Archive for April, 2011

Transcendence: Mooring the Storm at Frog Hollow in Burlington, VT

An Installation process taking place during the month of April, 2011 by Carol MacDonald and Erik Rehman

*** if you haven’t read the beginning of this, please go to April posts and see it from the beginning.

Day 7: Thursday, April 21st

While we were away my dear friend Martha brought in a beautiful bouquet of daffodils. They are the perfect antidote for the yellow  POLICE DO NOT CROSS tape that is wrapping part of the figure.

Today we continued to wrap the figure. I started with some pink and lavender mohair yarn. warm and fuzzy… and then started using some stronger red, teal, purples, etc. Above is a picture of Erik wrapping. It looks like he’s playing the cello as he passes the material around the figure. We are working with the idea of creating a cocoon.  A safe space to go within, a space of transformation.

The final Thorns and Roses piece went up. I had reprinted the blocks to work in this space.  It works really well with the pussy willows.  I’m also excited about the juxtaposition of the angle of the thorns with the angle of the branches in Erik’s tree drawing.

We also switched out the dragonfly overlays. There are now about six layers of dragonflies.  They are very translucent and the black paper behind them creates depth as the dragonflies dart back and forth.

The final survivor piece went up. It is a blue square with the word love and a drawn heart. These pieces form an aura around the figure space of the door. Erik has rebuilt the shelves for his sculptures, simplifying and minimizing them.  The shadows cast by the sculptures are much more interesting. We rearranged the table and pedestal, bringing the figure closer to the door.

Day 8: Saturday, April 23

Today is the final work day. We are both looking forward to finishing up.  Holding the space of this project and sustaining the installation over the month has been a lot.

The Puzzle Journey piece went up along the top of the tree wall. We took down the tracing paper and paper dolls. This piece is done on four pieces of 40″ x 9″ paper. I knew that it was too long for this space, but there are places where we can overlap the panels and I was really hoping it would work out reasonably well. I put linen tape tabs on them to be able to tack them up. I want this piece which essentially forms a time line of the healing process to go along the top edge of the room. When my children were small we had a border of clowns and circus animals in their room. It was bright  and cheerful.  As much of this healing work is done in the waking hours, it seems an appropriate place to have the visual reference of these images.  I climbed up on the tall ladder and put the first and last panel up and then started filling in with the middle ones. With some adjustments it fit perfectly! Amazing -I hope it works as well in the other spaces.

Wrapping the figure is the final step. We want it totally covered and so we took turns.  This wrapping part has been the one piece that we both physically worked on.  I brought in a really old , incredibly soft and threadbare cotton blanket which we tore into strips and tied together. Tarletan, which is used in intaglio printing to wipe plates was also torn. One had a lovely teal hue to it and the other raw sienna and spring green. Cheesecloth, yarns and thin string. I realized that 20 years ago in the early 90’s when I was doing my own work around childhood abuse, I made big drawing and paintings of this same cocoon form. Here we were making the same image but in 3-D.

When the wrapping was complete, we lay the figure on the ground. No longer having to stand. Able to go into it’s cocoon or pupae of transformation. The ball of yarn starts with the tree trunk goes up and across and down the other side, winds through the door and then forms an umbilical cord to the cocoon on the ground wrapping itself around it many times and then laying and waiting expectantly on the ground beside it.

I’m still ruminating on my thoughts about this process. Honoring each person’s story and experience and working to visually reclaim those lost parts  has been my guiding principle. It seems like this is one of those pieces that has come through me. I have relied on my intuition, trusting the thoughts that filtered through my psyche.  Letting each thought and piece develop over however much time was needed. It has stretched me as an artist and as a person.   I have had to discover how to use new tools and processes. Erik has been an amazing person to collaborate with. I treasure his quiet manner, quirky sense of humor and wisdom. I am grateful to Tony and Cathleen from the Women’s Rape Crisis Center for coordinating the interviews and all of the work they have done and to Rob Hunter from Frog Hollow who had the idea for this project and has supported us every step of the way.

Blessings, Carol

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Transcendence: Mooring the Storm at Frog Hollow in Burlington, VT

An Installation process taking place during the month of April, 2011 by Carol MacDonald and Erik Rehman

*** if you haven’t read the beginning of this go to April posts and see if from the beginning.

Day 3 – Thursday April 14th

The brown ball of yarn rolled over and touched the figure today. having made contact, we changed the simple mousey brown yarn to this beautiful multi strand hand dyed wool with a variety of earthy colors. It has a bit of a curl and a liveliness that the other didn’t have.  We took down the brown yarn tree outline and re-established the line with this new yarn. It corresponds with springtime; the trees starting to bud out and shift colors. We have come to think about the yarn as an umbilical cord to the cut out (door) figure.

I had not done any sanding or scraping into the figure. I had done that to the door.  I decided that the figure needed to be worked on. I scraped and sanded into it’s heart space, uncovering the many layers of paint. I took a hammer and pounded on it at which point the joints of the wood panels let go. I worked on both sides of it. There is more scarring on the side that you see inside the gallery. I thought about how we often feel on the inside versis what we present to the public. Survivors are usually masters at masking how we really feel and putting on a strong front in public. I know that for myself, I spent years overcompensating and overdoing.  So although there is some scarring on what you see from outside of the window, the inside view is more severe.

When I was done I managed to reglue the pieces of the door back together. Humor has become an integral part of this process.  One thing that I have come to love about being a survivor of trauma is that it seems to instill a quirky sense of humor and appreciation of the sublime.  Erik is a great partner in this.   When I had the figure reglued we needed some weight to hold it all together. Erik grabbed a pedestal and plopped it down and there we were with the feet sticking out like the wicked witch of the west.  “There’s No Place Like Home…..” I took off my red clogs and put them on the figures’ feet and we cracked up. By Friday morning the figure was back on it’s feet.  Metaphors just keep showing up!

Erik hung his drawing of a tree in a boat made of saws…..

“the tree rooted into a boat constructed of saws:

their reductive function transformed into a vehicle of transportation.”

I put the bottom layer of dragonflies, which are white printed on black paper. it gives depth to the piece. I am still waiting for the other final layers that I printed to dry.

Also a vellum piece by a survivor went up over the Inanna sculpture. It looks like two pages in a book. One crumpled and one smooth.

Day 6: Saturday, April 16th

I was able to pick up the final “Vive” piece today from the sandblasters. Jack Lazarowski down at Conant Metal and Light did a great job and Steve Conant generously donated the job. It is 22″ x30″ and we were able suspend it in the window using fishing line. It activates that side of the space and creates a bit of privacy.

We started to wrap the door with yarn. We started off with the brown yarn that had been the initial tree line and then switched to blue and then brown.  I tore some strips of gauze and wrapped that around the heart space and feet. A piece of “Police Do Not cross” tape went around it’s lower midsection.  That was hard and we decided to leave the figure in that vulnerable, wounded space but such is the reality of this process. We will continue the wrapping on Thursday.

Erik hung the puzzle man drawing……

“The man reclaiming lost pieces of himself: reforming, regaining, buoyancy.

Driving home, I wished we had been working with a video person and could have gotten this installation process on film. Especially the transformation of the door and the process that the figure is playing out.

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Trancendence continued

Transcendence: Mooring the Storm at Frog Hollow in Burlington, VT

An Installation process taking place during the month of April, 2011 by Carol MacDonald and Erik Rehman

*** if you haven’t read the beginning of this go to April posts and see if from the beginning.

Day 3 – Thursday April 7th

Today we installed shelves for Erik’s clay sculptures. They are placed on either side of the door within the tree line. The nest is placed a bit lower so that you can look down into the nest.

This sculpture is based on Inanna, Sumerian goddess of love and war,

she descended to hell where she met her stepsister who hung her on a hook;

surviving, she reclaimed her power through embracing her shadow.

Erik’s tree drawing went up over the door. He writes:
The tree lifting fallen hands,
Hands lifting the felled tree
Whose leaves are eyes.
Yarrow grows
At it’s base, an herb
that stops bleeding.

On the pedestal that had held the nest, we placed a few of the red and brown paper dolls, which I used in the Puzzle Journey piece. They bring in some stronger color.  Behind them is a small version of the frosted glass “Vive” piece. I will get a larger version sand blasted to hang in the window.

The ball of yarn has crept further along the floor and come through the door.  Above the nest is a piece by a survivor with a butterfly and leaf. The pussy willows have started to bloom. Or whatever it is that pussy willows do. Yellow pollen appearing. Above the pussy willows is the start of the rose and thorn piece. I need to reprint it in a vertical form as the original square format is too big for this space.

Day 4: Saturday, April 9th

The paper dolls moved up to the puzzle tracing along the top of the wall. We positioned them as they are in the final piece which will be appearing in the final week. Placing the paper dolls really draws attention and activates the top of the wall. The ball of yarn rolled over to the window. A folded origami piece from a survivor went onto the door above the figure cutout.

Erik’s drawing of the dragonfly:
A dragonfly emerged
From the body that crawled
From the drowning element;
It’s wings drying,
Soon to fly.

At this midpoint in our process – we decided to bring out the figure, that was cut from the door. This figure represents the displaced self. It is in the far side of the window – quite removed from the original door. The figure has started it’s journey….

Erik and I will be working at Frog Hollow next on Thursday, April 14th from 3 -5.

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Frog Hollow Gallery, 85 Church St, Burlington, VT

April 1- 30

Frog Hollow, in partnership with the Burlington Women’s Rape Crisis Center, presents “Transcendence” an exhibit featuring Frog Hollow artisans Carol MacDonald and Erik Rehman taking their experience interviewing survivors of sexual violence as a stimulus to create unique, inspirational work which embodies the healing journey and depicts a sense of hope.

The artwork, which focuses on the survivor recovery process, will be publicly created and installed throughout the month of April in the front window of Frog Hollow in an effort to raise awareness regarding sexual violence and survivor recovery in the Burlington Community.

Once completed the work will tour the state of Vermont in an effort to raise awareness statewide regarding resources for survivors of sexual violence before final installation of the work takes place in April 2012 in the Laura Winterbottom room at the Burlington WRCC headquarters.

Blog by Carol MacDonald:

In this blog I want to chronicle the development of the exhibition and write about some of the ideas and thinking that went into the work.

Erik and I were asked to make art out of survivor’s stories. They were to be written and we would respond visually. However, it turned out that the survivors wanted to speak to us directly so we spent two months interviewing, witnessing the stories of nine survivors, both men and women. We very consciously held the space of healing in this process. Being able to meet with each person made each story even more powerful. Images and healing patterns emerged. Every person we talked to started off whole, then their lives came apart and had to be put back together again. It struck me that healing sexual violence is a forced march throu the depths of one’s psyche.

Having done my own work in this realm in the early 90’s, I knew that following my intuition was the only way that this project could work. That means allowing a lot of time and space for ideas to emerge. They often show up for me around 3 AM or in the shower or in the process of a mile long swim at the Y.

Megan James wrote an article about the project which is at http://www.7dvt.com/2011frog-hollow-exhibition-progress -conveys-horror-and-healing-sexual-abuse

4/1/11 : Initial Installation of Exhibition

Tonight we planted the seeds of the ideas we have been working with. So far it is very spare, almost ethereal.  The door  piece is inside the tree marked in brown yarn on the wall.  The lights cast amazing shadows into the center of the void space where the figure has been cut out. There is an old skeleton key hung in the vacant figure’s heart space.

To the left is Erik’s drawing of a woman sitting on a stump fishing into her shadow and a pedestal with puzzle pieces on it. To the right are the white dragonflies printed on tracing paper and underneath on a pedestal is the nest with clay figure curled up within. Above the whole thing runs the graphite rubbing on tracing paper of the collagraph plates I made for the healing timeline piece.

The Door:

The door idea showed up as a way to visually embody the reference to generational abuse. Many survivors spoke of their mother, grandmother’s aunts, uncles, the familial chain of abuse and victimization.  I thought of the door as a structural portal, found in one’s homes. I wanted an old solid core, wood paneled door and we found one in the basement of the WRCC.  I brought it to my studio and started to scar it, beat on it, kick in the bottom, etc…. I also started to buildup many layers of paint. I did at least 3 or 4 coats of each of seven colors. One survivor referenced the Sumarian goddess Innana who was a queen who ventured into the under world. Dressed in her queenly attire she passed through seven portals. At each one she had to shed a layer of clothing and arrived naked into the underworld. I took the seven layers of color from this myth. The door started out white and returned to white.

I wanted to visually communicate the disembodiment that happens in this process, the out of body experience and the virtual loss of self. So I developed a figure and traced it on the door and cut the figure out with a jigsaw or coping saw. Getting through the thick parts of the door was extremely challenging but it worked! Then I started sanding and filing and scraping up the surface to uncover the layers.

4/2/2011: Work day 2 in the gallery

Erik and I returned today to work on the installation.  Usually when I put up a show it all goes up at one time. So to figure out how to develop this over the course of a month is an interesting problem unto itself. We drew up a time line for the month thinking about the healing process itself and in what order the elements should be brought in. We will be working there for a couple of hours each Thursday and Saturday until April 23rd.

Today we added a couple of pieces.  It is so spare and ethereal and we want to keep that until next Thursday. We put an under layer of dragonflies that are printed gray on tracing paper underneath the white dragonflies. It is a subtle shift.  Although I had imagined the dragonflies to eventually be on multiple layers of suspended silk with space in between them, it looks as though we may stay with the tracing paper on the wall, layering up many layers. At least in this space that is what seems to work.  I also want to run some test prints on vellum.

As part of our survivor interviews, we asked each person to chose a piece of 3″ x 3″ paper and do something to it, then return it to us so that it could become a part of the exhibition. The pieces are on a variety of different papers including vellum, rice paper, brown paper, etc. Today we hung  the first of these – a paper crane folded in vellum, so quite translucent.  It is suspended over the door and it’s shadows dance on the wall.

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