Saturday, July 26, 2014

Drowning Kittens 2014




Destroy list
I'm in the process of re-organizing my studio, which is a euphemism for spending a lot of time avoiding going through years of things that have piled up.  Every corner of every room of my studio has a stack of something that needs to be decided on(as a result, I've done several lovely little paintings while "experimenting" with materials that I didn't know what to do with).  One of the first real things that I did that wasn't pure avoidance was to open up a drawer that had 27 paintings inside--my "To Destroy" drawer.

It was heartbreaking.  Some of the pieces had technical issues and others were not fully resolved.  But mostly there were a number that were just too big, too complicated, and too difficult to deal with in terms of content.   They were multiple panel pieces which were based on grids of large gelatin silver prints that I had then over painted with oil paint.  They were difficult to print as photos because they were so large, hard to set up to paint and then really hard to paint because of their complexity and size.  They were hard to photograph and frame, and very difficult to show people because of the multiple panels.   Most were done in the early 90's. 
Bird with Hand 75" x 52"   
Some of them are quite beautiful.  As I stood and looked at these images I was in awe of the young woman who, 20 years ago, put her entire heart and soul into tackling these big, difficult paintings to create something that she had never seen before. Those were the days when I would stay up until 2:00 in the morning, trying to finish the piece, and would then continue to paint as I slept so that I would wake up exhausted that next day, still trying to resolve the problems I had encountered the night before.  I pulled a few out of the destroy pile that I just couldn't bear to see go under, and then slowly and carefully tore the rest up.
 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Woman with Shining Light 1986

The under-photograph that this image is painted on is of a friend of mine named Karen Mountain. At the time the photo was taken, we were hiking in Utah, and had gone into some beautiful cliff dwelling  spaces.   The photo was of Karen walking through the soft, mounded dirt in the cave, blurry because of the long exposure.  As I worked, I couldn't make her figure work within the painting, but, gradually this figure started to emerge, completely obliterating Karen.  I was just finishing up when the phone rang. It was Karen, calling me from Texas.  She was crying, and having a hard time explaining to me what had happened.  Finally I came to understand that her boyfriend, Sam Baker, had been blown up while sitting in a train waiting to go to Machu Pichu.  The terrorist, a woman and a member of the Path of the Shining Light had placed a bomb in the overhead rack and it had gone off, severely injuring Sam and killing people all around him.

Recently, a friend, (on his way down to Mexico) and I were talking about the dangers of travel in Latin America and I mentioned this incident.  A few days later he sent me the following link:  http://www.npr.org/2014/05/06/310089151/sam-baker-finding-grace-in-the-wake-of-destruction


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fallen Angel 2014

A fallen angel is a wicked or rebellious angel that has been cast out of Heaven.  Wikipedia

The first fallen angel is thought to be who we now know as the Devil,  AKA Lucifer("Day Star" or "Son of the Morning").  It seems originally that he was a super angel; handsome, charming, personable and able to sit at the right hand of God, taking care of everything, just a really great personal assistant.  But, as time went on, and he found himself taking care of all of God's details,  he began to think that he was  just as good as the boss--just as capable and certainly just as smart.  Of course, he wasn't, and rather then just a reprimand, God tossed him out of heaven, to end up, in of all places, here on earth.

My fallen angel has just been kicked out of Heaven. The world is just forming, and the environment is hot and steamy, and quite harsh--clearly not the place he was just booted out of. He is fearful, anxious at what has happened, but not quite sure he understands where he went wrong.  The large, white angel, clean and fresh, is having to explain to the fallen angel that he can't go back to heaven, that he is stuck here on earth.  Playing the bad cop for God, she is sad at what she has to do, but firm in what she has to say.  He can't come back, and must stay here on earth for eternity. That's it, no second chance, no way to earn his way back into the good graces of God.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Adam's Rib 2014


  In the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, chapters one through five, there are two creation narratives with two distinct perspectives..... In the second narrative, God fashions Adam from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden where he is to have dominion over the plants and animals. God places a tree in the garden which he prohibits Adam from eating. Eve is later created from one of Adam's ribs to be Adam's companion. However, the serpent tricks Eve into eating fruit from the forbidden tree.   Wikipedia

I often talk about creativity as being much like following a trail of breadcrumbs through a dark, dense  and overgrown forest.  In the case of creating "Adam's Rib" the breadcrumbs were there, but the trail was long and arduous, and the crumbs often few and far between. I knew that I wanted to connect the images from an old Gray's Anatomy book that my husband had discarded and I knew that I wanted to make a large, standing, figure from mirrored photographs of trees and vines, but I wasn't sure of anything much beyond that. For months, I cut and moved, and cut and moved, never really happy with where I was going.  Finally, from the Gray's Anatomy book, I began to form a pattern of images that corresponded with the body parts of a standing figure. I started to see the branches of the trees and the vines as a vascular system, and I began placing the pages next to where they would be(loosely) if they were in the body.  The figure became feminine, and I could see her ovaries and reproductive system in the pattern of the vines growing on a stuccoed wall.  The face became partially formed by a grouping of Sandhill Cranes and more tree branches, and I realized that, for me, the Sandhill Cranes were representations of a primitive and feminine nature.  Although the image was strong, it still didn't seem quite right, and then I came home from a walk with my mother with an image of a dead snake snake in my camera..  The last crumb was that image  http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2014/05/snake-2014el-dorado.html  and it was the addition of the snake that gave me the clue to the title--Adam's Rib.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Being a Photographer 2014

In June of this year I flew to Northern Michigan to do a workshop for Bill Schwab and an event he puts together every year.  Photostock is the result of an idea Bill had in 2006 to gather photographers who didn't know each other to meet, greet, share ideas and gather around the idea that they all had photography in common in some way or another.  It's grown now, with presenters and workshops, but it still has the feeling of a grass roots organization, and is a very warm and connected place to be as photographers gather from all over the United States and Europe.

People had many many different kinds of cameras and ways of processing their film.  One photographer brought his own portable dark box(pulled behind his car) so that he could share the process of wet plate collodian image making, an antiquated process that makes for images that look straight out of the 19th century.  I saw photogravures, paladium prints, tintypes, lith prints, cyanotypes, and bromide prints, among others.  All had the feeling of the hand, of age, of respect and of great care.  There were a few images that were done digitally, but not many.  We spent time Friday afternoon taking a group photo(all ninety of us)with a huge, box camera that, once the shutter was cocked, turned in a slow circle so that, just after it swept by you,  you could run to the far end of the line and have your photo taken again.  The sheet film used was enormous, and people were exhausted from running from one end to the next.  I think I may have been in one shot four times.

As the keynote speaker, I became more and more apprehensive as the time grew closer to do my presentation.  Here I was, with my digital camera making quick, sloppy photographs using my computer(a PC no less) and ink jet printer that I then cut up and glued down on top of  paintings, of all things.  I could picture a still audience, punctuated only by the door opening and shutting as more and more people began to stream out.  In the days preceeding my talk, I had found myself trying to explain  how bad a photographer I was, and how, even when I had used a medium format camera and a had beautiful darkroom to work in, I still managed to turn out bad photos.  I didn't want to be caught in a lie, after all, not around these folks.  Of course, this wasn't the case.  The audience was warm, receptive, and completely with me as I showed images and talked about my work. As my talk went on, it became standing room only--the opposite of what I had envisioned. Questions were intelligent, humorous, genuine, and kind. My presentation over, I felt the complete and total rock star.  A real photographer after all--or perhaps, better said, a slightly perverted real photographer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mother and Daughter with Small Dog Walking 2005


Recently, my family gathered in Florida for a cousin's daughter's wedding.  Both our daughters came, as well as my husband and myself.  It's a side of the family that I feel very close to, and so I was happy to there, surrounded by my favorite aunt and her daughters, my cousins. The hard thing about the wedding was being with my daughters:  not because they were difficult to be with, but because I knew that, at the end of the weekend, they would step on different airplanes and head back to their homes.  Our relationship would once again become electronic; telephone calls, emails, and text messages.

2005 was the year my oldest daughter graduated high school and started college.  The fall of that year my husband and I drove with her to Texas, and then flew back to New Mexico.  I remember thinking to myself, "This isn't so tough, this separation stuff".  A few days later, while doing the dishes, I looked out the kitchen window and realized that my daughter wouldn't be coming in the front door that day, or in fact, anytime soon.  And of course, I cried.  And now, almost ten years later, every time I separate from my daughters, the same thing happens:  I think I'm okay, and then, a day two or three later, I find a deep, quiet sadness in the back of my thoughts and I realize I'm longing to be with those two wonderful people who were present in my life for such a short period of time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dog Man with Black Tail 1999

The Great Forgetting refers to the wealth of knowledge that our culture lost when we adopted our new civilized lifestyle. The knowledge that allowed indigenous cultures to survive, the knowledge that we had once also been tribal and the understanding that we were but one mere culture of thousands. All of this disappeared in a few short generations.  By on January 26, 2014 in News (Pulled off the Internet after reading a Facebook post about the Great Forgetting).


As a child I was more aware of what was essential and vital to me. Fortunate to live in the country, I observed much of what was wild around me on my solo horseback rides in the open spaces around my home. I tried to teach myself to follow animal prints in the dirt, and worked at telling time by the position of the sun in the sky. My favorite books were about people surviving in the wilderness, learning how to live off the land before they got rescued.  Now, as an adult, I'm not so much a part of these natural things.  When I do experience nature, it's more by chance--when I'm driving or riding my bike, playing soccer in the evenings in an adult soccer league.

When I first happened on the Great Forgetting, I couldn't stop thinking about it for this reason: I've always made images that combine people and animals, turning them into one being.  I've never questioned these images, but I've also never known where they came from.  Now I'm excited by the possibility that it's a 10,000 year old subconscious remembering of being part of that older order when we were all mixed up together:  animals, humans, plants, the weather--all that was alive and vital to our existence.  I imagine it to come from a time before there was a separation, before humanity created a civilization where we could distance ourselves from anything that was alive.  What I'm remembering is only a glimmer, but a glimmer none-the-less. And  I like to imagine that when people see these images, they may also have a bit of that same glimmer.


*I found two references to the Great Forgetting.  One was a book by Daniel Quinn, called "The Story of B" and another book by Calvin Luther Martin called the "Great Forgetting".  "The Story of B" is a novel, "The Great Forgetting" is not.  I have not read either.