zeroes on the loose

I had a great meeting with Iain Boal yesterday, working on a book project with Iain and Ren Weschler. Iain shared this beautiful poem by Wisława Szymborska.

edge of the pacific


I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

– Wislawa Szymborska, from Nothing Twice, 1997

The Fix

So the abalone kintsugi project is at the San Jose Museum of Art for the next six months, part of a show called “Your Mind, This Moment” curated by Susan Krane.

The piece is out on a porch, off of the second floor gallery. It will be out in the rain and the sun and the fog. I love the idea of it being back in the elements, such as they are. Rich Karson built the ideal redwood table for it, and carved some redwood supports that curve perfectly along the inside of the shell.

I’m taking a break for now, while I focus on a new work for an upcoming show at Hosfelt Gallery, but eventually I’ll get back to fixing broken abalone. It will be interesting to see how the pieces I make in my studio will meld onto this initial shellopolis once it comes home from the museum. In the meantime, I love this spot as its first adventure out into the world. I realized it’s also the perfect test to see if I can keep it outside, in case it eventually bursts the seams of my studio.


the news makes me want to curl up in a shell.


top dollar or bargain basement?

and this little ad seems so wrong. cheaper than a candy bar. cheaper than a cup of coffee. cheaper than a pair of sox, three first class stamps, or a pack of gum.




I’m working on a new piece about tide pools, or about whatever it is that tide pools are about. In any case, I need lots of footage of tide pools and of tides, coming and going. Yesterday, the shoot was mainly just dealing with technical issues. I walked along a good stretch of shore at Salt Point, looking for suitable locations and after two hours of being knee deep in the icy Pacific, I was ready to leave. I packed up my gear and stood up to leave… and looked over my shoulder at the next rocky pool behind me. There was an anemone, larger than my head, easily the biggest anemone I’d ever seen. Thinking back to the post about the captive anemone, this must have been an ancient individual. I returned today to spend some time with it. Beautiful.


four of the Collisions, taken over all three seasons

four of the Collisions

This small stretch of coastal Pacific is part of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and according to the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association), this part of the Pacific experiences three seasons, rather than the four seasons of nearby terrestrial life. They are, with short descriptions: Continue reading



I’ve been working on this piece since late summer, in short bursts in between other things. The pieces were small, at first. They kept curling in on themselves, the curve of the shell quickly resolving into abalone-sized abalone. And the Japanese enamels traditionally used in kintsugi kept giving me crazy rashes identical to poison oak. I kept pushing against the natural inclination of the shell to curl into a finished form. I wasn’t sure how big I wanted the final piece to me, but I knew I wanted it to grow monstrous. Continue reading


Salt Point starfish 2013

At the end of  “The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium” the author Bernd Brunner admits to trouble in paradise, and offers this quote from the son of Phillip Henry Gosse,  writing about his father in 1907. Gosse was a popularizer of the aquarium in the mid to late 19th century, and his books and lectures contributed to a craze in home aquariums. This led, of course, to a massive plundering of sea life from seashores around the world. Continue reading


a small pile of shells

bird midden?

I’m not sure what this is. It’s about four inches square, and was on a massive piece of driftwood on the rocky beach at Gerstle Cove, Salt Point. It looks a bit like leftovers, shells from a number of meals. With the exception of the large crab shell at center right, all of the pieces are strangely similar in size. A series of lunches? Purging? Le petit dejeuner? It looks like mostly … and bits of crab shell, too consistent to be random. I like it best as a painting, as pure composition.

captive anemone

I’ve been reading The Ocean at Home: an Illustrated History of the Aquarium by Brend Brunner. It was a gift from Marcia Tanner back in 2006, and I’m just getting around to reading it, but it’s perfect timing.

Anthopleura xanthogrammica

Like nearly all texts about science history, there’s an undercurrent of the macabre. On page 26 there’s a story about Scottish scientist Sir John Dalyell who, in 1827, brought a captive anemone (Actinia equina) home from North Berwick and essentially kept it as an experimental pet in his home aquarium. He fed it “pieces of mussels and oysters,” so these must have been dead already, and he changed the water in the aquarium daily, supposedly.

D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (On Growth and Form) wrote about this anemone in his book Science and the Classics. Apparently, this anemone outlived Dalyell by a couple of decades, passing away in 1887 at the age of sixty. Continue reading