I’ve known about the extreme problem that outdoor cats pose to our ecosystem, particularly for bird and rodent populations, for years, and firmly believe that cats should be indoor only. Whenever my belief on this comes up in conversation with cat owners who let their cats outside, though, they indicate no real awareness of the scope of the problem (though there’s probably some willful ignorance mixed in, too), so I’m glad to have an updated reference for them in the form of this Smithsonian Magazine article, “The Moral Cost of Cats.”
I embraced social media early on (albeit with some healthy boundaries). I’ve had a personal website since high school that I built myself and hosted on my own domain. I also had a Xanga account in high school and early college, was an extremely early adopter of Facebook (my college was one of the first that Facebook expanded to), and obviously now keep a consistently updated blog which also feeds into my Twitter account. I am a member of several different online communities, and share my work in online galleries and publications as well as in print.
But I’ve resisted Instagram for one multifaceted reason - I’m a laptop person. I grew up right as computers and the internet came into force and had early and consistent access to them. However, mobile phones are a different story. While I had a friend or two in high school who had a cell phone, I never did. In fact, I didn’t have one through the first two years of college either. I finally got one in junior year, and then stuck with a basic cell phone through graduate school and into my early professional career even as smart phones became fairly common. I finally got a smart phone, too, and now am on my second one, but to this day I’ve never felt as comfortable with a phone as I do with a laptop.
Now you have to understand: Instagram doesn’t just discourage laptop usage in favor of mobile access; the company intentionally breaks the extensions that users write to sidestep the mobile requirement. I don’t know if it’s a target audience decision, or if there’s something in the coding, updating, and presentation that so strongly relies on mobile formatting that they want to force it, but there it is. I’ve downloaded a couple extensions in the past to try to trick the site into letting me use my laptop without success.
The problem is not only my general preference for laptops over phones. It’s also that I take all my professional photos with my digital camera, which is far better in quality than my smart phone’s camera. I also crop and color adjust my images in Photoshop, which is a computer-based software, so all of my imagery is pretty firmly linked to my laptop. It’s a hassle to have to repeatedly port over all of the photos I want to post to my phone. It’s not that I can’t do it, but with only so much time in the day, at some point you’ve got to prioritize some tasks over others. I figured I was doing enough on social media with the platforms I was using - my website and blog, Facebook, Twitter, online internet community participation, and various digital publications - so I decided to skip Instagram and hope that it was just a fad that would blow over.
But I reached a tipping point this week. My wonderful colleague Susan Nelson has recently joined Instagram and fallen in love, and I’m feeling left out of viewing her posts. My fantastic friend and chemistry collaborator Dr. John Pojman has asked me to join repeatedly and the guilt in not acceding to his wishes has gotten to me. Many other great friends, particularly internationally, have asked me to join as well. And finally, I have to grudgingly admit that Instagram is not a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. It is sticking around. As an artist who wants to engage with as broad an audience as possible, and who also likes to stay technologically current, I can’t resist any longer. Instagram, here I come!
If you’re already on Instagram (and let’s face it, I’m a very late adopter here, so I expect you probably are) you can find me @shelbyprindaville. The profile is rather barren right now because I want to parcel out my artwork in new posts every couple of days until the backlog is cleared instead of vomiting it all up at once, but I intend to develop it and keep it up to date just as I do with the rest of my social media.
Here’s to progress!
The flooding in the Midwest has been truly devastating in some areas. Fortunately for me, Leavenworth in comparison hasn’t been hit that hard… but we did nevertheless reach the standard of “major flooding” of the Missouri River on March 23rd. I went downtown to Leavenworth’s 2nd Street to take a look, and it was simultaneously shockingly high but also still staying near the boundary of the buildings… the river is set back from businesses on 2nd Street a fair ways by a railroad crossing as well as a park and river walk, so even though all of that got flooded out and it did reach some of the buildings on the river’s side of 2nd Street, it could’ve been much worse. I took a few photos, though if you’re not familiar with the area they might not be very impactful. I’ll have to see if I can remember to take some comparison photos at a future, more normal water level and update this post at some point.
When my crested gecko Lex passed away this winter, I was immediately surprised by how much lonelier my house felt. It was genuinely surprising how much companionship I felt from Lex’s presence. I didn’t want to replace her, exactly, but I wanted another pet. I like a wide range of pets including cats and dogs, but I feel my current household situation is best suited for a low maintenance and quiet pet that won’t be heartbroken when I travel for artist residencies.
In the intervening years since I got Lex, I had gradually become interested in a similar species of gecko called a gargoyle gecko that’s native to the same island as crested geckos (New Calendonia). The two species are similar in a lot of ways - size, diet, temperature needs, space needs, etc. - but differ in a few key ways. Gargoyle geckos will regrow their tails if they autotomize (meaning intentionally sever their tails) whereas crested geckos won’t. The two species also have different coloration and head shape and detailing. Gargoyles are so named because they have little bumps that develop on their heads and have sharp teeth.
I decided to get a gargoyle gecko for my next pet. They are more difficult to find than crested geckos, but fortunately for me there were a few for sale from a home breeder in nearby Lawrence, KS, on Craigslist. I consulted with the seller and then arranged to pick up my new pet a few days later.
I picked up the new little one and learned that it had hatched on July 28th. You can’t determine the sex (unless you’re really skilled and have a magnification device called a loupe) until the gecko is a lot older, so I’m currently changing the pronouns back and forth at random. After I’d had him for a few days, I decided the name Ashlar was suitable - ashlar is the most finely dressed masonry, but as a name also can be shortened to Ash which also represents the tree and cinder; all three are very apropos of various color states of my new gecko. I bought Ash a new cage just in case Lex’s had a parasite or fungal infestation (though I doubt that it does, and also heavily sanitized and temperature-treated the old cage through freezing just to be totally sure) and new cage decor and plants as well.
All that being said, please meet Ash! While I know it might be hard to believe, all of the photos in the below slideshow are of just one adorable gecko who is very variable in color depending on mood, surroundings, and time of day.
For those of you who have been frequent blog visitors or Twitter followers, you’ll know that I occasionally post about my pet crested gecko Lex. Sadly, she passed away this winter. She was only six years old, which is quite young for a crested gecko to die. The species often lives for fifteen to twenty years in captivity and sometimes even longer. In hindsight, I believe she probably got impacted, though at the time I thought she was just going through a bad shed cycle. Impaction is always a small risk when you’re keeping the animal in a planted vivarium and feeding live insects. These choices nevertheless enrich an animal’s life, too, and Lex got clear enjoyment out of the plants and insect feeders. In the end I think it was unfortunately just her time.
Lex was a great gecko and I was really sorry to lose her. Here are some photos I hadn’t yet posted that I’d like to share in celebration of her life with me.
You should read this funny, interesting article in The Atlantic about misunderstandings that have arisen because people believe animal sounds they’re hearing must be more nefarious machinery. Here’s another story in Atlas Obscura about one town’s briefly apocalyptic experience with bullfrogs, and here’s an even more in-depth look at the cultural fallout from the New England Historical Society.
Back to some bad environmental news - European marine sanctuaries are not protected from trawling and dredging (why not?!!!) so they’re being so intensely overfished that biodiversity is greater in non-sanctuary-zoned areas.
I’m a big proponent of not violating copyright - and it’s easier than ever before to catch someone who does with automated reverse image searching technology nowadays. If you use public domain works, though, then you’re in the clear! This year, we’ll be adding everything published in 1923 into the public domain!
This story in Toronto Life, “My Beautiful Death,” is quite interesting and appalling. Art materials are often toxic and require safe handling practices, but this tale not only deals with those practices but also with reflected fallout from our environmental mismanagement as well.
My crested gecko Lex cracks me up. I woke up to this one morning. Tell me this isn’t the most alluring pose you’ve ever seen a gecko perform. For maximum effect, turn on “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child while looking at this photo (I included an embed of the song via YouTube below).
This well-written and devastating feature in The New York Times Magazine, “The Insect Apocalypse is Here,” is worth reading. You might cry, though.
In conversation, sometimes, a student will wish mosquitoes away. I tell them that mosquitoes are an important part of the food chain for a number of species, and that while I, too, would like to be mosquito-free, we must understand that we are one small part of a whole. We may soon manage to become the whole, though, through chipping and choking everything else out. This article is about the decline of all insects and the overall functional extinction of many species - and our often unnoticed acclimation to it all.
Are you considering going on an artist residency but aren’t sure if it’s a good idea? Maybe I can help you sort through your thoughts. I have been on eight different residencies thus far, and have a range of experiences to draw from in my reflections. Since some of what’s going to come up might make it sound like I dislike residencies, let me just state right at the beginning that I love being an artist-in-residence! I do, however, think it is very important to fully think through your residency plans to make sure that you, too, have great experiences.
1. Have you been on any other artist residencies before?
If not, you may not be sure if residencies are for you or you may be sure… but nevertheless hate it when you get there. All but one of my residencies (I’ve been on eight) have had artists apply, arrive, and flee early. This is even more surprising when you consider that typically residents have already purchased round-trip tickets, have made rental car arrangements, and other financial decisions that mean the cost of leaving early can be very expensive indeed compared to just sticking it out once already there. Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard as to why people have left early:
They thought the residency would inspire them during a period of creative funk, but once they arrived, unpacked, and sat down in the studio in front of an empty easel or table, they feel blocked even more intensely.
They applied to a very isolated residency with few people around, and while this fact was disclosed and they thought they were comfortable with the isolation, in reality it was very scary and they couldn’t handle it.
They applied to a rural residency - out in nature - thinking romantically of strolls through a forest. They left when they discovered that insects including mosquitoes, flies, spiders, beetles, and ants regularly got into their living spaces and they could hear large animal noises outside at night.
They either through lack of research or misleading advertising copy were physically unprepared for the residency. Several that I have attended required twenty-minute steep climbs up a mountain. One had only a sawdust toilet. Several had no hot water. A couple required boiling the water to make it potable.
There was no reliable internet or cell phone connection on the residency site and while they knew in advance about that, they didn’t fully appreciate how much that changed their comfort levels and/or process.
If you’ve never been on a residency before and want to try it out, I recommend doing a short domestic one to minimize costs and dip your toes into the experience before taking on a longer-term or international one. Even if your residency is fully funded (more on this in question 5 below), it is still costly to do a residency as many fully-funded ones nevertheless don’t pay for travel costs as well and there are often associated charges that rack up (taxis to airports or airport parking, higher food costs due to unfamiliar and sometimes restricted setups at the residency, costs of renting a car or of public transit, paying someone to look after your pets/plants, etc). Dipping your toes in can let you begin to get a taste for whether or not you like them and what your preferences would be moving forward.
If you have been on a residency before, you have probably started to form some opinions about them - the importance (or insignificance) to you of location, number of other residents, studio setup, exhibition space, duration, provided amenities, cost/payment, and application fees are all factors to consider.
2. What are your primary motivations for going on residencies? Will the one you’re considering satisfy those?
I like to escape from the familiar patterns at home that take away time making art - hanging out with friends, going to the gym, hitting up the local farmers market, etc - and really focus on artwork production. I enjoy exposure to new and different ways to live, and love immersing myself in new ecosystems.
Residencies not only build my professional standing through artwork generation and exhibition but also improve my teaching. Attending residencies has allowed me to expand my network of artists, galleries, and opportunities, which I can then share with my students through guest artist lectures and exhibitions in my institution and exhibition opportunities for our students. Residencies also facilitate conversations with other art professors and instructors, expose me to new classroom exercises, and allow me the opportunity to visit world-class museums with art collections that I can reference in the classroom.
I know why I go on residencies and get a lot out of attending them. You may not have the same desires for going on one, though, and your motivations may or may not be realistically achievable in the residency you’ve chosen. For example, if you want to see other artists’ studio practices, applying to a solitary residency (I’ve been on four where I was the only artist in residence during my stay) is a bad idea.
Here’s another example of thinking through your motivations: I speak Spanish proficiently and therefore attend residencies in Spanish-speaking places often. More often than not my fellow artist residents have little to no Spanish proficiency (they were allowed to fill out the application to the residency in English), and they are regularly surprised by how limiting not speaking the local language can be both in their day-to-day existence and in their arts scene engagement, and several felt somewhat dissatisfied in the end by that limitation.
3. Have you researched the residency, the town or city the residency is in or outside of, the country, the weather that time of year, the crime level, and so forth?
It is really important to be educated beforehand about what you might experience, particularly if your destination is international. For instance, I knew that there was limited electricity in the Peruvian Amazon residency I attended and I brought a very useful solar light along with me. I also got a few vaccines - yellow fever, for instance - in advance of heading off to that residency and brought some anti-malarial medication along just in case. You should brush up on at least a few phrases in whatever the primary language is - I learned some French and Portuguese prior to my residencies in France and Portugal and they both proved quite handy. You’ll possibly need travel adapters, or even voltage converters, for your electronics. Are you going to rent a car? Will you be driving on the side of the road that you’re used to? The list goes on, and varies tremendously.
4. Have you reached out to former residents to get a better idea of what the residency will be like?
I really recommend this; do research on who has previously attended the residency and read any of their blog posts about it, and perhaps even shoot a few of them emails asking for their advice for you. Even if they loved it, they may have great packing advice, and if there were points they didn’t like so much that’s helpful knowledge to have when you’re making your own determinations about attending.
5. How much is the residency you’re thinking of attending charging and/or providing you in terms of a stipend? Are there any donation, workshop sessions, work hours, or other requirements associated with the residency?
There are a lot of amazing residency opportunities out there… and then there are more than a few that are clearly money-making operations that are perhaps better understood as a vacation-in-disguise rather than a work arrangement. There’s absolutely a place in the world for that latter type, too, but you really want to go into your residency understanding which it is and whether that serves your purposes.
I only attend places that are “split-cost” or “fully-funded” residencies. Split-cost residencies share the cost with the artist; they are not free but rather partially subsidized. There is a fee you will pay to the program that covers your share of the housing, studio space, marketing, exhibition space, and other needs in a “split-cost” residency, but the host organization is also covering part of the cost. Fully-funded residencies have no costs to attend (though most don’t pay for your travel to get to and from the site) and some even have stipends. Most that have stipends do have some compensating task you complete for the host organization, however - it could be donating some of the work you make during the residency, or leading a workshop for a local audience, or contributing to the overall property (gardening, cleaning, cooking for the group, etc) in a certain number of work hours per week. Be realistic about what you are willing and able to do!
I have several reasons why I only attend split-cost or fully-funded residencies. Most importantly, I think that having the host organization bear some or all of the cost makes them more selective of their residents and more professional in their residency requirements and structure. It also looks better on your resume or CV! I also find that split-cost or fully-funded residencies are what fit into my budget. You might reasonably then wonder why I don’t only attend fully-funded residencies - the answer is that there are only a few international residency opportunities that are fully-funded, and of those, even fewer that fit into my summer availability. Since my artwork has an ecological focus, having an international studio practice is important to me and worth a reasonable shared cost to me.
You may be considering a “full-cost” residency, however, where you would be paying for everything at tourist/consumer prices. If so, just make sure you get your money’s worth and consider any amenities offered that may make the price point more reasonable, like covered meals, transport, guest availability, and so on. Also note that many full-cost residencies have a more service provider-customer relationship rather than an arts program-artist relationship, and that does impact the tenor of the residency. A number of full-cost options also don’t actually require/expect that you make artwork while there, which some people enjoy as it takes some pressure off but can also somewhat defeat the purpose of going on a residency as opposed to just a vacation in a local hotel or Airbnb.
6. Is the specific residency you’re considering actually a good fit?
This question sort of loops back around to the points brought up in several of the other questions. Be honest with yourself and introspective, and really think through if the residency will be a good fit. Will there be any other residents on site while you are there? Will you have to share a room? Will you need to be comfortable staying in a co-ed space? Will you be lonely? Will you have internet access? Is there a kiln? Will you get to exhibit? Is the location one you want to be in for the length of time of the residency? Will you feel safe? Will you have easy transportation options? Can you cook for yourself?
Again, I know that I may sound like I think residencies are terrifying, unproductive experiences - and while on a rare occasion they unfortunately can be, I’ve been fortunate to have in general benefited personally and professionally from the ones I’ve attended. But the takeaway is that not all residencies are right for all artists, so doing your homework and reflecting on your own motivations and needs will go a long way towards ensuring that if you do attend a residency, you have a great time and perhaps even make some new lifelong friends!
Finally, here are some of the biggest residency aggregation sites to browse through to find your first, or next, residency!
This is really awful - the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is just starting to come of age, and it is rejecting over 99% of applicants. From this Slate article: “Of the 28,913 applications reviewed, just 289 were approved. And only 96 people actually finished the process of having their loans scrubbed.”
I know a number of people who have made employment and then domino-effect life decisions based on getting PSLF; I myself strongly considered it as an option. In the end, due to paying off my undergraduate student loan debt by working in business and then how much I incurred in graduate school, ten years of payment were enough to fully pay off my debt anyway so it was a moot option - but I really feel for those who trusted the government on this. Given what’s currently happening, I would recommend you make your decisions without taking PSLF into consideration, but still file for it if you do happen to qualify, and then if it happens to proc you get a lottery-style bonus.
If I have the time, I try to do a face paint for Halloween every year. I am in the very top search results for “pixelated face paint” and other related phrases on Google Images because of my Halloween makeup! This year, I did the sliced face makeup. I was running out of time in the morning by the time I got to the mouth area so I feel I could have done a little better on that with less haste, but hey, I think it still got the idea across!
Invasive species are a massive ecological problem, and they are primarily caused by humanity - either intentionally or unintentionally. In the case of the Bradford Pear, it was 100% intentional. This article by Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post Magazine details each stage of human decision-making that led to the Bradford Pear menace.
Now here’s another recent look at the current and projected scale of global warming and how it compares to the agreements and actual international practices regarding emissions.
I love pretty much everything about this video from the E/V Nautilus and its ROV Hercules, but the simultaneous moment of realization the scientists all have is really top notch.