Sunday, July 9, 2017

Culling: Summer 2017


At a certain point in the last few days, I realized that I had no more room.  My shelves were completely full, my storage units packed and popping, and my table tops full of all the stuff(plus much much more) I need to work with.  I knew I had to cull the herd.  Like Sophie, I knew that the choices I had to make were almost arbitrary:  Who was more likely to sell?  Who had the stronger personality?  Who made my stomach churn the least when I thought about him or her out on the table ready to be gassed(aka gessoed over)? After almost a year of abstinence  I began ripping at my fingernails.  I would select a piece, then put it back, then re-select it.  At last I was ready for my husband, Bob, to help me decide who lived and who died. 
We went back and forth, allowing some pieces back on the shelf, others doomed to the big  Kilz brush waiting outside.  I gathered the rejects up, then lay them outside on the long wooden tables in the 90+ degree heat.  I began going over the surfaces.  Gone, gone and gone, Sophie the dog witnessing.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fred Smith John Michael Kohler Arts Center


On a recent trip to Wisconsin, I managed to make it to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.  It's a small museum(the woman's bathroom was a tiled wonder  https://www.jmkac.org/explore-discover/collections/washrooms-new), and quite lovely.  The exhibits that were up were part of a series of 15 exhibits that would allow us to experience artists whose work is their environment.  All were outsider artists, all were quirky, fun, and interesting.  However, the pieces that moved me the most were work by an artist named Fred Smith(1886-1976). The son of German immigrants, and a lumberjack until the age of 50, he began his sculpture garden on property that he owned that ran alongside Highway 13 outside Phillips, Wisconsin.  He worked on it for 15 years, until 1964 when he suffered a stroke and was incapacitated until he died in at the age of 90.  The figures all are made of concrete, then covered with broken bits of glass.  Most are life sized, or larger.  He is quoted as saying, "Them ideas is hard to explain.  Nobody know why I made them, not even me". The quirkiness, the dignity, and the power of his figures made me feel that I had come home, found a safe harbor.  From what I got from seeing only two sculptures, I can only imagine the pleasure and inspiration for me of actually going to the sculpture garden in Phillips where 237 of his figures exist.  Looks like a trip is in the not too distant future.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Man Being Touched 1988


On Monday of this week, my husband's right leg began to swell.  He had been experiencing pain in his buttock, but could tease it away by stretching.  However, this new development concerned us. On Tuesday, he had an ultra sound taken of his leg, knowing that it might be a DVT(deep vein thrombosis), but it showed nothing of concern.  We sighed a collective sigh of relief:  our daughter's wedding was to be held in a few days in Mexico and we were relieved that we would be able to go.  The next day his leg was more swollen, and quite painful.  This time he had an ultra sound done, which showed that he had an enormous blood clot that went down his chest and into his right leg.  Weak with anxiety and fear, he had himself admitted to one of the big the ERs here in town where he was pretty much ignored,  then checked himself out AMA(against medical advice)and was readmitted our Heart Hospital, where a surgeon was waiting with a team to do a thrombectomy(1). Two days and three procedures later he was released from the hospital to begin a new life with daily blood thinners and the knowledge that his body was not the strong, capable vessel he always thought of it as being.We were able to watch the wedding on FaceTime sitting at our kitchen counter in front of my Ipad.  Not what we had imagined, but good enough.

(1)  the emergency surgical removal of emboli which are blocking blood circulation. It usually involves removal of thrombi (blood clots)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Breathing 1997

This last week I went from having bad allergies to suddenly having a bad chest cold.  I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Chu, who tortured me with needles and cupping, then sent me home with instructions to make sure I wore socks with my shoes(I had worn flip flops in) and a baggie of herbs to be taken twice a day.  Two days later I couldn't seem to move, think, or react.  My cough had turned into a deep ,wracking, and painful bark and I began to bring up nasty looking phlegm, colors that I wouldn't have minded using in my paintings but didn't feel good about making in my lungs, which ached terribly. My husband and I talked it over(he's a physician)and we decided that I had contracted a bacterial infection in my lungs(aka pneumonia) and I needed to start on antibiotics.  I'm an antibiotic nihilist, but, in this case, it seemed clear to me: if I didn't do something, I was going to be toast.  So, I started on doxycycline. I couldn't help but feel that something dark and scary had been knocking on my door, and I needed to do everything I could to keep that door shut, including wearing socks at all times and taking my daily dose of doxy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Painting with oil 2017

 Woman Brushing Her Hair 2017
 Woman with Black Hair 2000

I recently started painting with oils again after a 14 year hiatus. It was serendipitous really, a friend having just given me about 20 tubes of Gamblin oils.  http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2017/04/floating.htm  I had plenty of tubes of oil paint in my studio that were left over from my oil painting days, but these new ones were colors I had never used before.  As well, I've been a little lost in the desert for the last couple of years with my old techniques and have been unsure of where I'm headed.  So, It's been interesting watching myself using this media that I was once so familiar with, but am now relearning, both in technique and approach.  

17 years ago, in 2000, when I did "Woman with Black Hair" I was basing my painting on the photo that lay underneath.  Although I've never been able to preconceive what the final painting would look like, I knew when starting that the image would have something to do with the photo, no matter how little or how much was left of it in the final painting.  Now, however, my creative self seems not to want to have anything to do with any photos, and my guide to what I'm going to paint seems to be the paint itself rather than the photo underneath.  "Woman Brushing Her Hair" does have an image buried beneath the paint, but nothing of it exists in the final piece.  As always, I have no idea of where I'm headed, but I do seem to have a very clear directive to just let go and allow the paint and my brushes to call the shots. Although this is the essence of how I've always made my work, there seems to be a new sense of confidence that didn't exist before. It understands that I just need to get out of the way, and that once I do, everything will be alright.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dog Barking 2017

 In trying to make drawings that took away most of my control, I came up with the idea of using dog's hair. While petting our dog Sophie, idly collecting her hair in my hand as it came off, I suddenly saw the beautiful chaotic spiral that the hair made. I put the clump on a sheet of white paper, and took it out to my studio where it sat for several weeks.  I finally got around to photographing the hair and then tried using the image as an abstract, but my figure making self wouldn't allow me do it. I began to "draw" with the hair.  It seemed only fitting that one of the first drawings to come out of this new process was of a dog, an alert male dog doing his dog job of letting the world know that he was taking care of things.  Since then, I have done many more of these "hair drawings", and have begun to amass baggies full of not only dog's hair, but my own(from my hairbrush), my husband's and different friends hair after haircuts, not to mention wire, cord, metal findings, frayed rope, dried snap pea stems and tiny wadded pieces of paper sprayed with India ink.  The most banal and mundane objects in my life are now all grist for the mill.
Sophie's Hair

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Floating

In 2004 I turned my back on the paints I loved, and started painting with plastic.  I had painted with oils for over 30 years, and found that I didn't have anywhere else to go with them.  With the acrylics, I had an entire new planet to explore, and explore I did.  Now, 13 years later, with about 20 tubes of Gamblin oils given to me by a friend, I find myself, once again, painting with oils. It's a very different experience from the acrylics I've become used to--like going from a Unitarian service in California where everyone is wearing flip-flops, to high mass in a Catholic Church in Rome where there are candles and chanting and mysterious men clad in dark robes and funny hats. The oil paints have a rich heaviness and stay wet forever, letting me blend colors and add and change things even a day or two later, while the acrylics, while immediate and fresh, once they are dry, or drying(within minutes of being applied)can't be altered.  I'm rediscovering my brushes from 14 years ago, and remembering what each one does, some with only a hair or two left from so much use.  I'm not sure where this will go, only that I don't want to repeat what I did all those years ago, hoping that I will find a different way to marry my photographs with paint.