Tuesday, 28 April 2020
LESSON 02 / COLLECTING as Archive (History)


__ learn about ways archives have been used by other artists (Richter)
__ develop skills and confidence your voice/archive/collection
__ designate and implement a physical space (sketchbook, folder, box, bag)
__ designate and implement a digital space (tumblr, photo album, app)


__ CreatingYourArchive_Session2
__ Gerhard Richter’s Atlas
__ Theaster Gates Rebuild Foundation, Bank
__ Twyla Tharp’s boxes system, managing projects



think about your family history, in books and albums, photos, news and recipe clippings, keepsakes–what you might have around you. consider not only about the objects, but also the shapes, careworn shabby qualities (subject and content). decide on two ways you can begin to gather your archive materials–physically and digitally. you can use one of the platforms aforementioned (tumblr, device photo albums, google drive folders, clear app) or some other that fits and works for you.

post your images documenting your physical and digital “shelves” or archives in the online studio (classroom) and tell us a bit about your journey. feel free to post a few in-process images if it makes sense. all work must be submitted by thursday 39 april @ 12noon (nyc time) and all students must check back and comment on at least one other student’s work by 2p (nyc time). 


__ Tyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit
__ Theaster Gates on Art 21
__ Gerhard Richter’s Baader-Meinhoff Series (photography as archive)


we take a walk


  • Melissa Dunn: Bringing play into the studio is something I'm always working on, so...
  • cary: Have loved looking through this conversation. Emma - I love your handmade...
  • Melissa Dunn: Jodi, your videos are chocked full of insight. Thank you! I have...
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j o h n r o s
28 April 2020 10:01am

wonderful notes jodi. thanks! i loved your instruction to, “not categorize, just dump” — but also that we all have an instinctual editor before we take a picture — and that you, “try to delete that in your habits.” … i would say this editor is the very one that forces us to over rely on our tropic gestures. our cheats, if-you-will. and though they can be important, it is maybe more important to be mindful and potentially suspect of these. more importantly, i think reminding ourselves to delete the instinctual editor will ultimately help keep curiosity flowing and opportunity knocking.

i am also grateful for you pointing to theaster gates and the stony island arts bank. acting locally is the future of activism. locally we have more power and can generate the energy needed to develop new systems of being that are original and specific to the needs of our neighbors.

this session i wanted to think about things peripheral to my studio practice — things that are always/often present, but don’t take center stage. your notes to look at recipes clicked… this pink binder (well, as the original blue cover spiral notebook on the front) was started as i left for undergrad, writing some of my mom’s more important recipes like chocolate cookies and rice crispy treats!

i then wanted to look at family and old photos. these were scans of my grandmother’s albums that i copied for dissemination to the wider family after her passing. i have used some of these in my work, but they are mostly just reminders of stories about cuba and her other travels she told me.

lastly, in thinking about family, i thought about my art family and all the friends i have been fortunate to surround myself with. this family is always close.

29 April 2020 12:26am

Thanks Jodi! Love that you brought up Theaster Gates as well…such a perfect example of archive at work in an artist’s practice. If you’ve ever been to the Southside of Chicago/Hyde Park area, it’s a really stark picture of affluence and poverty blocks away from each other. The elite institution of University of Chicago and the sliver of upscale historic mansions in close proximity to incredible generational poverty and decay. His work is renewing and uncovering the wealth of that community as John alluded to…amazing and important work. My own practice bears little resemblance from a community building standpoint but my desire to salvage material and highlight discarded elements shares a certain kinship.

John’s family photos sparked some thoughts of my grandparents. They were jewelers in a small town in KY and my grandfather mostly taught himself how to do and build anything…including a plane that they used to fly to Alabama with my mom and her sister in the luggage compartment. He had a sprawling workshop at their house with little drawers for all kinds of obscure hand tools…poorly organized to everyone but him. I still have a tin full of some of his jeweler’s implements and will try to include a photo in a later post. They all have a very specific purpose evidenced by their unique forms and carry the patina of age.

That generation’s experience of the Depression and WWII really shaped how they lived and the things they valued. On the negative side, my grandmother could arguably be called a hoarder since she was reluctant to ever throw anything away and her home was one enormous archive that spanned a lifetime of inputs. But there was a tremendous thrift and desire not to waste precious resources imbedded in their practices that were lost to many in following generations. I’m personally torn between this heritage/compulsion and my desire for a clean, contemporary, uncluttered existence. Perhaps this study of archive can help me find the middle way.

Branching off of Cherith’s comments on the limiting nature of over-naming files in Session 1 reminded me that I want all the archive practices to facilitate play and not inhibit it. A couple of years ago I made some wooden “stones” in the workshop and brought them up to the studio where they sat in a pile for a while before I started experimenting with connecting them with wire into little maquettes. A month or so later I got an opportunity to come up with a grant/exhibition proposal and was able to use these experiments to generate renderings and eventually create the work. It is quite satisfying to trace the humble beginnings of tinkering/play to a whole body of work. Anyway, how do we manage the archive processes in a way that facilitates synthesis, connections, and play? Jodi’s admonition to not over-edit is perhaps a good place to start but I could see myself going down a rabbit hole of archiving practices and never get any art made;)

Photos below are of the wire maquette (4x6x6″), the proposal rendering, and the finished work (48x60x60″)

(The photos loaded in the wrong order…they are listed below 1. rendering 2. finished work 3. maquette.)

29 April 2020 6:10pm

Hey all,

I’ve been enjoying reading and thinking about this conversation today.
Our house was plagued with Internet problems yesterday so I didn’t get to watch jodi‘s video until this morning. Which means I spent much of yesterday flying by the seat of my pants and making it up as I went along. But I think I did OK.

Attached are some process photos.

Nothing is set in stone but so far, my provisional new physical archive will comprise:
– Themed notebooks
– Themed ring binders with plastic pockets
– Journals for hand written diary keeping
– Project specific notebooks (with a box if needed) to go with each the “current project” piles I usually have on my tabletops

– I’m in the process of re-ordering my bookshelves to reflect the themes better and I’m going to put some specific books away into boxes for the time being. They may yet prove useful but I want to deprioritize them and create space.
– I’m also going to dispose of some content – either on a fire, or turn it into papier-mâché or compost it. Regardless, it’s gonna be gone.

On the digital front:
– I like an app called Paper, in which you can put notes and photos, sorted into digital journals. I hadn’t thought about it for ages, let alone used it, and so I have resurrected it, as I think it would suit me well. Plus you can make collages in it.
– I’m going to start making better use of the shared albums in my iOS photo app
I have several apps on my phone and iPad for creating photo collages. I’ll try and become more intentional about that
I use an app called Social print occasionally to create hardcopy images and I’m going to try to get into more regular use of it
– I haven’t had a website for ages but I realize that is a project I want to get back to

I have been struck by one particular bookshelf has really stood out to me. It feels distinctly different to the rest. And in a good way. It feels incredibly positive and inspiring. It is, however, one of the highest so I’ve started to move the contents to eye level and nearer to my work table and I’ll incorporate my revitalized notebook and file system into it.

So the last day or two is been very hands-on and literally feeling my way toward a system that felt right in my hands. And at times it got very messy followed by very intentional tidying and reordering as I went. A bit like a jigsaw. There’s a ways to go but I’m starting to see, that with some intentionality, and new habits this could really invigorate my practice in positive ways.

I’m going to let it all sit for a bit and think more about the themes for the streams and how they interact.

29 April 2020 6:27pm

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the garden but I want to let it tell me how it’s best incorporated as a source of inspiration and meaning. As least it doesn’t need sorted/filed/stuck in a notebook/disposed of like the piles of stuff pictured on the floor. Every single page of that needs to find its place in a stream. Which will take some time.

And also I picked up from one of Jodi’s photos that I would probably benefit from labeling my notebooks and binders. I don’t know how I have managed at all leaving them all unlabeled. It would save me hours of searching for stuff.

Cherith Lundin
29 April 2020 6:53pm

I love the way Andy phrased his desire for the archive: to facilitate play. That really upends the word temporally (it reaches forward, not just backward) and emphasizes the chance encounters, noodling around, and lack of end-goal that play has. Process as content.

I think the challenge to all of us in this course is how to put structures in place that allow play to happen. Not all of the structuring will feel like play, but our goal in setting up the structures is to facilitate it…

Thinking about family history, my grandfather was an artist. He was primarily a potter, but also a painter and an architect. Mid-century all the way. When I was in grad school in the late 90’s the strong emphasis on content and meaning and identity politics seemed totally opposed to his era’s emphasis on form. Mid-century is, of course, everywhere in design now, easy on the eye and so appealing… In recent years I’ve found myself enamored by work that is about form, about color. I so appreciate the work Helen Molesworth is doing in rewriting much of our inherited history of this era. I’ve found a groundedness and urgency in it that I never did before. What kind of work or actions I consider political is also shifting. This history and aesthetics is tugging and toying with my impulses to observe and record my daily sightings and desire for the magic of pictorial space opening up.

Below is one of my grandfather’s pots, one of my recent daily captures, and an image of my notes from this week with my research plans into better-fitting (i.e. play-facilitating) digital archive streams for the weekend – non-linearity continued…

29 April 2020 7:46pm

Thanks for highlighting the play aspect. That’s really well put.
Your grandfather’s pottery is beautiful. I don’t have any artists in my family history but my mother and her mother did embroidery and knitting. Incorporating her pieces into some of mine led me to my favourite book of last year – Threads of Life by Clare Hunter.
The themes you raised about history, politics and process/content are all in there. In places I found it a profoundly moving text. She notes the process of stitching by hand is so slow and often detailed, it has to be intentional and the process can make the content a manifesto of sorts, if not literally. The historical artifacts she draws on are fascinating.

Cherith Lundin
29 April 2020 9:03pm

Just checked out the Paper app that Cary mentioned – that’s genius!!

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
30 April 2020 11:02am

I am a relative beginner when it comes to thoroughly organizing my studio and archive, so most of what I have posted here is in progress and ,of course, always subject to change. Throughout college, most of my work was filed in different studio classrooms, notes/lectures were in sketchbooks and vice-versa, and clippings were kind of just shoved wherever I had room. It’s been almost two years since undergrad, and I’ve got a better since of where I keep work for my studio and gallery specific work for Red Arrow Gallery.

Physical archive:
-labeled sketchbooks in a drawer
-large/small works on paper in portfolios
-a box of photos (I’ve got a lot of disposable photos that I use when I travel, and I keep them filed based on place and year)
-box of magazines that have been dog-eared (At one point in undergrad I had a binder of clippings when I was working in collage, but that has since been lost. I do think I will be reverting back to that process and keep them organized with manila folders)

Digital archive:
-Notes app on my phone
-Albums in my photos
-Private instagram (after reading thru Emma’s post in session 1, I got excited to try that as an option for myself and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it)
-Recipe blog (My mom and I have a shared wordpress blog for our family, and we’ve been cataloging our recipes there)

I have definitely been saving for a flat file as well as a real desk to really aid in my own goals for organization, but for the time being this has been working. I am excited to see how these discussions with you all translate in how I want to grow my studio practice 🙂

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30 April 2020 11:02am

Here is the cookie tin archive full of my grandfather’s implements that I mentioned earlier…full of strange and wonderful inputs.

30 April 2020 11:05am

To Cary…Damn!!! Good work.

30 April 2020 11:38am

I’m going to continue the improvised desktop collage tray/box idea for WIP’s and maybe expand to two boxes. I noticed a cool pattern from spilled water on a non-art related note that was on my desk…decided to add it to the mix in an attempt to loosen up the input-reins.
In the past, I made one elaborately bound sketchbook for the studio and then used little stitched postcard travel books to jot things down on the run. I think this is a good system for me but I need to be more disciplined about re-establishing the use of the books instead of sketching/writing on random bits of paper at home and on the go. I think the phone has really changed the necessity of some of this since I use the camera and the Notes app to record images, thoughts, title ideas, concepts for work, etc. and a lot of that used to be written down. The big flat file I acquired last year will hold WIP’s as well as finished works on paper as well as paper materials and other flat media.
For the digital content, I will continue to implement the IOS album strategy developed and posted about in session 1.

emma davis
30 April 2020 11:50am

i’ve started an instagram archive starting with reference pictures from my flat and local area: called eee_dee_archive
I’ve also found many albums where I’ve put together reference photos from travels around London – hand made books being one format

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emma davis
30 April 2020 11:51am

also more old school photo albums of sorts also with photo ref. I’ve downloaded ‘clear’ and ‘tumblr’ but I haven’t yet tried them…

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emma davis
30 April 2020 11:55am

Everyone looks super organised! John – your studio is a work of art in itself. It could be in a magazine (although I expect you would hate that).
Cherith, Andy: an artist / potter grandfather… – I want one.
Love Cary’s notebooks and post its.
Alexandria – that looks anything but a beginner’s space.

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
30 April 2020 1:56pm

These posts look great!
John, I love your integration of family. I’ve got a similar wall of collected works from friends and local colleagues, and I think that’s important to digest in understanding our overall archive. And Andy, I enjoyed your box of small travel notebooks and the box of collected materials/notes. Your intention to ‘facilitate connections and play’ as well as Jodi’s comment on restricting our internal edit, hits home. I definitely struggle with over-editing both in my writing and with my space, and your tray of collections seems like a great way to start and let the edits come later.

j o h n r o s
30 April 2020 2:36pm

i love seeing everyone at work — brainstorming — playing — . like cherith and andy have suggested, it is good to remind ourselves that this process can be playful. experimental. flexible. i think the administrative-side of practice can get daunting. keeping it accessible and light (if possible), if not flexible, is important.

andy, love the cardboard desktop collage tray with misc paper accumulations … i wander what they are discussing? cary’s post-its are so elaborate. exquisite really! what mystery unfolding like which adventure to choose based on color? love it! emma, love the handmade books! there is an implied narrative, yet they stay open. so much fun!

lexie, i know flatfiles seem like a good idea… but they are monsters — so heavy and big. think about flexibility when organizing. i have a heavy duty wire cart that can move around the studio and bluebox (archival) files from talas. both lifesaves… flexible, already on wheels for the next move and they can move around the studio!!

TALAS / Metal-Edge Drop Front Boxes
MCMASTER CARR / Mobile Heavy Duty Wire Shelving (get a couple xtra shelves)

see mine pictured. and… it doubles as a working surface!

and my table is made of adjustable saw horses, 2×4’s and a sheet of ply! also super flexible, easy to move!
Heavy Duty Sawhorse

Melissa Dunn
Melissa Dunn
30 April 2020 6:46pm

Jodi, your videos are chocked full of insight. Thank you!

I have a stash of toys from my childhood on top of a shelf in my studio. I’ve stared at this pile for years – it’s like a still life. Their colors and shapes have seeped into my subconscious. I like looking at things closely and over and over again, both digitally and in real life. It’s antithetical to the ‘scroll’, slower and more deliberate. Repetitive noticing as source material maybe?

The next item of family memorabilia I spend a lot of time looking at are cowboy costume drawings by my husband’s grandmother. In the 1980s, she and her husband would dress up in these outfits she sewed and would talk to truckers on their CB radios at their kitchen table, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. The idea of using role playing and costuming to transform one’s reality is an idea I want to make work about someday. In the meantime, I keep looking at this drawing.

Lastly, I’m including a detail of one of my grandmother’s quilts. I study them, sleep under them, draw them, absorb their colors, let them pass through me into my work. She was a share cropper in the 30s and 40s and then moved to Memphis to work as a seamstress.

On the organizing front, I’ve been flipping through my physical ‘files’ to see how I can better utilize them. Still thinking about that. I think switching from folders that are out in a vertical holder (see monday’s pic) to a binder that free up space in my studio. Digitally I’m putting pictures in folders with categories like – pattern, shadows, shapes, color, archive.

1 May 2020 12:23pm

Have loved looking through this conversation.
Emma – I love your handmade books. The colors are fantastic. As are the colours in Mellisa’s images. That quilt. Wow.
Jon – I appreciated your very practical comments on flat files and your pictures/alternatives. I have been trying to think of a homemade alternative to flat files as their bulk and price are impractical. Like you I have trestle tables and I love that I can move and reconfigure them.
Thanks too for your positive comments on the colored post-its.

Having not been to art school my process is pretty much the same as if I were writing an academic essay. Which has pros and cons. On the pro- column I realized late last night that it helps me keep my thoughts in order but also provisional. If I decide to discard a theme or rename it or place it in an alternative relationship to the others I can physically discard/replace/move it on the page.
The physical act of going through my note books and accumulated fodder (love that word) was a bit like opening Pandora’s box the last couple of days and so I have had to give a lot of energy to staying present in the present. So slapping post-it’s on piles of stuff and ordering them helps me feel control. But I confess I hadn’t ever considered that that is its own kind of creative process – perhaps a bridge for me between input and output. I associate it with the analytical – which creates necessary order or cohesion in what can I experience as chaotic or disconnected. So I am, despite feeling influent when it comes to talking about studio process, I’m definitely going to be thinking very intentionally about that. And how that making those choose-your-adventure pathways might be not be an inadequacy.
I am seeing a lot of colour and collage – which is maybe why I felt drawn to call one of my themes juxtaposition. I don’t really know why I picked that. It just made sense somehow. And so this process we are all engaging in is making me see things differently. I could describe in very close detail why I dress the way I do on any given morning. I know precisely what constitutes my “style”. I call it mix and mismatch. But I struggle to do the same in the studio. And so I am trying to pay attention more to the choices I have instinctually made. There is often a sort of playfulness to what I juxtapose. Sometimes confrontationally so. Anyway, that’s perilously close to rambling so I’ll stop there.

Thanks all. There is so much unique richness to each of your images and ideas. Some great work being done.

Melissa Dunn
Melissa Dunn
1 May 2020 12:41pm

Bringing play into the studio is something I’m always working on, so I’m glad this idea of letting go and exploring for the sake of exploring (process vs. outcome) has been part of the conversation. A friend of mine was about to play a game with her goddaughter and she asked, “Are we playing for points or for fun?” This great query is on my studio wall.