Well! September got away from me a bit. I’m sure it did for many of us, what with one thing and another. Oh, well, we carry on. Pins and needles, needles and pins, as they say. The weather’s nice here in scenic, lovely Somerville, and fall is my favorite season. So I hope you are all safe, healthy, and ready for foliage, apples, and sweaters, because those are the things that keep us going in These Challenging, Unprecedented, and Extraordinary Times.
Let me catch you up on the studio news.
There’s Art for Sale!
Yes, you can actually buy it now. You will notice the shiny new Shop tab, above. It’s so pretty – and hard won, too, because this was the thing that held me up most of this month. You’d think, in the 21st century, it would be easier to create some linked pages and have them look decent, but it’s okay. I’m better educated on the backstage infrastructure of WordPress now, and I’m happy with this set-up.
The inaugural offerings are two of my artist books, The Doll’s House and The Sins of Icarus, a pair of affordable make-great-gifts items to celebrate hitting this milestone on my website. More works will be added as I get the pages looking the way I want, so watch this site, sign up for the newsletter, and/or follow me on Facebook for updates as they happen.
And if you are interested in any works I haven’t listed yet, please email me via the Contacts page.
I will have a piece in “All Small” online at the Brickbottom Gallery, October 29 – November 22, 2020. Watch this site for details.
New Project in Development
A new assemblage is in the works, first of a series on the ghosts of old objects. This is one of those long-simmering, back-of-the-brain ideas. Finding an old paste brush on the street recently provided the missing hook for me to make it real. I figure October is a good time for lingering spirits.
This month, I finally finished one of my projects, the re-binding of my Pictorial Key to the Tarot. You saw it in progress in my last posting. Below are some photos of the finished book.
The new cover uses the boards of the original cover wrapped in a one-of-a-kind decorative paste paper I made recently. I salvaged the torn, beat-up, original spine label, fading it a bit more with a lick of paint. The lines of fine black ribbon on either side of the spine are the exposed stitching attaching the cover to the book. I went with my preferred adhesive-free, sewn binding. The inside covers, front and back, have double pockets for notes, and I included five permanent ribbon bookmarks. As you can see, the book lies open very easily. Closed, it looks quite fetching on my bookshelf as well.
What else is going on? Flowers! Bees! The garden is a satisfying riot of gorgeousness and buzzing. We’ve suffered through some heavy heat and rain, but all is well on the flora and fauna front.
I learned today that the sunflower is associated with the women’s suffrage movement. It was used on a button of the National American Woman Suffrage Association for their 1867 Kansas campaign, and was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s pen-name in the women’s newspaper, The Lily. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association) As 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the vote in the US, I’m feeling a little extra pride in my lovely, tall, nodding, giant flowers.
Also, exciting announcement, a shop-like arrangement is in the works. Watch this space for updates on when works will become available to buy. I’m a little terrified by the prospect, but it’s really happening. The paperwork is mostly in hand.
I’ve also been rebinding an old book from my library – a 1970’s hard cover edition of Arthur E. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, a gift from my friends back in high school. It’s a low-budget, no-frills book, but it has sentimental value, so when the binding finally started to give up the ghost, I decided to rehabilitate it with my favorite non-adhesive book style, the Japanese tetsuyoso binding. It’s quite the job, as the 40-year-old glue did not want to come off, despite dropping pages. I had to do more cutting and reconstructing than I’d hoped, and I added some muslin to reinforce the spine, but it’s going well. The refurbished cover, dressed in one of my paste papers, is drying under weight as I write this.
Pictorial Key to the Tarot in progress
More reconstructed botanicals are coming up. White pine and goldenrod are in progress.
And I did a bit of housekeeping on the website – cleaned up the images, consolidated the books under one heading. The Artworks pages look cleaner and prettier now.
Outside the studio, it’s been pretty much gardening and birding round the clock. Well…I’m not going to any shopping malls, that’s for sure. The community garden is at war with our local city rabbits, but while others engage in brute force with brooms and hoses, I have entered into a psychological battle with one particular adorable fluff-nugget who has a fondness for bean tendrils. Yeah, okay, Peter Cottontail, but I notice he doesn’t touch the aromatic herbs, tomatoes, or turnip greens, so guess what this garden will look like next year? Buckle-up, Buttercup. It is brought.
We’ve also had a fun summer visitor to the mulberry tree outside our kitchen window. Camera-shy little thing – this is the best shot I’ve gotten of him – but from the color, the wing markings, and a brief glimpse of his beak shape, I believe this is a Baltimore oriole. The first I’ve seen in scenic Somerville. Judge for yourself, comparing my blurry photo to the entry in AllAboutBirds.org.
It’s not easy to write upbeat blog posts these days, what with all that’s going on. I’m not even going to say “in the world.” Let’s just call it – things are not swell in the USA, and yes, there are people to blame for that. I spend about as much time as most people worrying and growling over it. There is a lot of uncooperative BS being bandied about that I am completely over and done with, together with the people spouting it, and the horses they rode in on. Done. I’m just done. It makes staying home easier, at any rate.
But after all, my sainted mother and I and our immediate neighbors are all healthy, and there’s a Baltimore oriole outside my kitchen window. What have I got to complain about? (Okay, plenty, but you know what I mean.)
So take care. Be well. Wear your masks. And look out your windows. There’s probably something pretty and amazing out there that will lift you up and keep you going.
I’ve had an unusually productive two weeks since launching my newsletter. The thing must be magic! Here are some of the highlights, including a new work for another upcoming exhibition.
I’m going to be binding some new journals and re-binding some older books, so I made a selection of paste papers for them, which led to me playing around with the paste paint. That resulted in some not too bad monochromatic landscapes, which then led to shades of the color blue scrolling through my mind. A certain dusky shade of blue-gray struck me as perfect for a collage that had been simmering in my mind for some time, so I set about inventing the color with layers of paint and dyed tissue paper. The resulting collage of geese flying across the moon will be shown with the Brickbottom Artists Association summer exhibition, which just happens to be on the theme of “BLUE.” That will be shown online from mid-July. See the Home page for details.
I finished an additional collage today – The Death of Orpheus – but I did it on paper so I could experiment with a new pasting technique to prevent warping. Fingers crossed on that one. Two more collages on canvas are in the works, inspired by views from my studio window – one a particularly spectacular spring morning, the other a rather spectacular super moon.
Nature has been pushing me along. These past weeks have been full of moon views and thunder storms. The garden is filling up with flowers, bees, butterflies, and rabbits. My landlords’ mulberry tree, outside our kitchen window, is bent under the weight of fruit and crowded with birds and animals. And all day today, my landlords’ dogwood, outside my studio window, hosted two fledgling mockingbirds fresh out of the nest, crying for food as their parents came and went, stuffing them with mulberries.
I can’t help feeling a little allegorical. I took the lesson of these weeks from the text on the collage of the geese, adapted from a Siberian shaman’s song:
“The birds’ way of returning, The birds’ way of leaving behind the sea, If I lean on these ways, I find support for my legs.”
Where are you finding support in these difficult times? Drop a comment and let me know what flashes or colors or things outside your window keep you going. If you have any questions about the works below, I’ll be happy to answer.
Also, issue #2 of the newsletter is scheduled for around July 16th. Sign up now for more updates and exclusive content.
Estuary Moon, part of the Mystic River Project and Cities
Death of Orpheus, part of Literary Works, another experiment
A few weeks ago, the world changed as the pandemic forced us all out of our normal contexts and made everyone paranoid about being in their own homes. Now the world is changing again in a far more fundamental way, a far more uncomfortable way, a far more hopeful and frightening way as the whole construct of systemic racism is being confronted all at once. No one I know has ever seen anything like what’s happening now in the US as well as around the world.
Could this be it? Could we finally be able to end a society structured around racial inequality? All I know is a lot of people are putting their lives on the line for this since the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, and the reaction against those protesting brutality and violence has been brutal and violent.
The very least I can do as a creative is shine what small light I can on it. So this is my statement:
As an artist, writer, and human being, I am anti-racist, anti-fascist, pro-equality, pro-democracy, pro-environmental justice. I am not neutral, and I am tired of being surrounded by oppression and corruption, of being bribed with societal privilege I never asked for and do not want by people who want me to remain complacent and compliant with the status quo. This privilege – white privilege – is a gift made from hate, and it’s poison.
People of color do not need me, a middle-aged white lady, to speak for them. But too many of my fellow white folks do need to hear some speaking, and they need to be spoken to. So I commit to do some of that talking. I commit to use my words and my work to speak truth wherever I see it, however I see it, in public and in my personal life, and to point towards better ways to be. I hope I will be just one of many, many more. I hope you will join with me.
If you’re not in a position to donate money, then speak. Use your voice. Challenge what must be challenged. Call out what must be called out. If you see something, say something, just like we’re always told to do. Please reach out to your neighbors, friends, family. Join forces where you can. Have painful discussions where you must. The time for politeness is over. Now is the time for honesty.
That includes self-honesty. The rot of racism and bigotry corrupts every part of our society. We can’t root it out of our systems without also rooting it out of our own lives. It’s not that we are racists – no, far from it; most people are not racist, I really believe that – but we live saturated in racism. Everything around us generates it or is warped by it, especially in the US. It has to stop, and the stopping starts with us. That might be the scariest part of this whole thing, the societal equivalent of realizing we’ve become hoarders or addicts. They say the first step is admitting we have a problem.
What a month to launch a newsletter, eh? That’s still happening, scheduled for sometime next week. Gosh, I wonder what I’ll write about. I think I might be emotionally ready to get back to my dark and disturbing vibe, though, because, y’know, it’s what comes naturally. It feels more appropriate now.
Be strong. Be well. Be safe. Be brave. Embrace a better way. Wear your masks.
Installment #2 in my Exploring Home project: A small bedroom. It’s daytime, and the sleeper is absent. One wonders what the room looks like at night, under artificial light. Is it a calming room after a hard day? What kinds of dreams happen there? What do you think this room says about the person who sleeps here? Leave a comment with your theories.
The Brickbottom Artists Association exhibition, “Construction/Deconstruction,” is now up in full online. Please enjoy!
The Brickbottom Gallery here in Somerville was forced to close to the public due to the pandemic, but my fellow artists did a fantastic job establishing our first virtual gallery. Our annual spring show is extended into the summer.
I started my experimental new photography project by improvising a room. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be. It turns out to be a small living room. No one is in the room at the moment. Can you spot the clues of personalities and lifestyle of the residents?
I think they are travelers who cannot travel at the moment, but the world is at home with them.
COVID-19 has people all over the world confronting the idea of being at home in ways that we may never have before. Many are chafing at the restriction imposed by the virus, but why? Isn’t “home” supposed to have a good connotation? It’s where the heart is, right?
I’ve always felt a vague fascination with interior spaces. The light through a window, illuminating floating dust. The clues hinted at by personal possessions, by people’s neatness or their mess. The sense of place and time we get from furniture, decor, organization, tools and appliances. Our homes express much about us, more than we plan or may realize.
One of my pandemic pleasures has been sneaking glimpses into the homes of TV people – reporters, politicians, various kinds of experts broadcasting the news from their houses. I’m forever peering over their shoulders. Are their bookshelves serious or for show? What about their color choices, their window treatments? Is this room lived in, or has it been turned into a stage set? Some of the newspeople superimpose their shows’ regular studio backgrounds over wherever they really are. I guess it promotes professionalism and normalcy, but I wish they wouldn’t do it so much. When they share their personal space, even if it’s just the guest room they never use or a cleaned-up corner of the garage, it humanizes this crisis we’re living through. It highlights that we are all sharing the same experience together.
Yet the idea of “home” in this common experience has become fraught with tension. What does it mean that so many of us are uncomfortable being where we live?
I’ve mentioned my in-development project, “Orchid Beach.” It’s a story – probably a digital graphic novel – that uses the idea of home, but it’s a crime thriller, quite dark and intended to disturb. And I’m just not feeling it. I don’t want to subvert the idea of home right now.
So I looked at other works, and I realized to my surprise that, despite my personal interest, I don’t have a lot of home-focused art or stories. The ones I do have are, well, quite dark and intended to disturb.
The collage “House of Hours” brings us into an Escheresque hall populated by shadows where time and faces float away from us and inner space dissolves into outer space.
My mini picture book “The Doll’s House” is a gothic melodrama of undefined family conflict which ends with an invasion by an overwhelming natural force. Oops, heheh, that one might be a little too on point at the moment.
These works are meaningful to me, but they don’t reflect my relationship with my real home at all. Naturally reclusive, I love being at home, and I love this home in particular. I’ve been in it for twenty years on purpose. We have our issues. It reveals maybe more of what I wish wasn’t true about myself (lazy slob me) and not enough of what I believe is true about myself (creative, organized, professional me who has great taste). It has too few electrical outlets and you can’t put a nail in the walls, but it’s warm and comfortable, the light is fantastic, and the vibes are happy.
And yet, I tell dark, disturbing stories about home. Why the disconnect? What am I trying to uncover, what do I want people to confront when I work with the concept of “home”? Privacy. Secrets. Personal history. Relationships and solitude. Memories. So much of my work focuses on the world outside, on distant landscapes and tall city buildings, but there are stories to be found indoors as well, in those inner spaces where we sleep and dream.
So I’m starting a new project to get my thinking on this a little less vague. Because of the pandemic, I can’t access the printing services I normally use for collages, so it will be a photography-focused online series. Should be amusing since I just have just a doddering old point-and-click Canon, no studio lights, and only the picture-editing program that came with my Mac’s antique operating system. But these are trying times and needs must, so I shall MacGyver something.
I played around a few years ago with photographing miniatures. I’ll start with that experiment and see where it takes me. I can’t guarantee we won’t end up back at dark and disturbing. But since I’m staying home, I’m free to explore. 😉
Please enjoy some small domestic scenes and views from the outside looking in.
The exhibition “Construction/Deconstruction” at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville is moving ahead, and so am I. With the kind help of some fellow artists with a car, my new piece, “Pink Yarrow,” made it to the gallery with proper physical distancing observed at all times.
The show will be presented online, so watch this site for further updates.
A new project starts tomorrow. For now, please enjoy a sneak peak at “Pink Yarrow,” part of the Botanicals series, made with actual pink yarrows from last year’s garden, restored to their summer colors.