at the building/museum I tested out my computer with the equipment in the lovely grand room where I would be speaking.  I was nervous but ready to get the talk over.  Nervous to talk to so many scholars, and to try to keep it concise and under a 1/2 hr,  this was certainly a challenge for me.  The professors and staff arrived and they began to set up food for the talk.  Their tradition was to serve food that people could enjoy during the talk.  I presented.  I think it went pretty well and I spoke with people afterwards. One professor relayed that her students had a hard time thinking of their own white racial identity and they got into a heated discussion over my work because of this problem.  Another friend Annie, from Kirkwood, was there and that was special to connect with her across the county in part because she was so familiar with the world I grew up in.  After the talk, we went with Liz to buy things for the opening.  She told us about Brown and gave us a small tour.  It was nearing opening time, so we went back to the Gallery.  I had a great time meeting with people and talking about the work.  I learned something new and the powerful conversations I had about race, identity, and whiteness, are moving into future works. I met a woman that was researching how minstrel shows traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  I spoke with another woman extensively about the representations of food in my artwork.  I ended the opening talking with Annie and her friend about our experiences of researching family histories. Annie relayed some of the problematic aspects of DNA tests.  After the opening, we went to dinner at a vegetarian restaurant and enjoyed talking with Liz.  We got to hear her history as a political organizer and grassroots radio DJ.  That night, the school put us up at the Hilton we had an enormous King size bed.  Fun.

Presentation room
Installation Shot
Pre Opening
Self Portrait in Mirror
Friday March 17th- Cam and I got coffee and then headed to the gallery to take down the show.  It went amazingly fast and without any fights. After finishing, we texted Liz and then went to a cute downtown area where we visited an antique store and a record shop.  I bought old photos to use as a painting references and a Van Morrison record I'd been wanting.  We met Liz for lunch before heading out of town.  It was sad to say goodbye to her, and I felt so thankful for all the work she had done to coordinate the show.  She knew how to take care of an artist and make them feel valued.  She has some upcoming projects and news for STL and I can't wait to see what happens....
We drove onto Philadelphia.  While the distance was not far, we did not anticipate how crazy the traffic would be.  Everywhere we went there was traffic and accidents.  We made it into Philly late.
We were staying with our friend Morgan and his girlfriend Sharon.  They helped us park and settle in and then we went to a bar that had delicious food.  I ate pozole and had an amazing carrot glazed with a Moroccan sauce.  The craziest thing was, we ran into Mike Stasny, a friend from St. Louis in the bar!  After dinner, we headed towards another neighborhood to go to a brewery located above an Ethiopian restaurant.  On our way we saw a younger kid get his mini stuck in the ice.  We all worked to help him push his car out.  We ended our night at another bar, where I drank a delicious sour beer.
Painter's palette and studio view.
Morgan as Schiele painting.
Saturday March 18th- Sharon made us french toast for breakfast! After breakfast we went out with Morgan to see some shows.  We saw a show on African American Art Collectives in Chicago at Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, we saw a show about the mixing of Photography and Sound art at Penn, and then we saw a show about Environmentalism at Haverford College called Resistance after Nature.  Of note was the Feminist collective that made a net to trap plastics in the ocean and then displayed these small plastics. After the shows, we went to a brewery for a drink and I ate cauliflower tacos.  (Did I mention Morgan loves breweries).  We picked up Sharon and went to heaven - or an enormous building with boxes of vintage clothes you can dig through and buy called Sazz Vintage Clothing.  I found several dresses.  Next we went to eat at a Korean restaurant. We  could not stop laughing about Sharon's soup, it was so hot it had steam coming off through the end of our meal. Finally we went to a bar where their favorite bartender works. He wasn't there, but they were playing Bikini Kill, so I was happy.
Flags installed at ICA-Philadelphia
Presentation of plastics polluting the ocean.
Sazz Vintage Clothing Inside
Sazz Vintage Clothing Outside
Remains of our Korean Feast
Sunday March 19th-Big Drive day.  Morgan took us to a brunch spot.  After eating, Cam and I got on the road for the long drive back.  Believe it or not we had fun.  We talked about our trip.  I read some books. We listened to all our music.  We played games like "What 10 albums would you bring to the a dessert island?" or  "What are the top 10 bands of all?".  We had the sort of conversations that come out only during a road trip at night when it is you, music, and car lights.

This was a great trip.
Artwise- I took on the challenge of crating an entire show.  I worked with a curator friend remotely.  I gave a talk.  I was inspired by new work. I had conversations that moved me further in my own thinking.
Friendwise- We got to catch up with many friends.  We realized the similarities of our lives and struggles.  We got to see them in their day to day life. We relaxed, ate good food, and thought about the world.


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