Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer work

Summer seems to be a disjointed time. I get hot and sweaty.  I go on vacation.  I get distracted from my goals...again. But, work happens nonetheless.

While on vacation, I drew sticks, which will become an artists book..
I worked on sumi woodblock prints.

I worked on pastel transfer monoprints, an interesting, wild, unpredictable process.
Today, I completed the transformation of some of these prints into art objects: cut them down to 8", dry-mounted to foamcore, coated with epoxy. I am undecided about the transformation. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

This is what I believe

I am on vacation, reading, sleeping, thinking. I have been reading Arthur Danto, WHAT IS ART.  It is philosophy and surprisingly interesting, readable. It has, perhaps, caused me to wax a bit philosophic. I don't think this falls under his rubric of ontology: he wrote about what it means to be art.  This is more a statement about why I believe art is important.

I believe art is a primal, essential expression of the human experience. It is basic and definitional. Without creative expression, our humanity is in doubt. I believe that art is a cultural/community communicator. It can, and does, express both the anxiety and the solidarity of living in community. Sometimes it has a healing effect;sometimes it is a statement of alarm. Visual art communicates, mostly without conversational language, the needs, fears and aspirations of the artist and the community.

What do you think?

Friday, July 1, 2016


Setting timelines and dues dates from internal cues is today's topic.  It is hard enough to pay attention to the external cues: Grant due dates; school assignments; application dates.  Lots of people have a hard time completing things well and on time.

Even harder is setting your own dues dates. SO here are some dates I am setting for myself...which I am already questioning. Feel free to hold me accountable!

7/8/16 send in Chenven grant application I did this yesterday!

7/15/16 Identify 5 university galleries accepting proposals I sent one yesterday!

8/1/16 send a direct fundraising letter for completion of (Her)Suit.  I think I can do this.

(Her)Suit getting photographed

8/1/16 send gallery/museum proposals(as appropriate) or introduction to my work.

Don't know about this one.  Might not be ready, even though summer is the best time to send. I am not finding the right fit.  So, while not giving up on this one, it is back to the drawing board as far as timing goes. More research is needed.

9/1/16 secure temporary space to hang (Her)Suit and document it.
           look on Craigslist
           ask for referrals on social media forums
           line up photographers, videographers

9/30/16 Be ready to run a crowdfunding campaign on Hatchfund or Indegogo to upgrade studio equipment. I think I can do this.

Eros and Thanatos
10/31/16 Complete Eros and Thanatos 
I have to do this.  I was thinking of balling it up and throwing it out, but I got a solo show for it and other parts of the body of work for March 2017.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A can of wiggling worms

As I neared the sure completion of The Art of Giving,  the big give away of the artists books, I found myself anxiously asking, "Now What?" 

Enter, stage left, a can of wiggling worms: What to do with all the newer, bulkier work!!!

That big "Now What?" is why I enrolled in the Creative Capital course and the Praxis course...trying to figure out the next steps for the works on susanhenselprojects!

Sales, of course, would be lovely.  But a lot of my work seems to stubbornly resist commodification. How do you place an installation?  Certainly, after its initial showing or set of showings, the parts can be dispersed. Ophelia and (Her)Suit can be broken apart.  In fact, they were designed to be dispersed piecemeal. But they need to tell their stories a bit more before that happens.

Much dithering still ensues.  However, I have concluded that a new approach to exhibition and a new approach to financing the artwork must be developed.

While considering my response to the results of The Art of Giving and the results of my course work, I am reading a fairly amazing book:  The Art of Asking: How I stopped Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. I had watched her TED talk a week or so ago and was captivated.

I am contemplating several techniques of fundraising: general ( a support tab on the website), project specific to complete (Her)Suit and a larger scale studio equipment upgrade campaign.

There!  I've said it!

It is so hard to contemplate, much less ask for help!

The message  of the Art of Asking is timely. I am hesitant to ask for donations/help.  The TED talk and the book address this fear.  It is intriguing. It bears thinking about. I am pondering this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Just a note about Weebly

I have been happily using Weebly for for a long time.  It is mostly intuitive and easy to use. However, it came to my attention ( thanks Sharon Louden) that changes
I made to my website in the last month have not been displaying as designed. I worked long and hard on it yesterday afternoon and evening, saving and publishing over and over before things displayed correctly as designed. It's not like I haven't been doing this since the dawn of website design.Yikes!

So this is to say: double and triple check your web publications on a separate tab EVERYTIME.  Empty your cache and check again.The website preview tab may not be telling the truth.

Meanwhile there is still a lot left to do. Many captions were missing from photos...not all, but many. My forgetfulness to get back to them as well as the Weebly hiccup. So, if you notice something really WEIRDLY ASKEW, please feel free to let me know.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Art of Giving

Generosity and hospitality are core values for me.  Those values animated my gallery work: creating welcoming spaces for viewers; offering generous no fee help for emerging and established artists.

Last year I began to think about generosity in regard to my own art.  Like all artists I not only have a stash of materials, but I also have a stash of older work that needs to find a home. It is a real problem for all artists...famous ones and not so famous ones.

So, I wondered, "What would it look like if I gifted my remaining artists books to public collections?" "How would it feel to give the work away?"  "What are the risks and benefits?"

I started informally, by contacting Minnesota Center for Book Arts, with whom I have had a long relationship. One afternoon, Jeff Rathermel and I went through everything I could find.  (I was not yet organized for the project.)  I kept unearthing things I had completely forgotten about!  It was a surprise and a delight.  When Jeff left with all the boxes, I gulped a bit...but then I felt so much lighter!

It was exciting and fun to give the work away!  It helped to make sure than when I am gone, my hard work will live on.

After that initial afternoon I got a little more organized.  I sent an email to a couple of  of my existing collections about gifting books to their collections. And I waited...

I think I waited only a day for the first excited response from a librarian at University of Colorado at Boulder.  She was in Paris at a book show when she received the email and responded right away!  They wanted one of everything, if that wasn't too much!  Oh my!  I was so pleased to complete their holdings of my work so it could be shared with students.

Then I got even more organized. I named the project The Art of Giving. I did a rigorous inventory and condition check of the remaining books.  I got together the addresses of more public collections who already held my books ( 8-10 places.) With the help of Danielle Moler, my current intern/assistant, I crafted a letter, made a "for collections eyes only" website, burned CDs, printed documentation and sent offers to my existing collections. And I waited...

It felt a little risky and vulnerable to send these packets.

More collections responded...most positively. Of course there were silences and demurs as well.  But, I sent out more books.

Now Danielle and I are sending to collections that have never held my work. The silences are more pronounced, but the occasional "yes" is so rewarding.  As a result, I now have work in  the Getty and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

I have more than doubled the number of collections and the number of books represented in collections.  I went from 10 or 11 public  collections to 23 public collections, so far. I don't remember how many pieces were placed before I began this project, but something like 110 artworks are now in public collections.

So, how do I feel about all of this?  proud, of course.  But it did open up a new wiggling can of worms...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Career Re-Boot Continues


It has been an overwhelming month!  The Creative Capital class with Sharon Louden was primo.  I am continuing the class with Brainard Carey.  Sharon's class really helped me hone in on my goals. Brainard's class hones in on alternative fundraising.

Doing this intensive study has taken me away from making art (sigh).  I get obsessed and find it hard to turn-off the research and frantic thinking (sigh). But I have come up with a list of goals, general and specific,  short and long term.

Long term Goal

  • find collections to house the newer work

Short term goals

General Goals

  • Build local visibility as an artist
  • find solo show opportunities
  • develop alternative income streams

Specific goals/possibilities for the next year
  1. attend openings
  2. offer salons/potlucks in the studio
  3. consider doing a 1-4 times per year show in the gallery/studio space
  4. serve on the board of a non-profit art organization
  5. send proposals to 5 university galleries
  6. find temporary space to mount (Her)Suit, to exhibit & Document
  7. create/update mailing lists of : curators, galleries, foundations
  8. visit lots of local galleries, both for openings and other times
  9. send postcards again!
  10. design a smallish print-on-demand portfolio book to send to galleries.
  11. do targeted fundraising to complete (Her)Suit
  12. do a crowdsourced fundraiser to upgrade equipment
  13. continue to apply for grants
I color coded the goals for you and me, to show how the specific goals relate to  the general goals.  There is overlap, of course. Visibility is increased by shows/shows are increased by visibility. Income streams are built from fundraising, but also from exhibits in paying venues. etc.