Monday, June 29, 2020

Riding Lesson 2020

Teaching is a big part of my life. In my practice as a studio artist, I'm mostly alone, so teaching gives me a way to be with people. I have the ability to see and understand, at whatever level my students are at, what they need and I feel connected and close to the people I work with in ways we don't normally get to be. My ego seems to shrink to next to nothing, and without that old ego bobbing up and getting in the way, incredible things often happen with my students, not always, but more often then not.  I often feel as if I have mind-melded with them, and can see exactly where they need to go because of it.

With Covid 19, my teaching is on hold. All workshops and classes have been cancelled this spring and into the summer.  In September of 2020 Anderson Ranch is going to try using our class as a test to see if it’s possible to teach with face coverings and social distancing.  It's still not for sure if we will have enough students, and I think we are all nervous about the outcome. I don't know if we will all be able to stay on the horse and ride, or if distancing  and the uncomfortableness of wearing a face mask will cause us to all slide off, landing in the dirt and dust on the ground as the horse takes off.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Blessing 2020

At a very tender age, I went into intense negotiations with my parents:  I would give up my bottle if I could have a pair of cowboy boots. Next were horseback riding lessons starting from the age of four. By about age six, our family moved to a house in the country where we could have horses and since my mother had kept a horse every summer in Colorado when she was a girl, she always made it a priority that I would have a horse as well.  I started with Rio Grande, graduated to Hondo Bay, then a neighbor's horse, Charm, then a gift from another neighbor of Rebb, a retired race horse.  So I put in my 10,000 hours (as Malcolm Gladwell says), and was as comfortable on a horse as any person could be.  My horses were my best friends as well as being my main mode of transportation.  I spent most of my time alone with them, and that's what carried me into those other worlds where my imagination and my curiosity could rule the day.  But, as I got older and had children of my own, my life moved me away from horses and I went on without them.

This winter I met a lovely woman who had a horse that needed riding, "Stormy", a young gray gelding.  What started out as a casual offer to ride, has now turned into a consistent, regular part of my life, not to mention that, like the teenager I once was, I have fallen head over heels in love with this lovely, goofy, sweet, and talented guy. That world has reopened up for me, and I find myself learning about horses in new ways, understanding how they work with the brain of an adult as opposed to one of a child--entire new philosophies have emerged about how to treat and train horses.  But mostly, I find that I take a huge amount of  pleasure and joy from, once again, having a horse in my life.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Man Jumping From a Roof 1999

Life is very strange in this epoch of Covid 19.  Most of the country has been locked down--sheltering in place--for the last two months of March and April.  When one does have to go out, one has to be careful not to breathe another person's possibly infected out breath, so we practice "social distancing" and we wear masks.  We can't see each others faces because we should be wearing those masks, but when we are outside, exercising, we don't have to be as careful with our masks, we just can't get close to anyone and we become very anxious when a stranger comes too close. The country is torn politically, with the democrats being good mask wearers and social distancers, the republicans, not so much. Everything seems normal, but terribly not.  Same air, same TV programs, same food, same relationships with people but a constant stream of information coming in about the horrors of the disease, the deaths and the terrible economic toll.  We witness shaming behaviors from others, and we ourselves want to shame those that aren't taking precautions, while at the same time people go out of their way to be open, friendly, and encouraging. It seems crazily, bleakly hopeless, but still, we seem to be muddling through it, just hoping that we will land, somehow, on our feet.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Life 2020

My mother died in November of 2019, and I recently put this little video together of her life.  It helped me, among other things, to see the entire arc of her life and not just the last ten years of her life as she began her slow slide into dementia.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Frightened Child 1992

 Frightened Child, Monoprint, 22"x30"

Sometime in 1992, or thereabouts, I was invited by the Washington University Art Department in St. Louis to do a print.  I based the print on a painting I had done of my youngest daughter when she was a toddler, which was based on a photo I had taken of her when she was crying. It was hard, mainly because I had an audience--all of the art students and teachers who were interested in me and my work watched as I struggled with trying to make something work.  I have a natural tendency to A) show off and B) want to please, and while that's not such a bad thing in social situations, it's deadly when you are trying to make an image  I can't even listen to music when I work, much less have 20 people standing around silently watching(and judging) me. The photograph was reversed in the printing process, and I remember being displeased when I did the monoprint, although, of course pretending to be pleased(pleaser, remember?).  However, recently, while trying to bring some semblance of order to the work I have here in my studio, I came across the print buried in my flat files. I was no longer displeased, in fact I thought the print good.  I had disliked it so much that I never even photographed it. What strikes me now is the force of the emotion; Teal's crying face, and the wolf/child figure that is so threatening.  It seems to me now, that it is even more frightening than the original one that it is based on, perhaps because now we have the very real wolf of Covid 19 at the door, or even inside us.

Frightened Child, Oil on Silver print, 20"x24"

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Awkward Rider 2018

I have memories of always owning and riding horses, having traded my bottle(when I was four)for a pair of cowgirl boots so I could take riding lessons. We owned horses throughout my childhood, and I always had a special horse that was mine, progressing to better horses as I got older.  I rode mostly bareback, treating my horses much as other kids did their bicycles, and having those horses in my life is probably what most helped me arrive at adulthood (more or less) in one piece,.  However, when I started riding again, now a much older person, I was shocked to find that, although I still had all that muscle memory, things were different.  When I went to get on, the horses' back seemed miles away, and the ground seemed just as far once I did manage to get up. Where I could once throw my leg over a bareback horse and spring on, I now stood futilely by his side, tossing my leg up only to slam into his side with it, again and again. A ride meant that I would be sore for days after, and I found that I was nervous being around the horses on the ground--they just seemed so big and unpredictable.

But now, I'm finding that once again, being around horses is helping me get through the stress and worry of this tough time of Covid19.  It's very hard to think about all the things that are going wrong when you might find yourself being dragged through the dirt, or being stepped on, or run away with. So, in many ways I find I'm back to my 14 year old self, escaping the world through the wonderful portal of being with a horse.  The ride is a little different now, but I'm getting the two things I most need--a different focus and a connection to something that isn't dark and scary.