July 5, 2019

Make Art Like It's 1999

Well, wouldn't you know it. Just as I start to get back into the rhythm of posting here on a regular schedule, my old, tired, limping computer finally called it quits. Not a surprise, but a bit inconvenient at the moment. So, please forgive the poor quality of the images that follow. They're the best I could manage with my phone. OK, embarrassment assuaged, let's get into my eye-opening plunge into sketchbooks of years past.
sketchbook notes, 1999
This week, my friend Albert and I have been trying to remember all the art museums we have visited together. We've come up with 33 we agree upon. This fun trip down memory lane inspired me to list all the other art museums and galleries I have visited, ever. Which led to my bookshelf of old sketchbooks, to jog my memory. I was floored to discover the above page from 1999. 

The words that fold over the right side into the gutter read:
"memory of past strength/power, goddess, nature, blood past, history, hanging seed pod/vulva"
I have absolutely no recollection of this. None. I cannot remember contemplating seed pods as vulvas before this past year. And that sketch in the center, I now recall, is a partitioned drawer that I used to have. I obviously was thinking about lining it with fur and turning it into a wall-hanging shadow box, to contain a hanging seed pod vulva and a small box holding "single vulva/pod." 

What absolutely blows me away about this is not that I completely forgot these notes, but that I have been thinking that I am currently embarking on new artistic ground for myself. (See this post) Hah! Not so. I am right in line with what has always motivated my art making. Only now I am actually following through on the shadow box idea and the vulva pod idea. As the following 2019 sketchbook page shows.
sketchbook notes, 2019
I find it interesting and reassuring, comforting even, that when we feel like our creative voice has become unfamiliar, like we're learning a foreign language, that we're actually mining what has always existed within us. The notions that seem new or crazy or coming out of left field, they only feel that way because we are newly learning to express them. The ideas themselves are old ideas that have been biding their time, waiting for the right time for our creative selves to be able to fully realize them. Or so I believe.
sketchbook, 1999
sketchbook, 2018
One more comparison I can't resist sharing:
from 1999: "create symbol for female/goddess/strength/power, reproduce 3-dimensionally" and a tattoo sketch, in the inverted triangle, sacred symbol of feminine creative power/yoni (which little tidbit I definitely did not know at the time). Followed by a page from 2019, doodling symbols that represent exactly what I charged myself to create (and promptly forgot about) 20 years ago.
sketchbook, 1999
sketchbook, 2019

June 20, 2019

Unsticking & Momentum

Tah-dah! Completed 3-D pod experiment. I still have no idea if this little pod wants a flotilla of friends (what better way to engulf the patriarchy than with an armada of vaginal shaped pods based on mother nature's designs!) or if it's a stepping stone to something else. And, still, it doesn't matter to me. The important thing, the ONLY thing, was to DO! DO as in stop thinking, agonizing, procrastinating, obsessing, perfecting in my head and just MAKE. Get started. Follow through. DO!

That's definitely my sticking point: getting started. But once I do start - something, anything - the momentum of doing carries me along and ripples out into other do-ings. So simple. So seemingly obvious. But vastly HUGE in effects when I put it into practice.

What I have found immensely helpful is to conceptualize the things I am avoiding - for one reason or another, with an unhealthy dose of justification and redirection in the mix (oh the ego trickster / chatty squirrels / monkey mind! Do be quiet!) - I conceptualize these areas of avoidance as stuck energy. Rather than cajole myself into washing the dishes, folding the laundry, getting in the studio, whatever, I think about tackling the task as unsticking. Unsticking the stagnant energy around it. Unsticking the self-recriminations that avoidance generates. Unsticking the icky feelings that arise from not doing the task. Because starting something is the biggest hurdle for me, I don't really think about it as "starting" any more. I am unsticking.
The momentum generated by unsticking leads to more and more unsticking. Working on the pod after months of avoidance carried over to unsticking a garden project that's been on the agenda for over a year. While digging in the dirt with the Hubs to install garden edging for erosion prevention, I unearthed the mega rusty pictured above. I have no idea what it once was, but it's heavy, hefty, and about 18 inches long. It's going to dye a lot of fiber, yes indeedy (which in itself is an unsticking of my studio practice).
The momentum from those unstickings carried into wanting to revive my Year of Yoni practice. I'm in the process of prepping the base triangles and plan to cut smaller triangles and circles to have on hand to facilitate / remove barriers to beginning one whenever the whim strikes.

And while the iron was hot and the cutting wheel was at hand, more unsticking ensued. I tackled t-shirt makeovers that have been languishing for 3 years or more. Seriously. I've had all the materials on hand, just no mojo to actually do as planned. Unsticking the pile of unwearable shirts with fun designs, turning them into wearable shirts (that actually fit me properly - after shortening them by 3.5 inches), was the biggest unsticking yet. Not only have I been avoiding it the longest out of all recent unstickings, my feelings around the project and my body were super negative and downright sludgy. Having unstuck the physical project, the burdensome weight of my negativity unstuck as well.

Seeing the physical unstickings, feeling a sense of accomplishment, enjoying the results of the work, all of it conspires to release the sludgy emotions, elevate the soul, and open the heart. What I am struggling to describe in my over-zealousness, I think, is what I mean by spaciousness. This unsticking and clearing, lightening and releasing, doing and momentum, what it all adds up to is spaciousness.

June 6, 2019


My word for 2019 is spaciousness, in all possible meanings, as applied to physical space and the body, emotional well-being and mental health, interpersonal relationships and relationship with self, creativity and the soul. Mind Body Soul Spirit. It's all connected. As such, I've been addressing all these aspects, from different angles, with different techniques, with the goal to clear years of clutter, muck, and stickiness.

One such angle was the wonderful e-course Your Soul Speaks, with Susannah Conway, 15 glorious days of prompts and tools to (re)connect with inner wisdom / intuition. One tool, collaging to unlock / tap into / release inner wisdom combined fluidly with another angle new to me this year, keeping a moon journal. I'm using this one to journal daily, following the moon cycle rather than the arbitrary passage of time recorded by the monthly calendar. Cyclical time vs linear time appeals to me, especially since diving into Leonard Shlain's book The Alphabet Versus the Gooddess - but I digress.
The moon journal pages devoted to creating a new moon mandala are a perfect time and place - every 29th day on the new moon - to use the intuition tapping collage technique to reveal my focus for the next moon cycle. The mandala collage then prompts specific intentions, written down on the next page, related to what the mandala collage reveals.
The first couple of these collages I made were very much directed by my conscious mind. But with practice, the two most recent, pictured here, revealed surprises (but not really). They surprised me in that they are in no way the result of conscious choices, the images and words seemingly picked themselves without my direction. The collages are not surprising, though, in their content. What they reveal are thing I KNOW. Things deeply known by my inner wisdom that intuition surfaced for my conscious mind to work with. I am loving these tools and techniques.
What are your rituals or techniques for tuning into your intuition / inner wisdom / soul? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

PS Another daily journaling / doing / prompt that I'm digging this year are the exercises presented in A Year to Clear: A Daily Guide to Creating Spaciousness in Your Home and Heart by Stephanie Bennett Vogt (hey, lookee, it's still offered as an e-course. Who knew?)

May 21, 2019

Feeling Rusty

I've been feeling very rusty in this little ol' art practice (or not practice, as the case may be) of mine. Figuratively rusty because:
  1. I'm working in new (to me) media
  2. I'm creating imagery rather than recording on film what already exists in reality
  3. I'm learning to think in 3-D
  4. I'm at the mercy of my learning curve for:
    •   Acquiring the necessary dexterity and craftsmanship skills for textile work
    •   Figuring out how different physical materials behave and won't behave
    •   Considering how 3-D objects will inhabit a space (dangling from ceiling, protruding from wall, sitting on a pedestal, etc)
  5. I'm creating my own visual and symbolic language 
And that's just the list I've pulled off the top of my head in this moment. I'm sure there's more. Of course there's more.

I'm mentioning these things because I've been beating myself up for not producing mounds of work, not producing exhibit worthy work, not spending every free moment in the studio working. I know I'm not the only one who gets down on myself for these things. But. It's just plain silly and counterproductive to beat up on oneself. For me, it stymies my creativity rather than open it up. I've been reading this advice from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse over and over again lately as a reminder to get out of my head and just do something, make something, anything. To cultivate and ride the momentum generated by simply doing.

So. A shift. I took feeling metaphorically rusty and turned it literal. I pulled out my collection of rusty shit and dyed tiny torn strips of muslin. (Am I the only one who sees these fabric strips as slabs of marbled bacon? The iron stains as muscle, the white fabric as the fat.)
I dye with rust/iron specifically because it's the iron in our hemoglobin that causes brown and rusty  blood stains. With my rusty fabrics and threads, I hope to suggest associations with blood. Regardless, I need a few more strips of rusty fabric to finish an experimental pod thingie that has been languishing for months. I worked on it for the first time in ages while over at a friend's house last week for a craft night date. Thank you Adrienne! Riding the momentum generated by those few hours of stitching carried over into more dyeing...
I even love the threads that shed from the frayed edges of the torn strips.
When these babies dry, some are destined to finish this pod experiment. What's it for? What's its destiny? Not a clue. And that's OK. It's teaching me things I need to know.

January 6, 2019

Altered Altar

This is the floor of my studio, right now. Yesterday, with the solar eclipse and new moon as motivators, I decided to get started on making an altar.

An altar. FULL STOP. I couldn't have contemplated such a thing or even said such a word a couple of years ago without a full body cringe of squiggy discomfort. An altar? Me? In my home? What? Since then I've read a lot, thought a lot, questioned a lot, worked a lot, stretched a lot, relinquished a lot, embraced a lot, and changed a lot, as one does.

My altar is not an altar of or to any religious faith (although it will contain a Ganesha figurine and possibly a Buddha head), it's more accurately a display or vignette of items that hold personal significance to me. My altar will serve as a personal touchstone, with elements of beauty and symbols that encourage and remind me of how and who I am and want to be.
This gorgeous, aged, chipped, carved wood frame will become the container, the altar, for my rotating collection of objects and symbols. I've had the frame for years, but haven't before now figured out how to use it or display it. The flat interior edges (the rabbet) are two and half inches deep. Perfect, I think, as a little shelf for special, little objects.

I'm going to add a shelf midway-ish up the height of the frame. And since I have no way to determine just what is in the paint and finishes that remain adhered to it, I'm going to gently clean and then seal the surface with polyurethane. It pains me to do something that isn't reversible, but I'd rather have any potential carcinogens and lung irritants safely sealed in place.
This is such a magnificent frame. I am over the moon with happiness that it will finally adorn my wall and serve a purpose other than just looking really friggin' cool. Creating an altar feels like an apt way to begin the new year. It will certainly include elements of my word for 2019, spaciousness. Sorry for the abrupt ending, I'm out of practice writing posts. . .

December 27, 2018

52 Books

For an explanation of 52 Books (2012) click here.
Links to all other previous lists
52 Books 2013 :: 52 Books 2014 :: 52 Books 2015 :: 52 Books 2016 :: 52 Books 2017
BOOKS 2018
The Goldfinch • Donna Tartt
Dancer • Colum McCann
All Over Creation • Ruth Ozeki
Gift from the Sea • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
At the Water's Edge • Sara Gruen
The Last Kingdom • Bernard Cornwell
The Girl on the Train • Paula Hawkins
The Fiery Cross • Diana Gabaldon
People of the Book • Geraldine Brooks
The Secret Garden • Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Mists of Avalon • Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Bridges of Madison County • Robert James Waller
When It Happens to You • Molly Ringwald
The Wise Man's Fear • Patrick Rothfuss
The Pale Horseman • Bernard Cornwell
Transit • Rachel Cusk
Winter Journal • Paul Auster
Wizard and Glass • Stephen King
American Gods • Neil Gaiman
The Language of Trees • Ilie Ruby
The Devil's Workshop • Alex Grecian
Threats • Amelia Gray
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You • Alice Munro
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
The Passenger • Lisa Lutz
Slade House • David Mitchell
The First Bad Man • Miranda July
Lords of the North • Bernard Cornwell
Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist • Judy Chicago
Sword Song • Bernard Cornwell
Cat's Eye • Margaret Atwood
Mortal Fear • Greg Iles
Black Swan Green • David Mitchell
Jezebels of the Earth • Wandering Meadowlark
Hag-Seed • Margaret Atwood
One Good Turn • Kate Atkinson
Beautiful Ruin • Jess Walter
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone • J.K. Rowling
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo • Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played with Fire • Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest • Stieg Larsson
A Breath of Snow and Ashes • Diana Gabaldon
Exit West • Mohsin Hamid
The Graveyard Book • Neil Gaiman
Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives • Becky Aikman
The Handmaid's Tale • Margaret Atwood
The Last Painting of Sara deVos • Dominic Smith
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century • Kirk Wallace Johnson
Started Early, Took My Dog • Kate Atkinson
This Must Be the Place • Maggie O'Farrell
The Burning Land • Bernard Cornwell
The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
Taft • Ann Patchett
Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
The Mistress's Daughter • A.M. Homes
Dark Places • Gillian Flynn
Bonfire • Krysten Ritter
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children • Ransom Riggs
The Robber Bride • Margaret Atwood
and an insightful, amazing, amusing, and helpful unpublished manuscript written by a good friend