Sunday, May 31, 2009

show update

Well, for all my last minute freak-outs and insecurities, everything went very well Friday night, overall. Not a ton of people came, but the perfect people came. Warm and caring and supportive. Couldn't have asked for a better "first solo show" crowd. I sold quite a few pieces and had many wonderful conversations about my art and art in general, plus my work will be up for two more months. I will post some pictures soon!

And need to retake photographs of all my work for the website. I realize that I did this quickly before, more in the spirit of documentation, but so much is lost between online viewing and viewing in person. I see some other artist's sites and am amazed at the richness of their photographs.Any and all suggestions on how to do this are much appreciated!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

brushing off the chips

Sigh...on the wings of my last post about the academic approach to art and dialogue and about having past student peers judging my work, comes tonight's awkward interaction at Home Depot. I was there to buy a masonry bit and screws to put up my last piece (YAY!!) for the opening tomorrow night. It went something like this:

cool ex-student (who, btw, was one of the hip students at the Univ. though, he is a good artist, I have to say.which makes it worse.:).): Oh, hi...what are you getting?

me:hi, I have to mount my last piece onto a concrete wall and need some special

cool ex-student: yeah, I'm doing some framing. Why are you hanging pieces?

I'm going to interrupt this story for a moment to say that on the Facebook "event" I created for the show, he was one of the people who responded as yes, they are coming. Okay, back to the conversation.

me: it's my last piece for my show.

c es: what show?

me: (I just sort of look at him puzzled for a second)

c es: oh. yeah. I think I remember receiving something about that.(trails off...)

me: right. so this is my last piece and I am glad to be almost done...

c es: so, um, I think I am going to be out of town tomorrow. so, um. um. I don't think I'll make it. um, have fun and good luck....(trails off again and kind of looks at the ground)

me: that's okay. you have fun on your trip. bye.

Maybe he really is leaving town? I don't think so. Suddenly I am in the 7th grade again and someone is passing a note in front of me that is about me and how dorky I am. Now, this is my blog, and I guess I should be really confident and promote my work and talk about how great it all is... but, well, this is my blog and you get to see the real and very sensitive me. I have never been the kid who was popular and didn't understand how to be a "cool outcast" until high school. But even being a cool outcast took more effort and work than I could manage for long. Before that, I was the painfully shy girl who always managed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time when she did finally get the guts to speak.

so, suddenly I am a rejected 7th grader again, standing in Home Depot, wondering what I did wrong. Then I get irritated-I'll show you! You'll see, I'm going to make it and you are going to feel like an idiot!.... whatever. This response is just as childish, because, of course, this is real life. In real life, I could just as easily toil in my reclusive space for the rest of my life in relative unknown, while he stays cool and becomes famous. Actually, that is how things generally turn out in real life. Cool= people like and want you. Reclusive, socially awkward= people stay away, unless they somehow find this a sweet, quirky trait. (thank you to my wonderful friends!)

What to do? I realize I am going to be over-sensitive for the rest of my life, most likely. I am so envious of those who just don't care and are able to take people or leave them... not me. No, I ruminate about every conversation weeks after they have happened, analyzing from every possible angle. I just can't seem to let it go.

I realize that as someone who is trying to make her living by being vulnerable and at the same time is greatly pained by vulnerability that this is my fatal flaw. My greatest weakness. I really don't know how to get over it and wonder if I ever will. It's not about this particular person or this show. This interaction represents so much more about a desire for acceptance and an unwillingness to do what it takes to be accepted at the same time.

I am glad, in hindsight that this person will not be there tomorrow night. This person represents the condescension and pretension that I can't stand when it comes to being critical of another. Instead, I will have some strangers, and some wonderful friends and fellow artists that are amazingly supportive of simply the fact that I pursue what I love and so do they. And understand that everything is a journey and a work in progress. After writing this, I am now looking forward to tomorrow night once again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

getting down to the truth (in art)

With my first solo show opening this Friday, I have been facing more and more dialogue in my head about what various people will think if/when they come.

When I can finally get quiet in my studio, I know that I am making work for myself and my personal artistic pleasure- not for a specific audience in mind. But I do have to say that it is at times very difficult to get into that mental/emotional space. Having returned to school as an older student to emerge as an artist in my 30s instead of my 20s, I vowed not to allow school to change my artistic "vision". And while art school did not change what inspires me as an artist, it did change how I dialogue and question myself about my work. I now have a new perspective on craft and the art world that I certainly did not have before. I have a much greater sense of the history behind the work I do and what other current artists are doing. The positive aspects of this for me is a desire to push my work and my ideas continually- to see what I am doing as research or a constant work in progress as ideas unfold and develop. School has also given me the freedom and desire to explore more and more materials, along with the skills to do so.

The downside? Sometimes I feel downright schizophrenic in my studio. There are multiple professors and fellow students living in my head and critiquing me constantly. When I was in school, this was my audience and I had both failures and breakthroughs while listening and taking into account what was being said. What is difficult about this is I believe that academic art often clashes with art as a business, which adds a whole different dimension to studio work. School-based learning and work is about the idea, the new and the different- gearing work for high-end galleries and artistic fame in a particular setting. A kind-of make it or break-it attitude to making art. When does this push become contrived? As I write this, fragments of many conversations clamor in my head- about beauty verses art, and making work that only the art world is going to respect/understand. I respect the relatively few artists who are able to achieve this kind of notoriety with their work. I find that my personal ideas are never shocking/trendy or new enough to fit in this category. So far, pushing my work into this realm has only created work that I am not proud to show. And I have plenty of it stuffed into my studio closet! :).

Now that I am out in the real world, so to speak, come the other aspect- art as a sustained livelihood based on selling to regular people who like/appreciate art. This is the audience that at this point, I understand the least. I have noticed that generally, the "sweeter" the piece is, the more likely it is going to sell. For ex. I have two ink pieces featuring mice. The mouse pieces are sold already, the insects are not. But, as you can see, I LOVE to draw insects, finding their bodies beautifully foreign, challenging and fascinating. My personal insecurity is that this places me right in the middle- not crazy enough to be embraced by the art world, not pretty enough to be embraced by a wide paying audience. The general view in the art world about mass audience based arts is that it is too soft- not pushed enough and made to sit in a room instead of stimulate. Actually, I should specify the academic art world as the thing I speak of- I cannot speak for the what defines the art world in general. However, the more artists I meet making their living from their art is that this IS their personal expression- they are striving to stimulate in a different way- not to shock, but to beautify and enlighten. I equally respect these artists as well because they spend every day doing exactly what they love, express themselves and are making a living at it.

I think that this conversation is so dominant in my mind because people from both areas of my life are coming to this opening. Inside, there is a part of me that wants to please everyone and wants everyone to like my art. Knowing that such a variety of people are coming reminds me that there is absolutely no way that everyone liking my work is even possible. In fact, some people are going to hate it! Consequently, out pours all those sensitivities, fears and internal conversations. I know that to thrive, or even survive as an artist I am going to have to let this go. Otherwise this is the beginning of a very long and painful road.

I imagine (and realize) that one has to separate oneself from both business, academics and whatever else is speaking, to get down to the truth in making art.

That saying, I desire to make art that gets down to the essence of my being, while pushing my craft and my intention as far as it can go. To revel in the fact that art is a life-long learning process I will never completely master. This is the exciting part. In the end, those voices and fears only serve to remind me how determined I am to be the artist I want to be. It IS the beginning of a long, hard road- but one that I embrace with every fiber of my being.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My 1st (and only) twitter post (sort of rant), I promise!

So my latest online adventure this week has been to actively become a part of Twitter. I first created an account in 2008 via the email prompting of a friend, but other than the occasional post, didn't actually use it until the last week or so. I will start off by saying that I really like it. I have already met and conversed with some great artists and interesting people. In real life, I tend to be a bit of a social recluse, avoiding groups and crowds as much as possible. Twitter is perfect in that sense- I can join in and out of conversations and have "small-talk" without any of the uncomfortable feelings that say, come with standing in a room trying to engage in a group of people. . . In general, I am much more of a one-on-one or small intimate gatherings kind of person.

There are, however a couple of things that drive me a little nutty... like,

"Online marketer/entrepreneur" why do you want to follow me? Generally, I try/want to follow back those that follow me and if your bio makes you sound like a human being with varied life interests, then I am most likely going to follow you... for a bit- because if every tweet is about telling me how I can make thousands of dollars on the web in a month with your "strategies", I will quickly unfollow you. Have you looked at my art? Then you would know that I am about as far away as you can get from your target market.

Alas, you will probably never read this blog. Unless, of course, you are actually interested in me as as person, in which case, we can be friends. I have been pleasantly surprised on several occasions.

Here's another.... I write one particular word in my twitter post. Someone has used some kind of application to do a search with that keyword and automatically followed everyone who has used that word, etc. Like today, I used the word TV when replying so someone's post. Immediately I see that I am now being followed by a twitter user who "loves TV" and only posts about TV shows.
I personally don't really like TV and rarely watch it. And if they had read my actual post, they would see that my post was about a documentary I watched about the history of the telescope. That one is a little more gray- maybe I love TV? who knows, but it bothered me a little for some reason. When I choose to follow people, you can guarantee that I have taken the time, one by one to read your site/blog and your bio... I sort of like the idea of slowly building a community of like-minded people, not randomly trying to have as many followers as possible. But I guess I understand perhaps why someone would. Like I said earlier, I am more of small gatherings person, so the idea of having a thousands of followers that I am following is something that I would have to work up to slowly.

So that's why I wouldn't follow back someone who follows me. The only reason I might actually take the plunge and "unfollow" (which I still feel a little guilty about) is

1) you are an artist who I have followed and you decide not to follow me back. But I get to see all of your posts all the time and they are things like..."drinking wine right now". "hanging out with friends".... It's okay that you don't want to follow me for whatever reason. Maybe you don't like my work, maybe you don't like my posts, or think we have anything in common really. But I personally see twitter as a conversation, not a fan club. So I will unfollow soon- though if I REALLY love your artwork, I might secretly read your blog, or even follow it instead :).

and finally...
2) you have followed me and I have followed you back, or vice versa. But you regularly will fill up my entire tweetdeck page with posts, where I have to work to see what anyone else is doing. And I'm not talking a few in a row... I'm talking dozens... regularly. Or, you know who you are (and I'm sure is not reading this!), you post every few hours the EXACT same nine or ten posts of news feeds..... for days. I'm still not sure when you rotate them... I couldn't wait that long.

Okay, maybe I am feeling a little bratty today :). Like I said above, I really like twitter and love many of the inspiring and interesting posts I have read. Plus been able to get on the websites of some wonderful artists, whose work I might not have otherwise seen. It's a great community of people all over the world and that is very cool. I just needed to have the therapy of writing a few of the things that I know I will just have to get used to, that's all.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Recent work!

Whew! So I published samples of my recent work in four different posts below(learned quickly what a pain it is to drag photos around in blogspot, sigh). But this is an example of what I have been working on in the last four months. Looking at this body of work, I see in myself great need for variety and multi-tasking in the studio :).

If you would like to see all of the work, you can visit my art-site at:

it is all there, including a little bit of video, too.

Happy Saturday! After a long night of processing all of these photographs, I am finally about to leave the computer and take my dogs on a hike! they have been staring at me all morning.


Recent metal

I'm beginning with the metal pieces, because this is the area in which I desire to grow the most... I recently learned beginning metal sculpture as part of my last semester at the University. I was/am hooked! These pieces are inspired by bite-mark patterns on a leaf I found in Yosemite National Park, CA last March. Every day in my studio when I work with metal is a great learning process. I need to invest in some more tools to have a completely functioning studio to manipulate the metal the way I would like to... The patterns below are a process of studying the bite patterns and welding the "cuts" from the pieces above together. They are currently up for a show, but I am thinking a great deal about using a diamond point engraving tool with my dremel to etch topography lines in these, similar to my ink pieces below. I look forward to taking many metalsmithing classes in the future!!

Ink Drawings

One of the larger "topography"drawings I have been working on (in a series of three so far). These stemmed from cleaning out my fireplace and becoming attracted to the charcoal ashes as a possible material to work with. These are larger pieces (about 29" x 39", approx). The formations are made by the imprint of the ashes on paper mixed with salt water which I then ink in with a calligraphy pen. What I love about creating these is the way they begin with literally throwing ashes, culminating in hours and hours of tiny pencil lines to make the topography. I think it is a little difficult to see in the the detail, but there are tiny thin lines covering every bit of "land" in the piece. As I made these I thought alot about "brain-mapping" and how we can now map the pattern of synapses in our brains. This for me, became like my own personal "brain-mapping", taking me through many many hours of various thought processes as I drew hundreds of tiny pencil lines, which became my personal "synapses" in a more literal way.


Couple of drawings of the dead insects and plants that I collect. It has become such a habit that my son and boyfriend now bring me dead insects they find as well :). I have quite a growing collection, which means many more drawings ahead! I love doing these studies because of the practice with detail- I have never been much of a "still-life" person (though I greatly appreciate them in other's art), always getting bored. But I find that with the details and challenges of decaying plants and insects that I am continuously fascinated...


Three collages (out of about 56, I think) that I have recently made. These are some of my favorite series to work on because of the spontaneity and process of discovery they involve to make. It is like finding little treasure to share with others. I find the pieces of wood and bark, etc and mixed media items while on lovely walks and I get to comb through thrift stores and old books for imagery- so much fun!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Murphy's law

Today is seriously a Murphy's Law day so far... I feel like I have been running in circles and accomplishing very little in return for the effort I am putting out. The best part of when I am like this is that I continue to make more of a mess around me because of my craziness. Knocked over a glass of water, tripped and scattered a pile of mail, un-hinged the dog gate, spaced-out while driving and missed my exit on the way to my doctors appointment- got super lost because of coming from a different direction, was late for my appointment and had to reschedule since they then couldn't see me for another hour. etc... etc... As I reached a peak of irritation while driving home angry about wasting time, I have decided that today is going to change beginning now. I know that when I get this frustrated, everything will continue to go wrong, which sometimes can include ruining things in my studio... So here goes..... attitude change.... now!!!

On the bright side- I was able to upload all of my photographs last night! I am doing the necessary cropping and will have images of my artwork up by tonight at the latest. Now that I am doing this, I see the beauty of artists taking photographs as they go, instead of waiting until a show and documenting all at once. I have 101 photographs to process, and I am going to try not to overwhelm those of you who visit with all of them at once. Maybe to find a sister site? I'm concerned about posting to something so public as Flickr. Any suggestions would be wonderful...

But I am excited to get these posted and begin on some new work soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Memorial

Stone Memorial (not the one I am designing)

So, this week I have begun the project of designing a stone memorial for my grandparents, and all future generations that might also want their ashes scattered (or preserved) on my grandparents land. Normally, this would be a fun and honorable task, and it is, but for the fact that my grandfather and I had a falling-out 14yrs ago that was never reconciled. So, given that I am designing a memorial to the man who refused to even be in the same room with me for years, this is a pretty ironic task I am undertaking.

And emotional. I find as I research monuments and memorials, that memories and feelings are coming up that I have not dealt with, choosing instead to bury them a long time ago.

Mistakes were made on both sides. I was 16 almost 17 and not getting along with my mother at all. Things were incredibly stressful at our house, my family was in the middle of a move from Livonia, Michigan to Columbus, Ohio. I chose to stay in Michigan and live with my best friend and her family, eventually getting my own little place. I did not speak to my family for about 1 1/2yrs, I think. I graduated from high school and took off with this same friend to back-pack the country. At that point, I was in independent heaven. And completely in my own teenage world.

My grandfather, on the other hand, took my leaving home as a betrayal directed straight at him. He felt I abandoned him and the family and decided that he would have nothing to do with me from then on. Actually, I don't know if it was right then. It might have been when I was 19 and hitch-hiking back to Ohio for their 50th wedding anniversary and the truck that picked me up refused to drop me off, instead taking me first to Texas, then to New Jersey, etc. -all the while snorting large amounts of speed. I missed their anniversary, and my parents (whom I was finally able to sneak out and call) called my police officer uncle, who then called the trucker's boss, who then threatened god-knows-what if I didn't get dropped off in Columbus safely. That, come to think of it, might have driven the nail in the coffin.

Years passed. I became a young mom (relatively, 22), settled down a little (at least no more hitch-hiking!) and had fully reconciled with my parents. My grandfather was still unbelievably angry with me and had decided he is done with me forever. That's when it really began to sink in... I was at peace with my family, had grown-up a great deal, and he wouldn't give me the chance to show him. And wouldn't ever have the chance to meet his amazing great-grandson. I, too was hurt and angry at this point. Why was I still being punished for being a head-strong teenager? But the feelings are buried.

I almost had a chance for a little reconciliation. My sister's 16th birthday, I flew up with my then infant son. All my sister wanted for her birthday was to have a party where the whole family came. My grandfather refused because I was there. My grandmother, on the other hand, decided to come. She loved my sister dearly, and I think was tired of not ever seeing me or having met my son also. She was there, and I smiled at her and interacted with the same groups, showing off Noah so she could see. But I was too afraid/too proud to walk up to her, say I was sorry and give her a hug. And she, for her own reasons, did not either. That was the last time I saw my grandmother. She died suddenly shortly after. This is one of my only life regrets.

Now, the feelings emerge again. Painfully. It feels right to write down this regret, this memory. I have admitted this to no one. My grandfather passed one year ago. (or was it two?) Time is becoming blurry. I did not go see him, and he did not want to see me.

At this point, though, I can begin to see the situation more objectively. My grandfather as a human being, with his own triggers and issues and sensitivities. He had a very tough and neglectful childhood, was not close to his family. Two of his own children (not my mother) left as teenagers and spread terrible lies about him and my grandmother through the small town they lived in. And last, but not least, my parents and I were in a terrible car accident when I was one year old in Anchorage, Alaska. My mother, severely injured was unable to care for me at that time and I went to live with my grandparents for many months. And every year after that, we spent every lengthy vacation with them. They helped to raise me in multiple ways. And it was living on their tree farm, 100+ acres of woods, that I developed the foundation of what inspires my art today. I was allowed to roam for hours on end and became a mini-naturalist, watching animals, insects and plants. Collecting them and studying them and how they were formed. It was a magical place and a magical world for me.

So even though my decision to leave home had absolutely nothing to do with him, my leaving was the final abandonment my grandfather could take. And the incredible pride that runs in my family would not allow him to back down, even when it was no longer relevant. But I understand this now, the hurt this man must have felt. I was the grandchild closest to him, the one he opened his heart to, and I was the one who hurt him the most.

So with that I have decided that I can create this memorial, remembering the grandparents that I love and loved dearly as a child, honoring their memory and the incredible impact they had on my life. And let the hurt and anger go.

But I will, and am, taking steps in my own life and relationship with my family and my son, to break the cycle of the family "pride". That it is okay to admit when I am wrong and apologize, and be vulnerable and honest, even when it is uncomfortable. I don't always succeed, but each generation softens a little more than the last. My grandfather was funny and out-going, but also incredibly strong and dominant. My mother took steps to soften this and now it is my turn. Maybe by the time my son has children, this will be a non-issue.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

last week's lessons

The theme of last week became an overall lesson on the value of life. It began Tuesday night when I found a bright orange butterfly with silver underwings stranded in the middle of the alley, slowly flapping its wings. One of my hobbies is collecting dead bugs and studying/drawing them and an intact butterfly is always a prize. So the scientist in me leaped for joy and I scooped it up and very carefully carried it home, bringing it inside so I could film it before it died. A rare opportunity. I filmed the butterfly for 45mins, just staying in place and flapping its wings... it was so beautiful, so delicate, and I felt so helpless just watching and waiting for it to die. How do you help a butterfly? My thoughts wandered, thinking about what it must be like to know you are going to die, and have to wait for it while loved ones watched helplessly. Felt incredibly internal and sad at the end of this filming session and made a "nest" in one of my plants outside for the butterfly to rest in.

Morning comes, butterfly is still alive. This time, I can't watch anymore and use the power of the internet. Butterfly starving? Lethargic? Sure enough, I find a post that tells
me to put sugar water in a shallow dish near the butterfly. I do this and two hours later the butterfly is gone. Miracle. End of story? No, unfortunately.

I receive the phone call that afternoon. My friend Paul has passed away from the brain cancer he was diagnosed with over 2 years before. I burst into tears, and t
hink again on the butterfly. This was Paul, beautiful, knowing he was going to die and giving nothing but love to everyone around him. He passed away in the arms of his wife, with his baby daughter nearby.
Saturday: attend his memorial... life is in perspective, for the moment. Enjoy/embrace everyday. Give as much love as possible...

Sunday. back to bugs. There are these bright orange and black-spiked caterpillers chomping away all over my beloved passion flowers. I don't want to put poison on them because of
my dogs, and I read somewhere that dishsoap and water does the trick. But instead, I have a better idea. I will collect them in a jar- they will die (I would have killed them anyway) and I can spend hours and hours drawing them. Perfect. So my son and I spend the next half hour or so scooping up every caterpillar we can find and placing them in a glass jar.

Of course they start to scramble around like mad, and that guiltly voice about killing things begins to nag me. But they are killing my flowers! But slowly killing them like this? I thought they would die almost instantly in there. They were going to be killed anyway! AH! I can't stand to see anything die and I feel terrible at this point, seeing their little bodies freaking out. I keep thinking about how I saved the butterfly, but will kill the caterpillars. All because the butterfly is more beautiful and generally valued more among the insects we actually want in our gardens. To squash my guilt once and for all I jumped online to find out exactly what kind of caterpillar it was and prove how horrible it was that it was killing my plants.

Well, turns out it is a gulf fritillary.... it feeds almost exclusively on passion flower, AND it is the caterpillar that turns into the exact butterfly I re-vived a few days previous. Full circle.

What does this all mean, and where does my friend Paul fit in all this? I'm not exactly sure, but it certainly made me question how I valued life. That I should have no power to take it. That each living thing has something to contribute, including us. I know, it is a bug... but still a living being on this earth, and part of the biological balance that is so important to our survival as well. And it felt like a metaphor for something so much larger.
My friend Paul contributed so much in his short life- he gave love to everyone, invited everyone into his inner circle. He was nicknamed "the includer" by all his friends because of his gentle openess to all. He is an example to all who had the priveledge to know him.

I, of course, let all of the caterpillars go- placing them one by one back on my passion flower vine. I am going to trust that the vine is big enough to support all life- that for every flower that gets chomped, another will bloom for the butterflies, and I can enjoy it all. However, I WILL be drawing the caterpillars- just from pulling up a chair to the vine this time :). And this butterfly (I don't know exactly how just yet) will be the star of my next video piece.