Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I was worried that the photo wouldn't show the colors but this may be even better than the real thing. The green algae is not exaggerated. That's really what the pond looked like- the whole pond. Matt and Olivia got into a discussion of biofuels and toxic cleanup. I just took pictures.

AUCLATDOTW : 11 : Snapper

Look who was also hiking the trail at Killens Pond State Park. Isn't he sweet? Olivia was not deceived by his petite stature, he will grow up and be able to chomp off your arm, she said. I think that's an exaggeration.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Studio Notes

How much of art making is based on small, accumulative activities?

Maybe all of it. It’s so pleasurable to surrender to that activity and to shelve all doubts regarding the validity of that activity. Today I began to sew pieces of canvas together for another painting surface. I have several works in progress and have been adding more to them daily. Yesterday I pulled out one of the last works I began in Bowling Green. This was traumatic on several levels. Our economic disaster means I left by beloved BG studio under unpleasant circumstances. So the old work carries with it a sense of shame and failure. But I was also concerned with my desire to work on it. The canvas is 84” square- well outside of the size boundary I have set and am trying to crack.

I love the revelations and surprising results my working process fosters. I hate the uncertainty that not having a clear path generates. Two sides of the same coin. (I’m very fond of analogy…) Yesterday I decided to allow myself to work on the large canvas. On a good day I can really embrace that uncertainty and trust myself to be on a good path. This isn’t really that much of a stretch because even bad paths result in good work eventually. There may also be evidence that bad paths more quickly result in good work-ha. Since I grappled with the big existential questions yesterday (I love exaggeration!!!) today I was free to just work.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

AUCLATDOTW : 8 : Chopping Grapes

Olivia took this photo of the grapes she chopped for my favorite food these days, chicken curry salad. It would be even better if I made some pita to go with it but I never quite get that far. I did manage to get Matt to buy the yeast. I've been thinking a lot about art lately. I had sort of a revelation about my work. Whatever is strong about it is not usually readily apparent. Instead it grows (like fungus maybe-ha) on one in much the same way that people come to appreciate me personally. People do not see me and assume that I am a serious and interesting artist. Luckily I was inspired by Alice Neel's work in college so I have a role model for matronly looking people who are actually not. It does really affect my work since so much is decided based on impulse (how the work looks not how I look). I'd like to understand more about how it all works so I am tossing that thought about in my mind. I'm also listening to Steven King's "On Writing" in the car. He talks a bit about the creative process. Or maybe he just encountered some of the same problems that all artists encounter.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

AUCLATDOTW : 7 : A Beautiful Day

Today was the most beautiful day. I spent quite a lot of it in a chair soaking up the sunshine. I did not, however, take pictures of the beautiful day. For once I just sat back and enjoyed it. This photo is from our Lums Pond hike last weekend. I saw so many magnificent varieties of fungus. They have been inspiring my canvas structures back in the studio. I’ve been calling them structures because they are drawn from walls, roof, fungus, but they are actually pretty flat. Earlier this week I sewed breast shaped “fungus” onto a tree form. I’m torn between letting it be loose and pasting it all down with matte medium. I’ll post a photo later this week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

September in the Studio

I've been making new work in the studio, working smaller and on canvas. These are both 24"x24". (miniature for me.) I'm putting the text here because these two really shouldn't be very close to each other. I photographed these outside today. I was a beautiful day but too sunny for photographing art. It does give you a good view of how I've manipulated the canvas. I think the top image is a little washed out but you can really see the weave.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

AUCLATDOTW : 4 : What is that?

If anyone knows that that bug is I'd love to know. That's what I love about hiking- you just never know when you'll see something new. We hiked 7 miles around Lums Pond in Delaware yesterday. The most we'd done before was 4- maybe. All summer the plan had been to build up our stamina for the big hike. But instead of that sensible plan we took a month off. During our last attempted hike the mosquitos chased us back to the car. So we sat around like lumps for a month and then idiotically decided to get back into it by walking almost twice as far as we ever had. We made it. Barely. But even when we'd only gone three miles and were already exhausted I never really considered turning around. Mentally three familiar miles seems longer than four unfamiliar ones. I am absolutely driven on by the possibility of seeing something new, unexpected or unusual. I love the treasure hunt aspect of hiking.

Friday, September 12, 2008

AUCLATDOTW : 3: Connections

I've been working on an artist statement and proposal all day today. That means that I've cleaned the house, visited the neighbor, made phone calls, and gotten some knitting done. Well... I always need a little procrastination when writing. In cooking they call that stewing. Anyway I thought I'd share my first paragraph with this image because knitting also creates connections to a shared human history.

The stories I loved as a child were stories of extreme circumstances and heroic fortitude. Girls, like myself, were thrust into painful, solitary adventures where they persevered by relying upon their own abilities. The only common denominator was their determination. These girls did not give up. They knit shirts from stinging nettles, shoveled sidewalks in paper dresses, and withstood a myriad of heartless abuses. The memory of these stories mingled with all that I have experienced as I made these paintings. I feel rootless but these stories connect me to a history not dependent upon location or time. They connect me to myself and to my own fascination, even as a child, with the extreme hardships in life. They remind me that my impulse to understand these experiences existed before I was fully socialized. Before I was capable of moderating myself. Most importantly, they allow for a mental space where moderation is unnecessary, even unwanted.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

AUCLATDOTW : 2 : Tattoos

When Olivia was little she got a glitter tattoo set from her uncle. She was entranced, of course, (these were the “fashion girl” days) and immediately ripped into it. I didn’t have time to help her so I took it away and put it on a high shelf. Not high enough as it turns out. In her attempt to retrieve it she pulled it down dumping glitter onto her upturned face, especially her eyes. The whites of her eyes were completely covered with glitter! It was an incredible sight.

Photo detail: title: Octopus, media: Pen on Leg.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I really want the word "macrocosm" to mean the world up close- as in looked at through a macro lens. But it doesn't. Dictionary.com and I are at an impasse. Since I can't have what I want and I can't find another equally cool word that does refer to "an up close look at the details of the world" I have no title for this blog. But in the spirit of our times I'll use the title "AUCLATDOTW." Those of you who think that this is ridiculous should know that my husband told the dog to “GLD” instead of "go lay down." "Go lay down" is a command I taught Sam years ago that basically means leave me alone. (As opposed to "Kennel" which means he should go lay down in his cage.) Sam doesn't actually follow commands any more. We seem to have lost that ground when he stopped being able to sit. The command "sit", it would seem, was the cornerstone of our control over Sam. But we are just happy our 13 year old, 3-foot tall black lab mix is still with us. Anyway the command “lay there and ignore me” still works so what more can we ask for?

Oh right. And this is my introduction to the macro photo series now known as “AUCLATDOTW.”

photo details: painting in progress from today's studio session.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Letter S & Number 6

The big studio issues this week are structure and scale. Both start with “s.” Sesame Street would love this. Maybe today’s blog can be brought to you by the number 6- that being the number of hours I spent trying to figure out what I’m doing. I’m in a “use what you have” phase. As a result when I ran out of paper I decided to start working on these smaller canvases. But I’m not completely out of paper, just mostly out. Today I was fighting a desperate desire to return to the known and the large. These small canvases are so difficult for me to deal with. I denied myself the paper because somewhere there must be a lesson to learn about working on a small scale. (not to mention scale relationships in general)

I am very excited about building canvas structures, although, that wasn’t on the schedule for today. The “schedule” is really whatever I feel like but since I’m nearly out of matt medium (a word which here means glue) I focused on painting today. The woven canvas, pictured below, took up a lot of my time today. I did not bring my camera so you can’t see what it looks like with a cactus painted on it. My working process is heavily intuitive. I am suspicious of intention, suspicious of the conscious decisions I make. I find beauty is heavily influenced by familiarity; ugliness, unfamiliarity. How decisions are made in my work is critically important to me. This is an unresolved issue that motivates a lot of what I do in the studio. I am not interested in imitating or creating illusion in the classical sense. I am interested in materials and how they interact with each other to create certain results. Because of this I brush, pour, stamp, staple and continually search for ways to interact with the surface of my work. And this means that no one may ever see that cactus!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I fell off the functionality band wagon today. I think it was staying up to watch Palin speak last night that did me in. Too many 6am mornings and horrifying politics. Or it might have been trying to frame work that needs to be shipped and not being able to find all of my supplies.

In the studio pre-Palin, I did get some structural beginnings underway. Everything was wet when I left so I can't wait until tomorrow to get in there and see what I have to work with. If you need a pick-me-up check out this artist. Val Britton

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oh yeah. It’s school time. That means I should wax nostalgic and write about the joys of motherhood, fall and school but we got up at 6am. All summer 6am was the time you woke up to use the bathroom and then go back to sleep. It was not the time we actually got up.

Back to school also means back to the studio! Time to go crazy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

8-Hour Projects, Allegheny College

Anytime I make a work using a grid the experience is meditative. Usually I am focused but relaxed. The grid creates security because decisions are broken down into small fragments. The complex, big picture is irrelevant. All that matters is one small line in one small square. It’s my version of a sand painting. I have a grid drawing of fireworks in my studio that I’ve been working on for over a year. The flip side, I guess, is that I can drag it out forever. This weekend I crammed all that meditative calmness into 8 hours. An endurance test. I loved it. My earliest painting was very time sensitive. I had a model, a canvas and maybe three hours. I haven’t had a model in my studio in over 5 years. The only thing I really miss is that sense of urgency.

Arriving at the gallery at 9am I started by drawing my grid on the wall. At 10am I started working on my first square. My plan was to spend roughly 15 min on each square. The first one took over an hour. I immediately let go of the idea that I would finish the entire piece. (The photo was divided into 20 squares!) No headphones, no music, the background noise of people talking, drilling, sanding ebbed and flowed in my consciousness. Step back from the wall for a break or to sharpen a pencil and the noise flowed forward into my mind. At the wall, drawing, I didn’t hear much. Towards the end of the day my breaks were closer together and my energy each time I returned to the wall was lower. (I will not share a photo someone took when I was done- but think hit by a truck) By the time I was done (or rather declared myself done because there was no way I could draw another line) I was exhausted. Nothing sounded better than laying on my nice, comfortable bed back at the B&B. But I was reluctant to leave. Leaving would be the last time I saw my work. It will be on the wall only until the end of the show when the walls will be cleaned and repainted. So this really was a ceremonial sand painting, meant to disappear, everything of importance packed into its creation. The long lasting result is not the image but the experience of creating the image. On some level art is always like that. The artist creates a work and then gives it (or sells it) away. I, however, am a collector, a pack rat, a person who clings to the objects themselves as if they might have some redeeming value. So this walking away and never seeing it again, in fact knowing it will be destroyed, was really hard. But also, I think, very important. I can’t wait to do it again.

In Search of Elk

On my way to Meadville, PA I decided to go on a quest. A quest to see the elk that inhabit the forests in the PA Wilds section of Pennsylvania. It was to be a short quest, only two hours. And the timing was not ideal (dusk and dawn are the ideal times.) But that just made me the underdog in my great elk quest. I saw a road dedicated to the viewing of elk, a scenic route of elk. I saw signs warning you not to stop on the road to look at elk, not to trample private property to see your elk and not to hit elk with your car. I saw restaurants, lodges and other establishments with “elk” in their names; private properties with elk images carved into wrought iron gates, and a special place for the elk viewing public to use the rest room. I stopped at the official viewing area where I overheard park rangers talking about how an elk had just been there moments before I arrived and a herd of 20 the day before. This is the closest I came to seeing an elk:

My next quest? How about the Loch Ness Monster?