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Category: Art Adventures

The Modern Love Podcast…

My Modern Love essay is featured on WBUR/New York Times’ #ModernLovePodcast featuring Rosie Perez reading “Accidental Older Woman!” The production team is  excellent, and listening to adorable and talented Rosie performing a story from my life (complete with sound design) is surreal, exciting and humbling.

Here is some other work that may resonate with ML readers:
Interview with Cheryl Strayed: The Millions
Quiet Genius of Purple Rain: Cultural Weekly
Blind Date, Brooklyn: Brooklyn Rail
Diary of a Street Art Cultural Warrior: Brooklyn Rail
Two Guns: Vol 1. Brooklyn
Sanctum Sanctorum: Cultural Weekly.

Thank you!

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Lifecycle: from #concretetodata

1. Startup
In the ’80s I learned to write notes to my friends in BASIC.

10 PRINT “Hi”.
20 RUN

Something like that.

In college I took a class called INFORMATION SYSTEMS that taught us to identify the parts of a database, several times. (Field, record, file.)

2. Rapid Growth
In the ’90s I met this guy who worked for AOL. He lived in Florida and I lived in California. He was the guy you called if you were online too long and wanted some of your money back. Most people had no legitimate reason to ask, they were just horrified by how much they were spending per minute using AOL. He had this big, warm laugh, and he would pop into a chat room and just write: CREDIT DENIED! Because it was what he typed all day, but nicer. I could hear him laughing, even though we couldn’t talk on the phone while we were in a chat room. Eventually I married him.

I survived Y2K, but my relationship with the boyfriend (who followed the husband) did not. I was obsessed with wanting him to want to get back together, and one day he emailed me to say he and the new girl broke up. He was sad. So I emailed him a picture of a see-through blue dildo. I felt like a kind of pioneer, sending a picture without any text. He got the message.

3. Maturity
At the end of the ‘00s a random guy added me on Myspace and shortly after that I flew to Brooklyn to meet him (I checked his website and Googled his address first), and we spent a long weekend watching downloaded movies. Watch one, download the next, repeat. He had taken an immediate dislike to me as an actual person, so we were both very grateful for the movies.

4. Decline
I prefer to write in solitude. I enjoy the intimacy of my brain telling my hands what to do and my eyes following along on a screen, discovering what I have to say. I sit in a certain chair, by my favorite light and keep my schedule open. With patience, perhaps something subconscious emerges.

I don’t care for my laptop anymore. I open it and find Facebook following me around, LinkedIn tattling on everyone I know, Google reading my email (yours too! I know!); Amazon and Zulilly are tripping each other to get into my pockets. Since Snowden, I never feel alone. Two’s company, but 17 security agencies and all of Madison Avenue are quite a crowd. Culture isn’t pushing, it’s pushy.

Pushing back, I am shopping for a typewriter, I write handwritten letters.

5. Death or Rebirth
People have always used walls to say things. Always. People need walls for self-expression like singers and actors need audience—to fulfill an action. A few years ago I knew some artists who said they wanted to get away from capitalism and the gallery mindfuck and just put art on the street, where maybe it would connect with people. So they could be sure that they exist in the world.

Throw away art!, one said. I like to do studies for oil paintings on paper, and I put those paintings outside, said another. Completing something in an ordinary but essential way is what I think they were doing, using the walls. But was branding already pushing them to choose these colors, those figures?

A few years ago the word #Occupy showed up on walls in my neighborhood; scrawled, careless and contrived, with the halfhearted handwriting of someone passing out flyers for a deli. Still, the Internet had jumped its own fence, landing in the streets. People have always used walls to say things. The #Occupy tags made me wonder who was now speaking.

6. Death or Rebirth?
A lot of art is painted outside now, during the day, in my old neighborhood. This art is different from whatever is pasted and whispered and screamed at night (in solitude, perhaps something subconscious emerges). When you do not seek permission or wait for a curator, you seem to have something different to say.

But a curator can offer a prime spot, free paint, exposure. And with or without help (permission?), blogs and Instagram and Flickr and Google will preserve your art (for free!), so it will never, ever be lost, and you will always exist. This kind of exposure could lead to very big things.

You know, because of the database.


—Robin Grearson
From “A Zine Project for Concrete to Data” by Hrag Vartanian at Steinberg Museum of Art. 2015. Printed pages. Floor Installation.

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Teaching in DC this weekend

I’m spending this weekend in Washington, DC, where I have been invited to lead two writing workshops for artists: Learn to Love Your Artist Statement and Who Are You?

Hamiltonian Artists invited me to participate in their Professional Development Speaker Series, and I am honored to accept. The workshops are funded in part by DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, which is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.


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Summer news, donation-based consulting!


I confess I’ve been feeling a little uninspired lately; I suspect mostly because I’ve been preoccupied for a couple of months: I made plans to get my MFA in writing, but last week I decided not to go after all.

I’m inspired by people who are committed to doing what matters to them regardless of resources, like Matt & Jacob, who founded the free Mellow Pages library in Bushwick from donated books by local authors. Chiwan Choi in Los Angeles is also running Writ Large press, coordinating events and opening an independent bookstore in Los Angeles, all for the love of publishing. There are other examples. Many independent reading series and art galleries are labors of love.

I’m currently working with Cameron Blaylock on a long essay (chapbook?) about Bushwick. Cameron is using a Polaroid camera to illustrate my thesis that Bushwick’s cultural history is ephemeral at this point. I’m at about 6,800 words and just beginning edits.

Thought Catalog kindly published an essay I wrote recently. While the headline refers to catcalling, I was thinking of the Steubenville verdict and worldwide violence against women when I wrote the piece.

This Sunday, August 25 at 5 PM, I’m excited to be included in the reading/discussion for BLT Salon (Brooklyn Ladies Text). This month’s event is hosted at a private residence in Brooklyn off the G: All are welcome. I’m reading the Thought Catalog piece and maybe a few newish poems. I’m reading with Amber Atiya, Lee Ann Brown, R Erica Doyle, Hafizah Geter, Casey Llewellyn, Amelie Ray and Evie Shockley. All the details are on Tumblr.

Art & curating:
I had an inspiring studio visit last month with Anne Gilman. I am interested in her works on paper and her use of text and crossing out. I’ve had a couple of projects on the back burner for a while, but they’re still on the back burner. I’m still open to collaborations, so if you want to propose something, please do.

I am no longer working with 3rd Ward, but I am open to finding new schools and venues to host my professional-writing workshops, and I am willing to teach small private groups (buy me a train ticket and I’m there, everyone outside NY). I love working with artists, writers & freelancers to help them communicate and reach toward their goals–editing, writing, marketing, starting a small business. Whatever you need, let’s work on it.

I have found that many people postpone hiring a consultant to help put their ideas and professional communications together. Sometimes we tell ourselves that money is the reason we don’t go for our dreams, but it shouldn’t be. So allow me to remove at least one of your excuses: if you’ve wanted to work with me but haven’t set up a time, do it now. Between August 21 and September 1, I will meet with anyone to consult on any project, on a donation basis. This is a pay-what-you-can offer for a one-hour appointment (in-person only!). If you want to barter, email me your idea. If the response is crazy, I’ll set up scheduled hours and a desk somewhere, otherwise I envision spending some time in cafés having cool conversations and learning about your new projects.

The Photo:
People ask often about my 100 Days project. Here’s what I did: Last summer, I wrote a new 1,000-word (or more) composition per day, every day for 100 days. In Union Square. I highly recommend it and need to figure out how to write something about it at some point. On Day 3 last year, a very friendly butterfly showed up who even sat on my hands while I typed, and then also made itself comfy on my keyboard, facing the screen. Two weeks later, this guy or one of his friends came back and found me again. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.

Thanks for your time and attention and inspiration and support. Keep in touch.

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New York Art World Primer: new post

I wrote a quick post for Hyperallergic about a great panel discussion held last week at 3rd Ward as part of Krista Saunders’ Intro to the New York Art World class. Check it out, and get in touch with me if you want to get to work on your own professional communications.

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