This one is about the gifts the universe sends us, the treasures we pass by on the road.
The moon was particularly beautiful over Somerville last night, when the storm clouds parted. It was bright enough to light my room, overcoming the street lamps. The wet air smelled of spring.
By the way, we call April’s moon the Pink Moon, not because it looks pink, but because it’s the month for pinks, the flower, to bloom. Indeed, my city is filling up with flowers now.
I repurposed one of my blue landscapes for this collage. Sometimes an image has more to say, and I will often revisit older pieces that seem like they want to go in a different direction. In fact, I won’t let go of a piece until I’m sure it is what it wants to be.
I can hardly believe it has been about three months since my last update, but as most of you know, I tend to fall off the planet fairly regularly. I don’t apologize for it. When I have crap to work through that’s irrelevant to anyone else, I just do it without showing it to anyone. But finally, I do have news to share.
New work on exhibit this summer
“Sometimes the neighbors are up all night,” collage and acrylic on paper.
This new work is inspired by our local wild birds, whose songs frequently echo through the streets at night, when all else is relatively quiet. I find the birds’ nightlife deeply reassuring. Even in something as small as a bird singing in the dark, we are reminded that we share a living and lively world. The collage is 7 x 10 inches, and made with copies of vintage images, bars of music randomly sliced from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite,” my own blue landscape in acrylic paste, and a line from Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing With Feathers.”
It’s part of the summer show at the Brickbottom Gallery, “The Great Outdoors,” running July 15 – August 14, 2021. Visit the Brickbottom website at This Link for details.
Allow me to introduce Luna Lynx, Lady Silvertip, our new cat and studio assistant.
She has been with us about a month and is still in studio orientation, but has taken the job of House Cat well in hand. According to the good folks at Animal Rescue League of Boston, although very young herself, she had just weaned off a litter of kittens before coming to us. I believe she has transferred her maternal instincts to her two new humans. Luna Lynx is extremely attentive, playful and nurturing. She scolds us if we wander off, makes sure we eat on time and get our exercise, and checks on us in our beds at night.
I’m grateful because we have needed someone to take care of us these past few sad months. With her to get us up and running, I feel like we can finally start to move again and that the winter – and all of last year, really – is over at last.
Finally, watch this space for upcoming projects and a new online shop system, coming soon.
Well, darn it. September got ahead of me. October got off the leash entirely. November has been very uncooperative. And now it’s Thanksgiving. Let’s think about what we have to be thankful for.
Fair warning: I’m going to be blunt again because, apparently, that’s my medium. Nothing herein should come as a surprise. 😉
I am deeply grateful that both my sainted mother and myself are healthy, as are my friends and family as of last report. I don’t know how the friends and family have managed it, but Mom and I have done it by draconian measures, which are not being lifted any time soon – home, distance, sanitation, masking, no exceptions ever. Life has been completely insane in the US this year, and the madness continues, I’m sorry to say. But, so far, so good at our house.
I am grateful to almost 80 million of my fellow Americans for making Joe Biden our next President – and equally to the point, Donald Trump NOT our next President – and if anyone out there wants to start muttering about recounts and lawsuits, stow it because I’m not interested. We still have to get that person physically out of the White House, of course, but we did unseat him, so we can check that off our list of things to do, at long last.
And I am grateful for the roof over our heads and the dinner that will be on our table this holiday. Food, shelter, health, and a light at the end of the Trump tunnel – I think those are blessings enough for this hellish year.
Now we are less than two months away from 2021, and I feel a combination of relief and anxiety. The results of the election were like having a crushing weight lifted off my chest. I can breathe, but four years of that tension have left me like a plate of jelly, unable to pull myself together.
I am working on some things, though. First, I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), because when you’re exhausted and brain-fried, the best tonic is trying to crank out 50,000 words in a month. I’m not doing too well, but the month isn’t over so…fingers crossed? I’ll tell you all about it when it’s over. (Spoiler: It’s not going to happen, and I’m okay with that.)
Also, bats and moths are in progress because why not? I like bats and moths. This is an experiment I’ve been mulling a long time, making hard sculptures out of traditional origami. Expect to see more.
I’ve been designing dollhouses and books, putting my garden to bed between rainstorms, rethinking my approaches to social media and time management, and wandering off on artistically esoteric (or esoterically artsy) mind trips which take me far from the madding crowd and which I hope will produce work in the coming year.
But I haven’t really been, you know … productive.
Screw it. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. If 2020 isn’t an excuse for falling short of last New Year’s expectations, then I don’t know what is. I’m thankful just to have made it this far, in a depressingly literal sense. I’m taking the rest of the year off. And I’m giving you all the month of December off, too. There. That’s my gift to you. Just be alive, at home, healthy and safe, and we’ll deal with the rest in January.
In the meantime, you might see some odd posts here as I play around with styles and topics over December. Feedback is always welcome. And below, please enjoy some photos of things I’ve been doing while being unproductive.
That’s it for now. Take care, my friends. Keep well, hang on, and have a small, intimate, safe, and happy holiday with the ones closest to you.
Not entirely unproductive. This new work returned from exhibition this week and will be available in the shop soon. The moth is an origami-based paper sculpture colored with acrylic paint and mounted on a collage of hand-tinted vintage images.
When not in the gallery… Luna Moth atop my desk with Call Me Ishmael, Woman Found and Studied, and random inspirational bits.
Bats and Moths!
Did I mention…
We had a snow storm in October. It didn’t last long, though.
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
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.
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.
Staying at home, maintaining physical distance, and working on a new piece for spring.
This is for the “Construction/Deconstruction” group show at the Brickbottom Gallery, scheduled for April 16 – May 16. Details may change due to coronavirus, so watch this site for updates.
My experiment: “Painting” dried flowers with thin skins of dyed tissue paper. The flowers were collected last fall, after they had gone to seed and dried naturally on the plants. I am trying to restore their summer colors. I like the effect – it kind of looks like paintings rendered in 3D. This work-table still life shows pink yarrow and hydrangea in progress. Far in the background, blurry behind my coffee cup are more yarrow, seaside goldenrod, and white pine, waiting their turn. The yarrow are from my own garden. The rest were collected from roadsides, and the hydrangea I actually found in a parking lot where it had been dropped by the wind. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the broken china and egg shell yet.
I’d been tinkering with this technique for a while, but the disruption we’re all going through with the coronavirus pandemic has inspired me. “Construction” and “deconstruction” are classic Art Words, more or less abstract concepts we creatives often dance around with. But as things kind of come off the rails around us, it occurred to me that “reconstruction” is what art really does. Artists see things, and take them apart, and then we put them back together, a little altered, interpreted, understood in some way, and made part of the human conversation. Our work isn’t done until we’ve got it all together again somehow.
Right now, a lot of us feel like we’re watching things fall apart, but we’ll get through these times. Nothing will be the same, but we can rely on the continuity of construction, deconstruction, reconstruction. The artists, writers, poets, musicians, etc., will tell the stories of how it all went down, and each of us will add our memories to it. We’ll reconstruct our world, with a little more weight of experience and a little more light of understanding.
This process is slow and delicate, perfect for being under a stay-at-home order. And sometime after I’m done building my memories of last year’s flowers, this year’s flowers will be blooming everywhere.
Wow. You wander off for a month and look what happens.
I’ll start by hoping everyone out there is okay and comfortable at home with lots of soap and disinfectants and everything they need. We’re all doing fine here at the apartment attached to the studio in charming, scenic Somerville.
I was going to tell you all about why I vanished again, but it was just the usual February lost-in-the-weeds stuff. The seasonal joys of taxes, insurance, and bureaucracy. That melting of the brain and spirit and knee joints that comes with the melting of winter. All my favorite creatives were posting stories about taking stock and starting over, and I was all set to jump on the bandwagon. World events intervened, however. Boy, did they ever.
So quick catch-up: February sucked the way February does. I did finally finish that damned dollhouse roof that had threatened to derail the whole ambitious project the dollhouse belongs to. Trust me, you didn’t want to watch me do it. The project, by the way will be either a graphic novel or visual story, a suspense thriller set in and around this dollhouse. Working title: Orchid Beach.
I am committed to three public events with the Brickbottom Artists Association this year. Details will be posted separately. First up will be the Spring group show, “Construction/Deconstruction,” in mid-April. I’ll be showing a new experimental project.
Right now, I’m listening to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and settling into preventative semi-self-quarantine – doing my part to flatten the curve on COVID-19. For the foreseeable short-term future, I’m going to be listening to a lot of music. Doing a lot of art and writing. Reading books. Binging tv with my sainted mother. Planning my garden and starting seeds. Desperately trying to train myself not to touch my face. (Aagh! I can’t do it!!) Writing blog posts. No really this time. I promise.
I spent these first few days painting colored tissue paper onto dried flowers for that experimental project because, you know, when you’ve just gotten loose from an endless hell of miniature roof shingles, you want to dive right into the most delicate, fragile, slow, difficult, tetchy-fussy project you can think of. It looks amazing, though. I’m really excited about it. Just wait till you see.
This coronavirus thing – I’m not going to sugarcoat or skip lightly over it. It’s pretty heavy. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little nervous, mostly for my mom’s sake. But we’re prepared, and we have each other and our friends. We’re about as on top of this game as anyone can be, I think.
Plus, it’s Spring. The birds are courting. The flowers are coming up, the trees are budding. It’s hard not to have faith in the future.
Life carries on, and so shall we all. We’re going to wash our hands, maintain polite distance, be considerate of our neighbors, and get through this latest challenge. I decree it.
So jump on the comments or Facebook page and let me know how you plan to ride out the pandemic. What’s on your play- and binge-lists? What projects will you finish? Where will you go for solitary walks, or will you write your play, or learn to bake bread, or work on the problem of human-powered flight?
For now, please enjoy some photos of the Orchid Beach dollhouse under construction, the first of several sets of teaser images to come.
Today, I launch an informal, irregular series about my inspirations in life and work. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone a little. I don’t like to “explain” art, but I hope to share the interests and ideas that make my work what it is.
I have an absolute passion for planet Earth, and of course, I have strong feelings about climate change and humanity’s role in both driving and stopping it. As an artist and as a person, I feel a duty to speak on this issue in the ways that the arts can, that the arts are supposed to speak. So what am I saying about it?
Nature is the omnipresent context of everything humans do, and my work pushes back against the idea that humans and nature are somehow alien and distant from each other. You can find nature in almost all my work. The street scenes of the Cities series include birds, weather, plants. Even a toy like the Interphase Multiversal Observatory references the infinite night sky.
I want to lure people into seeing nature differently, feeling differently about their relationship to it. I show them what is in front of them every day. This is Earth. Yes, it’s polar bears, but it’s also right here, right now, next to you.
The Mystic River Project
The Mystic River Project will be a long journey examining this relationship of humanity and the natural world via the Mystic River watershed here in the Boston area. It’s a dramatic tale of human impact, of US history, the Industrial Revolution, politics and cultural attitudes, environmental degradation and recovery, and the persistence of nature.
The story will be told in collages, objects, books, maybe some videos (not sure about that yet), and in chapters focusing on different parts of the river, using my own photographs as well as made and found materials.
The first few species portraits of the Estuary Birds chapter set the mood. My photos of the birds and the Tobin Bridge are cut apart and reconstructed to capture moments as I saw them at the Schrafft’s City Center in Charlestown. Anyone can go there and see for themselves. That’s what I want people to do.
We see these birds every day, but maybe the problem is that we don’t see them. We should. They are our neighbors. They have survived all our bullshit and stupidity, and they are still here. They are the nature we struggle with and long for, staring us right in the face. They are every bit as much the natural world as the legendary, romanticized whales, which, by the way, also happen to be right here among us, just outside the river, passing through Massachusetts Bay.
Estuary Birds may end up with as many as twenty species portraits. Just last week, I saw two birds I’d never seen before, a male surf scoter and another I’m still trying to identify. Then there’s the rest of this micro-ecosystem – the life under the water and on the streets. And later, chapters on the upper river, the lakes, the tributaries.
In every part of it, there is the struggle, the presence of human beings, and the question of what we will do with our living world. Which brings me to the other side of my inspiration. The shadow side, as it were. There are always shadows when you deal with me.
In 2014, I made an assemblage titled Judgment in response to an article in Smithsonian Magazine online. It was about climate change melting the glaciers of the Italian Alps. As the ice melts, it uncovers the remains of soldiers killed in World War I. The campaign there was called the White War and included a vicious and environmentally allegorical tactic. Apparently, each side used artillery to deliberately trigger avalanches to destroy each other’s encampments on the mountainsides. Thousands of soldiers were killed this way, their bodies and belongings encased in miles of ice, lost – until now. The report said that every day brings another discovery of human bones washed down the melt-swollen mountain streams into the villages below. I found the Biblical reference apt indeed.
Nature in my work expresses what I love most about life. It is beauty and continuity and hope. It is the seamless connection of every person to the whole of creation. It is what really matters.
And it is the choice we face. Humanity is at a crossroads, brought here by our past choices. In one direction awaits judgment for our mistakes. In the other, a new way of thinking, an adjusted set of priorities. One, payment for the past. The other, a future based on love and connectedness.
As I try to sort it all out, I find myself celebrating the natural world in the city. I hope to raise people’s consciousness of their immediate surroundings. The world worth saving, the one where each of us makes a difference, is the one we happen to be standing in.
A Selection of Recent and Older Works Inspired by the Natural World