July 7, 2016

On the Move

It gets worse before it gets better, right? I do believe we have progressed from worse to worst and are clear on the other side, working back towards better. My preoccupation, and reason for the silence here, is preparing to move*. We've been working to finish all of our half completed home renovations before listing the house for sale while simultaneously conducting a massive clearing out. Downsizing from 2,000 square feet plus a basement and a barn to a 600 square foot apartment with no storage space is quite the incentive to change my hoarding habits. While it is physically and mentally exhausting to sort through the accumulation of studio supplies and all the other stuff, I'm finally getting to the point where it feels liberating. I'd like to delve into this more, but I have a looming deadline. The realtor needs to get over here to take pictures. As the image above illustrates the current state of affairs, I need to get to it.

* I secured myself a membership to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before I managed to find an apartment for us in the city. Priorities, people.

June 17, 2016

Taste of Summer

That the first new post here in five months is a drink recommendation unintentionally sums things up pretty well. We'll get caught up on all the distractions later. For now allow me to present the taste of summer, the wild raspberry thyme spritzer.

A friend of mine is hosting a summer solstice party in a few days. As I just picked a plethora of wild raspberries, it seemed like a no-brainer to make something with them to take along. I followed this recipe for raspberry thyme simple syrup, substituting the wild blackcaps that are abundant in SW Ohio. We plan to serve it on the solstice with gin and a splash of seltzer. It's pictured above with just the seltzer.  (Good thing, too, because I just downed the entire thing while typing this!)

January 24, 2016

Sketchbook: Isis

I'm stumped when it comes to depicting Isis. Cross stitch for Sheela-na-gig (pictured at the end of this post) felt natural, for no reason whatsoever that I can explain. For Isis, I have only vague ideas involving fabric collage and embroidery. To me it's obvious that I need to play, experiment freely without concern for the results. With that in mind, I flipped through a stack of fabric samples sitting on the ironing board (waiting for me to try to remove the large, glued on paper labels from the reverse sides) and pulled out all the pieces that appealed for one reason or another. Block prints, feather stitch, swirling lines, and simple stylized depictions.

What fiber did the Egyptians use to wrap mummies? Was it linen? (Yes, according to the interwebs, typically 4,000 square feet of linen bandages.) That would make an apt ground for my depiction of Isis. Perhaps linen embroidery floss, too. Except pearl cotton (or perhaps silk?) with its sheen would make the feathers/wings shimmer. This sort of overthinking is stifling play...
Then this sunrise, with the warm, fiery glow setting off the skeletal trees in silhouette, suggests another idea. Perhaps for a feminine archetype other than Isis, but worth remembering all the same.

January 14, 2016

Bird Watching as Art Research

As you may have noticed if you browse this space, I do a lot of reading. A LOT. In fact, one of my goals is to read less. Weird as it may sound, it's true. Read less = do more, is the idea. But that's a story for another day. Or not. 

What I want to talk about today is research. Invariably when I am in the midst of an art project I turn to books. I research. Sometimes just a dabbling. Sometimes enough to write my own book if I were so inclined, which I am not at this point. Because the material I collect is fuel for visual art.

It's important to me to mention this here because in the past, among the creative community, I have taken flak for my research. I have been needled to redirect my time spent reading in the library to doing my work instead, to actively create visual work instead of "wasting time" with books. I ignore this unasked for advice and continue to do my own thing, working in the way that works for me. But I know artists who have abandoned their work, never to return, because of misplaced, misdirected advice that does not suit them, but rather reflects the methods and narrow-mindedness of the one giving the advice. Which is a travesty.
Currently I am learning a little about Isis, the Egyptian goddess. While the powers attributed to her morph throughout the course of history - from what I have found thus far, she seems to become more powerful and more diverse in her powers over the course of time - the one I like best is rebirth. As the goddess of rebirth, Isis is depicted as birdlike. I love this image. Either as a woman with wings or as a falcon. 

This is how staring out the window on a frigid, snowy day isn't idleness. It's active work. It's research. Watching birds is research for depicting Isis. And no one is going to convince me otherwise.

January 2, 2016

52 Books

For an explanation of 52 Books (2012) click here. Click here for 52 Books (2013) and here for 52 Books (2014).
BOOKS 2015
The Patron Saint of Liars • Ann Patchett
The Ocean at the End of the Lane • Neil Gaiman
Letters of a Woman Homesteader • Elinore Pruitt Stewart
The Daylight Gate • Jeannette Winterson
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls • David Sedaris
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place • Terry Tempest Williams
Mr. Mac and Me • Esther Freud
The Signature of All Things • Elizabeth Gilbert
The Slow Regard of Silent Things • Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind • Patrick Rothfuss
Broken Harbor • Tana French
The Wise Man's Fear • Patrick Rothfuss
Arthur and George • Julian Barnes
H Is for Hawk • Helen Macdonald
The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See • Naomi Wolf
The Life of Objects • Susanna Moore
Stern Men • Elizabeth Gilbert
Third Girl from the Left • Martha Southgate
Duel with the Devil •  Paul Collins
Flight Behavior • Barbara Kingsolver
Bobcat and Other Stories • Rebecca Lee
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore • Robin Sloan
Pilgrims • Elizabeth Gilbert
The Name of the Wind • Patrick Rothfuss
March • Geraldine Brooks
Super Sad True Love Story • Gary Shteyngart
Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mocking Jay • Suzanne Collins
Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Lock In • John Scalzi
Doctor Sleep • Stephen King
Caleb's Crossing • Geraldine Brooks
Geek Love • Catherine Dunn
The Footprints of God • Greg Iles
The Island Beneath the Sea • Isabelle Allende
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life • Dani Shapiro
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear • Elizabeth Gilbert
A God in Ruins • Kate Atkinson
State of Wonder • Ann Patchett
All the Light We Cannot See • Anthony Doer
The Return of Sherlock Holmes • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Awakening • Kate Chopin
The Lost Art of Gratitude • Alexander McCall Smith
Molly Fox's Birthday • Deirdre Madden
Sarah Conley • Ellen Gilchrist
The Art Thief • Noah Charney
Scent of Evil • Archer Mayor
The Bird Artist • Howard Norman
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person • Shonda Rhimes

December 22, 2015

Happy Solstice

Hope you all had a wonderful solstice yesterday. The days are getting longer, friends!

In the tree where they hang out waiting for a turn at the feeder, we put out a little solstice buffet for the birds. Leftover cranberries and oranges from baking a couple of loaves of cranberry orange quick bread (recipe at the end of this post).
See you back here in 2016. Happy holidays!

December 13, 2015

How Art Happens

Last week, during my weekly coffee date with my friend Albert, serendipity revealed the subject for my next portrait in thread. Being open to and influenced by chance in my art practice is revolutionary for me. In the past, within the grips of a distinct project, with a an overall concept to explore and agenda to convey, I've worked steadily and deliberately. So deliberate, sure-footed, and clear was my art making process that I had no patience for artists who said they didn't know where their ideas came from or could not describe their processes. 

During my college days, I was utterly disappointed by one of my favorite artists when I went to see her give an artist's talk. Kiki Smith*, a champion of women and our collective experiences, said then, and continues to say, that she has no idea what she's doing. At the time I first heard this, I thought she was cannily protecting her method from the nosy public or that she was too lazy or loosey-goosey to put it into words. But now I'm coming to understand this way of working. As Smith describes it in her segment on the PBS series Art21, "Basically, I think art is just a way to think, it’s like standing in the wind and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go."

I am a little surprised that this notion appeals to me; going with the flow and seeing where it leads and what work results from it rather than pushing the work in a rigid trajectory. Given that I am actively reading about goddesses within the Hindu pantheon, and am deeply involved with an online discussion about the book, I was certain that once Sheela was finished, I would move on to one of goddesses described in Awakening Shakti.
This reproduction of the c. 1140 Sheela-na-gig corbel on Kilpeck Church
in Herefordshire, England, hangs over the entrance to my studio
Instead, this is what happened. Because Albert and I live 300 miles apart, our coffee talk occurs on the phone. In the space of time it takes to drink a cup or two of coffee while blabbing away, our conversation ranges all over the place, with a healthy dose of silly, goofy irreverence in the mix. Last week, I can't remember the context, Albert said something about Isis. He meant the terrorist organization and I half-jokingly cautioned him not to mention that word on the phone. One of us repeated "Isis" and I heard a distinct kerklunk-click on the line.

Deep into the silly portion of our conversation at this moment, I said something like, "To anyone who is now listening, we are talking about Isis, the Egyptian goddess." At which point we speculated whether or not Isis was Egyptian. Perhaps Sumerian? I went to the shelf for my dictionary and read out, "Isis. An ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility and sister and wife of Osiris."

(I just typed sister and wife to Osiris. But no, my 1969 dictionary uses the preposition of. Well pardon me. The dictionary considers Isis a subject of Osiris rather than a partner to him. Interesting.)

After reading aloud that definition of Isis, I knew she was going to be my next piece of stitchery. And having said as much on the phone to Albert, a second, distinct kerklunk-click was heard on the line. Regardless of possible government monitoring or a rodent chewing on the phone lines with coincidental timing, I'm allowing myself to be swept along by the serendipitous flow. And it feels right, being open and playful with my making while remaining focused on the central concept. Even though the core concept has yet to coalesce into words, it is a strong, instinctual feeling. This is a good place to be.
First attempt at rendering Sheela in cross stitch © Laurie Lundin 2015
*This 2006 NPR piece on Kiki Smith provides a a nice synopsis of her body of work.