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Inside Out: Finding Your Way Back


There was a flash blizzard in Nebraska in 1888 called the Great Blizzard. People froze in place ten feet from their homes, or saddling their horses. Some lucky individuals found a clothesline or fence to follow through the whiteout to a shelter.

The specifics of my creative practice are like that clothesline: actions or practices to return to when nothing else is making sense or working. Some projects that have come out of this process are described below.


This sculpture is an empty cylinder made from rubberized plastic in the volume of all of my stuff including body, bike, car. A list of every item I own, 14 feet x 5 inches is unfurled on the ground inside of it. The piece showed up a few years ago while I was overwhelmed with the prospect of moving and storing my stuff, - it saved my ass and gave me a process by which to proceed with the pack and move. Here you see Empty Full installed on Bumpkin Island for the Art Encampment in 2009.


Like Empty Full, 'What if' also showed up during meditation, as the startling question itself. It was so helpful to me on that day that I wrote it on my hand. And then thought how nice it would be to have at the ready...hence the fleet of temporary tattoos.


This photo shows the first offering shelf I built in my studio, next to the Self Help stack (see below). I install the shelf at just the height of my hands reach, about 7 feet 7 inches high. A label explains: Every object on this shelf is a thought, story or belief I let go. It's a tangible expression of that practice. Yard Sale is another project on the same theme.


One day, I decided to remove all self help and spiritual books from my bookshelves. I quarantined them to my studio, eventually becoming this piece in the form of the column of books (above) installed next to the video (below) - here's a short clip from the piece. More here.

Concrete elements of my creative practice that led to these pieces include

-Spiral bound notebook as studio journal - reading whatever I wrote in it last when I don't know where to start / writing something in it,
-Cleaning my studio which leads to discovery (of old tea bags and such), energy, and usually a little creative play.
-Meditation. Ideas have shown up many times when I'm just sitting there, particularly when tapped out.

If I engage any of these however mishapenly, I am engaging a familiar and guiding creative practice.

Check out Ron Hansen's book Nebraska—the Blizzard story is the first, called 'Wickedness.'

Empty Full photo by Lisa Abitbol.

About Author

Hannah Burr is our November-December Inside Out artist-in-residence.

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