Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stillness is Still Possible

Heidi Zito documents stillness by observing movement, calmness, and slowed time. Together, her scenes paint a picture of heightened awareness through stillness.

Hers is one of several videos viewable at The Guggenheim Museum collaborated with graduate students in the School of Visual Arts MFA program for Photography, Video and Related Media, who participated in a special seminar to create short video studies of the visual, aural, and sociological ecology of the urban landscape in New York. The works reflect and respond to everyday issues of visual noise, anxiety, and stillness. Heidi Zito's is one of my favorites!

It is a comfort to know that stillness can be found even in the most urban of environments!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monopoly Revealed

"Toys: The Art of Play" is the title of the show my mixed media assemblage, Red, White, & Blue, will soon be part of at Main Line Art Center.  It was done on a Monopoly board over the summer, before the Occupy Movement began, but shares the zeitgeist that was in the air.  

 I'm curious to see the other juried work made from or inspired by toys.  I imagine a lot of it will be cute, funny, playful.  I can't say the same about my entry.  But I will say that it it was very satisfying for me to make it!  It felt good to include "Go To Jail" cards, bloodied hands, a headless falling child,  and of course the pig at the top. 

In Art and Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland note "As a maker of art you are custodian of issues larger than self...In making art you declare what is important."  Sometimes we can't help ourselves.

Monday, November 7, 2011

OccupyPhiladelphia occupies my mind

This child's play tent, complete with toys, continues to occupy my thoughts.  What a vivid picture of why the Occupy movement is a force for social justice and social change.  What kind of world are children and grandchildren of the 99%  growing up in?  And what kind of world do we want them to grow up in! I was there for an event at the Interfaith Tent:  our Rabbi, Linda Holtzman, spoke about the scriptural basis for taking action to repair the brokenness of the world.  In a nutshell: 100% of us are created in God's image, not 1%.  A "renegade Baptist minister" also spoke, who had actually been occupying for 29 days.  He said, "If you really want to know what this is about, come down and participate in some conversations.  Listen to what people are saying."

The young people who were staffing the Interfaith Tent were an inspiration.  They had just had their tent stolen that day, along with sleeping bags and sentimental items.  Fortunately they had homes to sleep in that night, but were determined to keep on keeping on.  They were stressed but undaunted.  They couldn't imagine doing anything else, being anywhere else.  Our group was able to connect them with someone who wanted to donate a tent.  So it goes.  I feel hope for the future because of having met them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Transcendence and Impermanence

This is the story of the dismantling of a site-specific art installation. The installation itself was a study in transcendence: 1000 hand-cut chimes activated by street traffic. Watching its end was a study in the beauty of impermanence...  It was a happy accident that I saw it across the street from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, one of the many times I was grateful to have my camera with me.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How SoulCollage® Works!

For a taste of what making and sharing SoulCollage® cards is like, watch this video of our SoulCollage® Facilitator Training made by our Trainer Kat Kirby!  It captures the flavor.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Collage of SoulCollagers

Richness abounded everywhere at the recent 4th International SoulCollage® Facilitator's Conference.  This video by Stephanie Anderson Ladd, is truly a remarkable visual meditation.  She shared it at the beginning of her  workshop, SoulCollage® and the Divine Feminine - one of the many workshops going on while I was taking some other one.  And yet the energies of all the workshops infused the atmosphere - because we shared over meals, over laughter, and by osmosis.  The synergy was part of the air we breathed.

Reintegrating back into life post-Conference has been a journey for all of us who were there. The shifts - both inward and manifested in our outward lives - are real, continuing, sometimes unexpectedly surprising, and growing. It was a uniquely diverse group of 95 women and one man.  The post-Conference journeys, as shared on the list-serv and in other ways, are also uniquely diverse. We were - and are - like the many separate shapes and colors of stained glass pieces that come together into a beautiful window that shines with one image when infused with light, and the many such windows at the beautiful Bon Secours Retreat Center where we met.  I am still trying to understand it all.  All I know is that I am grateful to be part of this amazing community and that I will be at the 5th International SoulCollage® Facilitators' Conference in Portland in 2013! 

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Synchronicity Strikes Again...

Daily Oasis,, is a very aptly named website.  Every morning someone's SoulCollage® card arrives in my inbox providing daily food for thought: an incredible visual image combined with an I Am One Who... statement. (You too can sign up for this!).  I have submitted cards to be posted, and never know quite the timing of how long they will be in the pipeline and when they will appear.  This morning, as we are getting ready to leave for the SoulCollage® Facilitator's Conference,  the card of mine above appeared on Daily Oasis, along with this text:

Created & Shared By:
Susan Richards
Ardmore, Pennsylvania

  "I Am One Who... traditional and contemporary 
at the same time.
It is not a conflict or contradiction for me.
Both inform and enrich each other."

The second synchronicity of the morning was the message on the KaleidoSoul SoulCollage listserv , from Anne Marie Bennett, the creator and spiritual force behind, and co-chair of the Conference:

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."  Martin Buber

The words have meaning, for both inward and outward journeys.  They have a particularly special meaning for me, as words of Martin Buber.  I am ready for the Conference journey, and plunging into all of which I am unaware.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SoulCollage® Facilitators' Conference: a challenge just getting there!

There's a local weather alert for Baltimore today -  flash flood warnings and road closings, but we are undaunted.  By tomorrow afternoon when we drive to Bon Secours Spiritual Center outside of Baltimore for The Fourth International SoulCollage® Facilitators' Conference it will merely be thundershowers.  Nothing will stop us from gathering together or dampen our spirits.  Like a hero / heroine's journey, we will have overcome obstacles just to get there - starting with the drive from Philly. 

Above is the SoulCollage® card I made before packing up my card making equipment and personal deck to take with me. I feel calmer about driving just looking at it.  I'll remember to breathe, and trust our gang of three will get there safely and have a fabulous time.  I'll tell you about it when we get back!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Life Before Text Messaging

"I love you.  P.S. I'll bring a bread home for lunch."  Today it would be a text message, abbreviated and eventually deleted.  I am touched by the poignancy of my Dad's handwriting, his little drawings, the gold stars stuck on these seemingly daily notes to my mom in the early 1940's.  She had saved them all in a heart shaped Whitman's chocolate valentine box, which I discovered when I was cleaning out their apartment ten years ago.  These love notes are documentation of a vibrant, loving, and sexy marriage, and also of the zeitgeist of an era.  They are a treasure.  

I started this altered book project using Sayings of the Fathers / Pirkei Avot, a compilation of Jewish traditional ethical teachings and maxims with many layers 

of commentary over the centuries. My altered book is still a work in progress. The more I work on it, the more it feels like I am adding my own contemporary commentary, through the story I am telling from my dad's love notes and doodle poems and my mom's jottings.  In Jewish tradition, commentary on any text is also an ongoing work in progress..

The two little girls on the right are my mother and my aunt Judy.  I superimposed them on the text that talks about how arguments for the sake of heaven endure.  They loved each other fiercely, disagreed and argued often, but held hands to the end of long lives and did anything to help each other.

I will keep you posted as this project unfolds!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lee Krasner: The Real Story

I don't want to return Gail Levin's new biography of Lee Krasner to the library.  It was such a compelling read, I don't want to let it out of my hands.  What a picture of an era: all the ferment of the early development of Abstract Expressionism in America, and the story of Lee Krasner as a complex and powerful woman who was a radical creative explorer in the center of it all before she ever met Jackson Pollock. We learn exactly how Krasner's contribution was rendered invisible by the (non) role of women artists in the 1940's and 50's,  as well as a subtle anti-Semitism along with the sexism.  How she balanced being Mrs. Jackson Pollock, promoting his work and insuring his legacy after his death, while continuing her own unique painting at the same time is an inspiring story. The images above hardly begin to convey the breadth of her work.

There's also a lot of juicy gossip in this book, like which critics were sleeping with whose wives, which got shows for who at what galleries...  For we voyeurs who want the scoop on some of the famous names, this book is a lot of fun.  It certainly makes some of the luminaries down to earth and human.

Mostly it makes me deeply appreciate what Lee Krasner's legacy is for every woman artist who has come after her.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Homage of Irreverence

my SoulCollage® card  for Kurt Schwitters (above)
 the original Kurt Schwitters collage (below)

I need to ice my foot, which turned out to be broken as well as badly sprained.  My physical therapist tells me that all will ultimately be well.  I try not to be impatient and repeatedly fail.  Yet despite being slowed down against my will, much has happened during these weeks of incapacitation. 

I immersed in SoulCollage® Facilitator Training in early June at a beautiful retreat center in the countryside outside of Philadelphia. Our Trainer, Kat Kirby, is an art therapist in San Diego,  It is ironic that all the years I lived in San Diego we didn't know each other.  Only when she flew across the country to train our group of eight, did we meet.  SoulCollage®, developed by Seena Frost, taps into the power of intuition, imagination, and the depths reached nonverbally with visual images.  No art experience is necessary - all that's needed is scissors, glue, receptivity and trusting the process.  Not to mention that it's fun!  I am excited about offering SoulCollage® workshops in my studio starting in the Fall.

Since the Facilitator Training I have been on a roll with making cards for my personal SoulCollage® deck. Each person's deck is  a unique reflection of their personality, story, and soul. This Kurt Schwitters card was made after three of us made a pilgrimage to the Princeton Museum to see his retrospective before it closed,  We postponed it to the last minute  because of my foot.  It was more walking than I had done since the break, but I acted like my mom, who went on an Elder Hostel to see the High Sierra Mountains for her 85th birthday.  Bedridden afterwards from the exertion, she said "it was worth it."  Some things are worth it.  To see so much of Kurt Schwitters work close up was a rare privilege.  Seeing work on-line, with the best of monitors and the highest resolution cannot capture the subtle textures and the sense of presence and connection with a master, when you are within touching distance, inhaling the essence... The Kurt Schwitters card is part of my SoulCollage® Community Suit:  my posse of allies, my support system, and my sources of inspiration.  

There are many relatives, friends, and mentors who I know I will gradually make Community Suit cards for.  Who knew a Kurt Schwitters card would happen first?  The cards seem to have a life of their own, and emerge as they need to.

I can't believe I collaged his collage.  Ultimate chutzpah.  And my ultimate homage. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Like A Concert Tour, but with Sketchbooks!

"It's like a concert tour, but with sketchbooks." What a great motto! I couldn't resist signing up again. Just pick a theme from their list of forty provocative prompts, pay for the blank sketchbook, they mail it to you, you fill it up however you want, and mail it back by January 31, 2012.  That's the drill. Then the hundreds of barcoded sketchbooks tour the country, as well as Vancouver, and Toronto.  Every time someone looks at your sketchbook you get an email. After the tour they live permanently in the Brooklyn Art Library. If you pay an extra $ 20 they do a great job of digitizing all your pages, which then become part of their Sketchbook Project searchable virtual archive.

Last year it was exciting to feel part of a community of thousands of people from around the country and around the world who were participating. This year it has become a tradition of sorts.  I chose "Writing on the wall" as my theme, or maybe it chose me. I have no idea how I will approach it, or what will evolve.  Fortunately there is plenty of time to see what the writing on the wall will reveal...

Join the fun!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Laundry Lessons

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.  I have always loved this title of Jack Kornfeld's book. As I elevate my swollen, bruised, and badly sprained ankle I have plenty of time to reflect on it.  There is no choice but a slower paced re-entry from our Jewish Mindfulness Retreat in red rock country, New Mexico.

Twelve souls led by Rabbi Yael Levy wove deep bonds through shared silence, meditation, prayer, song, and hiking together through an elemental and awe inspiring landscape.  Simply getting there was a commitment.  Being unplugged from all electronics for five full days stilled the chatter and was a wonderful relief.  The trails were challenging, especially for someone like me, more accustomed to sea-level beach walking than high altitude wilderness hiking.  Mindfulness was very specific and practical in terms of noticing where to place each foot or decide which rocks to step on to get across a stream.  We  practiced both offering and receiving help over the rough spots in silence.

The morning after returning home, I unpacked directly into a laundry basket.  As I carried the overflowing basket down our narrow and steep basement stairs I slipped, missed the last step, and twisted my right ankle.  I sat on the floor in a heap with all the spilled laundry, crying in pain and crying at how quickly it seemed the benefits of the retreat and mindfulness about each step had dissipated.  After a while the irony and humor hit me, and then gratitude it hadn't been worse and hadn't happened on the retreat.

Scooping up the laundry, I hobbled over to the wash machine.  My denim shirt was especially caked with red mud.  I had been using it to lay down on while watching sunlight through tree branches, movement of clouds, and changes in qualities of light - a world that suddenly seemed very far away.  I rinsed the mud off in the laundry tub before putting it in the machine, watching a swirl of red - the tangible remnant of the retreat - disappear down the drain.  

Laundry is now intertwined with mindfulness for me at a muscle-memory level.  My ankle is forcing me to slow down and simply notice.  I'm watching the  alarming misshapenness slowly subside.  Observing the colors of the bruise change from purples to reds and yellows and browns is not as much fun as observing the color changes of dawn and dusk of the New Mexico sky.  But it is what is, now.  I am observing the miracle of healing. 

I just ordered After the Ecstasy, the Laundry:  How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path.  It's time to read it.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Secrets of Creative Aging

In my latest video, Helen Redman, a pioneer of Feminist Art, speaks about her mixed-media Turtle Diary series.  This work is both whimsical and profound, and has much to convey about aging and creativity, creative aging, and the synergy of a loving marriage. Redman has painted self-portraits at every stage of her life.  Only as an elder did she start to create double portraits of herself and her husband Kenny Weissberg - as turtles! 

As Redman has written,“Turtle medicine includes a connection with the center, navigation skills, self-reliance, tenacity, patience, the ability to respect the boundaries of self and others, and develop new ideas. Originally created with humorous intent, I unknowingly chose an ancient symbol of nurturance, mother energy, determination and longevity.” 

It was a privilege to film and interview Helen and Kenny, and to share their wisdom in this video.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Cranes of Hope

This antique stereopticon image of a mother and her children in the doorway of their Middle-Eastern home is a grounding anchor amidst the surrounding fiery swirl.  Their faces are individual, personal, unique.  The water jug is a reminder of the simple and ordinary everyday tasks of life.  

This piece holds the tension between the metal barrier and the freely flying cranes, while we exchange gazes with this particular mother and her children. 

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Released into the Wild: Sketchbooks on Tour!

Unbelieveably, the Sketchbook Project folks at the Brooklyn Art Library have cataloged just under 10,000 sketchbooks, including mine,  and are ready to take them on tour around the country.  They are now "released into the wild", as they say, but organized, digitized, and bar-coded. I will be getting an email every time someone looks at it in person or on-line.  This will be a kick!  If you browse at  you can get a sense of the range and variety of the participating artists from all over the world.  

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Visitor Discretion is Advised"

Combining SEX with "Visitor Discretion is Advised" usually gets people's attention. I'm glad I saw this provocative show at Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery today. You can see more about these audacious artists at

I was especially glad that there was a powerful 4 x 6 foot piece by David Wojnarowicz, in light of his recent censorship by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. As the curator of SEX DRIVE, Stuart Horodner, notes "its inclusion aligns the exhibition with the many arts professionals, institutions, and funding agencies who issued swift and strong responses denouncing the Smithsonian's troubling curatorial decision."  He is being both professional and polite to call their decision merely 'troubling.'

Here's their blurb:
Sex Drive presents contemporary artworks that address sexuality across a panoply of forms. Using photography, drawing, painting, video, sculpture, and installation, 22 artists bring their own pleasures and political dispositions to bear on identity and gender, romance and lust, religious and legal strictures, and private and public scandals. Sex Drive asks us to consider the conventions that govern sexuality, as well as its unruly power.

Stuart Horodner, artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, developed the exhibition in conjunction with the Haverford College humanities seminar, “Sex, State, and Society in the Early Modern World,” which offers an historical perspective for understanding why sex and sexuality remain such volatile issues in contemporary politics around the globe.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meredith Monk - a Force of Nature

music by Meredith Monk

It was a rare treat to watch a screening last night at Bryn Mawr College of Meredith Monk: INNER VOICE, a film that celebrates Monk's life and work, and illuminates the role that her Buddhist practice has had in her creative life. She has been called a 'pan-artist': working in so many genres, interweaving them, defying categorization, and creating a transcendence beyond all of them. Best of all, Meredith Monk was there in person!

It was a small intimate group. The discussion after the film was spellbinding. I had gone to experience a performance artist, an avant-garde luminary of the generation following Fluxus. I didn't know she would convey profound teaching about impermanence, time, loss, beauty, joy, and love.

I'm glad I braved driving through the slush to be there. Today I ordered her album "Impermanence."

To find out more:

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Studio Space - finally!

Let it snow! Time stops. Everything is quiet. The usual activities are cancelled. I can retreat into my new studio and hunker down.

I just hung up my Alaskan mukluks on the studio wall. Dating from my old Vista Volunteer days in an Eskimo village, they are forty plus years old. With caribou skin legs and seal skin soles, the trim at the top is plain denim - the everyday work boots that the village people themselves wore - not the fancy designs made for tourists. The message to myself: get to work!

O.K., I admit I'm ready for less snow and warmer weather, but I'll retreat to my studio regardless of the weather!

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Practice of Practice

"Technique itself springs from play, because we can acquire technique only by the practice of practice, by persistently experimenting and playing with our tools and testing their limits and resistances. Creative work is play; it is free speculation using the materials of one's chosen form." (from Free Play, by Stephen Nachmanovitch)

It is both exciting and scary to be exploring and expanding my tools and materials as an artist. If I can keep discovering anew the mindset that Nachmanovitch is pointing to, then it's all good. Easier said than done. The "practice of practice" helps.

The carefree playfulness of the girl in in the center of my mixed-media monoprint "If the Shoe Fits" is heightened by her context. May I learn from my own image!

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nachmanovitch Nuggets

I first read Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch, in 1991. It is an amazing treat to be re-reading it now, with new eyes. Here are some of my favorite nuggets:

"Creativity becomes everything we do and perceive."

"If life is full of joy, joy feeds the creative process. If life is full of grief, grief feeds the creative process."

"...there is no ultimate breakthrough; what we find in the development of a creative life is an open-ended series of provisional breakthroughs. In this journey there is no endpoint, because it is the journey into the soul."

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If the Shoe Fits... Take the Leap

It has to be postmarked by January 15th to meet The Sketchbook Project 2011 Tour deadline. Mine will be finished in time, including the on-line profile. I am one of 28834 artists from 94 countries who are participating... very humbling and exciting at the same time. Everyone picked a theme. Mine is "If You Lived Here". The title is If the Shoe Fits... Take the Leap.

Along with an assemblage using an antique wooden bird cage I got in a thrift shop, this sketchbook is the first work done in the new studio. I'll post it as soon as I scan it.

Starting February 2011 the sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums across the country. Digitized versions will be on the Brooklyn Art Library website,

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