My Life on the Wall for the Crawl

Spring Art Crawl happened last week -- thought I'd put up a post about it!

I know, I know - I never even said the Art Crawl was coming up.... That's how busy I've been.... So busy that I didn't even have time to make chickens for the wall! But at least I am here today giving a sample of what I did get up! I had been working on other projects - including digging into my life for moments that hold meaning to help in some memoir writing. So for the Crawl, I decided to shorten some of these moments into tiny haiku* form and add illustrations.* Which actually ended up being a great help! In the process of whittling down words and finding a snapshot image for each in my mind, I was able to pull more clarity in regards to what specific importance the moments held. (And it was just really fucking fun!)

I had a total of 24 up for the Art Crawl and plan to continue the series. Here are a few:

 Circumstances of My Birth

Dad held the lighter
that lit my mom's cigarettes
while she birthed me out.

Heart Throb Cures

My love and Water
Andy Gibb forty five plays -
cures my chicken pox.

Confirmation Day

Menstrual blood stain
on confirmation outfit
confirms God's not real.


Neighbors excuse for
peeping in my front window:
"I thought we were friends."

Sorry, Dad.

Dad can be so sweet
Carried TV up three flights!
OOOPS. There's my dildo.


*notes on the haiku:
The haiku are not traditional Japanese haiku but simply follow the 5,7,5 syllable count. Some would call them senryu –or even spam-ku. Maybe we can call them “Cam”ku.

*notes on the illustrations:
I drew my illustrations with my left hand - I am right-handed. For much of my life I felt the need to be perfect (as defined by others) in all that I did. I, myself, tended to find perfection in imperfection, preferring pre-school art shows to art museums. I decided I would have more success meeting my own standards if I were to use my “weaker” hand. And I did!


If you can't go to Brazil...

If you can't go to Brazil, bring Brazil to you!
... Or have the kids make it with you.
This summer ArtStart did Brazil Camp and I got to teach Preschool Art!
I will say no more.
Just look.




CREATIVITY! (it's important...)

Often times creative people are called nonconformists, oddballs, weirdos... but that is often because creativity is only viewed in the sense of the artistic realm. And we artists are, indeed, often nonconformist oddball weirdos. (Not really. We are actually pretty normal and boring, we just pretend well and dress funny.) Anyhow, what I want to say is that creativity is about problem solving. It is about looking at things from new angles, finding new approaches, having limitless ways of seeing. 

The ability to look at things and link them together in new ways to form new things and new ideas and come up with solutions no one else ever thought of, that is creativity. And that is something everyone needs to have - not just the artists of the world.

Even though you don't have to be an artist to be creative, one of the best ways for children to build creativity skills, is by making art, by becoming a young artist. Playing with art materials at a young age engages children in the process of creation and problem solving. It teaches them to take risks, use their imagination, be flexible and spontaneous. The list of benefits that some time engaging with the arts can give a child is almost endless.

Make art with your kids if you can -- if you can't, I will be leading some classes that you will find listed here and there are always plenty around the Twin Cities for kids. I will be adding more here about kids and creativity as time goes!

You can call 612-388-5308 to register for the classes below.


Celebrate but Don't Stop the Fight! (and/or) I'll never do that again!

    The Supreme Court Decision on Same Sex Marriage had me in tears much of yesterday. They were tears of joy, surprise, relief, and pride in a job well done by a determined group of people. But there were also more than a few tears of sorrow and deep concern. In every single positive tweet and Facebook post, in every joyful phone call and text I got, I couldn't help but imagine the thousands if not millions of angry hateful messages that were being put out into the world at the same time. And I have to admit, I tortured myself and looked at a few. And they are angry and they are turning up the volume. Here's a tweet from American Family Radio host Bryan Fischer - I'm hoping the retweets and favorites were all from people like me who had solid anti-AFR comments to go with them!

     I don't want those of us basking in this celebration to assume that this win is going to overshadow all of the negative talk. Politically, we made it. We got this win. But person by person there are still a lot of individuals out there living in oppressive environments that are unaccepting, even hateful: families, churches, small town cultures and other situations that are denying them their true identity. So celebrate but don't stop here!

     In 2010, Rolling Stone featured a story on Anoka MN, "One Town's War on Gay Teen's: In Michelle Bachmann's home district, evangelicals have created have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back." (You can click that to read it.) I wrote a response to that situation that was published as commentary in Lavender Magazine. I'm putting that out again today because I think it's good to remember now, even in light of this amazing milestone.

 Lavender titled it Supportive Adults Need To Be Visible and Available to GLBT Youth (I'd probably call it I'll never do that again.)
 November 2010-
     In light of the recent surge in teen suicides and prevalence of teen bullying, I wanted to put out a call to all adults who are supporters of GLBT youth to make themselves visible and available to kids in their communities.
     I applaud all of those who have spoken in the It Gets Better Campaign, and who have broadcast their own stories to the world. Their voices are irreplaceable! For kids to hear from people who have experienced similar struggles and survived to become happy adults, there may be nothing more helpful - except maybe an adult in their life who is willing to listen and be accepting.

     When a child is surrounded by peers who don't understand; teachers and school staff who aren't allowed to talk about the issue of sexual orientation; and families who may be unaccepting, finding an adult they can trust to listen to and validate them may be next to impossible.
     There is a lot of pressure in our society to not discuss sexuality issues with minors. In recent years, I was employed as a youth director at a very liberal, open, and affirming Christian church. Even in this environment, I was told firmly by the co-pastors I could not have one-on-one discussions with the youth.
     This happened after they demanded I tell them what my conversations were with a specific member of the youth group. I so happened that this teen's parents had requested I talk with their child because of struggles with sexual identity. They were very supportive of their child and wanted to add another supportive adult into the conversation.

     When confronted by the authoritative pastors (who, I presume, had church politics in mind), I felt obligated to tell them the topic of our talks, and I did. I was subsequently told that these conversations were not appropriate; that I was not qualified to have them; and that, therefore, I was not allowed to have further one-on-one conversations with any youth group member.
     Even though the pastors were very supportive of the GLBT community, and no obvious harm or embarrassment came to anyone from doing so, I completely and wholly regret betraying this teen and the family. I will never allow myself to be intimidated into that situation again.
     My point is that if someone trained at the Master's level in Religious Leadership, in the position of Youth Director, upon request of parents to discuss this topic with a minor cannot do so - who can? My answer is: all of us.
     There was no fault or harm done on my part. By letting this teen talk about fears of being labeled, bullied, and teased because of sexual orientation, I did not as many may assume, bring up anything within the realm of sexual activity, or encourage or validate sexual behavior.

     In fact, it was an opportunity to encourage responsibility, respect, and mindfulness when it came to any relationship, including romantic interests, as well as those  with friends, family, peers and especially oneself. These types of conversations are important. They may mean the difference between happiness and misery - and as we have seen lately, even life and death.

     It is our job as supportive adults to allow these kids to talk, and let them know there are people who support them who are not offended, grossed out, disgusted, angry, or disappointed with them for their feelings. Most of all, we need to show them we are not fearful of others who me be all of that, or plain out fearful of what the political consequences of talking to kids will be.

     I closed an open door on an entire group of kids because someone else told me I had to. I will never do that again. In fact, I will be opening my door to anyone who needs an ear.

     I am hoping the rest of you will join me. Put a Human Rights Campaign or GLBT Pride or ally sticker on your car, in the front window of your house, on the back of a binder you carry, on your shirt - anywhere to let these kids know you are someone who will listen without judgment. Do something to advertise your acceptance of GLBT youth.
     Even if you are in a position where an authority figure or a family member has said you cannot discuss these things, you can quietly advertise your support to your students, young relatives, employees, patients, fellow congregants... whoever the youth in your life might be. Let them know you are someone they can trust. And offer an ear when they request one!


Macy Woman: Please head to the tornado shelter to find your pants.

I am an artist and a nanny so by the end of each day I am covered in some sort of goo that I wouldn't want to see on any article of clothing worth over twenty dollars.

Recently, however, the day came where I needed a pair of dress pants. The building where my studio is located was hosting an event for gallery owners and other people with real art clout. Clothes splattered with paint and booger remnants wouldn't cut it. So for the first time in a few years I headed to Macy's.

I entered the store through the second level door I used in the past. I strolled past the shoes and took a left into what used to be the Plus Size department - because I am not a 'size' I am a 'PLUS size' or what Macy's calls a Macy Woman. I walked through prom dresses, SpongeBob t-shirts and very tall narrow jeans. It was now the Juniors department. I checked the sign for Macy Woman.

Nothing there. (But you can't miss Juniors.)

There was nothing on Level One either. Although it was interesting to see Petites sequestered there. Often in department stores you find Petites and Plus Sizes side by side because, you know, fat people and short people are always friends and shop together.


I headed down one level to the basement thinking "No way. Not the basement."

I rode the escalator to the bottom. The sign said nothing about Macy Woman or Plus Sizes. Maybe they had moved the department to a different location all together, I thought. I recalled that years ago at another mall, the Woman had to leave the main store and walk across the mall to another location completely.

But then I saw her. I looked way down the hall and there was a headless body. A Plus Size mannequin. A Woman.

At the very end of the hall, past all of the china and the kitchen appliances, all of the comforters and all of the sheets and towels, past the pillows and rugs and luggage, there she stood. I had found the Plus Size clothing at Macy's.

I made the trek down to the end of that hall to discover why they had decided to move these clothes all the way down to what was really a better fit for the tornado shelter or maybe the last chance discount bins.

I asked the first sales person I saw near the racks if she knew the reason for its separation from the rest of women's clothing. She reminded me of a sparrow. Very tiny, very light - her suit coat hanging stiffly like feathers on a bird. Her small eyes flitted back and forth nervously behind her tiny glasses as she said, "Well, I'm not sure. It's been like this since I've worked here." And then she walked off to Housewares. Not her department.

I found two sturdier women, each a Woman, more appropriately assigned to this department and much more solid in their demeanor as well. I am sure they were trained to be conscious of the store's reputation as well as the customer's satisfaction, so I am certain I was putting them in an awkward position by asking them a question for which their answer may make Macy's management uncomfortable.

"Do either of you know why this department is so far from the rest of the women's clothing?"

They both began with how it had been like that since they started their jobs. I could tell it wasn't the first time they had heard the question so I begged for a better answer and reframed the question. I changed it from simply 'why' to whether or not they found it offensive or absurd.

"Yes" they both agreed, "it's awful." They encouraged me as they "do everyone" to talk to the store managers in the offices "right there." They pointed.

We were so far off the main drag of the store that we were standing only a few feet from the doors of the Executive and HR offices.

In the Executive Offices I was introduced to a store manager named Beth*. She was short and plump and dressed in a very Manhattan black suit, her hair in an edgy blond bob.  She has been with Macy's for over 35 years. We had about a ten minute conversation.

Beth's reasoning for the placement of the department in Tornado Corner (my words, not hers) was the need for more space. More vendors had been added, she said.

"But the old space up on Level Two," I said, "seemed like the exact same size as what is currently in the basement."

I went so far as to offer up my own time to step off the space on Level Two and then in the basement to compare. Beth said that wasn't necessary.

I tried to get Beth to tell me what I guessed is the real reason the department had been moved: to hide it, and its shoppers, in a place where there was little foot traffic, few shoppers. 

I mentioned that it seemed offensive that a Woman with money (a woman, perhaps, with an education, a career, and a family) had to come the darker drearier section of the store to make purchases for herself. Meanwhile, the juniors, the younger (and let's face it, thinner) shoppers, many without their own money, are celebrated upstairs with better lighting, decorations, various other departments and even simply more people around her to keep her company.

"Well," Beth said, "we moved Macy Woman down here to have more space." 

That's when I decided I needed to take a risk. I asked Beth if she herself shopped in the department, knowing that that she may take offense. That is, after all, an expectation. One must not ever admit to shopping in the Plus Size department. Shhh. They are in the basement, you know, where fat people have to shop.

She openly admitted it. And she said she loved the privacy of having the corner of the basement to shop in.

Emboldened, I took risk number two. "Because you're fat and ashamed?" (I can ask this because I am fat and not ashamed. If I were thin, I may have been attacked for asking. If I were ashamed, I may not have been able to ask without crying.)

Her immediate answer stunned me. "Yeah, I guess." Looking at her, I smiled and nodded silently. Caught! For a moment I had her. I saw on her face that she knew I knew. I knew that she was full of it and everyone understands that the Macy Woman has her place in the basement because Macy's wants her there. For about three seconds she let me know that she understood that the clear messages Macy's is sending its larger female customers is "You don't really matter.' and 'Be ashamed'.

Then I lost her. I asked about the messages they might be sending to customers and the light went off and she began to talk about how Macy Woman is big business for Macy's, that Macy's loves their customers.

Beth paused. Then she asked me where I liked to shop. I didn't want to offer her marketing tips. It seems like a woman who has been in retail management for 35 years should be aware of how her market works without having to ask me.  I declined to answer. But I will tell you.
First of all: Not in the basement, unless it's one of those clearance stores where it's ALL in the basement.

I want to shop where the sales people look delighted to be in their department. Not disgusted.

I want to find current styles in my size at the same places all women shop; NOT just the short and large ones.

I want to shop at places that celebrate every woman for being exactly who she is.

I want to shop where I am not differentiated because of my (PLUS) size. We are all women - with sizes. No one is a Plus Size. No one is a Woman. 

Here's an idea: Just extend the damn racks.

 *Beth is not her real name.


Bok! Bok! Putt! Putt! -- Season Two

Alumni News: Cami Applequist 1995 - BA Business/Communications - now designing minigolf holes.  (Wait, What?)

Twenty-five years ago today I was two days from turning 20 years old. I doubt that on my list of things I hoped to accomplish entering college as a business student was to design a mini-golf hole by age 45. In fact, my guess is it probably never crossed my mind. But everything in my life over the past 25 years has led me to a place where that is my artist reality now, two days before my 45th birthday. And it's fun!

Making chicken art is a way better gig than doing business communications.
(No Offense Dr. Gauthreaux.) 

"Guess What? Chicken Putt!" was designed last year by Brian Fewell and me and is available to play for its second season at the Walker Sculpture Garden all summer in Minneapolis!

#ChickenPutt with a picture if you go!



from - The World According to Mr. Rogers
Important things to Remember

I agree. 100%.
That's all.


#ArtOrNotArt - A Discussion Starts


I am surrounded by art. The building where I live consists solely of artists and their families. It's a cooperative and you can't buy in unless you are one. The neighborhood where that building sits is in the middle of an arts district that hosts an art crawl twice a year that draws crowds of thousands to wander the studios and streets to experience the art scene for three consecutive days. There’s art to see, hear, read and feel in almost every building and on every corner.

I’ve lived here for two and a half years. The process of moving in involved an application and an interview: official acceptance as an artist by other artists.  Not everyone in the area needed to apply, but my guess is every artist around here at some point has felt that same panic I did. Am I really an artist? Is my art really art? Can I call myself an artist? Can I be part of this club? (and for me: I make chickens and take pictures of toys for Cripe’s sake...Does that count?!)

These questions settled down once I moved in, but they never stop. And that’s probably not such a bad thing. What is art? is probably the question that keeps art alive. But at times it has felt like a burden. The stumbling block that tells me I am not educated or trained enough to be a real artist and I feel like I can’t move forward.

This conversation is one I have had for a few months with fellow artist and good friend Brian Fewell who designed “Guess What? ChickenPutt!” with me last year that is part of the Walker’s mini-golf course. (Which, by the way, made us real artists in the eyes of some people who had refused to see us as such prior to being at THE Walker - an entire chapter of this conversation in itself...)

We decided to turn our chat into a larger conversation at this spring’s Saint Paul ArtCrawl and invite everyone who came through to chime in.

We hung several examples of things we have been commenting on and things we thought were good examples of what may not be considered art.


As we were setting up the display, one of the more esteemed artists in the cooperative took issue with this piece by our fellow co-op member Joe Krumpelmann:

She claimed it had no place on our floor. "It didn't go with anything." I tried to explain our exhibit.

She talked over me, declaring that people had been running into it and that someone was bound to be hurt. I ensured her I would make sure that the required 48 inches of walking space was maintained between it and the wall across from it.

Her voice raised. She continued her plight to remove the piece with raised voice and talk of great concern for the well-being of the piece itself. "It's sure to get damaged. People coming around the corner will knock into it and knock it off the stool and break it. It needs to go."

I said first that it was a tree stump and very likely to withstand a three foot drop but also that this was a decision perhaps best discussed with Joe, the artist.

I knocked on Joe's door as she stood back a few feet. "Joe, are you at all concerned about your piece being damaged?" He smiled. "That thing? No, It can't be damaged. Don't worry."

"Decision made. It stays. Thank you."

"Wait! It's a STUMP. On a STOOL. From your KITCHEN.... Why is it here?"

Ah. Critique. An established academic artist gets to be critic and curator.

"That's the question of our little exhibit! You can leave your comments on the clipboard hanging over there. But this is our space and you do not get to decide what stays."

"No - either this goes or that goes." (she motioned to a little stool and walked away.)

She left no comments. So I am putting them here. See the above paragraphs.

Many Art Crawlers had this to say about Joe's piece:

(also heard: "The stump is TOTALLY art!", "Yup, the tree thing is art.")

I loved this exhibit. We had great conversations with lots of great people. Most common was the idea that art is subjective. People felt that it's up to an individual to decide. But for emerging artists who were struggling to move forward there were harder questions about gatekeepers and critics. Who gets to decide if it's good art or bad art? And why?

Who decides if the stump is art and whether or not it stays in the show? In our case we did because it was my space, outside of my studio and I stood my ground with my esteemed artist neighbor.

What do you think about Brian's piece, Geoffrey on a Saturday Morning?
Art? Or Not Art?

We are going to continue the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
#ArtOrNotArt and @IsItArtOrNotArt.
Please follow us and leave comments there (or here on my blog!)



Why I am not a Christian Jock

I am not an athlete. I have never been an athlete. I do not crave athletic victory. I saw this little plaque at my favorite thrift store today. Maybe this is my problem: I just don't love Jesus enough because I am a Unitarian.

Actually - probably not. I'm probably just really crappy at sports.

Jesus doesn't have anything to do with the images on this plaque. I spent four years studying at a Christian seminary and not once did  I see a class listing for Sports Victories with Jesus or How to Score With Christ. In fact most of the classes I took seemed to say the opposite of what this here little plaque says. And I'll be honest, I never read the whole Bible, but I seriously doubt it says "If Thou forgets not the teachings of Christ while partaking in Motocross and Baseball competitions, victories are guaranteed." In fact, they didn't even have motorcycles and baseballs back in the days when they thought the earth was flat. I know that for sure.

I bought the plaque for 99 cents. I didn't want some little old lady getting it for her great grand-children and giving them the wrong message about Jesus. I'm not a Christian but I have a lot of respect for Jesus and what the man was trying to do way back before he died and people became Christians who eventually wound up making things like this ridiculous plaque.


I live in Lowertown: the heart of Saint Paul, Minnesota and one of the most amazing arts districts in the country. If someone would have told me back in 10th grade that I'd be living in this type of neighborhood surrounded by so many whacky wonderful artists and art lovers I would have told them to stop putting unrealistic dreams in my head.

Right now anyone can drive though Lowertown and see the faces that inspire and engage me every day. Three wonderful women in Lowertown Nancy Reardon, Rachel Wacker and Gail Groop organized our participation in a Global public art project called Inside Out  begun by French artist, JR. He calls the project INSIDE OUT to reflect his mission to “turn the world Inside Out” through art.

On the Project site you can see global locations and images of beautiful  faces around the planet who are taking part www.insideoutproject.net (make sure to check out the 'best of' section if you do't have time to look at it all. 

The Inside Out Lowertown project can be found at www.InsideOutLowertown.com complete with bios of the artists and images of some of our work. It's really an awesome thing - take time to check it out if you can!


(that's me there - number 4 - hoping no one adds a mustsche... but then I'll just look like
Justin, number 1 - and that's OK too I guess... He's adorable.)