Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Road Trip

Cell phone angles from the passenger seat: Fall leaves, hills, rain, sun, sky: I couldn't stop clicking. Every moment was different, even when the roadscape seemed similar. The space was contained, but the possibilites were endless.

I am fascinated with the shapes outlined by the car interior - something so familiar to all of us. As I was clicking, I thought of having photos to inspire a Road Trip series of watercolors. This will be a fun concept to play with. Meanwhile, the video version is fun too.

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Old Dream Gets a New Life

My art studio is almost ready! My contractor said today, "People are glad to see us and then glad to see us go." I know what he means.
I have been obsessed with transforming this double garage space. Fortunately it already had heat, electricity, windows with wonderful light, and its own outside entrance door. It is connected to the house - good in cold weather - but when I close the door to the rest of the house, I will be at work in another world. It will be a relief when the dust, the mess, and the array of workmen's tools are gone.

Then I will move in my tools. I have been itching to spend more time with watercolors, which would be new for me, as well as returning to my mixed media materials of recycled junk, found objects, weird scraps of paper and memorabilia. I need to get back to my visual journal. I will have a separate table dedicated to it, so I can leave the materials out and work on it ongoingly, amidst other projects.

Unpacking my boxes of art supplies will be a joy, finding old friends and new possibilities. I am ready to be surprised. There will be shelves for my art books. A place for music. Curtains on the windows that will allow maximum light yet still provide privacy.

I knew this was the right house for us, as soon as I saw this space and instantly saw a future studio in my mind's eye.

I have been waiting for this moment since I was ten years old.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sculpture Comes Alive!

The sculpture comes alive, seen from so many angles, through sunlight and shadow, behind branches and looming beyond the next curve on the trail. One becomes aware of the sculptural qualities of the trees, and of the natural earth qualities of art made from stone, metal, and wood. They breathe together into a whole. It is art's natural habitat, completely integrated with nature.

www.groundsforsculpture.org, is a 35-acre park near Princeton, New Jersey, celebrating its tenth anniversary as a public non-profit. It was fun making this video of our visit. I know we'll be back when the Fall leaves are at their peak, and when the fragrance of wisteria infuses the air in the Spring. If the roads are cleared, maybe we'll even venture out to see sculpture in the snow..

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Friday, August 27, 2010

New Wine, New Bottles, Old Memories

They say the unconscious is timeless. That's for sure. When I walked into the old Pennsylvania Academy building I expected to see the same room filled with white plaster casts of isolated body parts where I used to take drawing classes as a college student. Something was very different. Like paying admission to the galleries now - and at the senior rate. I didn't even know that a whole new building, with wonderful museum galleries and upstairs classrooms is now next door, and that the two buildings are soon to be connected by a sophisticated urban plaza.

The mystery of time and memory hit me hard. The painting that touched me most deeply was a portrait of a young girl by Robert Henri, done in 1926. Next to his name it said "student 1886 - 1894". Just knowing he had once been a student at The Pennsylvania Academy, in between going back and forth to Paris and before becoming a renowned teacher in New York City, a force behind alternative exhibition spaces, and a key player in the avante-garde of his day, was somehow comforting. The brush strokes in this painting could never be captured in a plate or on a monitor. Their lush and sensuous texture was practically edible. I had to restrain myself from touching. The colors vibrated. I was more familiar with The Art Spirit, the book of Robert Henri's philosophy of art, than with his painting. Here was The Art Spirit embodied.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Penn Reflections

The bronze statue of William Penn atop City Hall tower dominates Philadelphia's skyline. Here my camera caught him reflected in the downtown window of a pharmacy.

The founder of Philadelphia, in 1683 Penn made a peace treaty with the Lenape Turtle Clan Chief Tamanend, saying in the Algonquin language "We meet on the broad pathway of good faith and good-will; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. We are the same as if one man’s body was to be divided into two parts; we are of one flesh and one blood." Tamanend replied, "We will live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the creeks and rivers run, and while the sun, moon, and stars endure."

How different than other white settlers relations with Native Americans in that era of history! The Quaker legacy of justice and non-violence which remains part of Philadelphia's fabric today is one more part of the complexity of my new home, a city also torn by poverty and violence.

I have only just gotten here. My reflections have just begun. I'm sure my understanding will grow with time and as I meet more people. Meanwhile, I will keep taking pictures.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Bride's Neighbor

Had I not looked up I wouldn't have seen him. At first I thought it was a person on the fire escape of the building next to The Painted Bride Art Center. He is the purveyor of artistic history being made there - very fitting since he is himself artistic history. The Bride's mission statement says it all:

Bride Mission

The Painted Bride Art Center collaborates with emerging and established artists to create, produce and present innovative work that affirms the intrinsic value of all cultures and celebrates the transformative power of the arts. Through performances and exhibitions, education and outreach, the Bride creates a forum for engagement centered on contemporary social issues.

Bride History

Founded in 1969 by a group of visual artists who had recently graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, the Painted Bride Art Center is a presenting arts organization located in Old City, Philadelphia. The Bride is part of the Alternative Art Space movement, which is a small genre of cultural organization in America that grew from a movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This movement sought to establish organizations where artists had greater control over the presentation of their work and were able to present the work of the underrepresented in commercial or larger established institutions such as women, people of color, gay and lesbian artists and the disabled. The Bride has evolved into an innovative, internationally recognized, artist-centered, multi-disciplinary institution.

The artistic goals of the Bride are to: provide a laboratory for “exchanging and exploring” ideas; support the creation of new work; collaborate and work with Philadelphia artists in creating and presenting new work; showcase new work that provides opportunities for community exchange and encourages activities and dialog beyond the stage or gallery; expose audiences to a deeper understanding of the artistic process; and advocate for artists and assist in furthering their careers.

...As the avant-garde has evolved to include more issue-oriented work, so have the efforts of the Bride evolved. The Bride is especially committed to Philadelphia-based artists and to linking them to community groups and issues.

...For 40 years the Painted Bride Art Center has remained an artist-centered space committed to the artistic process, the artist’s role in the community, and diversity. The Bride continues to address the needs of the Philadelphia’s artistic communities while remaining a strongly mission-driven organization.

In just the few weeks since I have been in Philly I have become aware of many more alternative exhibition spaces of all kinds, some a few years old, some just starting. I wonder if The Bride set the template 40 years ago. I feel at home.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mummer Mystery

The Mummer's Museum in South Philadelphia is a gem. The guest book was signed by people from all over the world. It badly needed funds for climate control, infrastructure repair, and marketing. The Mummers Parade has been held on New Year's Day in Philadelphia since 1901, with Mummers Clubs competing in one of four categories: Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades. Apparently planning for the following year starts January 2nd, not to mention a big annual investment in costumes - a subsuming lifestyle for the people involved. The museum houses costumes and documents the history, music, and stories of the tradition.

It was fascinating to learn of the African-American origins of Mummer's tradition, as well as European. The Mummer's anthem was composed by an African American musician, James Bland. It is ironic that a tradition that has such deep roots in African American history is now comprised of all white Mummers Clubs. Blackface was even used until the early 60's, when the clubs phased it out because of pressure from civil rights groups. It seems like one more aspect of the many ways that Philadelphia is segregated, both overtly and subtlely.

And yet this is a unique form of American Folk Art that belongs to all of us. I know we'll be at the next Mummers Parade. I hope it won't be too cold on January 1, 2011, in Philadelphia.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yes We Can!

My photo of this middle-aged middle-class woman, a straight ally at a small-town demonstration in 2008, is one image of why "the arc of history bends towards justice."

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

I just signed up! I'm stimulated by collaborative projects, by putting my own spin on something shared by many. This is going to be fun. It's perfect to do as a person in limbo, before having a house in which I will create a studio, while most of my supplies are in storage. Lo-tech and portable. The theme "If you lived here..." seemed like the right one for me to choose, having just moved and looking at real estate none of which so far is quite right.

The moving van is coming tomorrow. The few boxes of art supplies marked 'open first' will be more than enough for the sketchbook. I've been sketching just with a black pen in my journal. I will never take a few colored pencils, glue, water colors, and scraps of collage papers for granted.

You have until October 31st to sign up, and until January 15, 2011 to mail it in. Participation is international. Join in!


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Monday, July 19, 2010

You Can Go Home Again - It's Just a New Experience

It's day two of life in Philadelphia. This mural on our apartment building (temporary until we find a house) captures the spirit of the Northern Liberties neighborhood. We'll play tourist, Liberty Bell and all, before our cars are delivered and the moving van arrives later this week. The weird glitch in the last hours of escrow's close on the old house is fading like a bad dream. After thirty-three years in San Diego, I have awakened in a new land that is a return home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Koi Reflections

Our house has sold, the moving van is arranged, we are surrounded by boxes. We will miss the unique beauty of San Diego. The Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park is most wonderful in cherry blossom season. The Koi fish like it too!

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chihuly Glass!

Seeing a monumental installation of Dale Chihuly's glass in the afternoon sun rather than in a museum or gallery with artificial lighting was a remarkable experience. It was fun to get there as the installation was just finishing up, and we could see how the chandelier pieces were put together. The Salk Institute in La Jolla California, a world class non-profit scientific institute, is an iconic architectural landmark designed by Louis Kahn.

With my studio packed up as we are getting ready to move to Philadelphia, my best art supplies are my camera and computer! No wonder my latest blog entries are all video. Much as I look forward to having new larger studio space, this experience of being without my beloved mixed media materials makes me certain that video will remain a significant part of my life as an artist.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Janet Cooling: Still Life Meditations

Janet Cooling describes these mixed-media works on paper as grounding meditations that represent infinity. It was fun to document both these recent paintings and the dialogue with her about them.

I have footage of Janet and various phases of her painting from 1997 onward. I hope to digitize it and edit it into several YouTube videos, now that I finally have a new iMac. Today I got an updated firewire cable, thinking I would then be able to import it. (The old cable didn't fit the new computer.) For some reason only a few minutes of it imported... Yikes. I'll solve this yet.

When I first started documenting Janet's work, there was only linear video editing, no funding, and I had never heard of YouTube, if it even existed. Now we have easy digital editing, no need for funding, and YouTube! All I need is to get it to work. And get to work...

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who Does She Think She Is?

This is a great trailer for a documentary film about women balancing their lives as artists and mothers! I can't wait to see the full film, which is in my netflix queue. I already know, these are the voices of my sisters. My friends and I have been living this for decades. We are not alone! www.whodoesshethinksheis.net.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inside the Magic Circle

This incredible sculpture garden, Queen Califia's Magic Circle, by Niki de Saint Phalle, is in Escondido, California. Our grandsons, Noah and Charlie, had a blast in this most unusual playground!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Watercolors at Water's Edge

Landscape painting in its natural context, the source of its inspiration, is a joy to see... so different than framed and hanging on an indoor wall. I happened upon this plein-air class of the San Diego Watercolor Society on my morning walk,and was grateful to have my camera with me. It was fun making it into a video!

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