Wednesday, December 06, 2006

visual dialogue vs. haptic dialogue

I had a fun eureka moment this morning while crossing the bridge over the Iowa River:

Fine Art = the visual dialogue between an artist and the viewer(s)

Craft = the haptic dialogue between an artist and his/her materials

I know, I know, why do we need to dredge up the old argument of Art vs. Craft? Well I've been feeling lately a slow drift away from art and towards craft in myself, so I'm working on defining my own movement from one to the other, or to some place in between. Also notice that in both cases the 'maker' is called an artist, which points to the fact that we are essentially talking about two sides of the same coin.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the big December 8th

Pull out your calendar, here are a few not-to-miss events happening next Friday, December 8th:
starting @ 4pm: UIowa Center for the Book Open House (North Hall)
starting @ 5pm: UIowa Printmaking Dept. Open House (Original Art Building)
starting @ 6pm: UIowa Painting Dept. Open House (Grad studios on the hill)

Also, the recent "Common Ground" exhibit will be featured on the Daily Palette on the same day - visit it anytime!

I just wanted to mention that I now know the difference between a mimeo and a ditto, the machines and the prints. Just one of the little things I take pride in.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Here's the rundown of my zine activities for the past 2 months:
- finished new hisWorld/herWorld
- finished Art School Chronicles: Year 2
- started on Choose Your Own Moral Code! part 2
- gallery show involving visitors making zines
- went to Madison Zine Fest
- kept up with Zine Machine
- presentation on zines/MadZineFest
- Zine Workshop
- now working on zine history presentation

whew. i'm getting burnt out on zine stuff. i'm only 1/4 way through all the great zines i picked up in madison, and those are the little visual ones that don't take much time to read. all of this academic zine activity has taken all the fun out of zines for me. i think when this semster is over, all i want to do is read them and make them...

hey, what about all this academic activity around zines? does having a zine fest on a university campus change the nature of zine culture? do we change the fringe-ness of zine culture when we discuss them in a classroom setting? or are we discussing them in a classroom setting because the fringe-ness has changed?

most of the zines i've seen lately don't fall into the stereotypical perception of rebellious, subversive activity. in fact, they're quite charming. lately, there seems to be an inundation of perzines that tell stories of love and loss, shame, guilt, anger, thrills, personal revelations... sure, they're not the stories that you'd typical find in Cosmo or GQ, but they don't really shock, and most of them aren't going to start any revolutions. then again, maybe these are the zines i notice the most because these are the zines i love the most. the simple stories of everyday things that happen all around us - this is what really tells us what life is all about. we're so bombarded by front-page news of astounding events by powerful people, but these make up such a tiny fraction of what really affects our lives. that's how it goes: "small animals make first paths". i love being a small animal, carving out a small path, and i want to know what all you other small animals are out there doing, too.


The zine workshop was a lot of fun - thanks to everyone who came out to join us. Here are some photos taken by Cody, and our collaborative zine should be available in the zine machine sometime next week.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Zine Workshop

The Zine Machine crew will be hosting a Zine Workshop this Sunday, November 12th, at the Arts Iowa City Gallery from 1-5pm. We will discuss methods and materials, the history of zines, look at an assortment of zines from around the country, and work on a collaborative zine for everyone to take home. It's free and open to the public and for all ages. Please email us at if you plan on coming (space is limited).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

brainless smiling puppet

all of this community building has reminded me of one crucial problem: i am intrinsically an introvert. the busy-ness of the past 2 months has been very rewarding, but has worn me down to a brainless smiling puppet. yeah, sometimes i just put on the happy face when i have to give a presentation or interact socially, just waiting for that wonderful moment when i can go home, put on my pajamas, and bury myself in a book. i finally had a full day yesterday to hide away, and i'm starting to feel rejuvinated, at least to the point where i can really ask myself how involved i want to be in a community and how much i'd rather withdraw into my own personal cave.

some days i feel that it's crucial for artists to work together as a community, as well as to interact with the larger community they live in, but on other days i'm jealous of artists who feel no remorse over disconnecting themselves.

working with other people can just be so damn tiring.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


the madison zine fest this year was a blast. i was surprised at how many people were there - the room was full of zinester tables, and people were milling around all day. i wandered around some to meet people and look at their zines, and everytime i walked around the room i saw a table (or 2) i'd missed earlier. in fact, it was a bit overwhelming - i could stop at at even one table and not see everything, and of course not have time to read any zines. but i think i've picked up some pretty good ones, and i'm all set for reading material for a good long time.

i also got some good ideas for future zines - i'm thinking of the ones that really catch my eye and keep me engrossed, especially when they have a good mixture of text and images. in fact, i'm much more of a visual person so i'm more drawn to the art and comic zines than poetry and writings. i'm also struck by how important a good cover is - just to get someone to pick it up when they're staring at a table covered with zines, in a room full of zines. but then i feel like i have real treasure when i pick up an unassuming zine and discover how wonderful it is inside.

these are some news ones i had to share:
hisWorld/herWorld, a free zine that i make with my boyfriend scott
Art School Chronicles: Year 2, a comic about my 2nd year in art school

and Choose Your Own Moral Code!, a coloring book that lets you decide who's good and who's evil

if you didn't get one and want one now, send well concealed cash to PO Box 10022, Iowa City, IA 52245. They're all $2 except for the free one, which is... free.

here are more photos at the zine machine website.

thanks travelers

A big thanks to everyone who came out to the "Common Ground" grand opening and made it a grand success. I enjoyed hearing all the stories about first black squirrel experiences, tentacle theories, and turtle memories. I feel like we really accomplished what we set out to do: create a space where people cross paths, share stories, and create a souvenir book to remember it by. For my presentation in class the other day, I talked about: inviting viewers to participate as collaborators, the intimacy of physically touching the artwork, temporality of moving through a space, de-commodification of art, and the creation of a personal object/personal event. I'm glad I had a chance to share this experience with Cody and all of my fellow travelers.

For anyone who hasn't had a chance to see this show yet, we will be open one last time this Sunday, Oct. 29th, from 1-5pm.

Friday, October 06, 2006

continuing the journey

more fellow travelers: Kangying Guo, Henry Darger, David Dunlap, anyone printing with a Gocco

Sunday, October 01, 2006


sorry, no time to blog these days... i've been painting a mural in a basement in preparation for gallery walk (october 13th). here's a sneek peek.

but in the meantime...

some of mine are: scott smith, cody gieselman, breanne hunter, edward gorey, max ernst, margaret kilgallen, jason white, and anonymous

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Revolution No. 10

UIowa Graduate Printmakers' show Revolution No. 10 can now be seen online. Well, some of it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

from breanne

this is a response to "autonomous activites" from my friend breanne

i personally feel no conflict about this for several reasons. the first is that i really think my life's purpose is make "picture books"- what is loosely meant as a narrative with words and pictures. ever since i was little, i wanted to be a published author and i really feel strongly about wanting to make books. if you feel most alive when you are making art, if it gives your life purpose and meaning, then that's the important thing.

the second reason is that, though this may sound cynical, i believe that no individual or group can make social change these days. the superstructures of the world- the giant corporations, the convoluted logic of our government and media- have to change or disappear for the world to get better. and the values of all people need to change too. i really believe that the world will only get better when people come to realize that the biosphere really is collapsing, yes, has already collapsed, and that we are dependent on this biosphere and need to start caring for the environment- not dominating it.

there's my two cents.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

beyond art

gary frost said that what he likes about some of the zines in the zine machine is that it's "more than art". this has stuck with me - the idea of making things that are beyond art, that aren't tied down by the parameters of what it has to be once it's called "Art".

i spend so much time trying to make something that's good enough to be validated as art, i haven't even entertained the idea that i could actually be making something that defies this kind of categorization.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

autonomous activities

I'm dealing with a recurring dilemma about the self-serving and elitist nature of art making, where I doubt my work and the purpose(s) it serves. This is after reading a conversation between Suzie Gablik and Ellen Dissanayake, and Suzie says,

"Well, this brings us directly to the issue that concerns me the most at the moment, which is how our modern understanding of, and models for, art are NOT about participation in the social order. They seem more like a means of escape from the world, as in that Flaubert quote I like using so much: "Life is so horrible that one can only bear it by avoiding it. And that can be done by living in the world of art." Today there is this excessive sense of art - along with everything else in our culture - being an individual pursuit, and autonomous activity that is not connected in any profound sense with the world, but is used more as a kind of solace, or retreat, from it. Like psychotherapy, it's done mostly behind closed doors, without any great concern for the state of the world outside. In his book with Michael Ventura, James Hillman indicts therapy for being too personalized and individualized, and claims that it is actually contributing to the disease of our indifference to the world... Hillman also says that we have become so individualized and conditioned to experience ourselves as separate, we now have an actual fear of community."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

1/2 & 1/2

Ok, so I've been thinking of things I want to put in my first issue of "1/2 & 1/2", a zine/comic about being half chinese and half american, and I thought I'd google a bit to see how some other have approached the topic, and here's what I found: an intriguing new comic, American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang.

I haven't read it yet, so I'm not promoting it, but it looks interesting.

and then there was this hilarious audio on the Onion


here's a little tease of one of the souvenirs you'll get when you come on a journey in the arts iowa city gallery on october 13th. but you have to come and get it!

Monday, August 28, 2006

visual literacy

I've just read that "so important was [Sir John] Tenniel's work for the first of the Alice books (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865) that his protest at the poor printing of the first edition caused the book to be cancelled altogether."* This attests to Tenniel's understanding of the significance images have in affecting how text is perceived (not to mentioned how text can also alter the meanings in an image). Why are images often treated as trivial additions to an already 'complete text'? Why are picture books relegated only to young audiences?

In some ways, young readers are the few who can actually read images. As we learned how to read as children, text slowly took precedence over images until the pictures disappeared altogether. We continued to learn how to read verbally, but being able to read visually was dismissed (or just cut out of the budget) until we are left mostly visually illiterate. Because verbal language takes precedence in our education over visual language, a large part of the population will never learn how to read visually. One of the reasons the visual language was dismissed was because this is one type of literacy that can be learned on one's own, with no formal education, and this is why it's often assumed to be easy, simple, or needs an inherent talent. Not true - it still has to be learned, whether through formal education or through continued practice and exercise unaided.

Images that accompany text aren't just for children. It's a valid form of literacy that's been overlooked for too long.

*Jerome McGann, "The Socialization of Texts." The Book History Reader. New York: Routledge, 2001. p. 44

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Triumphant Return of the Scroll

I used to think of scrolls as a quaint relic of the distant past, resurrected occasionally now for special occasions like a wedding ceremonies or graduations. When my drawings became more scroll-like, I looked to ancient Chinese and Japanese artwork for instruction and inspiration, but then I noticed that I was using scrolls everyday. When the codex surpassed the scroll as the ideal structure for reading materials, I doubt that anyone expected the scroll to make its triumphant return a thousand (plus) years later, but here we are, in an extraordinary technological era, and it is because of this very digital technology that the scroll has revived. When I make a call on my cell phone, I scroll down the list of names and numbers; when I play music on my iPod, I scroll (in a circle!) to find an artist or playlist; on the highway, scrolling signs will tell me if there’s heavy construction or an unexpected spill; when I put the TV volume on mute, closed-captioning automatically comes on, scrolling down with dialogue. That’s a lot, but there’s more; when I watch the news, I expect to see a ticker along the bottom of the screen, listing sports scores, stocks rising and falling, or news that’s just more interesting; there are video games called ‘side-scrollers’ that, yes, scroll from left to right as you play; and of course, you’ll have to scroll down to see all of my blogs on this page.

Some of the reasons for these scrolls are obvious – you can’t expect a highway worker to flip pages of a giant book telling you how many more miles you’ll be stuck in traffic. And scrolling around a circular pad on my iPod is just plain cool. But there are reasons why certain books and/or works of art should be created as a scroll rather than individual sheets of paper, or binding those sheets into a codex. I’ve been thinking more about it within the parameters of my own artwork, but let me preface the following by stating that these reasons were born out of irritation while flipping through the pages of a newly published book depicting an ancient Chinese scroll painting, where pages arbitrarily dissected images and entirely changed the viewing mode of the painting, creating a different experience than what I think was intended. Anyways, here are some of my reasons for making scrolls:

1.) Using a scroll removes any framing device, leaving the viewer to form his/her own, or to learn to see without frames
2.) The movement of viewing smoothly from one side to another can reinforce the narrative qualities of a series of images
3.) The scroll is better suited to represent life – a continuous line (or series of lines). This is why timelines are usually presented as single, long lines. Time doesn’t create chapters, WE do.
4.) It generates a more continuous flow – Kerouac knew this when he wrote his first draft of On The Road

So, because the codex surpassed the scroll in its popularity and use, the scroll form has been overlooked as a useful format for a reading and viewing structure…until now. Although the codex serves its purpose, specifically to aid in indexical reading and ease of retrieval, scrolls serve a different purpose, and it seems that its usefulness has returned due to its integration with digital technology. However, I’d like to suggest that the scroll structure can be equally as valuable in physical form, and that maybe the best way to read your next book might not be flipping pages.

Friday, August 18, 2006

stay focused

Hey check it out - Lucky Creature Attacks is on the front page at the Quimby's Bookstore website. If you'd rather buy it in person at Prairie Lights, look for it in the Magazines/Zines section.

There will NOT be a closing reception for the Graduate printmakers show at the Drewelowe this week, so don't come on Friday night and expect to party.

I'm just finishing up the last page of my new comic, Art School Chronicles: Year 2. It's actually not the last page, but the next-to-last. (I know how I want it to end, but I'm not exactly sure how to get there - funny how some comics realize themselves in unexpected ways). This one has much better illustrations than the first Art School Chronicles, and the story flows better, too. But that's probably because I'm not doing it in 24 hours this time. It's all about my first year here at University of Iowa, and I'm rushing a bit now to get it done before the fall semester starts (Monday). I just know that if I try to remember last year while while starting on this year, everything will just become a muddled mess.

I'm nearing the end of Keith Smith's Structure of the Visual Book. It's my 2nd time reading it, and this time it seems a lot drier than before - more of a mathmatical, analytical approach to bookmaking. I think because it was all so brand new to me the first time, I tended to try his approaches more and experiment with book art in a more random way. But now I have a sense of what I want to do more specifically in my own work, so his style of experimenting just doesn't get me as excited anymore. I'm glad that I can stay focused for a change.

Peas out.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

1st show of the fall

Graduate printmakers are having the 1st show of the fall semester at the Eve Drewelowe Gallery (at the University of Iowa), August 21-25. There might be a closing reception on the 25th, but I'm not positive about it. This show will include both current and incoming grad students, so stop by and take a look at what we're up to this year.

We printmakers are on a roll - we're also having a group exhibit, "Revolution No. 10", at the Center for Faith and Life at Luther College (in Decorah, IA) from August 30th - October 13th.

And speaking of October 13th, go ahead and put it on your calendar for Iowa City's Downtown Artwalk, where Cody Gieselman and I are cooking up something fabulous to occur in the Arts Iowa CIty Gallery space. We'll see you there, and bring your passports!

Friday, August 11, 2006

new and maybe improved

This is the new location where news from the Bittersweetness and Light site will be... hopefully it'll be easier for me to post, and easier for you to navigate. So, here's the latest:

The Zine Machine has lots of new stuff for the month of August - a new Uptown Girl, Slugbunny, and a new Daily Comics. Go take a look! In other zine news, I will have a table (and doing a short reading) at the Madison Zine Fest this year, so come by and say hi if you're there. Cody Gieselman will also be there, and we'll bring Zine Machine stuff too. Come see us!

The beautiful Lucky Creature Attacks compilation is now being sold at Prairie Lights bookstore here in Iowa City, and Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago. Or, if that's too far for you to hike, just order one at the Lucky Creature website, and pick up a new cd while you're there.

now reading: Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
a recent issue of Broken Pencil
and The Structure of the Visual Book by Keith Smith

now listening to: Of Montreal (still can't get them out of my mind after Tuesday's concert at the Englert)