The Ballou Collection – Borovicka, Ebbe, McCarter, Rodier

We’re coming to the end of another year fraught with so many weird, world-altering experiences. In the midst of that it’s nice to step back and enjoy some things that are relatively stable. For me, that often means seeing what’s up on the walls of my home.

I’ve posted a few other things about what artworks are up in the old Ballou homestead and I didn’t want to let 2019 slip away without showing more. So here they are.

Joey BorovickaThe Alchemist’s Lair. Risograph Print. 2018.

I have loved Joey Borovicka’s strange, evocative interiors for many years. This sweet little risograph print – with that intense pink and blue – is a kind of distillation of what the artist does well: borrow, shape, and craft mood. I wrote about Borovicka’s work in the latest issue (#8) of The New Territory. Go there and subscribe!

Micah Ebbe – The Guardians (6/50). Screenprint. 2002.

I’ve known Ebbe since we worked together nearly 20 years ago in Evanston, IL. I’ve enjoyed watching his career develop over the years. I encourage you to look at his website – the quality is astounding. If you love masks, phantasmagorical tableaus, or CosPlay, Ebbe’s work is for you.

Stella McCarter – The Hornless Unicorn (4/5). Etching. 2008.

Stella gave me this print when she graduated. I like it quite a bit, but the way I remember it Stella’s real passion was for pigeons. She made a number of works about the birds, their colors, and their varieties during her undergraduate years. Hmmm… I might have to get me one of those, too.

Justin RodierUntitled (3 Views of Ballou’s Drawing Room). Photographic C-Print. 2011.

Though Justin graduated from Mizzou back in 2012, his presence is still felt. He – along with a small group of other Photo students – were a real force to be reckoned with. His work has continued to develop and break interesting, strange ground. I love following his work on Instagram and was pleased to include him in a show I curated last year. Stay wild, Justin.

There you have it. Four more entries into the Ballou Collection. I’ll have to add more in 2020…

The Lung Situation

I wanted to give a general overview of what’s been going on with me health-wise.

I have a lung disease.

Sick lung…

It’s been making things hard for me for a while – beginning in June of 2019. That’s when an epic case of Viral Pneumonia hit me hard. We tried a number of things to kick it, and eventually a short run of steroids seemed to do it. But during that Viral Pneumonia my primary care Doctor ordered a CT to check for blood clots in my lungs (my sister had a lot of clots and died of a pulmonary embolism, so it was a fear for me).

The CT didn’t show clots… but it did show damaged lung tissue. Blood work was ordered. A culture of a series of my nasty phlegm nuggets was done. Over the months I’ve had dozens of tests. I had a bout of aspergillus that made it hard to see the underlying cause of things.

The last few months (August through October) have seen a steep downturn. My ability to get oxygen into my body has been really hurt. Without supplemental oxygen I am able to maintain an oxygen saturation of about 87%. I’ve seen it go lower than 79% at times. Normally, the average person is able to maintain 98 or 99 percent oxygen saturation almost all the time. Once you get below 91 or 90 percent your body can’t maintain itself properly; the fall-off is steep.

What began as intermittent exhaustion and strange bouts of breathlessness solidified into constant problem by August. I have worked out almost every day since my heart attack (Feb 2016), but I have not been able to do “normal” workouts since the beginning of August. Basically, I “earn” the same amount of heart-rate elevation and physical exertion just trying to get around the house and walk to my classroom as I used to get doing a full on hour at the gym. This is because I’ve apparently lost 15 or 20 percent of my lung capacity (according to the Pulmonary Function Tests I’ve had). Activities that used to barely register as effort at all are now breath-busters. I’m on oxygen all night long (5 liters pushed through my CPAP) and 30 to 40 percent of the day using my portable oxygen condenser.

I was given an initial diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease, which basically has two primary causes – either autoimmune or environmental.

The doctors on my Pulmonary team ordered CT scans that showed them two things: first, the “changes” to my lung tissue are continuing but, second, there seems to be no permanent damage at this point. The main issue with Interstitial Lung Disease is the scarring that can happen. Once lung tissue scars, that’s it; it’s basically permanent. But when the cause is environmental, and if the scarring has not yet taken effect, the situation can be reversed.

My doctors decided that a Bronchial Biopsy was necessary. I had a Lung Lavage during the same procedure (I encourage you to Google what a Lung Lavage entails… the more intense variations are something else). Unfortunately during this biopsy/lavage procedure part of my right lung collapsed. I spent the next 30 hours in the hospital to provide therapy to my lung and make sure that I healed from the collapse and the biopsy.

So what’s next? My doctors will look at the biopsy and lavage analysis to chart a course forward. My condition looks like a cross between Interstitial Lung Disease and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. I hope to learn more this week and trust that a course of treatment will manifest.

As it stands now I feel like about 50% of the person I was last semester. Doing everything – sleeping, getting around, parenting, teaching – is hard. I’m thankful for the support around me, good health insurance, good doctors at all levels (especially my Cardiologist and my Primary Care doctor who believed me when I said things were different with this).

I will update here when I know more.

YNGWIE in CHICAGO

The show flier, my ticket stub, and a guitar pick that Yngwie flung into the crowd. I’ve kept these things all this time…

On this day 20 years ago I was in the House of Blues in Chicago, having walked just a few blocks from my dorm on Michigan Avenue (It’s now classroom space, not dorms, but I kept my elevator floor sign before the demolition started).

I’d only been in the city a short time. This was my first trip out for a concert – OK, sure; lame choice. From my room across from the Art Institute it was just a short walk west, then north over the river, toward the “corn cob towers.” Just a few years later they’d be featured on the iconic Wilco record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If only I’d been to see them that night.

Yngwie was effervescent and shrill that night. Loping around the stage, posing before his stack of Marshall amps, and gratuitously clanging his numerous bracelets and bangles against the neck/fret board of his trusty Strat.

He was bursting from his leather? vinyl? spandex? pants. He was in full hair-band-era-cry. Hair teased so high, chest exposed by some combination of V-neck shirt or vest or Pirate jerkin… who knew?

In any case it was glorious. Furious. SO. LOUD. Riotous and ridiculous and raw. He gave his all, flinging guitar picks and sweat with abandon. My ears RANG for hours after, and were even stunned the next morning. It was epic. I can still recall the feel of the cool midnight air chilling me as I rushed back to my dorm room for a smoke and a reprise of Rising Force.

Yngwie. So many arpeggios, so little time.