Third week of the Exhibition

For those who haven’t had a chance to check out the Exhibition at Disjecta Gallery, you still have time to see these very thoughtful pieces and more.

Whitney - Spire

Spire by Whitney Nye

How I see you now

How I Remember You Now by Francesca Berrini

Sarah 1


Meeting With an Unknown and A Sort of Resolution by Sarah Bernstein

Michelle 1MLNL24 (Aryballos) by Michelle Liccardo

Use Full Worth LessUse Full Worth Less by Alyssa Kail




GLEAN 2014 Exhibition Opening!

The Exhibition Opening is almost here!

Come be one of the first to witness the transformation of “dump” to art.

After 5 months of being challenged by the arbitrary and capricious materials gleaned from the hefty piles of consumer discards, the artists are ready to share the results of their struggles, ruminations and creative insight.

Enticing food, wine & beer, piquant company, rarefied artworks.

Friday, August 8th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm                                         Disjecta Gallery, 8371 N. Interstate Ave.      GLEAN postcard fb


One of the types of items that turns up pretty often is something I have begun referring to as “Old Man Time Capsules”. Time capsules are jars or old coffee cans filled up to the brim with odd hardware and small tools. They are almost always left behind in a particular kind of pile that includes mens shoes and shirts.

Here’s a sample of what’s usually inside:


They are useful, but also useless. They are filled with functioning things that are so disorganized that their function is rendered irrelevant.

I love collecting them.

Recently, I realized that I could use the railroad tracks directly behind my studio to flatten them into much more useless, but much more interesting objects. On the first day that my summer helper Ross showed up in Portland, he immediately started helping with my new smashing game.


Here’s a photo Ross took of some hardware waiting for the train.


A close up of the transformation.IMG_3144


The first round of flattening.IMG_3183 Second Round of flattening.IMG_3196I am particularly excited about this project because it combines the peculiar time capsules that I keep stumbling across on their way to the landfill, with the action-packed smashing process that mimics the pressures involves in fossil formation in a much more exciting way.




Before and After




Lawnmowers. (functioning)

Shop vacuums. (functioning)

Weed wackers. (functioning)



There are a few categories of objects that arrive at the transfer station in such quantity and regularity that it never ceases to astound me. Sometimes it seems like there’s a whole mountain of garbage made up only of these repeating components.

Their constant presence amazed me at first, but I quickly became sort of immune to the sight of stacks of them. They became as invisible to me as the endless piles of old roofing and drywall.

But then I decided to buy a new refrigerator for my art studio with my first installment of the GLEAN grant money. Good refrigerators are a rare sight at the transfer station, and newer refrigerators are so much more energy efficient than old ones that it seemed worth the money to upgrade.

Now, since I’ve started the GLEAN program, I’ve purchased nothing but food and airplane tickets. No shopping for anything anywhere. So it was a bit of a shock to walk into my local big box construction/home goods retailer and suddenly realize that everything there was practically garbage already.






Everything is so “affordable” and cheaply made that it suddenly became clear why certain categories of things just show up all the time. Things that were once made to last for a lifetime are now simply disposable items. You don’t have to think about the sturdiness or durability of an object that you are contemplating buying if you know it can be so easily replaced.

Frankly, it doesn’t even make sense to fix the cheap BBQ that you bought just a few years ago and probably left out in the rain. Better to end it than mend it, right?


From Two Lane to Studio 


En route to the river after two weeks on the road visiting family and friends.  I generally feel better once I have two lanes and a yellow stripe in my view.  The open sky allows for more space, and less noise, whether that noise is outside or inside my head.  I had just seen my uncle days before, who I may not see again.  Finding out he may be facing that last few weeks of his life brings a whole new contemplation as I work towards this show.  He was the ultimate scrapper, dumpster diving, metal detecting guy.  So I think of him, and honor him as I make.  It is a short life, do with it what you want.

All we are is dust in the wind


The sawdust is flying and piling up.  It is certainly a media on its own.  Love giving the scrappy dump wood a new life.

All planed up and no where to go



Playing with blocks



I am reminded how much I loved to play with blocks.  When my dad moved a few years back, the blocks we had as kids were stored in his barn.  I guess it is why I love to pack the back of the car, so everything fits “just right”.  Many hours of play time with the blocks as a kid.. it is all coming back to me now.  There is no perfect order.

June 11, 2014 Studio Update

IMG_4222IMG_4230 IMG_4229 Mold making. An ancient technique using packing tape coated cereal boxes, styrofoam, wire and wood. To be cast with a special recipe of concrete patch, mortar and paint. Photos to come.

IMG_4223 Wire form with tin snips and needle nose pliers. I love tools.

IMG_4226 Other Ancient Things. My objects span millenia. From re-imagining ancient cultures’ pottery to the Great Pyramids. From now on All Things Will Be Capitalized. There’s a month or two until the show and many tasks and deadlines within that time frame. I am working to finalize some pieces while still inventing other puzzles to solve.

IMG_4231  Does this look finalized to you? I didn’t think so.


IMG_4225 Diptych.

IMG_4224 What’s this?

Want to see it in the show? What color should it be? Please vote now.

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!