collecting and memory

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!

 

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.