Musings

Days of Transition

 Index of Days no. 7

Index of Days no. 7

Looks like it's been some time since I posted! Not sure where the time has gone, but much of it has been spent in the studio....and cozy inside away from the bitter chill of winter! The latest series of mixed media drawings, The Index of Days, which I started some weeks ago, has progressed in surprising ways. Number 7, shown above, is a reflection of the winter landscape and that gorgeous pink winter light reflecting off the snow. The most recent two below, nos. 8 & 9, seem to have taken a turn. I found myself captivated by the explorations of those tangled, twisting lines. These two pieces are on the way out the door, as they are designated for an upcoming fundraising exhibition in Sioux Falls. I'm excited they will find a home out in the world, but strange and quirky as they are, I'm kind of attached to them. Make it and let it go....that's how it should be!

 Index of Days no. 8

Index of Days no. 8

Looking back, I can see the significance of those tangled, twisting lines....as a metaphor for where I find myself these days. I'm heading off on a new adventure....back to full-time work....tomorrow. My total immersion in the studio has come to a close, alas. While having a loving and supportive husband is so wonderful, having only one income is often a struggle. Periodically, I apply for a few of the limited jobs in the area that pique my interest and now I have accepted a position at the University of South Dakota at the Center for Distance Education. I'm excited to begin, dive into new challenges and connect with a whole new set of colleagues. While that is all the case, still I find myself in a bittersweet moment, as I now give up that luxury of precious time in the studio.

 Index of Days no. 9

Index of Days no. 9

But! I'll still be in the studio, if on a more limited schedule. I will also continue to post new work and share thoughts and musings here on the blog, as I value the connection that this gives me with folks all over the world. And now, it is late and time to get some good rest...I need to be ready for the adventure that begins tomorrow at 8 am. Stay tuned....I'll be back with fresh work soon!

 Index of Days no. 9 (detail)

Index of Days no. 9 (detail)

 

The Tangled Web of Complexity

Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience—to appreciate the fact that life is complex.
— M. Scott Peck
 Daily Drawing, February 20, 2018

Daily Drawing, February 20, 2018

The daily drawings have much to teach me if I pay attention. What comes forth each day, as my hand moves across the page without forethought, is like a window into my inner world. For some time now, I've been making these drawings of intertwining lines....all tangled and tumbling. For me, they represent a study in complexity...a kind of metaphor. 

These drawings are a reminder to me of just how interconnected everything is....patterns in nature, events unfolding, relationships, our mind and body....all of it. We are intertwined with the earth, with the trees and the creatures, our actions ripple out to effect other events in the world. There are times when these ideas overwhelm, and others when it all seems magical, reminding me of my connection to all things. 

 Index of Days, no. 7

Index of Days, no. 7

These interlocking lines take different forms, sometimes gently overlapping, others tangled. They keep finding their way into the work and I sense they are becoming a thing unto themselves....as shapes and forms, as well as metaphor.  Much to explore. As winter snows continue to arrive on our doorstep, my quiet pursuits in the studio unfold. For now, these tangled lines are becoming my subject. There are plenty of examples of this theme visible in the daily drawings of MissouriBendStudio if you'd like to see more. Cheers!

 

 

 

The Pleasures of Reading Three Books At Once

Greetings from the heart of winter! Yes, it is still winter as I write, surrounded by white. Mother Nature is giving us a taste of winter we've not had in quite some time. My work continues to reflect the immersion in this lovely season....the shifts of subtle color, the stark beauty of the trees and grasses against the snow, and the stillness. At least it seems so....life continues to buzz with activity, but winter brings on a blanket of silence that I find quite comforting. My observations turn into memories....and then fade to white.

 Index of Days no.4

Index of Days no.4

One of my desires for the new year was to become more observant...to pay more attention to the details, to capture at least a few more of the endless moments that pass by unnoticed. That's what led to this current series, The Index of Days. These pieces seem to be a place where the accumulated observations of the passing days find their way out into the world. If there were a written index to go with each one, I might be able to point here...or there....with a kind of imaginary page number that would allow me to articulate a reference for that bit of image or stroke of paint. Much of it is fleeting...and fragmentary, all of which we use to piece our lives together into something whole and coherent. We stitch the fragments of memories, of captured moments, the things we've said and heard, the words we've read....it's all there, threads in a tapestry. Or for me, here buried in the layers of paint and ink on a sheet of paper.

Speaking of reading, I want to just touch on the idea that occurred to me the other day as I picked up one of the three very different books I am immersed in right now. The books I'm currently savoring are: A History of Pictures by David Hockney & Martin Gayford, Solar Bones: A Novel by Mike McCormack and on my tablet (a fairly new experience for me) Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon Wood. There was a moment when I realized I was kind of juggling these quite different reads....different in subject, style and mood. My linear side thought I should just finish one and then go on to the next, but the maker/artist in me insisted that the simultaneous reading was creating a different experience of each book and that, in fact, the kind of layered reading was informing the work in the studio in a way that was different than had I been reading one book and then moving on to the next. 

I think it is a fairly understood that the reader of the text is part of the creative spirit of the book, in a sense, in the same way that the viewer of the work of art is part of work's life out in the world. Each read...of a book or a work of art is different, given that each person brings his or her own experience and sensibilities to the engagement. But beyond that, in that moment when I gave myself permission and in fact, encouragement, to continue with this balanced reading, I understood that the insights I gained from the Hockney book, for instance, were enlarged by the incandescent writing of the stream of memories from McCormack in Solar Bones. In one of the chapter headings, Hockney says, "We see with memory"....which resonated even more with me after coming from Solar Bones, which miraculously seems to capture in words the way a daydreaming mind flits from memory to memory, moments of heartache turning to joy. And underneath those books, my engagement with the history of the early days of the United States, is a reminder that it all could be otherwise, that our identity is intricately wound up with our culture and the history of our own country in ways that we cannot fathom. History and collective memory connect the fragile past to the future yet to be born. That notion seems to underlie the writing in Solar Bones....and it goes on...the weaving together of text, ideas and understanding.

February 8, 2018 SQ.jpg

All this is to say....if you are the linear type, as I often am, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about what happens in the interplay of reading several books simultaneously. And, if you are an artist, does what you read inform the work that you make? 

One last note....I'm having a Valentine's Day sale in my shop over at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy! I'm calling it Art for the Heart Sale and everything is 10% off through February 15th, in case the 14th catches you by surprise. I think giving a gift of original art is a wonderful way to express your love and affection for the dear ones in your life....I'm just giving you a little help along the way. No coupon necessary....everything is 10% off, so hope you'll stop by!

 

Seeing the Unseen

One of the goals I have for the coming year is to become more observant. I want to pay more attention, to see with intent and learn to practice observing, rather than just looking. This notion occurred to me after seeing a David Hockney exhibition at The Met in NYC, as well as reading a recent book, which I purchased at the museum, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford .

Hockney is quite keen on observing, passionately so, I would say. He is interested in looking with intention with his own eyes, but also utilizing lenses, cameras and the latest technology in service of expanding his view. He has paved the way for a new understanding of the historical use of lenses in artist’s studio before photography was invented. It’s the seeing what is actually there in front of us, not just what we think is there…the way light makes color possible, how we interpret space….all of it.

Although I am an artist, I wouldn’t say that I’m terribly observant. Often small details capture my attention or the way color and pattern create moments of interest for me, but generally, I could use a bit of more intentional practiced seeing to more fully appreciate and understand my surroundings. That requires mindfulness, being truly present and not having one's attention clouded by all that remains to be done...the next thing to do. So, along with the goal of becoming more observant, there must be the effort to slow down and pay attention. This is already looking like a slightly overwhelming task! But as I often remind myself, each moment is a moment of choice. We can choose to stop and pay attention. And the awareness of the choices we have before us in any given moment is actually quite humbling! That alone should bring us to a bit of stillness.

 

After the finishing (sadly) the book of conversations with Hockney, I read The Man Who Planted Trees: The Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and a Plant to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins, which is a truly intriguing book about all those things mentioned in the title! What I actually found most fascintating was the lesson on trees and forests, how they function and how integral they are to making life on our planet possible.

 

Man Who Planted Trees.jpg

 

This book was a reminder that no matter how observant we are about our surroundings and the natural world, our senses can only reveal so much....that there are limits, of course, to what we can possibly see or observe (unless you are scientist, I suppose). That includes the cell structure and the root systems of course, but also, for instance, the chemical aerosols that are continually emitted by the leaves or the communication system that is established in a forest of trees. We think we know what communication looks like...or sounds like, but it's happening all around us in astonishing ways. All your sustained observations can only give you a glimpse of the intricacies of our universe.

And one of the things that I came to understand in the daily drawing practice this week, came from having read that book. Oddly, I found myself drawn more to making drawings that didn't reference actual things in the outside world. By a certain point in the week, when I was making the drawing and I'd drawn some object, such as the leaves in the piece above (January 15th), I'd erase it (yes, those leaves are erased and barely visible....so for once, I'm dismayed at how good my new phone's camera is!)....or mask it like in that little square of paper covering up I can't recall what on the 13th. 

 Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

The drawing above for January 16th is completely overworked I think, but reflects the process of trying to find the expression. One of the things I struggle with (if it can actually be termed a struggle) in the daily drawing process, is trying not to make "art." Which means letting the drawing be the drawing and not trying to "fix" it or edit it. And at the same time, there is a need for satisfaction or resolution of some kind....or of having "said" the thing that needs to be said. In the end of course, I want them to be art, artful at least, but it has to come through the back door, otherwise I put too much pressure on myself. 

So, you may feel differently, which would be delightful to me, but my favorite from this week is from January 13th. It feels spare and minimum and a bit odd and though it may call to mind "things" of the world, there isn't an actual depiction. I may see it all differently next week, but now that little grassy mound on the 14th makes me want to block it out. I won't, but I long to!

All this is to say, even as I attempt to be more observant in this world and of this world, my real interest is in somehow giving voice to the things we cannot see, the things we cannot name and those which are fleeting and ephemeral. And maybe that's where the seeming irony of seeing the unseen comes into play....if you aren't careful and watchful, you miss all those glittering gems of experience....like the way the fleeting shadows fall across the floor just at the moment you happen to turn your gaze or how the trunk of a tree reflects a warm golden pink in the afterglow of a certain sunset. 

All these little dailies (minus January 16th, which I've rejected) are all available at Missouri Bend Studio should you want to look further. If these thoughts resonate at all, please feel free to comment or contact me....I'm always interested in the conversation! Cheers!

 

 

The New Year Unfolding

River view Jan 5 2018 SQ.jpg

Happy New Year, dear readers! Please forgive the long absence, but we had some complicated and extended holiday travels that had us criss-crossing the country on a trip that entailed trains, planes, automobiles....and a ferry ride! Somehow, I'm not able to think clearly enough to post images online or anything else when I am not at home at my desk, which doesn't quite make sense in today's mobile environment. But, no doubt you were busy as well with all the holiday festivities and New Year celebrations. Now, I'm quite settled in at home and in the studio, ready for a creative burst to blossom in this new year.

Johntimothy and I arrived home on New Years Day after three weeks of travel that included stops in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and St. Paul. The New York City stint was all about visiting museums and taking in the sites of New York that we'd not seen...hence the Staten Island Ferry ride, which was, of course, a delight! We made it to the Morgan Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Dia: Beacon, all of which gave us enough inspiration to keep us nourished for the next year. We saw the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met, but the real highlight for both Johntimothy and me was the David Hockney show in the adjacent galleries. I love Hockney's paintings, especially the landscapes of the recent decade, but what I admire most is his relentless curiosity and passion for delving deep into his interests, pursuing everything to the fullest extent. Always an observer, Hockney inspires me to want to take more care, pay more attention....to observe my own world in ways I'd not taken the time to before. 

Meanwhile, as most folks in the United States know, it's been a period of brutal cold and South Dakota has been no exception. Here's the view a few days ago from up on the banks of the Missouri River at the edge of our backyard. That ice was flowing swiftly downstream on it's way to the Mississippi River. Today we hit 50 degrees, which was cause for celebration and a walk outdoors, but we know more cold and snow is on it's way....what else can you expect...it's winter and it's South Dakota!

When we got settled back home, I spent some time in the studio, thinking about what should be next. I had a stack of daily drawings from several years ago that had been part of a collaborative exhibition at USD and as I started looking through those drawings from early 2014, I realized how much I still loved them. That meant that it was time to quit holding on to them, so I decided to send them out into the world through the Etsy shop. Seeing them, also spurred me into changing up the new dailies, at least for now. So, I've started listing some of my favorites from that series, such as the ones posted here, over at MissouriBendStudio. Please stop by and check them out! What I loved about these is the way the BFK Rives paper was sturdy enough to hold a fair amount of ink, so I could do some more involved drawing than I'm able to do on the Japanese rice paper. 

 January 28, 2014 daily drawing

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

I don't have any more of that great paper on hand, but I've started shifting the dailies in the same direction on another kind of paper....though it's not so wonderful as the Rives. We'll see what develops with these. For now, I've put the beeswax away in order to explore (or reexplore) some new territory. 

I hope you have found some new sense of inspiration for the of this new year. I'm a bit late getting started, but I'm thinking of goals for the year....along with making a list of the things I'm curious about and want to investigate. I think curiosity is essential....on some level, isn't that what keeps us motivated and what gets us out of bed in the morning? What will this new day bring forth?

Until next time....enjoy your week! Cheers!

 

Nothing Is Something

This morning, during the course of making the daily drawing, I found myself reflecting on the direction the drawings have taken of late. I’ve been feeling that I’d been slowly moving into a kind of robot mode, which is the point at which the purpose of a daily practice needs a reset….a pause for reflection. There is a danger of letting the whole routine of it become an end in itself and then, well, you find yourself in a rut. I wasn’t there exactly, but something was telling me to bring my attention back to the mindfulness of the process.

One of the positive aspects of a simple drawing practice like this is that you can step outside yourself in a way, because you are not working at making art, but allowing the drawing to unfold. I have noticed over the past couple weeks that I am now drawn to a kind of spare composition that is somewhat new to my work. The daily drawings have always been rather spare, but this is a different kind of thing. The contrast with a piece shown here from The Notes From the Ancestors series maybe gives you an idea of the direction the work is moving. Most of my previous work was dense, layering and brimming with pattern, image and texture.

 Notes From The Ancestors no.2

Notes From The Ancestors no.2

Maybe I’m more actively exploring the notions of emptiness, pushing the boundaries of the space and finding myself drawn more and more to a simple elegance that allows nothing to be something.

Images of the spare elegance of Japanese interiors and the balance reflected in all things wabi sabi, float inside me as these drawings unfold. Often I find that the daily drawings inform my other work and I am curious to see how this will play out....what the new pieces will have to teach me.

 

 November 17, 2017

November 17, 2017

Earlier in the week I finished a larger piece (11" x 8 1/2") playing with the twisting lines, in anticipation of a series of such compositions. Went back to adding some embroidery to the drawing as well....I do love sewing on paper! I find is very rewarding when there is a flow of conversation between the daily drawings and the other work that unfolds in the studio.

The Thanksgiving holiday is nearly upon us and Johntimothy and I are looking forward to spending the time with extended family. It means an interruption to the rhythm of the studio and making the daily drawings, but it's good to remember we are not slaves to these routines....they are meant to enhance and expand our lives, not confine us. With that, I give myself a week or so off from the practice and will return refreshed and renewed! 

If you are in the United States....wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and hope you find a host of things to be thankful for in your life. See you soon!

 

The Horizon Line

 Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Early last week I headed up the road to Brookings, South Dakota on a day when the winds were buffeting the car at 30-40 miles an hour. I’d had an appointment in Sioux Falls, which is an hour north of us and there was an exhibition I wanted to see at the State Art Museum in Brookings, located on the campus of South Dakota State University, which is another hour straight north of Sioux Falls. Despite the winds and the two-hands-firmly-on-the-steering-wheel at all times, it was a wonderful drive, filled with expansive views and gorgeous sunlight casting a warm glow on the already saffron yellow of the trees and the contrasting fields of dry corn and soybeans awaiting harvest.

 Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

This fly-over part of the country has a reputation for being flat and dull, but here in eastern South Dakota, the land is rolling with gentle rises and expansive views for miles in all directions. We love the landscape and the drive up I-29, especially between Sioux Falls and Brookings, is good for the soul and moments of contemplation.  Our more mundane drive between Vermillion and Sioux Falls is probably equally beautiful, but it is so much more familiar and alas, more taken for granted.

 Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

That hour-long drive had me yearning to be a landscape painter or a photographer and yet it wasn’t really a depiction of that landscape I wanted to capture exactly. I’m fascinated by the patterns in the land, the juxtaposition of luscious colors and by the notion of the horizon. I got to thinking about the horizon line…the place where the land meets the sky and just how visible it is everywhere you look out here. I came to realize in looking out across the land that I live in a horizontal world.

 Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

I began to wonder about the difference between living in a horizontal world as I do, one with so few verticals, and living in a vertical world, where the orientation is up and down and the horizontal views are minimal. On the plains, we have wide-open spaces, farmland, prairies (what little is left of them) and rivers. The highest building in the state of South Dakota is the 11-story Century Link tower in Sioux Falls (per my internet investigation) and in North Dakota it’s the State Capitol in Bismarck.  In South Dakota we do have the Black Hills, the mountains in the western part of the state, which are surely vertical, but they rise up from the plains somewhat suddenly, not like in the east where folks might live in the foothills of a mountain range. When I think of the notion of vertical out here, I think of the roots of the prairie grasses that reached down 8-14 feet into the earth. Those grasses held the land in place for thousands of years until we dug them all up to turn the place into farmland. My orientation is truly horizontal and I'm happier in wide open spaces. The daily view I have of the Missouri River outside my window, flowing horizontally right to left on its way to meet the Mississippi, anchors me to the ground.

 Missouri River view, October

Missouri River view, October

This post is filled with views of a horizontal world that I thought I’d just share with you, along with my recent musings. Since I couldn't bring myself to get out the car on that horrendously windy day to photograph the landscape, I combed through some of the photos I’ve taken over the last few months. And then I got in touch with my friend Krishna Mastel who takes some truly gorgeous photographs of the rural landscape in the area where she lives outside of Vermillion. The more breathtaking photos are hers, as revealed in the captions. I’m happy to introduce Krishna to you, as she also has a daily practice that I’ve been tuning into. We’ll do an interview with Krishna in one of our next posts about the abstract photographs that she posts each day. Stay tuned for that! 

In the meantime, would love to hear your comments about this notion of a horizontal or vertical view. Feel free to share any stories about where you live and how that affects the way you see the world. 

 Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

 

The Image or the Object

Johntimothy and I spend much of our days in the studio….making things. We create prints or drawings or mixed media works. My works are one-of-a-kind and some of his are as well, but he will also produce small hand-printed editions. Sometimes we collaborate and make pieces that involved both of us working in our different ways on a single work. At our core, though, we consider ourselves makers of things, which is to say that the works we make are tangible and can be held in the hands. They have a physical presence and a tactile quality, whether that comes from paper dipped in beeswax or the raised ink on a hand printed etching or engraving. We come from a generation that values the object.

 

As a maker who would very much love to sell my work and send these pieces out into the world to folks who will love and appreciate them, I’ve been giving this notion of “the object” some thought, in light of the way that technology has revolutionized our culture. I have work available for sale in the Missouri Bend Studio shop here on this website, as well as through Missouri Bend Studio and The Art Filled Home on Etsy. I post fairly regularly on Instagram and Facebook and my work can be found all over Pinterest. While I do have many appreciators and buyers that I value greatly, and with whom I have established warm relationships, I struggle with the “business side” of selling the work.

The old tired line is that artists are not business minded and while that may be somewhat true for some, learning to engage in marketing and run a business, is really just another skill set….much like drawing. I believe anyone can learn to draw, as it is a matter of eye-hand coordination, and the basic skills can be taught and learned through practice. But, that’s another whole topic of conversation. I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years about various online platforms and navigating the ins and outs of creating websites, online storefronts, etc. While my first love is creating the art, I do love the work of engaging with people all over the world and am interested in maintaining the balance of time spent in the studio along with the business end of things.

 

But….here’s the thing. In our current culture, I am beginning to wonder if, for many folks, the image alone is enough. That is, perhaps now that everyone views most everything through the screen, whether on a desktop, laptop or a mobile device, we are so used to seeing images of things rather than the things themselves….well, one may have replaced the need for the other.  Perhaps the notion of purchasing no longer occurs to someone who sees a piece of artwork that they love, when the image of it can continue to be seen in an image feed, saved to a Pinterest board or captured in any number of other ways. Who needs the object, when you have a picture that represents it? For some, the image alone is satisfactory....it's good enough.

These various online platforms, that continue to multiply in new and exciting ways, provide astounding opportunities for exposure across the globe. I am thankful for the love and support of countless folks near and far, who let me know that my work inspires or brings joy.  I do send small works out several times a month, yet I have begun to seriously wonder about this notion of “the image” or “the object.”

These musings are not just about selling my own work, but have to do with the larger issues about our experience of the material world and whether we are living so deeply in the technological world that we are losing out on deep levels of tangible experience in nature…in the real world. We may be engaged and simultaneously disconnected. 

There is a vast range of experience that is missed when we only see the image of something, rather than the thing itself. Ink or paint on a surface, the nuance of color against color, the way changing light makes the work appear differently. Subtle marks can be missed entirely when viewing only online. I am always aware, when seeing or saving an image online, that it is just a kind of facsimile. The image points to the object, which exists somewhere else, but can by no means be replaced by an image of it. I fear the day when we no longer know the difference.

All this runs through my head even as I entertain the idea of creating an online subscription of the daily drawings or try to figure out new ways to market the work online. I continue to come back to the notion that there is no substitute for the object, as least in the work that I create. I would love to hear from you about your views on these issues. This post is a conversation starter, so feel free to let me know your thoughts here in the comments.

In the meantime, the visuals on this post are some of the recent daily drawings, available for sale at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy. (Buy 5, get one free….it’s a great deal!). I try to post them each day on Instagram, so go ahead and follow me there if you like. But remember, they are better in person….there's no substitute for the real thing.

 

What Feeds You?

 View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

 

A day of intermittent drizzle, cool and gray, tinged with melancholy....just around the edges. Maybe not melancholy...that may be overstating the mood....I'm really just talking about a day of introspection. There is a blue cast to the light that highlights the deep rich reds in the sumacs on the bank. So beautiful.....always an inspiration.....nourishing for the spirit.

Nourishment...sustenance....food for the soul. As I sat in the reading chair looking out the window this afternoon, I thought about that notion and the idea of posing the question in a blogpost, "What Feeds You?" It was mid-afternoon when I went downstairs to interrupt Johntimothy in his drawing to ask him this question. He's still chewing on the it (no pun intended) and we'll discuss his thoughts in another post. But I had already posed the question to myself and the answer was immediately at my fingertips. Books. I am fed by the printed page. 

 A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

Many things actually inspire me....the view out my windows, the landscape here in the rural Midwest, the works of countless other artists. But I think this question of "what feeds you?" is a bit different....it's more fundamental and about food, nourishment, sustenance.

So if I answer that question, I turn to the idea of what enables me to be a maker....what actually feeds my work, where do I turn when the well has run dry....when I'm hungry and weak. I turn to books. I eat those magic bits we call the alphabet that turn into words, that tumble together into ideas and metaphors, which break down in my body into the essential minerals that feed my own creative practice. Turning to other works of art for such sustenance does not feed me in the deepest sense, as I find myself trying to imitate the works that I love. A level of frustration sets in, as those were not my works to make and I can only want to have made them. In the end, I can only make the work that is mine to make, fed by the creative practice that is reading.  

"No two persons ever read the same book." -- Edmund Wilson

This idea, expressed so simply by Edmund Wilson, that no two people read the same book, gets at this idea that reading is a creative act in itself. No two persons actually look at the same artwork...or the same film either, but those are visual mediums and words are more abstract, at least to me. We read each book through the lens of our own experience that allows us to visualize and bring to life what is conveyed in words on the printed page. The film we see in the crowded theater with others is already a visual medium....we experience it in our way, of course, but we don't create our own version of it, as we do with a book. There is a different resonance with language that I find more sustaining. I'm not a writer, but written language becomes visual language in my work, in ways I cannot articulate....with words. 

And because books are so important to me, often my work takes the form of the book page. The daily drawings and any number of works I've created over the years, often harken back to the book....it is that fundamental to my creative practice. Visit my Etsy shop or view some of the series of works here on the website and you will see that the idea of the book, the form of the printed page and the magic of reading are at the core of what I do. 

 Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

For more about this idea of the book as food for the soul, I encourage you to follow the link to the essay I came across this afternoon by Olivier Nyirubugara. It's definitely worth a read! 

What feeds you? It's an open-ended question. I'd love to hear from you about what you find sustaining and nourishing....what gives you the energy you need to thrive? 


And now, I'll leave you with another quote that makes me chuckle....so true of me!

"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books". -- Jorge Luis Borges

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.