– ING Part 3 (b)

2nd Law of Thermodynanics – Law of Entropy

aka Murphy’s Law

In particular, Murphy’s Law is often cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to a more disorganized state.

It is impossible to delineate all the tasks that need to be accomplished in a multi-media installation nor to predict all the problems that will need to be addressed. To-do lists and post-its are often inadequate. So for the most critical of needs, my hand becomes a bulletin board.


In her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin portrays a homeless woman who was once an executive and leads her life via the post-its attached to her clothing. http://www.amazon.com/Search-Signs-Intelligent-Life-Universe/dp/B001O9CFCC

Count-ING Down

Murphy Challenge #1: Weather

Temperatures would be in the upper 80’s during the entire installation. (Maine in September!! Who knew?)

The Maine Jewish Museum is not air-conditioned.

TEN: Prepping Walls

Maine Hardware is the go-to place for most Peaks Islanders. http://mainehardware.com The employees are knowledgeable AND they provide FREE popcorn.


Ladders, tarps, paint, coffee, blue tape, levels, sand paper, spackle, scrapers, coffee, buckets, paint trays, rubber gloves, coffee… a seemingly endless list but the multiple trips enable us to replenish, not only supplies, but popcorn. (Which is important if, in addition to the coffee and donuts, it becomes another source of nutrition during the 10-day installation.)

NINE: Painting Walls

Etz Chaim sealEtz Chaim synagogue was built in 1921.  After several incarnations and years of disuse, it was restored and became the Maine Jewish Museum. http://mainejewishmuseum.org The 1920’s construction and previous renovations meant locating studs was an ongoing struggle.

Murphy Challenge #2: Construction

The spackling, sanding and painting of the museum gallery walls took place the same week that construction began on the new bathrooms …There were moments of dueling drills and lurching ladders but we were able to share the space as well as extension cords – and of course, the donuts.IMG_2897

 IMG_2899EIGHT: Stenciling walls

Working around the daily operations of the museum, as well as respecting religious tenets, resulted in a type of shift work. The key to progress was FLEXIBILITY. (And a willingness to ‘couch surf’ after missing the last ferry.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing

While attempting to wrestle a Journey Loom through a door way that was a smidgeon too small…. I noticed a helmet clad bicyclist chalking arrows on the road.

IMG_2905Noticing my plight, she helped maneuver the loom into the building. A painter in her own right, Ebyn Moss volunteers – at arts centers, community organizations and non profits. She is a Board member of the Hour Exchange. http://www.hourexchangeportland.org and lives her life adhering to its tenets.IMG_2925

The settling of the foundation of the building during the past 94 years created uneven walls. There was a 1” drop over 50’ making it difficult to determine level. Ebyn was undaunted. She had worked for MacKenzie Childs. Doing what? Stenciling. http://www.mackenzie-childs.com

(Another beshart moment – Bookmark this link https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2014/05/ for more beshart moments.

IMG_2921The word begat is sometimes interpreted as ‘to bring forth.” The stenciled ‘walls’ of Abraham’s tent are intended to remind us that we are all part of the same ‘family.’ http://www.enterthebible.org/blog.aspx?post=2646

Over 3 days, Ebyn stencilled the word ‘begat’ 2000+ times.

Murphy Challenge #3: Colliding Events

Stenciling the word begat on 2 – 50’ x 10’ walls while beautifully appointed young women and their families attend a previously scheduled Bat Mitzvah proved to be challenging – but not insurmountable. And, the work on the new bathrooms continued…

SEVEN: Engaging Press

For years, artists just sent their press releases to the local newspaper. They would include the 5 – W’s and a few photos. Today, vying for the attention of the press requires more than just notifying the newspaper. There are free papers, community papers, magazines, and social media to notify and continually update. Maintaining a presence in the public eye requires time and energy – both in short supply when installing a multi media exhibit.

Sometimes it is a matter of timing. For weeks prior to the exhibit opening, the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants occupied local, national and world news. Amidst the spackling, sanding, stenciling, Press Herald and Portland Magazine reporters appeared with their photographers for an interview and pictures of the exhibit. (And some of my closest photographer friends did the same.)


Murphy Challenge # 4: No there there

We had ‘begats.’ There was no tent; there was no carpet; there were no community weavings. The exhibit was still in process – I had words and ideas but was STILL short on visible objects.

It is easier to talk on the radio where words and ideas ARE the medium. WMPG is a community radio station that broadcasts from a small house located on the campus of the University of Southern Maine (my alma mater.)IMG_2280

I arrived paint spattered, harried and sleep deprived. Chris White is the host of Tuesday Night Talk Radio Club. His interview framed Welcoming the Stranger within the context of the Portland community and the New Mainers. Articulating the thought and history behind my vision clarified for me – and hopefully the listeners – my hopes for the exhibition.


SIX: Creating QRs

For each aspect of the exhibit, there is a sound collage. I combined real life interviews with scripted histories, sound effects, ambient noise, and music to create a kind of sound track — but without pictures.

The sounds of children practicing Hebrew formed the basis of the sound collage for Abraham’s Tent. Laura Boenisch is the principal and director of B’nai Portland, an Independent Hebrew School. With a degree in music education, Laura taught herself to chant Torah tropes so that she could help prepare her son for Bar Mitzvah. https://www.facebook.com/bnai.portland/info?tab=page_info.

We met in the Sanctuary. When I attended synagogue as a young girl, I was excluded from the first floor and relegated to the balcony. Standing at the bimah, Laura chanted the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bema.


FIVE:             Supporting History

I almost missed the meeting…I flew out of the Museum covered in paint. In a packed hearing room in Portland’s City Hall, I raised my hand to testify in support of the designation of India Street as a historic district:

(In my neighborhood…) there were those fortunate enough to have grandparents or great aunts and uncles to tell stories of how their families ended up in Portland, Maine.

There might have been photos of family members posed in of local stores and houses and churches and synagogues. There may have been photos taken on holidays, family events – graduations, weddings, funerals. You could take a walk. around the India St. neighborhood – past the old synagogues, St Peter’s, Micucci’s, Amato’s, Abysinnian Church http://www.abyme.org, and North School – and experience history as seen through their eyes and the architecture that was still in existence.

Map 1914

And for those not so fortunate, the buildings, businesses, streets must remain. It is easier to imagine when waves of immigrants settled in what is comparable to the lower East Side of NYC when you can walk by historic structures that greeted those new arrivals. …when you can walk from the docks, along India Street, and experience the immigrant history of Portland.

In that moment, I was focused on immigrants of the past and how their story mirrored the underpinnings of my exhibit. http://portlandlandmarks.org/blog/event/a-neighborhood-in-transition-immigration-and-the-india-street-neighborhood/

FOUR: Retrieving the ‘Carpet’

A 50’ x 8’ ‘Persian carpet’ made of roofing rubber and stenciled with images of seaweed and compass roses requires a 50’ floor on which to design, paint and polyurethane. This 200+ lb. piece of art needs a space in which to reside until delivered to the museum. The Colby College Art Department  https://www.colby.edu provided a space in which to work until the carpet was completed. (The room measured only 40’ long so requiring continuous rolling, folding, unrolling.)

IMG_2767The maintenance staff monitored my progress and occasionally conducted a critique. They were mostly favorable. (Although they did wonder why the room smelled like the ocean. It was the bucket of seaweed I was using to make stencils.  I commuted back and forth to Waterville applying the final coat of polyurethane the night before the pick up.IMG_2957

Murphy Challenge #5: Elevator

The rolled carpet was too long to fit in the elevator. 200+ lbs. is very heavy. Two of us could not heft it. We tried. Several times. I set out to find some students. There were none to be found. I returned to find the maintenance women carrying the rolled carpet down 2 flights of stairs to the delivery truck. (I hope you are both reading this. Thank you, again.)

THREE: Installing the Tent

A year ago, the tent installation team designed a hanging system based on an idea in my head. The actual production and installation proved to be more challenging.IMG_2783

Murphy Challenge #6: No Tentmaker

Although I had received donated yarns, collaborated with volunteer spinners, and engaged citizen weavers, there were only 275 square feet of woven tent panels. The weaving was spearheaded by Jane Herbert https://www.facebook.com/Westbrook-Fiberarts-411482502345348/     However, I needed 500 square feet. (Not to mention, that I had no idea how to make an actual tent.)

IMG_2659At the final Journey Loom weaving event,  I met Melodi Hackett. A weaver in her own right, she wove and warped looms throughout the 2 day event. and then she asked:

What kind of help do you still need?

I need a tent maker.

With a straight face, Melodi responded: I make tents. She had worked as an exhibit tent designer. (Yes – another beshart moment. I told you to bookmark that page.)


A week before the installation, the tent makers began production. Measure, cut, serge, sew. Measure, cut, serge, sew.

Melodie at machine





When I started kayak lessons 4 years ago, I did not ask my instructor if his mother was a weaver and if he knew the difference between warp and weft. As it turned out, the answer to both questions was ‘Yes.” (I know, I know – beshart.)

IMG_2840I envisioned the ‘tent’ as an ocean – ‘mirroring the movement of waves.’ And Gregg Bolton https://gbolton.smugmug.com was able to translate my idiosyncratic aesthetic into a physical reality. After 12+ hours of balancing on ladders and planks, occasional invectives (mine not his) and of course, donuts, the tent was installed.IMG_2931

IMG_2944 IMG_2935 IMG_2947 





TWO: Installing the Journey Loom Weavings

Respite from the heat came as a result of hanging the community weavings in the air conditioned Community Room. IMG_2909

No Murphy Here. –

Well, OK. Murphy took up residence in this room for 8 weeks. Every time a community group needed to use the room for a meeting, Murphy re-arranged the furniture.IMG_3236 IMG_3235





ONE:             Hanging Aprons

Seven women, seven aprons, seven tallit bags,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallit seven genealogies and a series of invented postcards that highlight their efforts on behalf of the immigrants of the 1920’s comprised Sarah’s GenerosityIMG_9697

Carefully arranged and meticulously measured, the aprons were installed outside the Sanctuary.IMG_9710




  • Set up reception
  • Set out guestbook
  • Create Artist Binder
  • Fold 250 brochures
  • Find somewhere to shower
  • Comb hair
  • Set up sound system
  • Check toilet paper in bathrooms
  • Prepare Artist Talk
  • Hope people come (They did. More than 150 at the opening. 100 at First Friday. And more.)

Murphy Challenge #7Seriously Hot

Neither Velcro nor double-sided tape adheres to plaster walls when the temperature exceeds 85.

  • Re – hang Aprons !!! Use nails.

Where’s the Cab?IMG_2769

 My ad hoc interviews with a taxi driver from Burundi and an Iraqi prisoner-of-war were intertwined with the story of Bela Gross read by a recent Russian asylum seeker and recorded for play back on the sound system of a Crown Vic cab donated by ASAP Cab. http://www.asaptaxi.net IMG_2988

Exhibit attenders would sit in the cab and listen to their stories. Upon ‘arrival,”they received a receipt with links to the current immigration, asylum, refugee laws and stats.


Exhibit – ING

 September 3 – October 25, 2015.







Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus QRs are posted on:



Connect – ING

Community Events were held during the month of October. IMG_3104


Weaving Workshop – Cheryl Holbert



Color of CommunityIMG_3142

Reading and Book Signing – I’m New Here http://www.annesibleyobrien.comIMG_3160

IMG_3180World Music – Casco Bay Tummlers http://www.cascobaytummlers.com and Burundi Batimbo Beats




‘When Jews were New Mainers’ symposium with Colby CollegeIMG_3211IMG_3202







14 days to install; 7 to remove. I realize the world only took 6 days and there was a day of rest at the end – but the resting will have to wait.

For now, there will be tear-filled goodbyes, sanding, spackling and painting, crating and storing of the exhibit, more tear-filled goodbyes and then a 14 hour drive back to Maryland.

There is no way to know if this exhibit will have any lasting impact within the community. But as I prepare to leave, the following editorial appeared written by Arthur Fink: A Real Community Has No Strangers


….Do see this exhibit, ask how we welcome strangers (or don’t) and let yourself be transformed…

 ..I left the exhibit asking myself, “Who are our ‘strangers’ today? And how can we welcome them with grace, acceptance, dignity and genuine openness?”

…We can open our hearts, connect with those who may appear to be “different” and forge a more inclusive, caring and compassionate community. I hope and pray that we will!


PS from Murphy:IMG_3237

The bathrooms are finally done.














-ING Part 3 (a)

1st Law of Motion – Law of Inertia

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

There’s no stopping us now… Supremes

Weav – ING

I thought continuously changing designs and altering plans were endemic only to site-specific installation artists.

However, writers change their story lines, musicians re-write their compositions, dancers revise their choreography; the second mark on a canvas may change the trajectory of the work and a crack in the stone releases a new image.

Eighteen months ago, I proposed the Welcoming the Stranger exhibition. Based on the mandate in the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah to ‘welcome the stranger’ – the exhibit would compare the treatment of immigrants of the 1920’s in Portland, Maine with that of “New Mainers” today.  There would be 3 components of the show: Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus.

The community would participate in a dialogue about immigration – past and present. The form of that community involvement was still to be determined*.

Twelve months passed in which I conducted research into the lives of the National Council of Women who assisted immigrants arriving in the 1920’s at the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station.

I initiated the campaign to prevent the development of House Island. The City of Portland designated House Island, the “Ellis Island of the North,” as an historic district. The remaining structures from the quarantine and immigration station would be retained. http://www.pressherald.com/2015/01/05/portland-council-grants-protection-for-historic-house-island/

Six months ago, I arrived in the city of my birth – a stranger – and was welcomed and supported and encouraged by the city of today. Creating community involvement – with organizations, religious institutions, schools, artists, individuals, and businesses – became the focus of my work for 3 months.

IMG_2573Anyone and everyone can weave – over and under, under and over.

(Think paper placemats in school or potholders at camp.)IMG_2523

I loaded and unloaded the Journey Loom onto my truck, attached a banner to the tailgate, and set up weavings throughout the city.
Using donated fabric, “citizen weavers” at First Friday Art Walks, World Refugee Day, Portland High School, The Children’s Museum, Levey Day School, Anderson Street Mosque, Tandem Coffee, Running With Scissors, Peaks Island, Root Cellar, Kennedy Park, Trinity Episcopal church and others created weavings.
2 girls

IMG_2872At each event, participants recorded ideas of how to ‘welcome a stranger.’ Their responses were posted on the welcoming the stranger art Facebook page and served as a way to continue the dialogue.



The Journey Loom weavings – created a powerful visual symbol that captured the underlying theme of weaving together a community – a city – a country – a world. They became the 4th component of the exhibit.IMG_2659




Journey – ING

Simultaneously, the panels for Abraham’s Tent were being woven on traditional looms using donated and hand spun yarn from around the country. Donations arrived from Ravelry.com readers.IMG_2225 The PortFiber Thursday spinning group spun, warped, wove.  http://portfiber.com IMG_2292

Between weaving events, planning with community groups, materials collection, and ‘commuting’ via the ferry from Peaks Island, I created the remaining components of the installation:

At Running with Scissors: artist studios and community http://www.rwsartstudios.com


My studio space was headquarters for the project, storage for the looms and materials, apron design and genealogy research lab. I used RWS woodworking tools and the biggest light table I had ever seen for creating stencils. Kate Anker, founder, was the go to person for everything art. The resident artists provided their expertise, words of encouragement – and of course, coffee.

At Gathering of Stitches: A Making Space for Fiber and Textile People


Samantha Hoyt Lindgren created a maker space for fiber and textile artists. You can rent a full time studio, attend classes and workshops, or arrange for time on the various machines.IMG_2801

Samantha is the most flexible person I know. I popped in weekly to revise the calendar. She would calmly erase the blocked out dates and write in the next. Eventually, we didn’t even bother writing in a date. She assured me there would be a space and place when needed.

At MECA: Maine College of Art http://www.meca.edu/

Elizabeth Jabar and I appeared on a panel at the Migrations Conference sponsored by Colby College in April. http://web.colby.edu/mainemigrations/ She is the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Foundation at MECA.IMG_2778

Her work is socially conscious and frequently community based. http://www.Futuremothers.org. Over coffee, I admitted I was terrified to print for the following reason:

I had never done ANY print making. (OK. Potato printing with my first graders.) http://www.marthastewart.com/1004012/potato-printing-craft

Elizabeth offered her studio and her expertise. On the hottest, most humid day of the summer, we mixed ink colors, printed test strips and practiced a paper lithography transfer process using gum Arabic, reversed photocopies of the 1924 map of Portland and lots of patience.IMG_2776

I now know I couldn’t be a printmaker; too many variables to analyze when it doesn’t come out the way you hoped.



At the “The Nest:” Peaks IslandIMG_0402

I have a small studio space in a boathouse called ” The Nest.”  At night, I researched Hebrew and Muslim prayers, adhesives, immigration law, transport companies, photographers, inks. I wrote scripts for audio collages, listened to hours of sound effects, conducted interviews, and produced recordings.

I photocopied and photocopied; signage; labels; brochures, letters, images.

And, I continued to meet with anyone and everyone who wanted to ‘welcome the stranger.’


Within the whirling dervish of my life, the underlying theme behind Welcoming the Stranger remained constant: To tell the story of the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station, the role of the National Council of Jewish Women, create an Abraham’s tent and compare the present day treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees to their welcome in the 1920’s.

The Welcoming the Stranger exhibit requires a 10-day installation. (A day defined as 14+ hours.) Lack of funding means relying on the generous spirit and labor of friends and volunteers. Everyone would be paid in donuts, lots and lots of coffee and heart felt appreciation.IMG_2930

And, naturally, ‘Murphy’ would make an appearance in ways I could never have predicted.




*Welcoming the Stranger (WTS): building understanding through community based art is a forum for community and arts related organizations to explore the theme of immigration, belonging and “building bridges” of appreciation and understanding with people of all backgrounds. 

 Goals include:

 To promote a sense of commonality among diverse communities;

 To provide forums to discuss how the historic issues surrounding immigration are reflected in a contemporary context;

 To honor the contributions that diverse groups of immigrants provide to the American experience.