There is enormous temptation to talk about one or the other aspect of the work as being good or bad: “using black and white in a painting is bad”  “autobiography is good”.  When we locate a behavior as bad we set the stage for dramatic conflict where we vow to be good, to never again do the bad thing.  We struggle mightily against the bad, we curse ourselves for our laziness in backsliding and falling in to bad habits, we make new promises, do good for a while and then the fateful moment comes when we suddenly hear that demonic voice in our heads asking us whether or not it would just be more fun to be bad, to misbehave.  Aren’t we deep down bad already, haven’t we always been bad?  Who are these bluenoses who make up these stupid rules?  We’ll defy them and revel in our badness:  our perspective will be wonky, we’ll make jokey one-liners.  Whatever it takes.  Then after a week or so we wake up and repent.  We understand the wisdom of everyone else and return to the straight and narrow.  And we begin the whole epic struggle again.

All of that has nothing to do with getting on with our work.  While it is emotionally satisfying to replay the thousands of times we tussled with authority in our lives, declaring ourselves good or bad is not practicing our art.  Our job as creators is to look at the results of our actions and ask what they can teach us, so that we can move on to the next piece.  Sorting our actions into good and bad does nothing to further our understanding of the piece.  The good/bad drama we set up can in fact be a convenient distraction from the emotional complexities in the work that is right in front of our noses.  This is a species of continuing to act in the mindset of a child when one is in fact an adult.  We make some other outside person or persons into our parents and then rebel against them.  It feels comforting to do so, to experience the righteous anger of an adolescent, because we don’t have to then experience the more disturbing implications of our own power. 

Remember: in the studio you can do exactly what you want.  There are no parents there other than the ones you invite in.

Good and bad translate quickly into either/or.  When confronted with an either/or choice in my own thinking, I try to choose “Both” instead.  By embracing both possibilities for making, I learn what each one has to teach me.


Creativity requires a void. There has to be something missing for us to want to see something new. When life is two replete, where there is no blank wall, no empty space, the urge to make anew flags and ultimately stops.

Early on in your career, you’ve made no mark on the world, it all feels blank, awaiting your voice. As time goes on it can feel crowded, choked with all too much stuff, or a comfortable, affirming mirror. Neither possibility leads to working.

The abundance of infostractions dumped in my lap by my computer keeps me from feeling what I need to be working towards in the studio. Click by click I move away from the unquiet thoughts of my own lack that prod my arm to move the pen across the page. I know so much about so many things that ungraspable, shifting bits. Why do I like to see where a show of mine is going to happen? So that I can begin to play with that blank wall in my mind. It’s something to push against, so cozy up to or to reveal in an unexpected configuration. I have to make that something happen in my workspace if I hope to get anything done. I need to see a box to put the thing in.


…like someone who likes to file.

It took almost two months, but I’ve managed to get my work desk from this to the state you see above. And that doesn’t mean that I just shoved the stacks off camera, either: with some stellar assistance fomr someone here in the office, I’ve managed to break the files down into manageable bits and set up a system that I think will be much more useful to me over the next years.

And today, Mom dropped by the office with Rhubarb bread pudding that my sister made. How cool are they?


It’s one of those meeting days at work, where we’re going from one long meeting to the next. In between I have the attention span of a gnat. At least my desk is getting closer to being cleaned off and the file system on my computer is more in order. Every few minutes I pic something off the desk and file it or toss it away. And then I click on one of the tabs on my browser and waste more time. Then I cone back to this page and type another sentence. Like that last one.

All of this feels far from working in the studio. And while I’ve been making small steps in that direction, there’s a lot of distance yet to travel.

After a glowing weekend, the chill has come over the weather here: a bit rainy and about twenty degrees cooler.


Steps had to be taken to protect the art in Union Square from the rain.

Some folks on my frlist have been migrating to dreamscape or dreamworks or whatever it is. Which is all well and good, they seem like a nice company and all, but I’m the owner of a permanent membership here at LJ (silly of me, I know) so it will be a while before I totally jump ship.

As a precaution during the “LJ is dying” scare of the early part of this year, I did start mirroring this blog over on, (of course if you’re reading this on WordPress you already know all this) and in the subsequent months I’ve started to learn more about how to use that site, so much so that I’m using it to resurrect some of the functions of my supposed official site, The formatting is boring, but I am happy about getting some more content up there

All of this is to say that I’ve updated a couple of the pages on that site: the upcoming exhibitions page, the upcoming lectures page, and the selected works page. Because I have stuff coming up y’all. In particular, you Seattle folks might want to check out the group show at Lawrimore.

Closer to home, on Monday May 11, I’m one of the honorees at this benefit. Please, if you have the cash to do it, come and dance and bowl!


Today I contend with the feeling that I’m paddling around in circles with little or no results.

One thing about my job that is both a plus and a minus is the fact that I do so many different kinds of things during the day. Today I have had to: consult over graphic design for announcements, assemble powerpoint presentations for trustees, write up marketing strategies for admissions, devise curriculum, evaluate applications, contact potential faculty, meet with fellow program heads on strategy for my department. None of which is actually teaching. I think one of the results of this is that I have a difficult time deciding what to do next (prioritizing), but also switching between many different ways of doing things. Each of these tasks requires me to think it through differently.

This is exciting, certainly, as I’m a person with varied interests. But it’s debilitating at those times when I feel that each of these projects is somehow stuck, or when the smaller things require the kind attention that keeps me from taking a longer look. It’s a situation of my own devising, though it’s hard to take any comfort in that.


More puttering around the office. Just a few weeks left to the school year, and there’s a lot to get done.

Efforts at drawing last night yielded little in the way of results. Let’s hope that tonight is better.


The eepc is now running eeebuntu. After messing around with it on a stickdrive for a while, I decided to bite the bullet and ditch the operating system Asus shipped it with. But this is being written on the desktop. I’m seated in my office chair and Lehigh is perched on the bed, pawing at my shoulder to catch my attention.

Yesterday’s talks left me with a lot to think about.

First, the problems I have becoming a manager: Because of my training as an artist, I am used to solving problems on my own with my hands. When making work, I have If I need to get something done, I like to speak to the other people involved face to face. I tend to drop in on other people at their desks and ask for their help then and there. I’m uncomfortable with the phone and to a lesser extent with email. So I assume responsibility for every aspect of a project, but not in the sense that I can get my team to do everything I ask of them: I mean it in terms that I believe internally that I’ll do everything. This ends up limiting what I can think of in terms of projects.

Just finished reading The Other Side of Desire by Daniel Bergner. It reads just like what it is: a group of four articles that could have appeared in The New Yorker, or the New York Times Magazine. Each focuses on one personality with a different sexual kink: a foot fetishist, a sadist, a pedophile and a person with a fetish for amputees. Each person then becomes the scaffolding for Bergner’s examination of various schools of thought regarding the structure of sexual desire and the treatment of deviance. It’s all very earnest investigative journalism except where Bergner turns to rhapsody to try to capture the intensity of his subjects’ emotional lives, a ploy that makes for bumpy reading. The quartet of people are both exemplary of some idea in treatment or theory about the brain, and yet supposed to be individuals. As a narrator, Bergner tries to finesse the line that separates “nonjudgmental” from “implicated”. I was highly conscious of his emotional discomforts but left without any sense of his own introspection. The blurb from the Times says that he has a “novelist’s eye”. He certainly doesn’t have a novelist’s brain, since the the four pieces have very little to do with one another from any sort of structural view. Before the mysteries of desire, he displays convention and all of its waffling. From another book I’m reading, Pema Chodron’s Comfortable With Uncertainty: “Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move towards turbulence and doubt however we can”. To make that move and find pleasure in that turbulence is the value of sex.

From that I guess you can tell that I didn’t much care for the book.

Notes, notes, notes: I’m continually making them, but rarely taking the time to revisit them and turn them into something more substantial. Through out my current life I’m spread among many details. Someone asked me last week what I was working on, and in the larger sense I didn’t have a real answer for it. It’s time to get back to building.

Lehigh’s been walked, the rain is pouring down, and I’ve moved back to the laptop to finish this entry. Less got done today than I hoped, but that’s alright.


On the way to work today, the thought struck me that it’s hard to talk about not making art without it sounding like an alarm. I (and I think most of us) are used to thinking about the process of working as one of dramatic highs and lows, where every stumble is something to be dreaded and avoided.

I haven’t made much formal work lately. Yet I do not feel “blocked” per se. The camera is still always with me, pictures get taken, posts get made here, and the occasional drawing happens. Still, none of this seems to be adding up to much. Is it the notion of “adding up” itself that causes the problem? Or is it the temptation to make all of these posts little moments of problem posed, problem solved?

In all of my written journals, my default voice is one of complaint. And complaint is always safer than expressions of pleasure, because what do you say to Pollyanna? Friends are having a hard time, and I don’t want to go around plopping rainbows on them. I’m reading Reborn a selection of Susan Sontag’s notebooks, and at 16 years old she is intellectually intimidating and insufferable in the absolute nature of her ecstasies. I certainly don’t want these notes to end up in that pile.

So: I’m not working, much. It’s not a big deal, but there it is.


How can it be almost four pm already? It’s the time of the year when everything just comes on the heels of everything else. The people I work with are short tempered and stressed. I’m trying to cultivate my calm.

I’ve also taken on a few days of additional teaching as a favor to a friend these past couple of weeks and it’s been instructive to compare the cultures of various schools.

When teaching, I always wish that I could listen more and speak less. I feel like I do alright in that regard in my regular classes, but sometimes the temptation to clarify and restate is too great when I’m in new situations. I end up feeling abashed for all my mouthiness. The classroom is an interesting situation, given that what I’m trying to teach is critical thinking as much as it is creative practice. For me, those two things have always gone hand in hand. But the trick with teaching them is that you can’t dictate them, you have to create the condition where people find their way to them. Hence the struggle to say the right thing.

Nine times out of ten, if I’m not saying something, it’s because I’m trying to figure out what to say. The situation is worsened in a medium like email, where emotions can run high and escalate at a moment’s notice. Emails seem to carry with them the injunction to be answered point for point and tone for tone, for good or for ill. I see people ratcheting up each others’ stress levels and look for a way to moderate that. But then again some people do not wish to be moderated.

Listening and breathing continue to be excellent sugestions, as much as I am tempted to ignore them.


Drippy outside, but this time it feels like spring. Yesterday I read Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, which is a lovely fantasy about how people become writers. There are some good jokes Had a full vegetarian day and am in the middle of another.

Not a lot of organizing happened yesterday after all. The desk still has a bunch of issues. I have made some headway on email, however.

And now I’m excited about summer plans. And they’ve started running that crazy-ass Optimum triple play reggaeton commercial again, which I love.


This is my desk. At work. Where I am.

It needs attention. Attention in the form of pile reduction. I’ve come to the point where fauxganizing (for explanation see here) no longer does the trick. Things need to actually either be acted upon or put away.

I’ll prepare my burnt offerings for the productivity gods. I guess this falls under the strength to change those things I can.

Here’s an unrelated but time wastery-type question: Do any of you with experience with WordPress know how to track how many people are subscribing to your RSS feed? The dashboard tracks page views, but I’m assuming that those are independent of subscribers.


…you think you’re being thorough, you’re not. And by you I mean me.

Projects project projects, at home and at work and in the extra-curricular realms as well. And all of them filled with details to be attended to, and prickly personalities on either side to be assuaged.

I am very happy to get home and wrestle with Lehigh, for the simple panty, snorty, licky experience it is.

And I’m also happy for those folks on LJ who make extra special eye-popping posts that take mind off of all those details on all those projects such that I get the feeling that I’m missing something. Like this one from Thor.

And I’m very happy that Dave White turned me on to Blut Aus Nord. It makes New York Subway rides so much more interesting.

And in further randomness, I have officially moved into “I don’t give a fuck about/ don’t want to hear any more about Watchmen” territory. Dunno why, but there it is.

Oh also, I finished up Zot, and can see much more clearly how it is that folks would like it, but it still wasn’t quite enough for me.


Hauled myself into work on my day off to make it to a meeting that turned out to be scheduled for next week. Of course. Because everything is scheduled for next week.


I felt sorry for Elizabeth Alexander, the poet selected to follow the President. Talk about a tough act to follow. And how intense has Dianne Feinstein’s life been? Seeing her make the introductions, looking remarkably similar to when she announced the Moscone/Milk shootings (I mean hairdo and all, not in bearing) made me think that you truly cannot predict the arc of a life or the consequences of an act.

I’m back on the job after three days away (back to everything really – I’ve been without lj, wordpress, email and cellphone), most of them spent being sick, just at the point that I was congratulating myself on not getting sick like everyone around me. The hubris stick, it hurts.


It’s not easy being a one man shop; somehow I thought it was a good idea, and convinced the curator, that we should do the catalog for the current show as a series of 500 word entries, one on each included piece. Basically either she or I am writing the entire thing. And that writing is coming harder to me than I thought it would. Because it always does.

I know what I have to do, but am having a hard time doing it. And that’s why this post is short.

(edit) Oh hey, while I’m at it, have a great time at MAL, all my pals who are going. I’m sorry I won’t be in attendance.


…did it beautifully.

This just in: a very complimentary review of the current show in the Village Voice Blogs.

It’s humbling when someone takes that close a look at what you do.


From Tuesday’s office holiday party, which was pleasant, if subdued. We’re not a hard drinking bunch, and so there were no alcohol fueled outbursts or any suchlike. I’ve never experienced the archetypal boozy, no-body-can-look-each-other-in-the-eye office party. Not like I’m hoping to or anything.

It’s snowing a bit outside. I haven’t checked the weather to know if it’s going to be a heavy storm or what, but pretty big flakes are stuttering out of the sky. Flakes I can live with. My least favorite sequence of words? “Freezing rain mixed with sleet”.

I’ll reluctantly admit what Facebook is good for: keeping people informed about your events. I am notoriously bad with announcements for when I’m doing something, like tomorrow, when I’m performing with a group of guests at Location One, starting at six pm. See, announcing it like that I just did what news editors call “burying the lede”. I should have made that announcement a week ago here with fanfare. I should have a standing Nayland Blake mailing list that gets periodic updates from me. Goodness knows that enough people have told me to put them on my list. And goodness knows that there are people more than willing to help me with it. But it doesn’t get done. The pathology stems in part from a “don’t talk about yourself all the time” message that got early on in life. But knowing the cause and ending the behavior are not always the same thing. I was surprised to find that Facebook makes it easier than just about anything else to send out a generalized announcement to your contacts. I was able to let over 400 people know about the event. And now I’ve let you know.