Staying Flexible

For the past 16 years, I have worked 8-to-14-hour weekdays toward my solo-biennials, including breaks to eat (and when I’m not installing) taking walks, using my exercise machine, doing housework… Often, I wake (hear this sound in your head: “PING!”) and begin working at 3am. My work day ends at 5pm, the day’s length determined by how early my eyelids open.

My brain is at its peak creative-juices-flowing-in-my-noggin time, first thing. So, I start with tasks benefiting most from this level of cranium-ness. I conceptualize. I write. I visualize. I draw.

illustration of creative juice

After lunch, all my creative juice is in my belly. So, I do repetitive physical labor (“pre-production”) wherever I can in my studio, and administrative tasks (budgeting, researching materials, querying businesses about material donation, completing drawing sales, querying mills, recruiting volunteers, reserving u-hauls, addressing postcards, updating my website…).

As explained in a previous post, to avoid body fatigue and brain sludge I typically work on multiple projects, progressing each task for a short time before switching to another.

All this said, I have always made a point of staying flexible. If I need a nap, I take a nap. If I am sick, I take time to get better. If I am sad, I take time to be sad. If I need to get out of my studio, I go visit friends. If I injure my back removing ~4,000 planks of wood with a crow bar and scraping paintball gunk off a 26,000 s.f. mill floor for 3 months, I stay flat on an air mattress in the middle of the mill for 1 month describing to 50 gracious volunteers how to install my installations…

picture of paint ball residue
Paintball gunk I scraped for LIGHT in 2008.

It used to be that while installing in the mills, working on multiple tasks a little at a time, would “fly out the window.” I would enter these meditative zones of repetition doing the same thing for hours (for example in 2000 installing 4,900 vials of water and ink for 26 straight hours with short-stretchy-water-drinking-food-eating-bathroom breaks so evaporation levels would be consistent). When I injured my back clearing the mill for LIGHT (2008), installing 1 installation at a time flew out the window.

Back in the studio, the only time I would focus on 1 thing (still taking breaks for eating, walking, and housework), was when something pressing presented itself (like a new grant with a fast-approaching deadline or an exhibit in 2 years for which the curator needed an idea now). However, working toward my 9th and final solo biennial, I am recently focused more on singular things. The larger part of my work day is spent on 1 thing, and this is working better for me right now.

I do yoga now too, which is helping stave off body fatigue (probably brain sludge too). But is the excitement and surreal-ness of working toward my final biennial over-taking any other sludge, eliminating the once familiar “Ok. It’s been about an hour. That’s enough of that. Move on to the next thing”? I have been writing out installation ideas, grants, proposals, budgets, and memories, each for hours and days at a time. And, I am going with it.


  1. Great graphic and description our your use of creative energy… and wow! That energy manifested as I have seen over so many years… as a participant and viewer, admirer and artist myself… I’m in awe, and love being a part of it!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Laura, and of course for all of your art assistance! I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the gracious volunteers who pitch in. The recent change of my energy, and “rolling with things,” and taking “personal time” as needed, have all been particularly present in my mind this week with the loss of 1 of our dogs, as well as goings-on getting bigger with my work (extra administrative tasks while progressing toward this last biennial, like books and post-biennial exhibits). Had to be written about. xo

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