Sunday, February 21, 2010


I have been obsessed with birds lately, and so I thought I would share some paintings from last year,

....while telling you about a new collaborative project I am embarking up on with my friend Rachel Znerold, a wonderful artist living in SF. We will be working on 11 x 17 paper and sending the works back and forth across the continent, in a emerging dialogue about.. yes, birds.
Pictures from the package I mailed off today:

I can't wait to see what she does with them!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mission Statement

This morning, I woke up late to an empty house. Extraordinary, blissful silence. 10 am. Just getting out of bed, and it is 10am. A bathrobe and a shower and a cup of steaming mate (french pressed, whole milk). The whole house to myself. There will be a pregnant pause as you digest the miraculousness of this moment.

This is our survival strategy: we each get one morning of the weekend, to sleep in
for as long as we want, with earplugs and a closed door, while the other wakes up at 7 with the chublet and plays and makes breakfast and, in this case, (looks like) goes to the gym. I can't tell you how much, this one single morning per week of indulgent, luxurious laziness, has done to recover my sanity from the horror of an entire year+ of sleeplostness.

And so what, if it is cold and gray and dingy outside, the mountains of snow piled up on each corner becoming graying castles with turrets and ledges that look like they have doubled as horse stables for the season. I don't care. I don't care because yesterday it was 50 degrees, and the sun shone warmly down and the gutters were running with little miraculous trickles of streams and SPRING IS COMING, dammit. I just know it.

I want to answer a few things about this blog, as it is a newborn thing and I would like to talk about it and why it has come into being.

One: the picture which is the header of this blog. I did not take the picture- my mother, an exceptional person, took this up in the Broughton Islands. The picture is not of me nor is it intended as a self-portrait... I am just captivated with the juxtaposition of elements... He of the bald head at once mirrors the shape of the jars as he contradicts them completely. The humor of the moment... his unwitting (and I assume it would be unwilling) contribution to a perfect composition.. there is something in this photo that captures what I have been trying to say all along in my paintings. Irony- discordant elements colliding together in harmony- the introduction (or remnant) of the one inexplicable element that opens up the piece to a world of possibility. It is a little bit like the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, (or at least I was powerfully struck by this concept when I learned of it), in which the imperfect is deliberately introduced to a piece of delicate and perfect symmetry, in order to acknowledge that "nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." So anyways.. as I am writing this, I realize that perhaps the picture is a self-portrait. Of sorts.

Okay, so what else. Why did I start this blog? I started this blog because it has been winter, and I hate winter- struggle every year through this dry, cold time, but about a month ago, while researching ideas and craft projects for my upcoming spring and summer art camps, I came across the blogs of some crafty mamas (see blog list to the right), who were generously sharing their ideas and reflections with the world. I would wake up dispirited and overwhelmed and uninspired, and they would have a new post.... there would be pictures of snow adventures, images of projects taped to the windows that had been created that day- That same day that I had been moping about, these people were living in acceptance of the state of the world, and enjoying it. So yes, perhaps these women are lucky enough not to have to work: perhaps they have live-in-staff. I really don't know how they have such perfectly crafted lives and I will probably never get into the art of Valentine-making with such enthusiasm... BUT I DON'T CARE- They are angels who catapulted me out of my inertia and I am riding an unusual torrent of energy: new blog, new website, new Etsy, new art projects. Suddenly, it is quite valuable that the snow has locked us in.. that in order to go to my freezing studio in the backyard, I have to wade through waist-high snow. Because I am eyeing my desk... the papers and clutter that have not been filed since June. What else I am going to do now, with an empty house and no reason to go outside?

But the real reason I have started this blog, is that I realized that it could be the one place in the world that was completely mine. I share a house with three people and two animals: I am involved in many collaborative projects (including the great adventure of raising a kid): almost everything I do is subject to review or input or design process. Don't get me wrong: I love these projects: I love working in partnership. But since I am not currently in an active painting phase (read: frozen studio, read: massive creative block) I need there to be one thing that I can do without ever having to submit it for review. So this blog is my own damn thing- my room of her own. Maybe it is a way for my feet to find their way back to the studio. Who knows: but I pledge that in it I am going to follow my whim- I am going to practice dancing with my eyes closed, attempting to be unaware of the audience. For example: I am not going to apologize for the inordinate length of this entry. I am going to write with honesty and nakedness. This is it: This is me, elbows out.

And I will end this entry, with an excerpt from a David Whyte book, which so belongs here:

Crossing the Unknown Sea (excerpt)
by David Whyte
You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly to rot on the vine.

"Tell me about exhaustion," I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: "You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?" "The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest," I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. "What is it, then?" "The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

"You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don't have to tell you."

He didn't have to tell me. Brother David knew I wanted my work to be my poetry.

"Go on," I said.

"You are like Rilke's Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn't cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard. Particularly if you think you might drown." He looked down and read again.

And to die, which is the letting go
Of the ground we stand on and cling to every day
He looked up again, warming to the theme, I was getting a good talking-to. "This nervously letting yourself down, this ängst -lichen Sich-Niederlassen, as it says in the German, takes courage, and the word courage in English comes from the old French word cuer, heart. You must do something heartfelt, and you must do it soon. Let go of all this effort, and let yourself down, however awkwardly, into the waters of the work you want for yourself. It's all right, you know, to support yourself with something secondary until your work has ripened, but once it has ripened to a transparent fullness, it has to be gathered in. You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly" he hesitated "to rot on the vine."

Fuller excerpt here

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Aesthetic of the Undone

That is the statement that has been floating about in my head today. It was inspired by climbing the stairs with Sava in my arms today, headed for nap-time, and looking at the half-painted stairwell and hall. It was left over from our great big move-in flurry last June. The blue tape framing the trim and doorways has become part of the aesthetic... a certain industrial loft-like chic, I like to think. Or else, I am just getting really good at the art of letting go. I wonder, sometimes, if we are ever going to get around to finishing this one last area in the house.

I wonder.....

For the moment, I am tremendously occupied with planning our garden. I have already purchased most of the seeds -enough for an enormous community garden, really, and without exception every checker has looked at me and laughingly shaken their heads. "You feeling that optimistic, eh?" As the snow falls and falls outside: a record-shattering winter. Who knew Virginia was going to be so cold??? As kids stay home from school for an entire week. But I am undaunted: I have already sketched out the entire backyard plot, including the four directions and the projected path of the sun, researched the most effective companion plants to pair up, and secured a rototiller. If all goes well, we are going to be feasting on tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, brussel sprouts, chard, kale, lettuce, mesclun, arugula, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes muskmelons, corn, beans, squash, peas: Alice Waters eat your heart out! Now, I just have to wait until all this stuff melts.

Snowbound Weekend

February 8th

Last Thursday the entire state was declared an emergency zone, and by Friday morning, the grocery stores had been plundered and shuttered and all residents scurried home to bunker down for a long weekend. The snow fell for two days.. and when it stopped the trees were drooping under a load of glittering finery. The massive pines across the street, in particular, looked like 17th century waltzers sagging under the most ridiculous ballroom gowns.

And I had the most wonderful weekend in recent memory. Moments like these can be thrilling for its sense of heightened importance: neighbors gather together in spontaneous parties and bring each other fresh bread and cookies, because nobody is driving anywhere- your world is suddenly concentrated into the space of your street. It is Sabbat for all: secular or religous- we all get to experience the sacred pause.

I put away my to-do lists and got the house ready for a weekend of crafts, cooking, baking, and planting. On Friday a grieving friend came over and we planted chives, parsley, cilantro, basil and thyme, in little clay pots lined up in a row on the windowsill. Out on the porch, we plunged our hands into the black earth as Sava leaned over our work, curious. She helped: she carried soil from one pot to another in little handfuls. She dumped pots over, so that the black earth was strewn onto the white ground below. We stomped our feet, studied black against white: it felt like ritual. Now, four days later, little green shoots are barely peeking their heads up, and they make me so happy I could cry.

On Saturday two girlfriends came over and we talked and held hands around the kitchen table, and then we mixed avocado with honey and plastered it on our faces, and then took turns in the bath getting rubbed with sugar and coconut oil. Sava leaning quiet against the edge of the tub to watch us work, and then leapt right into the process.... what a wonderful game! Sticking her hand into the amazing mixture (it looked like snow.. but was warm and sweet!) and wonderingly rubbed it in careful circles on my friend's legs. And then she got into the bath with me when it was my turn, and willingly submitted her body to the experience; holding up arms to be scrubbed, standing and watching her plump little belly and legs get done. Sava getting indoctrinated into the circle of womanhood- what a joyful inheritance. Later, while people ate the leftovers of last night's Indian feast (pumpkin curry venison, roasted vegetable gobi, dal and home-made garlic naan) and napped, I stood at the window watching the snow falling in exact tempo to the music playing inside (Rachel's: Music for Egon Schiele) and wept a little, at the heartbreaking beauty of the world.

Everybody is grieving: the world seems to be such a sad place right now- but I feel like we are grieving with the most beautifully open hearts. For right now, all this snow feels exactly right.