Iowa City is on my brain because I am here for this week and next. When I drove through to pick up the contents of my studio at the University of Iowa in 2013, I installed a temporary show in the Eve Drewelowe Gallery in the Studio Arts Building. It was kind of a show and kind of a mess, but I was able to show 10 years of work that was in storage and install the first iteration of Free Ice Water. Constantine helped me de-install the show on the day I left town. Lots of stuff was thrown away. At that time I wasn’t sure what the “Perfect Mason” jars were really. I gave Constantine one and when I visited him this week I found it in a place of honor holding castor bean seeds in his kitchen.
At the end of March I was invited to lead a breakout session at the 2nd Annual – Virginia Collegiate Recovery Conference. I talked for about 20 minutes about my practice and then informed the group that they were all going to become conceptual artists for the day. We broke up into groups of two and had one on one conversations over ice water.
There was no set topic, but since we were at a recovery conference many of our conversation revolved around addiction, sobriety, recovery and loss. Participants were asked in advance to bring in a token object of significance that would fit in a jelly jar.
Ginny Atwood brought the dog tag from her brother Chris Atwood’s Pug, Manly. Chris died of a heroin overdose in 2013 and Ginny founded the Chris Atwood Foundation in his honor. As someone in recovery and grateful for the life that I am privileged to lead, I take inspiration from the work of Ginny, her family and the Chris Atwood Foundation.
The Chris Atwood Foundation works to provide recovery support and resources to people and families affected by addiction; to change the conversation and policies about addiction from ones of stigma to support; and to prevent the disease from taking hold of future generations.
I don’t know what Jonathan and Ginny talked about over ice water, but Free Ice Water is not really about listening in on conversations, its about making a space for meaningful one on one conversations to happen.
Kyla worked as my studio assistant in Iowa for most of her BFA years. New York City was always her destination when she graduated. Like almost everyone who moves here, she ran through her savings and almost had to leave. But like anyone who is still here, you know that somehow, you just make things work. She says she’s never leaving. (Since reconnecting with her she fixed the template of site you are reading.)
I have known Michael Perrone for over ten years now. We both taught at the University of Iowa and now we both teach at VCUarts (Although he is in Qatar). He was in Richmond in 2013 when Free Ice Water started in chaos, so we talked more about his journey to being an artist than my journey to sobriety.
Trey and Bianca met up with me @ Mixed Greens on Saturday June 13th. Instead of talking in the gallery we decided to walk up to the High Line to have our conversation. Trey and I were roommates in college and were pretty much inseparable for four or five years. Until June, 2014, we had not seen each other or spoken face to face since 2001. We have been in regular contact this year. We talked a little about why we were estranged for more than 13 years, but we mostly talked about Trey’s loss of his mother at sixteen. He is almost her age when she passed. I asked him if having Bianca in his life has offered him any insight into how his mother felt when she was Trey’s age. It was really great to spend some time with both of them and sit in one place for a conversation. Even with the throngs of people on the High Line.
Lynn Sachs is an amazingly talented documentary filmmaker who I had an opportunity to speak with in the Gallery at the end of the day on Friday June 12th. We only had a half an hour to talk because the gallery was closing but we continued our conversation on the High Line as we walked south towards the new Whitney Museum of American Art. She already knew a little about “Free Ice Water” because I gave her a FIW kit in February after I saw her Film/Installation “Every Fold Matters“.
We talked about “Invisibility”. About wanting to be invisible, about feeling invisible, about it’s superhero qualities and the idea of not being seen, acknowledged or known. She told me a story about being nine or ten and shimmying across the top of the “monkey bars” on the “jungle gym” imagining herself invisible. (We also talked about jungle gyms being renamed “the playground equipment.”) I have been recording some of my conversations and will be posting some of them to my soundcloud channel if you want to hear them.
Ella Waterworth is from Perth, Australia. She walked into the “New Dominion” opening because there was a 10 gallon water cooler out on 26th Street and it was hot as snot outside. She was the perfect person to have the first “Perfect Mason” conversation within the gallery the following day. We talked about the origins of the project, sobriety and insanity and then I asked her what change in her life made the most lasting mark on her trajectory.. Or in less jargonese.. “What path lead you here, to this time and place?”
She thought for a while and she told be about turning 18 and being emancipated by her family. Her dad said “You are an adult now” and she had to go and make her own way at age 18. She worked for a year saving money so that she could get as far away from Austrailia as possible. She went to a travel agent, and asked what the furthest place away on the globe would be? A spin of the globe drew a perfectly straight line to Costa Rica. She stayed as long as her savings would support her and learned at 19, what it meant to be “rich” even though she only had a years savings from working a manual labor job in Australia. She met truly rich Americans living there for the surfing season, and Costa Ricans working for nearly nothing doing odd jobs for the tourists. It forever changed the way that she saw the world and her place in it. She refocused her life to be in service of others, she currently works in social work in Perth.
Ian didn’t quite know what he was in for when he told me to stop by The Tang Museum in August 2013, but the gathering storm clouds upon my arrival might have clued him in. Just after I set up my table and chairs out on the lawn, the sky broke loose and soaked me through. We moved inside and we figured out how/what we were doing. Ian sent me a set of images of the assorted “perfect masons” that we made that day. This image is of the bookshelf in his office. My VCU colleague, Hope Ginsburg’s blue sponge is just to the left. What a perfect pairing really.
My therapist tells me if I am carrying more than one bag that I should “check myself before I wreck myself” – that is not a direct quote, but I always think of that when I am carrying too much shit around. When I visited Martha Wilson in August of 2013, I was rolling a mini Billy Bookcase around the broken sidewalks of Brooklyn, like the one that Johan Lindquist and I built in Sweden. It was bungee corded together and had the leftover panels from my car’s former roof-rack, which I had just flattened in a manhattan parking garage. I has some serious “baggage” both literally and physically. Martha as usual was unphased by my absurd appearance and participated in one of the earliest Free Ice Water conversations. Here is the “Perfect Mason” that we made and where it sits in her office at Franklin Furnace at the Pratt Institute.