From Then Til Now

Twenty years ago today I met my future wife for the first time… she had just turned 16 the day before.

Hard to believe from looking at this image that we would end up becoming friends, dating, marrying, and traveling the world on weird adventures…

We had this amazing few years I like to think of as “The Cute Years” – when I was still a beautiful baby. She’s always been a beaut. Look at this:

Undergrad Date Nights…

The night was sultry… SULTRY, I SAY!


Being six years older than her, I was able to go to both her high school dances AND her college dances… I’m not sure what we were thinking with that garter thing… hmm…

Ah, Chi Omega, the cult sorority that Alison was in back at Northwestern…

We did fun things, like attend fish-eyed art openings…

…and read aloud – A LOT. How many books have we done this way, honey?

Through it all, it was you and me. Twenty years. There’s been a lot of hard stuff, but a whole lot of good. I’m so grateful for you.


Inspiration – Miranda Grace Ballou

Miranda Grace helping me with my large mural project, 2018.

My first born child is a spitfire eight year old. She’s great at math. She’s dramatic and feels all the things SUPER intensely. She’s a very good swimmer (winning some heats locally) and is the unequivocal leader of her siblings. She loves horseback riding, Transformers, and Narnia. She has always been a passionate creator; she’s burned through reams of paper and thousands of pens, pencils, and markers. She LOVES joining me in the studio. Recently she helped me out with a large mural I’m working on. She’s a pretty amazing kid. Here’s some of her recent work:

Miranda Grace Ballou. Untitled Abstraction. Acrylic on cardboard, 24×18 inches, 2018.

Miranda has started to get very interested in symmetry and creating katywompus abstractions based on a kind of ‘across the surface’ balance. I really like these. Here are a few more.

Miranda Grace Ballou. Untitled Abstraction. Acrylic on MDF, 20×23 inches, 2018.

Miranda Grace Ballou. Untitled Abstraction. Acrylic on MDF, 6×13 inches, 2018.

Miranda Grace Ballou. Untitled Abstraction. Acrylic on panel, 16×20 inches, 2018.

My daughter is also very much into working with fabrics and paper. She creates books – stories of every day events – and illustrates them. She makes games, and cuts out all of the pieces and creates the rules. She has made costumes, crowns, and jewels – all out of paper. Cardboard boxes have become space ships and forts. Recently she created – totally unprompted and with (as far as I can tell) no context – a sort of paper and fabric piece that functions as both a wall hanging and a skirt. Check it out.

The front side is pictured here on the left. The verso is on the right. When I was taking these photos she was annoyed that I wanted to take a picture of the back, but it’s amazing. She’s using staples to hold layers of various fabrics, paper, adhesive stickers and sheets, as well as post-it notes and tissue paper together. When hanging, she says it’s titled The Straightened Skirt. In this form it’s about 50 by 10 inches in size. Here’s Miranda modeling it in skirt mode:


Anyway, I think she’s pretty awesome. Each of my kiddos has been inspirational, and I expect they will all eventually have their own spot on my blog. I’m so thankful for these kids and their creativity and powerful presence in my life. They have made my work and teaching so much more rich and strange.

If Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke Can Display Them, Why Can’t A Mom?

I saw this today on the Huffington Post (the inimitable Anne Harris brought it to my attention – thanks!), and it’s the 100% truth:

Click above to watch Hollie McNish’s spoken word recital about the appropriateness of breastfeeding and the inappropriate stupidity of the western world for having a problem with it.

Recently I’ve become more and more annoyed with the fact that women continue to be presented as eye-candy for men, while legitimate explorations of the body in art are consistently challenged. Writer Amy Wilder interviewed me a few weeks ago about this very issue.

These issues won’t go away. It’s happening right now in our culture. A few months after Robin Thicke’s idiotic and misogynistic music video went viral, Justin Timberlake entered the fray with his own. Both of these videos pair the fragmented display of women’s bodies with the rape-language of “you/i know you want it”. No, I won’t link you to the material I’m talking about. You’ve probably already seen it.

What it amounts to is millions of people apparently buying into the lifestyle and vision of the likes of Thicke and Timberlake (fully-clothed men who parade the bodies of women just to make a buck, who parade the bodies of women around for the delectation of and consumption of other men, who parade the purposely fragmented and de-individualized bodies of women around and pretend like it’s just a matter of “blurring lines”) while simultaneously shaming women for nursing their children in public.

It’s pathetic. It’s frustrating. It’s wrong. It’s wrong for specific profit-producing demographics (be they people or industries) to drive the cultural position and presentation of women’s bodies in this world. That’s exactly what’s happening here. It’s been happening for generations.

Part of what is playing into my anger about this is that I watched the documentary Girl Model, which really disturbed me. If you haven’t watched it, do it. It’s streaming on Netflix right now and is eye-opening.

On top of this, going through the adoption process over the last year really disabused me of the rose-colored-glasses ideas I had about the progress of women in the last couple of decades. Globally, it’s dangerous to be born female. In the west, where we think we can rest on the laurels of our “progressive” progress, it’s hard to make people understand this. I won’t recount the horrific stories that have been in the news recently. But it’s in THIS STUFF – where women are asked to APPEAR but not to ACT – that we continue to fail as societies. Our media continues to present a vision of women as young and as tight and as coquettish as men want them to be. The second their bodies resist the classification of appearance (for instance, when a woman breastfeeds her child or becomes too old to fulfill the wish-fantasies of 18 year old boys) they are simply denied. Hidden. Disappeared.

This is a major problem, and more people need to get angry about it.

I think about the world my two daughters are living in…

Remembering the Shapes and Textures of China

In just a few hours we’ll be leaving the People’s Republic of China. We are ready; home and friends and family call to us.

Right now, though, CaiQun sleeps nearby. She has no way of realizing how much her life will change. We don’t either. As I looked into her eyes tonight, giving her a final bed-time bottle in her native land, I thought about how rich and beautiful and strange and amazing her country of  birth is. We leave it, and hope to return. She is beginning an amazing journey. I’m priveledged to go on it with her, for at least this part.

As we depart China, I again make a post that features some (for me) lasting images of this Land. Two and a half weeks is certainly not enough time to really know much of anything about a country, but we will be forever changed by what we’ve seen, heard, felt, and known here. These images are just part of the rememberance I’ll take with me.

Enjoy. Click to enlarge. Visit China. Hear her sounds and see her sights. Love her people and acknowledge her history.

We’re a part of this world.