Anytime we stepped outside yesterday, Ariella and I were surrounded by dragonflies. Can you see them? There were thousands of them. Their specialty is eating mosquitos so we are only too happy to see so many. For them, we post a "like". Or better, a "love". See how handy I am(not)? I don't even know where the emojis are on this keyboard (or where they are).
On the way to Maine this past weekend, Ariella read aloud to me an essay that really affected her. Nika, her sister, had passed it on to her when she was asking questions about her life and career. Her ambition, as it were. It's long. But I thought EVERY PART of it sings.
I'll send the link here and hope you read it in its entirety. The subject: women and ambition: http://hazlitt.net/longreads/snarling-girl. Ariella and I discussed it at length afterwards. But the very core of it: that what matters most is the happiness that you derive from your work, not all the "likes" and "loves" and craziness to be recognized.
And there is so much of that these days - the emojis, etc. And so much pressure. It doesn't feel good to me. I'm not someone who is at home on the computer. I spend an inordinate amount of time saying "Aaaaugh!" Even so, I admit that I enjoy writing this blog, even though it seems like it is its own creature. It's own art form. Writing. My visual art sources from a really different part of me. It doesn't come from the a + b + c = success place. It comes from - where?
I know where it does NOT come from. It does not come from thinking. It does not come from a plan. Well, maybe a plan, as in, I'm doing art today. But, if I tell someone: I have this great idea - before I've done the idea - it will not be what I'd told them.
I know that interruption is good for me. I know that being thrown off routine always serves me well. I know I am fed by the unexpected.
I also know that I seek, I'm eager for a "formula" that will work. What will make my art even better? I quickly find someone's suggestion (on the internet perhaps) and insert it as that magic formula. It's a false god, every time. EVERY TIME.
It's NOT knowing. It's not having a path that relies on the mind. It's letting go of all that buzzing going on all around and going with what is happening inside me that is my guide.
Right now, my work is about it's what I call "stubborn color". I was doing color all light and airy for months. Now it's dark, dense, concentrated. Grrrrrrrr. All stuck and tight and intense. Yes.
Give all those hearts and likes to those sweet dragonflies who are only interested in mosquitos. And let me be like them. Searching for my own "food".
And yes, do read the article(above). An excerpt from it... Elisa Albert:
Right, and okay, be ambitious, whatever that looks like for you, but don’t confuse your own worth with anyone else’s definition of success. And don’t think that if you happen to impress people you must be very impressive indeed. And don’t imagine that if you play by someone else’s rules you can win. Anyway, there is no winning. Anyway, the game is suspect. Anyway, write your own rules! Anyway, WHO HAS TIME FOR GAMES!?
Sunset last night: beguilingly calm.
Is it the full moon today? Inside, I'm just moving in so many directions at once. Feelings about this, feelings about that. And all these are part of making my art.
It's not just the light that is disappearing at sunset, or, in the case of my art, appearing at dawn. It's who I'm with, what's happening... how I'm feeling. In the large piece that I hung in DC, I reference memories of my childhood early morning horseback rides with my father.
In the winter months, it would be pitch black darkness as we set out on the rides at 6 AM. In the course of the hour that we were riding, the light would begin to appear. Never two days the same, but dark moved towards light.
I recall that there was this sense, as the light began to dissipate the darkness, that the emotional closeness to my father would lighten as well. Horse back riding in the total darkness with just the sound of another horse - clip-clopping along the dirt road - made that other horse and rider emphatically present. I was with them. But only because of the sound. And then, as they became visible, the road and trees and landscape began to appear and the sound lost importance. Context. That person gradually, so subtly, became part of a larger whole.
So, also my feelings moved. The closeness at the start would seem to dissipate with the light. Just me with just him became me and him in this ever-widening setting. I would feel less attached. He would feel less central. And the landscape would become more and more vivid.
He was not all that mattered. We both were part of this larger whole. And I could feel all kinds of different feelings in this larger space. All kinds of different feelings.
Years later, I create a piece of art. I use color. I am remembering the light and how the light changed during those early morning rides.
Just color. Just the landscape. With these two elements, did I also include my feelings? And will the viewer pick up those feelings or find his/her own?
That landscape. Perhaps so calm. Perhaps beguiling.
This is knotweed. Very small right now, very easy to break off from the knot, the root. From any tiny fragment, it can grow a new plant. These plants grow to - 6 -10 (more?) feet tall and its roots go as deep. Once it's established, spreading in thick stands, it's extremely difficult to eliminate. Knotweed is all over England and spreading fast in the US. What it loves is any soil that's been disturbed by man.
Knotweed came to my property when I needed my road redone several years ago. With the new gravel came the intruder, somehow borne in with the dirt and sand. That spring, it sprouted, so fragile at first. And so impossible immediately. At first I just weeded it, not realizing that the knot at the root was the key. Now, it's an ongoing mission: I monitor it constantly. I want to catch it early and pull it all up, including that root knot, which is very loosely attached. I can get it most, but not ALL of the time. I have a garbage bag already 1/2 filled with what I have pulled out this year.
How do I feel when I see, even a tiny leaf of knotweed invading my space? My response: "NO! You can't grow here. You are not welcome. I will not tolerate your existence!" It's not welcome. What knotweed wants to do: to take over. Once it gets a grip, it dominates the terrain and makes it impossible for native plants to exist. To that, I say "NO!"
And don't I see this same force, this same defined response in other areas? I do: NO, that color does not work here. NO, I can't tolerate that transition in color over there. NO, this is not going to slip past me - mark what I am noticing, "clean it up".
All this happens in small steps. Catch the knotweed early. Watch the color as it's happening.
Guided by the NO.
This pretty much sums up how I feel today. In words: "Where am I? What was I planning to do today/tomorrow/ with my life? What's happenin'?"
So, yes, I am both rejoicing and, well, dealing with the spontaneity of life with "20 somethings", as I now wrongly call my children. First of all the "thing" part is about the age, meaning 25 or 28, so I say 20 something. But now, yes, Nika turned 30, AND she's no longer single. So, she's jumped ship. But the others are still in that wonderful period of life after the prescribed time of school (through college) and before some next phase of anchoring, caused by such obligations as children or that job that has tenure track or a compelling reason to stick to it. And because of that - this less structured, this freer time in their lives - I am moving about in unusual ways myself: I drove back from Boston at some crazy hour last night, through a summer hail storm, to offer my car to Ariella this morning so she can go see Nika and Scott overnight in Maine and come back here before Samsun arrives tomorrow with his new girlfriend. Did you have trouble following that? All this was planned ... yesterday. And even now, yes the plans keep changing.
And isn't it really how I want to live? To be in this state of maximum flexibility? To look at my art in this way: to say, okay, I thought I liked it like this, but if I move this, and that affects that, and the whole piece shifts with the new input. Look at the LIFE that is happening now.
To be 20 something continuously: what that offers. Who cares where I thought I was? How about, riding with this. And this. And this...
All right, already.
I've struggled mightily with the balance to strike between the sweet smell of roses and the addictive rush of achievement. ~Neil Hanson.
Who doesn't share that sentiment? I've been quite sidetracked by the "roses" lately, although I'm not sure it's smelling them as much as tending. And not always just roses. Dear friends. Wonderful family.
Oddly enough, this spring has been chilly. In fact, cold. I am still wearing long pants on a run and am reluctant to dip in the lake water. Along with the cool temperatures, there has been rain. And wind. Days that are darker than usual.
Kind of like this piece that I'm working on (above). Dark water. Waiting for the sun.
And then, the sun comes out. The skies lighten. And it's glorious to be out. The piece below is perhaps heading in that direction.
Will I get the "rush of achievement" from my art with all these "roses" around? Maybe not the rush. But bit by bit, I create my art, easing toward that goal: achievement.
Working the balance...
The slightest movement, what might seem like a small decision one day, magnifies over time. Like an arrow whose direction is ever so slightly adjusted, the new path follows that course. Slight move, different outcome.
Last was it August? September? I joined an online artist group run my Martin Stellar. He was launching the group. I was not sure what I was joining.
I was uneasy at the start (to put it mildly), since it meant showing up weekly. Showing up weekly to talk about my art. Talk about my progress. Before that, I blamed (yes blamed) many factors on why I had not gotten my work out into the world. The one I did not mention, or perhaps even recognize fully was how I was so easily interrupted in even producing my work. I have many roles, and certainly art is the one that is easiest to forego since it's mine only. The others impact other people. Only belatedly do I now realize, so does my art.
Regardless, suddenly, I was every week facing the truth: the time I had given to making my art. The second truth was: there were people that wanted to see it. At the encouragement of the group, I took a piece to DC in September and, instantly was given an commission for a 30 foot wall to go up this spring. Oh dear. Art HAD to happen.
The wall commission is now up. The weekly meetings of the group are yes, still going on, going strong and I am... making art. Putting art out into the world.
Not only that, I'm thinking differently. I'm EXPECTING to do my art continuously instead of expecting to be interrupted for long stretches. And I'm so inspired by the dynamism and challenges of my sister artist friends that I want to create more and participate more in this whole becoming that art offers. Why get interrupted? Why put it aside? Why not burn brightly? Dye fabric red? Lots and lots of red. Full on.
One decision. The trajectory: reset. The arrow is still moving.
This is the color that greeted me this morning. The photo is much dimmer than the reality. It was pinker/redder. And, I thought, "Red in the morning, sailors take warning." Two days of rain ahead. Quick, get the garden ready.
I needed some marigolds - to guard my tiny new tomatoes - but ended up spying another plant I could not resist. Why not? You guessed it: red flowers. I know after the long winter that I am particularly thrilled by color this year. Even so, I do notice that the red theme is rather pronounced. Would I describe it as "hungry for red"? And then, isn't that, in itself a fun concept, hungry for a certain color?
And to push that further. What is color? I mean, it's an attribute of the flower. And it's something we all name in its specificity, and think we share. But outside of that, it's so vague. In my personal history, I think back on my vision as a small child when I had no muscular control over my eyes and therefore my focus. I wonder if the world was not at times just a blur of only color. Blurry color. Minus the identifying "things".
And so, today, I woke up and see a vista of color. Immediately, it signified something . Time of day and future weather, even beyond the vivid scenery.
But as a child - most likely - just color. Pink/red on waking. Later, a flower's color. More red.
This is the redbud tree that stands next to my house. I always thought it was misnamed. The buds did not look red to me. So, this year, I decided to focus in close to see if I could see the red in the bud. Do you?
Just now I was sorting through this rather large tall basket that contains my yarns from the times that I was doing free-form knitting. I'm contemplating using the yarn, not necessarily for knitting. I put the small silk pieces that I have just dyed alongside to see how the colors would work. I know that when I was doing my knitting, I searched obsessively for the precise colors I wanted. They had to be dead on or very close or they did not work. I am the same way when I dye cloth. I want it to be a certain color and I go after it with intensity.
What surprised me was how many matches there were - how the colors that I was searching for endlessly in yarn are also colors that I'm now dyeing my cloth. Not all. But there were enough to make me think, yes! - I got it. I got it in the yarn. And here, wow, look how exactly it coincides with the color in the dye. And all of this was done unwittingly, not from my referencing a color I found to a color I created. Are therefore these colors inside me? And am I keep seeking them, and PARTICULARLY them, over and over? I find that idea so intriguing.
So, yes, my redbud. I love that tree, even as I have always seen the blooms as lavender. And blooming not too far away, there's a flower easily called red. Well, kind of orangy-red.
These are blueberry bushes growing along my shore. If you look closely, you might be able to see the white blooms. Right now, promise of fruit: objective truth. When and if the fruit comes - yum! - subjective enjoyment.
I just returned from a wildly fun trip to DC for my daughter Ariella's graduation (yay!) from Georgetown University's Masters in the Science of Foreign Service program. Not only was it delightful to meet her many friends and colleagues, but it was also insightful. I loved that there were 60 countries represented among the 95 students in the ceremony. And I also loved hearing the speeches.
What particularly intrigued me in Izuma Nakamitsu's speech was the path she carved out in her career in the UN. I may not remember the sequence accurately or completely, but here's what I recall: she served in the crisis in Bosnia in a humanitarian capacity, she then became high commissioner for refugees, which followed by a role in peacekeeping operations and now she serves as Under Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. I could see how she has dealt with a challenging and changing reality and how one way of dealing with issues then led to the next. She conveyed how she would move on to each, hopefully more effective, way of dealing with the issues that arrose. I was fascinated to hear about the progression of her thoughts; I understood it to be an ongoing creative response on her part. I appreciated what I saw as the artistry in her work.
In the book I'm reading, "Matisse in the Studio". there is also this attention to the development, over time, of responding to challenges, but in the realm of art. Jack Flam discusses Matisse's lifelong concern: "the eternal question of the objective and the subjective." Finding the right balance between verisimilitude and reinvention. Just isolating that one concern in Matisse's work, I have more pronounced appreciation for the shifts in his art through the years: from his academically accurate early work, to the looser art of his middle career - informed by influences from Africa and Asia - and finally to the free form paper cut out and painterly work of his later years.
Working with the world out there. Responding to it in one way. Contributing to it in another. Day in and day out, shifting. The way it all weaves together. That blueberry bush, that UN envoy, that artist, all taking the objective and making it subjective.
So individual and so much part of the whole.
All winter long I wait for color. Waiting and waiting. It's what : mid-May? And here's the reward. Those bulbs that sat in the ground for months and months. And months. How enticing! Look at that color!
So what do I want? More red. More color. Even as I was adding color to my indoor environment in winter, contrasting to the monochromatic outdoors, now I am just inspired by the color outside.
How much do I like the color I see? I LOVE it. Bring it in. Bring more. Put it in the art. Celebrate!
I noticed yesterday I was dyeing different shades of ... yes, red. Red and more red.
RED. It feels good. So good.
A while ago I was reading a book that was describing one of the differences between men and women, or rather, one of the reasons for misperception. The author had been in discussion with each gender. On one hand, the men were perceiving the women as floaty and unfocused. On the other hand, the women were seeing the men as only single goal oriented. In other words, the women were doing numerous tasks simultaneously, while the men were doing them sequentially, one at a time. And the book went on to site the origins for this, back to the single pointed focus of the male hunt versus the female: out berry picking/raising children/watching out for danger while unprotected...
I am definitely the multi-tasker. The question is: at how many tasks? There is a certain point where I start losing/forgetting/falling behind and generally feeling like I'm not "on top of things". Unfortunately, I lose and forget all along the way. But, yesterday, when I was in the car with Ariella and we heard a tap-tap-tapping on the roof of the car and I pulled over to see : my keys on the roof! Okay. Now, that was a sign.
How to be easy as life gets complicated? Certainly it's my challenge. And art is central for that. A resource. It's a place for me to be in calm mind.
Peace is good.
Above all, don't try to write something you think you ought to write. ( Diana Wynn Jones)
How can you not LOVE her for those words???
I can see how all any "good girl" training is completely counter productive to creating art. No. That's history. Now it's, what's up? What's going on inside that needs to come out? Unformed, not yet understood, no rationale, no idea where this is going. Not totally clear.
Nor does it have to be totally clear ever.
Stories need loose ends in order to move. (DWJones, again)
That's what I want. Loose ends. Even in the final product.
I picked the tulips yesterday. In the early morning light, they were mirroring the colors in my art. Outside coming in, inside matching out.
I was just reading (in David Hinton's book, Hunger Mountain) about the Chinese graph for the word sincerity: it's the image of a man right next the the image for words; i.e. the inside is the same as the outside. What you say is who you are.
And this same idea is expanded into the understanding of the universe in Chinese philosophy. And then, when you add the truth of change, constant change, then you have day leading to night, life to death, inside to outside... The yin (female earth) as one polarity moving into yang (heaven) and that moving back to yin, on and on.
After so many months of spending time indoors, I am drawn to the outdoors. That's now. In a number of months, my movement will flow back in. In my art, I wanted light and airy, and I produced a piece large and loose. Now, I'm seeking dense and coiled. One involvement evolves out of another. And what I want inside is what shows up outside.
Watching this flow. This movement of in and out. Sincerity: such a beautiful concept.
I took this photo at 5 AM. Early. Quiet.
I've been waking up at that hour in the past few days because it's already light out. It feels like: time to get up. The days at this time of year are so much longer with the light coming early and lasting late.
So where does all the time go? In winter, it seemed as if I had all the time in the world to get things done. In the short day, the hours stretched. The days were slow. And seemed long.
Now... there is light. Plants are growing, other plants require attention, the outdoors has a busy agenda. Organizing, arranging, cutting, adding to, taking away. An art of dealing with an always shifting canvas.
And, yes, now there are people arriving - who need to be met at not-so-close airports (and I LOVE that my daughter, Ariella, has arrived for a visit) and then, yes, of course we want to do LOTS together, and yes: HERE COMES SUMMER. The water is still too cold for swimming, but soon... that opens up even more territory. Yes.
Is this the same clock that was ticking in winter? Are these minutes the same length? Watch them fly by.
These plants are being discarded. NO! I DO NOT want them. Get out of my garden!
There is a saying a friend of mine shared with me: " If you throw the baby out with the bath water, don't worry: the baby will always come crawling back". Yesterday was one of those days when I was doing that. I was in this emotional space where I was definitely throwing out everything.
The tricky part is that communication is not necessarily so clear these days. In email, it can be easily misinterpreted. When I'm having a lousy day, I can send a strong message. Perhaps, when the person opens it, they're in a sensitive space, more so than usual... The means of communication seems ripe for misunderstanding. Not so black and white as gardening.
But then, there is the trust. The trust that I can make a big mistake and that the understanding is there, that the receiver is okay, that the "baby crawls back."
And to go further in this reach from upset to okay to... it's all good:
(again, Diana Wynn Jones):
I had learned from Spencer, through Britomart,...of the heroic ideal: that there is deity in everyone. There is God in all of us as well as with us. It follows that the major part of the hero's/heroine's quest is to locate that deity within and to live up to its standards.
The baby that crawls back, that baby has the deity within. A good friend. To find that in myself is my quest. And to realize that is also to see that in my dear friends. Friends that I always want to come back, not necessarily crawling.
What I see outside and what I'm doing inside...
I look at water, day in and day out. And years ago when I used to spend long hours, day after day, sailing boats, I also would look at water. One of my favorite places was to lie on the bow of the boat and look down. Water spirals. It spirals away from the front of a boat. It spirals when rain hits. It is probably spiraling inside each of us.
How much we are influenced by what surrounds us.
In the wonderful book, Matisse in His Studio, essay after essay is testimony to his influences: the vases he used as props, the textiles he draped around his models, the African masks he collected. I knew that both he and Picasso were influenced by African art (and I'm not wading into the European ethnocentric waters here), but I hadn't realized how he was using that influence as a way to embody his emotional response to his subjects, much less his appreciation of pattern. I had not realized that, but once I was given the context, I could see how his work shifted from earlier painting and then, that possibility of seeing the feeling so strongly expressed and pattern everywhere.
A while ago, I had been surprised in a book about Howard Hodgkin. His work had always read to me as completely abstract. But once the author pointed out to me where I could see images in it, the work shifted for me. Again, the new information about his influences shifted my perception.
I love that I DID NOT know the information about Matisse earlier. I saw his work first as a child, and I still carry that innocent view inside me. And with Howard Hodgkin, my love of his painterly strokes will always be what I love most. And yet, now, I see their humanity. I see their relationship to the world. And I can see more deeply into their work.
In time, I may read more about Matisse. And Hodgkin. It will likely affect how I view their work again. And my mind will expand.
I dunno, another spiral, perhaps?
I mean, really, what secrets are these ferns sharing??? So quiet...
Yesterday, the topic of where you focus came up in my online art group. AND sure enough... there it was in the book I'm reading this morning. It's so àpropos and so over the top, I can't resist sharing. It's from Diana Wynn Jones's book of essays. She's a writer of fantasy books, mostly for children...
This is a true story even though it came out of a book. You see, what I write in books and think I have made up has a creepy way of coming true. I noticed it first over "The Ogre Downstairs". When I wrote that book, we were living in a new house with a flat roof and no stairs. The roof turned out to dissolve in rain, the lavatories every so often flushed boiling water...the builders got confused about which were electric cables and which were heating pipes. I was so sick in that house that I invented a quite different one for (my book) - a tall, thin house with lots and lots of stairs.
Now I live in a tall, thin house with lots and lots of stairs. I didn't do it on purpose. It came about by accident, in an awful hurry. But the house is exactly like the house I put in the book.
So, I don't know... houses ... art ... life?
Ferns, tidal pools ... oceans?
For some reason the phrase, "God is in the details" was running through my mind when I was looking at the glory of the trumpets on each of these daffodils. Resplendent. In a British gardening magazine I get, there was an article on a spread of daffodils in England that was so affecting that it brought grown men to tears. So much beauty, so much feeling.
I was gone for 2 days, left early yesterday and returned late today. In the interim, I can see that there was heavy rain. And now it's pouring again. The flowers are soaking it up. Watered and blooming and showing off.
When I leave, I feel as if I'm losing time. I'm not with my art. It's "raining" and I sometimes can't see how it contributes to my work.
But in fact, I was going to Boston partly for art reasons. I needed... get this: to buy paint. Uh-oh. No, not to shift to painting canvases.
I want to paint the supports for my silk piece(s). In the past, I've used silk even to add color to frames. But, this time, I want the wood I use to be painted. And I want to work with the frames at the same time I'm doing the fabric.
I LOVED being back in the art store. All my silk supplies are from far away. But a painting store: such possibilities. And... when I'm in the store, I could see what I'm getting and I could be so specific. I could really hone in.
In search of the details. For the trumpets on the daffodils. But would my goal be tears? Hmmmmm. Not sure I'd phrase it like that.
Unexpectedly, two friends arrived for the weekend this Friday. No, not the 2 pups. Not the 2 boats. Although all these were part of the good times together.
I had been focussing in and down in when they arrived. My world view was narrowed to art, hike, garden... Small range. I wasn't aware of how circumscribed it was until the interruption. I hadn't pulled back, even a bit, to sense into the broader view:
Life is an ongoing conversation of nature with itself, contradictory and opinionated... And the stream is made of ... things that come into existence and pass away. But there is always life, and things feeding... life. (Gaimon)
Just to be stopped, to take time to be with others, to laugh and get out in the boat and get blown off course and be tired and cold, to be with others when you thought you were going to be on your own... And then to know, this is part of the stream. This flows past. It's part of the coming and going, larger flow, larger picture.
Questions: "So this is what you're working on." Opinions given. Ideas exchanged: how I want to do this and maybe that would work better. Or not. I listen, I hear them, see how they are looking at the whole, not the details that transfix me from moment to moment. They feed me with their attention.
The friends will leave. I'll go back to my art. Step back in.
Buoyed by such a welcome interruption.
What about the opposite of feeling compelled to create no matter what? What about the opposite of being amazing at something? What about the opposite of going full speed?
This morning I was reading Diana Wynne Jones description of Tolkien, who she had the privilege of taking a class from in the 1950's. Apparently he was a terrible teacher. He talked too softly to hear, he looked away from the people he was addressing, and he didn't concern himself with what anyone thought. Diana goes on to talk about his writing, to say he was NOT a very good writer. (She does greatly admire his story-telling skills). But he doesn't care.
Like the lake. And that cloud sitting/resting on it. Resting.
As much as I admire those who go full speed, I realize that, moments of rest might be equally valuable. And to point this out, I want to pay tribute to a woman who affected me deeply: Sarah Hull. She was the mother of one of my childhood best friends, Lucy. We spent summers together on the coast of Maine.
Whereas my mother's regular speed was a fast walk, and her idea of a good day was hiking non-stop, Sarah was, at least to my mind, the opposite. Sarah, was the one who, when we were out walking on the beach, would take us aside, and in stillness pick up some easily overlooked shell and point out it's unique attributes. Because of Sarah, I feel as if I was given that precious gift: wonder. As we'd look into a tidal pool embedded between two rocks or down as some stand of moss deep in the woods, I would see whole worlds in the shift in scale. It was truly magical. It was completely outside time. A moment of rest. Delight. It changed me.
I was given gift after gift, just in those moments of seeing. Seeing the exquisite detail of so much that is in front of me, very quietly resting. Thank you, Sarah.
Strange photo, right? Last winter, in an attempt to save energy, I inadvertently turned off the heat. It's spring now and the bathroom pipes are being repaired - from the outside...
But see how the house is "stripped", and now you can see underneath. Inside. The truth of what's going on.
Fixing houses. Making art. It's not always "pretty along the way". I was with a friend today and she asked, "What's that dark spot on your hand?" Some dye that I hadn't noticed, hadn't washed off. Not tidy.
But I don't care. I'm not thinking about the color on my hand. I'm wondering how that color is translating on the cloth to the colors dyed earlier, and the chemistry of the piece as it evolves. I'm just all the time IN the piece. It's with me in one way or another.
Apropos to that, I love how Gaimon goes beyond the advice of "tell your own story to:
tell the stories you cannot help telling... It's the point I think of in writing as walking naked down the street: it has nothing to do with style, or with genre, it has to do with honesty...
Bare boards, I'd say. And the honesty part: the hands on the cloth, the application of color, the touch ? We're all so human, aren't we? Seeking that note of self.
Sharing that with others.
Can you spot the boat? A small speck on the right, dipping into the fog. Almost hidden.
The opposite of hidden? Open, honest. Vulnerable. Those are the words that are coming up lately for me. And I just read this beautiful (and long) quote by Gaimon and I cannot resist sharing it. He is talking about the NPR program where people tell stories live, with no notes:
The strange things about Moth stories is that none of the tricks we use to make ourselves loved or respected by others work in the ways you would imagine they ought to. The tales of how clever we were, they mostly fail. The practiced jokes and witty one-liners all crash and burn on the Moth stage.
Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were in a moment in time...matters more than anything.
I don't know where these next pieces I'm working on will go. But here is one in progress - at a moment in time. I notice that after working for the past many months on a piece where color is affected by light, now I'm hungry for just dense color, on its own. My concept is: looking down into a tidal pool, like in between the huge rocks off the coast of Maine:
I don't like to give seasons so much credit for how I feel. But, after the rugged ending to this past winter, I'm just giddy in the sunshine and warmth now. And I'm not alone. Everyone I meet is acting like they're part of some cornball Disney cartoon, kind of dancing around on tippy-toes in disbelief.
The good part is that people are feeling so outlandishly great. The down side is that no one, me included, wants to be inside for one second. Just feel how good this feels - says the outdoors.
So yesterday I went on a hike. The most popular trails are closed now because they are soft from the snow melt. But I live here. I know others. And this one was iridescent in the spring sunshine. The streams were full: crystal clear water crashing down over the huge granite rocks, sounding more melodious than any recording can capture, with the green moss glowing from deep pools or alongside. Leaves are not yet out, just bare tree trunks leaving sense of space in the woods. The sun is blindingly bright with no shade to shield it. And the birds are everywhere, flitting, singing.
How deeply appreciative one is of this scene now. Such a contrast to a few weeks earlier. Not long ago, but after such a stretch.
All this time goes into the earth's transformation. To produce these moments. Such moments...
I tell myself, time also goes into making a piece of art. And then there is that creation. That culmination.
Spring comes and it will go. And art comes too. But with art, there is the chance, that precious chance, for a more sustained bloom.
"How ARE you (ye-oo)?"
"I'm goo-ud." You say that and just by saying it, just by answering that question asked with such warmth, you actually do feel "real good". I love the South for that. The willingness to admit unapologetically, I feel good.
And today, that's how I'm feeling. I'm doin' good.
I tell myself when thing's are out of sorts - something hurts, life is tough, I can't find peace - that when it's otherwise, when I feel good, to REMEMBER to pinch myself. To notice. Pay attention. Give myself that gift.
Last night I was working on my art. I haven't been aware in the past of the time it takes for "what's next" to emerge. It just happened. But now, with attention on it, I'm putting pressure on the process. I'm not sure that's necessarily bad, other than when I judge it. And, of course, if it's coming into being, it is not always so obvious what is good or bad.
Yesterday, I had brought in some found objects that I noticed in the back of the garage - wood block kindling. I brought in a few in the afternoon and liked how it interacted with my fabric. What looked positive in the afternoon looked less so by evening.
But this morning, I played some more, I had a new angle on it. A new perspective and understanding of where I was going with this work. I got excited about what's happening, even as it's taking this new twist. I was finding my way in this journey of the art unfolding.
In line with this, Stephen King, in conversation with Neil Gaimon talks about the way stories develop:
Gaimon tells Stephen that, "...on the story I was working on, that everything I needed , fictionally, was waiting for me when I went looking for it."
King agreed. "I never think of stories as made things, I think of them as found things. As if you pull them out of the ground and then pick them up."
It surprised me: King sounding so Taoist. But it's a fitting way to describe creation, especially at this time of year, as spring happens and the earth is producing so much life. I like the idea: that I have this ingredient inside myself, something that grows from seeds planted deep within, and that I am just discovering them, in a sense. I'm not sure about "pulling them out of the ground." Maybe a gentler verb? But as to the organic nature of the process: yes.
Here's to spring, to creating. Here's to feelin' goo-ud.
Rain, rain, rain. Blocking my view: flowers! I'm darn well going to celebrate spring indoors with all the damp outside. Plus, I spread some grass seed yesterday, so ... wet is good.
Summer thoughts. And then, thoughts about my art. I just returned from a trip to Boston. It's usually about a 2 hour drive, but traffic can make a huge difference. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of time to THINK. So I came up with ideas about my art. Definite ideas. Ideas that were over the top good.
Last night I began to implement them. I was so confident. And - well, sure enough: they were ideas. They were thoughts. So stuck. So already done. No life. My mind goes, oh crumb. This is not what I expected.
And then I flashed back to times over the years when my art had felt right, really connected . Always my mind was in the back seat. Always, it was driven by ... play. Feeling my way along. Trusting intuition.
Now, what is interesting to me is just WATCHING the darn power of the mind in this mix. I had had a long talk with my online art group 2 weeks ago. Do you know, I COULD NOT recall what the take-away advice was on that a day, much less a week later? I had to go back and read my written notes. You likely can guess.
Along these lines, I do love - again, from Bob Dylan - when he is remarking on this singer that affects him deeply - a sharecropper from the South, Robert Johnson. In this piece Dylan is noticing how this songwriter can be so compelled to produce that he puts out music in the least supportive circumstances. At one point, Dylan puzzles over Johnson:
...who his audience could have been. It's hard to imagine... plantation field hands... relating to songs like these. You have to wonder if Johnson was playing for an audience only he could see, one off in the future...
And the power of his singing is felt, yes, in the future. Who knew that what was deeply felt then would affect Bob Dylan, his music, and his listeners.
Music/art resonating through time.
This is my idea of "downward dog", as in yoga. I HATE yoga. Wait a minute. Do you know anyone that hates yoga? Isn't that what is loved so much?
When I was growing up in the 50's, my mother did yoga. No one, no one, no one knew what in the world yoga was where I lived in Virginia. She taught herself from a book and swore by it. "Try it!" she advocated. I learned some stretches from her. She was a determined teacher. Soooo boring for a 6-year-old. "You'll love it!" Not me.
Years later, I've ventured into so many other areas: Pilates, Tai Chi, plus the outdoor fun. Just don't ask me to stand and stretch. Don't tell me what to do and for how long.
Well, up here in the boonies of New Hampshire, there is NOT a lot going on. So in the last few days, yes, I went to 2 (!) yoga classes. And this is what I discovered: that I still hate yoga. (what?) I go into the class. I am miserable, negative all the way through, no matter what I tell my stuck belligerent mind. It's nattering away, saying lousy stuff ongoing.
However, in some way, all that junk, all that crummy self-talk is coming to the surface. My body is opening and this is what's stirred up and processing. That's my conclusion, anyway, because afterwards, I feel great! Oh, so hard to admit. But yes.
Now, okay, Mom. I'm beginning to understand something I didn't before.
But downward dog? I still look forward to savasana.
And how glad I am to do my art afterwards.
Look what a difference the water makes! So much more light with the reflection added. If you look closely, you can see that the white in the lower left corner is not a cloud... It's the departing snow.
It's exciting getting the light back. Getting the first color in the garden. All these new pallets are at play: water; dirt. The inside wants to merge with the outside. Bring that light in. In to my art. Into my soul.
In terms of my art, I had thought that I would re-create in expanded form an idea that I worked on last summer. I had thought it through: the kind of supports I needed, the colors I'd use, what size, etc. But, you know, that idea was just not happening. I realized, no, that was last summer's idea.
As Bob Dylan so beautifully describes:..those kind of songs were written under different circumstances, and circumstances never repeat themselves. Not exactly,. I couldn't get to those kind of songs for him or anyone else.
Yep. Time for new light. Something else is pushing up through me, something that is all about this spring, what I have to say NOW. And, just going through the motions doesn't cut it. It's what's burning that needs to come out. It's crazy how that is. Your head might THINK it knows. But something deeper is working it's way up and through. Out of the darn dirt. Taking away the ice.
Bless the changing times.
t's Easter. It's Spring. It's the day to think deeply. Or to remove Thin Ice signs.
It's a day to clean winter out of the house. Sew seeds in the garden. Germinate new art ideas.
Or... there is always a better alternative, right? Sometimes much better.
As I love to quote from one of my favorite books: Jennifer McCartney's the joy of leaving your sh*t all over the place, :
CLOSET: Does it have a door? Shut it.
Today in my yoga class the teacher was talking about the over-stimulating world we live in. Yes. And then... there is the nice still, not moving: ice. Still here. The normal date for ice-out, as it's called is today, April 15. The lake is still covered. Still still.
Meantime, I'm noticing the evolution of my art - how the next piece or phase is coming into being. It's a slow evolution, not a single "a-ha" moment. In fact, I have many of those in my mind, and then they settle into part of this process that hands and eyes are included. The practical physics of it all.
Bob Dylan, wonderful Bob Dylan, writes so eloquently of how his songs come into being. Some never make it; just get beaten to death. Lose their magic and are discarded. Others are strong within a short amount of time and rehearsal. And the third possibility is those ones that are so close. To get to the essence, he might need to:
"get out of town. Something wasn't clicking, like when the world is hidden from your eyes and you NEED to find it."
And that is how it feels. Whatever piece of art that is coming into being becomes your world. His song, my art, your creation. And the need to find it becomes that important - get out of town, get out of your own way. Melt the ice.
Or let it melt. Let it all melt.
This is how the day started yesterday. Not too promising.
And then it progressed:
This juxtaposition of the fading winter and oncoming spring reminded me of how tides work: we all know they are controlled by the moon. The moon affects the hugest bodies of water in the tide as it goes in and out, most strongly at the full moon. What is less noted is that the tide shifts AFTER the moon's effect on it. In other words, it will continue to come in further once the moon has signalled for it to go out (and vice-versa); the momentum is such that it lags in following the moon's shift. Likewise, the seasons: the remnants of winter are here even as the temperature is warming. It takes time for the snow to melt.
Knowing that we are composed of so much water ourselves, doesn't it make sense that we too would be affected by momentum in this way?
I was feeling the pressure of time before my installation. A due date for the photographer, for the drive, for putting it up. It's done. Over. And inside, I feel as if I'm still running, past the finish line...
Recently I've been perusing a book on Howard Hodgkin, a painter I greatly admire. His works are lush. I look at them and think, those look so spontaneous. And then I notice: next to each of his works is the dates of its creation, such as 1980-1984, or 1984-93, or 2000-2003. Almost all his works were in progress for years. YEARS! Lots of tides in and out in that amount of time. No time pressure.
His explicit trust in his process allowed him to give each piece the space of years to come to completion. What an example of faith he is for me. Letting the dialogue with the work last as long as it takes.
Yes, letting it all unfold in its own way, own timing. Tide in, tide out. Tides in, tides out.
*speaking of lag time, apologies to Paula Mould. In all my excitement, I mistakenly gave an incorrect URL for her in yesterday's blog. Check her out : paulamould.com.
This is the ice situation. Still there - a solid surface. And if you were to be here in person, it would not look a whole lot different. It's grayer than a few days ago - wetter from the warm weather.
Today I took the 1 and 1/2 hour trip over to the big hospital to have my semiannual skin checkup. I have such pale skin and I didn't know to take care of it through years of outdoor time when young. So, I drive far to get checked. It's my skin. The surface of me. You can see it. Odd that it's actually an organ, yet it contains all the others.
As I drove these many hours over the roads, yet another surface, I was somewhat oblivious to my surroundings other than to notice that other lakes in the area were also still ice-covered. Surfaces covered.
Then Paula Mould's painting arrived. I had picked it out from an internet image on her website which offers many choices (paulamould.com). "That's the one I want". And today it was here: I opened the box, unwrapped it, and saw it in actuality:
There was so much more than what I could see on the internet. But beyond that, there was this energy of the piece. There was a vibrancy that could not be captured and conveyed in photo reproduction. It was/is singing with its self, with its depth. It enlivens the space. It shifts the energy.
Ice, roads, skin are all surfaces. Paintings? Yes they are surfaces. And yet they have the capacity to affect us. We look at them and we are not seeing surface. We see in. And when you are lucky enough to see the real thing, it's far beyond what photos, surface photos, can every capture.
April 10: peas in the ground. And, because the outdoor faucet is not turned on, I added on top this snow (blessed snow) to moisten them! Now, will they be up, blooming and producing peas by the time Hunter and Lynn arrive mid-June????
As I was putting in the peas, I remembered an experience of planting from a while ago. My then husband, Daniel, was an award-winning gardener. He knew how and where to plant, and the gardens were (are still) magical. At the time of this incident, we had moved to a new house and in the back it looked at a school. Clearly, there needed to be a garden there - to interrupt the view. He challenged me to dig the rock hard soil several feet deep in order to put in a new mix of dirt so that anything would actually grow, and then afterwards, he watched as I plopped in the first small plants. When he came out to see what I had done, he laughed. In a few moments, he had gently re-arranged the plants and they, yes, looked 200% better. The key: always group them in odd numbers, he told me.
Today, this same idea appeared in the Bob Dylan book. He discovers that, if the rhythm of his music was switched from anything based on an even number(2) to anything based on an odd number(3, 5 7), it moved from being forgettable to mythic. It became dynamic. And that's what we all yearn for on some kind of mystical level.
My dear snow peas - now they are all tucked in one long little ditch. No number of seeds were counted. Doubtless, they will be mythic in their own right. But in the places where numbers are felt: music and art (including gardens), how profound that arrangements always reflect numbers, and that these numbers are felt so deeply in our psyche.
White snow still covers the lake. It's been a long winter. And just because there is nothing I can do about that - I think, what a relief, really.
The darn snow will last as long as it pleases. I spend way too much time trying to control other matters. But weather?
In Bob Dylan's Chronicles, he hits a long, long dead time in his career. He doesn't perform for a stretch and then, when he does he realizes he's going through the motions, appearing on stage, but he's lost that deeper sense of connection to his music and his audience. It lasts so long he thinks he's done. Then he wanders into a jazz performance; he feels the dynamism of what is happening for this performer. Somehow it re-ignites the flame within himself and he finds that inner connection. This begins this whole revival of himself and his music.
In reading this, I see - yes, inside each of us there are seasons. As much as we want to be ON, as this digital age is always promoting, how true to nature is that? Who knows how long the dead time, "the snow" might linger? How to honor the truth inside oneself versus that urge to push, regardless?
I know, in my life, I run into patches, sometimes long segments, where life takes me away from my art. And I watch how, due to injury or life's interruptions, my friends must take a break from creating. But then, how natural. And how about that time that is just "winter" in your creative life? Is there room for a deep breath? Incubation. Easy time.
A recognition that it's all okay. That I am enough. That you are enough. Just as is. In any season.
Do you see that yellow-green - the color that I was dyeing my fabric all winter long??? It's the first evidence of spring. I'm pretty sure it was NOT there yesterday - I've been eyeing that patch of earth. And today - suddenly!
It's on the edge of the snowy field still covering the garden. Rumi is happy to have the snow underfoot rather than the mud, coming next. But I took a shovel and scraped away a layer of the white stuff that was coating my raised beds. I want to put in some peas soon.
The beginnings. Beginning of growing season, beginning a new art idea. Today I was preparing more silk: stretching the cloth, layering it with 2 coats of soy milk. I need a better attitude for this part. I am ready for the color. The prep is routine, just takes time. In Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, she talks about the downside of every art form - that there will be part of it that is 'less fun". She uses a much stronger term for it. But it helps to read about it. She says that it winnows out those who will commit or not.
I mean, as eager as I am to get my peas in the ground, first I have to weed and get the soil ready. And then wait. Prep there too.
But with those peas, I can almost taste them now. And with the art, I have images all running through my head. Nothing is there yet in my garden or in my art. But I have expectation/anticipation.
Meantime, just as I am sitting here feeling soooo impatient, lo and behold, what comes to me in the mail????
Courtesy of my online artist group, congratulating me for my show! A gorgeous bag made by Katrina Gorman herself! Check out her web-site katrinagorman.com to see her amazing work. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for her emails; they will lift your spirits any day, guaranteed. And to my oh-so-special group, a huge deep thank you for such a sweet gesture. It's not everyday that I yearn for something and then actually get it. I can tell you, it's heartwarming.
Here they are: yin and yang. Looking as tired as I feel.
I just spent the morning doing Tai Chi with the master, who comes to this area several times a year. I have been learning this form for a little more than a year - these gatherings draw people from several states - and I was VERY aware of how beginning level I am. My legs hurt after one hour.
The reason they hurt is that we were going soooooo slowly. To stay in a crouch, even a moving crouch for that long: my legs burned. In learning and practicing, I have gone at a much faster pace. Partly, it's so that there is time to teach the long sequences, it's done faster in regular classes. But also, I didn't realize that it can be, in fact, MORE work to go so slowly. It was astonishingly more work. Instead of "slow down, take it easy", it's "slow down, really feel this".
I did come home in a great mood. For all the difficulty, the slow steady movement was good for my nervous system. Even energizing.
And it was an eye opener. I live in such a quiet place. And yet still feel the need to move quickly, to hurry. This offered an alternative.
I may never move at that slow a pace in my daily life. But the infusion was welcome. And, after all the kerfuffle of the recent trip, it was the yin part of the yang: just what I needed.
This is the overall view photo from the photographer. The art translated in this way in his sharp lighting, away from sunlight. Another translation of the colors running through it. The piece looks one way in natural light, another way under the lights in the Stimson Center, and this way with his lights.
Now, onto my next creation. The next involvement with hand-dyed silk. It's always all about color. Color relating to color.
I took note of what transpired this morning for me. In Tai Chi, my inspired teacher, Bill, was talking about the stance: that learners tend to be full of intent and therefore leaning forward with their heads. In fact, what this does is create imbalance. Instead, the energy/inspiration needs to come from the earth, to be received and then translated through the body and out the hands. It may appear that the hands are pushing, but the impulse for the push is coming from below and flowing up and out the hands. If he touched the tip of my finger, he could tell if the energy was sourced from lower and transmitted through the whole body, in which case the finger would be soft, supported.
I love this idea. I love the idea that the earth, the ground is what feeds us, and to notice when the darn head is taking over and toppling forward. As an artist, I appreciate that this - shall I call it energy?inspiration? - can come through the body and out the hands, and that the head can be less involved. However, in this day and age, I find myself constantly thinking when I start out: is this relevant? is this something I can write about (!), is this...? on and on. As I'm working on this new piece (or pieces), one title I came up with was " For No Reason Whatsoever". I may stick with that title for a while, if only to keep my head out of the equation until the ideas are further along. Keep them free to come from the ground, through me, so I can let them flow fully.
I mean, I'm definitely starting from a blank slate if I'm looking outside at the actual ground for inspiration. Does it happen to be snowing today? Enough already!
Color is coming from the earth. I can feel it. Even under the snow.
Ariella hanging left side
Will and Samsun working on right
And surely the gods and goddesses were with me for this surprisingly fun event. Not to mention my personal chauffeur, Samsun, and DC connection/PR person/ personal assistant, Ariella.
I don't know how we happened to get the one day in the whole week with decent weather for our 9 1/2 hour drive to DC. (It dumped a foot of snow at Squam while I was gone). With Samsun's help, we flew down 95 (flew on 95???) through NYC (!) and into Washington. My nightmare images of endless traffic jams creating a 14 hour drive did not materialize, and we were in DC by 6 PM on Thursday, March 29.
The next day we awoke to pouring rain. The drive was over and the art was covered in towels - it's 2 seconds of exposure to the elements was nothing to worry about as we tucked it inside and up to the gallery at Stimson. Once in the gallery, it was a matter of how to hang the the 3 slats that support the fabric. I had been in communication with Will (from the gallery) re. this concern and he had reassured me that there were hooks that hung from a wire. Yes there were, but they were the size of crochet hooks, i.e. meant for the size of picture frame wire. Thank goodness Will came up with another solution: drill holes through the slats and anchor the wire from "stoppers" underneath. We loaded the slats with the fabric and hung them using this technique and it worked perfectly.
Samsun was my righthand man, handing me one numbered bag after another to me so that the silk went in perfect order onto each slat. Ariella was untangling long threaded loops when needed, conversing with Aliya (sp?) who is in charge of the gallery, and then stepping in to help with the hanging as well. Will, too, was preparing the slats, then helping to hang and adjust them. Meantime, there was this ongoing stream of people attempting to make their way through the room since the gallery is also at the entrance and exit to the Center. Each one, or group, would take a moment and then comment. In the middle of being so focussed on getting the art up, there was this sweet hum of positive feedback.
On the wall adjacent to the main wall, we hung the animal alphabet: 9 framed pieces. There was an issue of keeping them flat to the wall, but otherwise, putting them up was straightforward. I had, for some reason, thought the hanging would take 1 hour, so 3 hours later, everyone was hungry and thirsty: ready for the BEST authentic Laotian food. I would have loved that food anytime, but it tasted sooooo good at that point. Thip Khoa. I need that restaurant here in Holderness.
So, huge thanks to Ariella. Did I have any idea last fall that this would happen? And to my online artist group - who has ONLY heard about this since then. And to Samsun - how would I have made it to DC? And Samsun and Ariella... for the installation - such appreciation. And Stimson gallery - so supportive. Thanks to Will. Thanks to Aliya.
As I left DC, taking a Lyft to the airport and stuck in traffic for the longest stretch, I took in the scene: it was the height of cherry blossom season. Every tree was pink with bloom. Everywhere I turned was brimming over with tulips and daffodils bordering green, green grass. People were out in shirt sleeves, pushing strollers, arm-in-arm, flying kites, packed onto the mall, taking in the warm, beautiful day. Overflowing with color.
Several hours later: the plane landed at the end of the snow storm here. We descended through the haze of grey clouds. Back to Squam: white everywhere.
Does this look like art? I hope not. I want it to look well-disguised as we cruise down the highway. No one would guess we are carrying art! Heavens!
I'll drive this car to DC and then say good-bye to it: my son, Samsun, will drive on to Iowa and get many more miles out of it, I'm sure. It's been with me for years, carried my children from when they were small. I kept it because it's so good for carrying, well, art! In the past, I'd jam it full of larger pieces. And now - this is, I think, the largest piece I've done and it fits neatly into that little box on the right...
When I speak of larger pieces, really what I'm talking about is always the structure. The fabric can always be packed small. But in previous times, I used tables or boxes or large frames. In this instance, the piece is hung from very light, narrow slats; and then there is the silk. And even within that, the silk is hung with spaces all through. There is a sense of dimension beyond the actual physical art.
A sense of dimension beyond... (dun-da-dun!)
The power of art. Why we want to be sure it is well-disguised in transit, right?
(I think it's time I hit the road...)
Don't you love the sound of that: "il pleut." The French really nailed it with those words. By contrast, say "it's raining"; now, do those English words come close to approximating the sound of rain on a roof or window? But "pleut." Yes.
I had a dear friend who used to visit quite often when my children were younger. He had none of his own and was full of advice. One thing he recommended was what he termed "mental health days." Why wait until you felt full-blown sick? How about taking a day to soothe your mind; i.e. a mental health day. I loved the idea. Of course it was permitted. Of course you need a mental health day, I'd say. In retrospect, I'm surprised the children did not taken advantage of the day off more often; but then, perhaps their friends were better company than parents...
Regardless, this day reminded me of that. Rain. Stay at home. Quiet. I'm dyeing some new colors and the grey light is the best for that. No big excitement, no dazzling sun to blind and confuse me. Perfect weather for what I'm doing.
I got back some proofs from the photographer, finally. It's obvious that his studio has very different lighting than my natural light here. The colors in the art are sooooo bright, so vivid. When I have the photos themselves I'll share with you.
It was a cloudy outside the day I had the photo shoot. Inside the studio, though: bright. It's clear that lighting creates its own weather...
Puppy. (well, dog actually). Dog moving. Dog so glad to be out of the car.
The 2 of us just got back from Brookline where there is bare ground. Even daffodils pointing up out of it, emerging. Movement. Movement you can see. Not like here - where it looks like a well-frosted cake still. The snow causes the earth to look, well, still.
When I first got back here, back to the lake, I was tired. Dis-oriented. Where was I in my life when I drove to the city? I recall this Native American saying that I will remember inexactly, but the idea holds true for me: when asked about one's travels, just after arrival, the answer was, "I'm still waiting for my soul to catch up with me." It's like, I've arrived home, but I'm still arriving...
Driving is fast movement. Something I can feel. But in reading about plants, I've been surprised to discover how slow movement can be, that what I took for not moving was just imperceptible movement. And it occurred to me that so much of what passes as stillness is, in fact, moving.
When I consider the arc of creating a piece, I tend to want to be in the phase of putting a mark on paper, or dye on silk. The crucial birthing of the idea seems like non-movement. I'm not creating tangibly. But if I turn that idea upside down, the actual seed from which all else follows precedes the evidence. That changes the equation for me. I can value the conception of the idea, that murky time when it's coming into being - the mind, the doodles, the trying one thing and another... searching for the DNA of the work.
And also, at the end of a piece. It's done. It's waiting, not yet in front of the outside viewer. All seems quiet. But, no, there is movement: the photographer, the labels, not to mention the shift going on inside myself. I now am taking my large piece into the world, and that internal movement, so imperceptible, is that not the one with most impact? For me, I'd say so. Yes.
When I visited the curator for the gallery in DC, she looked at my work and said to me, "We'd like you to show your work here. And it must be in spring." She was looking at the colors in the very small work that I brought her. She saw spring colors in it - and the plan was set.
Last fall I dug up a few of the geraniums that look so festive in my outside planter. I wanted them to brighten my winter, but indoors. Thank goodness they are blooming now: hope for summer. Here it is March 24 and I went outside to shoot a photo of that forlorn looking planter that sits on the way to the dock:
Look closely. Yes, snow is falling.
I grew up in Virginia. Spring is it's best season: long and slow. When I drive south next week, I hope I go from white covered ground in the north here to increasingly green and vibrant colors as I head south. Maybe not all the way to the pink-red geraniums, but perhaps bare ground, then green grass and maybe a daffodil or tulip?
I'm wondering how close to the colors that are in the landscape of DC my piece will be? The part of Virginia I lived in is mountainous. It's one thing to see the sun hitting the mountains at dawn at any time of year: it's the radiant pink initially. And then, in spring? As the light increases at dawn, you see the actual colors of the trees but intensified. Saturated. Around this time of year in Virginia, the new leaves come in glowing with that chartreuse that I worked into my piece so emphatically. And then, little by little, as the light of each day increases, the colors of the landscape become less intense; dawn has become day.
In my piece that I'm carting to DC, that's the path of light I trace across it, from left to right. I start with the pinks and reds and then move across to the intense yellow-greens in the middle. Finally at the far end the greens lighten and end softly.
I don't have my piece hanging now. All I see is the white of snow falling. It makes me yearn for these colors again - in the art and definitely, in nature.
A little off-shoot from the bigger piece...
I'm waiting impatiently for the photos. Stewart will send them when they're ready. I know better than to bother him.
I can feel that I'm still WITH my large piece, since I'll be driving down to DC to hang it in the gallery there next week. At the same time ... I'm onto my next idea. I prefer to let my newest beginnings gestate on their own for a while, not share them. It means that they have maximum ability to morph. I'm not defining anything too soon.
That said, I was noticing my impatience with the piece that's done. Just wanting to keep moving and get it all set up. But really, what's the hurry?
Last night I was, again, reading this book that I'm so enjoying (you know which one: Hope Jahren's) and she talks about how trees determine when to shed their leaves and when to grow new ones - and the complex chemical processes that accompany that. It's all calibrated by the amount of light. The amount of sun per calendar day does not shift from year to year whereas the temperature can vary widely. Thus we have the seasons of the trees, reliably, as we witness them year in and year out.
She then goes on to report about her research in the Arctic Circle. She and a team of scientists dig up evidence of trees that lived there millions of years ago. The Arctic Circle has 3 months of non-stop sunlight and then... three months of the opposite. The huge question is: how did such trees live through 3 months of total darkness?
What a different time! I love that there was this completely "other world" that existed on this planet, I love that we cannot explain it. And I love that time is so full of possibilities.
For some reason, reading about these inexplicably patient trees gives me perspective on my few days of waiting for the photos and the installation of my work.
After finishing my long and involved piece of art that I just had photographed, my first impulse is to do something light, something absurd, something about... well, how about chickens?
I grew up on a farm and one of my chores was feeding the chickens. Lighthearted fun: everyday collecting the eggs, throwing in chickweed that I know they loved, and giving them grain and water. Chickens. Their bobbing heads as they eat. Simple life.
How can you get deep about chickens? Well, how about that chicken or egg question? Now that's deep. That kind of is at the core of everything, right?
Yesterday, I had this pain. Vivid pain. I know I get random, intense pains when I'm stressed but, with the note in some friend's concerned voice, the pain seemed a lot worse. I called the doctor, went in. Nothing wrong. "Look again!" He praised me for advocating for myself and looked further. All fine. Afterwards, I walked out. I felt much better. Oh man. What the mind can do. Especially mine. That kind doctor had already met me and we had talked about my mind-body connection. It was still so sweet to get this concrete okay from him.
Last night I was reading further in Hope Jahren's book. She is now a scientist with this new best seller out about her path to success. Talk about stress! She put herself and her body through so much. And she shares it all - the torments and discomforts through years of pressure. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me that anyone in any career might also deal with difficult emotions which express in ways that are so challenging physically.
Hope Jahren was working on the those "provable" questions of science. Questions that ask in hard fact which came first (not literally): the chicken or the egg? Get the answer. It matters.
But that chicken or egg question comes around to me as an artist, too. I see it not as hard fact, but as a symbol for the always ongoing process - an idea being born leads to a work in progress on to the next idea that emerges ... no finite ending.
I read this wonderful interview years ago about the abstract artist, de Kooning. It was late in his life and the interviewer wanted to know what kept him going back to his studio, why he kept painting. De Kooning replied, "Every day I go into my studio and I think, 'This is the day. This is the day I catch the big fish. '"
Or, say ... the big chicken.
I'm so relieved and excited: my photography session went really well. Soon I'll have the photos to share.
I had hoped to have help for hanging my art so the session would go faster. But Stewart - who only photographs art - laughed and said, "You should see some of the work people bring - installation art with all the pieces but no clue how to present them. At least you know what you're doing - you have a plan." And afterwards, he commented on how fast it had been! Fast? It took 4 hours of concentrated work...
I've known Stewart for years now. He's photographed art that - well - was from much earlier for me. He works 7 days a week, non-stop. I asked him about the times now - with everyone owning a camera (i.e. i-phone). He commented, "That's not my competition." I know that my camera does not seem to be able to capture the subtleties that his can - and since the work is all about the color shifts, I'm thankful for his abilities.
After the session, I usually hear from him in a day or two. He'll send me his proofs. And then, he can take any suggestions I have and re-work those areas. From what I saw while watching, I expect the proofs will not need much correcting ... He uses an intense camera, he clicks the shutter, then a few moments later, the image appears on this over-size computer screen. From there, he can zoom in to see if the finest detail is in focus. It's fun to watch and to agree on - yes, that's how I want it to look... He's watching for technical perfection, I'm looking at the art presentation. We both are examining the color. We work together - it's a really intriguing process which I always enjoy. And I'm excited to see the proofs.
Afterwards, back at the lake, you can see that all my little bags of art need to be organized again - put in order, re-packed. I had only a few sewing repairs to make when I hung the work. I'm glad that I had this chance to put the work up - a run-through. It eased the pressure on DC for me. Now I know I can put this work up and take it down. It travels. It works in another space, an indoor one.
I tell myself : "All is well."
~Bob Dylan (in his book, Chronicles):
Folk songs are evasive - the truth about life, and life is more or less (not true), but then that's exactly the way we want it to be. We wouldn't be comfortable with it any other way.
All wrapped up, here are the paintings on silk that I did - was it 2 years ago? I finally had them framed. I don't want to unpack them until they've made it to 1) the photographer and then 2) the show.
But when I created them, I wanted to make something for children that were growing up in the digital age. Something that was the opposite: that they could stare at day after day, that did not change in a blink. And that was also fun. This goofy alphabet was born.
I realize that alphabets teach letters. And that might imply the art is also teaching about animals, perhaps something true. Hopefully, that idea is instantly erased: bunnies and bears, foxes, fish and flamingos. And yet, I recall that those kind of matters were not a problem when I was a child. The world of child fantasy.
Who cared? Let it all flow: truth, less than truth.
The animal alphabet is kind of like a folk song. For a child's reality. For a child's dreams.
Oh dear. So what you see here is broken glass. I would like to say it's because the art came down and didn't prevent the pup from bumping into the window. But, no, this is a window that was not covered in art. No excuse for the dog's action.
Several years ago, when I lived in Brookline, MA, I would take this same dear Portuguese water dog to a park to run him, give him exercise. One day, as I was about to get out of my car, I saw a coyote standing atop a wall in the park, a stone's throw away. That coyote was not about to move. I waited. He was beautiful. And still. Finally, I opened the door of the car to make some noise. I watched as the wild being serenely and elegantly dismounted and loped away. A few minutes later, when all was clear, I let my dog out: by contrast to this very smooth coyote, it looked as if my pup fell out of the car and scrambled into the park, falling all over himself. The difference in their movement was remarkable.
Before I took note of my window, I was reading further in my Dylan Chronicles and noting a section where he encounters a musician that is so skilled that he, Dylan, realizes he never in his lifetime would reach that level. He talks about how, at that moment, he threw out his map, his ideas/plans for how his life was going to go forward. He realized it was time to become himself, as I understand it. I've never heard of the musician he so admired. And who hasn't heard of Dylan?
I love reading about that moment. And Dylan's choice to become more of himself. I love that the ability is not the measuring stick, it's the individual. In all his/her imperfection. Memorable.
You have no way to really measure this from the photo - but the snow at my door is waist deep. This is the side door. The front door was - well - more embedded. And yes, this does mirror my mind.
It mirrors how reluctant I am to be seen. I'm an artist. You'd think the FIRST thing I'd want is someone to SEE what I do. Well, okay, yes. In the privacy of my home, one on one, with this intimate feedback. But OUT THERE??? No, I can't even get out the door.
Until, yikes! now. Up until this time, people would ask, where can I see your work? I would hem and haw and say, "I'm just not good at marketing." Not good at marketing? How about NOT marketing. How about hiding?
That was until I joined this online artist group. This group goes places. They Tweet and Instagram and take marketing courses and SHOW their work. Thanks to my daughter, Ariella's invitation and to their encouragement, I took a tiny piece of my art to DC last fall and ... landed this show coming up: 3 months at the Stimson Gallery in DC. A 30 foot wall of my art. And a side wall to display my animal alphabet silk paintings. Oh dear.
The history of my not wanting to be seen has deep roots - I was born with eyes that wandered everywhere. It must have been uncomfortable to look at me. (When we look at someone, how do we connect?) I must have registered that. But not understood why others would look away. The message I got: don't be seen.
In all the years I've made artwork, I've made a few brave forays. It's not a blank slate. But no gallery show like this.
So, yes, the snow is at the door. I can feel how cozy it is inside. And now - is it time to go out? Clear away some snow?
I now have an unimpeded view. And just to celebrate, nature launched one of its finest: a day of non-stop snow with gale winds. Spectacular. A blank canvas.
I recall when I used to be so afraid of the blank canvas. Just putting some paint on, no matter how or why, would help me feel better, like I'd jumped in somehow. But now, I'm more curious than fearful. I know that whatever idea I have going in is really just the starting point. And it will go somewhere or not. But it will at least be on the way to my next deep involvement, my next immersion.
So what's next? I've jotted down a number of ideas, they keep changing. But, as Joan Didion says: make a note..."when something comes to mind...(It can make the difference between being able to write and not being able to write". (I found this sweet quote in the music section of the Sunday NYT!)
In the mindset of doodling, in the last few days, I had put some squares on a piece of cloth - playing with color and placement, being goofy. To hold them in place, I used scotch tape. Both Nika and Rhonda loved how the tape affected the color wherever it crossed. I can't leave the tape, sadly: it separates and ages fast. But that is what organza can do: it's a translucent fabric. It has the added benefit of color: I can dye it to make that interaction even more or less intense.
Therefore, today, I spent the day doing the soy-milk preparation of my organza: I soaked the beans last night, ground them today and made the soymilk that I then used to coat the fabric. The fabric will be ready to dye tomorrow.
So, let the snow cover everything. Blank canvas outside. Inside, I'm getting close to more color - splashing the blank canvas/fabric.
The beginning... (dun-da-dun)...
No, it didn't take all day to pack the art. It took 2 hours with Rhonda's help. There it is, in the box, with a towel on top to hold it in place and a note to remember the slats of wood that suspend the piece.
It feels like I've stepped through a passageway, like in Narnia or Harry Potter's train station, where one minute you're in one world, and the next moment, another. It's was so gradual that the art took over the room (the one that I spend the most time in), that I hadn't noticed how it had transformed the space. Suddenly, without the art, it's so light, so bare. I "stepped back through".
Do I want to go re-enter it? Yes. I want it to be there always. Selfishly. But, now I'm in the "real world" again and ... in the summer, the windows open and the art would blow all over, get tangled. It's impractical in the warmer seasons. So, no, I don't need a permanent installation.
But inside my head, the next "other reality" is gestating. Not a 30 foot wall piece. But always with the hand-dyed silk.
As we were packing up the piece, Rhonda was looking closely at the colors of the individual squares - something she hadn't noticed when seen on such a large scale. Intimate pieces can showcase that. Hmmmm.....
Can you see the bird's nest up high in the tree to the left? (and yes, that's snow falling...)
I feel like I'm experiencing "empty nest". Hmmmm, sounds like emptiness. Similar actually. It's the oddest feeling that comes on when the art work is done. All this time, months and months there has been this relationship: first the preparation - setting up the frames, stretching the silk, soaking the soy milk, prepping the cloth, dyeing the colors, then tearing them into squares, arranging and sewing. All that sounds kind of matter-of-fact, dull, right? What kind of relationship is that?
What's missing in that list is the intrigue. The dynamism. The choosing just the precise colors, the trial and error of getting them, and then - how they are put together, how they interact, how they work with what's next to them - before actually seeing if any of the colors I saw on the frames work when they are hung in the light. And, as each part evolves, whether it works with the whole... and that's just the beginning. What looks right at night, "my god, how could that be?" in the morning. It now needs a totally new color. That needs to be eliminated. Zeroing in, then pulling back. Adding and subtracting, reversing. Moving, dancing with it. Partners. All of it soo soooo sooooo much fun.
It's immersion, day in and day out.
Now the piece is standing on its own. Or is it moving on its own? It's ready to leave the nest. And, I'm done with the dialogue of creating.
Soon the piece goes out into the world. Interacts with new viewers. Empty nest here, but hopefully it will move others, dance with others.
Where once there was a moon, now there is moonlight. Where once there was the moon, now there is then moonlight... It's an incantation.
However, I DID need an accent, a highlight in that area. So, I substituted a kind of line, Sadly, you really can't see what it does for the whole piece by barely showing you those flitting yellow pieces.
My friend who's a carpenter dropped by yesterday - not someone who spends time in an art gallery. I thought he'd be a good one to run by the question: "Do you think that line of yellow helps the piece?" He said "Yes it does." It's great to have someone coming in with a blank slate to answer those kind of questions for me. Valuable feedback.
Those few yellow pieces create a kind of line - as if light is peaking over a ridge. Somehow it suggests movement. Movement of the light as it relates to the suggestions of light in other areas. That action works with the piece in a way that the static moon did not.
Still using the squares... but following the feeling of the piece itself. The feeling of peace itself. (okay, enough of the incantations)
Can you see the dog? He's pretending that he's a mountain. There are mountains in the background. Mountains in the art, too, right? No one can see him...
Earlier today I was out throwing the ball for Rumi. He loves to retrieve. Up and down the hill. So fun. I knew it was going to rain later today, so I wanted him to wear out, run longer than usual, since he hates to run when it's wet underfoot. So, he was willing to go a little further with encouragement, lots of cheering. Then, at some point, he was done. Not going to do anymore. To let me know, he cleverly hid behind a tree. I couldn't see his head and torso but I could see his tail wagging from one side of the tree to the other. So funny.
The hiding dog.
My art piece is... yikes... nearing completion. Yesterday, Rhonda came and we made sure all the threads that hang over the supports are doubled and strong. So, now... what I'm looking for is what's hidden: where I inadvertently have a thread sewn outside - v. through - the silk square. I'm searching for other seemingly hidden details that might not show up now, but later would be such
little tails wagging.
What else could my art look like? One thought I had was : a pixellated computer drawing. Sort of. All those bits.
But then last night I was reading Hope Jahren's "Lab Girl" when I ran across this passage that totally caught my attention:
Different minerals have different chemical formulas.... Such differences give rise to differences in shape that persist even in powder form....Each grain of salt in a salt shaker is a perfect cube when viewed up close. Grind one grain into a fine powder and you have shattered it into millions of tiny, perfect cubes.
So, there is a scientific alternative. My art could be a recurring chemical combination: mirroring nature.
For some reason, today I wanted to add to my pixel/chemical combination. How about a moon? I could use it to pull some colors to one end from the other.
So I put together more of my "bits"/squares. The darn moon, of course was square. Obviously. It was made of squares.
I liked it for a moment. It wasn't cornball - my first concern, but it was separate. All the other areas moved. It stood alone and shifted the whole piece into confusion.
I spent a lot of time on this moon as I tried it in different places. I wanted to see if I could make it work. The chemistry was not there.
No moon. Not even a square one.
THUNK! I hear this dull thud as a branch falls on my roof. It's windy out and the woods are pruning themselves of debris - branches that just aren't strong enough to withstand the test of this strong a breeze in the dead of winter. Or rather, the dead of the end of winter. The days are getting longer. Perhaps, this is pre-spring cleaning?
my own debris. I'm not sure I'm pruning. Mostly, it's just doing all this fine detail work to make sure the colors are juxtaposed so that a viewer's eye moves across the piece and so that each color glows as much as possible.
And I look at these threads and think : did I ever imagine I would be making art by sewing? I don't think so. I started out doing watercolors and big thick oil paintings - throwing the paint around. And then, at some point, I had my blood checked, I'm not sure why. In the results, it showed that I might as well have eaten what I was using: there was so much - was it cadmium, arsenic - in my blood. At that point I went to see an "environmental doctor", a wonderful woman. She put me on this regimen where I would come in for afternoons and get an IV for a couple of hours with the idea that this would clean up what was inside already. I did this for a while. A long while. It was tedious and ate up my days. IV's are no fun. I don't think the results were dramatic.
What happened was that, at some point, the nurse took me aside and said, "You know there are patients that come in here forever trying to get themselves rid of stuff ..." I heard what she was implying and decided, forget this. I would leave this behind. I'd also leave behind the oil painting and find a medium that I haven't already "consumed". I had done fabric dyeing before but considered it "less" somehow. But now, I would find ways to work with it as art. I was told the dyes were not toxic. That I doubt. But now I would be more cautious ...
That was as era before there was so much publicity about the toxins in art supplies. I don't know. I wonder if I absorbed some of this lousy stuff from growing up on a farm - growing alfalfa: obstructing insects? - when no one questioned these products.
Regardless, here I am sewing. And here I am doing this large piece. And this is exactly where I want to be. I have the background of painting underlying my fabric art. Thanks to the "pruning" earlier.
I read in the newspaper today that the cherry blossoms are due to bloom, no peak(!), in 11 days in DC this year. That's DC. And here?
Feeling optimistic, I bought seeds for my vegetable garden. I have 4 raised beds. See them in the above photo? No? Can't quite make them out? Maybe in 11 days... (oops, was that sarcasm?)
In fact, here's Squam:
I was just out for a walk along the lake. I wish I'd taken my camera. With the icy crust on the snow, there are these people out doing this sport I couldn't name. I asked one of these well-equipped outdoorsmen and he said it's called ice winging. It's like windsurfing but on ice skates.
Imagine my little cloth pieces with a handle-bar across it - scaled to a human person size. Turn it vertical. Let the wind blow. There you have it. All set to sail across the lake.
Sailing across the lake.
One of Nika's friends looked at my art and saw birds flocking.
It made me realize that people see in art what they bring to it. I can be convinced that what I'm portraying is completely obvious. But today, one of those outdoor enthusiasts might look at this piece and reference what's on his mind - ice winging in winter.
Sailing. Flocking. I love it.
Today is one of those days where - if someone asked about the weather - you'd say "nasty" (that's "nee-asty"). I ask myself: "Why is it that I live in New Hampshire?" Hmmmmm...
And then I sit down to do my art and the weather is perfect: it gives me no reason to want to be outside AND the light could not be better for seeing color. On sunny days and at night - that's not so easy. But a certain kind of drizzly, foggy day. Great.
And this is why. If you look close, you can see - in this light - that in the green, there is some red (pink), and in the red(pink) there is some green. One of the great tricks of the old master painters was to underlie the opposite color in their oil paintings so that it caused the surface color to be particularly vibrant. So, when I am dyeing my colors, I use this idea. For my whole large piece, there is underlying red. Since most of the piece is green, it is working on that opposition. It also serves to unify the piece.
I use a lot of grey to offset the colors - and the grey itself has red under it. Because of that, it can lean towards purple. So when I was adding in the yellow-green, it tended to look even yellower because it's playing against the purple tint that, in some areas, the grey assumes. And I use purple as well. Just less of it.
Oh dear. I went back to show you this effect and the light had dimmed. So you can just get the gist of what I'm saying.
Light is everything for color.
Loving that nasty weather.
What we have here is a study in black and white (mostly). Look closely. Can you see the pooch? He's in the garden. There's still "a bit of snow" here. Rumi was loving it: it's been warm so it's melted down into this brick that he can run across. He was cooling off after his run - just back from Boston. No snow there.
In Boston, I picked up my animal alphabet art pieces, all spiffed up in their new frames. I have known Stephanie at Jameson and Thompson Framers for years - she is AMAZING at determining how to present a piece so that it becomes even better in its frame.
So I brought along with me that piece I had just sewn:
I wanted to share with her this idea that I have been mulling over for a while now: how to set my delicate silk elements against something opposite. I suggested to Stephanie, how about steel? I know it sounds crazy, but in fact, silk is stronger than steel. I read that years ago when researching silk - it's the tensile strength, I understand. Regardless, I love the idea of the stark line, the metal feel juxtaposed with these soft, unruly pieces of cloth.
Stephanie was - "YES! - and let's think about this!" (since there isn't enough time to do this before DC anyway). I loved her response and I do need someone who I can work with to create the frame, an unusual one that really sets it up. I think we'll come up with something that takes it from something too delicate to present into ... I don't know - something with more "force field" .
It's odd, knowing that silk is, in fact, already so strong. How deceptive is that softness...
You have to admit, this looks a little sad. Daffodils that I bought have wilted. Daffodils in the ground are - well, where is the darn ground? And what happened to the oh-so-white snow? Spring in New England: something to get past.
It was warm yesterday. I got hopeful. But today I went for a long walk and froze... I recall when I was in college in Vermont and the temperature rose to what I thought felt so warm to me. I checked the temperature: 8 degrees F (-13 C). That was a cold winter.
Okay, so outdoors is looking less than attractive. Inside, it's all about my art. I decided to put try some small pieces with my remnants. I had sewn one up yesterday. Nope. Not right. Today, I regrouped and tried again. Better luck. Just the slightest shift in one square of color made all the difference. It's tough to see, but the pinks at the top are (from left) slightly purple, somewhat neutral, to slightly green. That slightly green was the ace for me.
Outside looks lousy. Inside, playtime.
Looking out my window, what can I see? Nothing.
I wanted to shoot a photo of the fog, but the camera WILL NOT shoot. It won't take a photo of nothing. It's refusing: "What do I focus on? There's nothing." So you can see the slight bit of lake snow at the bottom. Something. The camera is okay now.
It seems that in this era of photos - there are a lot of "somethings" to take pictures of - since most phones are now cameras and everyone is shooting.
But what about the nothing? How to appreciate that?
Definitely my art stands out most clearly against nothing:
But when I go to DC and look for the is the physical backdrop of nothing - that I won't get. And then there is the mental, emotional backdrop each viewer will bring. Guaranteed those will not be free of "somethings", some memories, associations, recent interactions.
In fact, it is those somethings that will all be in play when the art is seen. Ideally, the art might affect those somethings in the viewer's mind - maybe soothe, maybe remind, maybe ... who knows what? The farthest reach is to for them is to look at the art (something) and get nothing - by that, I mean, that space where all the other stuff can fall away. Shall I call it: a moment of New Hampshire fog? ... by grace of the art.
I wish I could claim to be a tidy person. Clean, yes. Tidy, not so much. I call myself "organizationally challenged". When I'm in the midst of an art project, I don't even SEE the mess I'm creating around me. And yet, the art I make is so much about how everything comes together. It's not "tidy" that I'm looking for, but it's a sense of each component belonging in relationship to the rest of the piece. Flow.
As I was - yes - tidying up today, I noticed how some of the arrangements of my random pieces of cloth appealed to me: just how they had fallen. No thought attended their placement.
I flashed back to when I was in grad school. During that time, I ended up being exposed to art I never would have chosen to view. For example, there was this one afternoon spent watching a film by a Fluxus movement artist shot in - was it the 1960's? For it seemed like an interminable amount of time, I watched little bursts of wind blow trash around on a sidewalk in NYC. BORING was my take away.
But then, only a few days later, I was sitting outside a library waiting for a ride and I admit: I was mesmerized. The most inconsequential bit of movement - a person appearing then passing - or the plunk-plunk of rain drops falling next to me. My sensitivity to the slightest movement or sound from my still point was heightened. It was all vivid, all significant, and all by chance.
That darn film had affected how I viewed the world. Now, even as I'm tidying up, what's this? Oh ... unintentional art. A gift of the moment.
Thank you Fluxus.
My mind is not as peaceful as a nun's might be (as in NYT story to follow). I admit that straight up.
The evidence (as if needed?) came when I was reading Gean Mareno's critique of Ugo Rondinone's Miami Mountain in the latest Art in America. He describes the piece as offering "...comforting presence (which) emit(s)... feel-good vibes." But then, he goes on to bemoan the "... an all too frequent tendency in contemporary art to flee the rumblings of a world that is coming apart at the seams."
- How does he know that this piece is NOT addressing that?
- Alternatively, is it possible that this piece might accomplish MORE by not addressing that?
So, in answer to his words, this is the story that shores me up every time I hear something like this (somewhere in my journals I have the real NYT article. But for now, this is more or less what it said):
There is a nunnery that is (was?) located right in the middle of the busiest part of Manhattan. It is completely sealed off. Even food that is delivered comes in through this narrow portal. Inside, the nuns get no news, no interaction with the outside world. Day in day out, they pray.
At the end of the article there was this one sentence:
"Who's to say that the work these nuns do in deep contemplation has any less effect on our world than all the politics that goes on outside those walls?"
Who's to say?
Such a good question.
Here's the path up this steep hill (snow always looks flat) of my driveway. It's been warm so it got icy underfoot and I put ashes down for gripping. But it looks ... maybe a little dark? Glum?
That describes my expectations of this day. It was a day for "government proceedings". I had to drive an hour to the closest office; the appointment had been arranged 2 months ago. I had never been to Littleton, NH. I expected the whole endeavor to be long and unpleasant.
In fact, the drive was gorgeous. The road passes through Franconia State Park and the mountains were gleaming with snow. Then Littleton itself - what a hip little town. I never would have expected. And when I got to the government office, it was ... efficient! The appointment went easily. Afterwards I thanked the kind young man who helped me and he handed me an envelope to send back to him with some forms I was missing. His last name was ... Bliss.
So I knew I had low expectations and that everything had exceeded them. But Bliss? At a government office?
I have good days doing art. But bliss? Even great days. But bliss?
Actually, that's what's the most fun. Not knowing. Not knowing when (or where) I'll find the sublime.
In the south when you can't believe what you hear, or, well, even when you do - the answer is double syllable: "Wha-at?"
As you can see, my well-loved (can you believe someone made these??) salt and pepper shakers are surely expressing this sentiment. And how àpropos that they are rising out of the sea, as it were. Because... Nika phoned me today to tell me she had signed me up for a show - probably for the month of August - at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, Me. (which is near the ocean, obviously). In fact, the idea for putting my large piece in this space had been in discussion before, but I somehow hadn't registered that it could actually happen. So, yes, I am in that nonplussed wha-at stage.
I'll go visit the space at some point this spring. I've been meaning to get over to visit Nika and see my dear friend from childhood, Lucy, who lives in the area, too. I'm excited about the show even before seeing the space because it is a also a venue for music, so there will be people coming in for those events as well. AND, Maine in summer is clogged with people. The bad part is that traffic does not move. The good part is that people who might not stop in Bath by plan, will be wanting to get off the road and take a break.
Okay, so my head is spinning. Stuck in "Wha-at?"
(which sounds like : "whoe - ut"; lips don't open much)
Here's Rumi. No one here now to play Bananagrams. So sad. Everyone left today.
When Krista Tippett gives her On Being interviews, one question she always asks is something like: "Can you tell me about your childhood experience of religion or spirituality." She is looking for how that has influenced the interviewee's life.
I hadn't thought to ask myself that same question but in reference to art until the past few days.
This weekend, I got a lot of art work done: my art hangs in the same room where people gather to eat and talk and play board games. While I worked on my art, others were nearby focused on their own activity.
Parallel play. And yes, I did feel - in the most wonderful way - like a child.
It occurred to me that this felt similar to the sandpile when I was a child - the place where I would create worlds next to the worlds that my siblings were creating. We played next to each other. And magic happened.
I hadn't touched on that particular feeling in a while, but I am sure it's the source that drives my art. I would love to have my guests stay and stay. But more important, I would love to have my art take people to the sandpile. Drop everything for a moment. Can you feel it? It's just play.
Nika turns 30 today! To celebrate her birthday here, she and Scott drove from Maine on Friday. I picked up her friend, Clarissa, that same evening - she had flown WOW Airlines to get to the US from Ireland. And last night, 2 more friends drove 9 hours from Philadelphia. In addition, Ariella and her new beau, Ross, flew up from DC. It's a fun, full house.
Often, I talk to Nika on the phone, and we email back and forth. I hear from Ariella as well. But there is nothing like seeing them in person.
And Nika's friends must feel the same way. They are early in their careers. Money is not a given. Moreover, they are a generation that shares often on the internet. Yet, look at the time and effort they put into getting here, getting together, in person. It makes such a difference.
A few years ago, I was visiting Ariella in Paris. I had not made plans for this trip, it was unexpected. I wasn't "hyped" to see this or that piece of art. So it was due to Ariella's insight and wisdom that we ended up inside some amazing museums. I distinctly remember the sensation I felt when I saw - in reality - Van Gogh's "Starry Night". I had seen it in many photos. But I was unprepared for the visceral impact of the real thing: the vivid and nuanced color, the depth of the texture and that distinct feel of the human hand. It took me aback; shocked me, I admit. And I realized why so many people travelled to see this - the actual piece itself.
Reality. Cherishing reality.
This is what every living being should be doing after all the snow and more snow we've had. Is it snowing right now? Don't ask.
Much more interesting is to talk about... holes. Well, kind of about holes. I ran across this great quote in an Pico Iyer book. His friend is speaking to him:
Mozart, ...he was a fuckin' genius. All the music he made was in the pauses. Everything in the symphonies depends on the rests.
I had heard this same idea put forward by Yo Yo Ma. And I love it. It gives the "holes" value. Makes them essential.
I think back on my childhood. I spent summers in the north and winters in the south. In the south, what was important was to look good. But to BE good? Who valued that? How dull. In the north, it was the opposite: darned if anyone cared what you looked like, but, I mean, you did want to be good. Truthful. Honest. Upright. So the 2 had opposite "holes". You could relax about appearance in the north, and, in the south, let go of all those shoulds. How about embracing the holes on both sides? Pause. Rest. Make some music. Maybe even art.
I bought daffodils. So luminous when seen in February in NH. I used to live in Virginia; "Virgeenia", where spring came MUCH sooner.
And today - one day that it is good weather - I took off in my car : to Boston and back in one fell swoop after the terrible snow storm that just passed and before the next, due tomorrow. Well, I was on the road along with everyone else in the state. It was a parking lot. As I crept along, inching forward bumper to bumper, I thought of my brother ( who still lives in Virginia). Years ago, he was telling me of his plans to drive to the beach on July 4. July 4th?, I asked, incredulously - it being probably the WORST traffic day for the beach all year. He laughed, "Yeah", he said, "I like to be PART of the problem." He can always make me laugh.
As I was spending more time than I liked en route today, I thought of that comment and wondered - so what problem would I like to be part of?
What came to mind was an account that I read years ago about a recipient of the MacArthur grant: Sam Maloof, a woodworker. He is the only craftsman - even til now - who has won the award. (The MacArthur Grant is given to geniuses, and people are chosen by a secret group, so the award of $100k comes as a surprise). I was struck by how unaffected he was - that his work was so central that his life went on, unchanged. He already had what mattered most.
That level of contentment. That level of loving one's art. Can we call that a problem? A good problem, why not? I want that one. I want to share that one with everyone. We can all be part of the problem.
(This is an overview, with at least one hole. It's not well photographed - some are up close, some further back. And the color - much duller here. But for my dear friends who wanted to see more of the larger picture, here it is~)
Earlier, I was at the dump - excuse me, "transfer station" - and I overheard these two guys in trucks. (I'm surrounded by guys in their big trucks, a good thing I've come to see). I heard one say to another: "Never a good deed goes unpunished!" Okay, I hadn't heard that one before. "What?" I asked. "Just try it," says one of them. "See what happens..."
So I did. I came home and shoveled a nice clean pristine white path through the new fallen snow. I then let the dogs out. In a matter of seconds it was spattered in lurid yellow. Okay, okay. I get it.
I had just had a conversation with my online art group and the positive feedback I received was just not easy for me to take in. I recalled when I had knitted a sweater years ago. It was inspired by Kaffe Fassett's amazing designs; the colors were stunning, but the construction of the garment was - shall we say - less than perfect? So when I heard people say - "Oh that gorgeous sweater!" I wanted to immediately point out - but do you see the holes in it? The holes in the sweater. The holes in my piece that I am showing you above.
It's like - can't you see, I'm so imperfect??? I want to quote here from Mary Louise Parker when she is referencing someone she had put up on a pedestal and realized how unfair that was to that person:
I forget we are all made from ether and instinct. We're all missing parts and orbit the same moon.
You love snow. You love winter. And then comes the day when you have shoveled this set of stairs - piled to the top - already 3 times today. Drat the snow. More so, drat the wind! And you go: "Next please!" You're so ready for the next season. And then, you know, summer will come. You want it so much, you love it, then at some point, it gets too hot. "Next please!"
And here I am with my art. Have I shoveled it out too many times as well? Oh, maybe. But it must be the colors. It must be that when I do it I can at least hold on to what I've done for more than a few hours.
And then, too, the work has it's own, next please. Because I move something around: add a color, take something away, and the piece itself speaks; "Next please!" And I know I'm deep inside it. The dialogue is happening.
Weather: One snow flake after another. So innocent. But then, how they add up and ... need to be arranged. Some of the snow gets piled in drifts alongside. And that piling takes its own sweet time.
And with my art. All these little squares. They also add up and need arranging. When Jan was here, I was looking at them and thinking that it looked like a lot of arranging, a lot of sewing, but months and months worth?
But then I realized, the time isn't in the amount of sewing for the final piece. It's not even in the arranging. It's the re-arranging, re-sewing and more re-arranging and more re-sewing (not to mention the dyeing/adding colors/shifting colors), on and on. All the ingredients for making decisions. Jan commented, "Oh, like editing writing." YES! I thought, editing, like for writing. The time it takes to come up with the final piece is not directly proportional to the length of the piece.
For example, today I decided I wanted to add in a color to the left side. I had been planning this for a while. I thought it needed blue, acid blue, so I did my dyeing yesterday. I wanted it to play off the reds/pinks and offset the yellow-green so predominant on the rest of the piece:
I loved the color. Intense. The way I wanted color to show up BEFORE I was hanging the cloth, adding light.
I'd been seduced by the color itself. Today, I sewed it up. Oh man. NOT GOOD. I had to tone it back almost to full grey - just a hint of blue (the camera is inaccurate, but you get the idea):
Sewing it one way, sewing another. Determined to find out how/if it will work.
Another exciting day with an idea that almost backfired. But I think I have that tiny shift that I want. It's so slight. But it's those subtle matters that can lift a piece. I hope I found one of them. I have to do a lot more sewing now to meld it all together before I'll know for sure.
I want this work to feel like an oversized "haiku". Who knows if I'll succeed. Meantime, more squares of cloth piling up on the side. Drifts of cloth.
Snow. Lots of snow. More snow. Wind. Ducks.
And it's just past the full moon. Valentine's Day coming. Is this why my mind left "art think" and went on a sidetrack with my recent blog on dangling participles?
It took me to the story of my sister, Nin, (Nin Andrews, look her up!) when she was living in Virginia years ago. She's a runner and it's hot during the summer months there, so she had her secret spot for reprieve: after her long run, she would head up to this pond that was way off the road on this piece of land hidden by the mountains. There she would strip down and feel - oh so refreshed. Well, one day, lo and behold, she arrived all sweaty hot and there was a guy there happily perched in his inner tube, clothes left strewn next to the water. Hmmmmm.
"Hi!" she yells, announcing her arrival.
"Oh!" he replies, startled. "Nice spot here. Do you know it? Do you know if there are any fish here?"
Ahhhh. Yes. Lots of fish. That she knew. "YES!" she yelled back, giggling to herself. "And they are particularly fond of DANGLING PARTS!"
Well, that was the solution to that intrusion. The pond was vacated in due haste and continued thenceforth to be her private place for respite.
Okay. So as they say in Virginia, "Where's your mind AT?"
Love those dangling participles. Yes. Time to move ON. Get back to the darn art. Jump IN.
(and if you feel like you're a dangling participle to this blog, I invite you to sign UP(!) and get these in your daily emails~)
........................(not my rescuers)
This morning I got stuck. Stuck in the darn snow. At dawn - barely light out. I had backed in over this icy embankment, JUST off the road, but my car was not going to go forward and get me out of there. No way. So, on this lonely back road, I was so relieved to see another vehicle that I waved the truck down. It took the longest time and lots of finagling before - at some point - the wonderfully helpful man produced a shovel (now I know to stash one) and - one more push! and miraculously - the car bucked over the icy snow and was out. I looked at this kind person and thanked him - and saw that he was wearing the blue outfit that signifies "medical". I thought he might have just finished an all night shift, but no, he introduced himself as James Hanowell, a surgeon at the nearby hospital, on his way to work - to save people's health, or lives for all I know. It felt like he had done that for me.
Afterwards I thought about that. The value of what he does. How unquestionably he is helping people day in and day out. What about me, an artist. Can I say that about what I do?
I then recalled this interaction I had a while ago on a bus ride to NH. This woman sitting next to me was exuberant. She had just been to visit Spaulding Rehab, a hospital in Boston, to tell them about her husband. Apparently, a year or so earlier, he had been so badly injured (brain) in an accident that the therapists at the hospital had told her he would never recover, never be able to walk again. She was NOT going to take that as truth. She knew he was an avid hiker, so she proceeded to take gorgeous photos of the mountains he loved so much. She then placed the photos in the front of his walker day in and day out. On the bus ride next to me, she was returning after sharing with them photos of her husband climbing, and even on the peaks of these mountains. She would not have called herself an artist, but she knew the power of the IMAGE, of what he loved so much. Her photos had made the difference. It was that connection that lit him up.
Great story, say the 2 pups as the snow KEEPS falling. Now that you finally made it back home, would you please throw the darn ball???
When I take this piece to DC - once it's finished - do I want people to tell me, "It's beautiful"?
When I was in art school, way back when, the ultimate (unspoken) insult was to call someone's work "beautiful". It stood in for "nice" (i.e. boring), and meant it was trite, not to be taken seriously, second - rate. No one wanted their work to be dismissed as beautiful. In fact, smudge it up, run a car over it, dip it in your bathtub - get something worth viewing, for Pete's sake. In fact, all those things DID make the work interesting. And the sides of old worn down buildings still stand out to me as aesthetically attractive. I almost said beautiful.
I recall sometime in the early 2000's reading a book on how to bring beautiful back into art. But now I hear the word differently, perhaps because I've been out of the context where there is so much phobia attached to the word, or maybe times have changed. It could be, in a world as immediate as ours is now - where we are assaulted by visual information of all sorts - that just simply the relief of seeing something beautiful has given that word a new life.
But I think that there can be a more innocent use of the word. Outside of the narrow confines of the art world, the word can be something that people mean sincerely and seek deeply. If I were successful in creating what I aim for, I would want there to be a restorative quality to my piece. I would want people to find rest in the colors and the flow of it. I'd want them to be transported, even if it's ever so slightly, into a sense of dream - removed from the hustle and bustle of the moment - and to feel something inside. Something beautiful.
I made the smallest adjustment to this area and it delighted me: I shifted the edges. Before I took the scissors to it, there was a straight line along the bottom. Straight. The message was of the edge of a piece of paper or drawing. But this hangs freely.
I still echo that straight line edge in several other areas of the piece, but not here. Here I want flow.
I love that the edges themselves carry so much import.
The idea is confirmed in this wonderful dialogue between Cartier-Bresson and David Hockney:
We first met in Paris in 1975. He immediately wanted to talk about drawing... and I always wanted to talk about photography. He said that what made a good photograph was geometry. I said, " ... it's a matter of making a pattern, how you arrange it. It's also about looking at the edges." The edges counted particularly for Cartier - Bresson...
I've always loved paying attention to edges. In this case, it is particularly exciting because the edges either define the base of the implied mountain(s) or the absence of that base - which essentially brings in the awareness of the room itself as the base. You, the viewer are standing on the base. You are on the edge.
.................................................(Here he is. Otis on the edge.)..........................................
Do I ever notice this encasement I live inside? This thing that can produce ideas and get me from one place to another.
Yes, I exercise. And yes, Tai Chi and sometimes yoga. But yesterday I had the luxury of taking a class with Caryn McHose, this reknowned movement teacher that offers classes all over the world and on occasion to those fortunate to live near to (and far from) her studio here in Holderness. When I say luxury, I mean the opportunity she offers to experience this physical self in a way other than routine. On this day, she used the starfish as inspiration, as example. But also as paradigm: that humans and starfish were early on both one cell organisms, and the way the starfish radiated out from that beginning can be seen to parallel our own radiating out from center: with the head (and tail) plus the arms and legs all extending from "the middle".
And to feel that in my body? Me, equally feeling hands, feet, head? Feeling being the key word here. The sensation was startling: my hands in contact with another extension, touching my other hand (so delicate, so tender), and my feet (so nurtured by the attention) and then... what was this furry feeling round part at the top of me?
I use my hands every day. All the time. I touch the softest, most luxurious cloth in the world constantly. Am I registering the sweetness of the touch?
And do I want any of my viewers to actually touch my art?
I'm dog sitting little Otis. Here he is with my pooch, Rumi. They get along very well. In fact, when I have to leave for an hour or so, I know Otis will be fine. He's with Rumi.
And that's my word of the day. With. I was reading a review of something that went viral on the internet and the reviewer's comment was how thin the attention was - here and gone. No one stayed "with" it.
And "with" is so deeply soothing to each of us. Time spent with someone. Time spent with something. In some place. Caring. Even time apart to be with oneself.
Certainly, I'm getting a lot of time WITH this piece of art.
And even as I create the piece, I look at how one part relates to another. They need to belong together. One part leading to the next, taking your eyes along. One color WITH another.
A close up. I now am not sure about my idea that was so thrilling yesterday. When I was "close up" to it, I was just pumped. And so full of why this was such a great idea, why hadn't I thought of it/remembered it? I was working with my needle and thread, working right up inside the piece.
And then, this morning. Stepping back. The overall view. Or maybe 2/3 of it - at a slant, no less:
The camera can't get the whole wall effect - the green continues, but what matters at this stage of the work anyway is that I get enough intense green going that it dominates. The hit must be SPRING GREEN. The pink/red : just a touch in comparison, just enough to make the green "zing". So if I get that to happen, then the other is refinement. I can play with all the secondary tunes.
So it's color that matters most. That's was where I started, what I've been aiming for all along. BUT I love that new ideas unexpectedly appear and seem so brilliant in the moment. Makes it all so alive.
Art can change the world... Additionally, the experience of art distracts from daily hardships and inspires people to imagine other ways of living that are less painful...Its experience proposes a more fulfilling life. After all, joy is an inalienable human right, and we in art believe in joy and life... - Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Istanbul, 2015
Yes. And then why am I not feeling joyful today? I am only impatient. I am only wanting this process to go faster, to see the colors fall into place NOW and NOW and NOW, not after this amount of time dyeing and that amount of time sewing and then...hanging.
So, I've never done this scale of work before. And for years, I did oil and water color. They are fast. Anything is faster than this. As I've progressed with this, the process is kind of similar to how I created a painting: have the overall idea, work one area, then the next, and another: and then see how they relate. With this piece, I did the same. I would even take photos - show off: doesn't this look promising? Now, as I've gone along, whole swaths get shifted, maybe re-sewn and then - maybe even then, discarded. The art has its own truth.
I have been accepting of the meditative pace since it was still forming. And now I can see it falling into place - it all making sense. I can't wait to see it. Part of that impatience is realizing that I won't really know if it's how I envision it until it's in front of me.
And no matter how I feel, my pace will be my pace. It's like - okay, you chose something peaceful. Be with it. In a way, yes, there can be joy in my expectation, even if it's just that right now.
This is not working - I mean, my new idea is not working yet. But I want to share it anyway because I'm so excited about it.
I realized that I was seeing my piece in 2D. What about the mountains behind the mountains? I'm getting started but these colors are not right: they are coming on too strong. But I'll find the right ones. I'll get it to read in the way I want.
But the reason I'm so excited is that I even THOUGHT of this idea: I am someone who only partially sees 3D. Did you know they can test for that? The tests are ridiculous: the optometrist shows you a series of pictures of a fly and you either see each one as flat or as coming off the page, and they increase in difficulty for the ability to see 3D ... I could see the first several as full dimensional, and then not.
The reason I don't see 3D completely is that, until age 3, I had no muscular control over my eyes. By quite miraculous good fortune (the odds were 1000 to 1, I'm told), my eye operation succeeded. I have a strong memory of the first sight I saw clearly: boats on the Charles River. At any rate, my eyes were corrected, but my brain had been trying to cope all those years and so had adopted to seeing out of one eye at a time. Supposedly there is a window of time for your brain to hardwire seeing. So, as a child, I learned a LITTLE bit about seeing 3D. But now I don't all the time.
Which means I get excited about the IDEA of 3D. So that's where I am now. At the idea stage.
By the way, many famous artists did not see 3D, among them: Picasso. (fun fact)
Silence when we let it exist it feeds our soul.~ Gordon Hempton
In this piece of art that I am slowly creating, I use this method of working first on the areas where the color is moving, flowing from one area or intensity to another. My plan is to come back and later fill in the areas where, by contrast, the color is not shifting. However, what I notice is that these vacant areas start to take on a dimension of their own. Their "silence" is present.
It brings to mind this story I enjoy so much:
The story (unknown origin) concerns a Japanese print or painting that has a small bird sitting on a limb off to the side and nothing more. When the patron views this work of art, he asks, why did you leave so much blank? The Japanese artist's response: the bird needs somewhere to fly. Of course.
In my piece, there are no birds. But perhaps the viewer might feel that invitation to enter. To see through/imagine/feel the space.
I had my original plan for this piece of art. The art has taken on a life of its own. Working together, the piece evolves.
This is another of my embroideries from years ago. Unfinished. But somehow that suits my message today. I feel like these people are all waiting with expectation that they will get somewhere. They will get there - they have faith.
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite is certainty.
That's a quote from Annie Lamott. Those may not be her exact words. But close. The gist is there for me. It's okay be so sure one day and then wonder - where was I ? - the next. And to keep going. To have faith.
I had chosen a certain set of colors at the start of my piece. But now I'm adding another and even featuring it. Of course, I ran out of that newly added dye color. No problem - I can get it if I mix other colors. Oops! Not so easy. But it will work. I won't get THAT color, but I never had THAT color anyway. Every time I dye, somehow (temperature? mixture? cloth?) it's not the same. In dyeing, there is no certainty. So, it's a small matter. And it may just be the fluctuation I need anyway.
I tend to think I know where I'm going. But it's all faith.
From when I was a child, growing up riding horses, the only thing I wanted to draw was a horse. I'd work on a drawing and then show it to my father. He would look at it, explain the anatomy - how the hip bone was connected (information that was way over my head) and then correct my drawing. I could NEVER draw a horse that didn't need correction.
To this day, when I draw a horse, my mind gets in the way - I'm sure it must need correction.
I read a while ago a passage by Philip Guston. If you know his paintings, which I love, you will be familiar with the very odd figures in his late work. Someone was asking him how he dared be so bold? In reply, he described what happened as he painted: (again my paraphrase from memory): "When I begin my work, me alone in the studio in actuality - in my mind I have everyone I ever knew in there with me, including my first grade teacher all the way up through the NYT critics - all of them making comments in my head, telling me this/saying that: 'n'yah - n'yah-n'yah-n'yah-n'yah'. As I go along and I get deeper into my work, they slowly drop away and it becomes quieter and quieter until at some point ... it's just me. Me and my painting."
Okay, those are definitely not HIS words, but the idea of all those OTHERS there at first, that was his idea. Oh, the mind. When we need it and when we don't.
Measurement is everywhere. Statistics. Logarithms. Math matters.
Until it doesn't.
When Rhonda came to help me sew my pieces together, she asked: "What is the distance between each piece that is sewn?" I handed her the piece of paper in the photo. No ruler. No number. It's what FELT right to me.
If you look at the work from a distance, it appears that the sewn pieces of cloth are equidistant:
On closer inspection:
not so much.
But altogether it feels right to me. And that's what matters.
It brings to mind a recollection from years ago when I was just starting art school. The head of the school spoke to us all, on day one, roughly these words: "Probably most of your parents are wondering what you are doing in art school, maybe wishing you were going into medicine or law. But as I stand here, I ask you, how many names of famous lawyers can you list? Doctors? Now, how many famous artists?"
Artists touch people. It's their emotions that are affected. How it feels.
See that early spring green that is very yellow? Do you see it as green or yellow?
When I take my work to the photographer, he argues with me about that color - I call it green and he sees it is unquestionably as yellow. And then, to back himself up, he pulls out scientific data that indicates that men's eyes see greens differently that women's eyes - that it has something to do with evolution and how the women had to differentiate color more (as gatherers), where men were more tuned to seeing movement (as hunters), which is more based on dark and light.
Green. Seen differently by different genders. And it's also the color that photographs least well. Cameras have a wide range of ability to translate other colors. Much less so with green.
And I'm using a lot of green. I use it to cover up the snow, the grey, the absence of color in the landscape behind it. I'm using green to hide the outdoors, even as I'm celebrating it. And I also think I'm using the green to nourish my soul at this time. I'm bringing in the reference to life opening up even as the ground is most covered.
It's grey out. Quiet. No sun. In Seattle this would be the norm. When I lived there, I had the strangest sensation of time standing still - there were no seasons to mark time in the way that I understood: no hot- hot summers, cold-cold winters, and those really transformative falls and springs.
In New Hampshire, the seasons are strongly defined: summer is the pearl that everyone arrives to enjoy, fall is stunning for the foliage color, winter attracts others for skiing and the cold, while spring seems to neeevvver come. Okay, it's January. There is a long wait ahead. But am I dreaming of tulips? Yes I am.
Dreaming as I sew. And as I handle, all day every day - colors that bring to mind that season. Verdant green. When will I see that? Living in NH, it will be so obvious. The ground itself will become visible and I'll smell the earth again. That I look forward to. That's when I'm scheduled to have this piece done.
It's one of those days: how can I not be distracted?
My friends are sending photos of their plane ride into DC - it's packed with women. All day texts keep me up with the events as they unfold. My daughter, Ariella, is in DC face-timing me from the Women's March. Other texts come in from Boston, where many more are gathered.
And I am here, taking all of this energy and sewing into my piece.
Looking closely again, do you see all those loose threads? They are all over the place - disorderly.
I have the straight lines, the softer lines of each fabric piece and then the edges, fraying and wildly their own idea. I love that.
I used to do this kind of "dance" called authentic movement. The idea was/is that you come into the space and move - not from any music or dance idea but from whatever arrises in your body. Starting from stillness. One of my mentors taught this in NYC and she had many students with a wide range of backgrounds: young, old, wealthy, wall street, police officers... And what she noticed is that almost to the person - when given the chance to move with no directions as to how - that they would very quickly ease their bodies into making circles and spins as their first choice. That what EVERYONE'S body needed was to let go of that straight ahead pressure and to sink into the childlike letting go. In fact, the reknowned poet Rumi - and his Sufi dancers - weren't they also spinning?
So, I want my work to "go somewhere". But I also want it to be free. To let go. Is that a circle I see?
Can you see the 2 straight threads holding up these pieces?
I just returned from a long drive. Straight lines down a more or less straight highway. Eyes straight ahead. All lined up.
A number of years ago when I was in art school, I had a friend from South Korea. Perhaps because she was from South Korea, she was dedicated: she spent many more hours intensely doing art than any of us happy-go-lucky locals. Consequently, she developed a pain in her wrist which really interfered with her ability to get work done. For a period of time, she was not around. Then she reappeared. I asked her what she had done. She told me that routine medical solutions were useless, but then she had started Tai Chi and lo and behold, she had totally cleared the energy blocked in her wrist. I thought "hmmmmm", and let it pass, even though this Tai Chi center was a block from where I lived.
So, I did wander in a few years later. I did learn Tai Chi - I am still learning Tai Chi... And now - I am appreciating it especially because it is : CIRCULAR! After a long drive, to let energy flow through the body in circles. Not only is every movement a circle, but every movement comes out from the heart. The soft, unlinear heart. So, now, I can let that hard driving brain sink down into the earth and I can feel the movement come up into the heart and emanate out. In circles.
I look at my art and am glad each piece of cloth is NOT holding the line, maybe even gently seeking a little Tai Chi.
There was a period in my art exploration where I was intrigued by JUST the line: how it is the first thing that one is taught in school (or one of the first): "Get in line". The concept of the line. And then there is actually using the hand to draw a line. Make a mark. Draw a picture, form a letter. First things.
I was making my images of the early learners - in sort of a line - by using embroidery stitch. There is NO WAY I'd get an actual line with embroidery. Starting off imperfect...
Speaking of meaning, while I was sewing, I recalled a conversation from years ago: I was at the time in an intensive language training program just outside Brattleboro, VT. (If you have been to Vermont, you know that it is called the Green Mountain state for a reason - it is mostly mountains.) This young woman was unhappy because of the environment. She was from Oklahoma. She felt "shut in" by the mountains; she needed more space, more sky. I was baffled.
However, a few years later, I took an extended road trip through the prairies of Canada. So flat. I was acutely aware that I could not live there. Could not. It felt vacuous. All sky. A line for the earth.
I grew up surrounded by hills and mountains. Where I live now is even more so. When I look out, it's not a simple horizon. It takes time to view the close, the middle, and then the far distance. So much earth to see.
So full of meaning.
Sometimes I write something and then afterwards think of how the opposite is just as true.
After deriding the flatness or one dimensionality of the prairie, I thought of how I could not LIVE there, but how the beauty of the simple line is inescapable. How gorgeous one line can be - it's art at it's essence. The first mark I make will tend to be some sort of line.
Somewhere I recall reading that the straight line is man-made. That nature never exhibits a straight line. I'm assuming that there is distance involved in that idea - that if I backed up far enough, the horizon itself would bend. And yes, when I pull the camera back a bit, my line does bend. That is beautiful too:
In terms of process, I'm still midst composing the overall piece. And, while I'm doing so, I seem to find reason to take many of my long vertical strips that were hung top-to-bottom way and now need to reverse them so they hang the opposite way. This involves taking them apart - many little squares - then removing the stitches and finally resewing. Time consuming.
Yesterday, as I was listening to an interview with Maria Popova (thank you, Marina) she talked about how one of the elements that gets compromised in the rushing/fast-paced mindset of the internet is meaning. And that to derive meaning, one thing that must be there is time. There needs to be time. Time spent with or contemplating what you love, your interest, your work.
Hmmmmm..... lots of time. And the meaning? I do admit, I feel it growing.
In reference to yesterday's mention of sailing from the Caribbean, to follow up: the seasickness did pass. And then I was/we were on the open ocean. Open ocean with 3 adults on board and 3 small children. That meant 4 hours on and 8 hours off: a lot of dark nights, alone at the helm, in high seas watching out for giant shipping container boats that might not even see your boat. I don't recall many moments of admiring nature on that trip. It was not, as I recall, calm.
Nature is not always beautiful.
And yet, when I think of solace and beauty, that's my source. Nature. And it's that calmer side that my art is referencing. And it's that calmness that I hope is transmitted when I take it to a gallery in the center of DC.
(I'm just hoping for calm seas en route to the stormy destination.)
How much difference does that horizon line make?
I grew up sailing. I spent summer days on the water - looking at water, living on water. I was sailing in a bay, not out on the ocean. The big waves were big waves, not rollers. As much time as I spent on the water, I never had to deal with feeling sea sick. What was sea sick, anyway, I wondered? Until I left the harbor. And the first time I left the harbor it was fog, "pea soup fog", as they call it. The wind was not terrible, but there were swells. And only grey white mist all around. I felt not so good.
Several years later, my sister needed help sailing a boat up from the Caribbean. I signed on. Gorgeous weather, blue skies. And HUGE swells. The sailboat we were on : 40 feet - was nothing, just tiny, in this water. We were riding from the trough, (deeper than the mast) up over the top, then falling off the wave's peak, back down again. Over and over. I was again, NOT feeling good. My sister - in the calm of day - as we headed out, had given me what seemed like helpful advice - when I feel seasick, focus on the horizon. But what horizon?
Looking at landscape, I notice how I search for that visual information of the horizon. In bad weather, it can look like a dream/on a boat - somewhat in motion. Give me that horizon on a clear day and I'm stable, clear, oriented. It's tempting to then declare the clarity "better". But then again - the unclear horizon/ seasickness - those lead to the open sea~
I'm creating this piece of art that references nature. And therefore, the idea is that the viewer sees this as full of "natural color".
In line with this concept of natural color, I was recalling a conversation I overheard in the car when I was a child. I was, along with (I believe) all 5 of my siblings driving 4 hours in the dawn hours to go skiing in - yes - West Virginia. There was a hill there. And my mother was from New England. We were darn well going to learn to ski. To accompany her, she had brought along Betty Smith, her friend. As we drove, we watched the sunrise cause the landscape in front of us to shift through these vivid hues, and Betty Smith commented, "If you painted the colors of these mountains as we see them, no one would believe they were real (i.e. natural colors)". I was struck by that comment.
Years later, I fell in love with a painter of landscape. Wolf Kahn. I loved and love his work. I particularly love how true they feel. It turns out that his process involved - and may still involve - starting a painting outdoors in the landscape of, say, Vermont. And then taking it to his studio in NYC to finish it. The finished painting is NOT what he was seeing at the time. He is daring in his use of color. And yet they speak to me as true, as natural.
Since then, I have asked myself, what color is NOT in nature? And, even in mid winter, when there is minimal color outdoors, my geranium is really popping.
So here is my iron, looking overly large for some reason. I'm using it to flatten the kajillion squares of color that are needed for this project. I had Rhonda helping me yesterday for 3 hours and all we did was cut and tear the silk to make the small pieces, and then iron them afterwards - and still we were not done. Making them is not interesting in itself, but the squares - no matter that they are contiguous on the dyed cloth, are each quite subtly unique in color. When they are juxtaposed, they seem to move and play off each other in a way that they would not if they weren't separated out. That's what I'm going for. It's a bit frustrating that photography does not capture this as well as I'd like (in the photos I've shot so far). However, that is true of any art I've seen in photo and then real life.
As for my thought of the day (another quote from David Hockney), this one goes out to my dear artist friend, Paula Mould:
There's a story about a woman who used to work for the Art Institute of Chicago, and then went to Hollywood to work for a movie person. He said to her, "Don't give up going to the museum to look at pictures, because they don't move and they don't talk, and they last longer." My God, they certainly do.
I unashamedly love vibrant color. As you can see in the bottom photo, I would go for the most saturated color I could get. This piece is the beginning of an animal alphabet that goes through the letters as it moves from one childlike intensity of color to the next.
When I moved, in my art, to adding light - where the light of day was shining through the cloth - suddenly I had so much more to work with. Those flat purple pieces on the lower photo take on luminosity, vibrancy, and much more life in the light - see the top photo. I found I had to tone my colors down, not by 1/2 but by - sometimes 1/100th (an estimation) - but it was such a vast difference. The colors that I was seeing when I applied the dye were much, much more vibrant once shown in the light.
Okay, so ready for the "'deep profound" metaphor of the day? How do we realize our potential until we step out into the light? (hmmmmm) (sheesh)
Okay, so the many many dyes could use some organizing. But YAY! Day 3 is color!
As you can see, I use Tinfix dyes that are French, made my Sennelier in Paris. Of course, there are the stories about how the Russians held all these secrets about dye color that were held tightly behind the Iron Curtain - remember that time (or were you not even alive...)? But then the French, once they got ahold of them, have made the most intense colors ever since. Sadly, the demand has decreased in the last 10 years, so the selection is far smaller. Always with dyes, though, I should be able to mix them to get what I want.
For this particular project, I am just going for broad sweeps of color. So, I am dyeing many frames of silk, one after the other:
I'm composing a piece that might suggest landscape, but it also is so large that the viewer will be walking from one end to the other more often that standing to take in the whole image. In my mind it is closer to Asian than European in that respect: the European art has perspective. But that's not true of Asian art. I feel so confirmed by David Hockney:
Renaissance European perspective has a vanishing point, but it does not exist in Japanese and Chinese painting. And a view from sitting still, from a stationery point, is not the way you usually see landscape: you are always moving through it. If you put a vanishing point anywhere it means you've stopped. In a way, you're hardly there.
Here you see my fat soybeans. They are bulbous after a night of soaking. After blending them and squeezing them to produce the soy milk, I then use my deer hair brush to apply the soymilk.
The reason for that particular brush is so I can apply the soymilk evenly - not like a house paintbrush with the uneven ridges on the bristles. The way that the soy is applied affects the way the dyes themselves are absorbed: the dye will follow the "pathway" of the soy.
To explain this: the soy is used as a binder. Since soy is a protein and silk is a protein as well, the soy combines with and actually penetrates the fibers of the silk. When I later brush on the dyes, they follow the soy into the silk itself. The dyes cannot be rubbed off. What I get is a permanent (or as permanent as possible) dye and a depth of color that only this process offers.
(this shows the silk on the stretcher. Pins hold it in place and the elastic pulls it tight.)
(1/2 way through applying the soymilk - below)
While I do the soy, I consider David Hockney's words:
We see with memory, so if I know someone well, I see them differently from the way I might if I'd just met them."
This happens with me and my art. If I've spent a lot of time with it, I gradually lose any sense of objectivity.
But now I'm noticing that, as it gets closer to the day that my assistant comes to help me, all of a sudden, I'm looking at my art through - is it her imagined eyes? I'm not sure, but now I'm really switching it up and understanding my piece in a way that I didn't before. It's like a boost just from the expectation of another person's input.
Here you can see my soybeans sitting in a bowl with water, ready to soak overnight. Next to them are 2 of my deer hair brushes (hand made in Japan). They will be used after I blend the soaked soybeans, squeeze the liquid out through a cotton cloth - and have on hand a bowl of fresh soymilk. This soymilk is an optimal binder when it's at its freshest ( the explanation of this process will be continued).
While I wait, I notice the NYT article by Holland Cotter which opens with:
The idea lingers that art can be separated from politics. But it can't. High, low: illustrative, abstract - is imbedded in specific political histories, and direct links, however obscured, are always there...
Cotter goes on to describe a show. But what it brought to mind for me was another essay that I read last fall that concerned a huge Chinese exhibition that was all arranged to be sent from Taiwan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC during the 1990's. It had been arranged by the most reknowned scholar on Chinese art, Wen C. Fong, who was working/teaching at Princeton University at the time. When word got out to the people in Taiwan - a population known for NOT demonstrating against their government - that historic Chinese art was going abroad, there was such a show of public upset that there was some question of whether the show would even be held. The solution was to retain several of the key paintings; this calmed the public enough to allow the show to go on - and for the art to be moved and shown.
What struck me was that the people - not the curators or the government officials - cared enough about their country's art treasures to stage a large enough resistance to affect this huge event. I love what that says about people valuing art.
Can you see that drip on the window? Rain drops. Some southern temperature is reaching up north here to New Hampshire.
As a child, I grew up in Virginia. I loved the South. Every summer, my mother (from Boston) would take the family up North. When I spoke to an adult, I had to learn to drop the "Yes, Ma'am" and "Yes, Sir", mandatory in the South and considered almost rude in the North, and ... come the end of summer, be sure to plug those manners back in again when I headed back down South.
"Going south" for me was going home. Rain, not snow was what happened often at home in winter. But I always wanted snow.
Now, I'm getting a little Virginia rain in the middle of a northern winter.
In my art, a LOT of time is spent in the set-up: at least 2 days prepping the cloth, several more dyeing for exactitude of color, then many hours of sewing for construction of the piece before it is hung. It can feel slow and tedious. It's southern in it's slowness. The tedious is my attitude. How to find a way to accept this part; how to just say the "Yes Ma'am"?
Rain, even up north ....
I wake up in the morning and look out at the skim of light in the distance - I feel supported by the darkness, the solid bed on the solid earth, and recognize that anchor line of the horizon. I can't see anything but the first rays of light, but I have my bearings.
It's later in the day now. I'm creating a sense of light and dark with my art- some loose metaphorical reference to land and light. I take a photo and the camera inadequately captures the delicate colors, missing the nuance. It also misses many of the threads that hold up - support - the many pieces of silk. They float above the curved space.
Underneath is emptiness. Emptiness as support.
What's sensuality without a warm heart?
May your 2017 be filled with all your heart's desires: peace, fullfilment, love, wildly fun times, unexpected joy, total irreverence, and ... oh, did I mention chocolate?
Look at this snow. Look how it drapes and smooths and sculpts the shapes that can carry it's load. It's deliciously sensual. It's deliciously inspirational.
And the timing? Right when it's the moment to consider the resolution for 2017. I think the message is VERY CLEAR:
2017: all about sensuality. Be sensual. All the time. Inside and out.
lake at noon
late afternoon lake
What color is white anyway? Quintessentially white snow teases me endlessly.
The forecast is for loads of this white stuff.
I kind of live "up there". Not "up there" for local New Hampshire folk who get away 2 hours' drive north of here. But this place is boonies enough for me. And because I'm here in winter often on my own, Randy - the very kind man that plows my road - has been on my case to get a generator so he doesn't need to worry when the electricity goes out, which does happen in bad storms. In winter, that means a cold, dark house. Not the same as the cozy cave I love to inhabit. So, finally, last year I had a generator installed. That installation was followed by the warmest winter on record.
So, now, it's almost 2017 and ... the white stuff is coming down. It's then supposed to really blow strong gusty winds. Will my generator get to show it's stuff to me in the next while??? (no white lies allowed).
What is quiet without a little hustle/bustle/noise and ridiculousness as interruption?
What is all that whiteness outside without the black pup, white-ish pup and smiling Hunter? Not to mention that art - being knocked about midst it all.
Yay for contrast!
(and for the Christmas tree)
As an artist, I sometimes encounter these delicious flashes, an "a-ha!" revelation. For example, I remember the specific time when I was doing a drawing of a chair, and I realized that if I filled in the background surrounding it, charcoaled in all that space - what's left is the chair, defined by its background. Wow. I fill in the space and I get the thing? It seems so simple, but the repercussions - where I focused was no longer so obvious. One needed the other.
Here I am now in this out-of-the way place with my lake and my dog (sometimes dogs): it's the background. It's quiet, it's a haven. It's the space.
It all is part of what defines my art.
On the lake side, there is the sweet mink dropping by. Don't you love the delicacy?
On the other side, evidence of... me and the 2 pooches. Big difference. But then, these 2 little beings bring me a lot of love and joy.
I take the invitation from the mink - let me be wild and untouched; and the other from the dogs - let's play! Who's looking at the mess we make?
In Instagram, you can choose a filter for the way you want to see your photo. In New England, I'm in some larger "Instagram" - and today it's the moon filter. I love that I get to watch the world change, that I'm not making the choice. It must be one reason I love New England: the outside colors shift from an extremely vibrant fall with leaves of bright orange and red to this coating of no color. How can I not be seduced? It's magical.
The camera didn't completely capture the colors of the rings around the moon - they were much more orange. Captivating.
My attention is constantly on nature: the weather, the moon, now the snow. And today, yes, it's snowing. One snow flake after another. The innocence of it all.
And then, the reactive response, all the kaffuffle comes from me: let me improve on what's out there. Let me make a path, a road, a highway through the snow, for Pete's sake.
But wait... about that snowflake! Yes. Okay. Let go, re-focus. That's what draws me in - the snow itself.
Hmmmmmm. Can my art capture that innocence? One tiny flake and then the next? Can I feel into that sense of peace? And underneath, can I sense the ground, just the earth? Can I understand that this ground can take shape as mountains, just mountains, all covered in the whiteness of snow?
Can my art capture, become imbued with the quiet essence of it all?
The temperature went below zero last night. In this kind of weather (girl from the south speaking), I feel like I'm accomplishing something getting the wood in and the snow clear - just staying warm. Even my art looks like: maybe it's better to not be on the ice today... let's just peer out at it...
My dear pup even was lifting his paws from the cold - ouch! "How about I just wear my Christmas bow and dream of running," says Rumi.
It snowed yesterday - notice the blurry outdoors light.
A lot of the snow blew off the dock, but enough remained today to capture the footprints of my local mink. I loved that he climbed the ladder (!) and then plunked back into the lake, which has yet to freeze over.
I realized, in re-reading my last post, that "you" may not be like me. You may not have walls hung with art. And maybe you don't notice the outdoors - the dawn and sunset. And even if you do, you might be too busy to pay attention, to take it all in. Life for many these days is very fast and very full. How about a reprieve?
By contrast, the art I make takes a lot of time to make - "glacial speed" by contrast to most art forms and certainly to anything done on the internet. And even when I'm putting it together, right up until it's hung, the colors are muted. Will all the time and effort be worth it? Will the colors sing? And will those colors make the heart sing? Slowly I build the piece, stitch by stitch. . .
It's the beginning of the day. No firm thoughts. No to-do list. Your mind is at it's most formless. And what you see: it's not a shape. Not defined. It's color. Easy. Soothing. You can remain in the child place. No need to know. Your world is simple.
Now you are awake. The light has shifted. To your delight the colors have intensified:
You love the art you own. Each piece you picked out and hung on the wall and now... it's part of the wall. It looks as good as the day you hung it there. You love that it looks always like it did when you fell in love with it.
And you also love the outdoors. You love sunrise when you are up at that hour: the soft introduction of the light, how the landscape appears and shifts from silhouette to muted color, then vibrant day. Sunsets: are any two the same?
And now you see this: it's art and it's sunset/sunrise.
It's art that shifts with the light.
It is always the same - silk pieces floating in the light - and it's always different: in the cool light of the morning through the saturation of afternoon, into the incandescent night.
The cloth pieces dangle~
They contemplate the mist~
Or dance with the waves.
Well, thinking of ocean waves, but these will do.
Tomorrow, maybe they'll let go back to contemplation.
each square of silk is about 2.5 x 2. 5 inches, floating:
February turned out far differently than I had expected. Health issues came up and took my attention and energy, but the journey was revealing as dis - eases can sometimes be. This one concerned energy that was held. Thank goodness for eastern medicine and thank goodness for intuitive friends and thank goodness for all the sweetness I found. And thank goodness for how much fear and internal clutter it cleared up.
Now that I am no longer so sidetracked, I can notice the amazing ways the water on the ice is playing with perception.
And, inside, I play, too. Is it about color? Is is ONLY about color. It's on the way to Nika's and Scott's once I've finished. The photo was taken at night, so the colors are warmer than they appear in the day. But the piece will be indoors and therefore, will be seen in this way.
(5 feet wide)
One of the joys and delights of living in New England is its range of color, thanks to the weather. At this time of year, the brilliance of the leaves has faded and it's only a matter of time before white coats the world. For this very reason, the forecast rises in importance.
This morning the very innocent "cloudy" was the prediction for the day. In fact, out the window, it looks, well, cloudy ~
but just witness the truth~
Best return indoors, where the white specks are more innocent.
It's early November, late in the afternoon. By late, I mean four o'clock for the first photo. Five by the last. The darkness wraps around the cozy house at night. No street lamps. Quiet. Even in the subdued light by the fire, it's full of ~
This is my first post since my trip overseas and it's taken this long to get a sense of what I would blog about: I hadn't expected that I would be so affected by getting away from this country. I was away from the internet, away from time pressure, away from the need to "be a better person". So sweet! I therefore am completely re-orienting this blog. What to offer? I have no answer at all. None. So, it'll be just that. The darn space where it's all just unfolding. Willy nilly. On board for who-knows-what.
Surely the pup, Otis, knows one answer. The outdoors, the color, the trees and water - all there, part of this expanse of quiet. Yeah, yeah, yeah...
I went to a conference on return. It was wonderful. All about art and business. Really extraordinary. I came back all fired up, ready to produce. But then I was full of this new mind-set (lack of mind-set???) after being abroad. And I could not re-enter the pressure part. I was stopped.
Okay, so the fun is back. I'm onto something I love again. It's just starting, but, hey, check out the cows while I progress:
Okay, so the search continues. There will be an upcoming 3 week hiatus as I head overseas for more information. Clearly, there is always a need for more ideas in the search to become a better person, right?
Meantime, I leave my dear Portuguese pup, Rumi, here to be his deep and profound self. Here you can see him lying:
I leave Rumi in the search for more:
underlying understanding. (back and front of same pillow)
Please check in again in a few weeks to find out what is discovered~
(pillow at: (http://etsy.com/shop/salleyknightstudio)
How to become a better person? The search goes on.
If I notice what makes me feel better that might help the next person become better, perhaps?
This morning I put 3 shades of yellow on this large piece of silk and felt uplifted, transformed. Was it the color?
Was it a personal experience or does anyone looking at color feel uplifted?
If it makes a person feel good once, will it do it again, and again? If so, then does "a leaf" (a simple idea) become "b leaf" (established idea). Surely that is so.
As in my ongoing pillows with backs to complement fronts - here is just that saying, enscribed in fabric. May the good feelings persist:
Isn’t this what many persons want to know?
When my son was in his early teens, I would concoct this very healthy drink, full of Spirulina and lemon juice and other supremely healthy ingredients. Again and again, I would offer it to his friends, advising, “Don’t you want some? This will make you into a better person.” I had no takers. Not everyone wants to become a better person in such a practical way.
Much better, how about the impractical route. How about something ridiculous.
Say a pillow. A pillow?
Back story: after writing way too many papers about topics that matter very much to MFA art program people, by first artistic response was this:
(front of small pillow)
I created this blog to share with you my life as an artist. And what I am realizing is that I create art slowly.
As I create my art, I look out on Squam Lake. It in itself is worth sharing. Day by day, it changes. Also slowly. I believe that is part of it's balm. It's beauty.
For years I have been creating art. But always, I wonder how to create my art.
One of my first teachers was Japanese and I feel his influence in the pieces I am now painting. In Japanese ink painting, there is no correcting, it's all in the moment: one endeavors to paint a circle. If the result is round and flowing and shows brush marks at the end, that is success. But real success is not the perfect circle; it's the circle with just that certain imperfection that notches it into "art".
That is what I am seeking in these pieces that I am making for this children's calendar. I have this translucent fabric that I prepare in the traditional Japanese method (with soy milk resist). The color I put on the silk stays. The result is not perfection. The search is always for the imperfect, for art.
So much depends on the "weather of the mind". But even then, bad weather can produce interesting results...
Years ago, an article on DeKooning asked him about his life in art. He described it thus: like a fisherman, every day the artist goes out to catch the big fish. And, regardless of what happens, he goes out again the next day in search of that big fish.
Color is so primal. So simple. So profound.
A baby opens his or her eyes and sees color. Color - all different, unidentified color.
Later, color becomes attached to things. Or does it?
In Cezanne's haystacks and cathedrals, color shifts and shifts.
The child's eye sees color shifting and then, later, the subject that is named. Here it is Otis, one pup. Then Otis and Rumi, two pups. Simple.
Is anything just black and white? Rumi wonders the same thing.
From what I am told, dogs do not see color. At night, Rumi can see his ball better than on a sunny day since the movement of that green is more vivid when the snow is less white.
But Rumi himself really stands out against snow, even when it's close to dark. His outline stands out. But the contrast is so strong that his body becomes almost solid black, with two shiny eyes peeking out. He's showing off his colors: he just got cleaned and the groomer is obviously a Patriots fan. Nice coordination with his red collar. But all that really matters is the green ball.
To him that ball is grey and most vivid when in motion.
The black pup, the (mostly white) snow and then, those incidental items with color. Thank goodness.
I'm green at this.
When I started this blog, I thought I'd be showing my art. All the time. Yesterday I showed a color sample on the way to the piece I mentioned at the start. That first color chart wasn't right.
I thought about how things start. How babies are born. First the mess. Or what is called the mess. But I love my color chart with it's first-ness. It's innocence. I like the feeling of the touch, the paint, the hand.
Not being "broken in" for horses is called green. The beginning of spring is green. This cloth in the photo - translucent green. Not a color chart, but also, not "finished", or made into something, or defined further. Just green.
Years ago one of my art teachers had the class paint an angry dog. What he wanted to see was ANGRY. People would register that it was a dog with minimal indications. A lot of the paintings showed red and black. Aggressive colors.
When we go to buy a Valentine, would we expect anything other than red? The heart shape demands that warm, "loving" color.
When I think of buying a new car, do I want a red one? Don't they say it appears to move faster? Isn't it more dangerous?
I don't think of the inside of my body as any color other than red. Isn't that the color I see when the skin is torn in any way? Inside me: red. Vulnerable.
In this cold winter with its muted greys and snow-covered greens, who doesn't yearn for red? Who doesn't love warm clothes, a warm fire? Who doesn't want that overflowing, emotional red?
What about softer colors? The greens and greys of Japanese gardens? The earth tones of stone?
If you are one of those people who love to be outside in the early morning before sunrise, you can watch the gorgeous transition from the darkness to soft greys as the gradual transition from dark to light first introduces hints of color: the hint of green in the grass, the hint of brown in the tree bark.
The softness of the shadows as color comes in, just a suggestion, so seductive.
Right now it's only a dream~
It's been an unusually white winter but gloriously so. The snow is powdery, therefore it seems even whiter than ever. It brought to mind an experience I had years ago: a revelation about color which I will frame in a story:
I had traveled to Finland for a bicycle trip. I was in my teens and didn't know much about northernmost part of that country; I realized after the fact that there was a reason for this - there is very little there. It's white all winter and scrubby tundra in the summer - one highway that turns to dirt road.
However, against this very neutral or blank white backdrop, one would chance upon a small village occupied by native Laplanders who all stood out because of their clothing. They favored red, but other colors were woven into the designs for even more colorful effect. Add to that the light - the slant of the sun in the very northern parts of the world, and the sight was magical - the colors were brilliant.
I could not resist. I bought a handcrafted Lap coat and brought it back to Virginia. To my great disappointment, the same coat, the same colors just did not "glow" in the southern US in the summer. The colors looked dull, flat. I did not have the tundra or snow. And I didn't have the slanted light of the sun that brings out that startling color.
But here - it's winter in New England. The sun is low. Snow is everywhere. You can see how the colors in one of my color charts play against that. You can see how appealing color can be when there is white all around.
More snow came last night. Not a lot more, but now it is blowing and the white ground is blowing up into the air, blurring ground and sky. The blur is beautiful.
White is as essential as color to my work. Instead of white as background, white is the object, the defined elements: the animal or word or botanicals. By making white the concrete elements, color dominates just by occupying more space. Delightfully, color can be free, unattached, and itself: just color.