Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Introverts----unite!


Ancient critter...Museum of Natural History, D.C.

Frommage and I had a big talk about my seeming inability to enjoy myself at parties. I have a real problem being in crowds and can't take the presence of a lot of strangers for very long. If it's a classroom situation, or a place where the people are organized and working, that is different. It's the chaos and noise of a lot of strangers that unnerves me.

Do you know why?

I do---I am a true, dyed-in-the-wool, unbreakable, unrepentant INTROVERT.

Frommage understands this now, especially with the help of an article by Johnathan Rauch titled, "Caring For Your Introvert" in the March 2003 Atlantic Monthly. This is not a scientific article, by any means, but something Rauch wrote as a piece that was largely self-referential, and something of a personal quip. Apparently, this article has gained him more reader response than any other single piece of writing he has published. Also, the article continues to get more hits on the Atlantic Monthly website than anything else.....since 2003! It struck a chord with thousands of people.....people like me! Please take the three minutes to read the short article....it's just.......fabulous. Gives me great peace of mind to find this succinct personality outline that confirms so many things that I've encountered in my life.

I try to be social....I really do....but it is just so hard, sometimes. Give me two or three good friends and some skis out in the wilderness and I am SO HAPPY....
Give me a friend or two and some beers (or margaritas) and art talk, and I am in nirvana.
Don't give me a big room full of strangers all talking and laughing and drinking at once, because I'll go hide in the fucking closet.



The metro station...

In January last year, Frommage and I went to visit his Cousin Bill and my friend Bugheart in D.C. I'd never been to the east coast before......and never been to great American museums, as well. During the entire trip, I felt like artistic inspiration was pouring into me, onto me, through me from every direction. I couldn't take enough pictures.

During this trip, we went to New York for three days and spent a whole 45 minutes at MoMA. Every step I took, every new artwork I loooked at in every room BLEW MY MIND. I couldn't take it in.....not even 1% of it. After less than an hour, I started crying.....it was just too much. The 'final straw' was seeing Les Demoiselles d' Avignon by Picasso----and being hit with the fact that it is about 15 ft. high...the physical presence of that painting tipped my already fragile art-mind over the edge. I remember making Frommage and Cousin Bill leave, walking down the (very cold and windy) New York streets and shivering a little---from the cold? I think it was from the art....from being overwhelmed by it. I felt like it had blasted right through me and I was this shredded ghost walking around.


Beatiful plant, National Botanical Garden, D.C.

This winter we just don't have the extra cash to go on a trip. We're locked into what is turning out to be a pretty mind-numbing winter. Tomorrow, we make the subtle shift across the event horizon of Winter Solstice and stop our loss of daylight. This is always a big deal for my Mom, who is deeply in touch with the seasons and plants. She's probably going to cal lme tomorrow and say, "We're on our way back!" (to summer). She is an accountant, a true "Type-A" personality if there ever was one, but she also has the most amazing ability with natural phenomenon. Earth magic type of stuff, no joke. She would never call it that, but I do. This is a lady who can grow pumpkins and artichokes outside in her yard, in the ground, in Alaska!
No mean feat, lemme tell 'ya.


Jim Dine....National Museum of Modern Art, D. C. Gestural text-based line work. F'ing beautiful. What my good friend Annie Duffy would call, "Hot Shit."

Enough blogging for now.
Gotta go to the studio and enjoy being introverted and make some art.
Big shows coming up..... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Village finds, art and moi...


Yesterday I went to Value Village to search for some affordable ski gear---and found this! Nothing at all like ski gear, but totally great, nonetheless. It's an Old Navy brand, and I think I was looking at something very much like it there last year....but didn't buy it. I paid $10 at VV---Yay!
I saw my friend Jenn there and we talked about how some days at VV have good Juju---you can feel that you're going to find good stuff. While we shopped, she found a pair of knee-high, soft black leather boots which she wants to wear for an art opening in January. She told me she had been on the 'perfect boot' search for quite a while...
Lucky day at the Village....



Of course, the whole purpose was to find some ski gear---and got a coat. This is a lightweight Marmot coat which will be great for skate skiing---fits my body close, but has big arms and shoulders for all that poling. Seven dollars! I've been looking at some ski coats and pants at the local outdoor gear store, and I just can never bring myself to drop that much cash on an item of clothing. My upbringing was as one of three daughters to a single mother who worked 50 hour weeks to keep us all comfortable and happy. I am too money concious to ever spend $200 on a coat...especially a lightweight one.

Unfortunately, skiing is suspended for a little while. After getting only one paltry inch of snow, it's turned cold again....-20F. Bad for skiing...slow snow and just too cold to relax and have fun.



This is a painting from Summer 2005 when I was cranking out art like there was no tomorrow...

I had expected to get a lot done in the studio this month, as all of my show obligations have been met and I'm not under any deadlines right now.
Nope.
I'm having a VERY hard time getting motivated. I think the winter doldrums have set in...there's barely 4 hours of daylight now. Also, I have a suspicion that I blew all of my fuses in getting ready for my October solo show----since then, it's been a struggle to motivate myself in the studio.
On a brighter note, I just got the check for my art grant (YAY!) and dropped almost a thousand dollars on art supplies! I bought a few things that I've been wanting for years---namely, an easel that can take something bigger than a 2'x2' canvas without falling over.
So exciting!



I'll leave you with a self-portrait taken at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C.
This exemplifies how I've been feeling lately....a little fragmented. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

Art update...the SHAPE...


The newest in a long, endless series of paintings dealing with the SHAPE and lines connecting it, over and over and over.....
I have about a thousand ideas related to this specific type of mark-making. I LOVE making these lines, I love drawing the shape....




So let's talk a little bit about this shape, shall we? In my paintings, it originated as a leaf, and has abstracted itself to this perfect, curvilinear form. I do think of it as the 'eye/leaf' shape, especially when describing my current work to folks who haven't seen it yet. I find myself drawing this form into every single drawing, painting and doodle my hand is set to. In a deeper context, I use this shape to symbolize a packet of information or a representation of an individual......in combining many of these shapes together (...ooohh, just imagine whole GRIDS of the shape....gives me chills....), I feel I am making a correlation of how packets or pieces of information can be combined and re-combined to create a greater meaning. In this realm of thinking, I see the shapes adding up pieces of information upon which we each base decisions.
To return to the 'individuals' metaphor---I see each shape representing one person/individual in a group or herd----and how the alignment of these individuals together create a greater, overall personality....cultural identity, herd mentality, group hysteria.....and on as such.




But here's a fascinating note on the SHAPE....I'm not the only one obsessed by it. I went to the art openings last week to find artwork by my fellow Alaskan artist Annie Duffy----using the SHAPE!!! I met her at a bar later, and drew the shape on my hand and, showing it to her said,

"What do you know about this!!!???"

She had already found out we were obsessed by the same shape. Thankfully, her take on it was connected to a boat form and ideas of floating and traveling, as I understood it. We comiserated on the fact that observers have noted the shape's similarity to symbols of the feminine form. It felt good to talk about the SHAPE with someone who knew about it...



Let's get away from the shape for a minute. Let's think about soft snow, fragrant spruce boughs and our skiis shushing along a winter trail....ahhhh....
I'm off to do this very thing. Frommage is up from a nap, the sun is going down, and it's a balmy +30 outside! Time to ski. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More of winter...


A cow and her yearling bull came into the yard to dig around in the remains of the garden under the snow and eat a frozen pumpkin. As moose don't have very long necks, they often kneel down to eat. Here, the cow is standing and son is kneeling...




As we moved around in the house, they would perk up their ears, listening. Two neighborhood dogs came down our driveway and barked furiously at them. The moose merely looked at the dogs, seemingly non-plussed. At one point, Mama lowered her head and pulled back her ears---menacing moose face. The dogs immediately jumped back and cowered, only to resume their barking when she went back to eating some willows along the drive. Frommage opened the front door and yelled at the dogs, who ran. Moose glanced our way, uncaring of the noise.



After hitting every gallery in town (five) for the First Friday opening parties, we went to what is turning into our family hang out bar, The Big I. This is Frommage's longtime family friend sporting the Rasputin look----and didn't mind me taking pictures.



Today was spent working on grant and artist residency applications. Hours and hours in front of the computer. We tried to go skiing this morning, but -11F and slow snow made us give it up as no good. Still, I got in one moment of bliss, which I seem to always get while out skiing.....

I was double-poleing along the road back the car, headed right into the 11:00 sunrise. The light was breaking over the world, searing through the cold air. Everything was sparkling with frost. Skiing into the sun, I felt like I was going to slide off the edge of the world.

Some people meditate. Some people take drugs.

Me...I ski.
 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter life...


Sunrise from the bedroom window. Daylight is later and later every day...and less and less as we slide down towards solstice. I think our maximum daylight (officially) is about 3 hours and 45 minutes or so on Dec. 21st. Of course, one hour at the beginning and one hour at the end is a bluish twilight, as the sun never rises too high above the horizon.



Post Thanksgiving Christmas decorating is already in full swing all over town. These were on a tree at school---photographed before I went to class last night. I've always loved night photography.....long, still exposures, finding details in the shadows of an image....



And of course, the playing around you can do with a digital camera at night! I did about a dozen shots like this, waggling and circling and jumping the camera around during the exposure. I LOVE the effect---it's like perfect, glowing, gestural drawing! Reminds me of some paintings by Jim Dine that I saw at the National Gallery in D.C. last year.

I've found that digital is much less forgiving in low light situations and night photography than standard camera shooting----what I think of as 'hard copy photography.' It's amazing that I got a degree in photo just 10 years ago, and everything I learned is now obsolete in the professional photo world. I can still respect negatives, however finicky and frustrating they can be to work with....if you think about it, the negative was actually there, at the scene, at the moment, the place, the second that the image was shot, sucking up the light and shadow of that day. Sure, maybe in digital the compact flash card or whatever was there....but it's not the same thing.



This is a photo from last winter; a ski party with friends out near Chatanika. I've been so wanting to get everyone together for more Saturday skiing, but the conditions are pretty bad: cold weather and very little snow. At the local University trails, my usual favorite place to ski, grass is sticking up through the snow! Every week, the forcast promises 'chance of snow,' but nothing doing.....

Regardless, I've been skiing every day by myself this week---skate skiing at the 'professional' trails in town. The trails are wide and groomed, but with so little snow, cold temps and heavy use, it's like skiing on concrete. My skate skis slip around more, my balance is off and my falls are dramatic and probably pretty comical to anyone watching! But hey----I fucking love skate skiing. I'm taking a class with a former olympian, Aelin Peterson, and it's got me so inspired. It's a little lonely to ski alone every day....I just don't know anyone at my skill level that has the time to do it. The past two days, I've showed up at sunset around 3:00 pm, just when 2 full busloads of high school ski teams are unloading. Yikes! I try to find an out of the way trail to practice on so I don't look like a complete fool with my non-matching ski gear and elaborate pratfalls.

Today, however....must be spent in the studio. I'm finishing up 3 small paintings for a show opening on Friday and I'm framing a big painting to trade with a fellow artist for one of hers---a lovely little blue painting with scored wax/encaustic work.....it's gorgeous. Honestly, I would sell my painting for more than she would hers, given the size and type of framing, etc., but the truth is that my painting has been sitting around in my studio for 5 years. It's time that it just got out of the house, out into the world. I'm learning better how not to hold onto things so tightly, especially art. (Especially when it's a trade for something really scrumptious.) Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Going out, staying in...


We got an impromtu invite from friends to meet at a local bar, the Golden Eagle. Many friends, many margaritas...



It was great to see everyone. This is a crowd I used to spend a lot more time with, but...well, people drift apart. The theme of the evening seemed to be people having relationship troubles and breaking up.



The new painting is revving up---I've used up all of the gold leaf I've been hoarding in my art supply stock for....um...eleven years? Yes, I think that's right. I'm now awaiting the first funds from my grant to jump on some major purchses for the next series of paintings. Gold leaf! Gesso, too.....totally out. These large paintings are going to use up some serious lbs. of materials. I'm looking at this painting in my studio, and I get ideas for 100 more paintings similar to it---a whole raft of paintings for this series. There is another series bubbling up in my mind, however. Something that's been taking root very quietly and subtly for several years and now.....I think it's time has come. It's taking up enough room in my mind that I have to let it loose. (But how to start? Yikes! That's always the crux....)



Old cat on the yellow quilt. He's doing better since I lowered his dosage of kitty glucosamine. For some reason, he had a pretty strong reaction to it and instead of feeling better/younger/less creaky....it had the opposite effect. Very Strange, his vet said. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving...


Here is my newest quilt under construction. I was originally planning to give it to my friend's new baby....but I can't. They are arty folk, and I'd have to explain my utter lack of color sense in these fabrics. It's a damned cheery blanket though, so I'll be finishing it to give to my niece for Christmas. (A quilt only a two year old could love.) I've made quite a few quilts---but none following patterns. Of the three I've made with squares or repeating shapes, I've never gotten the seams to line up perfectly---don't have any of the "proper" cutting tools....do it all by hand...so of course my squares aren't even.


Thanksgiving afternoon---sisters, neice, mom and I went to visit my 95 year old grandmother. This is she, sister L and neice Darcy.



Dinner was at Mom's house---


...and my sister made the most of it. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Winter discipline...


It's -18F outside.....
I'm inside, trying to stay focused on paintings, making art, grant applications, etc.
It's hard to stay on task, since I dearly want to enter winter hibernation mode and watch a lot of movies, drink wine, read books.....nap.....


I was out with some artist friends last week and talked briefly with a sculptor. She asked me in a somewhat imperious voice, "What are you doing now?" in reference to my art. I told her about my large paintings on board, my abstracted botanical images, etc. She then asked "What else are you doing now?" (as if large scale paintings weren't enough) and I took a moment to think of how to respond. What came out was the truth....

"I'm spending a lot of time with my cat."

I am. We've been together 11 years and the best guess between his vet and I puts his age at 17. He's getting slower and slower, eats less, has trouble getting up from a nap....he's old. 17 for a feline is roughly similar to 90-95 for a human. I can feel every sharp bone in his body now....from 13 lbs. a few years ago to barely 8 lbs. I have to face how short our time together is and I start to cry whenever I think about it. I don't have many truly close friends and this orange creature has been with me day and night for over a decade.
I've put beds for him all over the house---his new favorite place during the day is in front of the fireplace: nice and warm.


First marks of a new painting--- 4'x4'. It's daunting to start an artwork this big. I worry about "wasting" materials, making something that isn't any good. This investment just seems so much ...more.With works on paper, I don't feel too bad if it's a stinker and I can just crumple it up or toss it on the burn pile outside (the sacrificial alter of many bad paintings). Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More Art Now!


Yes, I consider quilts 'art.' So that's the end of that debate.

This is a lap quilt I made for my friend Stephany. It's been a LONG time since I made a quilt....a baby quilt for my nephew.....um.....4 years ago? This one was really a challenge because I quilted it with the machine in interlocking swirls. I've quilted quite a bit all by hand. We're talking full-size, 80" wide quilts----hand quilted! I used my machine for this one because I wanted to finish it before the new year and send it off. Fabrics are jacquard, silk, satin, one piece of velvet, etc.


Here's another view. There is a pocket on the yellow area---I slipped a note in there before I sent it to S. Most of these fabrics were recycled from various pieces of clothing that I couldn't or wouldn't wear----yellow chinese silk pajamas, orange embroidered pajamas, a vintage dress in polished silk with yellow polka dots on it, a big black prom dress.

For me, making a quilt for a specific person is my own ultimate way of telling them I care for them. I want to keep them warm, and safe and sleep well and have good dreams.....and so much more. I see quilts as intimate, beautiful objects. My first quilt was a crazy quilt of all recycled fabrics that I made for myself---100% hand sewn---and it changed my life, as I knew it would.


The backing is cotton and here you can see my frenetic quilting! My machine is VERY SMALL so I had to roll areas of the quilt up tight and really cram it under the arm. I had to keep slowing myself down so the stitches would be tight enough....I found that I had to quilt only in a specific area defined by the color of fabric so I could keep a pattern going in one place and not lose control. On the back, the quilting looks very....sectional. But it is kind of cool. I like the way it turned out.
I've never taken a quilting class....it would probably blow my mind to learn all of the techniques I am doing "wrong"...

I'm back in the studio. I've broken through the lethargy that decended after finishing the series of paintings for my show in Anchorage. Now---thinking ahead to the next exhibit! May 2007, and many of you may think that is a long time off......I have 6-10 large paintings to finish for that exhibit and I'm going to need every day of the next 6 months to do it.

Did I mention that I got an art grant! Yay! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Drumroll, please......


Recently I blogged about my method of charting my successes and failures in art shows and art-related applications. My (extremely adult and mature) method is to list the endeavor with a smiley face and frowning face next to it---depending on the outcome of the effort= fill in the face.

So here's a big happy face I got to color in this week:

I have been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation as a Project Award, the funds to be specifically spent on art supplies relating to the fulfillment of 3 large shows I have scheduled in 2007.

Yay!

This big accomplishment comes hard on the heels of a show rejection just last week that had me reeling with frustration, disappointment and sadness.
Last night I went out with one of my best art friends here, Annie Duffy, and celebrated with about 20 beers (her) and 3 double margaritas (me.) Annie won the Rasmuson Fellowship award---a bigger amount with great prestige. It was SO GREAT to celebrate with a fellow artist....made all the difference. For a few days, I had to keep the news secret until they
published the full list of recipients. I was feeling like it wasn't real---hadn't sunk in---did I imagine that phone call? Celebrating the award was crucial...

Yay!


This morning I went on my first classic ski of the year...just an hour....

...since it was -12F, so we got pretty frosty. Frommage's beard caught a lot...



and I got frosty eyelashes....so fetching! Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10, 2006

Corners of my Home


Here is one of my favorite corners----with the wood stove. I grew up in log house heated mostly by wood heat in the winter. Every summer, my mom would corral my two sisters and I into hauling wood. This would be hours and hours of scavenging throw-away lumber from building sites, lumber companies and cleared lots. We'd also go out into the woods and mom would chainsaw up fallen trees while we hauled and stacked the logs in a borrowed truck. We didn't exactly dread these outings---it just had to be done. Mom always told us how important it was to get enough wood hauled by autumn. In winter, she would point out our HUGE stacks of firewood and say, "Girls, you did such a wonderful job!"
As an adult, I now love hauling wood. My sister does, too. In building our separate houses, we each made sure to include a wood stove in the plans. I get real satisfaction out of seeing my own porch full of spruce and birch logs to keep us cozy through the cold months. Today it's only +10 out....not too cold (for here) but I am still sick, so I needed a fire in the stove to cheer me up a little.

Oh---and I must brag about something, here. I built that hearth! I knew the kind of look and materials I wanted, so I did lots of library and internet research on exactly how to do it and the materials needed. I made a template of cardboard, took that to the quarry shop, laid slate on it until I figured I had enough rock. (The men working there had never seen this and were....entertained.) I brushed each piece of slate perfectly clean with a wire brush, Frommage built the hearth form out of 2"x8"s with a plywood surface, which I covered with concrete backerboard.

I've saved rocks from many different adventures and trips---picking up rocks on a beach, a hiking trail, riverbed, knowing I'd build something like this hearth someday. Of course, it turns out that since all of the rocks were different sizes, it just wouldn't work! I had to buy a bag of rocks. Perfect, smooth, black rocks. All were attached to the substrate with mortar and then I filled in the grout with my hands, smoothing and cleaning as I went with a big sponge.
Voila!
I like to tell people, "This is the only part of the entire three-year house building process where I didn't cry and throw tools." Truth!


The stove pipe runs up through the second floor, giving off more heat. Some people have thought that we're nuts for not walling it in to hide it---but I like it in the room. It's an insulated pipe, so it's never so hot that it becomes a danger. I keep my orchids on a humidity shelf to the left of it and they benefit from the slightly warmer temps. Posted by Picasa