What Remains

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Well, it's been some time since I've written, but the last few weeks have been filled to the brim with travel, along with planning for my niece's September wedding which will take place in our backyard on the banks of the Missouri River. Johntimothy and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to various locations all over the state of Montana where we enjoyed visiting with my extended family in a couple of mini-reunions, along with a venture down to Yellowstone and a spectacular trip through the Bear Tooth Pass. As enriching and thrilling as it is to be away, it does take some time to get your usual rhythms back! So....finally ready to share some thoughts and images with you.

The image above, Explorers' Notebooks no.6, was nearly finished when I left for Montana, so the only thing that was done in the last couple of days was the stitched line on the lower portion....for me, it's an echo of the amazing mountains I saw, but I can see that it might be seen as a time line, part of a chart, or some other documentary evidence. As those familiar with my work already know, I am fascinated by the ability of the book page to document the newly discovered and to communicate across time and place. I've invented those floating forms at the top and the little white snippets that appear to identify them are just bits of book page text painted out with acrylic. I am more interested in the idea of these book pages and their ability to capture our sense of wonder than in depicting actual specimens.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

The focus of my work is of a different kind than actual observation....more difficult to put into language....or visual terms. My search is really about what remains. Until now, I've put that in terms of "the trace", but that has always implied some physical manifestation, something visible left behind. But I've come to understand that to describe this nebulous "thing" I'm after as something tangible kind of misses the point....the longing and the yearning are really all about the intangible, as ultimately what remains can't be held or touched.

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The impressions left after the breathtaking views seen front and center or from the periphery in a moving vehicle, the glance of a stranger, the moments of warmth and cheer when gathered with generations of DNA sharing relatives, some of whom you've only just met....all seep into your being and become a part of you. They become memories, but also more than that, as each moment lived changes who you are just a little bit.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the end, perhaps nothing remains in the material world, and yet, everything remains....everything you've seen and heard, everything you've experienced lives in you somewhere and beyond you when you're gone. Call it something, call it stardust. And just how do you get at that notion through the slow process of making small and intimate drawings on paper? How do you open that door to the invisible through the seen and the felt world of material things? That's my quest....that's what is behind the Explorer's Notebooks. I'm trying to document those things you can't point to, that you can't see, but you sense them....put together, it's all that remains.

 

Navigating the Waters

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

I seem to be carving out a bit more time in the studio....enough to get back to the dailies and finish up a couple more ambitious pieces. This summer is filled with visitors and trips, both near and far, so this open window of time is not going to last long....but for now, I'm enjoying the rhythm.

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

 

Another finished piece in the Explorers' Notebooks series. The slow pace involved in making these pieces gives me time to ponder....what they reveal and what they conceal. I wonder if those words, caught in the net, are a metaphor for unspoken thoughts or unrealized dreams. Are they words undelivered or perhaps caught, just in time, allowing them to be sorted and spoken with more care? And that river....it's the one I look at every day out my window, but it is so much more than that, of course. I think of it as the river of time, of memory....the one that sweeps all our days away to join the others downstream, the one that reminds us that change is constant and each day we have the chance to begin anew.

Gathering of Stones

Gathering of Stones

 

Johntimothy and I are also in the process of collaborating on mixed media print works, which we sell in our Etsy shop, The Art Filled Home. You can view many of these works here on our website, as well. I have a stack of beautiful patterned silkscreen pieces that he has made, ready for me to draw on, but I seem to have gotten away from them of late. This week, I finished one up that I like very much. I find I am drawn to a slightly off-kilter composition, just out of balance, yet one that invites relaxation and contemplation. Stones, such as these, often find their way into my work, as yet another signifier of time and memory. And those flowing lines....in some ways, they are much like a river. This piece is just as much Johntimothy's as it is mine....he sets up the color palette and the subtle patterns and I respond with drawing. We have much to explore in this area, with plans to create more scroll-like compositions, playing more with juxtaposing pattern and image. Stay tuned!

 
A newly created fire pit area out by the river

A newly created fire pit area out by the river

Meanwhile, earlier this summer we (meaning, mostly Johntimothy) put the finishing touches on the fire pit area, the project we began last summer. It's so wonderful to be out by the water on a not-too-hot summer afternoon with a cool, refreshing drink. It feels as if we have a whole new living room, actually! There have been quite a few fires in that fire pit, but evenings lately have been a bit muggy. But, Johntimothy has wood, branches and kindling placed just so in there....we're ready on the next night that's just a bit cooler. Actually, I believe I'll head out there now! Until next time....enjoy your week!

 
 

The Flow

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

I love the long, slow days of summer when the sunlit evenings linger, moving in a kind of slow motion, toward the approaching hour of sunset. While we have breakfast, and often lunch, on the front porch where the nest full of newly hatched barn swallows is the star attraction, the evenings are often spent out closer to the river in our fire pit patio area. Not tonight though....with the menacing storm approaching, we returned to the front to sit through the storm under cover. A little hail, some heavy rain, and then bright skies returned and a quiet hush fell as the ground soaked up that much needed water.  We've waited so long for some rain, I felt myself relax just a bit....for the sake of the parched plants.

In the middle of each day, I try to spend some time in the studio. Days are often filled with weeding, gardening chores, and errands, so I'm lucky just to get to the daily drawing and a bit of journal writing. But always the goal is spend some real time working....that's when all my insights come....during the slow passage of time quietly drawing or stitching on paper. The studio is where the grounding happens and I'm easily thrown off kilter if I neglect my time there. 

 
Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

 

This piece above is still in the works, but I thought I'd share it with you now as a way of talking about the intuitive process in the studio. This series, The Explorer's Notebooks, allows me to pay homage to the beautiful journal pages and documentary drawings of explorer's through the ages, while also drawing on my own inquiries in living mindfully each day. I am drawn to the magical capabilities of language, though I am not a writer. As a visual artist, I use asemic writing to spark curiosity and wonder, in myself and in the viewer. With each drawing, I "know" one step at a time what goes where, which means I never really know how a piece will come together until it is finished. I start from a place of unknowing and usually end at a place of understanding, as the slow revelations happen while the work progresses. Putting the understanding into language, which is after all the inspirational foundation of the work, is most difficult. 

In this piece, it wasn't until the main base layer of the piece has been drawn and then dipped in the beeswax that I knew what I was to do next....a net....to capture language. The countless words that we speak or hear during the course of a day, the important ones and those that are lost to oblivion....all those words. Not to mention the words rattling around in our head that never escape our lips....all those thoughts, all those precious words. They hold the power to heal or destroy, create anew or kindle a fire in the heart. What if you could capture all the words that filled your day in a metaphoric net....one that allowed you to sift and sort, holding on to the treasured words and taking back the ones you never meant to say? Or the ones that hurt you....perhaps you could let them go? What if there was a count of all the words spoken....how would you form a tally? And that river.....isn't it really as if all the words are like a constant stream, moving along toward a fast moving river? The hours of our day rush past, sweeping all those words up in a torrent. But the river, isn't that the flow of our collective history....who can say where it is going?

I took this photo earlier in the day and now the piece is further along....I will share it here when it is finished. Our 4th of July national holiday is fast approaching. We'll have some houseguests, including two lively dogs, which will be fun! Hope you enjoy the holiday....see you soon! 

 

Exploring New Territory

I've been inspired lately by a new book I checked out from the local public library, Explorers' Sketchbooks (now on its third renewal!). I am struck by the notion of exploration, which is rooted in an innate curiosity about the world. We are used to hearing about all manner of men and women (mostly men, of course) down through the ages who risked their lives to venture into the unknown. But, does it seem to you, that there is a sense that we've essentially discovered it all? While that is not remotely the case, it feels as if, in the public imagination, there is a lack of curiosity about the vast unknown worlds. Think of all those unexplored territories that surround us on all sides....the soil beneath our feet, the expanding universe, black holes, dark matter, the human body, the oceans, migration patterns, traffic patterns, it's endless....we've not even really scratched the surface!

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

I've begun a new series of mixed media drawings, Explorers' Notebooks, that will allow me to explore the idea of "exploration." Inspired by the Explorers' Sketchbooks, filled with images and text including the beautiful journals, notations and drawings, all attempts to capture the newly seen and experienced, I am using these pieces to explore my own inner worlds, as well as the place and moment in time where I find myself. All of which can be seen as uncharted territory. 

While so many places on the planet have been discovered, mapped and described by others, maybe the secret and the way to reignite our curiosity is to attempt an expedition into our own worlds....the places we think we already know. 

Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Speaking of discoveries, thanks to Jennifer Coyne Qudeen for the word "asemic", which is defined as a kind of wordless open semantic form of writing. It is the form of writing without a specified content. I was astonished to come across it on one of Jennifer's Instagram posts, as my own practice is based in what I have always, clumsily called, wordless writing...or some other vague term. To discover that what I do in the studio and the mark making practice that comes so naturally to me, not only has a name, but a codified definition and a whole host of practitioners....well, it feels akin to discovering someone at last who speaks my language. The marks that fill these drawings hearken back to the pattern of writing, perhaps a newly unearthed ancient manuscript, an attempt to communicate down the ages (as the written word is meant to do), but which, for whatever reason, can no longer be deciphered.

Writing and text, seen in these visual terms.....that's my current exploration. Thank to Jennifer and all the countless others who practice asemic writing....you've marked a path for me and now I'm on my own road of discovery. Cheers!

Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process

Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process