“You Complete Me” Installation views.

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Opening night: our pieces are up and looking good through the glass! Well Liz’s is, anyway.

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Here I am. The show actually looks really good through the windows-a great feature of this gallery, but hard to capture in photos.

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The full installation. One of the advantages of having an install planned by Liz Miller is she set aside so much more time than I normally do! I was able to include several extra pieces. The two wall pieces on the left are more Jacques Lacan diagrams.

Two wall based collages by David Hamlow, stacked one above the other, each based on a psychoanalytic diagram by the philosopher Jacques Lacan

I don’t know anything about what either of these illustrates, but I love the intertwined, puzzle-like form of the lower, and the odd symbiosis of the forms in the upper. I liked that each was a set of two forms, whose relationships suggest both interdependence and tension.

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I particularly like this one, as it was derived from a hand-drawn sketch by Lacan himself.

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In the spirit of my collaboration with Liz, I used equal amounts of Mylar and felt. The yellow Mylar is from cat food bags. The felt is from Liz’s installation Ornamental Invasion  a couple years ago in the amazing MAEP Space at The Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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Dog food bad and pink felt.

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There were a ton of negative shapes left over from the reliquaries,  so I made a floor mandala. Since I used Liz’s shapes to make the windows, they are reborn here in cardboard.

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You can see the holes those pieces came from. Like an ancient reliquary, the windows reveal the various ‘sacred’ items, while protecting them from grubby supplicants.

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An ‘early’ note from Liz, before we were even dating, I think. Definitely grad school (where we met).

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The ornate, undulating shapes of the edges activate the patterns on the box board in an exciting new way. These are shapes I never would have come up with if I hadn’t been collaborating with Liz.

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The installation is called Unconscious Reliquaries. Most ancient reliquaries were probably scams: a bit of bone put in an ornate case and pawned-off as the wrist of a saint, for instance: a way to drive traffic to a cathedral–or drum up patronage for a cathedral’s construction. A conscious effort to deceive, with a specific agenda.

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Most of us don’t save the detritus of our lives with any set outcome in mind. A narrative, if one exists, is reverse-engineered from the remnants we carelessly toss in a drawer or tuck between the pages of a book.

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This unstudied form of conservation is the subject of these pieces.

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The tendency to collect the remnants of another person-particularly a lover-is an unconscious, even embarrassing compulsion.

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These works lend some ceremonial dignity to this tender, if ridiculous, drive.

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While at the same time pointing and exaggerating out obsession with history and lineage.

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…The containers are made from boxes containing items we both consumed (sparkling water, instant rice). Within are Liz’s cast-offs. Broken jewelry, used-up lip gloss…

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…bits and scraps from installations…

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…string, rope and worn out pens.

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Another Lacan diagram. I couldn’t find any information about it: it was the first one I came across, through a Facebook Lacan ‘fan’ page of all things. My initial attraction was visual: four forms, ambiguously entwined. hamlow_liz_miller_you_complete_me_recycled_material_lacan_umm_morris

Are the embracing? Locked in combat? Or just tangled together? Their interlocking aspect creates two mirrored yet interdependent forms that to me suggested a couple. Since Lacan is a Freudian and all psychoanalysis is on some level about sex, these Lacan pieces seemed be a good fit for the them of my show.

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I accentuated the duality of the form by making half from recycled junk and half from Liz’s felt: half Dunkin’ Donut Coffee bags, half poison-green felt.

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More scraps and negative shapes, with a spectacular view of Liz’s piece and a nice shot of the other Lacan diagram. The mezzanine is a nice feature for a related two person show, as it makes it possible to connect separate bodies of work visually without them occupying the same physical space.

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I wanted something on the first floor to tie the two installations together. I found this diagram on the same Lacan Facebook page. I turned it 90 degrees counter-clockwise to better fit the space. The original diagram was labeled ‘Pleasure Principle’ at the top of the silver form, ‘Savoir’ (to know) on the bottom. The top green piece was labeled ‘pulsion’ (drive) the bottom one ‘inhibition’. There was no label on the pink part, which seems to weave the whole thing together.

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The Pleasure Principle: the id seeks pleasure while avoiding pain, resulting in a tension between the drive, which seeks pleasure and the inhibitions, which avoid pain. Is the ego related to Savoir (to know, self knowledge)? Does the pink represent jouissance? The drive for pleasure that circumvents the ego in favor of a pleasure-that-is-pain? Not sure. Not even sure my definitions are right.

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In the end, for me, it was about delayed gratification–something Liz and I share in our process–and ultimately a pleasure in the product that-paradoxically-out ways the laboriousness of its creation.

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Liz ended up incorporating quite a bit of cardboard into her finished product. Just to the right you can see a little pink felt that is invading my installation.

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I like the way it reaches up into my space, like Kudzu.

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At the opening. Emily Lyman and Amy Toscani, two of the faculty at U of M Morris. It was great to meet them, especially since I have long been a fan of Amy’s work.

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Admiring the view from above.

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One more from outside.

It was great to do a show with Liz, which we haven’t done since we were grad students at the U of M. Hopefully it won’t be as long until the next time.

 

Speaking of next time: you will get to see a few shots of As I See Myself: a portrait show last February at the new Waseca Art Center. See you (seeing ‘me’) then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Complete Me (with Liz Miller) at UMM Morris: The Install.

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I share a large studio–about 3000 square feet–with my wife, installation artist Liz Miller. This great space is in the basement of our local post office, just around the corner from our house in Good Thunder. It is a huge space for the money (about $100 dollars a month plus utilities), but like so many people, the more space you give us, the more stuff we accumulate, and the fuller and messier it gets! We divide the space evenly half-and-half, but often our materials stray across the boundary.

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This is a weird result of such an event: a piece of my clear packing tape fused to some of my wife’s faux sheep skin!

Last summer Liz was asked to do an installation in the main gallery space at the University of Minnesota Morris. The space is an amazing two story open room with an adjacent, cantilevered mezzanine gallery. This makes HFA essentially two spaces, so the gallery director Michael Eble asked Liz if she could think of someone who could show in the mezzaline space. Before she could come up with anyone, Michael shot back with this: what if your husband David shows in the other space? I have always loved this gallery, and for a long time Liz and I have wanted to collaborate again , so I gladly accepted.

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I suggested we play off the idea of ourselves as a married artist couple, sharing a space and inadvertently ‘contaminating’ each others work.  I thought it would be interesting to make this a conscious effort by exchanging scraps left over from each others pieces–basically the negative shapes that we each cut away from our respective designs–and using these negative shapes to create positive ones–and new works based on them.

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Liz suggested we further the theme by working with some of each other’s materials.  So I took some felt shapes and she took some cardboard ones and we got to work. It was fun making more ornate designs. Using Liz’s shapes forced me to become much more elaborate and fanciful with my edges and silhouettes.

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I decided to channel some of the beautiful reliquary boxes I saw on our recent trip to Italy, and make a series of reliquaries based on the ‘icons’ I have accumulated of my relationship with Liz.

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I always save any interesting shapes that are left over when I am cutting out a box or brick. Liz took a bunch of these and worked her magic on them: mirroring them, sculpting the edges and tweaking the symmetry. It was interesting to see the influence move the other way: a harder, almost clunky geometry came into these that I don’t usually see in Liz’s shapes.

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She then projected the resulting stencils onto this killer navy sparkle felt. My little cast-offs have been seriously blinged! The show was starting to take shape. I suggested the somewhat corny title You Complete Me.

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Fast-forward to Saturday Oct 13th. We arrive in Morris. We had to caravan our two station wagons to get it all down there, but it was a nice drive. I grew up in Montevideo, not far from Morris (west central Minnesota). In fact, both my brother and sister graduated from Morris, so it was fun to be back in the area. The space was amazing, and Liz got right to work taking advantage of the soaring ceiling.

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I set up a table in the back and worked on preparing the reliquaries to be wall mounted.

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I was still adding items to the boxes at this point–the plastic bin to the right contains a bunch of Liz’s cast off items, which I had been secretly squirreling away for weeks.

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I use the original template to mark the center of each window.

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Then I add ephemera I have collected from Liz: used up markers, broken earrings–any left over trace of her daily presence.

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There are several reliquaries that are displayed as sets of six, but two larger ones are stand-alone. This is one of them. It features the precis on Immanuel Kant Liz and I wrote together in graduate school, an assignment that resulted in our first ‘date’.

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We met at a Denny’s in St.Paul to work on it, but ended up just talking. We always joke that we owe our marriage to Kant. Not many people can say that!

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Meanwhile Liz hangs the big pieces of glitter felt based on my shapes. It is thrilling to see my little scraps transformed into these monumental sculptural forms.

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OK enough goofing around. I am always trying to get a laugh out of Liz when we are working together. Time to take my stuff upstairs!

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Unconscious Reliquary 2. This set of six boxes looks like it might be cool as a vertical arrangement.

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Unconscious Reliquary 3. This horizontal configuration will be a nice counterpoint. You can see how the positive shape of 2 is the negative shape of 3, and vice-versa.

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Wall mounted works are up and looking good.

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At the upper right you can see the original Liz Miller Shape I used to create the silhouette of the boxes.

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A closer look. For this show, I favored cardboard from products both of us consumed. Liz is almost as bad of a chip snacker as I am. In her defense she never buys chips, but I do, and it they are around she can’t resist them.

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Some positive shapes became the negative shape of a window.

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Day two: Time for the wall drawings. I have been fascinated lately with the diagrams of French philosopher Jacques Lacan. I ran across him by pure chance through his fan page on Facebook. I don’t really understand a lot of his theories: they seem to do with the relationship between the id and super ego, particularly the pleasure principle and the reality principle: The immature psyche only understands seeking pleasure and avoiding pain (The Pleasure Principle). The mature psyche understands the deferring of immediate pleasure for a greater reward in the future (The Reality Principle). I thought now was a good time to use these, as they relate closely to the way Liz and I both work. We invest a lot of time making incremental units so they can later be combined into a larger, more impressive whole. hamlow_liz_miller_you_complete_me_UMM_HFA_recycled_art_22

The diagrams are meant to illustrate complex overlapping and interweaving psychological imperatives. I was interested in how their beauty as images is an unintended bi-product of clearly illustrating complicated patterns of behavior and thought. The blue half of the design is overlaid with cut-out strips of Duncan Donuts whole bean coffee bags. The pink half will be replaced with poison-green felt left over from one of Liz’s previous installations.

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Since the basis of Lacan’s theories is Freudian psychology, using these now was also a little tongue-and-cheek reference to the battle of the sexes. Good progress. Time for lunch.

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All done with the upstairs wall work!

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I wanted one thing on the main level to help tie the two shows together. This diagram specifically illustrates The Pleasure Principle.

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This one is made from hot-pink felt (from Liz) and Mylar dog food bags (one side silver, one side green).

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All done. The original diagram was horizontal and can be seen here.

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Getting there. You can see that Liz is starting to incorporate cardboard tubes and sheets. It is time to call it a day and take this lady to dinner (as fate would have it this install falls smack on our anniversary!) Next time: a few shots of the opening and the completed show! See you there and then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cathedral: ROLU Residency/Walker Drawing Club

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To become something else, one must leave the current state of being.

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But in the midst of becoming, being is called into question.

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The realization arises that there is no state of being.

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There is only a state of becoming.

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A state between states, more liquid than solid.

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Last summer my very good friend Matt Olson and his art/design group ROLU were asked to do a residency at the Walker Art Center.

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There approach was, as always, defuse and innovative: a constellation of artists, objects, writings, situations, emulations and (most of all) opportunities they called When Does Something Become Something Else?  

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 I was honored when Matt asked me to contribute to the project. He requested two things: something written for the free event publication, and a related creative activity.

Matt and I had been talking about the residency, and about objects (art or not) as  loci of transformation.

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So I decided to submit an essay inspired by John Baldessari’s  The Pencil Story.

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(image is from The Gradientblog of the Walker Art Center Design group).

The Walker design staff did a beautiful job on the handout (seen in the photo above–I think my essay is hidden under the yellow supplement).

Matt and I have a mutual friend who is blind–the talented musician Matt Gogola–to whom Matt Olson had recently tried to explain ROLU’s  residency at High Desert Test Sites.

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Matt G had listened politely, but when Matt Olson asked what he thought, Matt G responded “That sounds really interesting, but I have no idea what you are talking about”.

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Photo from the 10 Chances Artist Residency Blog.

This got Olson thinking about the centrality of sight, not only to art in general, but specifically to ROLU’s process, which is frequently if not exclusively driven by the discovery of a single image. He decided to ask Matt Gogolo to write an essay describing sightlessness (among other things, ‘an act of faith’ ) which ROLU printed in Braille and gave away at the residency closing ceremonies.

I had been asked to participate in Walker Drawing Club during the ROLU residency, and I was looking for a way to tie the club, the ROLU residency, and my own thoughts about vision and blindness into one project.

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This all came together for me around a Raymond Carver short story I have always loved called Cathedral.

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Like most Carver’s stories, Cathedral is very brief,  its narrated is a character you are not sure you like, to whom little seems to happen. And yet, by the end of the story, this character (and by extension, you the reader) have been profoundly transformed. Or perhaps more accurately, the two are, at the very end, in the throes of a transformation.

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The central character is a man whose name is never revealed.

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He tells the story of a night when he met an old friend of his wife’s.

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The friend is blind, and the narrator is not excited about meeting him, but he smokes a joint with the blind man, and they share quite a bit of wine.

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Eventually the man’s wife falls asleep. There is a documentary on the television about cathedrals, and the blind man asks the narrator to explain what a cathedral is.

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The narrator quickly realizes…

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…that it is something that is very difficult to explain in words…

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…to someone who has never has never seen anything.

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But the blind man has an idea.

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“Hey, listen to me. Will you do me a favor? I’ve got an idea.”

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“Why don’t you find some heavy paper? And a pen. We’ll do something. We’ll draw one together.”

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“Get a pen and some heavy paper. Go on, bub, get the stuff,” he said.

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The blind man got down from the sofa and sat next to me on the carpet.

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He ran his fingers over the paper. He went up and down the sides of the paper. The edges, even the edges. He fingered the corners.

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“All right,” he said. “All right, let’s do her.” He found my hand, the hand and the pen. He closed his hand over my hand. “Go ahead, bub, draw,” he said.

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“Draw. You’ll see. I’ll follow along with you.”

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“It’ll be okay. Just begin now like I’m telling you. You’ll see. Draw,” the blind man said.

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So I began. First I drew a box that looked like a house. It could have been the house I lived in. Then I put a roof on it. At either end of the roof, I drew spires. Crazy.

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“Swell,” he said. “Terrific. Your doing fine,” he said. “Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime, did you, bub? Well, it’s a strange life, we all know that. Go on now. Keep it up.”

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I put in windows and arches. I drew flying buttresses. I hung great doors. I couldn’t stop.

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The TV station went off the air.

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I put down the pen and closed and opened my fingers.

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The blind man felt around on the paper. He moved the tips of his fingers over the paper, all over what I had drawn, and he nodded.

“Doing fine,” the blind man said.

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I took up the pen again, and he found my hand. I kept at it. I’m no artist. But I kept drawing just the same.

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…“Close your eyes now,” the blind man said to me.

                  I did it. I closed them just like he said.

“Are they closed?” he said. “Don’t fudge.”

“They’re closed,” I said.

“Keep them that way,” he said.  He said “Don’t stop now. Draw.”

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So we kept on at it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

Then he said, “I think that’s it. I think you got it,” he said.  “Take a look. What do you think?”

But I had my eyes closed. I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do.

“Well?” he said. “Are you looking?”

My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything.

“It’s really something,” I said.

–Excerpted are from the Raymond Carver short story Cathedral. 

Next time: The last post on 2012! You Complete Me, a 2 person/one concept show with my wife the incredibly talented Liz Miller.  A fitting end to a year of great collaborations. See you then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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