Katie Ford: Ways of Seeing, However Undefined

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Your name/age:


What brought you to where you live:

I'm from the Midwest and originally came to the Hudson Valley in 2010 for an internship. After some years away, the area pulled me back in 2016.


What's your favorite color:


What's your favorite place:

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)


Name three of your favorite books:

Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde

Wanderlust, Rebeca Solnit

Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand, and Stars), Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)


How do you identify as an artist:

I identify as an artist in that making artwork is the most expressive and self-aligning action I know.

it's both communication and necessary self-care.


What was a pivotal project, person or experience that shaped your practice:

In 2011, I had one of my first residency experiences at Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC. Being there kind of cracked my mind open about what a fully art-centered community could look like, and having that concentrated time showed me how much light and satisfaction I could feel in that.

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Image c/o Anna Victoria (2019)


What are key elements or constant in your practice:

My work tends to explore ideas around how emotions form landscapes that exist in parallel to our physical movements and experiences.


What are your current interests and inquiries as an artist:

I'm currently very interested in the expressive qualities of color and light. I'm also finding my way back to 3D and installation work. It's exciting to shift between creating an experience on paper, then in space.


What do you see as the value of art:

Art prompts new ways of seeing and considering.

It instigates and invites questions, however undefined.


Which artists inspire you/ why:

So many! Two longtime inspirations are Ann Hamilton and Jessica Stockholder.

In different ways, they both transform spaces in unexpected ways, creating their own logic of objects + landscape.


What is an artist:

I think Beth Pickens wrote that an artist is someone for whom making is necessary to sense of self. This really resonated with me.

it's a way of processing and translating the world.


What's next for you as an artist:

I'm working on some small pieces that will be popping up at Minna (in Hudson) in May with Paige Simpson. I'm also in some planing for new projects out of Gleamer, my clothing side project. Otherwise, just excited to delve more into installation and object-making!

Images c/o Anna Victoria (2019)

Images c/o Anna Victoria (2019)


What has been a victory for you as an artist:

An ongoing victory is simply having a studio practice that I trust and that consistently energizes me. Studio days are my best days, and it's rewarding to know where to find my center.

Peggy Ahwesh: Woe Men - Keep Going


Your name/ age:

Trailer for the Other Cinema Release Xperimental Eros with work by Lewis Klahr, Peggy Ahwesh, Mark Street, Tom Palazzolo, Naomi Uman, Thomas Draschan & Stella Friedrichs, Julia Ostertag, Jeff Krulik, and Oscar Perez. See http://www.othercinemadvd.com/xe.html for more info

What’s your favorite color:


What’s your favorite place:


Name three of your favorite books:

On Longing, Susan Stewart

Stupidity, Anital Ronell

Artificial Darkness, Noam Elcott

Which artists inspire you:

Harun Farocki for one—brilliant cultural soothsayer who could reveal the worship of technology, the state, social control and violence in a deeply humane way.

Peggy Ahwesh,  Martina’s Playhouse , 1989, video still.

Peggy Ahwesh, Martina’s Playhouse, 1989, video still.

What is an artist: Good question! Just went to see the Hilma af Klimt show at the Guggenheim and she and her life’s work complicates that question, as do other conjurers and mystics, in a very interesting way.

What is art: It can be what you see out of your window if you are observant or something made out of nothing if you have marks on a blank sheet of paper.

Tears of Eros, a lexicon in the style of Georges Bataille by Peggy Ahwesh.

Tears of Eros, a lexicon in the style of Georges Bataille by Peggy Ahwesh.

How do you identify as an artist:


What was a pivotal project , person, or experience that shaped your practice:


What are key elements or constants in your practice:

Messing around with photographs, juxtapositions of media elements, women’s perspectives, play, the uncanny, research, outsider art, and documents of travel and adventure.

Peggy Ahwesh,  The Star Eaters , 2003, video still.

Peggy Ahwesh, The Star Eaters, 2003, video still.

What are your current interests as an artist:

Microminiatures I’m currently working on a video installation about the political landscape of Kansas with lots of aerial shots and emphasis on places where significant things happened to ordinary people with lots of amazing outsider art documentation

*portraits of strangers

Collection of Peggy Ahwesh

Collection of Peggy Ahwesh

What do you see as the value of art:

The way/power art has to make an argument or invite thought indirectly.


What is your greatest challenge as an artist:

Focus and letting myself so deep in for inspiration and lately confidence. (I gotta get off social media!)

Peggy Ahwesh,  The Color of Love , 1994, video still.

Peggy Ahwesh, The Color of Love, 1994, video still.

What has been a victory for you as an artist:

Having my old work from the 70’s and 80’s remain in circulation and of interest within current discourses and the younger generations.

Peggy Ahwesh,  The Vision Machine , 1997, film still.

Peggy Ahwesh, The Vision Machine, 1997, film still.

Still from  Martina’s Playhouse

Still from Martina’s Playhouse

What’s next for you as an artist:


Mary MacGill: Seeing Light in Stone


Your name/age:

Mary / 30


I live in Tivoli/Clermont and work in Germantown


What brought you to where you live:


Space! Light! Trees! Water! People! Dogs!


It was blue for a long time...

I'm turning green though.


What's your favorite place:


Name three of your favorite books:

The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara

Which artists inspire you:

My mother, her ability to make work about home


What is an artist:

Someone who takes their time thinking about the world/ her surroundings

and expresses ideas by making something

What is art:

that something.


How do you identify as an artist:

When I see stones,

I can't help but want to make something out of them,

like I don't have a choice.


What was a pivotal project, person, or experience that shaped your practice:


Kazuko Oshima- My Mentor- showed me

that I could make jewelry with just my hands and a few other tools.


The last of the stones that started the business. Precious. Tourmaline: promotes inspiration and happiness, reducing fear, and building self-confidence.


What are key elements or constants in your practice:


What are your current interests as an artist:


I'm trying to figure out how to expand

my "Woven" series into lighting.


What do you see as the value of art:


What is your greatest challenge as an artist:


also being a business person


What has been a victory for you as an artist:

Cultivating the most wonderful/dynamic group of women as a result of what I do.


What's next for you as an artist:


Setting aside more time... 

to be alone

to be light

Discover more about Mary, her jewelry, and her shop here: https://www.marymacgill.com/


Caroline Wilder: Hands in the Soil, Hands in the Clouds


Caroline Wilder

almost 30

Where do you live/work:

Mostly with my partner in Tivoli, but also my family farm at Montgomery Place.

I work in a little garage-turned-studio attached to a barn there.


What brought you to where you live:


I was born here


What’s your favorite color:


rose gold too.

and cream


What’s your favorite place:

Deep in the apple orchard at dusk late September, early October

Also my aunt’s home in Munich, Germany


Name three of your favorite books:

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Mary Oliver: New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver


Which artists inspire you:

Lina Schynins, simplicity, intimacy, vulnerability

Sophie Leemyer, capsulizes my dreams, nightmares, imagination

Kiki Smith, use of nature


What is an artist:

Someone who makes you feel.


What is art:

Something that makes you feel.


How do you identify as an artist:

Hearing how people feel wearing Idunn. Also, if I’m not creating, I feel dead. That’s a little dramatic, but true.


What was a pivotal project, person, or experience that shaped your practice:

All of the women who I worked with and therefore raised me (mostly my mom).

I was so lucky to grow up around such special breed of woman: so hard-working, creative, beautiful, sensual. Hands in the soil, hands in the clouds. Dreamers and doers.


What are key elements or constants in you practice:



Looser fitting, longer silhouettes that drape in a flattering way on different bodies.


What are your current interest and inquiries as an artist:

Trying to do less better.

Also, I have been considering/ruminating on this quote by architect Lina Bo Bardi:

“We need a world of consumption in resonance with our hearts.”


What do you see as the value of art:

Natural way to alter your mood.

to unearth something, shine a light on it. .Catharsis.


What is your greatest challenge as an artist:

Being my own boss. Homing in on any one medium.

Putting a price on it so it can be attainable to who I am making it for but also afford me a living. wage.

What has been a victory for you as an artist:


Seeing the women I look up to wearing Idunn.


What’s next for you as an artist:

Getting back to the sewing machine.

I had help with production this year and feel like I really missed out.

My design process happens when I sew.


Lizzy Marshall: Self-Defined Editor in a Deep Atlantic Blue


Your name / age: 

Lizzy Marshall / 35

Where do you live / work:  Kingston, NY

Where do you live / work:

Kingston, NY




What brought you to where you live:

A job, but mostly a need for quiet


What's your favorite place:

The Northern California Coastline


Name three of your favorite books:

Radical Love, Fanny Howe

Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson

The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience, Ann Lauterbach


Which artists inspire you:

Andre Masson, automatic, hallucingenic

Cy Twombly, force energy

RH Quaytman, her perfectionism

Mira Schor, politics in drawing



What is an artist:

someone who is self-defined.

What is art:





How do you identify as an artist:

As an editor.



What was a pivotal project, person, or experience that shaped your practice:

Amy Sullivan taught me about commitment and  I haven't let go since.






What are key elements or constants in your practice:

Drawing Always. The figure/ human form.

What are your current interests and inquiries as an artist:

What role does color play in my paintings?  How do I create two different spaces of time in one painting.


                                                        What do you see as the value of art:                          


                                                  What is your greatest challenge as an artist:


Dawn Breeze: Of Goldenrod and Breath40x

We visited Dawn Breeze at her studio, all sun dappled amidst the flowers and trees, post-making for her solo show Wear the Earth: It becomes You at the Re-Institute. A full day of handwritten notes in artist made ink, plastic from Iceland, hands in earth to pick ground cover and of course mulberry picking for something as sweet as our conversation.

In her own words...

IMG_0616 (1).jpg







What’s your favorite place:

My favorite place is on a beach on Martha's Vineyard, with my eyes closed and the warmth of sun on my almost naked body and the sound of waves, birds, and children in my ears


What was a pivotal project, person or experience that shaped your practice:

Being in Iceland was pivotal to my practice because I was there alone in great vastness and solitude. The scale of the barren landscape, the upside down horizon line, the endless summer light--all we're incredibly disorienting, opening me to literally a different perspective and possible existence.  My sister dying and my son's birth opened me to another reality, one of impermanence, and connected me to my purpose of working with people to help support transformation.


3 Favorite Books:

Stride to Freedom, MLK

All ABout Love, Bells Hooks

Courage to Create, Dr. R May

*I have about 300 favorite books - but these are first to mind this minute




Which artists inspire you/ why:

Joseph Beuys inspires me by his relentless ambition to radicalize art to be social change for good (action) and to include everyone into the identity of artist. I love his aesthetics and interest in materiality and how they informed his conceptual thinking which eventually became his politics


What is Art: Art is beauty. Art is the quest for truth. Art is what we make, do, imagine, see. Art is life.


How do you identify as an artist:

I identify as an interdisciplinary artist--

--with a focus towards social engagement and liberatory design

Many social artists dislike Joseph Beuys term 'Social Sculptor' because there is criticism that it implies sculpting people.  I personally resonate with it, because I think the social is bigger than the person, I think the social is the "we".

The social is all of life, we are interdependent, one living eco-system.  The social is fractal, in the sense of co-occuring between the past, present and future. 

I believe that ideas are energetic formations that can be sculpted. 

I identify as this artist, one that is creating and sculpting forms between us, with you, and for our future, together.  Forms that may not even be visible.


What is the value of art?


the value of art is that it offers new perspectives, possibilities, and ideas -- as well as shines light on what is


What is your greatest challenge as an artist:

My greatest challenge as an artist is staying flexible to my own evolution

and maintaining the courage to continue


Constants in your practice:


Current interests are pretty much constants, like: perception of things and how we might re-imagine them.

I'm interested in nature, garbage/waste, transformation, healing, love, beauty, plastic, dirt and people.

IMG_0606 (1).jpg

What has been a victory for you as an artist:

There have been many victories along my way as an artist. My greatest victories art the "Thank-You's" I've received by others for somehow helping them as artists

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What's Next: I seem to be working more and more consulting with other creatives + enterprises to help them realize their authentic potential. I love this as a practice. It's so satisfying to be able to share my skills as an artist in a way that manifests in larger and more diverse applications with others. I also have a beautiful book, Breathe40x that is an artist edition of poetry being released this month. I will be reading from it at the Volume Reading series July 14th at 7pm at the Spotty Dog in Hudson, NY--hope you can come!  I also am co-designing an experiential learning program, Place Corps, for 18-25yr olds that will be launching here in the Hudson Valley in 2019, with the Good Work Institute and Hawthorne Valley Association. 

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Rebecca Cosenza: That is, Makeshift and Mine

Joan Prepping for a Summer Party, Switzerland. Cyanotype, 2018.

Joan Prepping for a Summer Party, Switzerland. Cyanotype, 2018.


Steeped in sunlight on the first heatwave of the season, we descended upon Rebecca Cosenza's home studio in Germantown, NY; someone we know well, and get the pleasure of working with weekly at Instar. We found prints on coffee filters, alternative photographic prints, and all other sorts of treasures.  No surprise, except that perhaps giving an artist an opportunity to share their own words it's impossible not to be surprised!

In her own words ...

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 1.33.35 AM.png


My name is Rebecca Sienna Cosenza.

Three names.

Three syllables.

Each name has seven letters

And end in

The letter



 What's your favorite color?

Earth pigments, those umberssiennas, and ochres

hazy grey-blue and the shades of amber at golden hour

A Cafe in Vienna. Manipulated CYMK Gum Print, 2018.

A Cafe in Vienna. Manipulated CYMK Gum Print, 2018.

Name three of your favorite books:

  1. Poetics of Relation, by Edouard Glissant

  2. Writing Women's Worlds, by Lila Abu-Lughod

  3. The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran


Makeshift and Mine: Home Studio feat. Velvet Couch, Black Madonna, and a Cat named Baci

Makeshift and Mine: Home Studio feat. Velvet Couch, Black Madonna, and a Cat named Baci

Artists that Inspire:

Jenny Saville for her movement away, towards, and through beautiful bodies, 

and her memory of touch.

Carmen Amaya for her duende, her technique, and her pants.

 Njideka Akunyili Crosby for her process and storytelling.

Stone Cutting, Backyard.

Stone Cutting, Backyard.

What is an artist?  

an interpreter,

a translator,

an educator at times.                                                                                                                    What is art?

Art is relation, in constant flux. 

Art is communication.

Art is translation between

idea and action,

material and object,

breathe and performance.



How do you define yourself as an artist? 

As a biracial artist. A visual artist.  A dancer. A collaborator. I define myself as an artist through the objects I create, the dances I perform, the projects I am a part of, the communities I support. 

In the Painting Studio, SRC

In the Painting Studio, SRC

What was a pivotal project that shaped your practice? 

My portrait series of Kichwa women I worked and studied with in Ecuador as part of a linguistic ethnographic field site. Questions spilled from this project on the ways in which art can be used to bear witness to and hold space for others. 


On the constants in her practice: process. process in iteration. process as shown through form. the processing of memory. the process of being in place, out of place, holding place for someone or something. memory. movement. body, be it body in movement, body as form, or the memory of bodies.

On the value of art: Art is inherently relational. Where there is art, there is reaction. Where there is reaction, there is disruption. Where there is disruption, there is openness and opportunity. It is in this space that art spills through borders and creates the context for something else to occur.

Study of Loie Fuller in Atlas Mountains. Carbon Print, Digital Negative from iphone photo of Atlas Mountains., 2018.

Study of Loie Fuller in Atlas Mountains. Carbon Print, Digital Negative from iphone photo of Atlas Mountains., 2018.

Layered Fabric with Gum Prints, 2018.

Layered Fabric with Gum Prints, 2018.

What is your greatest challenge as an artist?


At this stage in my career,

allowing myself to continually redefine

what my artistic practice looks like as

I move between different studio spaces, mediums, and time schedules

—and remembering that mindfulness is as valuable as object making in a sustainable practice.

Color Scene of Lausanne from a Moving Train Window, 2018

Color Scene of Lausanne from a Moving Train Window, 2018

What has been a victory for you as artist?

In the car, in-between, on the way. I find I always come and go with a tobacco box filled with thread and paper, my portable studio.

In the car, in-between, on the way. I find I always come and go with a tobacco box filled with thread and paper, my portable studio.

Claiming and proclaiming myself as an Artist


Brece Honeycutt: Shades of Blue, Early Fuchsia, and Sharp New Greens of Spring

Honeycutt_instar_page 1.jpg

On a sunny day with ice still underfoot and tulsi tea in hand, we wandered and mused on flower names, process, and Emily Dickinson with artist Brece Honeycutt in her Sheffiled barn studio.

In her own words...


           shades of blue            early fuchsia            sharp greens of spring            shades of blue                     early fuchsia            sharp greens of spring            shades of blue            early fuchsia            sharp greens of spring            shades of blue            early fuchsia            sharp greens 

Shades of blue, as well as the early fuchsia and sharp new greens of spring

Shades of blue, as well as the early fuchsia and sharp new greens of spring

  1. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by R.W. Franklin
  2. An American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster
  3. The Paper Garden: An Artist [Begins her Life's Work] at 72, Molly Peacock
A few favorite reads...

A few favorite reads...

Artists that Inspire:

Patience Gray for the way she lived off, for, and by the land.

 Lois Dodd for her color, her observations, and her flowers.

Susan Howe for her archival mastering, Dickinson delving, and poetry building.

Mary Oliver for reminding us "to pay attention, that is our endless and proper work.

What is an artist? A maker.

What is an artist? One that looks at the world and wants to question, enhance, posit, educate, and better.

What is art? Actions taken. Objects made. Thoughts considered and pursued.



How do you identify as an artist?

Finding facts and bringing them to the fore.

Finding joy in making with my hands.


On the constants in her practice: research, the natural world, and the realm of women's work.


On the value of art: Awareness. Joy. Pathways of exploration.


What is your greatest challenge as an artist?

To be current, both in step and out of step with the world.

What has been a victory for you as an artist?

When the circle is completed.


It is a whole life... When the circle is completed.


Words and handwriting, Brece Honeycutt. 2018.

*She is leading a wildflower walk at Bartholomew’s Cobble, 105 Weatogue Road, Sheffield MA Sunday May 13 at 3pm


The Story of the Story of Rebecca Bray



Life Story

My nine-year-old son came into my office the other night ten minutes before the lights were to be turned off for bed. He exclaimed he felt like writing a non-fictional essay about his life, starting with his first year. I suggested that perhaps he might instead start by sharing the story of the new bike trick he discovered that afternoon, because trying to tell about something mammoth in a linear way can often overwhelm us. He did not take my suggestion. He took a new notebook from my desk drawer and titled the first page, “Sunny’s Life Year One”. After sixty long seconds, he desperately exclaimed, “I can’t remember anything! This is stupid! I don’t even want to write!” and he left the room crying.

Luckily, I saw this edge coming, having just been over it myself. I wrangled him back into the room, held him between my arms, and shared the story of when I found my mother’s life story. Which was similar to his, a black notebook with one title page, “This Is the Story of My Life” with about one hundred blank pages following. We shared a good giggle about our family’s epic auto biographies. As we laughed about the challenge of how to begin a story, he had one of those ah-ha flashes, “Oh! I can make a doodle story!” (It should be noted that my son is a precocious child who has a recent interest in Keith Herring and has been making comic books since he was five-years-old). He ran upstairs to his bed with his notebook, begging for his remaining five minutes to be twenty so he could doodle, and he began drawing the story of his life; gliding through time to illustrate his past, present, and future, including his dislike of Trump (noted by the pile of poop on his head) and his interest in snowboarding.

I was delighted to witness his desire to share a personal story, including the impossibility of the task he initially set, and his creative recovery and novel solution. Funnily enough, I had had the exact same experience just days before.


Part 1.

Meeting Rebecca Bray

I met Rebecca Bray this past fall at a parent meeting at my son’s school. During the meeting, I briefly mentioned wanting to start Parenting Praxis at Instar Lodge, and Rebecca offered to help in any way. Weeks later, we ran into one another at a child’s birthday. We picked up the type of small talk that one does when you don’t know each other, and imagine all you have in common is having children.

In two quick turns, instead of talking about Lego’s we were discussing socially engaged art, digital and interdisciplinary experiential art practices, art and educational nature-based projects, and quickly falling down the well of love. I asked Rebecca if she would consider co- facilitating Parenting Praxis with me, and she resoundingly agreed.

In our brief engagements imagining Parenting Praxis together, I began to learn how Rebecca and her creative practices are extraordinary. I determined that I wanted to share her story with the Instar Lodge community.


Part 2.

Here we are

Excited to visit Rebecca Bray’s studio, Rebecca Cosenza (Instar’s newest star, aka Community Outreach Associate) and myself geared up for an official artist interview. We came prepared with open ended questions and imagined an oral history methodology, coupling note taking with snapshot photo's, which we would distill into a narrative.

I can’t say what type of content I was imagining beforehand, but can say we left weighted with awe, wonderment, and twenty years of an artist’s biography told in over an hour to be replayed back as an audio file.


Part 3.

Left Pieces

That night we discovered that the audio file did not save. We were left with pages of notes, a small sound clip on parenting (an afterthought recorded on my phone), our memory, and photographs of Rebecca and the enchantments sprinkled through her home.


Part 4.

Giraffe's are Kinda My Thing

I decided to start at the beginning, imagining the title. The story(s) of Rebecca Bray could be titled:

  • The Girl Behind the Meatrix
  • The Role of the Translator
  • Hudson Valley, My Soul Home
  • Twenty Year Loop
  • The Tale of the Experiential Designer
  • Is it Art, Science, Education, or Sociology?
  • Why Collaborate?
  • Giraffe’s Are Kinda My Thing

Like my son, I quickly became overwhelmed. I realized I wanted to share a story that illustrated the circulatory path of a complex artist, and the content was rich enough for a four-hundred page mouth-watering biography. How could I even begin to imagine condensing it into a four page story? I felt like crying, and then I had my ah-ha moment, and became determined to create a visual map that brought the viewer on Rebecca’s twenty-year journey from graduating Bard in 97 as a sociology major, to returning to the Hudson Valley twenty years later as an accomplished artist.


Part 5.


I began drawing. Soon I discovered my limitations as a graphic designer, as I had wanted to be able to turn my drawings into an actively linked map to highlight Rebecca’s many incredible projects including: The Meatrix, a short film she created to bring awareness to animal cruelty. Or Botanicalls, the project she made that had houseplants calling you on the phone to be asked to be watered, or Drink Your Pee, the DIY kit to turn your pee into fertilizer while also removing pharmaceuticals from the ocean.

This was the real sob stage: confronting my personal limitations and inability to create a piece I imagined. Sitting embarrassed in my failure, I thought about Rebecca’s practice as an artist which is one hundred percent collaborative. I recognized the value she described by applying diverse expertise to shared ideas. Rebecca spoke of her current project 'Let's Get Lost', an interactive sound art experience that invites audiences to create improvised music using a site-specific wall-drawing as an instrument, commissioned by Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

She mentioned how her role has been defined as the “translator” between the visual artist, digital artist, and sound artist. She described how the team needed and desired her ability to connect them and the audience to the experience. She spoke of how her role would end up being the invisible part of the whole, but was integraland she needed the team to articulate that for her, because often we don’t name the invisible components of a creation and therefore don't value them.

Rebecca Bray Map copy.jpg

Part 6.


Sitting in the quagmire of my failed pdf. and imagining a collaborative utopia, I remembered Rebecca and my recent Parenting Praxis planning session. We were discussing the notion of failure and solutions in parenting. We arrived at the thought that in art we do not see mistakes as failures, but rather as next steps in a process of creation. We see what first appears as challenges or mistakes to be essential components of the final piece.

We loved the words of Shaun McNiff, from his book Trust the Process

Whether in painting, poetry, performance, music, dance, or life, there is an intelligence working in every situation. This force is the primary carrier of creation. If we trust it and follow its natural movement, it will astound us with its ability to find a way through problems and even make creative use of our mistakes and failures...There is a magic to this process that cannot be controlled by the ego. Somehow it always finds the way to the place where you need to be, and a destination you never could have known in advance. When everything seems as if it is hopeless and going nowhere . . . trust the process


Part 7.

What Next

Again, a flashing ah-ha! I realized I did not want to retell Rebecca Bray’s story, but rather share her own words, and create an opportunity for her to do that. I created the Instar Lodge Artist Questionnaire. A questionnaire that asks the types of questions we are deeply interested in exploring with our community, like, what is art?”. I also had the opportunity to do another mini-interview recording based on the highlights learned in our first interview.

These last Rebecca Bray iterations resonate with the Instar Lodge aesthetic and values. They share the labor of storytelling and give the artist full authorship. Rebecca spoke often of how she revels in iteration and that process is perhaps the most compelling aspect of making art for her.
I agree completely, and yet I often forget, that one must trust the process in order to lean past failure and greet what meets us beyond the tears.



Iterate Iterate Iterate

Rebecca Bray shares her own words below about her creative practice, as an artist, translator, experiential designer, and mother-collaborator. She talks about her interests in social change, having led her ever forward into incredible experiences; including being the Chief of Experiential Design at the Smithsonian, to currently working as the Managing Director of Arts and Activism, to returning to her “soul-home” the Hudson Valley, with her forever collaborators: son, Sam, and sound artist husband, Jimmy Garver.  We look forward to her responses to the Instar Lodge questionnaire and will publish that as an addition to this piece.

Listen to Rebecca speak about being an artist-mother:

Listen to Rebecca speak to collaboration, art and science, and socially engaged practice:

Check out Rebecca's  work  via the following links.

Silosphere The Silosphere is a personal audio and visual experience designed for one participant, who wears the device like a diving bell. A camera mounted on top of the Silosphere transmits a live video feed to the wearer and is her only visual connection to the outside world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSj8BJIrYZg&feature=youtu.be 

Botanicalls allows plants to call and text people to ask for water, and extend thanks when they get enough. The project is fundamentally about new avenues of interaction between plants and people - plants that might otherwise be neglected are given the ability to communicate with their caregivers to request assistance. In collaboration with Kati London, Kate Hartman and Rob Faludi. https://www.botanicalls.com/ 

Windowfarms are suspended, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield light-augmented window farms built using low-impact local materials, created in collaboration with a vast network of online and local collaborators as an experiment in using collaborative design to solve environmental problems.  https://www.designboom.com/design/britta-riley-and-rebecca-bray-windowfarms/

The Meatrix is a short animated film I co-produced in 2002 as part of my work as the Artistic Director at GRACE, a nonprofit focused on educating about factory farms. http://www.themeatrix.com/ 

Framing Device, An interactive audio performance that explores the personal and social perception of experience. Framing Device invites participants to wear viewing masks and choose their own aural pathways on wireless headphones to navigate the psychic and physical space of the art museum. At the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum https://wamu.org/story/16/07/08/at_hirshhorn_an_exhibit_for_audio_adventurers/

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. One of the projects I was in charge of there: Q?rius, a participatory science experimental space - https://qrius.si.edu/

Center for Artistic Activismhttps://c4aa.org/. A webinar I did that's up on the site: https://c4aa.org/2017/02/how-to-win-webinar-12-learn-from-hollywood/ and an interview I did with them many years ago: https://c4aa.org/2010/04/rebecca-bray-and-britta-riley/

Projects I've collaborated on with Jimmy: Let's Get Lost, Silosphere, D:GET, Framing Device. These are listed here: https://www.thebrayverconcern.com/portfolio/ 

How to Foster Intimacy with the Land

Slow Fashion artist and writer Katrina Rodabaugh, was Instar Lodge's September artist-in-residence.  Below is her open letter describing her experience and beautiful experiments undertaken during the month. 

Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

I was honored to be an artist-in-residence for the month of September at InstarLodge in Germantown, NY. As a local artist who just moved to the area two years ago, after more than a decade in Oakland, CA, I was eager to engage with a local arts space that might foster a deeper inquiry into my own creative practice in this local environment while simultaneously creating opportunities to connect with the local arts community.

When I met with the director, Dawn Breeze, to discuss my ideas for the residency I mentioned that I really just wanted time to explore the connection between artists and the environment; to collaborate; to experiment; to delver deeper. Dawn suggested I simply frame the month as an artist’s laboratory or a creative experiment without any pressure to produce results. This suggestion felt like liberation. The permission to focus on the process of the work and not just the end product was a huge gift but also a huge relief.

Several years ago I shifted my fiber arts work from mixed media installations into social practice projects—oftentimes resulting in workshops, public events, or ongoing collaborations and not consistently creating objects that might be easily exhibited or shared. With a background in environmental studies and nearly two decades of work in urban nonprofit arts organizations the potential for social practice to focus on community engagement, “art as action”, process as important as product, and particularly embracing creativity through an activist’s lens was a very welcome shift in my fiber work.

But sometimes sharing this work with the public can seem like the greatest challenge. Particularly when curators, galleries, event spaces, and artists all need to consider how best to cover their financial needs and that can be unclear with social practice. Not impossible, of course, just less obvious than a finished object that can ultimately be sold through exhibition.

Dawn’s enthusiasm for inquiry and experimentation was a gift. It allowed me to organize my month around a Medicinal Dye Workshop, a few days of collaborating with local artists, and a closing celebration with an open studio and public talk. My question led the residency: How best to create intimacy with the land that might result in stewardship, protection, or ultimately love?

The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

As my work currently focuses in sustainable fashion primarily through the actions of mending, growing and foraging natural dye plants, and redesigning or rejuvenating existing garments this question is always at the forefront of my time in the studio. How do I articulate this intersection between land and fiber? How do I create opportunities to engage with creative practice, slow fashion, and connection with the environment? How do I foster stewardship that might result in protection or love? How do I allow deeper intersections between my studio, my classes, and my dye garden?

While the objects weren’t the focus of this residency, of course, there were objects that resulted from a month of working in the space. Each day upon entering the studio I’d chart the phase of the moon, the date, and make a quick moon sketch to pin to the wall. This became a study for a larger fiber piece of moon phases stitched to indigo dyed fabric. As it was a month-long residency it was also gratifying to see the phases move from full moon through waning gibbous, last quarter, waning crescent, new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous and back to full—making one full rotation in my time in the studio.

A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

I collected various dye plants from my landscape—both grown in my garden and collected from the nearby fields, woods, and parks—and these plants were pinned to the wall as specimens and samples great for plant identification with visitors. I created a community altar and invited workshop participants and collaborators to add to the altar when they visited. I co-taught a class with Good Fight Herb Co community herbalist, Lauren Giambrone, where we considered the intersection of medicinal plants and dye plants—resulting in an afternoon of making remedies and fiber samples with goldenrod, black walnut, peppermint, and Hopi Black Dye Sunflowers alongside other locally harvested herbs.

From this collaboration with Lauren I went on to two more days of testing seasonal dye plants that ultimately resulted in dyeing a secondhand silk top with sunflower seeds and a secondhand wool sweater with goldenrod—both finished projects present at the final open studio. I also had time to dive into a fiber art commission; spend a few days with local artists as we walked, dyed, stitched, shared resources, considered our own entrance into sustainable art and our priorities going forward; and shared an evening discussion with the public at the closing celebration.

The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

But aside from the physical time in the space, the time to teach, to collaborate, to share work—the thing I valued most about my time at Instar was the opportunity to focus on one question and let that question lead my work for the entire month. At every step of this month-long inquiry I felt supported by the folks at Instar Lodge and the folks I’d welcomed into my studio as local collaborators.

As a working mother with limited childcare most of my work hours are diligently organized around deadlines, workshops, and upcoming events. But having this time to return to the bigger questions at the core of my work; the space to explore these questions with other artists and the public; and the creative support to prioritize time to consider the direction I want my work to grow—that was the greatest gift.  Thank you, Instar Lodge!


I’m an artist, writer, and crafter working across disciplines to explore environmental and social issues through traditional craft techniques. My artwork, writing, and designs have appeared in various galleries, magazines, theaters, juried craft fairs, and alternative arts venues. I published my first book, The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes, and Books in January 2015. I’ve received artist awards, grants, and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Puffin Foundation, and Creative Capacity Fund among others. My blog, Made by Katrina, won the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Award.

I received my BA in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College and my MFA in Creative Writing/ Poetry from Mills College where I trained and taught in the Book Arts Studio. My work fuses sustainability and creativity sometimes in surprising ways like my current focus on sustainable fashion and mending. My work ranges from large-scale mixed media installations, to social practice projects, to cross-disciplinary collaborations, to textile and fiber objects, to small-batch handmade crafts sold in my online shop.

I teach workshops online and in-person including visible mending, natural dyes, sustainable fashion, fiber arts, and also through social practice projects that engage the public in experimental and hands-on approaches. For over 15 years I’ve worked with nonprofit arts galleries and theaters managing programs, special events, fundraising, and mentoring artists to create successful projects and strengthen professional practices. Ultimately, I believe collaboration fosters meaningful communication that can lead to social action–so I often collaborate with artists and organizations to engage in this practice.

Originally from the small town of Horseheads, NY, I spent the majority of the last two decades in major cities of San Francisco, CA; Brooklyn, NY; and Oakland, CA. In fall 2015, my husband and I bought a 200-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley and we’re currently DIY renovating the house, re-establishing the gardens, and converting an existing carriage barn into art studios. When I’m not in the studio or preparing for upcoming workshops I’m usually busy with my two young sons. For inquiries regarding teaching, collaborations, or commissions please use contact me by email through the contact form on this site. IG @katrinarodabaugh

Keys to the Heart: A Love Story Between Two Players and A Piano

I met Isaac Green Diebboll last fall as a colleague in the Good Work Fellowship, (A fellowship for creative change makers, small businesses and socially conscious leaders in the Hudson Valley Bio-Region) I knew him then as a person working for community development through politics and creative social action in Callicoon, NY, with contagious enthusiasm and authentic goodwill.  I also knew he was an excellent documentary filmmaker and asked him to come document the infamous Nasty Women exhibit this past February.  During the event I brought Isaac on a tour of Instar Lodge, leading him to the antique attic theater.  Isaac immediately put down his camera and went straight to the ancient, dust-covered piano abandoned in the corner, and began playing the most incredible sound.  He then and there asked if he could perform a piece of his titled, ‘Requiem for My Father.’ Without question I affirmed! As we have arrived closer to the performance, clues have emerged indicating there is a story worth learning behind this piece. Isaac recently mentioned having drawings and books he would like to share at the performance. When I saw these documents I knew we needed to sit down and have a chat.  What follows is a brief recount of what I learned in conversation.--Dawn Breeze 4/30/17

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

Isaac practicing at Instar Lodge on his father's birthday a few weeks back.

‘Requiem for My Father’ by Isaac Green Diebboll is a phenomenon you will not want to miss. It is an originally composed piano solo, except it’s not that at all.  It’s a sound piece imagined and created by Diebboll in collaboration with the spirit of his Father, notable architect John Diebboll.   It is not a piece of written music, it is a collection of fractal sound patterns arranged in the mind of Isaac, that move through his hands touching the white keys of the piano.  The very specific keys that showed him the path into the instrument, which ultimately was the key to the shared heart of a father and son.

When Isaac was 21yrs old, he held his hand over his father’s last heartbeat.  A father whose love was deeper and older than prehistory, he says.  When Isaac felt the last beat from the body, he felt soul-love move into him, a love that literally led him to the piano.  Isaac had never played a piano before his father passed.  But pianos were a part of his life through his father’s fantastical creations of re-imagined piano’s. 

Isaac was in undergrad school majoring in Interdisciplinary Sculpture, and filming a documentary about his father’s passing, documenting the last bites of life.  With abrupt suddenness he was stirred to put down the camera and begin again, by telling the story of the love of his father through the piano.  He realized that the cinematic effects of sound better illustrated the picture he saw, felt, and wanted to share; the piano was a conduit for connection.

For most people an inspiration that calls you towards a tool and a discipline that you don’t know, or are not trained in, goes unanswered.  But not for Isaac (which is a historical pattern of his nature: moving towards inspiration with radical curiosity, audacity, and sensitivity) he instead went straight to Craig’s List and found a free piano.  Generously, his professor at the time let him put the Piano in her office, and Isaac began playing it.  He began by following the ghost lines from the players before him.  He could see which keys had been marked with use and time, and he followed them as his guides mapping his way forward.  ‘Requiem for My Father’ is a relic of this journey to the heart of love, it is the lullaby of the soul.

Isaac’s music which he’s reluctant to call music and prefers to name ‘sound’ has echoes of Philip Glass and other modern composers, like John Cage.  An element of this piece is that it’s never meant to be played on the same piano or on a tuned piano.  Each performance is a unique and dialogical relationship between the piano, himself and his father’s spirit. He seeks piano’s that are forgotten, lost and broken.  He listens with his hands to their unique calling, setting their sound free, while also acknowledging that he is permanently altering their sound by playing them.  Each piece like life—touching and beautifully dying.

Isaac is a rare gem, with infinite facets of brilliance.  His first love was drawing, but he feels his artistic inquiry alive in: math, science, civic engagement, politics and now going forward in urban planning for healthy cultural ecologies.  He is not afraid of being told “he can’t play piano” because he can confirm the magic that he can make sound—like love…which he meets on their terms…

Come listen to love.  Come see ‘Requiem for My Father’.  We will also have original drawings of Isaac’s available at the performance, alongside his father’s highly collectable piano drawings and book ‘The Art of the Piano’.

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

One of many freehand drawings of Isaac's which will be available at the performance

Learn more about Isaac Green Diebboll by visiting his website

Requiem For My Father: Friday May 5th, 7:30 $10 donation at door, RSVP to ensure seating

The Space Between Two Bridges: Katie Grove

The Background: Where it Started

Antique objects with stories untold. The thrill of opening a drawer in an abandoned house that hasn’t been touched in a hundred years. The creativity that comes with combining ideas, words, and objects in novel ways to create new stories with old materials.

These are the things that inspired me to create the installation: The Space Between Two Bridges, while participating as an artist in residence at Instar Lodge. A combination of antique objects, book forms, matte medium image transfers, and typewritten text, this installation tells the story of ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (born 1883) all while conveying a sense of curiosity and mystery about the past.

My focus at the residency began with the idea of creating an alternative biography of Margaret Morse Nice that would be based both on facts from her life as well as my own creative interpretations. It was her story, as a female scientist during a time when the field was primarily male dominated, that carried me through the residency. However, it was her book series, Studios in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, that first inspired me. Years ago I randomly pulled it off the shelf in a dusty library and the detailed charts and graphs, filled with data about hundreds of individual birds’ lives, immediately caught my attention.

Now, six years later, thanks to the opportunity to spend a month at Instar Lodge, I was finally able to dedicate the time and energy needed to this project. Throughout the month I witnessed my project shift, grow, and change as I dove deeper into both Nice’s autobiography, as well as into simply playing with materials without overthinking it.

The Process

I begun, just as the birds do, with collecting a large amount of material. I surrounded myself with photocopies of charts, text, and images from Nice’s books, a plethora of small antique sewing objects and furniture, fabric, papers, and of course, my typewriter. I wanted to create an installation that looked almost as if it could have been her office. At first glance you would see a file drawer or a piece of furniture, but open looking closer the drawers would be filled with pieces of a bird’s nest, text, and image transfers from her books.

At first I thought large, creating two installation pieces involving an antique sewing machine and a file drawer. I experimented with quilt forms, watercolors, and other pieces, creating an environment using fabric, nest materials, and embroidery. However, as I kept working I found myself focusing smaller and smaller, finding the most interest in creating tiny one-of-a-kind artist books using antique objects with Nice’s text and charts imposed onto them. I loved getting into the creative flow of choosing strange objects, deciding what part of Nice’s story it could tell, and figuring out technically how to turn objects like a bobbin or a tape measure into a book.

The result is 12 completely unique artist books (and many more in progress). Each one consists of an an antique object imbued with charts, images, and phrases from Nice’s writing, which taken out of context create a whole new story. The books, in addition to the larger pieces in progress, have allowed me to make more progress on this project in four weeks than I have in the past year.


Continuing to Weave the Nest

The most valuable part of my residency at Instar has been simply giving my work the space to evolve naturally. If I were making this on my regular studio schedule I never would have had the time and freedom to simply let it become something new, without pressure. Now I have a new body of work that is  the culmination of both brand new inspirations and ideas and themes that have been bubbling up for years. I look forward to incorporating sound, diving into research on local scientists and naturalists of the 19th century, and finding even more interesting objects that are begging to be made into books! I am so grateful to have had the time, space, and inspiration provided by Instar and can’t wait to see what comes next in this series.


Artist Statement

This series explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items, such as a sewing machine, are overtaken by charts, words, and text from Nice’s books. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In the small book Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her love of studying and recording data is subtly emerging throughout these everyday items. These phrases and charts, when taken out of context and combined with curious old objects, create a whole new story saturated with mystery. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work.


Artist Bio

A deep connection to nature and a curiosity to learn is what drives Hudson Valley artist Katie Grove. Her perceptive drawings, etchings, and mixed-media sculptures reflect her interest in combining art and the scientific study of nature. From detailed drawings of the hundreds of pieces in a bird’s nest to whimsical biographies of female naturalists of the 19th century, her work has a strong sense of storytelling. She draws on her backgrounds in printmaking, watercolor, and textile techniques including quilting, plant dyes, book arts and basketry to create a wide range of work. Grove has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and currently resides in Rosendale, NY. She regularly exhibits her artwork regionally and teaches workshops on art techniques using natural materials. She is a recipient of the Ora B Schneider Regional Artist Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop and has been awarded a 2017 Residency at Instar Lodge. No matter which medium she explores, her work always reflects an awe and appreciation of the natural world and tells a story about our relationship with it. 

Creating with More Time: Sonia Corina Ruscoe

(Full audio conversation below)


I was delighted to spend the afternoon with Sonia Corina Ruscoe the curator of our upcoming April exhibit, Tragic Instant.  We sat down in the women's writing room and recorded what could be best described as a mash up of Oral History and casual conversation.  Having recently attended Suzanne Snider's Oral History Winter School as a Community Fellow, I am eager to play with audio interviews and enamored with the ethos of Oral Histories, and of course have big OH future plans (give me a taste of something new and delightful and I'm gangbusters).  Some definitive characteristics of Oral History Interviews, is there are no pre-scripted questions, and it is primarily an opportunity for the narrator (what OH calls the Interviewee) to share a part of their life story--and one other peculiarity is long pauses. 

( I also want to suggest that if you have any interest or curiosity in Oral History, Suzanne is enrolling her Oral History Summer School program in Hudson, NY right now!  It is hands down one of the best educational programs I have EVER engaged in!  Inspiring is too small of a word.) 

But, lets talk about SONIA!!!  Sonia, approached me at Instar shortly following the presidential election with a beautiful and compelling project proposal, Tragic Instant.  In it she spoke eloquently about the instants that change everything, with their pain, tragedy, confusion, comedy, the strangeness that emerges at once.  She wanted to frame these quick cutting moments, giving us time as an audience to witness them. 

In our conversation Sunday afternoon, I learned more about Sonia's artistic practice as a self-taught painter coming from a formal photography history, which she shares in her interview.  She speaks of"more time" when creating, and what can happen when time is stretched, and how the slowing down of time is something she relishes about life upstate.

Listen to her interview (press that play button) and enjoy!  View more of her work here!  Come see her upcoming exhibit April 15th at Basilica Back Gallery, participate in the Sedar-Style dinner she's co-created, and join her and the group of 'Tragic Instant' artists for an in person closing conversation--learn more about everything 'Tragic Instant' here!  And consider helping send her to her upcoming European residency and castle drawing experience here!

Katie Grove Studio

In the studio with artist Katie Grove, Rebekah Resident Artist

"This series, The Space Between Two Bridges, explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. Her 1937 book, Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, which culminates eight years of studying the minute details of  hundreds of  birds’ lives, provides a jumping off point for the series. It also illustrates her need to observe and record, her pure love of nature, and the struggle for balance between home and work. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items (sewing machines, tape measure, etc) are overtaken by charts, words, and elements of Nice’s studies of the song sparrows. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are literally spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her need to study and record is so powerful that it is subtly emerging in all aspects of the feminine life. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work."  Katie Grove


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By Jennifer Wai-Lan Strodl

An unmade bed. Clump of pillows. How can one man use so many pillows? I dig into the pile and unbury mine. Old weathered thing. Unburdened of its once downy filling. Possibly one of the pillows I snagged from my childhood home when my mother sold our house in Canada. So, faithful sleeping companion, hold my head as I rest from Toronto to Vancouver to Mexico, Harlem, Rhinecliff, Hudson, and here. Pathetic that I don’t to buy myself new pillows. The futon was a wedding gift. The bed frame, a Christmas gift. The duvet, a birthday present. Yet no gifting opportunity for a new pillow. It’s time. Straighten the sheets. Get under the covers. I’ve put on my nightgown tonight. A luxury. Eyes closed. To do list running nonstop through the circuitry of my brain. Hush. Sleep, baby, sleep. No noise but the wind. Window open. Peace. Bedside lamp on. I reach for the book of short stories beside my bed. Read. I’m leaving my thoughts to talk to themselves. Thank you Western world for showing me this habit. I remember glimpsing my friend’s mother at a sleepover once reading before bed. A strange routine. Unheard of in my Chinese home. But interesting. Intriguing. Something to try one day. It helps. I sleep.

Grand Jury Duty

By Annie Bielski  

To smell fresh and avoid responsibilities, go to the department store to look at the luggage.


Discounted notes of springtime new president good posture future transience. Turn over that price tag.


I don’t do bathroom humor or yoga.
I hate waiting on line at parties for bathrooms
because I hate looking like i have needs.
 I just got health insurance.
But I do breathing exercises.
So i thought we could do some of those
together now just to warm up. Lighten up a
little bit.
Try to not breathe
Until you believe you are a well-loved dog


They say time is money I tell the cashier when I buy the two pairs of panties. People thumbed em on the
racks, not like they were all packaged up or whatever, not like they were clean or whatever, people aren’t
clean. Still, I'm a people person.
I’m a get away from me a little closer type person.
And I’m a real mess because I give all my energy to people.
Who wants to tidy a house without a witness?


I used to write about holes.
I’d be like My guy at the bank got a sinkhole in his backyard!
I’d talk about dental cavities
The bath tub
Laboring, digging,
My Debt
But that’s stuff of the past. Now I’m all about filling it up.

 I want to be the lady at the doctor's office who has donated all the magazines.
 She’s torn off her address, but incase she is reading: Please let me find you

Remote Dreams of Creation: An Interview with Artist Ruby Palmer

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

We recently interviewed local Hudson Valley artist, Ruby Palmer, to learn more about her exhibit, “Subject to Change: a remote installation.”

During the month of January, Palmer followed a similar process to artist Sol Lewitt, writing and mailing specific instructions for wall drawings and paintings to be executed by a team of faculty and students of Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) in Spokane, WA. Through this project, Palmer was able to explore a new meaning of what it is to create, by relinquishing control of her creation, by placing it into the hands of others and cooperatively imagining into its final form. The end results were better than she could have imagined.

IL: How has this project opened you and your practice as an artist?

The project was ALL about opening up. Since others were actually making and installing many of the ideas which I drew and designed, I had to completely reconsider how I approach making things.  I sent the team of instructors and students elements that I had made in my studio or at least chosen the colors for, and they assembled them with help from my written instructions. It was both exhilarating and challenging for me because I had to really get imaginative with hardware store materials and the given space, which I had never visited. I’ve always been curious about how instructions are written, and how to convey direction, whether it be in a cooking recipe or for IKEA furniture, and it’s a lot harder than I thought!

It was daydream-like in many ways. It actually parallels my creative process as I usually solve problems in my work through sleep or waking dream. I don’t work directly from my dreams, but I do have that moment when waking, where I “know” the answer to a problem. It’s usually a solid response that I trust.

In fact, the whole concept for “Subject to Change” came about that way. I went to bed thinking I couldn’t do an installation so far away, and I woke up with the idea to work remotely, turning it into a game with the students—giving them direction and they would interpret and make the ideas. The results were sort of incidental, and the hope was that they would learn a bit about my process through making.

IL: How do you measure success of this project?

The biggest feeling of success came from the students’ texts and emails to me expressing their enthusiasm and curiosity, and willingness to participate.

That was a relief for me, especially since we’ve never met! The final result was also interesting and dreamlike to see these images appear on my screens and realize I was responsible for them. 

 IL: What’s happening in your studio now?

I’m doing watercolor drawings in response to the Spokane project. I’m back to thinking about cutting into walls and floors and making compositions inside those shallow spaces. Since the opportunities are rare, I’m imagining them a lot.  I’m also continuing my “flower paintings” which I began last spring and are a departure in many ways, but are informing the other work. Who knows where they are going, but they satisfy my need for color, more voluminous shapes, more gesture and less hard edge geometry.

IL: It's not a secret, at Instar we love artist moms and are always interested in what that relationship is like. Can you tell us a little about your own experience of being a mother artist?

It’s a pretty big challenge and I am SO happy to have my kids in my life, I love them so much. I can’t work the way I used to, so I’ve adjusted, and my work has adjusted, for better and worse. Like, I have to leave all the dishes and piles of laundry and have a messy house.  Before I had kids I used to sit around contemplating my work a lot—too much, and now I really don’t have time—I’ve gotta get to the point. 

Ruby Palmer lives and works in Rhinebeck NY with her husband and twin daughters. Since 2016 she started and has run an artist lecture series at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff NY called ARTalks that runs monthly. Her work has been shown in NYC at Exit Art, Smack Mellon, Parallel Art Space, and Morgan Lehman Gallery, at Page Bond Gallery in Richmond VA, as well as Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY and Instar Lodge in Germantown, amongst others. Visit Ruby Palmer’s website to see her multi-disciplinary work. 

Ruby Palmer, “Subject to Change: a remote installation”, 2017 Spokane Falls Community College Art Gallery, Spokane, WA, Photo credit: Chris Billings

The Hidden Past of Now: An Interview with Artist Melora Kuhn

Melora in studio

Standing inside Melora Kuhn’s studio, one steps into her upcoming installation.  An other room, something imaginary with painted walls displaying both the unnatural version of nature and interior settings of some mysterious historical place, a grand trompe l'oeil. Deeper than that, it is a space within a space and moves your thoughts to a mind inside a mind.

Her work confronts modern issues through a historical lense. In past work, Kuhn displays the idea of a known scene confronting the unknown. In paintings such as The Interior Chamber, she moves the viewer from a setting in an interior room to a place where the walls are filling the room with water. Or, as seen in The Wolf’s Cry, dogs and wolves battle in a Habsburgian wilderness. Her art provokes themes of class, race, and unspoken histories that can too often be lost in the fondness for a past time.

“I love to play off of reality,” says Kuhn. “I want to understand the thinking system and hidden elements within it.”

Kuhn’s upcoming installation for the Eigen + Art gallery in Leipzig is being finished inside her studio, a converted red barn from the late 1800s in Germantown. As a resident of the area for the last eight years, she has seen not just the small community of Germantown grow, but the Hudson Valley as a whole bioregion. This cycle of renewal and change mirrors her work, but Kuhn’s influences stretch beyond the valley.

Melora's Barn

“The quiet helps you to go deeper in the work,” explains Kuhn. “But those daily interactions [among artists] are missing. It makes you need to seek them out more.”

The as-yet-untitled installation will be shown this spring at the Eigen + Art in Leipzig. Her installation expands her previous work into a fully immersive piece, with painted walls, furniture, and interactive elements.

“I’ve always painted 19th century rooms. Now, I’m making one,” Kuhn explains.

Melorakuhn installation

The scale of her installation, incorporating a fully enclosed room, pushes her to new ways of creation. While she would always mix her oil paints the need for consistency lead Kuhn to developing her own color palette using Benjamin Moore house paint.

“I had to with more space,” Kuhn says. “It was to save time and make the colors consistent.”


As she is putting the final touches on her installation, her work takes on, literally, a new dimension. She moves from paintings of a room to art as a room. This natural evolution of her work goes on to establish what she most wants a viewer to take away from her work.

“To unravel it. To find out where we are now,” says Kuhn.

Melora Kuhn’s installation will be on display at the Eigen + Art Gallery in Leipzig from April 22nd through May 27th. For more information, visit their website.

Reported by William Crane, images by Dawn Breeze for Instar Lodge.

Melora Kuhn was one of the inaugural artists exhibiting in Time & Again in August 2016