The scarf pictures an object I noticed in one of the many sex shops near my studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It was by far the most delicate offering in the store: a petite glass tube containing a miniature cloth flower. You may read about its paradoxical function on the wikipedia page linked to on the scarf.
Scarf 2 pictures the Scandinavian landscape that is home to the Skogsrå, a mythological siren of sorts who appears in the trees and tempts the wanderer to pursue her deeper and deeper into the forest. When finally she turns her back she reveals herself to be an apparition, a hollow body that can only be a portal into further depths. This is also the moment when the one following her realizes there is no known path out of the forest. Anyone who knows the enchantment of the woods may recognize the legend as a sensible warning to turn back at a reasonable hour. I always related to it as a metaphor for problems in painting.
Scarf 3 is a map of the winter sky, featuring some constellations that will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere in the coming month.
On New Years Day I saw a cherry tree in bloom in a Brooklyn Cemetery and thought about how in the not so distant future the stars may be our only natural way of knowing the time of year.
Hesiod’s “Works and Days” from around 700 BC contains a farmers’ almanac advising when to plant crops according to what’s visible in the night sky. Alas....
The constellation Camelopardalis (The Giraffe) wasn’t introduced until 1612, and some maps don’t render it as a figure since it doesn’t contain any stars of great magnitude. But its brightest star, α Cam, is one of the most distant visible with the naked eye.
The scarf is inspired by a beautiful drawing of the giraffe constellation featured in a set of English constellation cards, Urania’s Mirror, published in 1825.
This scarf is a true story. It happened late on a summer night at the end of August 2015. I was roaming the industrial waterfront of Sunset Park with a bottle of wine and a handsome young man I’d just met, when I noticed a black plastic bag approaching us from across the street. It wasn’t a breezy night, and the bag moved with a certain punctual cadence. I was considering the possibilities when suddenly it became apparent that a cat was bearing the bag in its mouth. My companion wasn’t as impressed as I was, and proved to lack the romantic capacity in general. I’ve always hoped to run into the cat again on a late night errand but it hasn’t happened yet.
What was in its bag???
Prince Rogers Nelson
1958 - 2016
“As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant style and showmanship. He came to be regarded as a sex symbol for his androgynous, amorphous sexuality, play with signifiers of gender, and defiance of racial stereotypes.”
Scarf #6 remembers Prince with a selection of images culled from google and printed from pronto plates.
Wear it in appropriate spirits.
The May scarf is a silkscreen print of people in a lilac bush, inspired by an experience on LSD in the north of Sweden.
I first appreciated lilacs when I lived in that land. Their appearance in spring came at the end of a traumatic period of darkness and announced the return of the pleasure of fragrant flowers, etc etc. It is such a robust bush! But I felt there was no way I could enjoy lilacs enough in the time allotted, and for this reason they caused me anxiety at the same time as pleasure. I could only hope to live for more springs to enjoy them more. But a long and deadening winter would come first.
The last couple of summers I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel and thus extend the lilac season. I have enjoyed them in New York in May, in Sweden in July. Now on June 1st I find myself in Saguache, Colorado, at an elevation of 7,680 feet, and I’ve never seen more lilac bushes in one place.
The June scarf is a photogram made in the Colorado sun. I am in residence at an art space called The Range in Saguache.
Something that immediately struck me on excursions in this vast western locale was the diversity of types of barbed wire fencing dividing up the land. I snipped pieces from derelict fences and attempted to make sunprints, but the dimensionality of the wire proved problematic. This print instead features flat subjects including a raven’s feather, seltzer can tabs, some lacework and jewelry collected in local thriftstores, and some of the contents of my wallet including a puzzle piece and coins.
The July scarf is a stencil monotype of 5 colorful eels.
I saw something strange stick its head above water while swimming at Far Rockaway. A friend visiting from England suggested it was an eel and told us all about the beloved dish Eel Pie.
While researching Bauhaus pedagogy in anticipation of my new teaching job at Yale, an analogy vaguely attributed to either Klee or Kandinsky stood out to me:
“Although these teachers sought principles by which form could be understood, they pointed out that the rules they found were made to be broken; the principles they sought were, like a slippery swarm of multicolored eels, within their reach but could never be grasped entirely.”
The August scarf is Olympic themed, depicting Wu Minxia & Shi Tingmao of China who won the gold medal for womens’ synchronized 3m springboard.
I hardly saw the competitions myself but Raque Ford recommended this performance in particular and I was very impressed.
The divers are printed from a linoleum block and the scarf includes some handpainted details including the hair and swimsuits.
A silkscreened scarf with hand applied color, depicting the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. in flames.
The flames are lifted from "Blue Fudo" which Kenneth Clark deems one of the best portrayals of fire in art history, in his essay on Boticelli's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Trump's conflicts of interest already feel dated on my list of grievances. I felt incredible anger as I marched past this building on January 21st.
The June scarf is a souvenir of a sailing trip in Norway with my father and his cousin. The trip was mostly wet and cold, but otherwordly and beautiful. On Midsummer we got some sun and spent a couple days docked at an island called Landegode, not far from Bodø. As we approached, the island appeared to have its own thought bubble, a cloud hovering just above it. It was a really magical place, bathed in midnight sun and shell sand beaches for invigorating swims.
The July scarf pictures a 1969 Claes Oldenburg sculpture that was originally installed on the Beinecke Plaza at Yale and is now located in the courtyard of Yale’s Morse College. The sculpture was commissioned by architecture students and served as a speakers’ platform during Vietnam War protests. Its presence at Yale also coincided with the admission of women to the University in 1969. I thought it a fitting motif for the month that Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military. To me it seems a perfect illustration of the combination statements Gender is a Drag / The Military is Drag -- speaking to the ambivalence around fighting for the right to employment in an institution which is highly questionable in the first place.
A rendition of an Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting from 1932. I’ve been on a big Kirchner trip lately, and was excited to discover his version of a classic theme after I myself had been making monotypes of acrobats with Marina Ancona at 10 Grand Press.
Here I am pictured performing my fantasy move in the weight room: the Single Leg Barbell Romanian Deadlift. This spring my swolemate and I have been working out regularly in the Payne Whitney Gym at Yale. I love Single Leg Romanian deadlifts because they feel very graceful. I also like “Single Leg Deadlift from Box.” Currently I lift 35 lb dumbbells but maybe one day I will try this move.
Octopuses use their colour displays mainly for camouflage and signaling. But sometimes they produce elaborate colour displays for no apparent reason, in the absence of predators or other octopuses. Most of the chromatic signals produced by an octopus appear not to have any consistent effect on other octopuses, suggesting that they are signs without meaning, words with no sense.
I visited Paris and exhibited a selection of Sophy Naess Supporters Circle scarves at 45b Rue Ramponeau in Belleville. The opening was a success and a delight and afterwards we all ate a festive late dinner at Le President. Before eating I joined some children who were doing cartwheels at the base of the restaurant’s grand staircase. Above us in the dining room, delicious dishes flew around the table on a swift lazy susan. The most delicate and beautiful of these was the water spinach, a tropical plant in the morning glory family. When I came back to the USA I tried numerous times to cook it myself, but without the romance of Paris it was impossible to achieve the same effect.
This scarf commemorates the July 4th protest at the Statue of Liberty. Protesters unfurled a banner calling for abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which was founded as recently as 2003 and seems clearly, tragically at odds with the American values the Statue stands for. Therese Patricia Okoumou of Staten Island scaled the Statue and is pictured here resting at its base before being apprehended by police. I thank these protesters for bringing such unique visibility to the outrage so many Americans are feeling these days.
Caduceus is a sex position which is also an abstraction that only exists in the present. It can’t be documented. It takes its name from the entwined snakes on the staff of Hermes. I talked to my mother on the phone about the recent article in the Atlantic Magazine about “the sex recession.” She said sex is going the way of the newspaper -- no one has time. She said that having the time to read a hard copy of the paper in bed is the same as having time to enjoy sex. Reading the news online is no substitute. I think of the William Carlos Williams line “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
This scarf is a silk screen halftone with hand coloring, picturing a Warholian grid of “poms,” which are small, physical samples of colored carpet yarn or fibers. Poms are, in other words, the yarn palette I’ve sampled from while designing a large carpet which will be woven in India this year.
This scarf is a silkscreen with hand coloring. I posed in a semi-headstand position in front of the mirror and photographed myself with my phone, attempting to approximate a position that would fill the square scarf and push against its edges as an expression of my feeling of confinement in an academic workplace, instagram feed, etc as I approached my April Fool’s birthday anniversary.
Scarf #39 is a silkscreen with handcoloring. I first encountered this image in a book of Athenian Red Figure vases of the Archaic period and made some paintings related to it in 2013. I was really thrilled to see the Nancy Spero show at PS1 recently and only then realized that Spero had also included this figure in her repertoire. The image on the scarf has been slightly modified from the vase painting to more closely resemble Spero’s. She seems to have changed the figure’s coiffure a little and also elongated the torso so that the pose is even more wheel-like, perhaps eternally circling around pleasure.
Scarf #40 is a silkscreen with handcoloring. The motif comes from a book on Uzbek textiles and pictures a type of Central Asian embroidery traditionally included in a brides’s dowry, called SUZANI. I’ve just purchased a ticket to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and will spend almost three weeks this June traveling around the Silk Road in search of suzani and other inspirations.
Scarf #41 is a handstenciled pochoir design picturing the four Democrat Congresswomen who came to be known as “The Squad,” at a press conference just after Trump’s racist tweet suggesting they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” rather than do their work as elected representatives on US policy. “The Squad” is by now an outdated moniker, since these women aren’t fully united in their politics. Ayana Pressley has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, while AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib are Sanders supporters. In any case, I hope you will have occasion in the future to fly this scarf in honor of forthcoming accomplishments from someone pictured here.
Scarf #42 is a silkscreen with handcoloring. The mesh is made from a scan of a large net I worked on during a residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) recently. The residency was funded by the Lenore Tawney Foundation and provided an opportunity for me to explore textile structures “off loom.” The butterflies are representative of a collaborative aspect of the nets I was making: Amanda Friedman provides me with ceramic weights to tie into the nets, some of them in the form of moths and butterflies. An unexpected outcome of the very experimental research facilitated by the residency was a print project with Marina Ancona at 10 Grand Press. I have begun using my weavings as print matrices, essentially drawing with fibers and putting them through the press. The translation of net to silkscreen in this scarf hints at this new aspect of my work with fibers.
Scarf #43 references Caravaggio’s Medusa of 1597, in the form of an ink drawing silkscreened onto pre-dyed fabric. I recently read Andrea Long Chu’s book Females which examines gender in Valerie Solanas’s work, among other things, and takes as its premise the idea that “everyone is female, and everyone hates it.” I liked Chu’s revision of Freud’s take on the Medusa. For Freud, the myth of the Medusa head turning men to stone -- including the idea that the gorgon’s mouth is a vagina -- is a simple expression of castration anxiety. Chu however asserts that “the little boy, forced by the abyssal glimpse of female genitalia to consider the possibility that his own penis will be removed, secretly finds the idea arousing.” “Women... don’t have penis envy,” Valerie fumes in SCUM. “Men have pussy envy.”
Scarf #44 is a companion to the Medusa which precedes her in the series. This is a silkscreened scarf with hand coloring. While researching the Medusa Gorgon I encountered the character of Melusine in medieval manuscripts. She seems to be a beneficent figure, but she apparently grows a serpent’s tail when she believes she is bathing in privacy. If the Medusa is about pussy envy, Melusine seems to be about “Big Dick Energy.”
I revisited the lyrics to the Nirvana song, and I can vouch for the “heart shaped box” :: vagina analysis of the lyrics, which have aged pretty well! A heart shaped box with a combination code is a Valentine’s take on the LOCK BOX, a subject I am exploring in my upcoming show at 321 Gallery, opening March 21st. I hope your Valentine’s Day was sweet and that I’ll see you at 321 Gallery on 3-21-2020. Please unlock your calendar now!
I lost studio access and printshop access in March due to COVID. I started biking to my studio eventually. Not long after, George Floyd was murdered and suddenly I was at protests every day. I missed many months of scarf production in spring and early summer, but in July I undertook
to make a panoramic scene of recent events. Without the possibility of silkscreening, I resorted to a tracing system. Each of these scarves is hand traced from a master drawing, and subsequently hand colored.