At last the studio and house are returning to order after weeks (months!) of disruption and too much plaster dust, both the unavoidable side effects of some necessary repairs. The most obvious benefits to such chaos are the beautiful new studio ceiling and virtually new kitchen ceiling, not to mention pipes that no longer leak. Moving as much as possible out of the way of those doing the work was a perfect opportunity to cull some of the “stuff” stashed in corners and on shelves. And as the rooms fall back in place, there is a chance to see modes of organization and arrangement with a fresh perspective. But the best and unexpected benefit has been to hold books and notebooks, open them, and rediscover gems not seen or remembered for too long. Here are a few of the things I found.

From Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk:

“Poets understand that they do not know what they mean and that this is a source of their strength.”

The following was an unattributed quote in an old gallery newsletter. I would be very happy if there is anyone who can give me the source:

“The struggle to make a genuine picture (or for that matter, any work of art) is never a passive, but always an intentional act of the creative will, one through which the Self declares itself a conscious agent in the world. Painting a picture, therefore, far from being a frivolous or meaningless activity, is one  burdened with existential import.”

A few things to think about as I get back to work in my new space!

Many thanks to Tom, Harry, and Matt; all good souls who did good work and solved unexpected problems!!

Pulse and Tremble

September 12, 2014

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This new piece was made for an invitational group show at Linda Matney Gallery in Williamsburg, Virginia. The show, called Matter, was put together by Elizabeth Mead, Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at William and Mary. The guidelines were the size (8 ½” x 11”) and a consideration of the use of color in one’s work. My friend and poet Kasey Jueds and I had hoped to work collaboratively but were unable to do so because of time and schedule constraints. In the end my piece, Second Skin/Pulse and Tremble, was a sort of collaboration with Kasey, as I used her poem “The Selkie from Shore” as a starting point. The text itself is an element of the piece, although not completely readable. As I copied the poem numerous times, the words began to murmur and hum in my mind while I worked on the piece (much as the hum of the bees in the poem!), thus weaving into and becoming part of the making. (I loved the good luck that there were bees busy coming and going in the flowers outside my studio window at the same time!) The piece is made from paper, ink, and oil stick on wooden panel. The show opens next Friday, September 19 at 5:30. Stop in if you are nearby!

Although it is not necessary to read the text of Kasey’s poem while viewing the piece, I can’t resist including her lovely poem here for your delight:

 

The Selkie from Shore

 

You will tell me what I long for is God.

But I say it is bees, their pulse and tremble

in flowers slackening toward summer’s end,

daylilies spreading rust under dusky oaks.

I say I want a garden for them,

so what is small might return

and be sufficient again. Not God, or sky

streaming light, cathedrals, a wish

I am not big enough to hold – not those

but the slightest tremor of air, and a humming

that has no need of me.

 

Kasey Jueds in Keeper

 

BROADSIDES

April 4, 2014

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For four Saturdays in March I traveled to Charlottesville for the afternoon for a class on printing broadsides (“Printmaking with Purpose”) at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The teacher for the class was Josef Beery, one of the founders of the VABC. You can read his excellent article on broadsides here. The VABC is a gem of a place with a spacious and seemingly well-equipped print room, a good size workroom, and some display space. Josef in his very kind and knowledgeable way managed to guide our small group – each of us with different backgounds, different levels of experience, and different sorts of projects – towards completing our chosen project. For this short course, the typesetting was done on the computer (as opposed to printing on letterpress) and the images cut into linoleum. The image above shows the cutting process on my unmounted linoleum plate. I am working on an image for the poem “Foxgloves” from Kasey Jueds‘ book Keeper (see earlier posts about Kasey’s book). Our class will meet again in May so we can trade our completed prints. Stay tuned for more images. And if you aren’t familiar with the Virginia Arts of the Books Center check it out and take a class. It is good to get out of town!

POETRY ON THE ROAD

January 28, 2014

CAVE LIGHT: A CONVERSATION ABOUT CREATIVITY AND COLLABORATION

Next week my friend Kasey Jueds is coming to Richmond! In an earlier post I wrote about Kasey’s new book of poetry, Keeper. Kasey very kindly chose one of my drawings, called Cavelight, for the cover. The book launched in Philadelphia in November and now folks in Richmond and Williamsburg have a chance to hear Kasey read some selections from her book. In addition to the readings, Kasey and I will talk a bit about creativity and our collaboration on another project (see previous post), and I will show a few of my images. Details for the two events (which we are calling Cave Light: A Conversation about Creativity and Collaboration) are listed below.

To learn more about the Pitt Poetry Series and read one of Kasey’s poems, have a look at the NYTimes ArtsBeat blog: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/poetry-profiles-university-of-pittsburgh-press/?_r=2.

And to hear Garrison Keillor read a selection from Keeper on The Writer’s Almanac, click here: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2013/12/29.

Of course, if you have any questions, please contact me!

Cave Light: A Conversation about Creativity and Collaboration

Wednesday, February 5, 5:00 PM, 101 Andrews Hall, William and Mary, 601 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, VA (enter through Phi Beta Kappa Building located next to the Muscarelle Museum of Art).

Book signing and reception following.

Thursday, February 6, 7:00-9:00 PM, The Dominion Room, The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, 1812 W. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23220.

Book signing following.

Copies of Keeper will be made available at this event by Fountain Bookstore (1312 E. Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23219, 804-788-1594).

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Learning how to make the work is one of the primary aspects of a creative life. It might even be right to say that it is the whole point. Every drawing, painting, or project involves learning: learning how colors mix or work together, learning how a new material goes down on the paper, learning what the work is about, learning the ways that I work best (or the ways I don’t!), and on and on. I am fairly certain (and I tell my adult drawing students) that if one ever feels as though it is all figured out, understood, and under control then that is the time to worry, because the work will die – quite literally cease to be alive. Making art (and I mean here all creative efforts) is messy and uncomfortable stuff, and that awkward and unfamiliar place, that is where the learning and the life reside.

Beginning a new project often involves an especially steep curve for learning how to make the work. And it is not unusual to encounter the conundrum that it is difficult to begin without knowing what the work is/is about, but one can’t know what the work is without beginning. Apparently this puzzle can be just as true for a collaboration as for a solo project. My friend Kasey (a poet) and I have just begun working on a collaboration that we know very little about. Actually, our conversation began about two years ago, and finally we have begun to trade bits (my scraps and scans of fragments) and pieces (Kasey’s word combinations) as a way to learn how we will make this work and have this conversation. This is a lovely way to roll into the New Year: a delightful adventure with a dear friend as fellow traveler!

Read more about our bits and pieces at Kasey’s blog (http://kaseyjueds.com/pieces/) and find other treasures there as well! The images above are some of the bits that I sent Kasey, and you can see them in the photo on her blog as well.

My Story

June 25, 2012

I am continuing to work on the piece that was described in the last post, and I have finally gotten around to writing the story I am contributing. It is the story of the making of the piece, and it will be the only one the viewer will be able to read. Here is my story:

THE BOX

This is the story of how this piece, Collected Stories, came to be.

One day my friend Rob offered to take me to a couple of interesting used furniture and stuff places up Route 1 heading north out of Richmond. Our first stop was “Class and Trash” which is always over-full with furniture, household goods, and assorted curiosities. We both noticed this box, because it had such an interesting shape; but neither of us could imagine what it was ever intended for. That day I bought a couple of things that had potential for use in future assemblages – but not the box. The curious piece stayed on my mind the rest of the day, so the next morning I went back to buy it.

At the time I was in the midst of working on a group of 3-dimensional pieces, so I immediately began cleaning the box up and smoothing out the rough inside. But I had no notion how I might use the box in a piece. Over time I sketched out several ideas, but none seemed quite right. As I began the work for this show at Caldwell Arts Center, I began once again to consider how I might use the box. I had just finished the piece Promise in which I had used some layered writing on Lokta paper, and I thought about the possibility of using the same kind of layered paper in the box. For this piece I wanted to fold the paper accordion-style; this was influenced by a Japanese accordion sketchbook I had recently finished (as a left-handed project) and also by an amaryllis pod which split to reveal paper-like seeds layered in the pod like some sort of gills. In the past I have used quoted poems and, in Promise, some of my own poems in the writing – whatever seemed relevant to the piece. This one called for something different: a collective voice – true stories from the people around me. I set about composing an e-mail with a request for a true short story or anecdote (NOT a creative writing piece). Within an hour of sending out the message, the first story came in, and after the first day, six stories had arrived. People have been so generous with their stories and time, and they have been very supportive of the project.

As soon as the stories began coming in, the piece became more than I had imagined it would be. I don’t know why this surprised me. One predictable aspect of making art is that each piece has a life of its own, and the maker is generally not the one in control. As soon as a piece is begun, it goes off in some unforeseen direction. The job of the artist, I believe, is to respond to what is happening – in a sort of dialogue with the work itself. With the box my focus had been on making the object. But the process of collecting and transcribing stories immediately became extremely important to the piece, and curiously so, since I am the only one who will read the stories. People have trusted me with their stories, these small fragments of their lives, and I have a responsibility to honor both that trust and the gifted story in my making. The stories themselves and the gifting of the stories change me. And, it seems, the project has also affected the participants. Many have thanked me for the invitation to write for different reasons: they were grateful for the motivation, they had been meaning to write this story, the writing was a welcome break from the daily routine, the writing brought clarity to their story, or the writing provided the opportunity to share a story that would be safe here – something that could not be shared more publicly. There is an aspect of exchange in this process that is akin to ideas expressed in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. For a gift to have value and to stay alive, it must be passed on, kept in motion, not quantified. Hyde supports his ideas by looking at the notion of the gift through time and across cultures before he begins a consideration of the creative gift. What has happened and is happening with this piece seems to fit his thesis well. Further elaboration would require an essay of its own.

Many aspects of this piece are multi-layered. In its format it is a combination of object/sculpture, assemblage, collaboration, and conceptual art. It is made from the literal (physical) layering of stories combined with more figurative sorts of layering. The contributed stories have been written and layered two sheets together. They are layered again as they are torn in strips, then glued and stitched, and finally folded into the box. There are layers within the stories themselves: layers of narrative, meaning, feeling, symbol, and characters. From story to story there are links and overlaps of subject or theme. There is a layer of the story of the box itself: the unknown story of the box’s origin and the one that is being written and continued now in the making of the piece. These layers and stories together speak of our connections to one another in ways that are elemental and quite profound. While it is unlikely that the viewer will be aware of all that I am describing, it is these things that allow a found box to be transformed into MORE.

Gem

February 8, 2011

Yesterday on a run through the woods I found this small gem lying in the path.

It was the colors that caught my eye:  the red hooked root and the yellow cotyledon with the little bit of bright green at the top (not so apparent in this image) – all standing out against the dull brown of the winter path.  This tiny gem became the germ for many thoughts floating around my head.  The finding of it surely supports what I tell my drawing classes; whatever (color or value) you put next to something changes it.  I would likely not have noticed this acorn or appreciated its colors had it been lying in the midst of colorful flowers.  This little gem of a seed also seems to relate to the small (tiny, actually) collages I am working on at the moment.  Every element, every small detail – such as a bit of green n a cotyledon – makes a difference.  Change something and the image and meaning shift.  Hmm…I am wanting to continue my musings here, but I will save such stream of consciousness silliness for my next run rather than subject anyone who might have landed here to too many words about too many of life’s tiny details.  For now, it is back to the studio to work on the small details of tiny collages.  I  have a deadline to deliver these for a show at Quirk in March – stay tuned for more details!  And later this week a short entry on… DELIGHT!