Video: "Joy Ray: Post-Apocalyptic Petroglyphs" (Eric Minh Swenson)

It was my recent pleasure to spend an afternoon filming with LA art documentarian extraordinaire Eric Minh Swenson. He came by my studio to discuss my newest body of work, “Post-Apocalyptic Petroglyphs.”

Here’s what happened:

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You can see more of Eric’s fantastic work (including over 1000 films) here, here and here.

"Art Pick... evocative and haunting" (LA Weekly)

I’m so thankful to the LA Weekly, especially Falling James and Shana Nys Dambrot, for their support of my show with Samuelle Richardson at LAUNCH LA.

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“The Hawaiian artist plants enigmatic clues in her mixed-media artifacts, coiling flowery, sinuous strands of twine against

an abstract but evocative and haunting collision of black and white paint and burying hints of letters, words

and other attempts and vestiges of communication under a seemingly random splatter of entropic plaster.”


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"Alchemic and tribal" (Genie Davis on Joy Ray)

Thank you to Genie Davis for her thoughtful take on my newest body of work:

“The power of the unseen is what viewers may feel in Ray’s current work. There is something both alchemic and tribal in her approach and in the finished works. There appear to be layers within layers, not just texturally, but with elliptical meaning seething just out of reach, ready to emerge in the fullness of time.”

- Genie Davis, Diversions LA “Joy Ray: There’s a Darkness on the Edge of Light”

Article here

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Secrets, surveillance and sweaters...

This article is sooo up my alley: The Wartime Spies Who Used Knitting as an Espionage Tool.

With a nod to “bitter knitter” Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, who knits the names of all those who will be guillotined in the Revolution,

it talks about different ways that knitting can be used to hide secret messages:

  • Simulating morse code using “combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump.”

  • Tying knotted codes into yarn and then knitting the yarn to camoflage it - “When the German authorities carefully unraveled such a sweater, the story went, they found the wool thread dotted with many knots. By marking a vertical door frame with the letters of the alphabet, spaced an inch apart, the knots could be deciphered as words by measuring the yarn along this alphabet and marking which letters the knots touched.”

  • Using the knots as morse code: “An ordinary loop knot can make the equivalent of a dot and a knot in the figure-eight manner will give you the equivalent of a dash.”

  • Using yarn to hide secret objects/messages - “She hid scraps of paper with sensitive information in balls of yarn, which she tossed over a cliff to hidden soldiers right below, under the noses of the enemy.”

I’ve been exploring the idea of knots as personal / secret codes for awhile… here are a couple of examples:

"Find a way between order and disorder." (Anselm Kiefer)

A friend just shared this video with me, about one of my favorite fiber artists (yep I said it!), Anselm Kiefer. I love the way Kiefer hacks at his straw paintings with a machete. He says,

“It’s always important to have some edge between order and chaos. If you do too much order, it’s finished, it’s not good. If it’s too much chaos you cannot work anymore, it’s too much ideas and things.

You have to find a way between order and disorder.”

And also:

“I was always interested not to use color as illusion but as a material that means something to me.”


The scale, the rawness, the visceral quality of his work is so inspiring to me.

PS - Bonus quote:

"What interests me is the transformation, not the monument. I don't construct ruins, but I feel

ruins are moments when things show themselves. A ruin is not a catastrophe. It is the moment when things can start again.“

"I dare you not to be enchanted."

The feeling when someone is able to beautifully articulate your intentions. The feeling of being seen. I’m so grateful to Shayla M. Alarie (aka @artsy_historian) for these incredible and generous words.


Pyromantically speaking

Delightful rabbit hole #23,582, courtesy of Hyperallergic: the oracle bone!


In ancient China people would carve questions on animal bones, then heat them up until they cracked, and interpret the cracks. This is a form of pyromancy, which (via Wikipedia) also includes:

  • Alomancy, divination by salt, one type of which involves casting salt into a fire

  • Botanomancy, divination by burning plants

  • Capnomancy, divination by smoke; light, thin smoke that rose straight up was a good omen; otherwise, a bad one.

  • Causinomancy, divination by burning (non-specific as to the object burned)

  • Daphnomancy (also, Empyromancy), divination by burning laurel leaves

  • Osteomancy, divination using bones, one type of which involves heating to produce cracks

  • Plastromancy, divination using turtle plastrons; in China, this was done by heating pits carved into them.

  • Scapulimancy, divination by scapulae; in Asia and North America, this was done pyromantically.

  • Sideromancy, divination by burning straw with an iron.


MOAH Woven Stories

If you haven’t been to the Museum of Art and History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA, you should go.

And right now is a perfect time to go, because the current show (Woven Stories) is incredible, curated with creativity, wit and brilliance by Andi Campognone.

And I’m in it! Or rather, my largest and most ambitious piece to date—DREAM INVENTORY—is:

DREAM INVENTORY is inspired by my fascination with the mysterious forces that hover on the boundaries of the rational world—dreams and premonitions, the afterlife and the subconscious, memories and desires. Suspended on nearly-invisible threads, forty-six hand-sewn pieces sway in reaction to the viewer. Narrative fragments, symbols and gestures repeat, connect and respond—an ongoing transmission in search of revelation.

Dream Inventory, installation in progress, May 2019

Dream Inventory, installation in progress, May 2019

Dream Inventory, installation in progress, May 2019

Dream Inventory, installation in progress, May 2019

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share some of my favorite FRAGMENTS. These bits and pieces incorporate secrets, hopes, fears, highly personal bits of mental detritus, ‘automatic embroidery’ and experimentation and exploration of different materials and techniques. They are purposefully imperfect, defiantly human.

Some of my Fragments, pre-installation

Some of my Fragments, pre-installation

Some more Fragments…

Some more Fragments…

Each fragment is individually suspended on invisible thread, and the pieces moves / breathes in reaction to your body as you move near it. There is something magical and otherworldly about the experience.

Other incredible artists in the show:

Up through July 21.

"Pleasure is an important form of knowledge." (Jerry Saltz)

“Trust yourself, for god’s sake, for 2 minutes. Is that so hard?

Put down the urge to be smart.

Put down the urge to be right.

Give up the idea of understanding.

Art is not about understanding.

No one asks, what does Mozart mean? Right? What does an Indian raga mean? When Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are dancing, it’s beyond meaning. It’s about experience.

and what I’m saying to you is: pleasure is an important form of knowledge.

In the west, we don’t trust it anymore. You trust it in who you love and how you dress and the things you buy, because it gives you pleasure. But you get to art and you think I should understand this and be smart… The voices in my head are never mean. If they’re mean, that’s your regular best friend who lives in your head who hates you. That best friend that thinks you’re a piece of crap, she or he is not allowed in your studio. I promise you, the second you come out, they’ll be there. Right? You’re a fake. You’re no good. But in the studio, develop an audience of your friends, your peers, living in debt, and let them tell you what to do. And they will.”

Jerry Saltz, from the fabulous “In Other Words” podcast

Listen to the whole darn thing. It’s so fucking good.

And then, and then, and then.

And then, and then, and then.

"The big hug." (James Hayward)

“If the art’s good, I think it’s got a strength where it reaches out and embraces you. And if you have an open mind and you’re willing to embrace it…


- James Hayward

The way he talks about art feels like medicine. So fucking great.

As heard in this very charming video (skip to 4:15 or just watch the whole darn thing):

"It has to be enjoyable for ME." (Sam Esmail)

“The one thing I always go back to whenever I start writing something is:

I have to be a fan of this. I want to enjoy this. It has to be enjoyable for ME.

And if it doesn’t work (with audiences), then it’s out of my control. That’s not something i can negotiate or manipulate.”

- Sam Esmail, creator of Mr. Robot (from his recent Without Fail podcast interview)

Fragments, and fragments of Fragments (2019). I am a fan of taking photos of my art on fucked up cement

"Things that are your friends but are not real." (Marina Warner)

“By symbols, I mean things that are your friends but that are not real.”

- Louise Bourgeois

As quoted in Forms of Enchantment: Writing on Art and Artists by Marina Warner, a current obsession.

I’ve been wanting to write about this book for awhile now. But by “write about it” I mean totally fangirl out and basically quote the whole fantastic, beautiful, inspiring, beyond-beyond-beyond book.

…so for now I’ll just give a shout out to the essay, “Felicity Powell: Marks of Shame, Signs of Grace,” in which Marina Warner mentions an exhibition, curated by Powell, that featured “lucky charms, amulets and folk remedies found mostly in London by Edward Lovett, a civil servant, in the early part of the 20th century.” This led me down an incredible rabbit hole. Behold, souvenirs:

More to come, or not!

Writing on the wall

“The word “graffiti” first entered the English language to describe ancient texts and images on the walls of houses at Pompeii. Prior to the 19th century, Italian words like sgraffito or sgraffiato were used to describe decorative techniques — in architecture as well as on pottery — where scratching through a whitewash revealed a different color beneath.”

and this:

“Writing on walls, whether public or private, interior or exterior, was widely accepted in Europe (not to mention throughout the world) through the early modern period and even later…

It may BE the view of inscribing graffiti as stupid that is unusual.”

From The Clandestine Cultural Knowledge of Ancient Graffiti by Michael Press in Hyperallergic

I can’t get enough of this. The whole article is amazing.


Artifact (never), 20” x 18”, 2019. I’m obsessed with the idea of private messages in public spaces. The visible clandestine.

"Nothing is sexy." (Andy Warhol)

My first art crush was Andy Warhol.

  1. My friend Matt introduced me to David Bowie in high school. (Thanks Matt!)

  2. I made my way through Ziggy and Heroes and so on, and eventually found my way to Changes, where I found a curious song about Andy Warhol.

  3. Who was this strange fellow that had so captivated Bowie? I did what we did back then and went to the library to find out.

  4. It was there I discovered Andy and Edie and Lou and Nico and the Velvets and Paul Morrisey and the Factory and so on. I fell in love with everything Andy. I bought records. I subscribed to Interview. I dressed as Edie for Halloween. I moved to New York.

  5. And I read The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, which I just started re-reading.

This book is a mainline shot of sweet nostalgia for me. Time stops. I’m in my teenage bedroom, learning about a world 3000 miles away from my small town. It’s funny and crass and boring and intriguing and charmingly old-fashioned. It’s patently true and blatantly false. It’s everything. That is all.

I posted these to IG while at the salon getting a pedicure. I think A.W. would have approved.

"A slow discovery in which I am more like a conduit." (R. O. Kwan)

“I tend not to write with overarching whys…I don’t have any special messages in mind. Writing, to me, is less akin to actions as willful as inventing and deciding than it is to discovery, a slow revelation in which I am more like a conduit. I sometimes think I’m a witness, rather than a person who makes. I don’t write to provide answers, I say. I quote Cortázar, whom I love:

I’ve remained on the side of the questions.

- R. O. Kwan, from “On Being a Woman in America,” in the Paris Review


Talisman (dream siege), 2018. A conduit….to what, or whom? Does knowing the answers close the door? Should I remain on the side of the questions?

"Before I have the chance to edit myself." (Ariel Pink)

“I’m basically

capturing me before I have the chance to edit myself…

…I don’t plan it ahead, I have no filter, I just throw it into the world and my words crystallize and get taken out of context and have a life of their own. I’m not for or against what I’m saying, I’m just being reckless about it. I say things without thinking about the consequences.”

— My future BFF, Ariel Pink, talking about how he only writes lyrics right before recording them, which is essentially a kind of automatic writing, which I relate to as a lot of my artwork incorporates this same approach, although possibly for different reasons.

As heard on Episode 1 of the “Are We Still Talking About This?” podcast.

Please enjoy 2 of my fave Ariel Pink songs…

And please enjoy 3 of my most Ariel Pink-ish “automatic embroideries”, circa early 2017.