Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Red Right Returning

my father would work for 2 weeks at a time on the tugboat without coming home. followed by his constant presence at home for the remaining 2 weeks of the month. my fondest memory of his time at home related to helping him study for his Captain's license. i was responsible for yelling out maritime navigation questions from a stack of index cards. i would ask these questions regardless of where we were at. it could be in the aisle at B&I, or on the dock at Point Defiance, or walking the railroad tracks between Titlow Beach and Narrows Marina. i was too young to understand the logic behind the answers, so i made up my own version of what the answers were about. one question that sticks with me relates to the color of the buoys on the waterway. the maritime rules dictate that when entering a harbor or waterway, the red buoy needs to be on starboard side of the vessel, and the green buoy on the port side. this rule is known as Red Right Returning, or Red on the Right when Returning from sea.

as a child, i had my own understanding of what Red Right Returning meant. while my father was at sea, the house became a calmer place to live. we developed routines without him and i enjoyed the stability of knowing what to expect during those 14 days. in short, i missed him and welcomed his absence at the same time. leading up to his return, anxiety and tempers grew as my brother's and i would test all limits with the knowledge that our window of freedom was closing with each passing day. my father would dish out 2 weeks of punishment as soon as he got home, as a sort of retroactive discipline for perceived wrongs that, in his mind, must have occurred while he was gone. as a result, my definition of Red Right Returning related to his wrath when he got home from being on the tug. his returning right hand turning my butt a bright red.

after his initial disbursement of punishments, things would settle down into new routines and rituals while he was home. some good. most bad. and as the days passed on the calendar and his departure grew near again, i would find myself cherishing the fact that i was helping him become a Captain of a tug boat. while at the same time, secretly wishing he would stay at sea for ever.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


how does reading "stranger in a strange land" when you're 12 years old shape your ideas about adult relationships and intelligence? certain disappointment follows when you realize grokking is a martian concept.

Friday, November 5, 2010

mountain to hankerchief

each stitch locates me
this is where she stood
where she collected
where she reach out to grasp
what she wanted to hold

from Mom's diary: first trip to Mount Rainier

July 26, 1935
Tonight we did quite a lot of preparation for tomorrow. I can hardly wait! Margret showed up about 9 o’clock tonight. Of course she is going. We got a letter from Ruth. They’re coming about midnight.

July 27, 1935
We have a cabin. Is sure cold! The girls got in about 12:30 this am. We got things all packed and started for Rainier about 9:45. It was a beautiful drive up here. After much dilly dallying around we got here about 1. It was quite foggy. We went for a walk, gathered flowers we weren’t suppose to, and got pictures of deer! About 5 the fog lifted as we could see the mountain - so big and beautiful. After dinner we went to the community hall and heard a lecture. We got some cards and I sent one to Dorothy and Edna.

July 28, 1935
It was raining this morning! After breakfast and much lying around, we (all but Dad) got started on a hike. We went a long ways, about two miles going up always on the mountain. We saw glaciers and so many flowers. We got back around 12:30. We had dinner and got packed up to go. On the way home we saw a bear and deer. Got pictures of both. I fed the deer cookies! We got lots of pictures. Got home around 7 or so. The girls left about 8:30.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Daily Drawings

The work of tracking the Andrew Foss as it moves about the Puget Sound is made possible by satellites in the sky. Using a graphite pencil, I interpret the GPS data from the Andrew into a daily drawing on vellum, reflecting it's path through the water on a specific day. Each new day is stacked in front of the last day, allowing a glimpse into the routine and graceful movements of a working tugboat.

whose obsession?

125 photos
125 handkerchiefs

inheritance is most often an involuntary affair

Amy Lee Davis thought often about what she would leave her children. She made lists and speculations, but she never guessed at what she was really leaving. Opening her files and boxes and drawers after she was gone revealed a life of collection, a devotion to particular topics and finally perhaps an effort to not forget the things she loved.
She took hundreds of snapshots focusing on three themes: her family, flowers, and Mt. Rainier. I grew up with these photos and never thought anything about them. But as I unwrapped the envelopes, opened the scrapbooks, and found duplicates tucked in-between everything, I discovered her obsession.
Amy Lee worked in libraries. She couldn’t help cataloging. As her collection revealed itself, I was pulled in. I began making stacks and re-stacking. It was the photos of Mt. Rainier I couldn’t leave alone, perhaps because she talked about it so much before she died. Or perhaps it was because the mountain was her longest enduring topic. I started putting photos together that held the same silhouette, searching out where they were taken from. Was that an obsession? What had I really inherited?

Monday, October 25, 2010

first book covers

for the first change in the installation, i chose book covers with black as the dominant background color. i tried to create a hub that will allow me to add other color covers around the edges (e.g. red in the upper left corner) but we'll see how tightly i am able to adhere to this scheme.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

i said i wouldn't...

but i can't help but share one of the book covers. i'm in love with this one!

editing the images has so far been more of a pleasure than a chore, but i'm only 20 images in, which is roughly 10% of the total. plenty of distant galaxies still to travel to...

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Perry Project

"I suppose we will bore everyone to death talking about our trip but we had a wonderful time and hope to make more...will send some pictures soon if they turn out OK."
taken from an unaddressed letter written by Mrs. Perry

Monday, September 20, 2010

Regulated Navigation

When I was a child, my father worked as a deckhand for Foss Launch and Tug out of Tacoma, where he walked the endless rafts of logs with his spiked boots as they were towed behind the Shelley Foss. Over the years, he eventually worked his way up to captain, all the while working a schedule of living two weeks on the boat, followed by two weeks at home. Because his absence was often more noticeable then his presence, knowing which boat he was on provided a certain level of understanding and comfort. Rather then some abstract notion of “being out on the water”, I could place him on a specific boat, such as the Shelley, Benjamin, or Stacey. Thus, I was able to locate him in my imagination, surrounded by seawater at the mercy of changing tides.

I did not create the system of tracking the boats he worked on. I inherited it from generations of kids before me.

Tracking the names of the boats you work on is an inherent aspect of living a life centered on the sea. Each boat becomes a separate continent; country; city; neighborhood; person. As a result, your experiences aboard a boat become part of a shared life, forming a history that is larger then oneself. Therefore, an obsession of tracking specific Foss tugs as they move about the Puget Sound, passing from Commencement Bay to Elliott Bay and beyond, serves to re-inform my understanding of my father’s life, and perhaps more importantly, serves to locate myself within it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

obsession in a box

125 snapshots of Mount Rainier
85 of the surrounding area
brownie to 35 mm
1935 and 2006

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the attic

in ohio, at my parents’ house: this is the bookcase which contains my father’s collection of sci fi paperbacks from the 1960s and 70s. i read most of them when i was in junior high. i photographed each book cover for this project.