Monday, April 29, 2013

Utensils and Neurotic List Making

Utensils in Earthenware
 I finished this little painting today.  It's painted from a photo of the utensils occupying the counter at Martha's retreat house.  I love the earthiness of the pot and the shiny gloss and gleam of the utensils.  I had a false start (depicted below), but ultimately, I just tried to make decisions that were more experimental and perhaps more intuitive--maybe less safe?  I tried to leave the edges of underpainting which I sometimes find the most interesting.  Mostly I love the glow of thin paint on canvas. 

I have to leave painting for awhile to work on stocking the shelves of the upcoming Pop Up Studio.  I've got a month to flush out my stock and have lots of school related projects meanwhile.  Faith and I will be doing a butterfly project in a second grade class for our Art in the Classroom PTO committee.  Also, it seems we may be organizing a project for all of the kindergarteners to celebrate their momentous graduation, and I'll be helping with their tie-dye project as well. 

Furthermore, I met with my brother, Nick (you may know him from his lovely comments on Pinwheel Anna), to discuss an upcoming project.  We will be conducting interviews in an attempt to research family history.  We're hoping to produce a variety of creations inspired by our findings: paintings, short stories, and video productions.  I'm really excited about all of this!  It's something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. 

To wrap my head around all these various threads, I've taken to obsessive list making and scribbling in various notebooks, calendars, sketchbooks, journals, etc.  I've got a book for everything.  For some reason I feel better about compartmentalizing everything rather than merging them into a central place let alone an electronic device like my smart phone.  I'm quite sure I'll be the last person on earth using a paper calendar to keep  track of my commitments. 
False Start (detail)

Utensils in Earthenware (detail)

what's on my desk and swirling in my brain. . .

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


 This is the last series of adjustments in the process of this painting.  I'm pretty sure I'm done, but I might feel differently later this afternoon or tomorrow.  I wrote lots about this painting in the previous post.  So, I won't say much now.  I would like to hear your impressions, though!

PS  I probably need to take better photos of this painting because it is 3' x 4'-- a challenge to capture in my shallow studio. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Documenting The Process

It's my habit to share projects and paintings when they are finished; however, it's been almost ten days since I've last posted.  I'm concerned that you are imagining me sleeping through all this rainy weather.  As much as a cozy nap sounds perfect, I've been chipping away at two different projects one stitch and tiny brush stroke at a time.  Above is an embroidered flower that I'm enjoying.  Long term plans consist of constructing a quilt with about a dozen of these embroidered flowers.  This is a really long term plan, but I like having a tiny project to tuck into my purse and take with me everywhere.  Again, I have to remind myself that it is worthwhile to take on time consuming endeavors, and I'm finding it comforting to really settle into something.  I just hope I can maintain momentum and complete desired projects.

My daytime job has been this painting of my Grandma and Mom floating on our family lake in Minnesota.  Our weeks spent at Hay Lake Lodge were my favorites.  They were opportunities for experiencing childhood at its best, bond with family, and finding adventures.  I think if I had my way, life would be nothing but walking in the woods wondering if you smell bear, threading leaches onto hooks in a Sysyphean attempt to catch fish, and endless pinball games at the lodge.

The photo from which  I'm painting captures a quality of my Grandma which I adore but have trouble naming.  As a woman in constant motion, she rarely sat still, and here she is very regally perched in an innertube floating with my Mom behind her on a raft.  I wonder what thoughts drifted into their heads as my Dad cheekily snapped an ever-controversial bathing suit photo.

I'm thinking about their relaxed, content dispositions and the unease of knowing your body is forever captured on film (and now adorning a canvas.)  I'm thinking about them floating in dark water that is both enticing and fun but a little scary or icky because the weeds and fish tickle your toes and grab your ankles as I paint giant leaves inspired by ferns and other plants at the Garfield Conservatory.  Instead of patterns in fabric, I'm choosing to use patterns in nature to describe the mood of this painting.

I'm constantly inspired by the symmetry in nature and its ability to produce drama in its simplicity.  In the veins of a leaf or the branching of a fern I see timelines of history, interconnectedness of nature, and predictability of certain outcomes coming from certain circumstances.  These leaves and membranes are beautiful and elegant.  The large oval leaves floating in the lake make me wondering if they are cells or eggs or that perhaps the Pequot lakes are really bowls of primordial soup which we float in and out of.

Well, I did it again, I ended up writing about something entirely different that I had planned.  I wanted to emphasize my desire of capturing various stages of my painting to reference, study, and examine so that I can analyze various decisions and resolutions.  I was inspired by Matisse who sent over months many photos of his painting Large Reclining Nude to his collector detailing the journey of a single painting.  It takes my breath away when I look at a grid of his process of stretching her limbs and shrinking her head.  It is like a little window into his brain.  I wonder how he felt inside when he knew it was in fact completed.   Take a look here.

Hand Printed Fabric Swap

I received the fourth and final piece of fabric from New Zealand yesterday!  Above are pictured all four from the fabric swap. From left to right they're from Great Britain, Texas, New Zealand, and Washington state.  It was a fun process, and I'd like to participate in it again and find other swaps.  What's your favorite swap?  Any recommendations?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"The Machine"

"The Machine"

Photo of a Chicago Bridge
A couple months ago we had a family excursion to the Rainforest Cafe (because it was the middle of winter and the animatronics entertain our kids not because the food is appetizing.)  We took the train and had to walk a few blocks before arriving at our destination.  I eagerly snapped pictures with my phone's camera trying to capture the glimpses of architecture that made me really excited.  Bridges are always a favorite, and the ones crossing Chicago's river are certainly of the broad shoulder category.  I think they are elegant not in spite of their functionality but because of it. 

Today while finishing this painting I've been thinking about how I can let go of the fear of making mistakes.  It's sort of silly to worry about failing when the worst outcome is making a bad painting which can always be erased with gesso.  The best result is discovering something new.  The likely outcome is learning from a wrong choice or decision.  I hope that I can approach each canvas with this freedom to fail and have the courage to share my vulnerabilities with you on this blog. 

PS Lots of these ideas regarding mistakes I absorbed from a TED talk of which I listened to today via an NPR radio program.

PPS Penelope named the painting "The Machine" after I asked her what she thought of it.

PPPS Also interesting I find it curious that I depicted such a large structure on a rather small canvas measuring only 16" x  20".

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Penny For A Needle

An embroidery that I'm working on
A brilliant embroidery that I purchased from Field Museum and neglected to learn more about regarding its origin and maker

It's rainy outside, I haven't painted for days, and I really need to be with brush and canvas, but I had to share something momentous that I learned this weekend.  We visited the Chicago's Field Museum yesterday which is currently exhibiting reproductions of and artifacts relating to the cave paintings of Lascaux.  I've been eager to see it knowing it's likely I'll never experience the real thing.  It was great and well worth the trip.  You should go too!

Part of the exhibit highlighted some tool making procedures and even showed video illustrating the processes.  The last one was the needle!  They showed how humans 20,000 years ago made needles from bones to sew clothing and other textiles.  Not only were they sewing 20,000 years ago, but they were sewing with a tool identical to mine in design.  In fact, the needle hasn't changed in 20,000 years! 

I love this connection to the past and that I'm performing an ancient ritual each time I pass a need through fabric pulling its thread along.  I imagine I'm overreacting and my readers will likely not share in my enthusiasm, but for some reason this jazzed me more than the impressive nature of the paintings.  I guess you could make the argument that we are still painting today, though rarely in caves and largely with synthetic materials. 

In short I love stepping into the past and often feel frustrated that the artifacts have lost their significance.  We can guess at the meaning of the cave paintings, but we can not know.  Abe was similarly frustrated when were studying these abstract, yet very deliberate markings made in the cave.  He was working at an exhibit sorting them by type and likeness, but mourned the fact that we don't know what they mean anymore.  We know what the needle means because we have never stopped using it.  We've never lost that thread of thought.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring at OPAL

April's show at OPAL is themed "Spring".  I had some tulip fabric that I wanted to include in a painting and an image of a cat on a rug in my brain.  So, I married the two and ended up with giant hot mess of a canvas that left me wondering if it was a failed painting awaiting gesso.  I decided to press on and surrender my original conceptions for the piece allowing for the painting to give me direction.  I realized in this painting how much my emotions can influence what I'm painting and even corrupt it.   I don't know if the result is very "Springy", but there are tulips in it!  Below are three photos depicting the progress.  What do you think?


Home is Where the Art is (Part II)

Window from my parents' home

Yesterday, I journeyed west to Elgin with my Mom and Pen in tow.  I always enjoy the scenic drive snaking along the Fox River sandwiched between the golden quarry stone fences and stately, aging houses.  As we crossed subsequent main streets that bisect a series of quaint river towns, we talked about life and death and what lies ahead for us in these next months.  Without a doubt I'm feeling inspired by my family's stories and the physical places that help to illustrate them.  I'm interested in how artifacts and places change as time passes and how these material things reveal and are revealed in memories.
Photograph by Bernard J. Kleina

Arriving in downtown Elgin, we crossed the river locating 51 S. Spring St., the headquarters for ArtSpace Elgin where the "Home is Where the Art is" show is being housed.  The show is an art competition which celebrates fair housing.  I had created one piece for the show, but dropped off three because ---why not?  If you get a chance, learn more about it on-line or in person.  ArtSpace Elgin, offers low-income housing for artists and their families.  (Why didn't I think of that?) and Hope, Fair Housing Center advocates on behalf of those suffering housing discrimination.  Needless to say, I'm proud to be part of such a great effort! Below are the pieces I dropped off.

As I drop off work at ArtSpace this week, I pulled down my Prairie Title Show.  It seems like I hung it such a long time ago.  Also this week, I received news that my "Dying Grandma" painting was not accepted for a Brain and Body themed show at Women Made Gallery in Chicago.  I was disappointed, but glad to know that only 20 some pieces were accepted out of 200 plus applicants.  I'm waiting on another application and have another to submit this month.  So, there are exciting prospects on the horizon. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chicago Homicides Due to Gun Violence in March

Eugenio Solano, Antoine Lewis, Antionio Grey, Victor Damian, Arrell Monegan, Edwin Obazuaye, Jonylah Watkins, Raymond Tucker, Ramon Colon, William Strickland, Andreas Avitia

Monday, April 1, 2013


Planting Seeds
 It felt like spring yesterday, a perfect day to celebrate Easter.  Our day ranged from getting a jump on our gardening to hunting for eggs to telling stories of ancestral wisdom.  It was a full and fun day!
My studio companions
Remembering the past
Egg Hunt