Installation on Upvan Lake

A little preview …. still editing / waiting for documentation of my second project for the Upvan Art Festival, supported by FCA’s Emergency Grant. A little sculpture installed on a tiny island in the lake, via paddleboat.

Here are some video clips from the installation — one of the most surreal installations I’ve experienced.


It’s good to be here! The original idea, an installation inspired by tree barriers, will not work because there is not a good site. However, I have started on two other projects:

One: a collaboration with local students to create a digital archive of weeds.

Two: a sculpture to be installed on a tiny island in the lake.

More details to come as the projects progress. In the meantime: I asked for a jigsaw, a screwgun, and some screws so I could start building the sculpture. After some investigation, it seems it is way more cost effective to hire a carpenter to build the thing for me, and also a translator so the carpenter can understand my instructions!

Labor is cheap here. Goods, equipment, and materials are relatively expensive. This is why concrete is mixed by hand. This is why recycling is more prevalent here than in the US, because there is more value in the materials than in the human-hours spent sorting and processing it.

Upvan Art Festival – Brainstorming

I have been looking at pictures of Thane online, and I am interested in these square, concrete barriers around tree beds:

Inline image 1

Inline image 2

Visually, I am interested in the contrast between the organic lines of the trees and the hard-edged, geometric structure of the barriers. Conceptually, I am interested in what the barriers signify: “This is a space for a tree, separate from human space. Also, this nature was put here for your enjoyment and recreation. This is a destination. This place has been cared for. This place is beautiful and civilized.”

In general, I am interested in the relationship between people and their environment. I am also interested in how we mentally categorize different kinds of spaces and places. Some are valued and maintained, seen as “destinations”. Other kinds of spaces are purely functional, not aesthetic. Others still can be called “junkspace”: a place that is overlooked, unused, untended, and thus host to numerous extraordinary possibilities.

I am interested in finding some trees that are a little bit outside of the main recreational area of Thane and Upvan lake, in spaces that have not been designated for this purpose. I would like to construct a barrier for each tree I choose, inspired by the ones I see in the photos above. I would like to use concrete if possible, so if I could hire a small crew to help me make some small, low structures, that would be great. The structures can be temporary, if necessary.

By doing so, these “junkspaces” would become destinations by virtue of having public art placed there, and the trees would get more attention too. I would like to take this a step further by creating venues online for each tree, which visitors could vitually “check into” and leave photos and comments. There is also a kind of pun here: The barriers are square-shaped, and maybe I could have four of them!

Once I am in Thane, I might get some more ideas to add to this project: possibly some kind of adornment for the low concrete structures, or possibly some kind of workshop organized about how to care for city trees.

I know there was recently a tree census in Thane. Maybe this project would help to raise awareness that all of the trees are beneficial to the people. I also see there are some articles online about illegal tree cutting. So this project would have an environmental message, and also deal with how we use and think about public space in relationship to nature.

Last Minute Changes

So I made this thing for the AIM Biennial … woven structure of reeds & random bits … it took me a couple weeks.

It was alright. When I finished, 36 hours before installation, I cleaned my studio and sat down.

Then I had another idea, so I got up and started making that.

Paper mache. I figured if it didn’t work out I’d just use the original.

Spray painting on the roof.

It makes more sense this way. People can write on the sculptures. You know how you test a pen by scribbling with it?

I wonder why I had to finish the first piece in order to move beyond it. Maybe it’s that cleaning a room to me is like cleaning my brain. Or maybe I was just reserving judgment until it was finished.

“Success is just another form, with both an inside and outside.”


For the most part people are aware of what the outside of success looks like. This is often measured by how long your resume is, where you’ve shown your work, what gallery represents you, what kind of review your show got, how much someone pays for your work, and even what university you graduated from.

Outside success always seems to look terribly glamorous, and every once in a while it can be… But it still never means all that much, and it still never makes the work of the work any easier, if anything it makes it a little harder because the stakes get higher, the possible humble failures become less private and more visible and more cruelly judged.

The day after a successful opening or the completion of a body of work is something I have always likened to a hangover. There is a need to have a big greasy breakfast and get all of people’s celebratory compliments out of your bloodstream. A kind of panic sets in the very next day, an urge to get into the studio because you know you have to start all over again, building something from nothing, seeking the company of those trusted beneficial failures, waiting for those absurd internal dialogues with your own gang of voices. It’s not a very glamorous scenario. But this is precisely what internal success looks like. It is visible only to yourself and while you can trick the rest of the world into thinking you are a good artist, you can never really convince yourself, which is why you keep trying. If you’re lucky and motivated enough to keep making art, life is quiet, you get to work at what you love doing, happily chipping away at something, constructing something, adjusting to a cycle of highs and lows and in betweens, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for two years or 50 years, the patterns remain exactly the same. The anxiety continues to set in, the doubts creep in, the baby steps towards mending fragments starts all over again, the cautious urge to peek between the cracks is there. When you find yourself in that place, that’s when you’ll know that the inside is driving the outside.

Both the inside and the outside aspects of success have one thing in common: they both happen only if you’re paying very close attention. Neither one happens casually. There is a kind of will, a hunger, a deep-seated ability to focus that successful people have. As Susan Sontag said, “Be clenched, be curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention.”

As you move away from the structures and comforts of a university setting, with built in responses and scheduled deadlines for completion of work and a captive audience of classmates and teachers indulging in your art in a controlled setting know that you will have to create an alternative support structure for yourself from now on. Those of you that are paying closest attention will do well, those of you who are listening attentively to your real needs will become sensitive and receptive to recognizing a good idea, those of you who are willing to engage in an intimate relationship with possible failure, and risk taking will go very, very far.

That hunger, that desire for success is nothing more than a fear of failure, just like when I had that decisive reaction in my graduate review. And the odd thing is that when you are actually succeeding, it tends to be quiet and comes always quite unannounced and without a lot of fanfare. You will, in fact, be the only person who ever really grasps or recognizes the internal successes. The work of the work is visible only to yourself.

The most rewarding triumphs always seems to dangle just on the either side of the potentially devastating, awkward catastrophes, the embarrassing clichés, the self conscious doubting. As though the biggest leap can only come as a relentless gamble. A self directed “you go first” attitude… a dare to oneself.”

by Teresita Fernández

New Growth Installation

Picture 7

Picture 6

Picture 5

Picture 4

Picture 3

Picture 2

8:00 AM I arrived, met Deb and Fin, and we started drilling out the holes. 8 holes, 3 ft deep x 1 ft diameter, with two being “long holes”: 1 ft wide x 2 ft long. Cleaned up the holes with shovels.

9:20 AM Mike arrived with sonotubes. We widened some of the holes and inserted the sonotubes.

10:00 AM Eric and Chris arrived with the sculptures. We started putting them in their respective holes, staking them, and wrapping plastic around the bottom to protect from concrete splashes.

10:45 AM Concrete truck arrived. Mike and Eric started filling holes while Chris and I continued to place and stake them. Cleaned up the concrete a little.

12:15 AM Concrete truck left. Cleaned the wheelbarrows and shovels, gathered tools. Ate lunch.

Hand Painting

Chris is hand painting two of the most graphically simple trees. The process is this:
1. Project image onto plywood
2. Trace
3. Make stencil with blue tape while watching Law & Order
4. Paint
5. Remove tape