Truth and Consequences: Or that time I lied to Amy, Debra and Metro in My Studio.

So today I welcomed Amy, Debra, and guests from Metro to my art studio for a Mid-point visit. It’s a true pleasure to be able to speak with people who seem to value why you decided to paint a million white dots on cardboard in your pajamas in the middle of the night while watching Hunger Games for the 7th time. As an artist, Art-Appreciators are my true kin-in-crazy, without whom my work would share the same fate as the materials I glean from the waste station.

So for that, thank you.

That being said I would also like to use this blog format to admit in cyber-public that I LIED during my studio visit to Amy, Debra and the guests from Metro.

So for that, I am truly sorry.

The LIE was that at one point during our visit I was asked SPECIFICALLY if I found the cellu-clay material (that I had begun to make work with) from the transfer station.

To this statement I replied, “Um, yeah I think this came from the dump among other things.”

This is not true. This is not even CLOSE to true.

I bought the cellu-clay at SCRAP (a great nonprofit store dedicated to reusing art materials) and had started working with the material during a period of self-dialogue that went along the lines of:

“This 90% of the artwork being-from-the-dump-thing isn’t a rule, it’s a guideline, it’s like a SUGGESTED guideline. I really like mushing this stuff in my hands. I want to make snowballs. I want to make a sculpture of snow. S**& F*&K I’m broke. I hope somebody wants to buy a sculpture of fake snow. I don’t have time to go to the dump this week because (insert reason). Am I failing?  Ok, don’t go there. DO NOT GO THERE.  Make stuff. Don’t go there.“

And, thus when confronted pointe-blank, with the question of whether  I was following the rules of this art-residency, the answer was “mostly, but not totally”.

But I said yes instead.

Why did I say yes? Because I was in front of people who I thought wanted me to say yes. Because I didn’t want to be asked to give up on the artworks I had started. Because in the moment I didn’t want the consequences that were totally fair-trade in currency for the choice to not follow rules. And because I felt kind of ashamed about  the answer.

(Unfortunately or Fortunately) I have developed a conscience less like angelic whisper and more like a tiger on steroids roaring at me in my mother-tongue and immediately was pummeled by waves of guilt and the desire to both publicly oust myself as a liar and privately cradle my shame at the fact that I still “fib” to people to try and get what I want…even as an adult.

The combinations of these such feelings are the proud sponsors of this blog post today.

Shame is a strange thing. It’s a theme I have explored in some past work and something that I seem to continually encounter within myself as I move through life.

Shame can direct actions on a broad cultural scale and yet it varies from human to human. It can appear suddenly and dissolve overnight or be carried until it is passed down through generations as this ancestral burden whose origin has long since been forgotten. No two shames are alike and yet the feeling is unquestionably recognized by all.

The actual word shame comes from an older root-word which means “to cover” and I find I keep returning to the truth in this idea over and over again

When I experience/embrace shame (like today) or when I witness people shaming each other there is always a sense of “dramatic revealing” taking place. Someone or something exposes unhealthy or taboo actions, traits or habits, which have up until that particular moment have lay  “under cover” or beneath the realm of awareness. This catalyst that is this revelatory moment has the effect of being totally painful and totally transformative.

For me, I find the transformative nature of shame is in accepting the dark gift of the growth that comes from taking responsibility for the wounded or unhealthy parts of myself which have either suddenly expressed themselves or been brought into awareness through outside forces. This acceptance is not easy and is something I am constantly working on both in myself and within my art practice.

That being said, from here on I will be sticking to the gleaning guidelines in honest and am willing to exclude the less-than-90% pieces from the final show in order to maintain the integrity of the project.

I have 3 months left and to be honest, I’ve worked art-making miracles in wayyy less time.

Thanks for letting me bare my soul and Amy, Debra and Metro for being part of my self un-covering. I appreciate you and this awesome opportunity.

Rumi says, “The wound is where the Light enters you.”

I say true self-discovery is a pain in the ass.

I think we are saying the same thing.

May 28, 2014

IMG_4114 Studio Update: Large vessel is out of the studio and into the garage, which leaves me more room to work. Funny thing; I didn’t measure how wide the vessel could get to still make it through my studio door. I just made it as large as I could, in typical Michelle fashion. I had a small moment of panic when I realized that I may have to either cut my sculpture in half or cut a larger door opening to my studio. Luckily it made it. Lesson learned. For now.

I love my little studio. However, for this project it feels cramped. The Glean Project has got me thinking of using material in new ways and with every trip to the transfer station I come back with 5 new ideas for work that I want to pursue.

IMG_4100 Fake flowers dipped in paint. Waiting for their opportunity.

My sculptural work begins with metal armatures then I papercrete them:IMG_4101 Outline of a vessel/rock.

IMG_4112 Small dish/bowls.


Once the shredded paper has sat in a 5gal. bucket of hot water for a day or so it is pulped into ‘oatmeal’, strained and re shredded by the trusty drill with masonry mixer attachment, my faithful studio companion (pictured above).

IMG_4108Shredded, oatmealed, strained (water squeezed out) paper pulp.

IMG_4109 Re shred after straining.

IMG_4116 I’ve mixed up many batches of papercrete since beginning this project, using several different recipes. Because of the nature of gleaning my materials supply was always changing. Different paper, dry mix mortar, a 60lb bag of concrete (which I used up, after sieving out all the pebbles), and this lovely bucket of wet pre-mix concrete, pictured upper right. In this recipe I am mixing almost 50/50 paper to wet concrete. The easiest recipe yet! Unfortunately, this bucket of pre mixed love is almost gone. : (  However, I am sure that the transfer station will not disappoint in my next visit.

IMG_4118 This is papercrete after using the mortar mixer attachment to mix the ingredients. You could do it by hand but since my operation has expanded to include many 5 gal. buckets and larger quantities of papercrete I use the drill for every application that I can.

I am using this Glean Residency-ship to explore papercrete as a viable sculpture material. I didn’t know much about it before, but now I feel like a pro. I like working with papercrete because it has a texture and consistency similar to that of clay.


preparing clay for pottery

Pictured above: preparing clay for pottery by mixing sand into it. India. (image: Wikipedia)

I mix my papercrete body much as you would a clay body. I create metal armatures of vessels, bowls and sculpture to push the papercrete onto. I’ve been thinking of how early object makers formed pinch pots and vessels with their hands, leaving thumbprints from using their hands as the primary tool for shaping clay forms. I like that my work has that look, almost prehistoric. Like it was dug up.


IMG_4113 This is part of the second large sculpture that I will make.

Inspiration: Roman Amphorae


IMG_4127Plans for plinths.

IMG_4124 Paint!

Gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em





Nothing really beats a red wagon full of vintage gift wrap



I found a few chairs that were sold by John Wanamaker, a department store in NYC

An online view of a historic catalog of John Wanamaker.  Times have changed for sure.Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.09.01 PM



I dragged this out of the dump and placed in the Rebuilding Center area.  You could be dragging doors out all day long.  People need to know their options….educate Portland now.

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