Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oh, the sadness of it all...

I am still sketching.  This is a given.  And my easel is still set up in the bay, waiting patiently, surrounded by my brushes and paints and other goodies.  But the truth is that the space around the easel has become a bit crowded... with one of my looms, and my spinning wheel, and the cabinet holding my spinning and weaving tools.  And sometimes a rack holding freshly washed fleece to dry. 

It's sad, really.  And it makes me sad.  It seems I'm always washing a fleece, drying it on a rack, combing it, making cute little nests out of it, and spinning, and planning what I am going to do with the yarn I spin.  I love doing these things, and that's what makes me sad: I also love to paint.    I can feel my hands itch to hold a brush, to make a mark on paper or wood or canvas, to smear the color about making new colors and creating shapes that evoke images...

There's just not enough room.  And truth told: I'm afraid if I paint, I'll get paint on my yarn! Or horrors-- on my spinning wheel. 

So this summer, I'm going to do a little rearranging.  A chair I don't need is already gone.  I'm looking for a shorter sofa.   An upstairs room is going to be fitted with shelves to hold fleece in progress, skeins to be marketed, and yarn wanting to be woven on one wall, and on another wall, shelves for canvases and wood panels and paper still waiting for my brush.  The rug loom will be set up there once I get it refurbished.  Um, if and when.

I am going to start displaying art again in random places (not galleries, and definitely not art guilds or associations), just to have somewhere else besides my own walls (and back of the sofa and under beds) to keep it.  I am going to sell my pastels, because I realized I really do not want the hassle of framing pastel paintings (though I love smearing the stuff around on paper: it makes very nice paintings).  

And then it will be safe to paint again.

In the meantime, check out my blog to see the fun I am having spinning.  Who knew it would be so much fun, with so much to explore and learn, and with so many nice people to hang around with? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm still around

I got distracted.  First a loom, then a spindle, then a spinning wheel. Then I decided that I needed to resurrect my skills in natural dyeing.   If I could get sheep, I would (no land), but instead I'm just going to get their fleeces.  And spin and dye and weave.  I started a blog about my misadventures with fibres.  No worry: I'll get back to painting, but right now I am painting with wool and other fibres. Have a look:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art: what being an artist "means"

I like Andrya Dorfman's animation video's and Tanya Davis' song poems.  This one especially. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Hand to Hand Project:

Last winter, I heard of a project called Hand to Hand, a daily record of what happened in Iraq day-by-day as seen through the eyes of artists, all using gloves or other representations of hands in their interpretations.  Begun by Cecilia Kane at the start of the Iraq war in 2003, it expanded to include nearly two hundred other artists, each taking a week or two.  The artists are from all over the world, including Iraqi citizens and American soldiers who've served (and in some cases, are serving) in Iraq.

I immediately wrote Cecilia and asked if she had room for me.  She did, and assigned me the week of July 12.  That week, I searched a score of sources, printing out dozens of stories.  At the end, I sorted through the stories, looking for as broad a representation of what went on that week as possible. As I read the stories, I began to recognize the ways in which all of them were intertwined.  It was slow winnowing down to one per day. Though there was one day, to my amazement, when I could find no stories at all-- to be followed the very next day by stories about bombings that killed dozens and injured dozens more.  People who were going to work, looking for jobs, buying food, people who left families behind.

Doing this project took me far deeper emotionally than I expected.  Each story made me think profoundly about not only the direct implications of that event on people's lives, but also how each of the stories linked up to others to weave a web of cause and effect, position and consequences, abstract numbers and real lives.  Working on each piece, simple as they of necessity are, moved me deeply.  My mind is now populated with people I do not know, but who have become part of me.   I ended up spending a great deal of time pondering how best to express each story, and the human story buried in it.

Before I began my week, I had done some background reading to refresh my memory of the political and cultural history of Iraq. I went to college (decades ago) with many middle easterners, and got to know many of them as friends.  My university had a strong middle east program, and a course on middle east history that I audited opened my eyes to the fact that Americans have no sense of Iraq's true history, or of the factors that created the land it is today.  If they did, they would understand why Europeans have been so reluctant to become involved. It was this very sort of involvement on their part for centuries that created the rupture of the middle east. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate.  I learned so much, both from the reading, and from the process of creating art from it.  When I saw the photos of the exhibit, I was deeply moved.  It is stunning to see all those hands, and all the ways in which artists incorporated the hand motif into their expressions of their stories.  I am honored to be part of it. 

Here are the pieces I created for the project (click on the images to view a larger version. Use your browser back button to return to this post):

My pieces are on their way to be included in the current installation in Athens, Georgia, at the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art, where Hand to Hand is the featured installation along with other installations addressing related themes.  The exhibit at ATHICA opens August 21st and runs through September 26th.

 The Hand to Hand website has some striking photos of the exhibit, including links to samples of work from each year-- over seven years in all.  The cumulative effect of the hundreds of hands and nearly 200 artists' visions is stunning. Cecilia is working to secure a final resting place for the installation.  I hope she is successful. 

Ironically, the final installation will be at the gallery I am most involved in, the Chaffee Art Center, in Rutland, Vermont, something I did not know when I signed on.  It opens there on October 8th and will run to November 20th.  If you are nearby, please come to the reception! 

* * * * * 

A note about method: I used what are known as "museum gloves", light-weight cotton gloves worn to protect art works from the oils of human skin.  They allowed me the flexibility to shape the gloves as needed.   I chose to mount the gloves on 7 inch by 10 inch pieces of matboard, in a collage incorporating other materials and paint, ink, and pencil.  On some gloves, I used an acrylic polymer hardener to make it possible to create a three-dimensional aspect.  Others were glued flat because that seemed to fit the day's story better. I added the daily "headlines", word for word,  by printing them on a laser printer and lifting the print using translucent acrylic gel, then using the same gel to mount them to the matboard.  I used the same method to incorporate snippets of photographs in some of the pieces.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Looking back at a very young self

Doctor's orders: stay off feet as much as possible while broken foot heals.  So I got out some boxes of old papers and photos I've been meaning to go through for ages.  Kind of amazed to find my old report cards from elementary school.  They tell an interesting story.  Here are a few from first and second grade: 

First grade, second half: 

Second grade, first half:

This was the situation: We lived in a small town in southern Oregon.  My brothers and friends and I were outside all the time from the time school let out until supper and then often until bath and bedtime.  Weekends my family spent on my grandparents farm on a dead end road in the hills at the edge of the valley with our extended family (we were related to most of the people on last segment of the road).  Cousins ran loose in the fields and woods in between meals and other interesting family events.  I got PLENTY of fresh air and exercise.  And with that many people around, plenty of socializing.

I was excited about school. I already knew how to read and make letters and do simple arithmetic.  I was bored (believe me, Dick and Jane was even dumber and more boring than you've been told).   I was entranced by learning, and lusted for the interesting books for older kids I found in the classroom.  I seized every chance I could to read them (and get some quiet time, which was hard for me to come by).  

I think a lot of teachers don't actually think about what is going on, and don't bother to ask the questions that would illuminate a child's experience.  There were rules, and rules must be followed.  Especially in the America of 1950.  (Think about that next time you wonder why the 60s happened.) 

At least my first grade teacher recognized my leanings toward creativity.  But she is also the one who told my mother she should not have taught me my letters, because they no longer used that method to teach reading.  My ploy was to ignore what the teacher was doing and just read ahead on my own, and do arithmetic the way my dad taught me.  Hence the "stubbornness", which has stood me in good stead all my life. 

Now the last half of second grade:

Learning to fit in, though there was still criticism (one of them was that I often didn't color inside the lines of the mimeographed "art" projects, or use the "right" colors!).  By third grade, I asked my parents how old I had to be to leave school.  I was serious.  I was bored stiff.  I wanted out. 

In fourth grade, my parents moved to a different town, and I started a new school, with an enriched program for kids like me, including real instruction in art and science. I was off and running.  I felt challenged and stimulated, and began loving school again. 

And eventually became both the scientist and the artist that child was trying to be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


acrylic on cradled birch panels
each 6 x 6 inches

My art supplier had some acrylic inks on sale that I'd been wanting to give a try.  So I ordered a few bottles. Ok, I ordered 12 of them.  I played with them for a while on paper, and then decided to give an idea I had for a set on cradled wood panels a go, combining the inks with fluid acrylics.  Some things didn't work out as planned (do they ever?), and some things I ended up having to redo or rethink.  But overall I am pleased with this fun set of little paintings.  I have them placed in a gift shop.  Think I'll do more.  I had fun with these.