Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gifts of Wabi Sabi

And my friends bring me presents. Often left on my studio door knob, sometimes slid under the door. Friends go to Venice, Italy and bring me back rusted wire and brick. They go to Port Elizabeth, South Africa and bring back a nail rusted by the moisture off the Indian Ocean. They go to London and dig in the dirt and bring back a curved bit of rusty metal--a broken vase? They tape pennies and keys to the train tracks and offer me one of the many treasures smashed there. They go to Artist's Point on the Mount Baker Glacier and bring back part (a very small part, thank you) of a car hood that apparently fell from the sky and rusted into the scree. Add to that broken bits of dresser knob embellishment and various finds from sheds and metal detected expanses. I am a lucky, lucky girl to be blessed with such finds. Thank you, my friends, these treasures will become parts of my art.

This time I really mean it: Finished Gestating

Still Point: Gestating 36"x36"

It was quite the process, and it took some time once Peggy Zehring pointed out to me that I need to turn the orientation, but I love it now. I just had to darken down below the circles and raise the burn a little into the white. But I love how this is working now. As always, I bow to my teacher/mentor and give thanks for having recognized her when I saw her.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Woman, The Snake, and Man: Before, During, and After
each painting is 24" x 48"

This series pulls together many symbols and concepts for me. I chose the size because I wanted the paintings to look like columns. The idea of the snake came when I found this very versatile brass hose at Z Recycling. It reminded me of a snake. I didn't mind that it was flat in places, that it was torn and unraveling in places. That seemed right with the idea of a snake shedding its skin. Experimenting proved that the surface could hold paint, which could prove necessary.

Once I thought of the hose as a snake, a couple of concepts came to me: one is the myth that the snake and woman (Eve) brought knowledge to humankind (what was the man's role in that? he had to go along for it to work, right?); the other is that the kundalini is represented by a snake. The idea of the kundalini made me think of tantric sex and the life force moving up the spine during orgasm. It goes something like that. In the paintings, the female aspect is symbolically represented by the oval shape with the dark at the back and the light on top, the male aspect by the upward pointing triangle with the light at the back and the dark on top. With these two opposites above/below one another, the question became where is the light where they come together (hmm...did I intend that pun)? The answer for me was a continuous push/pull between dark and light. It took a lot of time and paint, putting it on, leaving just the right amount, painting over, push/pull, push/pull until it was complete.

This series was quite the challenge for me and sat unfinished for months. Once I started figuring them out, though, they happened fast...well...relatively fast for me. These paintings were great teachers for me. They move me closer toward the marriage of the divine feminine and masculine, a spiritual achievement I aspire to for cronedom. I loved working on them, the whole process. I think that they have to always hang together.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finally. This is it. Re-working finished

Still Point: Gestating 36"x36"

I think I have finally resolved all of the places in this painting that were nagging at me: "not quite right." I've sat in my rocking chair countless moments, pouring over the painting inch by inch. Right now, it makes me smile. Of course, there is always more time to sit and rock and study, but I think that I'm taking it to Ladyfest this week to get it to an audience--if there is enough room on the gallery walls. 

So in this painting, "Gestating," is the idea that circles represent the female and squares, the male. This is my consciousness moving toward acceptance of the divine feminine and masculine, toward the idea that we gestate both dimensions within ourselves, that we accept that, as we move toward the integration and "the crowning of age" as Marion Woodman calls the spiral toward becoming a crone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Still Reworking--Still Point:Gestating

So here it is again, after gold-gessoing out the bottom right and upper left and putting in the colors of oil slicks and peacock feathers. Still not finished, though. But my balance problem of leaning to the right is mostly resolved. I hear that the lower left quadrant is not quite working, and frankly, it was troubling me, so I'm relieved that's confirmed. I think I need red there. And I have yet to be successful in completing the top of the gold that runs over the two circles in the middle space. I've painted and repainted that area. The painting is still trying to tell me what goes there. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reworked Version Still Point: Gestating

I'm still reworking this painting but feel pretty close to finished. I resolved the split personality that happened when I added green after I'd been working the copper/violet. I think I need to come in with a little more gold in the space above the three circles. But after the red was added, I could feel myself smiling--a smile that started in my toes. That's often how I know a painting is finished or very nearly so. 

Now I just need to learn how to use my new/first digital camera along with the cropping tool. There's always some new technology nipping at my heals. It provides such a challenge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Abstract Composition Upside Right

I thought it went like this:

But Peggy showed me how and why it was a better composition when rotated 180 degrees. The way I was seeing, the viewer could not get down to the lower half of the painting. The attention was drawn to the gold circle in the top half. I still need and value her instruction. I've gotten so many more positive comments on this piece now that it hangs this way.

Still Point: Trichotomizing 36"x36"

Peggy Zehring: Teacher and Mentor

I just registered for my 14th week of "Experimental Drawing and Painting" taught by Peggy Zehring through LaConner Art Workshops. Yes, this will be my 14th annual saving-my-life-in-five-days pilgrimage. It's not just that my passion and, at last, commitment to painting has saved my life, but I have had found a mettlesome mentor in Peggy. 

I first observed her teaching when I worked at Coupeville Arts Center. I was impressed from the first, but after witnessing her art of teaching for one week each of two years, I vowed to not let another opportunity to paint with her guidance pass by without participating. What I saw in Peggy's method is a way of safe-porting artists in their risk-taking. I had seen many workshops happen in the three years that I worked a the Arts Center, but I knew that since I hadn't any fine art education beyond high school art class, she was the only one that I could trust to meet me where I was and challenge me to the next level. 

What happened for me 14 years ago was the beginning of an on-going dialogue between the canvas and my spirit with Peggy Zehring as my guide and mentor. The first seven years, I only painted during that five-day, annual workshop. Peggy was very patient and each year, encouraged me to carve out place and time for my painting. Many years, I would come to the workshop with a question or a metaphor from which to begin my five-day intensive. Something I might have read or heard sparked some growth in my spiritual quest and inevitably it would appear in my drawings on that first day of class, then in the paintings that I would work on in subsequent days. But still, I would only paint during the workshop and hope that it would be enough to get me through to the next year. Of course, since I was teaching English with 8th graders at the time, I was pretty much consumed by that endeavor.

After working with Peggy for seven years (or should I say, seven weeks), I finally was at the place where everything I looked at--peeling paint on a dilapidated building, rust and scratches on a railroad sidecar, wabi sabi in general--became an abstract painting.  I still only had time to create in my head, but I did it constantly. At the end of the 01-02 school year, in response to two tragic events, one being the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, the other being the debilitating stroke experienced by a friend's husband, I decided that I could not put off my passion and dreams any longer. I had to leave teaching, get a job in a bookstore (Scott's Bookstore in Mount Vernon, that is sadly no longer open for business), and make art. I created space and time for my passion.

And always because of Peggy's nudges, I was painting my truth. I was growing my spirit. I was learning the nuances of abstract composition. Through Peggy, I have learned about color--the mixing of perfect grey and all colors from the primaries--I have learned about the dark and the light dynamic, where they are logically and intuitively--I have learned the secret of composition in squares--I have learned to experiment, experiment, experiment--and four years ago, Peggy introduced me to the absolute joy of creating texture by mixing gel medium and spackle. And always, through the whole process, we would have the most spiritually enriching, philosophical discussions. What can I say, I thrived on the whole experience.

And one of the coolest things about a workshop with Peggy is witnessing what each of the workshop artists creates when expressing their individual truth. Seeing how others thrive. There is always so much richness, so much that is compelling, so much to learn from each other's experience of paper and charcoal of canvas and paint and  use of some of the oddest tools a painter could work with. 

Yes, Peggy has given generously. To so many. She also gave me the gift of the most sublime experience of my life this past September at the Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery in New York City. I was honored to have my work exhibited with hers and with the work of Margo Spellman. Please check out their websites through the links on the sidebar.

To Peggy Zehring...I raise my glass and my spirit in gratitude.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More about the dark...

I also don't think of the light as fertile. The dark is rich with fertility. The light is dry, is fire, but it is needed to bring the fertility to life. Afterall, complete darkness is not a necessarily enriching place to be. Okay, so maybe I'm talking the Yin/Yang aspect of light and dark. And it's all good in balance and moderation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Still Point: Gestating

This painting is undergoing a re-make. The problem with painting a series is that when it is finished, you always have one in the series that's weaker than the others...unless of course, you are really, really accomplished at what you create...something I'm still working on becoming. 

So this was my weakest. I never really liked the way the paint went on. I could never really figure out for sure what was on top where--dark or light. I loved the marks and felt the paint did not do it justice. So I whited it out. Gessoed over all of the textured part of the canvas. Then went over the center, mostly low-lying section (except where the three circles are, that's raised, which part of the what's on top problem) with pearlescent. That was really cool. And made my decision about the light being at the back, dark on top, mostly. Then I had to figure out what to do next. I love gold gesso, so I chose that to go around the center section. 

Now what? Must add color--I kept the surroundground blue. Then I started working with violet mixed with red toned copper. That was cool and very dark and shiny (the moist part, you know). Then, on the lower right quadrant, I put in blue-green. Created an obstacle to overcome. Now my painting was divided by color. So that's what I faced when I entered my studio tonight. I was loving the elements, but not how they were together, had to make the painting more integrated. So I started adding blue-green on top of and around the red-copper-violet. And I was entranced by the close-up effect. I wanted to do that everywhere in the painting but had to stop myself.

The color combinations and effect made me think of peacock feathers and really colorful bruises (I had one that had amazing color that moved from knee to ankle and back for a period of about a month after I fell hard on my knee once) and gorgeous parking lot oil slicks. I love studying oil slicks after a bit of a rain. I know it's not cool when you consider what they really are (same with bruises, right?) but have you really studied the colors and the shapes? They quite often create mandala shapes. And they are blue with green and red-violet and a goldish-brown and dark, dark. Next time I see one, I'm going to drag a stick or something through it to see how it can be manipulated. Come to think of it, once I saw a jellyfish on the beach at Penn Cove that had all of those colors in it. It held my fascination until the tide threatened to take it back into the water. 

All this to say, that when I left my studio tonight, I felt like I was overcoming the obstacle, meeting the challenge. I like that feeling. I won't get back into my studio for a couple of nights, which is a bit of a frustration...don't want to lose momentum. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Still Point: Descending

Because hanging upside down, cocooned in the dark was her way to enlightenment.

The Dark and the Light

I've been thinking about the dark and the light and working on the balance and dynamics between the two in my art for many years now. But it seems to be a more intense focus now. Friends wish me light quite often in closing correspondence. And I appreciate that because I understand the spirit of the intention. And I know about blessing into enlightenment and what that means toward spiritual growth. But I have to say that I love the dark. I love the dark.

Not dark alleys, mind you, but the dark places we go to lick wounds, to really explore emotion, to examine events of the past until we experience little deaths and rebirths through that examination. I think of the dark as the positive experience of the womb. It's a nurturing environment. And that's often what I am seeking to depict in my art. What is being nurtured in the dark, moist place we came from? At one time, at the beginning of our being, it was the physical self being nurtured there, but now, at this time of my life, it is the spiritual self that is gestating. And that is where my painting "Still Point: Descending" came from.

Some refer to the dark metaphorically as a place of fear and depression, but for me, it is a comforting place to face my fears. The light can be blinding, can obscure details, as when a person is standing, facing you, but is back-lit so that you cannot discern their facial features, read their demeanor. It hurts, on some level, to look at that person for any amount of time. So don't we really need a balance of the light and of the dark to see what is real and true?

In my paintings, I often surround the forms I am working on with dark. Since I work with textures, I have to make the decision of whether the dark is on top of the texture and the light at the back, or the other way around. And usually, there is a point in the painting where I reverse the main motif because I think of light as swirling around, in and out, and through the environment. But recently, I have been exploring that place where the dark and the light meet. I think of it as a "push/pull" of light and dark. It's been challenging and fun. But the bottom line is that I love the dark, and I'm not giving it up. I'm living to balance it with the light.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Re-Storing Feminine Consciousness II

Gather Insight, Birth Joy, Fathom Possibilities
Each painting is 5"x5", features Re-Store finds, ceramics by Clarissa Callesen, other metal findings, and of course, cowry shells

Re-Storing Feminine Consciousness Series

For this series, I shopped the Re-Store many, many times; therefore, the word with its double meaning had to appear in the title. At the Re-Store, I look for rusted metals (they say--well, Neil Young said it, anyway--rust never sleeps--and I like that personification) that served some purpose and are waiting to be re-purposed. I like curved metals, odd-edged metals, metals that suggest some other structure, like arches or mandala squares or circles, and I like springs and small tiles. Oh, and those plastic X-es that are tile spacers. 

I work on square canvas to suggest a mandala and search for the centerpiece to hold the focus, that for me, now, is a search and expression of Feminine Consciousness. One of my favorite places to find a meaningful centerpiece is in the ceramic pieces for artists that Clarissa Callesen creates. Not only does Clarissa create provocative assemblages that speak to spirit and the human condition,  but she also is generous enough to let her ceramic bits appear in other artists' works. This is where our spiritual and creative quests intersect; I have been blessed to have found her and to be a beneficiary of that generosity. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re-Storing Feminine Consciousness

Archway to Inana, Announce Yourself, Archway to Brigid
Each 5"x5" Made from Re-Store finds and ceramics by Clarissa Callesen

Artist Trust and Quicksilver Photo Lab

Artist Trust is a groovy organization that many of us belong to for the way they support artists. I just completed the Grants for Artists Projects application for $1500 toward supplies and an easel to begin work on "In the Hands of the Madwoman" series. My resume is slim, but the images of my paintings are top quality.

When I needed quality images of my work to apply for another grant, I got worried. I use so much metallic paint and interference, that they trick the light when photographed and wash out the other colors. Bad, bad photographs. I happened to snag Ramon when he was walking past my studio one afternoon and asked him if he knew of someone who photographed art. He turned me on to Quicksilver Photo Labs on Cornwall. It's a simple process. Take the artwork in on Wednesday; it's photographed on Thursday; and you pick up the work and the slides or CD on Friday. They do good work for a very reasonable price: $6.5o each image.

When I didn't get the award of the Fellowship Grant that Artist Trust offers, I called for feedback (always recommended). I was told that the quality of my images was good, so that wasn't the issue. The issue was probably that my work didn't spark any interest among the judges, but that's not my point. My point is that the images were good, and I love taking my work to Quicksilver for documentation. 

Artist Trust grants focus 75% of the criteria on the response to the artist's work. So having it well represented is of utmost importance. Unlike some other granting organizations, the staff at Artist Trust is willing and available for questions that come up during grant writing and preparation. 

I urge artists to sign up to receive Artist Trust's emailed newsletter and to become a member of this worthy organization.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Still Point: Crowning

This is one of three paintings inspired by Marion Woodman's talk on "The Crown of Age." What also appeared in the painting were visions of lava erupting from the active volcano in Volcano National Park in Hawai'i. This painting is 36"x36".