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.


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 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.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Big Head(Thinking) 2014

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein

 “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”
Lao Tzu

In thinking, keep to the simple.”
Lao Tzu

I have a hard time with thinking, or rather, perhaps better said, thinking has not always been my friend.  My thoughts shape me:  they can create much anxiety and loneliness, and I don't understand why.  The thoughts swirl and repeat, swirl and repeat, especially at 4:00 am in the morning, when whatever thoughts I have seem always to go to dark places.  When I teach, I tell my students to let their brains go outside for a smoke while they stay inside to work.  I see my students convincing themselves that they can't paint, or can't collage, or don't understand color, then, when given a little push, and their hands are allowed to take over and their thinking discouraged, they are able to do all those things, and much more,  beautifully with complex creativity and, often, with profound meaning.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Big Head(Worrying) 2014

Of the three Big Heads that I did this past year, "Big Head(Worrying)" is my favorite. It's the one that I most identify with.  The colored dots of perspiration dripping from the head's face and forehead, the background, made of columnar paper; straight, rigid, meant for keeping careful track of numbers and accounts. The eyes and ears are tiny,  fever dream features, and the mouth is from a photo of a young friend who has a congenital disorder that is causing him to lose his teeth. It's a large head, with big worries, not just about numbers, but about the environment, children, the on-going war in the middle east, aging, bad backs, the tea party, mothers with dementia, GMOS.  I could go on and on, but it's probably better if you just add your own worries so that you can relate to "Big Head(Worrying)" as I do.  It's good to be able to share.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Head (Listening) 2014

My process is this:  I take paint and move it around on a panel until something happens that looks good to me; that gets me pretty worked up.  The next thing I do is to take paper of some kind, either  photographs I have taken, paper that I've painted on or altered in some way, or paper that has something on it.  Then I take the paper and start to cut it.  The cutting releases something, lets some genie out of the bottle, and allows me to start making the image.  I arrange the paper,  mostly with mushy purpose but sometimes--very rarely--with clear intent. 

With Big Head (Listening) the intent was clear almost from when I had the panels cut, which is very unlike me.  There was an idea in my head of big heads (and they are big--the panel is 49" x26"), and that they would be formed as negative space left by the paper.  The paper I used is handmade paper with little flowers in it, given to me by a friend.  The mouth, eye, eyebrow, and ear  were all bits and pieces from my enormous collection of photographs(I have thousands of pieces of photographs that I have tried to organize in my own arcane way.  For example, I have two plastic boxes with just photographic heads.  One box is labeled "not real heads" and the other "real".  Within those categories they are organized by size and sex, either male or female.  Each category has it's own little paper folder to keep it with it's peers).  The motion and action of the existing paint determined the title of this particular big head.  With Big Head (Listening), it was the pink paint sweeping from one side of the head to the other, starting with, or ending at, the ear.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Horse Resting 2014

For as long as I can remember, I've carried an image of a horse, or horses, resting.  There has always been a fascination for me of seeing a horse rising from the ground, and conversely, watching as they first drop their knees, then their hind ends as they take their bodies down.  They are large beings, and just the fact of getting up or down requires a lot of energy and activity.  They can sleep standing--their knees lock--so laying down for them is a sign of being either very secure, or sick.  The other wonder to watch is when, after returning from a hot and sweaty ride, they drop down and then roll, turning side to side, legs waving in the air like a big bug.  Supposedly, a horse that can roll all the way over and back is the sign of a good horse.

When I did this image, I know I had in mind a painting of several horses resting in a pasture, so I went online to see if I could track it down, a favorite from my childhood. What's interesting is my use of a tree to define the horse, clearly having been impressed by the tree in this painting.
I also came across this Chinese painting of two horses resting, one on the ground, which I thought captured the same quality of peace that my horse has.
And lastly, I found an image of one of my favorite artists, Deborah Butterfield.  Both horses are made of wood:  cottonwood trees in my case and sticks and mud in hers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Obsession 2014

For quite some time now my students and I have been working on different ways to transfer photographs to other surfaces.  Our biggest success has been with polymer transfers, and we have unraveled many of the secrets of how to make those transfers work(most of the time).  Lately, we have been working with DASS transfers, the brain child of Bonnie Pierce Lhotka     With care, those transfers are consistently rich and full, but can be finicky and require using Lhotka's transfer paper and "Super Sauce".  Most recently, I have been experimenting with ink jet transparency transfers. 

After a few weeks of trying different ways of making the transfers, and most of them working only some of the time and not very well, I turned to youtube, and found clips on how to do the transfers(Gary's here has over 160,000 hits  ).I watched all that I could find, and was appalled at their sloppy techniques.  "No problem", I thought to myself, "I teach this stuff". So, back to the studio, armed with lots of knowledge and ideas of why things weren't working.  One woman had said in her demo, "Don't be cheap about applying lots of the glue!", so I knew to load up my brush with the "glue".  Days later, I wasn't much better off, except that I knew what would happen if I used too much of the polymer medium, and what would happen if I was stingy with it.  I tried regular brushes, foam brushes, and even my fingers(sloppy technique!) to apply the medium.  Still bad. Always something lifting or smooshing or disappearing, but with tantalizing bits and pieces of it working perfectly.  I kept working.  One night I dreamed that I was doing full body transfers of people.  They worked just fine in my dreams.

 The images piled up.  Sometimes they almost worked. Sometimes they were a complete and total failure.  Days went by. I kept working.  But the interesting thing that happened was that when I would first pull off a transfer, and realize that once again, it hadn't really worked, I would be disappointed. However, later that day or the next, I would come back, look at the image and find that I liked what I was getting, or perhaps, better said, what was happening that I didn't have much control over.

One night, I thought, why not just put make the layers in photoshop and then put the pieces of paper through my printer and get the image in a 100% true and faithful way, so I did:
 But what I decided was that I preferred the rough, hand made quality of the image, rather than the smooth perfection of the inkjet print print
I'm not sure where I stand with all of this.  I have never really used any of these transfer processes in my own images, but at this point I have 50 of these transfers.  I'm just going to try a few more.  I'm thinking if I use canvas for the ground and load my brush fairly heavily but not too much......

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:

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  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

Woman with Small Dog Walking

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trojan Horse 2007

Metaphorically a "Trojan Horse" has come to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to allow a foe into a securely protected bastion or space. A malicious computer program which tricks users into willingly running it is called a "Trojan horse".  Wikipedia

For the last two weeks I've been spending quite a bit of time with the Geek Squad at Best Buy. For over two weeks I've had to keep returning to the store with my (heavy)computer in my arms, stand in line, and then explain the problem, which had not been resolved by previous visits and repairs, to whichever "Geek' was behind the counter.  But that was nothing compared to the anxiety I began to feel at the possibility of their not being able to fix my computer--AKA my lifeblood.  What if they couldn't fix it?  Would I need to buy a new computer?  If so, should I get a MAC instead of a PC?  Would all of my data transfer?  What about Photoshop-I only have it for PC's and the new format involves a monthly fee to download it from the cloud.  Expensive, unknown.  And on and on and on, the broken record of my anxiety starting to spin out of control.  Finally fixed, the problem turned out to be a virus, which had arrived as a download in the belly of something else--a "Trojan Horse".

A month ago, I was on the phone for 4 1/2 hours with a man from India trying to figure out why we couldn't stream Netflix to our TV.  We did many different things, none of which seemed to work.  At one point, he informed me that I would have to pay his company $120 in order to get my problem solved.  I paid the money, and only as the MasterCard bill came through did I realize that the company I thought I had been talking to wasn't this man's company at all, but one that sounded and looked just like it.  At the very bottom of the Internet page that I had gotten the contact number from, in tiny print, was a disclaimer, saying basically, we aren't who you think we might be. After I'd hung up, exhausted and depressed,  I sat on the couch, in front of our non-streaming Netflix TV, and cried. Of course, it was another Trojan Horse, pleased with just how far into the protected space of my psyche and my MasterCard it had gotten.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

SS Courage 1998

When my eldest daughter was a few weeks old, I took her on our first shopping trip to the Safeway Grocery store in Gallup, New Mexico. I had placed her in a baby carrier in the cart and was at the dairy case, looking over the different yogurts. A large, vaguely sinister man in worn overalls and scruffy facial hair came up to us.  My alarm bells started ring off and  I pictured throwing myself over the baby so he couldn't grab her.  He stopped, looked at Ramey for a few moments with warmth and affection in his eyes and then, glancing up at me said,  "Welcome to the parent club". Needless to say, no baby was snatched,

It's a club I've never, ever regretted joining.  It's taught me about compassion, about deep love and real concern.  It's helped me become more connected to the world around me, and it's made me laugh and cry and have every emotion in between. It's made me be the best person I can be and its turned me into an true adult,.  Lastly, it's helped me become a mother to my mother as her memory fades and she struggles to keep living on her own.  I call her daily and nag and scold her and do all the things a mother does when she is concerned about a worrisome child. I don't think I could be doing this today if I hadn't joined that incredible club 27 years ago.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Snake 2014(El Dorado)

Although my mother has serious problems with her memory, at 85, she's a rockin' lady. A few days ago Mom and I decided to go for a walk with the dogs.  We started out, my dog running loose and Mom's dog, Abbey, on a leash with me at one end and Abbey at the other.  My mother lives on the outskirts of Santa Fe in a community called El Dorado.  The homes are spaced on one acre lots, and there is open space between the houses, with a well worn trail trail running through it.  The weather was fairly mild, but a little windy, it being spring in New Mexico. Unused to the high desert, my dog was constantly having to stop his forward motion to pull cactus spines out of his paws.  We'd been out for about 45 minutes, and had just reached the asphalt road, looping back to her house, when we spotted a snake on the tarmac.  He looked alive, and there was no evidence of "smush", which usually lets me know it's road kill.  Mom and I advanced cautiously, the dogs completely unaware of the snake. However, it didn't move, and, since I noticed a lack of a rattle on it's tail, I  felt comfortable getting close.  Meanwhile, Mom rustled around on the side of the road and found a stick which she then proceeded to (lightly) touch the snake with.  No reaction, so we knew it was dead.  My camera was back at her house, and Mom, knowing that I wanted to photograph the snake, urged me to go on ahead without her.  I took off with both dogs, walking rapidly, thinking the house was close, but in fact, it was another mile.  By the time I located my camera and checked my settings, Mom was back at the house, eager to go back with me to photograph the beautiful snake we had both found.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Snake Rider(unfinished)2014

A few weeks ago The Photographer's Gallery in London asked if they coud represent my work  Last week they requested any kind of video that would introduce people in the UK to me and my work, so my husband and I shot this video today.  I don't know how to edit video, but I could show Bob what buttons to push on my camera, and I did have an idea of something that might work if we shot it all in one take(It ended up taking two takes because we shot the first one upside down).  This is what we made:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bucking Bronco 2006

I will sometimes watch, on TV, professional bareback bronc riding(as opposed to saddle bronc riding).  The riders are all young, male, and seem to be named "Cody" or "Jarrod".  They flop around on the backs of  horses with names like "Chuckolater" and "Smack Down" who do their best to dislodge these young men.  If the cowboys are lucky and stay on for the required eight seconds, they will be eligible to win large pots of money depending on how well they ride their broncs.  One cowboy, when asked what it was like to ride a bareback bronc said, "It's like putting your hand in a vice, attaching it to a train, and then driving it off a cliff".

My “Bucking Bronco” is about risk and the (often) disastrous results of that risk.  The cowboy’s rock constructed body means that when he does go off, he will be guaranteed a hard and brittle landing(on the rather large boulder immediately behind him).  The  horse, with the back half of his body portraying a missile range, gives us clues as to just how dangerous he really is.  A time lapse view lets us see our cowboy’s head snap back, with the last head, open mouthed, showing us just how frightened he really is as he realizes he is most probably going off.   And of course, the wheelchair symbol making up the front half of the horse clues us in as to where this rider will eventually end up.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gluing 2014

Counter clockwise from left to right:
1.  Image, which is finished, and has been adjusted and changed and fine tuned until it is as close to perfect as I can get.  It's all temporarily adhered onto the painted surface with yellow sticky stuff so that I can look at it for a long long time before I glue it.   This is part seeing how it wears over time and part procrastination.

2.  Scissors:  Good ones, in this case Dahle  (shouldn't I be getting a kickback from Dahle on this?).  I have about twenty pair of scissors.  The Dahles are pretty much the only ones I use, and I've had them for at least 25 years.  I use my other scissors if I'm doing coarse cutting of plastic or paper that I don't care about.  The scissors, at this stage, are to trim and refine as I glue.  I always keep the bits and pieces of what I cut off in case I've cut off too much and need to correct.

3.  A fine brush to paint in problem areas in the painted surface or the photo that I see after I've glued everything down.

4.  A white pencil to mark the areas of the image that need to be trimmed.

5.  A magnifying glass to make sure my glue edges are good.  Older eyes(even with glasses) aren't serving me as well as they used to.

6.  Foam brushes to coat the backs of the paper that I will be adhering.  Different sizes brushes for the different sizes of paper that will lay down.  I always want to make sure I go over the edges of the paper I'm about to glue, but I also don't want to waste the adhesive.  Bowl of water so that I can drop the not being used foam brushes in so that the adhesive won't dry.

7.  Spray bottle of water to spray the front surface of thinner papers like dictionary pages, tissue, or newsprint so that they won't curl into a nasty ball when I put the adhesive on the back.

8.  Little ball of yellow sticky stuff that I use to adhere the paper onto the panel temporarily and which I also use to register where the paper will go on the panel just before I drop it down.

9.  Polymer medium, in this case Dick Blick, but all the brands work pretty well.  I buy it by the gallon and it lasts about two years.

What I'm not showing is the back knobber which I use to try and push out the large, uncomfortable  knots  that I get in my back from standing and maneuvering badly behaved pieces of paper.  I'm also not showing the EKG display which records the wild and erratic rhythms of my heart as I realize that I have glued something at the wrong angle, backwards or upside down, or when, as I smooth the paper down with a discarded credit card(not shown), all of the ink pulls up, so that I'm left with a blobbed smear of paper.  And lastly, I'm not showing xrays of my locked jaw and frozen neck, concretized from my standing rigidly for hours at a time trying to force all those big and little pieces of paper to bend to my will.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Studio 2014

Looking to North wall:  stacked images with blank paintings below
Looking to East Wall:  work table with piled photos and papers

Looking to South Wall: stacked paintings and work table covered with piled photos and papers

Looking to West Wall:  stacked paintings on both walls and end, tables covered with photos and papers
I have been working fairly steadily since September of last year(2013)in preparation for two upcoming shows; one in June in Santa Fe at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art  and the other in September in Santa Monica at Craig Krull Gallery . It's been an interesting ride.  I feel that I'm making some of the best work I've ever made, but it's time to get off the horse and clean up.

My studio has become waist deep in bits of paper, photographs, paint, books, and painted panels.  Unfinished images are stacked two and three deep on my walls(The unfinished pieces consist of  collaged images on top of painted panels, but only adhered with little bits of sticky stuff).    The layers of paper/photographs on my work tables have become quite dense as the months have rolled by.  It seems chaotic, but it's not.  As I work, I can remember where a certain animal head or a scrap of a photo with a particular value is, no matter how many layers down I have to go, no matter how long ago I cut up a particular photograph.  Even better, while looking to find something, I might happen on a scrap of paper that leads me to start a new collage.  It's a rich and fertile room if you happen to be collage artist.

When I first started out as a young artist in graduate school, I would have small bits of time when I would be able to really concentrate on what I was doing, maybe ten or fifteen minutes once or, if I was lucky, twice in a work session.  Now I can go for several hours with that same concentration(my limit now is fatigue--I can't go for more than about four hours).*  I've also changed--hugely--in that I don't get as attached to an image, and when it doesn't work, no matter the time invested, I'm able to let go fairly easily.  Younger Holly would have stumbled into the house in a sad comma shape, or have cried,  or despaired, or most probably, done all three.  Now,  I'm just deeply happy to be in my studio every afternoon, following my hands and my intuition, painting, cutting and sticking, truly pleased to be able to make images that I love.

*However, I often have a difficult time remembering why I've gone from one room to the next. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two Friends 1981

It was a tough week. Two weeks ago,  my 85 year old mother tripped over her dog and fell in the night, landing on her left shoulder.  All seemed to be going well, and then Tuesday of this week she experienced terrible shooting pains in the shoulder she had fallen on.  I'm in Corrales, she's in Santa Fe, about 65 miles away.  Not exactly an emergency, but close to it.  All ended well, but it was frightening, made even more so because of the distance.  Your mother's voice, thin and weak, her words not quite making sense and you, more than an hour away.

This morning I went for my every Sunday Morning for the Last 23 Years walk with my friends Jeanne and Cinda.* Most of the walk was spent with me telling them about the events of the week,  then I listened as they advised me on ways to deal with the on-going  and newer problems around my mother's care and safety.  All of their advice was spot on:  thoughtful, kind, and perfect in keeping me from rushing in to try and solve everything in my usual blunt way.  It was great to be heard, but best of all, was how wonderful it was to be surrounded by their genuine care and concern as we walked along the dusty road.

*Cinda is newer to the weekly walk

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Aunt Beth 1983

My mother's older sister by ten years and a twin, Aunt Beth lived in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters.  When my mother was a teenager, she would spend summers with Aunt Beth and her family and I know those visits were islands of happiness for her. Aunt Beth continued to be in my life throughout my childhood and adult years.  Once her husband died, with her daughters grown, she would often stop to visit while escaping the Colorado winters on her yearly trips to and from Arizona . She was a chain smoker and loved to talk.  I took this photograph of her while she was visiting me at my  home in Phoenix.  I wouldn't let her smoke inside, so she would go out on the porch when she needed to light up, which was often.  With the eternal cigarette dangling from her mouth, she would talk to me though the screen door, the screen inches from her face, never missing a beat.

The best thing I inherited from my Aunt Beth was her writing style.  She would write my mother long letters, terribly spelled, no punctuation to speak of, always typed and my mother would read them aloud to us as soon as they arrived.  I loved the letters.  They were streams of consciousness that let us see inside her mind--the mind of a lively and curious woman with lots to say.  Her letters taught me that it was important to say what mattered,  without fear of judgement, censorship, punctuation, or spelling.

She died of emphysema, claiming with her last breathe that it was the depletion of the ozone layer that caused her not to be able to breath--nothing to do with her multiple pack a day habit.  About 8 months later her twin followed, falling down the basement stairs while visiting her niece.  The only explanation we had for why she would have gotten up in the middle of the night and tried to go down those particular stairs was that Beth, missing her beloved sister, had finally lost patience and just beamed her up.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quiet Horse 2008

A few nights ago I stayed up late looking though old albums of my mothers.  One of my favorite photographs was an early image of her in cowgirl regalia on a small paint pony being led by her older brother, Grant.  Other, later photos showed her with different horses, and then, as an older teen with her own horse, a bay mare called Daisey. Another favorite:  my mother leading Daisey with a small, proud figure on her bareback--my cousin Sue at  the age of  4.  The last photos of Daisey are with a newborn filly by her side, Pretty Penny. *

I can only guess at how important horses were to my mother as she was growing up, the last of five children in a dysfunctional midwestern family.  Horses gave her strength and unconditional love, and, later, they also gave her a connection to her sister's middle daughter, her young niece Sue.  Sue also turned to horses for probably many of the same reasons my mother did, and it was a bond the two shared for many years.  Now, as my mother struggles with memory loss, and as her world closes in, it is Sue who drives from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe once every two months to spend a week to ten days with her.  Sue helps her stay organized, cleans out cupboards and closets, takes her to doctor and dentist appointments, bakes her pies and loves her.  I don't know if  their love of horses started the bond between them, or if, both being horse girls, they were just naturally drawn to each other.  Whatever the reason, now some sixty years later, as Mom once helped Sue stay on top of Daisey, Sue is now the one leading the horse and helping Mom to stay on until the ride is over.

*Not long after those photos were taken Daisey and her baby were sold for next to nothing because Mom  couldn't afford their upkeep.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Red Riding Hood 2001

As with most children, I was familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood from an early age. Re-reading the story now--or rather Wikipedia's synopsis of the many versions that have existed over the centuries--some 13 years after I did the painting, I have to wonder what version I had heard or read as a child. Was it the more sanitized version, where Little Red Riding Hood is saved by the Huntsman and Granny released from the closet after the wolf is killed, or the tougher version, where both Granny and LRRH are eaten, only to be pulled out of the wolf's belly(alive) by the huntsman after slaying the evil canine?  Whichever version it was, I know that the underlying theme, for me, in this painting,  is about being fooled, and not in a good way.  In this painted photograph,  the figure of the wolf is a photograph of a man I know who is a devout fundamentalist Christian, of course, transformed by my paintbrush into the Big Bad Wolf.  The model for Little Red Riding Hood is a young teenage girl, who, to my way of thinking, is being taken in by the wolf.  He wants to consume her with his proselytizing, lecturing, and preaching, wanting to convince her that she is a bad bad girl who can only find redemption by believing and accepting the strange rules of a vindictive and spiteful God.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sinus Trouble 1985

Nemesis:The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess: the goddess of revenge. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word νέμειν [némein], meaning "to give what is due".  Wikipedia opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat.  Merriam Webster Online Dictionary 

When I was in my early 20's I contracted a cold, got sick, felt bad, and then waited for the cold to go away.  It didn't.  It was my first encounter with what was to become my life long nemesis:  the sinus infection. With my bad math, I figure that I have had approximately 40 sinus infections since then. According to what I'm finding out about Nemesis, the Greek Goddess, her job is to dole out retribution, usually when people are a little too full of themselves, and lack hubris, needing  to be brought down a notch or two.  Her job is to keep things in balance, not letting people be either too happy or too sad.  

When I'm sick with a sinusitis my IQ drops by about 20 points, I have no energy, and I find it very difficult to do even the simplest of tasks.  I despair, I worry, I feel horribly sorry for myself.  I cry, I sleep a lot.  On the other hand, because I have this chronic condition, I have a terrifically healthy lifestyle:  I exercise, I get enough sleep, I meditate, I have a diet that has absolutely no crap in it. My studio is solvent free and I'm very careful about what I breathe. I've learned to lessen my stress, and  be kinder and more patient with myself.   I'd like to defeat this "opponent", but I'm not even sure what that means: is it learning how not to get sick in the first place, or does real defeat mean that I just accept and  live with my condition?  Whatever it ends up being, I would really, really, love to get this particular Greek Goddess off my back.