Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Duke's Garden

 In the past few years, many art opportunities dried up, especially if they entailed a live audience. We saw festivals postpone then cancel their cultural art and music events all around the world. That's when people like us get really get creative, and sometimes it works. 

Burning Man cancelled two of its live annual burns, committing to trying it on a virtual platform. Nothing like the real interactions though, and we all know it.. but somewhere in there, new connections where forged, affording artists like myself unconventional venues to show and sell their work in. Out of these new alliances formed an exhibit called Radical Horizons, the Art of Burning Man at Chatsworth.  And that is how the Flybrary got itself onto a truck, then a container ship and then to a garden in the Dales of Derbyshire, England. 

This is the photo from the Chatsworth website...

It is on exhibit at the Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Derbyshire. The Duke is an art collector, and academic and can be heard and seen in many interviews with contemporary artists such as Kehinde Wiley, worth checking out here.  

The estate and gardens date back to 1549, in the sole hands of the Cavendish family. The house and its gardens have changed significantly from each generation of Dukes and Duchesses, some being more intent on designing the rolling hills, moving the river and planting a lavish gardens, others collecting the cutting-edge art of the times, like Rembrandt's, Picasso's and and neoclassical sculptures which are of course now national treasures. 

Christian has a great in-depth blogpost on the artwork at the Chatsworth House for view here.

The modern meets the classical in the gardens as well, with sculptures and architecture all around. Above is the Flybrary as it arrived at the estate. 

The Chatsworth House is magnificent, in a royal estate kind of way, everything over the top, similar to Versailles in Paris. It contains a plethera of artwork; paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, all depicting a time past, a cultural historical saga of Colonial Britain. It also, to my amazement, is home to some of the most modern invigorating art of this time, completely interspersed with the old works. As you walk room to room you see the old with the new, fitting together perfectly, to tell the story of the world past and present. It's truly exciting to see a collection as diverse and relatable.

On the 105 acres of rolling hills, trees and the winding river Derwent, the estate opens its property to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I arrived with my family, and a star crew of three to meet the Flybrary in March. 
We spent the next week, setting up the Flybrary with the competent help of many Chatsworth crew, and joined several other Burning Man art teams, artists and coordinators for dinner and drinks in the evenings at a local Pub. It was as amazing as it sounds. 

There was a bit of a post pandemic adjustment we all had to undergo to learn to be around so many people and speak so much without completely succumbing to anxiety. Turns out the world is still moving fast, and jumping back on to the social merry-go-round can feel a bit clumsy. I think we did ok. 

My crew was truly a joy, not only to see again after many years but to work with such well tempered able bodied people is an honor. Of course they are all my good friends as well, amongst the few people I would want to be with at the end of the world as we know it. 

Shout out to my crew: Christian and Kodiak for having my back, Terril and Brian- of course you two have common history!!, and Cedar for being game to never ending crazy far flung adventures.

The true Northern English weather in March...

The Flybrary now stands, overlooking the beautiful river Derwent, inviting the public with inquisitive eyes, gazing upwards as its thoughts and dreams fly out into the wind.

The Flybrary and a cadre of other Burning Man sculptures are currently on exhibit until October. Go out into the world and see them if you can!

The Radical Horizons exhibit has gotten a lot of press(!!), and here are links to some:

The Guardian UK


BBC News

House and Garden

GQ (10 Coolest Things of the Week*)



Monday, August 2, 2021

The Winding Road of Unpredictability, aka C'est la Vie.

 After a gruelingly long year of "online" / homeschooling it finally ended with our son going back to school for a few weeks and available Covid vaccinations. A *sigh* of relief all around. Yay for science!

I had committed to taking on Kodiak's schooling during the "lockdown" as well as his best friend Marcelo's. We created a two student home-school routine including: journaling in cursive, vocabulary tests with hot chocolate and marshmallow prizes, history lessons, making books and reading stories. Of course there was recess which involved clocking many hours on the trampoline. That trampoline gets First Prize for favorite activity. The kids also had 1.5 hours of online school a day and plenty of homework which we stumbled through together. 

Much of this was very rewarding, and some of it very difficult. Anyone who has attempted to teach their own kids will know what I mean. At first it was easy and the boys were very willing to learn and go with the flow. After all, the world during the beginning of Covid was quite uncertain, there was a brewing political crisis and there was fear in the air. We sailed through those rough seas, and made it out a bit battered with a few holes in our sails and tattered rigging. But we were still afloat.

By Springtime it was getting harder, the pushback from my own child was at maximum, and I was worn out. Luckily the schools re-opened and the boys got to socialize with other kids in person and be in an actual resource-filled classroom with their awesome and super competent teacher Miss Kelly.

We all knew we needed a break in the Summer...but what to do on a tight budget after a practically non-earning year? Since we make most of our income through festivals, it was (and still is) tight for us. 

Normally we try to go back to Europe, to visit w/ family and enjoy the art and culture so easily available on the other side of the pond. That ended with some research, as cross Atlantic airline tickets had actually not gone down during Covid...

We decided that maybe road-tripping in the States could be a good option instead.

We found a neighbourhood deal on a beater VW Vanagon, complete with a blown engine and every mouse on the mesa. It had been used as storage for years, and needed some attention. We just did not know how much attention...

This happened in May. The next 7 weeks, Christian worked tenaciously on putting in a new used engine (twice)(the first one died shortly after install, so he got yet another), a new exhaust system (which he made by himself), new wiring harness, new rims and tires, new front axles, new hoses, brakes, fixing the gas tank, new pop-top, lights and it goes on and on. He basically built a Vanagon from scratch. When he wasn't under the damn thing he was buried in online Vanagon forums asking how-to questions and ordering parts with expedited shipping. 

Meanwhile I worked hard evicting all evidence of mice on the inside by removing all that I could, including a non-working fridge which had housed the better part of a colony. I thoroughly washed everything on the inside, including curtains, what was left of the upholstery, the seats the covers etc. Unfortunately, I can still sniff out some old mouse, so I think I need to revisit the deep clean later.

We were both working really hard on getting the Vanagon ready for the road, and were delayed three times, all for pretty serious mechanical reasons. 

We were still unsure where we were going as many plans had changed due to new Covid restrictions (in Baja) to the cruel reality of the climate crisis manifesting in massive wildfires across the North Western United States as well as a brutal heat wave in Southern California. One thing we agreed on, whatever route, all roads would lead to the ocean. 

Then we packed, situated our sweet house-sitter, and it seemed incredulous, but we managed to hit the road!

That was awesome!

We made it two days Northbound in the pretty idyllic setting in Northern Colorado, when.....the Vanagon lost reverse and would only drive 20 mph. This is also known as a blown transmission. Ironically that was the
only part that Christian had not worked on, other than new fluids, as it came to us with a supposed working transmission. 

So there we were, the three of us, and our new cute monster-of-a-puppy Griselda, a dead Vanagon in a pretty nice camping area by a river. 

Christian and I, attempting to out-run inevitable disappointment, tried to find another tranny semi-locally, that he would then heroically put in with the few tools he brought with us in the campground. It was a crazy idea. 

As reality slowly settled upon us like a dark raincloud, we realized it was over. Well that was a short trip! The only real highlight after that awakening was the Tesla shuttle Kodiak and I took to the nearest town to get supplies and rent a car for a day. That Tesla was amazing, and I hope Kodiak will make an electric car his first when he can drive. We made the best of that night- and tried not to let our disappointment rule the evening.

Luckily we only made it about 280 miles away from home, so we asked Nonnah to come rescue us, which she graciously did. The next day, Christian drove back up with his friend and a trailer to retrieve the dead Vanagon. They drove up and down in one day, a champion rescue.

Once back home, we all felt deflated. We had gambled all our energy and money into this Vanagon so the failure was palpable. 

The next day we went on a hike in the ever beautiful Brazos mountains by our home, fields of wildflowers, aspen groves and mushrooms. Nature was healing for our family. 

This is where our new puppy, Griselda decided to try eating a mushroom...a few hours later she was experiencing the effects, wobbly and lethargic. Turns out most mushrooms are deadly for dogs to ingest- so we all kicked into high gear, inducing vomiting and administering charcoal tablets, and Griselda spent that Sunday night with and I.V. at the vet. If we are lucky she will have avoided liver damage and possible death.

Really? WTF?

I think this may be a sign that I need to stay at home forever and work in the shop.

I feel for Kodiak, who was sooooo excited to go fishing in the ocean. I'm not sure what the lesson is yet, but I trust that this unpredictable winding road will have more than a few highlights awaiting. 

And that was the long and short of it.

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Room of One's Own..

 As Covid times have forced us all to become more habitually myopic, it offers a perspective that we may not otherwise experience. For me, it became clear that I needed a space to work creatively that was away from everyone else's space. A space that was not a huge dirty metal shop. A studio.               My studio.  

side view of finished studio

Christian built a man-cave inside a shipping container a few years ago, which is indeed his space, decorated and festooned with all that he loves. He also now has a small dedicated painting studio, which once was the K-shack, (our tiny guest house).  I noticed that these spaces where not only  important for creative output but also for solitary mental space. A room of one's own affords the luxury of contemplation and inspiration, which communal space usually does not. 

When we built our current house, we made it small and open, which is great for our family living. We have very few rooms in the house that actually are sealed by a door. Most rooms are open at the top, or are connected without doors. The whole house feels like a communal multi-use space. Not really a place to be alone. Luckily, we are builders of things, and creating new spaces happens to be something I really love to do...

Slowly things started to move around the land, mainly shipping containers. My old crappy container got emptied and the contents re-arranged. We moved it into its new place. Small footings got poured. Scrap metal was welded together to become beams for the foundation. Dirt and household recycling was used as infill for the floor. 

I torch cut the container wall out and added a new floor. I framed and insulated the whole layout with ample insulation, both batt and rigid. I recycled the window and repaired the frame.

And on it went, for many many months, building on a shoestring budget, with mostly re-purposed materials left over from other builds. Building like this also takes much longer as each step has materials that need site specific modification. Worth it, as the cost goes way down. Who knew that wood and especially plywood would increase in cost by 6 times during Covid? That stark fact made it necessary to use masonite for the container ceiling, and sheetrock for everything else. 

welding the structural support beams 

It was also slow progress due to the fact that I'm facilitating and helping teach 4th grade to my son. Online school is a very time consuming new-normal for me now.

After "school" I try to work in the shop, catching up on my architectural metal work and in the small leftover moments work on my studio. If the days could just have a few more hours.

Christian helped on all facets of the build, making it so much easier to feel like it was progressing at all. He kept me on track and stayed positive when I was overwhelmed and felt defeated by the sheer amount of work that lay ahead. Month after month. Week after week. Eight months from start to move in.

 plywood sheets ready to cover both floors. I insulated the container sub floor with left over batt, rigid spray foam and old clothing scraps.

posing on the new floor inside after rough mudding..

front frame side, with rough sawn Board and Batton

During the Thanksgiving break I finished and installed a snazzy staircase with generous help from Christian, a welcome architectural project in a beautiful condo in town. I had designed and fabricated the railings in this condo well over a decade ago and the new owner found me to help build the new stairs. 

During the break I also finished most of the details for the studio and started the move-in. Which is also a major move-out of various places; containers, long forgotten spaces filled with old art supplies, mystery boxes from a life past. 

I am moving my entire Flybrary book collection into the studio, after doing a serious Playa de-dusting. It's really an extensive and magnificent library of books, and it was one of the inspirations in getting my own space.

As the construction progressed, something ignited psychologically within and I started meticulously curating the space. For some unknown reason I decided to make the space look like a late 19th century Swedish  room. I used wallpaper and ornate trim, to create iconic Swedish wall panels and lots and lots of off-white paint. 

I built a 4" thick bomber insulated door and forged a custom latch-set, and some forged handles and other forged details around the frame of the door. I burned the plywood to accentuate the grain.

I used Board and Batton, matching most exterior Swedish style houses. I used old and some new metal siding for the container.

I had to add a whole other roof on top of the container roof. It had sagged after I cut the entire side panel out, and was listing in the wrong direction for weather, plus it was really rusty.

I put trim everywhere, top and bottom.

I forged lantern hangers for the outside. 

The time I spent on the details are a bit perplexing...but I think that's what makes the difference actually. It's the kind of stuff I notice in other buildings. The details will tell the story in the end.

My main inspiration for the interior was artist Carl Larsson's exquisite watercolors of his own home, detailed with wallpaper designs, period furniture and timeless Scandinavian touches. 

I was gifted antique furniture from my mother-in-law, which with some innovative repair ended up being perfect for the feel of the space. And the pieces are rich with old family memories. The old piano moved in. The Re-store provided a lofty old looking cabinet. I repaired and decorated an old broken chandelier, and found a trestle style work table on Craigs list, straight out of Larsson's paintings. I even painted the used old space heater to match the feel. It's in the details...

                 And there it is. I can barely believe it. My own space to sew, draw, paint, and just be.                                 A room of my own!



Thursday, September 17, 2020

CAPSULE (part 2)

The Burn in progress, May of 2021.

Capsule has been up in Arroyo Seco for about a month now, providing a space and a depository for heartfelt notes about this crazy time we are living through together. Many people have left their notes online as well, which in turn have been illustrated by the amazing artist Anthony Carlson and posted on the facebook and instagram pages. 

Capsule is gently lit at night, creating a sweet space to sit and contemplate and an invitation to participate.

At some point in the future we will get to gather again, and at that time we will burn Capsule and watch it transform. The notes will act as kindling for a larger interior fire which in turn will activate the mechanism to open the hands, exposing a new shape and the inner core of the piece.

For Millenia, people have gathered in groups around fires and thrown representations of hopes, dreams, intentions and fears into the fire. The immediate transformation brought on by fire is a powerful representation of a channel to another realm, another place. It changes things.

Yes, fire changes things. As the wildfires rage in the Western States, we are seeing a massively destructive outcome, partially if not entirely due to human negligence and global hubris. We are facing a time when nature is unfolding the consequences of decades of unbridled resource ravaging. These climate related events are now the "new normal". We are now in a spiraling climate crisis we had been forewarned about. It's just the beginning. Reversing this may be close to impossible now, but we still have the chance to stop it from getting worse. And all science points to the bare fact that it will get worse.

It's simple, yet so intricately complicated; we are all connected to this climate crisis in some way. Change is imperative. Change of habits, the way we consume, the way we use resources, the way we live together. The pandemic and the severe climate events can push us to see in new ways, with equity, with a fierce sense of our humanity. We ARE all in this mess together. 

Let's not fear this change, and let's not lose hope. We are a very adaptable species. I want to quote from the informative book "The Future We Choose, Surviving the Climate Crisis" by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac,  "Don't mistake the waves for the current".

We may be in a political typhoon right now, with an agenda that is retroactive in its approach to reality, but I believe in the millions of people who want change, who face the collective current with open eyes and creative solutions. I believe we are the majority. 

As an artist, I hope Capsule can serve to hold some shared hopes, intentions, fears and dreams. Check out the Capsule website if you wish to participate remotely.

Click to see how to participate.

And, I am really looking forward to this burn!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Capsule Taos!

Welcome to Capsule! Christian and I got the green light to build a large scale sculpture for our local community through Seco Live and The Paseo. It's a first on many levels- it's a collaboration between the two of us on all levels of the piece, it's a new sculpture promoted and backed by our favorite local arts and culture organizations, and it's a sculpture addressing our current moment in time. Exciting accolades!

Capsule is an organically inspired mechanical sculpture which responds interactively to our community during this unprecedented time in history.
The community is invited to capture their thoughts on paper and insert the notes directly into the sculpture.
When Capsule burns, the combusting notes will kinetically set the sculpture into motion, causing it to open, exposing its inner core, and revealing a new dynamic shape.
Capsule harnesses the transformative power of fire, not only to literally open itself, but also to send our collective hopes and dreams into the ether.

Behind this effort is a very talented group of people, including the Arroyo Seco Live crew, The Paseo Project, as well as Gizmo Productions, glass artists Alex Abajian, artist and writer Erin Elder, and an impressive web design team. 
Just check out the Capsule web site!

We are encouraging YOU to help literally ignite the project by writing your thoughts down and placing them within the sculpture. For now go to the CapsuleTaos website to participate.

Follow the day to day progress on instagram at #capsuletaos

We are currently deep into the build and hope to unveil it in Arroyo Seco in July.

Alex delivering the beautiful handblown glass tines he made.

Friday, May 22, 2020

In the Eyes of Others.

                      This was a small polaroid left inside of the Flybrary. One of my all time favorites.

This time last year I was starting the Flybrary build. It was an intense build, working every day up until the day of the load-in to get it done. After returning home I posted a few pics of the project I managed to take. I should remember that I need a designated photographer for my projects(!) and that all the good intentions of thinking I could document my own colossal project are pure silliness (even with a new Nikon camera). Over the months I have enjoyed seeing the various photographs of the Flybrary on social media and decided to make a compilation of some, which will serve as my much needed documentation!
Here is the #theFlybraryBM2019, #ChristinaSporrong in the eyes of others, mostly those who posted on Instagram.

and some images from the interior~

I really like this one-

One year past the start date of the sculpture the world has changed a fair bit. Who would have guessed that a global pandemic would swoop down on earth, wreaking havoc in its wake?

Yet, some things remain steady. Christian and I have received the go-ahead to build a collaborative sculpture, and we are just starting it now. I will write more on that next time- it is quite exciting, as we can create something that feels relevant today.

So back into the shop I go, and I will be looking for a talented photographer to document the next project! 

Cheers and Mask on!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Eye of the Storm

Well it's truly a different World from my last blogpost!
I feel the need to document this time at least with one post. 

(from the comic book Asterix and Obelix- Asterix and the Chariot Race)

We are in the beginnings of the Covid-19 pandemic here in Taos, and we have been self-isolating at home for three weeks already.  I have been homeschooling for two weeks now, slowly figuring out the new routine, which does keep changing as I get more resource material. This basically means that Kodiak has gone from about two hours total of screen time per week to 15-20 hours per week. I am trying to curb it, but most of his various lessons are online now. 

Homeschooling does have huge advantages too- I am enjoying seeing how my kid learns and being a part of his enthusiastic discoveries. I have taken pleasure in teaching him proper cursive, and he is using that for journaling. He is now also learning Swedish with Rosetta Stone, which I think will be helpful for a future life in Sweden. The one-on-one learning suits him well. 
Homeschooling takes up all my mornings until about 1pm. After lunch, there are those many home projects that we tackle, including building a deck portale, repairing never ending broken stuff, re organizing within the house, and mending clothes. 
And then there is cooking food, based on a strict no-waste policy. As we only go food shopping once a week, all the meals need to go a bit further, and all the ingredients need to be thought of in order of spoilage. This is much like cooking in restaurants, with a skillset I still cherish.  That solid decade of my early life working in restaurants is paying off now.

For my birthday, Christian set up a drawing table in my home-office space. I now have a designated area to do my so-called "small ink drawings", and other illustrative works. For those who don't know, I did go to school for editorial illustration. Clearly I veered into the more physical, intense and dirty world of metalworking, and blacksmithing.  I think I use drawing as respite from all the hard core sensory stimulation of shop work. 

Some older ink drawings:

a few of my newer ones:

a more recent one:(titled "it's been a hard year")

I miss metalworking! When I do get into the shop, I love it. It's not as often as I wish, but I can really appreciate it. Yesterday I got to forge for a bit, and made a bunch of hooks for the new portale. 

My last job was a long railing and a smaller rail. Little did I know that this would be the end of paying work for a while. All my UNM Welding classes have been canceled and my Women's Welding Workshop had to finish early as well. I hope to see and work with them again soon. Christian had a festival booking in Croatia this Summer, but that went away too. 

The eye of the storm is the mostly calm part of a Tropical Cyclone or Hurricane. Christian and I have worked over the years to set ourselves up to survive as artists. That basically means that our income is sporadic and we don't know what wages we may earn in a given year.  To be comfortable with this uncertainty is sometimes challenging, and a few common sense rules apply. Have no debt is the biggest one. We have worked hard to have no debt, owning all our stuff, including our fleet of old rag-tag vehicles. Over the years I have grown less and less interested in participating in any American consumer dream, not that I ever was one to buy into that, but I think the proof is in the pudding now. We are currently living in the eye of the storm, and I am grateful to be there. 

Even in a pandemic, even without work and income, even without adequate testing and contact tracing and a government that is completely failing its people, I see many things to be grateful for. Some things will change for a while, other will change forever. Change comes when needed. I can't help but be amazed by how fast things happened, and really in the end...what an extraordinary time it is to be alive. be continued.