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Greetings. It has been awhile. As we all wake up from a 16 month fog, as we witness whole countries and some US states, as we continue to struggle with the pandemic and its variants, as we negotiate with loved ones going forward – the who and how to hug, I would like to introduce a new work in the making. A bit of background before that, though. Stick with me.

When this whole thing hit the globe in December/January of 2019/2020, it felt to me like one slow moving shelf cloud, inexorably heading every which way. My first experience with a shelf cloud was camping. Waking up early as one does, seeing the cloud from afar, thinking it will just pass over. On the contrary, the shelf cloud rolled over tents, threw belongings all over the place, and kept up a heavy, piercing rain for quite some time. Stretch that metaphor to what has gone on with Covid 19, and I had the queezy feeling that this shelf cloud was going to be persistent, insidious, and damaging for any one human, community, or nation, in its wake.

The first many months, I couldn’t work in my studio. I consulted from home, as a non-essential employee, to my long term care communities, overlooking my back yard or my front window, depending upon mood and inertia.

I made masks. Lots of them. One for me. Several hundred for distribution to those most in need. Then, I made them for friends and family. My dining room was my stitching place. Windows on two sides made it inviting for long late winter and early spring days, that inexorably moved towards summer. I sewed until I couldn’t. Made some custom masks. I wore them diligently, cuz science. Mostly stayed to myself unless I took walks with dear ones, sat around an occasional fire, or helped with home, garden, and studio projects.

Spring 2020 I put some work out and invited others for Art in Place. Then, a year ago on July Fourth, friends came from Wisconsin for a small outdoor gathering and I made the decision to wrap up the sewing frenzy, complete work for a collaboration due, and figure out what was next.

This is when Before and After was born, articulated in the fall, manifested over winter and spring in words, proposals, and object making, and now introduced to you this Summer. Art teaches patience.

The elevator speech for Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life

“Following CDC guidelines, we invite you to bring in a clothing item (or two) or household textile that is need of mending.  From holes in socks to button replacement, torn seams to hems (no zippers please!), we will mend together, as a metaphor for the collective process of mending our lives and communities.  We understand that we are still in the process of experiencing a global pandemic, and our interdependence is more prescient than ever. Catherine has invited you in to sit down, consider learning or sharing a skill, reduce waste, and be with fellow humans, as we mend our individual and collective lives.

All anticipated supplies provided including thread, needles, buttons, elastic, sewing machine, iron, mending eggs, etc. provided by the artist.”

Porcelain needles, with Mending a Life imprints, getting fired to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit in the test kiln at Lillstreet Art Center.

Watch for an edition of 10 Before and After Mending Boxes. A mash up of art and function, I have been having some fun putting these works together. Nearly complete and and available, soon! (Mending a Life needles had their debut with a support group centered on trauma, loss, and gunshots. I am humbled beyond words to have them included with the shared healing kits). Also, watch here for further events as the days roll into months, and as the months roll in to next year, and as we learn to move through and potentially heal from the this thing called Covid 19, and the trauma soaked and windblown communities it has left in its wake.

Schedule thus far:

2021

Plant Chicago Friday July 16 and 17 1-4pm Reservations must be made here.

Chicago Park Districts Saturdays, August 14, 21, and 28th 2-4 p and River Park September 4 Link here to event

*Open to the public with no reservations necessary. Several other performance pieces running concurrently, all three in August are sponsored with the generous support of Out of Site.

Locally Sown – a two person show with Pate Conaway at Clay Space September 3 opening. LIsle, IL.

Oliva Gallery Sunday Aug 22 and November 14 1-4.

Through the planning, I have realized I had been conducting mending groups since the 1980’s in the long term care communities I have worked. Now, I am calling them art. According to dear friend, curator, and artist Jeff Stevenson, when talking about this work, “They were art all along.”

Reach out or comment if you have any questions. Please message me if you want a Before and After – Mending a life experience in your town, with your organization, even in your own home with fellow humans you have invited. Let’s have a conversation. No group too small. No group too inexperienced. Consider a mending group near you!

A perfect day to share an image of my work, a winter iteration of TRUTH in the Driftless Region (2012/2013). I made the work for the first Art DTour in 2012, and the Wormfarm Institute. It was autumn and the landscape wonderfully distracting. I was at the end of my 27 year marriage, seeking truth, and the open sky and roving hills of the Driftless Region were the balm I deeply needed. The Art DTour, founded by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas (both wonderful supporters of my work), the Amish youth rolling down a hill in roller blades, harvest all around, the promise of a new art and agricultural collaboration that continues to build community with intentional urban and rural flow, promotes mutual understanding to this day. Until this was included in the Wormfarm’s newsletter last week, I was unaware of this winter view and documentation of the work.

TRUTH in the Driftless Region Luttropp Farm Photo: Mimi Wiest

A part of Wormfarm’s January newsletter:

What a start to the new year.

The U.S. House of Representatives has now twice-impeached the sitting president. However you feel about it, it’s hard to deny the ground is being turned over. Whether that’s a good or bad thing in your mind, it’s definitely a shock to the system.  With all that’s being uncovered, as the consequences of our polarized politics are on full display, we’re thinking of Cathi Schwalbe’s work from the very first DTour. The word truthwas mowed into a green field at Luttropp Farm—beautiful, mysterious and subtle in the fall. But after the DTour, when the winter’s first snow filled the indentation, the word shone clear and stark in the dormant earth.

Truth can be like that: it can take time to see it.”

I share this post from a friend on FB, regarding the truths of our nation, written by Dr. Susan Rogers:

“After reconstruction ended, the Union troops left the south, leaving newly freed slaves unprotected. So the south replaced slave labor with convict leasing, share cropping and Jim Crow laws all supported and enforced through the efforts of the police and government and the enabling of the KKK. Most of the monuments, statues and public buildings named after Confederate leaders were built after Reconstruction ended and were built in the North and South. There were pardons issued by Andrew Johnson for these confederate leaders. Segregation was legally enforced, even in the North, access to government loans were restricted to whites, etc….. So did the south really lose the civil war? Doesn’t seem like they did. There was no punishment, no disenfranchisement, no exclusion. But there was clearly celebration and adoration of confederate leaders and their followers that was embraced throughout the country. This is why it is so necessary that Trump and his enablers, supporters and followers be condemned, punished and called out for what they are. This country has never acknowledged the continued impact of the white supremacist legacy that began even before slavery and continues still. By allowing the perpetrators of the recent Capitol riots to go unpunished we cannot even begin to heal and grow. Trump must be impeached. This is not about democracy. This is about an opportunity to help to begin to achieve the equality that our Constitution talked about but did not really mean. We cannot let this opportunity pass. It will not divide the country, it will be an attempt to make it unified. We have to address the racial divide that exists by punishing those who continue to worsen it. It will not go away with time, it will only worsen.”

We must Help Each Other

Pictured: JB Daniel’s Help Each Other Project Photo: JB Daniel – north location

We are in the Winter of Lives.

Some of us must figure out what kind of nation we want, going forward. On this day of celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King and the National Day of Service, this republic, formed with democratic ideals, has got to figure out what spring will look like. The national dark cloud of lies, the egregious assault we have witnessed, the ineffective and deadly federal response to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the widespread and insidious need to uproot to get at the truths of our nation’s history and become a less racist nation (too many links to mention but my church, for whom I co-chair the anti racist committee for transformation’s page is a great place to start), call each and every one of us to connect, to serve, to stay alert, to take care of each other, to vote for the least of us, and simply to believe our eyes.

Truth has lain dormant for too long.

Let us give Thanks

I received a text message the other day, with one of my dinner plates attached, asking about food safety.

Pictured: Corn Fossil plate with shino glaze, iron oxides and a lovely amount of carbon trapping. Also, for inquiries, don’t hesitate to send a message me for details.

I assured the person that the glaze, a lovely Shino, was indeed food safe, dishwasher safe, and microwave save (if they took the spinning thing out! Rotating square plates don’t get very far.) The text messages went back and forth a couple of times, to the point where I introduced myself and asked for the texters name. Karen introduced herself, then shared she had bought some of my plates at the pop up shop, that I helped manage, for the Art DTour/Fermentation Fest. In these Covid days, it was a perfect social distancing event along the rolling hills of the Driftless Region. Incredible works, commissioned for certain spaces to give wonder, joy, and beauty in the landscape, at an incredibly difficult period in our world’s health, our nation’s health and response, and as individuals within our communities.

Back to Karen. What a delight! She sent me pictures of how she displayed my plates among other handmade functional works and stacks of commercially made pieces. All are poetically displayed on a variety of shelves from reclaimed lumber and shelving made by her husband (see below!). This is all so fitting as I always use the reclaimed clay from Lillstreet Art Center, when making the stoneware dinner plates. The “reclaim,” used by many in the art center, including cut offs from throwing on the wheel, abandoned works, clay too hard to use and broken up, and then mixed with powdered clay, water, then pugged, weighed, and bagged to be made available to the maker as “reclaim.”

Our texts flew back and forth, sharing images of our homes, with a shared appreciation for the handmade, the discovered, and the gratitude for the makers in our lives. I came to handmade pots through the discovery of clay as a medium, while making handmade tiles for my home (because I saw how much handmade tiles cost to buy!) I thought, “I can make those!” So I did, at Lillstreet Art Center. Then, creating sculptural works among the potters, my, ahem, appetite grew for handmade pots, including some of my own. The common and constant thread of agrarian themed works throughout my art practice, led seamlessly to plates and bowls and shared meals and art happenings centered on food and so much more (including run on sentences!).

Wonderful images from Karen! My plates among other handmade plates, salt glazed, wheel thrown, and even my postcard of installation/temporary works. What a fun grouping.

For all this and more, I give thanks this Thanksgiving and harvest season. What am I doing this year? Planting trees that will bear fruit for years to come. Planting a garden that will help pollinators (including the leaving the leaves until late spring clean up). Celebrating with my nephew and brother in law, in my back yard (with a purchased food warmer), a relatively full menu for Thanksgiving, and punctuated with chestnuts on an open fire.

We gotta find some joy and poetry in this world at this time. I remember many shared Thanskgivings at this, most challenging time. I took none of it for granted.

Thanksgiving at SchwalbeHaus 2018

Thank you, Karen, for the reminder and the appreciation for my works. You inspired me to pause, give thanks, and share gratitude.

A grouping of my plates and other potters, at my AFS family’s home in Maine. It is so fun to think of people dining on my plates from coast to coast.

(Riffing from a Buddhist prayer for loving kindness) May the world be safe. May the nation be safe. May the reader be safe. May the people around me be safe. May I be safe. May we all figure out what kind of life is worth living, stay physically distant and stay social, and consider the safety and well-being of and for each other, as we move into a difficult winter and a spring awakening.

I cannot help but be hopeful while we are in the thick of it, especially after hearing of positive trials and plans for distributing a vaccine, and knowing that following the Bubonic plague came The Renaissance.

*I am always interested in your comments and observations. Thanks for reading.

(Mostly) unprecedented times leads to unprecedented actions. No different with the need and want to create. In the spirit of Fluxus, reflection and adaptation, response to and creation of absurdity and wonder, a few dozen international creatives met on Jitsi to share a score under five minutes. Most were live. Some were created and recorded for the event.

A big thanks to Bibiana Padilla Maltos for herding this delightful, poignant, and thoughtful group of humans.

Link to Day One of Hotel Dada Fluxfest is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bElgxMQk1Is

Link to Day Two of Hotel Dada Fluxfest is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dugyfJRpy6M&fbclid=IwAR3jOTWKk96P9we4UCRTuIXHjWqLmQn9wH45Acfx67aozhIuFZqfdMAoPGU

Links to my score: Before After

Still from Before After

On Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user8773033

On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrkTnQf-Ofo&t=33s

About Before After: I have been working on this small version of a future larger piece. Consider this a maquette of sorts. Applique is hard and it was the perfect thing to do in my cool, basement studio, over some pretty hot summer, Chicago days.

I have been thinking of the pandemic and other life events.

How we might phrase them… before and after something.

How we mend a life

How there are no clear delineations

How the in between is the growth

I think of this from farmer, writer, and provocateur Wendell Berry

ON KNOWING WHICH WAY TO GO

“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Thanks, as always for your interest. Here is your to do list:

*Please watch the 4.5 minute score, Before After. I would love to know your impressions.

*Do a Fluxus score today. Creativity really is for everyone. Hashtag casbah3d on your favorite platform (IG, FB, Twitter or other!) and I will check it out!

*Enjoy a collage of images (below) while in the making, filming, and sharing over Fluxfest, below.

Time for my annual Declaration of Interdependence.

That whole independence thing is an illusion.

These days of a pandemic, with no end in sight;

These days of reckoning of our nation’s past;

These days of mask wearing – or not;

These days of marching;

These days of the much necessary toppling of renditions of fellow humans that should never have never held that space from the get go;

For some during this time, relearning to use your very own hands to fix something, make something, and create something;

Declare our Interdependence.

We gotta understand there isn’t one person on earth who is independent.

We all count on people to pave roads,

make sure the traffic lights are working,

grow our food,

transport our food,

take care of our elders,

make our frickin’ toilet paper,

stock those shelves,

drive that bus,

newspapers and electronic content to keep you informed of current events,

all should really help us understand there really isn’t one independent person on this earth.

We gotta put those guns down in our gated communities, make a sign, and get marching.

We gotta explore our fears and our unwillingness walk in another’s shoes.

We gotta vote cuz what is happening right now is clearly not working.

I think of this Sara Rahbar’s work (below) . I admire her courage. Working and reworking the symbol of our nation, hoping against all odds, that we live up to our documents and ideals.

Declare our Interdependence.

Thank a critical worker.

Wear that mask and deal with the summer sweat. It is the least any thinking human being can do.

Consider Reparations. It is the least this nation can do.Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 10.26.45 AM

Pictured: Sara Rahbar Flag #2 You Broke me in, de-thorned

https://www.sararahbar.com/flags

Wanted to share this lovely piece on the importance of play, memory, and creativity. As an artist and recreation therapist, I know play is one of the highest of the arts. Thank you Adam Zucker! (great links at the end fo the article, too.)

Artfully Learning

mom-and-I-color-correct Christina Freeman, digital film still from this is not a home movie, 2009-2020, film stills and audio. Courtesy of the artist.

“Do we possess an “inner child,” our supposed original or true self? Are we the same person we were as a child? Do we carry our child selves around with us, or is childhood left at the door upon entering the adult world? The work in this show contemplates aspects of youth, transformation and regression, exploring themes of the childish and childlike.”

Those are the essential questions that artist/curators Jenn Dierdorf and Robert Goldkind and a group of 11 additional artists would like us to consider as we experience the multidisciplinary works of art in the exhibition Regress at ABC No Rio’s Bullet Space/292 Gallery.

Growing up is a desirable trait, because it grants us a particular sense of autonomy, which we didn’t have while we were…

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Hello to you, from this all too infrequent blog post.

I wanted to share some upcoming works that will be shown this weekend and share a bit more detail about one in particular.  Women’s Rights are Human Rights will be shown during SOFA Expo this weekend.  Also, TRUTH at Walnut Creek Farms will be shown as part of a show titled Truth as a Contested Concept, at Women Made Gallery.

I am thrilled to share the piece, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, shown in the Inspired Interiors Booth 41 at SOFA Expo 2019!  See the Facebook post here.  Like most things, Facebook is woefully inadequate to fully express the nuance of things or thoughts or ideas, when one wants to go deeply in to a topic.

The designers at Inspired Interiors invited artists to propose works for their SOFA booth, very intentionally focused on significant, historical events, related to women’s rights and women’s history. The accepted proposals were gently steered towards these important events that include reproductive rights, hiring practices based on gender, women’s suffrage, and more.  I am a firm believer in understanding from whence we came in order to understand where we must go.

Here is the more detailed information and further links that hopefully may peak your curiosity about the inspiration for my art work, how far we have come and how far we need to go.

Above is the amazing superhero, Mechelle Vinson, who took her sexual harassment case all the way to the Supreme Court… and won!  The Wiki link goes in to some detail along with this recent Washington Post article.  Long before #MeToo by another superhero, Tarana Burke, there was Ms Vinson paving the way.

A SCOTUS document here from the Washington and Lee University School of Law . helped guide my thoughts while viewing the annotations, double, triple, and quadrubled, underlined sentences by the various Supreme Court justices.  You will find strips of a color print of that document, rolled up in many of the pockets of the skirt.

Oral arguments of the case here, including the only female on the Court at the time, Sandra Day O’Connor.

Lastly, an image detail of the skirt that I will be wearing tomorrow night and through the weekend at SOFA Expo 2019 at Navy Pier, titled:  Women’s Rights are Human Rights, silk organza excerpts from the SCOTUS document in each pocket along with repeated images of Mechelle Vinson.  100 pockets to symbolize the 2020 anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.  45 pockets are black and brown to symbolize the 45 year gap for black and brown people to wait to vote, as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed 45 years later.

 

(detail in progress) Women’s Rights are Equal Rights

I will be at Opening Night at SOFA Expo from 5p through the evening, wearing the work.  I will also be there wearing the skirt, on Friday Nov 1, 4-6.  Saturday Nov 2, 2-4.  Sunday Nov 3, 2-4.  It would be great to see you!

Lastly, TRUTH at Walnut Creek Farms will be experiencing a reprise.  I am excited to be in this show, opening Friday night.  I have admired the curator, Indira Freitas Johnson’s  work for such a long time, so I consider this a triple thrill to be included in the exhibition.  Opens November 1 6-8p and up until Nov 23.  I will be at the opening, cuz I am still in need of some TRUTH!

I will forever be grateful to Ned and Lyrah Bushnell, for they offered up their farm for the installation back in 2011.  Please refer to past blogposts for more information about the making and documenting TRUTH at Walnut Creek Farms, The Fields Project, and more.  Photo:  Peter J Schulz Photography

 

 

Weather the Weather

In collaboration with The Art Center Highland Park, Jennifer Dotson, founder of Highland Park Poetry and I, invite you to Weather the Weather – Artists and Poets respond to the Weather.

Exhibit runs currently through March 1, 2019

Available for viewing during business hours, M-F 8a to 5p.  Christmas and New Years Day, closed.
ELIZABETH PETERSON Ice Island.jpg

Photo: Ice Island – Elizabeth Peterson

Reception:  January 14, 2019 at 4pm.

Artist and Poet Reception will include poetry, a welcome by Zoe Carlson, curator for the Art Center Highland Park, an address by the mayor of Highland Park, Nancy Rotering along with special guest Jon Davis, Chief Meteorologist of Riskpulse.
Refreshments will be served.and refreshments.

“Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”
This tongue twister cleverly captures that no matter where on the planet we live, we are all subject to the weather. From drought to flooding, hurricanes to blizzards – all of us are experiencing increasingly severe or extreme weather patterns, global climate change, and traumatic events. We are bombarded with weather alerts, images, suffering and beauty, along with waves of information on our phones, computers and television. Weather phenomenon is an obvious metaphor for the storms of culture, politics, personal relationships and the individual psyche.
Guest curators, Visual Artist, Catherine Schwalbe and Poet, Jennifer Dotson have invited responses to the theme of Weather. Schwalbe, is a practicing artist, curator, and educator. Dotson, is a published poet and founder of Highland Park Poetry (2018 Mayor’s Award for the Arts). Both women have collaborated, exhibited, and created thought provoking exhibitions for over two decades!

The curators have welcomed collaborations, ekphrastic responses, as well as works that evolve into a fusion of both words and visual art.

Participating Artists and Poets:
Tobi Abrams
Melanie Brown
Heather Bryant
Emily Calvo
Joseph Kuhn Carey
Jill Charles
Patrice Boyer Claeys
Marilyn Crocker
Charlotte Digregorio
Jennifer Dotson
Christine Forni
Kristina A. Govorovska
Betsy Katz
Malo Kolodziej
Emma A. Kowalenko
N Masani Landfair
Kerry Leaf
Meredith London
Martin Marcus
Elizabeth Peterson
Hallie Redman
Marjorie Rissman
Larissa Rolley
R. Craig Sautter
Cathi Schwalbe
Mary Seyfarth
Peggy Shearn
Merle Tovian
Joe Weintraub
Lynn West

A big thank you to Adam Zucker for his attention to my #FreeListening and so many others using listening as a creative tool. You articulated so much for the reader and future better listeners! With thanks, Cathi

Artfully Learning

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 3.24.45 PM Catherine Schwalbe, #FreeListening, 2018. Photo by Pate Conaway.

Active listening is one of the most valuable skills that an educator can bring into the classroom in order to create a successful student/teacher relationship. Active listening means that the teacher is fully engaged and focused on the conversation they are having with a student. There should be no other distractions. The teacher should maintain eye contact with the student, take account of the student’s tone and body language (their expressive nature through which they’re speaking), and be genuinely interested in the discussion that is taking place. It is important for educators to show that they’re truly listening by asking appropriate follow up questions, while being mindful not to interrupt the student or come across as didactic.

Active listening is a strategy that teachers should use to motivate students to become more socially and emotionally present in school. When educators really take the…

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#FreeListening

Art in the time of awfulness.

Greetings to you.

I wanted to share with you a social practice work title #FreeListening, that launched over Memorial Day Weekend with the annual Chicago Fluxfest.

I have been taking notes on listening for awhile and I came across notes from 4-5 years ago.  I have been wanting to do a piece about listening and wasn’t sure if there was a enough meat about my concept.  I have taken the leap while not knowing where it may lead, which is exciting and terrifying.

Below is the body of my proclamation, available to anyone who has been heard, by receiving a Certificate of Being Heard.  Each will be hand lettered by me, along with an embossed medallion for complete authenticity.  Each certificate includes the Proclamation along with tips to enhance your own listening skills.

********************************************************************************

#FreeListening – A proclamation for listening from the studio of

Catherine Schwalbe of Chicago, IL

#FreeListening – a social practice work

Proclamation

Whereas, widespread social media and technology have set us up to make ourselves loud and necessarily heard

Whereas, this artist has been told she is a great listener

Whereas, People of Color, our Elders, our Children, Free Thinkers, those who are non-binary thinking, those who are urban, those who are rural, those who are fill in the blank here, are in need of the dominant culture to sit down and listen

Whereas, all people could benefit from being heard and learning tips about being a good listener

Whereas, we speak of the fine art of speaking and we need to consider the fine art of listening

Whereas, this artist makes opportunities to engage fellow humans in her art and recreation therapy practice

Whereas, the role of older adults can be sounding boards for younger generations

Whereas, this artist has a history of social practice works

Whereas, there is value in the simple act of being heard

NOW THEREFORE, I, Catherine Schwalbe of Chicago, Illinois, do hereby proclaim Fluxfest 2018 Chicago and beyond as an opportunity to engage in #FreeListening, in Chicago and beyond, and urge all citizens to become familiar with the services and benefits of the fine art of listening, offered by the artist herself, and to support and participate in Schwalbe’s art practice whenever and wherever you come upon her.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal for #FreeListening, from the studio of Catherine Schwalbe, Chicago, IL, on this day____________________

********************************************************************************

Some images taken at 6018North during Chicago Fluxfest last month.  Thank you Pate Conway, for the lovely documentation.

A person being heard at 6018North.

My sign is out at 6018North during Chicago Fluxfest 2018

Side note:  Following a post on my Instagram using the hashtag #freelistening, I received a couple of very supportive messages from this amazing group.  I decided to move forward with my piece, even though there might be some overlap with intent.

 

If you are interested in hosting or have any skills listed below such as

  • Wanting to be heard
  • Wanting to be a guest listener
  • Offering a location for #FreeListening
  • Wanting more information about #FreeListening
  • You speak a foreign language or use ASL and want to participate

kindly contact me at casbah3d@gmail.com or comment on this blog.

As always, thank you for paying attention.