Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I wonder if I can...

I was working away in the studio yesterday. If you look at the post below you won’t be surprised when I tell you I was sewing. And cutting. And sewing. My poor machine hasn’t seen this much abuse…ever. And the scissors…well…I was careless the last time I cut and pasted so my scissors (and I have at least 3 pair in the studio if you don’t count the ones that actually fell apart but that I haven’t thrown away yet.) each have unique abilities and disabilities. As a result, each cutting chore requires a different pair of scissor. I am seriously considering buying a new pair.

Anyway, while I was working I had the thought “ohhh, I wonder if I can…” and I realized that it’s been a long time since I felt personally challenged in my own work. I’m excited to find out if I can create this form I’m thinking of. It’s a technical challenge but more than that a painting challenge. I don’t just want to make the form, I want to find out if it’s possible to make a good painting out of it.

I didn’t even know I was missing it, but now that it’s occurred to me I realize I can’t live without that sense of excited discovery in my work. Why have I up until now?????

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back in the Studio

I’m back in the studio today. There is nothing like a sick kid and then an open studio to disturb the creative flow. My studio is so clean it looks more like a gallery. It has been such a mess that I hesitate to lose the benefits of actually being able to see my work. On the other hand work must be made. I always care more about making it than what it looks like anyway. Seems like something I shouldn’t tell anyone but once the painting is done and the “looking at it” stage takes over it’s time to move on to the next work.

I’m helping with a teens knitting group at the library. One of the girls has taken to knitting like wild fire. She’s a maniac. That’s what I was like. Deep down inside I just love the tedious, repetitive and sometimes boring process of making things. Sometimes it might seem that it doesn’t matter whether it’s knitting or painting as long as I’m making something. But the truth is that while knitting (and similar crafty activities) use some of the “making stuff” energy it’s never enough. What is it about “art making” that draws me in so completely…repeatedly? Most of the mental activity in my studio process is asking myself questions. Why this and not that? etc. And I guess the biggest why is “Why Art?” It’s not useful (read this with an Arlo Guthrie like pause… if you don’t know what that is then go listen to Alice’s Restaurant or the Motorcycle Song.) or appreciated and yet it remains compelling. I was reading Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant by Lyall Watson. He includes a segment about elephants making art. Apparently they have been known to do this in the wild, not just in the zoo where the trainer hands them a paint brush. Something very interesting to think about. WHY would an animal make art- why in fact does anyone make art? And of course WHY does anyone CONTINUE to make art???? If you think all of this is leading to an answer or revelation, it’s not. Not yet anyway. The great thing about asking yourself questions as an artist is that you can do it while making art. Ha.

Below some of what was going on in the studio before last week’s interruptions.

New Work

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Magical Properties of Fungus

I do not know much about fungus but I am fascinated by it. This fall I’ve noticed an amazing variety. I think I’m drawn to it on two levels. First of all it often seems to appear by magic. After a rain I’ll notice new varieties in the mulch, grass and woods. Secondly each type has such an amazing structure. These are some varieties I photographed on our hike today. We only went a few miles and I wasn’t looking that carefully so I’m sure I missed many others.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Political Vomit

I got home from my open studio in time to watch the second half of a movie with Matt & Olivia. They were watching Robert Redford & Jane Fonda in Electric Horseman. He’s stolen a horse she the reporter… Anyway, Fonda’s character, Hallie, is setting up to interview Redford’s character, Sonny. He goes off on an elegant tirade about what he’s doing and why without knowing that Hallie is already recording him. Then for his “official” recording he delivers an awkward and stilted explanation. I can’t tell you how many times that happens to me. What happens between “free to just talk” and “the official story” that ruins everything?

I’m writing a proposal for a national parks residency that I really want to do but all that comes out is drivel. After several pages of effort I decided to eliminate the words “nature” and “environment” from my writing. That’s the challenge now: write a statement about going out into nature and being influenced by the environment without using either word. I have to admit that removing those words feels like a burden lifted. Maybe it’s all the politics that have me wanting to remove buzz words! I’ve warned Matt that if he uses any of the campaign slogan/buzz words in my presence I’ll vomit all over him. Seems extreme but I do feel like that’s what those words and phrases are doing to me. It’s very upsetting to think how many people are convinced by those simplistic jargons.

Friday, October 10, 2008


This weekend I'll be participating in the Philadelphia Open Studios Tours. The studio's as clean as it gets. I even painted the walls, well, two of them anyway. You can see me at Crane Arts: 1400 N. American St., Philadelphia, PA. I'm in the basement studio B-06

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008


A few years ago I visited the Toledo Art Museum. In the Egyptian section I admired the hieroglyphs. I loved their crispness. They really are so beautiful, carved into stone with such precision. As an artist, everything I like I want to recreate. I stood in that gallery thinking about the simplicity and beauty and wanting that to be a part of something I made. But at the same time I knew that reproducing the symbols would not be satisfying. And then it struck me. It would not be satisfying because to me it wouldn’t mean anything. These images and symbols were carved into stone to convey meaning, not just to look pretty. It was not just the visual image that called to me; it was also that idea of communication. If I was going to reproduce these tablets I would need to satisfy that same desire to convey as well as the pristine simplicity of the imagery. I would need to use the tools for conveying meaning that are available to me now- not what was meaningful to another culture so long ago.

That moment in the gallery shaped the text pieces I’ve made. Like most decisions that actually lead to action, it wasn’t just the revelation in the museum that resulted in the works being created, it was a convergence of desires. Either shortly before or shortly after that day in the museum I met with my friend and fellow artist, Emily de Ara├║jo. Our conversation and looking at her work solidified my desire to make a text piece. I went home that night and wrote the text for “A Real Problem.” I chose the text face very deliberately. In some ways I always feel that Times New Roman is a non-choice, the default. This time I chose to use it because I wanted the clarity, simplicity and familiarity. I realized later that this connected the works to my early learning experiences. Letters were something I struggled with and worked hard to master. They were my early training in perseverance. Learning to read taught me that determination pays off. Maybe that is why I find small actions that lead to big results so satisfying. I drew the gridlines and painted each of the 420 letters in that painting by hand. I made master letters out of paper, 4”x4”, and I’ve used those same letters for every text piece I’ve made. These connections and interactions between history, ideas and materials are critical to my work. I’ll never be a linear thinker, but I am very proud of the way my circular thinking allows for these interactions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Making Things

What motivates the primal desire to make things? Is it left over from days when everything had to be made? Or is it just the satisfaction of observing the growth of the thing you are making? Personally I don’t know the answer. I feel a drive to keep going, to make the next thing. I spend a portion of the time it takes to make things dreaming up what I will make next. It’s frustrating that my mind moves so much faster than my creative abilities. While making one item I usually manage to come up with hundred of plans for what to make next. Eventually I decided the best plan was to let your mind dream but save the actual decision about what’s next for after you’ve finished what’s now. Making and planning what to make do occupy a significant amount of my time.
This year for the first time, I am making every gift I will give this Christmas. Often this urge to make gifts comes upon me too late to be useful. (Sometimes even after Christmas!) But this year I have managed to plan ahead. In January I’ll post a photo of everything- an installation piece! The photo will have to wait until then so as not to spoil any surprises.

In September I posted photos taken in macro lens mode. For October I anticipate less photos and more musings. I’ll try to tackle a new topic everyday. My goal has been to post daily although so far that’s more of a dream than reality. But there’s nothing like a good goal. Feel free to suggest topics and offer comments.