Friday, September 26, 2008

Rain Date!

Same time, same place, next weekend, October 4. The monsoon rains have pushed events to next weekend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Curtains for Cryptic Providence

September 27th is the last day to view all art installations for Cryptic Providence. Please join me and fellow artists Robert O Jones, Nancy Austin and Caroline Woolard for special art and history tours, and performances. I will be leading a special tour that will end at the Bells Ring for Thee (Take Away If You Please), where visitors will be able to take away parts of my installation. I hope that this will provide a way for my installation to live on, and when anybody asks about the "Bells" in someone's yard or a vase, they can tell the story of the Potter's Field, and everyone buried there will be remembered again and again...thank you to everyone who helped, inspired,visited and cheered me on to make this installation.

Read below for more information. Please join us!
Saturday, September 27th, 2008, Noon-6-PM North Burial Ground, Branch Ave. & No. Main St., Providence, R.I.
Enter at the intersection of Branch Ave. and N. Main St., 1/3 mile north of Whole Foods Market. All tours begin at the Welcome Tent at the cemetery entrance.

1:00-2:30 PM
Final Passage/Final Repose
A Historical and Artistic Walking Tour

by Cryptic contributor & architectural historian Robert O. Jones

Explore the North Burial Ground (founded 1700), one of Providence's oldest surviving Euro-American artifacts and the city's oldest municipal facility. This tour will examine the complex interweave of natural and man-made elements in NBG, the cemetery's evolution in response to changing attitudes toward death and burial practices, and select historical and artistic features, including the graves of the famous and those-who-should-be-famous, and the aesthetic character and symbolism of funerary art. The latest edition of the self-guided tour flyer that Jones created for Cryptic Providence and NBG will be available for distribution. The tour will end at the Jones family plot in time for the Tea Party.

3-5 PM
Footnotes: a tribute to Albert J. Jones
the forgotten founder of R.I.'s first Art Museum
A Performance and Installation by
Historian Nancy Austin (Newport, R.I.) and
Artist Caroline Woolard (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

At the Jones Family Plot in the North Burial Ground
Linden Avenue near Central Avenue
directions at the Welcome Tent, or follow the tea cup signs

Join us for this event, planned in dialogue with the opening of the new wing of the RISD Museum of Art. The RISD Museum, Rhode Island’s first, was founded as a direct result of a bequest to the people of Providence by native Albert J. Jones, the New York Times's neoclassical and public sculpture critic in Italy for twenty years. This still-timely, but sadly forgotten story of the Jones Bequest illuminates much about the ecology of culture in R.I., from past to present day.

Beginning at Noon, a cast sugar "neoclassical" bust of Albert J. Jones will be installed on a pedestal at the Jones Family plot in the North Burial Ground, amidst a "room" of mirrored tea tables spiked into the ground and at various heights, from 2-4 feet. Nineteenth-century shoes will be thrown into the tree branches spreading over the site, to mark the territory for Albert J. Jones, who started out as a shoe salesman at the Arcade. From 3-5pm we will conduct a tea party, in homage to RISD founder Helen Rowe Metcalf. The tea is the kind that was served at the bookstore/tea cafe run by Helen Rowe and her orphaned siblings after they moved to R.I. from N.Y. around 1850. A tea party was the first fundraiser of the women who put up the seed money to fund RISD. One of Mrs. Metcalf's teacups is buried in the cornerstone of a RISD building. These are a few of the associations we draw on for the collective performance of a tea party at the Jones site.

Between 3-5pm on Sept 27th, join us for a tea party among the graves. We invite you to add sugar to your tea from the cast sugar bust of Albert Jones. Thus, over the course of this performance, we will consume him in our tea.

For more information, see: An exhibition catalogue with essays written by historian Nancy Austin will be available for sale.

4-5 PM
Cryptic Providence Art Site Walking Tour/
The Bells Ring for Thee (Take Away If You Please)

by participating artist Rebecca Siemering

Tour the Cryptic Providence art sites as Siemering discusses the installations, living in the neighborhood of the North Burial Ground, and the experience of making public and site-specific work. The tour will end at her installation, "The Bells Ring for Thee," where visitors will have the opportunity to take a piece of this installation with them on this closing day of Cryptic Providence. A suggested donation will go to the North Burial Ground.

Friday, August 15, 2008


When originally setting up this piece, I never met anyone who had a relative buried in this section. This past week, when re-setting up after the vandalism, a woman parked at the edge of the field. She came out of her well-polished, and clean Suburban looking car slowly and held the Cryptic Providence map tightly in her hand. She was a well-dressed African American woman, looked like she was on a lunch break, maybe at the cemetary to appreciate some art and solitude.

I greeted her and asked if she was there to view the art and she replied that she was trying to find her baby's grave. She was off from work and said she wished her day off matched when the grounds manager was there. She could not remember which numbered grave was her baby's. She pointed to the middle section and said she thought it was there. That was about where she remembered standing in the rain, 20 years ago.

We spoke for a while about her life, then and now. She said she had her baby girl young and she died an infant. Betty was 18 when this happened, but now she owned her own home and had two teenagers. She was here to see if she get her baby girl out of the field, to re-bury her properly now that she had the money to do it. Betty wanted her children to know(and it sounded like one son in particular) that suffering can happen, to be mindful of the world and what it has to offer. I said I was sorry for her loss, but very glad to meet her, and left her to go and have some privacy.

I am glad me met as it re-affirms to me when making this piece that a person's life can change drastically from bad to good, good to be mindful of my days. These numbered graves have a life attached, however brief, and a mother who probably hoped for the best.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Bells Return

The Bells will return by August 12th. Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern over the vandalism and for volunteering to put them back up.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Temporarily Down

The project is temporarily down due to vandalism and for site maintenance. When creating this project, I expected to replace some bells every week, because of sticky fingers. Objects are taken from graveyards all of the time, and it is also oddly flattering that someone would want to keep a piece as a memento. With close to 1,600 separate pieces, I can see how a person could say to themeselves,"Oh it's just one, it won't be noticable." A little can turn into a lot very quickly.

I returned to take down my project for site maintenace by the crew a few days ago and from a distance I thought it looked a little thin. When I got to the middle of the project I was shocked to see ten whole rows missing, close to 300 individual pieces gone. This shocked me. This would have taken a while to do( to take that effort), I thought it must have been noticable and noisy. When I returned again to take it all down, I noticed a shiny bundle in the woods next to the canal. It turns out someone or several individuals, took the rows and wadded them up into little nests and put them at the edge of the canal. At least I do not have to replace every single piece, but there is some damage and I have to unbend them all.

So, stay tuned for the return of the "Bells" in August.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Visitations, Natural and Otherwise

Rhode Island, specifically on the Pawtucket/Providence city line , experienced a freak hail storm last week. I am originally from Nebraska, and I know bad things happen when a cold front and a warm front meet(i.e. massive tornados). I had been on the phone with a friend when I thought I heard a very heavy rainfall coming. My cat knew better, and with a swift trot, made a beeline for under the bed. In the next moment it was as if Mother Nature dumped an ice chest over my house. The street became a river of ice,when only moments before it had been reaching 80 degrees inside. Big and little pellots of ice. It lasted for about 20 minutes. I went outside afterwards and even my car was dinged a bit. The ice stayed in the yard until a warm rain in the evening.

So you can imagine what I thought happened to the little tin bells at the the North Burial Ground. I feared the worst, but I had made extras for natural and human disasters. I went the next morning to check on everything...and almost everything was fine and tinkling like normal! Just a few blew around here and there. What I found very curious were the human interventions. One bell was wrapped in knots and replanted, half its size. In a few spots someone gathered surrounding bells an planted them together. In the very back there was some vandalism and I started to think of the movie "Yellow Submarine." Have you seen any Kinky Boot Beasts in the area?

The bells also naturally (or maybe supernaturally) catch onto each other, forming pairs. Maybe some companionship has formed underground and is reaching upwards?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cryptic Providence opens tonight, 5- 10 PM

I planted approximately 1,600 "bells" between last night and this morning. The video to the right was made at around 7 PM last night with the installation in progress. More footage will be up this weekend if you miss experiencing them for yourself.

If you live in the area, the opening is tonight with live performances, a film and tours of the cemetary. Please join me and all of the other wonderful artists who have created work for this historic site in Providence, RI. Click on the link for ArtTix to the right for more information and schedule.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just me, the birds and the June bugs

Well, I needed to wait for the grass to be mowed, so I started this evening, which was just fine. I had an idea it would take me at least 4 hrs. to set up the larger part of the field. It took me a little longer than that, and I still have a tiny bit tomorrow, but I'm not so off the mark.

A cemetary is not just a place for mourning the dead, as it provides a natural respite within the city for wildflife. This became more apparent than normal as I was setting up and could be quiet and observe. I felt besieged by Robins. The grass is so dry, I could not figure out what they were eating until dusk and I could take off my sunglasses. Apparently it's mating season for June bugs and they were having a lovely time in the grass! There are many other birds besides Robins who make happy homes in the trees and bushes. I have seen Junkos, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Grackels, Starlings, Chickadees, Pigeons and a Blue Heron to name a few.

By the time I shot a little bit of video with my Cannon Elph, the windy part of the day had died down. It was too bad, as there was a lovely tinkly and tinny noise, just what I want. The heat had finally gone down and the moon was just rising overhead. I really enjoy looking at this installation by taking thr long the distance of the field, the bells begin to look like floating stars or fire flies. It wasmy intention to make a piece that not only made sound, but was visually potent. I love viewing and listening to sound art, but when the technology breaks, or the parts don't work anymore, is it still art? I wonder this often when I view installations in museums. I don't wnat anywone thinking that with mine!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Today I begin to install all of the bells. I finished early over the weekend, much to my surprise! I always try to add another 20% to the time frame of a project. There is always something unforeseen. Hopefully not tonight!

To the right is a calendar on which I will post when the installation is up, and when it is not. The field where it is installed needs to be mowed several times a month. I have some very generous volunteers already, but if you would like to help out, please contact me!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1,300 cans of beer on the wall, soda and tea cans as well...take one down., pass it around

So as of today, I have 1,300 separate pieces done. 350 to go for the big installation next Friday. Whew! I hope to be done this weekend so I can gear up for the planting.

A note about the difference in cans:

Having collected beer, soda, Goya, Red Bull and Arizona Iced Tea cans, I am surprised that each one has a different thickness. I thought there would be similar gauge by regulation. When I first started cutting them up, beer cans had the thinnest walls, then soda, iced tea/fruit drink cans had thicker walls, almost impossible to cut. I am wondering if the fruit flavorings are so acidic that the cans need to be thicker. Then I started thinking if the fruit drinks are eating away at the cans, what's going on when we drink them? Anyone have any answers for me?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Weapons of Mass Construction

To make the "bells" which have become flower-like, I need a variety of snips and scissors. Two of these are on loan, and I am so greatful to have them. They have saved my hands. As of today, I have at least 600 full pieces done, 400 more tops to finish off with wire tomorrow. Over 650 more to go after that is done, but by now it's a lot easier since I have broken in my arms. My right arm is beginning to look like Popeye's with all of the piercing, cutting, folding and twisting!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recycle Night Is All Right!

Tonight was our local recycling and trash night. You really get to know your neighbors when you are asking for their trash.

I have lived in my neighborhood for over three years and just met a few people on my block for the first time a week ago because of this project. I didn't know one neighbor who is trying to sell his house, so we talked about the state of the economy. Matthew knows me well now and puts his beer and soda cans in a bag to make it easier for me to carry. Very sweet! We talk about art and his kids and I think he waits for me on Wednesdays now. The neighbor to our left, Charles, is an avid gardner and we talk over the fence all of the time. He's a diabetic who likes his soda and tries out different kinds to see what works well with his blood sugar levels. Tonight we talked about the difference between diet Pepsi and Coke Zero on his system. Pepsi is winning, but a real Cherry Coke would make him happy.

First Test

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Idea

The idea for "The Bells Ring for Thee" came from the presentation artist Jay Critchley and Robert O. Jones of the Preservation Society gave when a call went out to do projects for the North Burial Ground. Those present took a tour through this cemetary of ornate stones, with a history going back to the beginning of Rhode Island. When the Potters Field came up, I learned that it was also called the "Strangers Vale" and the name stuck with me.

I live down the street from the cemetary and passed through the burial ground many times for a walk or a ride on my bike. There are many trees, a pond and the ornate stones are like art to me. But going to the back of the cemetary, where the Potters Field is located, never occurred to me. Why go? Only numbers on stones, a little dishelveled with time.. a lonely place next to the highway, within view of the Bonanza bus terminal. Those who are buried there have no names, just a number; a body lost with time and a bad turn in life.

I thought this part of the cemetary deserves just as much attention as the rest. So I started thinking about artful and poetic associations with untimely death. Bells kept coming to my mind and I kept hearing blues songs, poems by Edgar Allen Poe and the final scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" with Zuzu Bailey saying, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." I wanted this place to sing,too, to let the voices come out again.

I take a walk every day in my neighborhoood and collect what I find to make sculptures and textile art. I decided to collect cans around the cemetary and in my neighborhood to tread lightly with my materials. Everything will be recycled or repurposed when the show ends.

Cryptic Providence

I will be creating a site-specific piece for this summer-long project in Providence, Rhode Island. My intention is to bring the public along the way with my creation of the piece, working in the studio and outside. My work will be located in an area that needs to be mowed, so it will be going up and down all summer. I will create a video so if someone comes on a mowing day, they can look at it online. The press release is below:

"The historic North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island will host a summer long art and performance project by Provincetown artist Jay Critchley, entitled Cryptic Providence. Fifteen projects from visual artists and performers from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Ontario, Canada and New York City were invited by Critchley to create original, site-specific installations and performances throughout the cemetery.

Cryptic Providence opens Friday the 13th of with performances on the first two weekends. The cemetery is located at 5 Branch Avenue (at North Main Street) and is open to the public seven days a week from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm daily. All events are free and open to the public. For more information contact ArtTix at, 401 621-6123.

Visual artists creating summer long, site-specific installations include: Critchley’s Final Passage−a vintage Chevy “mummified” and installed in the abandoned mausoleum; from Brooklyn, Joseph Burwell’s archeological mausoleum installation, The Purity of the Vikings; Justin Pollmann’s disintegrating text installation, We Live, Brooklyn; artists and designers from Michigan and Ontario, Canada: Rochelle Martin, Valentine Mancini & Jay McGuire who construct a place of repose, Message Board; filmmakers Sandrine Silverman & Alfred Schoeninger, Quincy, MA, Our Stones Last Beyond Our Years.

Rhode Island artists include: installation artist Rebecca Siemering, Pawtucket, The Bells Ring for Thee, activates Potter’s Field with handmade bells; Erik Carlson & Erik Gould, new media artists from Pawtucket and Providence with the web-based, geo-tagged, Strange Loop: An Ethereal Walking Tour of the North Burial Ground; visual artist Jae Willard, Barrington, constructs an eight-foot, mixed media Tree of Life; installation artist Jen Raimondi, East Greenwich, creates a flock turkey vultures with Big Hair; and from Providence; historian and project consultant Robert O. Jones creates an historic guide; Nancy Austin, Newport, & Caroline Woolard, NYC, Footnotes −a tribute to Albert J. Jones (1821-1887), The forgotten founder of RI's first “Art Museum”.

Cryptic Providence performances are scheduled for Friday, June 13, the opening, from 5:00 to 10:00 pm; Saturday, June 14 from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm; June 21 from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm; and the closing weekend, Saturday, Setember 27. Performances include: dancer/choreographer Wanda Gala, Brooklyn, & sound artist Bob Bellerue, Oregon, collaborate on a durational movement/sound piece in the mausoleum, The Blue Storm; Hannah Verlin, Boston, Nest Eggs, an installation of burning ceramic eggs; JUMP! Dance with Mary Paula Hunter, A Grave Dance; musicians Arvid Tomayko-Peters & Christie Lee Gibson from Brown perform a voice and electroacoustic Requiem Mass; Constance Crawford directing the Coalition of Perishable Goods from Perishable Theatre, presenting a multi-site narrative, Otherworldly Voices.

Cryptic Providence is funded by a New Works grant from the Rhode Island Foundation and sponsored by the City of Providence Parks Department and the Department of Art, Culture & Tourism, with support from AS220. The Rhode Island Foundation’s New Works program was established to support artists in the creation of original art and exploration of new artistic directions. The program awarded grants from 2000 to 2005 to artists partnering with nonprofit arts and community-based organizations to expand the state’s cultural richness, develop new audiences and strengthen community connections to the arts.

Selected artists will examine and interpret the history of North Burial Ground, established in 1700, and burial practices in relation to the rich history of Rhode Island. The project also hopes to create new ideas, perspectives and images about our relationship to death, dying and burial customs, and bring increased visitation and use of the cemetery by highlighting the historical and cultural resources of North Burial Ground."