Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I spent some time at the gallery today getting a good look at what came in from the artists in the Countenance show. Although there was an incredibly wide variety of materials present in the masks, they all seemed to fall into one of three catagories: creepy, serious or funny. The trick in arranging the artworks for the show was in NOT having too many creepies in one place, or funnies taking over an entire wall, etc. You get the idea.

My very favorite was an abstract mask sculpture by Hanna Stevenson. I'll have to post a picture of it sometime. It's so damn beautiful!

The gallery folks agreed with me that we shouldn't expect much of a crowd at the opening. The partial solution to this is to have a closing party at the end of the month, as well. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate then.

Speaking of weather, the lowest temperature I saw on the reader signs around town was -43. There is heavy ice fog all over the valley and visibility is down to a quarter mile, I'd say. This is a shot outside the gallery lot, 4:00pm.

This cold is surreal!

Regardless, Fromage and I are going out to meet some friends at the local watering hole for some New Years festivities. The Golden Eagle Saloon always has fireworks and a giant pot of moose stew on the woodstove to share on this night. I don't like bars as a rule, but this one has a specific kind of rough charm. Everything is made of plywood and dogs were only recently banned from hanging out indoors (they got into too many fights). A lot of miners hang out here, so there's a friendly, dirty, hairy and very Alaskan crowd all the time.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2009 bring you the best of whatever it is that you hope, search, dream and work for.



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My show opens on Friday---my year-long curatorial project! "Countenance" will be around 25 artists showing approximately 35 masks. My aim in creating this exhibit was to get artists of all kinds, materials, styles, etc., to make a mask. My initial name for the show was "Making Faces." Ha ha! The gallery owner poo-pooed it because he said that the serious mask artists in the area wouldn't participate. Ah, well.

Personally, I love masks and am fascinated by their appearance in just about every culture in every period of history. Being in Alaska, there was some initial reluctance to approach this subject, as the artform of the mask is seen as the property of Native Alaskans. Regardless, I set a date and got a gallery and the idea was born.

I invited almost 100 artists---my initial plan for the show was to be BIG; 100+ artworks, all hung salon style so that the gallery would, literally and figuratively, be a crowd of faces! Quite a few artists (to my total surprise) declined the invitation, saying that they had no interest in making a mask. (Huh!?) Also, many people were booked up, art-wise, at this time of year---others said they'd be out of town.

So----it boils down to these 25 or so. The interesting thing I have learned from previous curating efforts is that people will say they're participating and that their work is done, ready to go, ready to hang.....and then they just never show up. I never know the true aspect of the show until opening night!

This Friday the 2nd is it: the opening party. Sadly, I doubt there will be much of a turnout. The temperatures have been cold in town. For the last week, it's been -20F to -40F. There is no end in sight at this point. The forecast for Friday boasts 'highs near 40 below.' Needless to say, who is going to venture out to look at art? My only hope is that people will be so stir-crazy with cabin fever that they'll need to get out of the house, you know?

It's been a difficult year for me. I haven't been able to devote the time, energy and passion towards this show as I had hoped and planned. I just didn't have it in me. I guess it's just as well, since the timing of the show, the weather and dearth of artist interest were against the idea.

The show must go on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Frozen River

Fromage and I went for a walk down to the river. In his surveying of some nearby property, he found this old car hidden in the woods and sunk into the snow. I couldn't get any exterior shots of it because too many trees had grown up around it and snow blanketed everything.

Fromage in the new Steger Mukluks I bought for him.

The frozen river. Not enough snowmachine trails to make skate skiing possible. This spring, I'd really like to ski the 50 river miles to the nearby village of Nenana. I've had friends that did it in one day! Fromage thinks it would have to be an overnight with snowcamping. Could be a great adventure! I could really use one...

Eero in the snow. The landscape was shrouded in a constant snowfall. One could see the far ridgeline, but only dimly. The temperature was around +5F that day...

I've not made any color corrections to these images! The light really does get blue at sunset around 3pm. We are gaining daylight now, past the shortest day of winter solstice: a whole 3 hours and 40 minutes of daylight. We're gaining over a minute a day, back towards the hectic 3 months of summer daylight.
Honestly, for all the novelty of this landscape and it's dramatic seasons, I REALLY would like to live somewhere with more balanced light and darkness. I've realized that I make a lot of art in spring and autumn---the only times I get to experience bright days and dark nights. Funny, eh?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm doing something right...

Watering the orchids on Friday the 12th. I did a detailed inspection of everyone in the Herd and found tiny bloom spikes forming on 3 phalaenopsis, one oncidium and one dendrobium!

Sadly, I also found a fat, mature scale hidden in the leaf fold of the cattleya. I've managed to keep the infestation in check, but I've never been able to totally eradicate them. I'm leery of using insecticides because the orchids are so sensitive....I don't want to hurt them.

Bad close-up detail...

Mature scale look like brown chitons. Simple version: they mature into a cap that holds hundreds of wee progeny that under a microscope, look like creepy little jellybeans.

I had a moment of pure joy when I found flower buds on the cattleya!!! This is a plant that my sister found abandoned by someone at the offices where she works. She gave it to me to foster, and after many months, it began to show signs of recovery.

It's cattleya 'Secret Love.' I get to look forward to somthing like this!

Since we can't go to Hawaii this winter, I'll at least get SOMETHING tropical in my life.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Getting Back Into It

I am beginning to feel better and get out from under this black cloud that's been hanging over me for a couple of months. And what does this mean? Getting back into art. Above, a self portrait during a rare moment of actual daylight.

Real sunlight coming through the window onto my painting, "Spun." We're down to 4 hours and 9 minutes of "daytime." Officially, there is 6 hours and 50 minutes of visible light, but that includes a dim glow on the horizon that lasts for a long time around 10am and 4pm. I'm sitting at my desk looking out at such a thing: the skeletal poplars are silhouetted against an orange smudge over the ridgeline while the rest of the world fades to black. The temperature has been falling all day. It was +5F this morning, and now it's -2F. I had hoped to get out skiing today, but I spent the whole day doing this......

I've found that when I have a block in getting into "serious" paintings, I can still pick up brush and color or whatever, and still get in the groove of working. Recently, I've been continuing work on a book I made at Penland in 2007. Somehow, working in the format of individual pages is the perfect thing to ease myself back into artworking. Artworking is REALLY important to me and all kinds of stuff is wrapped up in it: personal, past, future, business, finances, fantasies, hopes, wishes, friendships, decisions, you name it. Sometimes, it's a little overwhelming to approach. Books are a gentle immersion. Each page becomes a small, intimate work.

The class at Penland was "Artist Bookmaking" with Laura Wait. We painted with wheat paste acrylics and created stacks of large, quickly painted papers which were then cut and assembled, the point being to 'illuminate' the books with surface design, writing and image after the book had been created. The coincidental combinations of the painted pages after assembly was beautiful and really fun---we never knew what we'd get.

I've been working on one of the first books I made, now titled, "Concatenation." To concatenate is 'to connect or link in a series or chain.' Awesome.

This is the cover. On many of the pages, I've painstakingly outlined painted and stenciled images with white acrylic ink and a very fine calligraphy nib. I love that opaque white...

That arching gold line is my concatenation. As this book was made in the summer of '07, I was at the height of my infatuation with The Shape. I worked with The Shape as a symbol of specific thoughts or memories, which one links naturally with other thoughts or memories to create new understanding. Also, the Shape represents an individual---how connections between them are fundamentally creative of so many things.

Working on this book was revisiting a old friend...the Shape. Still rocks my world to draw that over and over. Can't even explain it. The Shape is visceral. It's down deep.

The book open to two pages. The flow of red dots and white Shapes was pure, random accident.

The larger background Shapes are another happy accident. I deepened the black background, created the calligraphic script (a non-language mark-making. At Penland, we called it Klingon.)and also detailed the red dots. I did try for a continuity within the book with repeating colors and marks.

This is one of my favorite spreads. The yellow is REALLY vivid. Some of the preceeding pages in the book are darker or more subtle, so when one turns to these pages, it's as if the sun has suddenly come out.

The book has 40 pages. Many of my classmates made smaller or thinner books, and now I know why they did that.....they could finish their books in class, not a year and a half later. Still, I plan to send images of this book to Laura and share my success in completing it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter blossom

The lovely paphiopedilum fully open. She's so undemanding. A lot of flowers have flash and a style that demands a certain kind of attention and regard. My girl here just is what she is----complex and unique with no baggage. She's got a great, quiet dignity.

Sometimes, when my orchids bloom in winter like this, I feel apologetic that I can't also provide them with a wasp or fly or some kind of insect to crawl around on them, at least imitating pollination. I think they'd like the massage, you know?

This little girl is helping to keep my spirits up (a losing battle, unfortunately.) Introducing Masdevallia 'Angel Tang.' Can you just believe that name! It's as cute as she is! What I've so far been unable to photograph is the soft little hairs all over her uni-petal-----(sepal, whatever---botanists, don't correct me!) at a certain angle, they blush this amazing purple color. Seriously vivid. Kind of a neon violet. Angel Tang has her little surprises. I've been keeping her by my bed lately....I lay down and just look at her. Helps a bit.

And now for something completely different.....
My Halloween pumpkin, frozen solid.

Soon enough, some lucky moose will come by and crunch it down. Moose LOVE frozen pumpkins. I've seen two moose actually fight over a frozen pumpkin, bodyslamming each other away from it! This was in our cabin in the swamp several years ago. They actually bodyslammed into the cabin a couple of times, shaking the structure. Moosequake.

Me? Life?
Just trying to survive winter at this point.
No energy or inspiration.
It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It's supposed to be -20F this week and we're losing 6 minutes of daylight every day. We're down to just under 6 hours of light. The first and last hours of that are a dim, drawn out sunrise and sunset of half-light.

I think I need to go out and buy myself one of those expensive S.A.D bulbs......

Or a trip to Hawaii.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Update, in general....

1. I got a new job. I'm the Branch Manager for the new Alaska Geographic bookstore. OK pay, not so OK benefits....we'll see how it goes. It's a job, you know?

First things first; we have to build the store.

2. I made Ratzones again! Can anyone out there think of a more palatable name than that? It's a rodent, it's a calzone, it's........

A close-up of the cutest one. He's wearing a little hat. I ate him.

3. Three paintings in the annual juried 64th Parallel show. Someone said I'd gotten an Honorable Mention, but there were no tags indicating that...
Many good comments on "Tempest" (red painting on the left). At my solo show back in May, this painting garnered only curiosity as to my motivation for painting it----not all that positive. Goes to show you that if a work doesn't 'do well' in one scenario, take it somewhere else.

4. Lastly, a new bud on my Paphiopedilum. She's months ahead of schedule, but hey, I'm not in charge! This just tells me that she's happy and she loves me.
I've tucked all of the orchids in their plastic-wrapped shelf unit for the winter. This way, I can give them tropical temps and humidity while the rest of the house is dry and chill.
With the orchids this year is my Echium pininana; needing the light and moisture to be happy, as well. This guy has a lot of names: Tree Echium, Tower of Jewels, Pride of Tenerife, and Giant Viper's Bugloss. It's about 10" high now, but maybe in three years, it'll be at it's full, glorious and blooming height of 12-14 feet. Fun!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Horseman's Star

Yes, it's winter.
Yes, it's only +2F outside my front door today.
Yes, the car is plugged in and there's a fire in the woodstove.

None of this matters to the beautiful flower which is gracing my studio this week! A friend brought some bulbs back from Hawaii last February and gave them to me, knowing I was savvy with the green, living things. (This happens more and more often as my reputation spreads for having a talented Green Thumb.) Their stipulation was that if the bulbs grew and thrived, they'd want one back, and I could keep the other. Of course, said friend had no actual idea what the bulbs were....

They could report on the beautiful orange color, and that was it. No info on leaf shape, petal shape or number, flower shape, etc. I had to just wait and see what the bulbs would give me.

I've nurtured the bulbs for months, tucking them in with my orchids. This is the gorgeous result!

I began doing research once the flower buds formed. Tricky business..... Bulb like a Hyacinth, leaves like an Amaryllis, buds like a Daylilly. The Amaryllis lead was the best one, that and via a marathon googling session, I stumbled upon a blog where the writer linked Amaryllis with a post titled, "Naked Ladies and Hippie Ass Trims." (Who would've thought?)

'Hippie ass trims' is the convenient pronunciation for Hippeastrums, a genus in the family Amaryllicdacea. I'm no botanist, but I'm doing pretty good with the research! The Greek origin of the genus name translates as, "Horseman's Star." I think that name is just beautiful.

Hippeastrum puniceum, which seems to be what these bulbs are----from visual comparisions of pictures online, only----is also known as Barbados Lily. Another sexy name.

One bulb is blooming beautifully, the other seems to be along for the ride at this point.

In the deepening winter days, these blossoms are a bright sun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My World

It's been snowing off and on for three days. Temps this morning were +18. We've had the woodstove going for about a week now: Winter is really here.

To inaugurate winter, Team Sharema put on skis and went out for the first ski of the season. We'd been at it an hour, skimming along on not-completely-snow-covered trails when Shannon asked me, "Is there a reason that your poles are so different?"

I looked at them and realized that one was my pole and one was Fromage's......three inches difference in height, different color, different basket, you name it! I was so excited about skiing, I didn't even notice... (Fromage thought this whole incident very funny when I told him...)

My fellow Alaskans in the Blogosphere are talking about winter (and skiing!):

Alaskan Girl

Northern Flux

Red Doors

Winter up here heralds a totally different way of living daily life as well as a different focus on projects and goals. This winter I'll be spending a lot of time in my studio, preparing for my May solo exhibit at The Alaska House Gallery. Also, I'll be working (!) and hopefully skiing my ass off whenever and wherever possible.

What are you doing this winter?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Team Sharema: 58.1 miles

Starting out!

Temperature: +32 F

Around mile 30----snow flurries! Fun to ride through. Quiet and beautiful.

Shannon rides through the snow. There were flurries on and off all day and more snow on the ground the closer we got to the springs. We were lucky that it melted on contact with the road---no ice for delicate road tires....

...but there was glass (or something) for delicate road tires! Fixing our one flat....mine.

Shannon's feet started to get cold, so she put on her DIY overboots made from a pair of fluffy fleece socks her mom sent her. You can't tell in this picture, but the socks have little paw prints all over them. Totally cute, funny and according to Shannon---very warm!

Celebrating the half-century mark!

Shannon's first half-century.

The finish line: Chena Hot Springs! After this, we drank beer, soaked in the outdoor rock pool and ate dinner.

Amy and Tom. They were at CHS to celebrate Tom's birthday.

Not pictured is Fromage: our drop-off and pick-up man. He met us at the Springs and drove our tired asses back home.

And now?

More rides?

Maybe we can sneak in some frosty mountain biking...but this morning, the world is covered in a couple of inches of snow.....this might be IT: winter has started.

Farewell road biking until next spring.....sniff.....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This is the day to get crazy.

Temperature upon waking: +31F

This is the weather forcast where I live:

Flurries are now occurring over the Fairbanks area will last through 9am. No accumulation is expected.

This is the forcast for the rest of the day:

Mostly cloudy with scattered snow showers...possibly mixed with rain in the afternoon. Highs 35 to 40. Southwest winds to 10 mph.

And this is what I'll be doing for 60 miles today!

The good part is that my cycling friend Shannon and I (a.k.a "Team Sharema") will be ending our day here:

(That's me on the left.)

Check back for a post after the adventure....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Power of Small Things

Coprinus comatus
a.k.a "Shaggy Manes"

Everyday on my way home I've checked on the progress of these Shaggies busting their way through the pavement. They're in the divider on a 4-lane highway.

Gotta love the power of this seemingly small, fragile lifeforms!

Gotta love 'em sauteed with butter and garlic, too.

(Don't worry, I didn't pick these guys. I just admired their hard work.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good days of Autumn

A 36 mile ride with my friend Shannon the other night---we got to enjoy a spectacular sunset! An auspicious evening---my last day of work for the season. The end of summer for me, officially.

Riding and shooting at the same time---not easy, but really, really funny.

After a hiatus following my Homer solo exhibit, it's time to get back into some art making. Two months off is enough. I am so inspired by the paintings of Jeanie Tomanek! Beautiful and evocative.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Up North

Fromage and I headed up North to visit a friend at their mining claim. This was the vista for miles and miles---rocky tundra and beautiful fall colors.

The two Waynes at the mine.

Fromage and I headed out on a four-wheeler (a.k.a. ATV) to explore the countryside a bit and have a cup of tea somewhere...

These are boots of Eero---kicking back in my element.



The Waynes were generous to offer us some of their tailings---we found some great flat rocks for landscaping projects I'm working on.

So, now it's September....
August was for garden harvesting and food collecting/storage.
This month is for firewood hauling: gotta oil up the chainsaw.