Like other Melusine’s I’m drawn to the woods, its not just the gloaming, but everything about the forest dwells in my heart.
The death-quiet, a merciless monument that I enter as a noisy intruder that I’m certain the residents resent. I imagine scurrliness messengers warble warnings, Shee-zeer! Shee-zeer! My imagination is more about me than I desire. I wish to be as Sleeping Beauty thinking they are noticing me. But they are more concerned with their tidy lives, made in instinct and lived moment to moment.
Quietly making my way along the tangled trees, brambles, briars and bracken I can pick out favored shelf fungus, crumbling lichens and indian pipes along the paths. There is delight in the decay as the forest makes itself over flourishing its broken down limb littered leaf-decayed floor.
There’s an aroma that lifts from damp leaves, moldy with ashey spots and black rip edges as they catch on my feet. Twining twisted vine twirl about me in a rage at the dying of the season.
A token of love
I bring man-made artificiality to the Nature. Diminutive in stature compared to the Nature, the human makes its mark in creating tawdry and putting a price on it.
We churn it, first in the making, then the marketing, the amassing and finally the discarding. We cannot dig our holes deep enough to contain the baubles. Steady streams run-off products and by-products and the empty worth trailing off into now-nothingness. Land. Ocean. Space. Will fill them all.
Tooth & Claw
An installation and self portrait I created in the woods 2002—Photographed credit: self.
When I was a kid I drew. And painted. Everywhere. I am born to make things. Kinetic. Creator.
I never thought about where the objects I made would hang. Never cared if they sold. Those concepts never entered my mind. All my life I made art to make it—no choice–more like a compulsion. Last Thursday, I went to the NYC gallery where my painting is on display. Friends and family were with me and that made it more real for me that my work is hanging in NYC. I’ve heard others describe it as a dream they always wanted even from childhood. Odd that it never crossed my mind as being that important although I exhibited a few times in the 80’s because I was invited to do a small show.
Until a few years ago. I turned 49 and was on the upswing to 50 when I made a decision that I would exhibit again. I called it Aurora The Third Act. Aurora is goddess of the dawn and what a dawn this has been these 4 years. I am so pleased to be accepted into NAWA and have work in the annual exhibit. And pleased that I create work that brings pleasure to so many people. Although it can seem like it is about me, the artist, its not. Its about the viewer. You. Its about what you see and how you feel and where it leads you when you view the art I make. Together we make art an experience.
This photo is a picture of my tools and work in front of me. I work at a constant pace on paper and reserve my longer bits of time for larger paintings. The small work gets me through rough patches when time constraints are pushing me to and fro, or space is limited and I am on the go. Much like a knitter takes their work along, I take small paper drawings and pens. This work probably won’t end up in a gallery setting but I make it anyway. I use all my skills to create the best possible work at any given time or using any medium.
Lately, string is pulling me into hours of reverie, inventing images in my mind about what I might make with a crochet hook. I have a painting on an easel at home and one in the studio. Yet I don’t feel inspired to go to work on them. Summer was a series of trips and events that took me from home interspersed with the death of 4 people I know. Their passing has left me feeling very bereft and I think of them several times a day. I can’t see them again and have conversation or ask questions, smile with them, hold their hand. Mortality is rearing its head and I am interested in how that plays out in life and art. Life goes forward. So will the art.
Regarding Sherlock Holmes and his ignorance of Copernican theory, “What the deuce is [the solar system] to me?” he exclaims to Watson in A Study in Scarlet. “You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.” And now that he knows that fact? “I shall do my best to forget it,” he promises.
My art is mine, its not inspired by anything in particular or anyone. Simple concept or it should be. Well just try that on in the modern world. There are labels slung at the work, me and the style. Comparisons are made with no regard to my thoughts or feelings. I prefer the enigma that naturally exists in the creation and the process. I don’t intend to create and make statements of any kind. I’m not that pretentious. I wonder who really cares about my opinion…and do I actually care to use my precious work as a tool to provide statements to the public? If you’re a long standing friend we may find ourselves discussing it but otherwise I’m likely to say a little when queried about the art I make.
The reference to Sherlock Holmes? I read Conan Doyle in my youth and the realization of what Holmes referred to in the Copernicus statement stuck with me. What do I need to know–to shape my life as I want it to be….and what do I need to forget? I don’t want to know about the art that came before me or even really of what is being created right now. Keeping it simple, I have little need to know about artists, it impedes my progress, infiltrates my brain and I fight to keep it out. I’ve been told that I’m wrong, that if I had gone to art school or college I would know that I should build on the structure of artist who created before me. Now I have to forget that too! I met Ian Frazier several times and he told me he has had a similar experience. He said the internet contains so much information its difficult to filter when doing research for his writing. I explained my Holmes theory to him and he chuckled and nodded his head.
To all who know me, please stop telling me to change my mind on this subject. I paid dearly to avoid art school. I consider myself an iconoclast and being institutionalized doesn’t work for me. While working low paying full time jobs, I painted during my precious time off. Not having knowledge of art history doesn’t make me not bright. Figuring out processes by experimentation doesn’t make my work unsophisticated. It does make me an outsider for the most part. What I didn’t get by going to college…I struggled, worked hard and experimented a lot. I found out that I am an innovator, a risk taker and improvise on every piece I make. I’m happy with my work and proud of what I do. I am pleased and humbled every time someone acquires a piece. I’m impressed with those who collect my art, as they are an extraordinary group of people.
Recently I acquired a large vintage wooden flat file and was thrilled with it, had it refinished and found the missing (hidden) key. When it was finally delivered, it wouldn’t fit through the studio door. I was a little upset, but thought, oh well its not meant to be mine–because it would not fit through any door of any building I could conceivably move it into. Yes, friends and family all tried to come to forth to rescue said treasure–but no door could accommodate it. So, I put it on the block, but I had a chance meeting with the previous owner and mentioned the problem. He revealed the box had one more trick to reveal–it comes apart with the removal of two bolts. I will number the drawers and remove them, remove the large bolts and collapse the box, move it in and re-assemble it in my studio. Even better.
Ishmael Street – a friend and poet in Allentown, Pa shared this work with me. I feel that with Earth Day right around the corner, his timing is so very appropriate. Ishmael has an uncanny sense of timing–he shares the right poem to the right people at the right time. Or perhaps his poems are like the threads of our culture that we can pick them up and wear them like radiant garments.
I soak watercolor paper in a tub of cool clean water for 2-3 minutes, remove the paper and press between 2 clean bath towels. Working on a flat surface with large squirrel mop brush I begin with loose watercolor washes. I do not work the a lot, but I continue to add and push the paint with either brushes or my fingers. This is an integral part of the work for me, once dried the fingerprints are like landmarks. Rarely I will use a blotter, but occasionally I will do so with a rough rag to create texture. Additionally, I use found objects placed in the paint and left to dry so as to draw paint to those areas. Other times, I might use harmless natural resists like castile soap, oatmeal or salt to obtain depth in the work.
At this point I usually allow the work to dry. Once dry, I can re-wet and add more paint and texture or move on to ink in the large areas. Inking is done with smaller brushes and pens. There is no planning or completion of inking at this time, the piece is open to re-working or starting collage in an inked area or adding paint. The inking is the mind engaging part where I can get lost for hours, allowing ideas to form, transcending the hum-drum-slow-rattle brain chatter and get some peace.
A conceptual art group is being let loose shortly in Allentown, PA – the New Bridge Group. NBG has arisen out of the need to bridge artists and community together.
Allentown and the surrounding area have generated groups of artists and like all groups they go through changes. In 2008, The Chen Arts group was started to provide a place for local visual and performing artists to meet, network and collaborate. The intention was to have open group shows. For a time that worked—artists drifted in and out. In autumn of 2011 a buzz was heard about the future of Chen—changing from the unstructured open format to a more structured organization. In the meantime, the city embraced some serious structural changes and altered the landscape to provide for an arena and remove some older buildings—one is the House of Chen restaurant where Chen Arts group based its name.
Members E.A. Kafkalas and Alison Bessesdotter of the Chen Arts group ran head-long one winter evening into a local sculptor Steven Condra. Alison and E.A. invited Steven to exhibit with the Metamorphosis show. They explained that the next Chen show would be themed Bridges Outside the Box, representing a change that was needed to start a new movement in town. Steven was intrigued—because he had also formed an idea about bridging artists together—snapping together the free thinking 20th century German expressionists with a modern twist called The New Bridge Group. Synchronicity was in full force; it was the mash-up of their concepts about building bridges between artists and the community. The intent would be to create and maintain a vibrant and productive artist group in Allentown with a tribal feel. When asked what that means, Alison explains that the tribal concept is about creating genuine relationships with true freedom of information, and a future of limitless potential bound only by their imagination. Audacious—it may well be, but the New Bridge Group/Chen Arts wants to change the world view of art and the relationship to earth and community. Alison says “The time is right for this, the core is in place and the only thing we need more of is you.”
The 2012 Metamorphosis show was organized by E.A. Kafkalas who is quick to explain, “the success of the Metamorphosis show was truly an effort of everyone involved in the production—it was not the effort of one person.” The show opened with the sale of 9 pieces of work from a diverse group of artists at the 2 week event in January 2012.
Today The New Bridge Group/Chen Arts are planning the next show Bridges Outside the Box. The show runs from May 27th through June 10th at the community room of the Allentown Art Museum. For information on becoming a member or just to see what all the fuss is about, see the NBGArtists Facebook page or http://www.nbgartists.org/ to find our next event.