Thursday, December 18, 2014

Smudge 2014

For the last 8 months or so I have been working with photo transfers, and finally, with some technical success.  I just read Bonnie Lhotka's book, Digital Alchemy, after owning it for more than a year and working with the processes she writes about with my students for the last four years.  My learning curve is such that, unless I am desperate, I won't, absolutely won't, go to a manual for directions.  In other words, it has to be pretty dire for me to crack open that book of instructions.  I've also been reading  Digital Art, by Scott Ligon, a book that helps artists work with Photoshop.  I've had that book for about six years after one of my students, Cindy Jerrell, sent it to me(her piece is on the cover).  It's a good book for us intuitive, non-linear brain people, and I have been learning to do selections and masks, although am still shying away from using levels.  Shall we just say that Photoshop doesn't come naturally to me.

With all of that, in some ways I'm still as confused as I was 8 months ago.  I'm excited by the process, love the thrill of the transfer(will it work or not!!) and initially love the way it looks.  But after a bit, after it settles in, I feel like it's not quite enough, and I'm not sure where to take it.  With Smudge I went back to my beloved oils, which I haven't used in almost ten years.  This piece is a combination of a transfer gone bad, collage, paint peels, and oil paint. I'm pleased with it, but am afraid it's a step backwards.  In other words, been there, done that. I'm trying to go somewhere I've never been, never seen, and don't have a clue of how to get there except that I need to involve paint with photography, and that I need not to be careful, thoughtful, or to pre-plan where I'm headed.  Makes it hard to pack for the journey.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dog Man with Black Tail 1999

In 1996, my good friend and neighbor, Bob Zachary, had open heart surgery to replace the mitral valve in his heart.  Once he'd recovered, he showed me his scar, a long thin line running from below his throat to to just above his belly with two puncture holes on either side at the bottom of the long scar. For much of the surgery, he was hooked up to a heart-lung machine so that he could stay alive while the surgeons worked on his heart.  Once he described the surgery, it was clear to me that Bob had gone over the barrier that separates life and death. When I began to work with the photographs I had taken of him, I realized that all the paintings I did of Bob with his scar were shamanic, Dog Man with Black Tail being the largest(48"x24").  Recently I asked him what he remembered--did he have any out of body experiences, any white light, tunnels, or have profound knowledge to to share with those of who hadn't made the journey?
"No." he said, "Can't remember anything.  It was too long ago."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Old Dog Resting

Plez was a Blue Heeler that my husband Bob and I had for 16 years.  He came to us with a bad hind leg--kicked by a horse when he was a pup--which he would pull up when he ran so that he often ran on three legs.  He was a good dog with a few issues, like nipping at anything that went by, but he never nipped hard, and was only doing what his genetic code told him to do.  He aged, grew impaired, and it finally came to the day we had to take him to the vet to have him put down.  It was hard on all of us, me especially.  He had been my dog and my friend, and I missed him terrifically.

We now have a dog who is 14 and today my husband and I had "the talk" about him.  He has become increasingly incontinent, and it seems that not a day passes that we don't have something to clean up, either inconspcious little brown turds that have dropped out, or diarrhea, which smells so foul that he he won't go anywhere near it. We can count on moist pillows in his crate from his urine leaking in the night and have to be very careful to get him out of the house as quickly as possible in the mornings before he lets loose with a deluge of nasty smelling old male dog pee.  We don't see this situation getting any better, only worse.

Like many things in life, it's complicated.  He is not a dog we are overly fond of, tending towards obsessive/compulsive and bizarre behavior.  For example, he once lifted his leg, took aim, and then urinated on my ankle. Think autistic. However, aside from the incontinence, he is doing pretty well.  He has a good appetite and manages to charge the fence in the back yard to bark at passing cars, people, and especially, other dogs.  He sleeps a lot, but seems generally happy to be on the planet.  I'm afraid that if we do put him down for our convenience, we will be filled with guilt, but at the same time, both of us are tired of living with an animal that we don't really like that has turned our home into a toilet.  So, to keep that guilt at bay, we recently purchased three packages of doggie diapers....

Friday, November 7, 2014

Russell Hamilton 1950-2014

I first met Russell when he came to work at Tamarind Institute in the 70's.  I remember his big hair--a  mountain man beard and about as much long, wild hair as you could could expect from a white guy.  He was warm, friendly, and had a Missouri twang when he spoke.  He was married with a young son, unusual for most of us at that time, children being something we didn't really understand.  The years passed and I would see Russell every now and then.  He was always welcoming, and I followed his career in a tangential way.  About 15 years ago, I ran into him at his studio and I was taken aback by how terrible he looked.  It turned out he was waiting for a kidney transplant, and not doing well.  But he did receive the transplant and was able to keep doing the things that he cared the most about.

Around the time of the transplant, he opened up a gallery in Albuquerque with another artist, Kim Arthun.  Both felt the constrictions of normal gallery relationships and wanted to take more control for their own work.  They also wanted to provide a "sane" venue for local artists, and that's what they did, providing Albuquerque with one it's best venues for seeing art that mattered. *  In that extra 15 years he grew his son, maintained a loving relationship with his wife, did his art, hiked and camped and co-ran Gallery 208.  Then, his kidney gave out, and once again he had to wait for another transplant.  This kidney only lasted about three years, and finally, as Kim said at his service, he "tapped out" last week.

The service was held at a large church, and filled to capacity with all the people in Albuquerque who had been touched by Russell. Kim read his eulogy, and it was truly beautiful.  He gave us a picture of Russell's life that was complete, but more importantly, he gave us the sense of how much their friendship mattered, and how much these two men loved each other.  When my husband and I left the service, we each felt envious for what Russell and Kim had shared.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Figure with Paws 2014

I'm finding that I need to make a shift.  I wrote recently about my "rules" while teaching at Anderson Ranch, which included not being able to use my normal means of collecting information. I've also discovered that I want to use paint in a different way--that I want to spend as little time applying paint as I can.  No laborious building of a surface, no coming back and adding or correcting what I have, instead, a kind of wham bam thank you mam and if that doesn't work, then I put drywall mud over the paint and start again.  The excitement, for me, is in the instantaneous happening of something that is right, something that happens quickly and effortlessly.

In working this way I have to let go of most control, and I also have to accept that much of the success of this process is being in the right place at the right time.  From having painted for over forty years, it's extremely difficult to paint without knowing what the paint will do.  I know washes a little, but haven't worked with them much, since I've always liked to go back into the paint and work it until it becomes what I want.  With washes, once you put the paint down, you have to leave it alone because the more you mess with it, the less chance you have of it working it's magic--and it's this magic and trusting in the universe that seem to be what I'm looking for.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Man with Dog and Angel 2005

Man with Dog and Angel was recently purchased by Bernalillo County here in New Mexico for their public art collection.  An exhibition was held for the work purchased, and most of us whose work had been purchased, along with our friends and proud families, showed up to take a look.  I stood examining this piece for quite some time, remembering that because of the bearded figure and his possible terrorist reference, I had worried about not being able to ever sell the painting.

However, now, with the painting sold, what I saw was a complicated, triangulated relationship between the dog, the angel, and the bearded figure.  Both the dog and the man are constructed from photographs of the Reverend Dennis, an African American folk artist/minister from Mississippi, in his late 80's when I  met and photographed him.  His world was a tangled overlay of religion, militarism, and paranoia(his antiquated hearing aid probably didn't help matters much). *  The angel's body is made up of tumbleweeds and wire, as are her wings, and while she is looking benevolently at the bearded man, it's not completely clear what the dog is up to.  His tail is up, and he is alert,  not sure if he's barking a warning to the angel, or if he's ready to take a chunk out of the man.  The man looks concerned, but not alarmed, and we are left not quite knowing what is about to unfold.

* http://www.godsarchitects.com/GaRevDennisPage.html

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Small Brown Snake 2014

My rules were this:  all ingredients of the work I did while teaching an Intensive at Anderson Ranch this fall  http://www.andersonranch.org/ had to be found or given to me.  The second day of the workshop, one of my students, Trace Nichols,  showed up with a plastic bag with something inside.  On her run that morning she had found a small brown snake, dead, by the side of the road.  As the days went by, I had 4 stripped pine cones(squirrels getting ready for winter) which resembled paws of some strange beast, two dead flies, about 15 tiny sea shells, some smashed pine cones(from being driven over), a stack of lovely Japanese printmaking paper (tear offs), beautifully stained tissue with  which a student had blotted her paintings, old, yellowed, dictionary pages, a DASS transfer of leaves, and numerous copies of images printed and then discarded. And these were just a few of the things I collected or that were given to me by my students as the workshop went on. My last gift was laying on my work table, beautifully wrapped and tied in leaves.  Trace had, once again, on her morning run, found a dead animal, this time a squirrel, and knowing that she wasn't going to come back that way, had wrapped it in leaves and tied them with stems so that she could carry it comfortably on her (long) run home.  I opened the beautiful present, simultaneously gasped and jumped a several feet backwards, then thanked her profusely for the lovely present.

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