Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quarrel 2006

Synonyms for Quarrel:argumentdisagreementsquabblefightdisputewrangleclash,altercationfeudcontretempsdisputationfalling-out,shouting match

On Christmas day I went for a quick bike ride.  It was a beautiful day, sunny but cool.  I rode up and down  hills, one very steep one that included a small dog who ran out and chased me, nipping at my tires, until I stopped my bike and shouted at him.  Once back on the main road, I noticed that I had knocked my rear view mirror askew, and just as I was adjusting it(as I rode), WHOOSH, a bicyclist zoomed by me.  Seconds later, another did the same, leaving only a foot or so between us as he passed.   "Call to Signal!" I shouted out, and then added, as loudly as I could to his rapidly retreating back, "Asshole!".

What was interesting was the amount of anger this small incident generated. Not signaling happens all the time, and usually I just let it go.  For a little while I even tried to catch up to the second bicyclist-why-I'm not sure. Did I think I would pull him off his bike and beat him?  Fortunately, I couldn't catch him.  I suspect my anger, even though justified, had more to do with other things. It was "the Holidays", which means trying to be some odd configuration of someone you're not really-jolly, mellow,  full of joy, etc. etc.  My husband and I had argued earlier in the day, and ended up both furiously cleaning the house instead of talking.  I had thought the ride would clear me out and calm me down, but it appears the real me still needed to purge the "other" Holly. I was somewhat grumpy and sullen for the rest of the day, but eventually returned to my normal-not jolly or mellow-self.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Afraid of Snakes 1986

Ophidiophobia or ophiophobia is a particular type of specific phobia, the abnormal fear of snakesCare must also be taken to differentiate people who do not like snakes or fear them for their venom or the inherent danger involved. An ophidiophobic would not only fear them when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures.  Wikipedia

Blackrock, New Mexico sits at the edge of the village of Zuni on the Zuni Indian Reservation.   It's where the Indian Health Service Hospital is located, and a small community of about twenty non-Zuni families reside there in basic homes provided by the tribe. It's about three miles outside the village, and sits atop a beautiful mesa, with a lovely reservoir to the East, and a steep canyon to the North.  It's isolated, but not, since the houses sit on small lots right next to each other, and it's urban, but not, since a one minute walk puts you into the surrounding high desert wilderness.

Every so often, a neighbor would have some kind of a run in with a snake.  We had two neighbors, both men, and both doctors at the hospital, who were terrified of snakes.  Interestingly, it seemed that all the wayward snakes found a way to their homes, and no one else's.   One morning, one of the doctors walked around his Isuzu, parked in the driveway, to get in, and found a large rattle snake curled up in the exposed roots of an elm tree that grew next to his driveway.  Fortunately, It was early morning and the snake was sluggish.  Later that same year, I got a call from this same man, his voice pinched and tight, asking if my husband could help get a snake out of his house. Since my husband wasn't home, I came over, and armed with a broom, chased/swept the small bull snake out the back door.  The other doctor, who lived across the street, found a nest of baby rattlers under his house.  He shot most of them with his rifle.  However, to combat his fear, he decided to put one in a mason jar to show us that he could deal with it.  He managed to get it into the mason jar, but the snake was able to force the lid off with his head and escaped back under the house.  The snake, of course, was never found. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bound Man 2005

We are all of us bound by something.  For me, it's anxiety.  Worrying about specific things (will I make it to the airport in time to get through security or will there be a huge line and I'll miss my flight?), or, even worse, the free floating stuff that just exists, but that you can't pinpoint.  Although I'm much better now than I used to be, having found the tricks that keep my anxiety less active--sleep, exercise, a diet that excludes caffeine and sugar, and meditation-- it's still always there, lurking, just around the corner. Going to Colorado for three weeks in January?  What about the snow?  What about the cold?  What if I spin off the road on Tennessee Pass(and now I can go online and look at the road conditions at various points along the way, which, when you are anxious, can take up huge amounts of your time, especially when your trip is a month out)?  Although the anxiety wolf will most likely always be at my door, I am learning to trust that there's something much bigger and much smarter out there than me, and that, at the end of the day, it will (probably)be okay.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Boy Inside Their Mother 1985

Two years before I became a mother, I listened as my husband and one of his closest friends discussed their complicated relationships with their mothers. They were working hard at trying to understand this most basic and important connection that each had with mothers that were not always able or accessible. The photo underlying this piece is of the two of them standing side-by-side, and in the final, painted image you can see their two arms below the mother's breasts, while the rest of the photo is painted over as the nude figure of the mother with the potted cactus in the background.

My mother will be 85 in December and has some memory loss.  Not enough to keep her from living alone with her dog, Abby, but enough that she has to write down just about everything in order to stay on top of things. Recently I found a note (in her handwriting) near the computer reminding her to push the button and hold it down to turn it on, and not to ask my brother again.  It broke my heart to find the note, and then something in me shifted.  Before reading it, though I could act kindly, I was often put out with my mother for not being the person she had been when I was younger--smart, organized, terrifically capable.  After reading the note, I felt a kind of compassion and empathy for her that I hadn't  felt before.  I think that reading that note allowed me to finish the long process of separating from my mother, which in turn has allowed me to see and love her for the person she really is.  I am kinder now when we talk, not as pushy and impatient about trying to "help" her out.  Our conversations often end in laughter, and always with an "I love you" from both ends of the phone.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Small Wolf with Forest 2000

Earlier this year, I received a request to use Small Wolf with Forest on the cover of a monograph  published by the Bowlby Centre in London, which is "an organisation committed to the development, promotion and practice of an attachment-based and relational approach to psychotherapy".  The monograph is called Terror Within and Without.  ttp://  .   It is described as the following:  This monograph of the 15th John Bowlby Memorial Conference brings together papers by leading contributors to the field of attachment and trauma that explore the means by which individuals struggle to cope with exposure to war zones, both large scale conflicts and societal breakdown, and the domestic war zones where adults and children experience violence and sexual abuse.These papers seek to further our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of experiences of trauma, as in the examples of the Holocaust and slavery. In times where talk of terror is everywhere, psychotherapists offer a clinical perspective on terror which may translate to the world at large.

As a child, our youngest daughter Teal had the uncanny ability of being able to exactly duplicate a wild animal.  She would squat on her hind legs, and with jerky motions and twitches of her hands and face,  become the prarie dog that we had seen at the zoo.  She could stay in that position for quite some time, scampering about the house, stopping to groom herself  or look about her in an alert, slightly fearful way.  I was intrigued by Bowlby's use of "Small Wolf with Forest":  taking something that to me was about our dual animal/human natures and  interpreting it in another larger and more complicated context.  Their interpretation is bigger, darker, and fiercer than anything I ever envisioned, and I'm pleased with that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coyote 2010

WEISS, SUSAN FELDMAN Susan Feldman Weiss, born in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1938, passed away on November 6, 2013 after a three-year fight against cancer. A resident of Corrales for 36 years, Susan was a dedicated defender of local wildlife. She was the founder of Coexist With Coyotes, an organization focused on helping residents and wild coyotes live in peace. She was a certified wildlife rescuer with Fur and Feathers for many years.

I had seen Susan Weiss for years, walking around Corrales.  She dressed in tennis shoes, long pants, a long skirt, a jacket, a hat, and if it was especially cold, oven mitts on her hands.  At some point, I figured out that this was the person who constantly wrote letters to the editor of our local newspaper, the Corrales Comment, about our coyote population.  Then, as I became more involved with village politics, I would s often see her at council meetings, there to speak up for the wild animals.  Close up, I saw that her make-up was applied with a heavy hand; spots of brillant orange on her cheeks and bright red lipstick.  I had no idea of her age, thinking she could be somewhere on either side of me.

She was passionate about coyotes, but really, she was passionate about all wild animals.  There was no room for gray when it came to protecting her charges.  Susan's (extremely) long letters and articles showed a deep understanding of what these animals needed to survive and, clearly, she felt compelled to educate us with her knowledge and passion.  Her stance also landed her in the middle of a hot Corrales topic:  whether to kill the coyotes because they are such pests and so dangerous regarding our pets, livestock, and (some say) children, or to allow them to continue their lives, doing the good things coyotes do in an ecosystem, sharing our community with us. There was no question on which side Susan stood.

A few years ago, on our way to do errands, my daughter and I spotted a thin, mangy looking coyote curled up, sleeping by the side of the road.  On our return trip, she was still there, so we pulled over to see if we could at least get her away from the side of the road.  Just as we pulled over, Susan and a bearded man pulled up behind us in a pickup truck.  They both put on huge leather gloves, and Susan took out a long, heavy stick with a noose at the end.  Clearly they were there to capture our same coyote.  The coyote sprang up from where it was laying and took off, all of us in pursuit.  Teal and I tried to herd her back towards Susan and the man, but she was way too fast and clever for us. We exchanged only a few words, and then, when it was clear that the coyote was on her own, we got back in our trucks and headed home.  I wish now that I would have taken that opportunity to tell Susan how much I admired and respected her.  I just assumed she would always be around,  walking the village in her long skirts, tennis shoes, and oven mitts looking out for our wild things.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crow 1999

 Crows are now considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals[3] with an encephalization quotient approaching that of some apes. The Jackdaw and the European Magpie have been found to have a nidopallium approximately the same relative size as the functionally equivalent neocortex in chimpanzees and humans, and significantly larger than is found in the gibbon.[4]  Wikipedia

I saw Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds when I was twelve years old.  The movie terrified me.  I can remember, after I'd seen the movie, going out for a ride on my horse and having large flocks of crows circle over me as I rode. I would watch them nervously, ready to head for home at a gallop if the crows tried to dive bomb me, arm thrown over my head for protection.

But even with Hitchcock's movie rattling around in my teenage brain, I loved crows, and still do.  I find them to be beautiful physically, and compelling, both as single beings and as  flocks.  I can remember a large pasture behind one of the homes I lived in as a young woman, filled with hundreds of crows in the winter, flying about and calling to each other. Although not an endangered species, their numbers have declined by 45% since 1999 due to West Nile virus.

What I love most about crows is their intelligence; black eyes filled to the brim with curiosity and caution.  This winter we mulched our flower beds with pecan shells and the crows swooped in to dine.  That is, until I tried to take their photographs.  The minute I pointed my camera in their direction they would take off.  I tried crawling on my belly, inside the house, up to the wall and then slowly bringing my camera up to the bottom of the window, pressing the shutter without looking.  However, to no avail, since by the time I had taken the first shot, they were gone.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Torn Man 1999

One of my best friends when we lived on the Zuni Reservation was Sam Wayaco*.  When I met him, Sam was about the age I am now--early sixties.  He owned a horse pasture and barn and I needed a place to keep my horses.  I ended up paying a a nominal fee to keep them stabled there for the eight years we lived in Zuni.  In appearance, he was more cowboy than Zuni, always wearing cowboy boots and hat, except when he worked at his day job, which was driving heavy machinery for the Village and then he wore a baseball cap.  Like me, he loved horses, and was a wonderful friend.

Sam had a son-in-law, named Carlos*, a Mexican National.  Carlos fancied himself a rancher, and would  offer to help Sam out when he needed it.  Sam kept on good terms with Carlos to keep peace in the family,  not liking Carlos much, but he was family; the husband of his daughter and the father of his grandchildren.  Near the end of our stay in Zuni  I had an argument with Carlos, and a few weeks later, while I was at the barn, working with the horses, bullets whinged by my head.  Carlos was shooting in the adjacent pasture, and had "accidentally" aimed some shots my way.  It shook me up, but I had a hard time thinking he deliberately shot at me.

A few years after we left Zuni,  I got the news that Sam had been outside his home in the Village, talking with an old friend, a non-Zuni Mormon man that Sam had known for years.  The man, Sheldon*, walked a thin line when it came to taking advantage of his friends, and had gotten Sam into trouble a few times; things like  borrowing Sam's stock trailer, transporting stolen cattle in it, and then getting caught.  As Sam stood talking to Sheldon, Carlos drove up in his truck, got out with a pistol in his hand and shot Sheldon in the chest several times.  Evidently, Carlos felt that Sheldon was taking advantage of him on a deal involving a horse.  Sheldon died, Carlos went to prison, and Sam went on with his life.

*All names are fictitious

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Mysteries of Accidents 2006

On Wednesday morning, I decided to ride my bike along the Thompson Fence Line, a hilly pedestrian/bike path that follows the ridge above the community I live in.  Coming down from the top of one of the steeper and longer hills, I came upon eight police cars, lights flashing, with yellow caution tape blocking both my trail and the road which ran alongside it.  The basket of one of the hot air balloons that had been filling our skies all week was being dragged through the dirt and over a chamisa bush by the winch line of a tow truck.  I glanced up.  A power line stood directly above us.  Something was clearly not right.

I've learned not to question police about anything, so I watched and waited until the basket was safely in the back of the tow truck, then asked permission to ride on, passing  the police cars and the tow truck as I continued on my hilly ride.  On the way back, at the site of the downed basket, a man walked in small circles, moving the loose soil with his foot.  I stopped my bike and asked him if he knew what had happened.  Here's what he told me: "The Balloon got caught in the power line.  The sandbag on the side got stuck over the wire and one of the guys in the balloon reached out to free it and got electrocuted.  It was pretty bad.  Then the basket came down and we all went over to help.  We dragged out the pilot, and the guy who got shocked, and he was all stiff like, burned up and down his face and chest, but, alive.  Then the balloon caught on on fire, so we put it out with dirt and so forth.  So we called 911 and the ambulance came and took them away, and the whole chase crew took off after them.  Just up and left the balloon here so the police came and took care of it all".
"Oh my god" I said, "And you were just watching?"
"Yeah.  We were just standing on the hill there watching and then this all happened.  It was terrible.  I don't know if that guy is going to live or not".
I remembered that, as I sat at my kitchen table reading earlier that morning, the power had gone off for several minutes, and I knew that it had to have been from the hot air balloon hitting the power line.  The next day, the news carried a photo and story of the fiery accident.  Later, I learned that the man who had been so badly electrocuted had lost his arm, but was alive.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hungry Dog 2013

Recently, when I've left on trips, my little dog, Niko, has been getting out of the yard.  He has been able to locate and then squeeze though the tiniest of holes in the wire fence, and once we fix one spot, he finds another. Last week I was in Kansas City, visiting my daughters, when I called my husband.   "So, your little dog got himself in some trouble. Let me tell you what happened" he said.  So, while my stomach churned and roiled, this is what he told me:

From inside the house, Bob had heard a high, shrill, yelp coming from the outside. He started out  the back door, and then, with a feeling of dread, began to run toward the fence, frantically calling Niko's name. "My gut said  something was really wrong" he told me.   He saw Niko in the large field to the south of our house running back towards Bob as fast as he could, and at the same time, Bob saw a large male coyote loping  away. Niko forced himself back through the hole in the chicken wire that he had used to escape from, and greeted Bob with a mixture of guilt and excitement.  Bob examined him and found two slight puncture wounds on either side of his thigh, and later, the next day, another puncture wound closer to the joint on his back leg.  Bob thinks the coyote lured Niko out of the yard, and then grabbed him by the back leg once he was a safe distance from the house, planning to have Niko for his midday meal.  When he'd heard Bob charging out of the house yelling, he'd dropped Niko and decided it was time to move on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Man Waiting 1987

Once again, I'm ready to start a new body of work, and I'm afraid, unsure, unhappy, and not at all confident that I can ever make a good image again(in fact, I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen).  On the day last week that I started in earnest(which means showing up in my studio in painting clothes and  putting my apron on along with a "can do attitude"), I managed to spend over two hours online looking at REI"s Gear Mail link, which allowed me to look at hundreds of items on sale, and since I had a $10.84 dividend which I could use towards the purchase of something from REI, why not? I finally found and ordered bike gloves, which I don't need.

The problem is the problem.  When I start out I don't know where I'm headed or what I'm going to do. This fills me with anxiety because  I don't know where I'm headed or what I'm going to do.  As a person who A)likes to be in control and B)needs immediate gratification, this waiting, anxiety filled time is very hard. Change comes about not because I see clearly where I want to go, but  because I'm bored and have lost interest in what I was doing.  It's out of that ennui that things will eventually sort themselves out and began to take shape.  It's the ability to sit with this discomfort that is a key factor in the whole mysterious process.  Having done this for so many years, my suspicion is that my Big Self,  who thinks she's in charge, has to exit before my Creative Self, who knows she isn't, can fill step in and take over.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Woman with Caged Bird 1993

In 1993 I had two daughters, aged 3 and 6, not easy ages(but not as bad as 2 and 5, or 1 and 4).  When I look at the images I did that year they fall into three categories:  horses, figures kneeling and/or suffering, and figures with children(often kneeling and/or sufferingl).  I think the horses were about wanting  power in my life, but not feeling that I had it.  The kneeling and/or suffering figures were about being a parent, and about being brought to one's knees by these small, forceful beings.  They were about not knowing which way to turn or act when dealing with little people whose powers of logic were not good, but who had all the conviction in the world when it came to getting their needs and desires met.

It was a hard time for my husband and me.  Most of the images I did that year reflected our struggle as we tried our best to be good parents.  We worked hard at it, but so often  were overwhelmed.  Today, with 26 and 23 year old daughters, I look back at those years and wish I had them to do all over again.  This time around I would rejoice at the fact that we had our girls close to us, day in day out.  I would know that a three year old's constant tantruming wasn't an indication of how she would be for the rest of her life, but rather just a hint of the spirited and gifted woman that she is today.  Instead of feeling caged and powerless, I would live in the moment and delight at the power and strength of these two unfolding and forming human beings.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dog with Ghost 2000

Barney was my sister's first dog as an adult.  "Definitely our fist child" she told me in an email recently when I asked her to tell me about him.  Mostly yellow lab, from the Tacoma Animal Humane Society, chosen in 1989 from all the dogs that were available that particular day.  He died at 12 from a mysterious illness that took away his appetite, and at the end of his life he had a feeding tube that went into his stomach into which Melisa, and her husband Mike, put a soupy slurry of  food.  "To the very end though he happily went on walks with us around the block and wagged his tail whenever we came near".  

 I did this painting before he died, but not much before.  The photo was from before he got sick, when he still had an appetite because it shows Barney politely waiting to be fed.  I made the painting with an awareness of his illness, knowing he would soon  be "crossing over the rainbow bridge(as the vet who put our old dog down recently told me)".  It's with a kind of horror that I remember that I sold this painting to my sister.  I'm  hoping I gave her a good discount.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Woman with Small Dog Watching 2005

"Art is another form of Prayer" as overheard quoted by Oprah Winfrey.

Woman with Small Dog Watching is a self portrait.  That's my head  sitting on top of a torso made from bits and pieces of the Reverend Dennis's home outside Vicksburg,  Mississippi.  The Reverend Dennis, a World War II Vet, covered the outside of his home with biblical writings painted in pink, yellow, red, and white.  The writings are both his own and quotes from the Bible.  There is no question that for the Reverend Dennis, his art was his form of prayer.
Is art a form of prayer for me, like the Reverend Dennis?  Is it as true for me as it was for him?  I had to think long and hard about this simple statement.  But here's what I came to:  It's where the best of me lives, it's where I am most present, and it's where, when I'm there, I'm closest to the big things that matter most. So yes, I think art is prayer for me. This is what this painting is about: being made of what comes from witnessing the world while being guided by something I can't lay claim to.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fox with Fallen Eggs 2013

Two things helped shaped me as a child:  riding my horse, bareback and alone, in the rural ranch land around my home outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the nature programs on the Public TV Station, PBS.  The shows portrayed a democratic world where nothing was either all good or all bad (except man).  Yes, the lioness killed the newborn baby gazelle, but she had (adorable) cubs to feed.  The programs seemed always to be about the struggle of the animals to survive, be it weather or predators or loss of  environment. An episdoe in which drought causes the rivers to dry allowing the crocodiles to attack and devour antelope with the speed of light as they nervously creep down the dry bank to drink is burned into my brain.  One minute you're just about to stick your nose in the dirty brown water for a needed drink, the next you're being pulled under the water, trapped in the jaws of a prehistoric monster. There is no easy street in nature.

When I would go out on my long solo rides, I would look for evidence of what I'd learned from those nature programs.  The country I rode in was mostly ranch land, so I would see cattle, but not much wildlife.  But still, I was always on the lookout.  Circling birds meant something.  "Vultures" I would mutter, then urge my horse into a canter, searching for whatever was beneath the floating figures. Usually it was just crows flying around, but every once and awhile I would find something dead, most often a cow.  I had hopes of finding much more exciting carrion, but it was alright when I didn't.  I loved  being in a world where mysterious and unknown things were happening, and to be a part of that world all I had to do was pay attention.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Orange Head (with Elvis) 2013

A Saturday morning, an argument with my husband, escaping to my studio to let him know--I don't need you--finding scraps of photos of hair and a beautiful little silver/gray/orange panel that I'd painted several weeks earlier.  I start dropping and placing the the curved hair images on the orange and silver panel. A face emerges. I find a perfect nose and eye, then another eye made from a leafless tree and a tiny black spot.  A mouth that looks like a snake but that is in reality a sliver left over from a photo of a Navajo rug.  Last, a neck made from tiny Elvis from an Asian newspaper of he and Kurt Cobain side by side (why they are together I dont know because I can't read Korean).* I hear the door of the studio open. Its my husband, not sure of his welcome.  I show him the little portrait.  He likes it.  I'm pleased.  We forget about the argument.

* Kurt ends up in another portrait as ears.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Making Rain 2013

When my back and legs started hurting from standing all day, I decided to find some good shoes to paint in.  When I paint, I pour and drip and sand and scrape, and much of that goes onto my shoes. So I didn't want anything fancy. Nurses stand on their feet all day, just as I do, and they apparently like Dansko shoes.  At Savers, my thrift store of choice, I found a pair of used, black, Maryjane Danskos.  Something about them was oddly compelling.  I bought them, brought them home, and wore them into the studio the next day.  However, I couldn't bear to cover them with paint--disrupt that oddly compelling factor. Instead, I set my camera on a tripod and took photographs of myself wearing them.

The shoes became the inspiration for Making Rain.  The clunky Maryjanes with the plain, gray, workaday socks gave form to the legs, made from the negative space of the three poured paint areas.  A photo of dried mud became the dress and the figure was suddenly a giant woman, raindrops dripping from her fingers.  Simultaneously, the legs and the background behind the paint drips morphed into a gray and cloudy sky.  I finished the painting and photographed it.   A few days later it poured, the first significant rain we'd had in over a year, and at the end of July we had a massive rain and wind storm--one of the worst (or best) ever. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Arguing 2013

In the winter and spring of 2013 I made three trips to Boston to work with graduate students at the Art Institute of Boston.  It was not long after I returned home from my second trip that the Boston Marathon bombings happened.  I know I would have been horrified in any case, but now, because I knew the city and it's people,  it meant more to me.  When I returned to Boston in May for my final visit, I knew I had to go to the site of the bombings.  It was a few miles from my hotel, so I put on my running clothes and jogged over. It was raining ever so slightly, and I worried that I would get caught in a downpour, but the rain let up as I got closer to the memorial site.

The memorial was a small, roped off area in Copley Square.   As I approached the memorial, I began to cry.  It surprised me--it came from such a deep, emotional place. Hundreds of pairs of  running shoes hung by their laces from the temporary fencing,  along with flowers, flags, running jerseys, candles, and just about anything that had meaning to the people who had come to pay their respects and wanted to leave something behind.
 Because of the rain, most things  were covered by thin sheets of plastic, so that everything seemed soft-- blurred under the translucent material.  
This photograph of flowers is collaged onto the elephant's torso in Arguing. It was my way of trying to make sense of something I'm having a hard time understanding.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mother Bird 2013

On my bike rides, in the spring and summer, I often see mother quail with their babies.  When they see me coming, the babies line up behind their mother as she ducks and weaves, trying to evade me--the fast moving giant with the round, rolling  legs.  The chick's tiny legs work like pistons as they move in single file behind the panicked mother.

My mother quail is a conglomerate of pieces that speak to the fact that she is simultaneously urban and wild:  her head is constructed from graffitied text, her body from soil littered with seeds and sticks.  The babies bodies are made from bits and pieces of the brush they hide in.  All of them, mother included, have human eyes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blind 2013

From earliest times white horses have been mythologized as possessing exceptional properties...There are also white horses which are divinatory, who prophesy or warn of danger.  In more than one tradition, the white horse carries patron saints or the world saviour in the end times.  Wikipedia  

About a week ago I had a dream in which I was riding a huge horse who suddenly could not continue.  I got off to examine the horse and discovered that his legs were bound.  I untied his legs, then woke.  I did this piece before I had the dream, and haven't known quite what to think of it, especially now with the bound dream horse always at the back of my consciousness.  A friend who saw the image suggested that it had to do with relationships between men and women. I like that interpretation, but I think there are others.  I find it interesting that the horse's eyes are shuttered, and that his back  is covered with both an open eye and the written word blind.  The young man seems to be listening, but I have to doubt that he is hearing what the white horse is trying to tell him.

1.  A pair of leather flaps attached to a horse's bridle to curtail side vision 
2.  Something that serves to obscure clear perception and discernment

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Woman Trying to Listen to Her Better Self 2013

I don't entirely understand why, but so much of being creative involves huge doses of self-doubt, and sometimes, self-dislike.  In January I started a new body of work which involved the following:   taking lots of photos, painting panels, looking at my photos, printing out my photos, cutting those photos, adhering them to the panels, looking at them, getting excited, having doubts, taking them down, repainting the panels, and then starting the whole process over.  Here is a tiny sampling of my busy mind as I worked or lay in bed at night, unable to fall asleep:  You thought it looked so great but it doesn't now, does it?  or Why would anyone  ever want to hang this on their wall? or  And where precisely are you going to put all these new paintings when they come back from not having sold?  and the worst one What a terrible thing to leave your daughters when you die.  All These paintings that they won't know what to do with.

But fortunately I have a better, stronger, and smarter self.  I like her a lot. She calms me, reassures me, and lets me know that it's okay, that what I am doing is pretty terrific, and that in fact people will be thrilled to hang one of these pieces on their wall.  She reminds me that I can always buy another Tuff Shed to store work and that once I'm dead and gone my intelligent daughters will figure out what to do with all those paintings.  For better or for worse it will be their problem, not mine.  Best of all, she lets me know that what I do is important, and that it matters. Even if I don't know exactly why, she does know, and that's enough.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Woman with Sunburn 1983

I just got back from Carmel(by the Sea)in California.  With a packed schedule of talks, workshops, and openings, I only had three chances to get to the beach.  Like most of us, I love the beach, especially now, smack dab in the middle of the worst drought in New Mexico's recorded history. The first time I went it was early in the morning, and I jogged the length of the beach, and then back.  It's a dog friendly beach, and lots of people were out with their dogs.  It made me feel good watching them run and retrieve and shake and roll and pant and trot through the sand with their friends, both human and canine. No leashes. The next time I came to the beach it was a little more crowded.  It was a warm Sunday in Northern California, and people had streamed over the mountains to spend the day there. The water was very cold, so most of the people were on the beach, laying in the sun or walking along the water in bikinis and board shorts.  Kids, mostly, would run in and out of the surf, screaming when the cold water hit their legs and feet.  The third time I came back was later that same day, with a friend.  We stood on the bluff overlooking the beach and watched as the sun went down.  It was chilly, and I had to borrow two of his jackets, feeling like a little girl in the large fleece pullovers.  There were fires all up and down the beach, little dots of yellow on the huge expanse of white sand, people sitting quietly as the tide headed back out.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thinking About Having Sex 1984

A few years ago, our neighbor Bob and my husband Bob were talking about how much they thought about having sex.  "When I was young, I'd say about every 30 seconds"  friend Bob said.  Husband Bob felt much the same way, "When I was younger, I'd have to say most of my waking thoughts were about sex, even when I didn't quite know what it was."  They both agreed that  they don't think about sex as much now as negotiating the slippery slope of aging takes up so much of their time and energy. Still, sex is on their minds much of the time. As a boy, Husband Bob learned to draw(he has a beautiful hand) by going through his mother's homemaking magazines looking for brassiere adds. He would erase out the the bras and  then carefully, with a pencil, reconstruct the breast, nipple and all.  The last thing he would do, so that his mother wouldn't find out what he was up to, would be to carefully reverse the process, drawing the bra back in so that it looked the way he originally found it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dog Dreaming 1997

Dusty came into our lives 13 years ago.  She was about six months old, and one of two remaining pups from a neighbor's litter.  Her mother was a black lab, and her father, a German Shepard. She was timid and hid behind her larger, more robust brother.  But, we wanted a female, and so we chose her.  She had never been on a leash, never been out of the backyard that had been her home for six months and was skin and bones, the brother clearly getting all of the food.  We put a collar and leash on her and started out down the road. She jumped and bucked and resisted us, choking on the leash and throwing herself on the ground, but by the time we had gone the 1/4 mile to our house she understood what being on a leash meant.  We brought her into the the backyard with our other dog and she was so frightened  that she defecated.  When we fed her she inhaled the food, and this would always be a problem with her, gulping her food down so quickly that she would vomit soon after unless we spread the dry kibble out on a flat cookie pan.

For thirteen and one half years she lived with us.  She adored all nine year old girls because that was the age my daughter was when we got her.  She was a good dog, with some quirks, like biting the neighbor through the fence as he irrigated his pasture.  She had great dignity and patience, and raised our next dog, a Dalmatian puppy, with care and love. She was a beautiful dog, and whenever I would see wolves on TV they would remind me of Dusty.  She watched over us.

Over the last several years she developed arthritis in her hips and cataracts in  her eyes.  She began to have more and more difficulty walking and started losing her balance, falling easily when she would  come around a corner or when one of the other dogs would brush against her.  Poops would drop out of her without her knowedge.  I knew her time was running out when she defecated as she ate one morning, losing her balance, and then landing in her feces, unable to pull herself back up. We called a Vet, a woman, and arranged with her to come to the house.  On that last day, we gathered around Dusty while the Vet gave her several injections:  a tranquilizer to relax her, then another injection to end her life, except that her heart wouldn't stop beating so she had to give her another, this time directly into her heart.  It still beat, Dusty wouldn't give up, but finally, she died."Crossed the Rainbow Bridge" as the Vet said.

I found this image today, done several years before Dusty was born  Like many of my images it is prophetic--looking like Dusty with her Lupine head, her black torso and her long, thin legs.  Inside the body of the dog is a photograph of a young girl with her eyes closed.  I like to think this was what  Dusty dreamed about  as she left us--that nine year old girl who brought her into our lives so many years ago.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bucking Bronco 2005

Kids in other parts of the country went to ball games with their dads, or concerts in the park, or maybe the circus, but in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we went to the Rodeo.  I admit, the cotton candy was a big draw for me, but, sticky sweet stuff or not,  I loved the entire thing:  broncs and bulls slamming out of their chutes while their riders leaned back, raking the animals shoulders with spurred heels, hoping to last for 8 seconds;  trick riders and barrel racers galloping around the arena on beautiful horses, always at full bore, and at times,the bodies of the horses came so close to the ground that they seemed to defy gravity.  I never thought to worry about the necks of the running calves as ropes swirled out, landing loosely just behind their ears, then tightening so that they flipped to the ground while the horse slid to a stop,  the rider jumping off with a small rope held between his teeth to secure the animal's ankles. Once released, the calf would get up and wobble away as the cowboy coiled his rope and mounted his horse.

Lurking underneath the excitement and fun was the ever present threat of danger, the very real possibility of serious injury or even, every few years, death.  It gave the evening an extra boost, like the ominous storm clouds that would come up over the mountains to the east as we sat in the dark under the bright lights,  lightening flickering, thunder mumbling . When it would become clear that one of our  warriors was wounded,  the crowd would become completely silent as the medics knelt over the twisted cowboy or the gored clown.  An ambulance would drive in through the soft dirt and the still body would be loaded in.  Once through the big double gates at the south end of the arena, the ambulance would start it's siren, ear splitting at first, but growing fainter and fainter as the ambulance raced away.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Working Spring/Summer 2103

Since January of this year I have been working in my studio, painting panels and then adding  photographic elements to those panels.  The entire process is slow and tortuous, until it isn't, and then things  happen with such speed and clarity that I wonder if I'm in the same time continuum as the person who had been plodding so miserably along.   

Scraps of paper are everywhere, the left overs of  photographs I've been futilely cutting. I'll see one out of the corner of my eye, and the next thing I know, it will have given me the information I need to start a new image.  Shapes that were nothing suddenly make sense, and then, there I am, off to the races.

My studio has gotten progressively more cluttered and chaotic, not just from day to day, but from year to year.  Earlier pictures of my studio show a clean, open space.  Now every surface is full of heaps of paper, scissors and paper cutters, boxes with bits and pieces of photos, and stacks of painted panels.  The floor is littered with scraps of uncut paper--if I drop something I'm cutting, forget it, I'll never find it again.  I keep adding  more and more tables to the room, but I'll never have enough.  The shelves around the perimeter walls are stacked three deep with unfinished pieces, all waiting to be completed. 

Piles of hands and arms, waiting to be fit into something.

The worst thing is that I have been doing just the "fun" part--if you want to call it that--of marrying of the images with the painted grounds.  I haven't wanted to bother with doing the unfun part, which is gluing the images to the surface and then putting on a final finish varnish.  It's tedious work which calls for a perfectionist's attention to detail, and which, if it goes wrong can be disastrous.  Like not paying attention and gluing something upside down.  It's the kind of work a really good assistant should be doing, but, unfortunately, that assistant is me.  By the end of my time gluing all these images(and there are alot)I will have a sore jaw and such a stiff neck that I will be forced to move my whole body to turn my head.  A sensible person would make a few, glue a few, then make a few more, and glue a few more, etc. etc.  But when you're your own boss, you get to work in any wacky, disfunctional way you want.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Work by Norbert Schwontkowski (date and title unknown)

In avoidance of many things, I end up spending way too much time on Facebook.  One of the best things about my Facebook  "friends" is that most of them are either art artists or art related in some way, so, I have lots to look at, often portfolios of images that go on forever.  In this way I came across the work of Norbert Schwontkowski, a German artist born in 1949.  I wasn't aware of his work, so after seeing several of his images on a Facebook album I googled his name, found his "images" section,  and was then able to avoid even more by finding out as much as I could about this wonderful artist.

As a visual person, and as someone who makes images, I'm always looking for those images that speak to me. Schwontkowski's did just that.  He does what I do: combines paint that isn't precise with images that tell a story.  His figures are made with paint, mine with bits and pieces of the photos I've taken through my life.  I love the simplicity of his stories.   Often they are kind of goofy.  He has images with flying saucers and people doing odd things--a man sitting with his feet in a bucket, a woman pushing a shopping cart with lots of white stuff in it. His colors are muted and grayed out, what my students would call "Ugly Colors".  But mostly his work has a melancholy and a sadness that is very attractive to me.  When I look at Schwontkowski's work, I feel as if I have stepped into his dreams, and they are as clear and as honest as they can be. It's a difficult thing to do the kind of work he does--so much gets in the way. But seeing his work reminds of what I need to know and helps to keep me moving forward with the same honesty and clarity.  Thank you Norbert Schwontkowski.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jesus Waving 1984

Most Christians believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spiritborn of a virgin, performed miracles, founded the Church, died sacrificially by crucifixion to achieve atonementrose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, from which he will return.[16] The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.[17] 

My own personal Jesus is a guy who wears heavy sandals with thin, patterned socks that creep up to his mid calves and is always in shorts, no matter how cold it is outside.  He probably has a little more polyester in his closet than is good for him (all that out-gassing).  I think he's someone you wouldn't want to spend much time with the first time you meet him,  but a what a friendly guy.  It turns out he is someone who will help you change out your swamp cooler just from sheer niceness, who offers without being asked.  As your work on the roof together, before you know it, you are telling him about your problems at work with your colleagues, and how you got in a fight with your wife this morning and you don't know exactly why.  You tell him you didn't want to say all those mean things but you did and now she won't talk to you. He just listens quietly, and every now and then he'll make a comment that shows that he is listening, that he hears what you are saying, and you know he feels for you, shares some of your pain.  There is no judgement, just kindness and concern.  You keep talking, and before you know it the cooler is done, and you both have agreed that you need to get down off the roof and tell your wife how sorry you are, that you love her, and that you just didn't know where all that black stuff came from.  Maybe the problems with the colleagues...? Jesus suggests.  And you realize he's right.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Screen Painting Baltimore 2013

 Painted window screen, Baltimore

Painted Window Screen, In situ, Baltimore

I made my first real trip to Baltimore this past week, staying with a good friend in his row house in the Federal Hill district. We made a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum, a museum for folk and outsider art that I've wanted to visit for years.  Among the many wonderful things I saw was an exhibit of screen art, a way of painting on window and door screens so that from the street you see a scene(usually bucolic), but from the inside, you have an unimpeded view out, privacy, and ventilation.   The art was not  my favorite kind of folk art, but I was touched by the artists and the movement(which has largely died off, but is still an important part of Baltimore's art scene).

The row houses, 12 feet wide and sharing the walls of the row houses next to it, open directly onto the street with only a stoop to step down from.  The front room is separated from the sidewalk by brick and glass; no lawn, no fence, no yard, no porch.  The screen art is a brilliant way of providing privacy and comfort and at the same time offering up the magic we need and love so much--images that speak to our fantasies and desires, in this case rivers and waterfalls, trees and mountains, swans and elk, lighthouses,small snug bungalows.  For me personally, it was an enforcement of all that I believe in as an artist: a strong and vibrant community of artists and art that matters.  So often in the world of contemporary art I feel so much isolation and loneliness that it did my creative soul great good to find art that had such a clear and comfortable place in the world.   

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Woman with Spots 2010

Part of moving forward as an artist is trying things out you haven't done before.  I've always loved the layering of images, and in fact, my whole career has pretty much been based on the layering of paint with photos, or, conversely, photos with paint.  In 2010 I began experimenting with digital transparencies which allowed the paint to read through the photographic image.  It was very exciting, and there were lots of technical obstacles to overcome. That's part of the fun, but also part of the misery(I think I've mentioned in another blog about not being able to make more than a little "O" shape with my mouth for quite some time because of  serious jaw clenching during this time of "exploration").

Woman with Spots was one of the first pieces that I did incorporating the photographic transparency with the paint underneath.  The face is me from my thirties.  I was trying out a facial cream which involved putting white mud like stuff on my face, letting it dry, and then washing it off.  I couldn't tell the difference from before and after, but I liked the way my face looked with the white on it. It was a strong piece, but there was something that wasn't quite interesting enough because of  the straight, unaltered photo.  In the end,  I painted over it, and now all that exists is this digital record  on my hard drive.  **

**I came back to this panel, was able to remove the paint and resurrect the image.  It now hangs in the home of my good friend, Colleen Schwend, and I'm glad I pulled it back into the world.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Girl with Horse and Heart 1980

I recently sent off over 500 slides to Scancafe, a place that scans your old photographic media and transfers it to a digital file. I had a wonderful time transferring the images onto my hard drive, looking at each image as I decided what folder to put it in. There were pictures of my husband and I in our bad 80's clothes with bad 80's hairdos, but still looking so very young and wrinkle free.  There were pictures of our daughters, tiny beings riding around in baby carriers on our backs, and pictures of friends with (lots of)jet black hair. There were studio shots of all my different studios from the different places we had lived, including one from the Zuni Reservation with a little heifer in the front yard.  And then there were over seven years worth of my images that I had never gotten around to putting onto my computer, almost everything from before 1987.

I loved finding this image, a self portrait.  The photo is off me during a hike into Havisu Canyon in Arizona.  The technique is oil paint over a gelatin silver print (8"x10" since I was still experimenting with this new way of working), and it pleases me to see my creative self beginning to understand all that I could do by marrying  paint and photograph, still completely unexplored ground for me back in 1980. The image has a rich, beautiful quality that only oil paint can give, and an innocence that could only have come from still being so young in my life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Couple in Love 2006

This painting is a love story, but one with a sad ending.  When this couple was young, they lived in India, and came together as the result of an arranged marriage.  They subsequently moved to the United States, had two children, and worked, both successful professionals, well loved in the community.  He was outgoing, fearless, and knew and helped a wide range of people because of his profession.  He was a great one for practical jokes, and loved telling the story of accidentally super gluing his hand to the steering wheel of his car as he drove to work one morning.  She was quiet, but extremely capable, and, we all knew, the one that worked behind the scenes to make everything right.  She loved laughing at his silly jokes and pranks.

They raised their children, created a beautiful home, and seemed  in love, giving credit to the very foreign idea, to us, of making a relationship work that wasn't initially based on love.  Then the bad news:  he was diagnosed with  cancer.  At first it looked good, surgery and chemo, and he seemed to be recovering.  We sighed with relief. A few years went by, all was good, their son married and had two beautiful grandchildren, but then, the cancer came back.  All that could be done was done, but, too late.  The cancer spread, and after a period of time, he died.  She was left a widow, bearing her loss with great dignity and respect.  We mourned for both of them.

Her body is made up of a beautiful tree house he had built on their property for their children.  His body is made up of sticks and twigs, dried and broken, and rusted spring coils--all metaphors for the cancer.  When I did the piece, I wasn't aware of where I was going, just that I was building the image using what I had at hand.  When I was finished, looking at it, I suddenly realized what I had done: all the way from the pink of the woman and the blue of the man--I had made a portrait that was a snapshot in time, of their love, of his condition, and of her being the one that housed the relationship.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mother and Daughter with Birds Leaving 2006

When I teach my paint to collage workshops, one of the things I always try to bring up is the appropriation of other people's material, specifically photographic images taken from magazines or books.  Legally, there are rules about copyright infringement and what percentage of taking something of someone else's image is illegal, but that's not really what I want to convey to my students.  One of my students said it best, "I would just be really pissed if I walked into a room and there on the wall was one of my pictures that someone had stolen and stuck in their collage".  I always tell my students that the more the source material for their collages is their own, the better it is, both in terms of authenticity and, morals; not depending solely on someone else's creativity.  Through the course of the workshop I will often have to remind certain students of what we have been talking about because they don't seem to have a clear sense of just how much they are pilfering  someone else's image.

That being said, I have to look at my own images and hope that I stay on the side not of stealing but, instead, of marrying diverse images to make something completely new and original.  I'm hoping that Rembrandt, were he to walk into the room which held Mother with Daughter and Birds Leaving would, in seeing the head of Agatha Bas that he had painted so many years ago, not be angry at me.  Instead I hope that he would  be intrigued in seeing how I had used Angela's head to tell a story about a mother who is about to lose her daughter to the outside world.  He would understand that the birds spoke of the eventual freedom of the girl, but he would also see the snake-like figure at the top, and would know that as well as freedom there was also implied danger.  He would see the pride, but also the sorrow, that the mother feels. He would see that, in so beautifully capturing the face of Angela Bas, he gave me the perfect mother to tell this story.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Horse with Awkward Rider 1982

As a graduate student, lurking around the warm up area of a large national all breed horse show with my camera in hand, I found a certain kind of horse and rider that fascinated me. Horses originally bred for their smooth, rapid gaits that could comfortably carry a rider for long distances, they have since become fetishized objects, and attract a peculiar group of riders and owners.

These gaited horses, also known as Saddlebreds, are the most artificial of all the breeds.  On some of the breeds, the tail is altered ....set look is a tail "nicking" operation, in which the retractor muscles on the underside of the dock are partially cut (the tail is not broken, as some people believe). The tail is then placed into a tail set so that when the muscles and ligaments heal they are longer than they were initially.  Wikipedia  On others, most notably the Tennessee Walker, the hooves are...  "padded" or "built up," exhibiting a very flashy and animated gait, lifting their forelegs high off the ground with each step.  Wikiipedia  The Tennessee Walkers can also be "sored" , an illegal process which makes it painful for them to put their foot down, forcing them to quickly pick their feet up when they move.
X-ray of a padded shoe on a Tennessee Walker

The rider in my photograph is a bad rider, his posture atrocious.  His lifted heels show that he is off balance, and the position of the horse's neck and head show that the horse is not comfortable.   By adding the paint to the surface of the photograph, I was able to isolate and emphasize that awkwardness between the two, leaving a distilled moment of perfect wrongness.