Dull November Brings the Blast

JFries squirrel border 11.2020

Then the leaves are whirling fast…

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.


Luna Moth

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.


24 hours later…

Sparkly.

Keep Calm and Carry On

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.

JFries Pink Yarrow detail 4.12.2020

Construction, Deconstruction… Reconstruction

JFries spring colors 2 3.14.2020
…any minor world that breaks apart, falls together again… — Steely Dan, Any Major Dude

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.

JFries work table 3.28.2020

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.

Be well, friends.

Come Sail Away…

I must admit to a failure of time management when, surfacing happy from deep immersion in work, I find the entire summer has slipped by without a word from me to the wider world. Oops. Let’s say I’ve been on a summer artist’s retreat. Yeah, that works.

So, I’m back from my summer artist’s retreat, during which quite a lot of things have happened, haven’t they? (Looks at wider world; considers returning to the retreat.) Anyway…

Highlights:

I built a boat. And a cloth doll. My first of each. This was a commission for toys illustrating a children’s story. I blew my labor budget experimenting with materials and techniques, but it was worth it. The client is happy, and it spawned a gaggle of project bunnies along the way.

I enrolled in a dollhouse workshop taught by Laetitia Miéral, a paper artist in France. Her work is beautiful, and she’s an excellent teacher. You must check her out at Merveilles en Papier. I heartily recommend her workshops for both beginners and more advanced artists. She offers both big and small projects, great techniques, and is outstanding at getting her students (or at least me) past perfectionism and commitment phobias.

Appropriately, I worked on dollhouses, too. I either solved a problem with the novel or created a new one – not sure yet. I wrote an essay on magic and reality – release date TBD. I hand-bound sketchbooks and journals, observed wildlife, gardened like a maniac, and did a lot of thinking.

And suddenly, it’s September. Break’s over.