Sunday, December 23, 2018

Beautiful Woman 2016

"Beautiful Woman", finished three days ago

The work of "Izzy" found at the Restore in Asheville, N.C. this last April. 20 paintings at $2 each.

This past fall I've been chasing my tail in the studio.  I'd start something, then jump to something else, then find another process or idea that interested me--usually some new way to do a transfer.  I experimented, messed up, continued, had some success, then would go back to the pieces I had been working on earlier, but still not finishing them.  I'd print things out from my computer to use in my images, then sit in front of the screen and read the news, hunt for full frame Nikon cameras on eBay or craigslist, or look at Facebook posts.  The minutes, then the hours would go by.  Still, nothing done. I found myself consciously trying to make things ugly.  I did, and they were indeed ugly.  I decided to use old nude photos of myself taken when I was in my 20's, then backed out, nervous about having them out in the world. And so I continued to circle, and circle, and circle. 

Then a few days ago I thought to pull out the paintings I'd bought in North Carolina from a thriftstore earlier this year.  Only one is signed, but they are all by the same hand--Izzy's.  They aren't great art, but they have a liveliness and an authenticity to them that I was attracted to, and so I ended up buying 20 from the more than 50 that were there.  I removed all my work from the long shelf in my studio and put Izzy's work up. I looked at them for most of the afternoon--really looked.  They were energentic, bold, and unafraid, all qualities that I seemed to have been lacking this fall. I played around with a few of Izzy's portraits, adding mouths and eyes and lips to them, and then, quite unexpectedly I started working on my own pieces.  Within a few hours I had laid out four panels, then finished them all off in the next few days.  For me, they were strange, quirky, and oddly wonderful, all portraits, "Beautiful Woman" being the last of the four.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bird with Spots 2017

Drawing for "Bird with Spots"

Drawing:  a graphic representation by lines of an object or idea, as with a pencil; a delineation of form without reference to color.
When we do one of the transfer techniques that I teach,we end up with millions of little pieces of paper from rubbing the backs off of our photographs.  It's obsessive-compulsive work, and most of us like doing it, at least for awhile. Then we'll get bored, or our fingertips will start to hurt from the constant rubbing(some of the more obsessive of us even getting blisters).  The paper lays around on the table top in a messy, annoying way, but then--something happens in that part of your brain that makes those kinds of connections that you have learned to listen to.  You decide to collect and lay out all of those paper crumbs, then spray them with black ink. What you are left with are thousands of little black rolled up balls of paper. And after pleading not to be tossed in the nearest trash can, those little black balls began to really speak to you. They might, for example, began to want to be a bird.  So, you move them onto a piece of white paper so that you can see them clearly, and before too long, a little bird shows up. With the addition of a photographic eye taken of one of your students, you might then have a tough little bird with a soft, warm, human eye.

Although you love the drawing you've made from the tiny rolled up pieces of paper, black ink and the eye of your student, you probably feel that it isn't quite enough. So, you go through all the smallish, abstract paintings you have(and there are many) until you find one that suits your drawing.  Then, through the magic of Photoshop and another equally magical transfer process, you marry the two, ending up with "Bird with Spots".  You feel good about your strange little drawing and it's final home.

"Bird with Spots"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Coyote Drinking 2018

On almost every major intersection in Albuquerque, I see pan handlers, usually with signs asking for help.  Hand written on cardboard, often misspelled with the writing getting smaller as it gets closer to the bottom, they are missives wanting us to know that they are hungry, cold, disabled, and sad.  They look to make eye contact with us as we wait for the light to change, hoping that we will roll down our windows and hand them some money.  Not far away, on the corner, their metal shopping carts sit patiently, filled to overflowing with blankets, sleeping bags,clothes and who knows what else one needs to survive without a home.  At night, the panhandlers in our area are gone, headed for the Bosque, the dense cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande River, to set up camp.  If they are unlucky, someone will call the police and while they are panhandling, their tents and sleeping material will be swept away, so that even that temporary home will be gone.  They will need to find another place in the Bosque, that hopefully won't be raided as they stand in the cold, or sun, or wind waiting for something to make their lives a little better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Adam and Eve(with Apple) 2014

Here, we only see the aftermath of the Big Event, Eve having taken a bite of the forbidden apple, which of course, causes she and Adam to be cast out of Paradise, nude, into the world.  Paradise, which had been theirs, is no longer available to them, and for all time going forward, there will be woe and strife between men and women, men and men, and women and women(but not so much as the first two).  The devil, disguised as the snake that tempted Eve, lays under Adam's foot, accidentally being crushed by a bumbling and unaware Adam.  The two float on clouds of different colors, Eve striding forward confidently, Adam hesitating, unaware that, from now on, the two of them have doomed all mankind.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sad Woman/Angry Man 1992

Because of the attention brought to the "Me Too" movement by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford*, I've been looking at my own "Me Too" moments, and, as well, asking my close woman friends about their experiences.  It's been eye opening, to say the least.  Friends I've had for years, good friends, I'm now finding out were raped, and in some cases, not just once, but twice. Of the three close friends that I see on a regular basis, all have had some sort of negative, aggressive sexual encounters as younger women. I myself had bad experiences as a child, a teenager, and as a young adult, some events worse than others. Something that was so traumatic to us, so devastatingly harmful, we seem to have swept under the rug so that we could go on with our lives.  Like Dr. Ford, we had chosen to live our lives without comment or conversation about these awful things, until finally, the door has opened and we see that it wasn't just us.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hungry Bear 2018

Fall usually finds me in the Roaring Fork Valley, in West Central Colorado.  Because of this I've become familiar with the community of black bears that live in the area.  They come down out of the mountains each fall to bulk up for their winter hibernation.  Some falls are rougher for them than others, depending on how much forage they've had in the high country that spring and summer.  If it's been a bad year(drought usually, or a late freeze in the spring), then, desperate to fill themselves with enough calories to last them through the rough Colorado winter, they head for the luxurious, million dollar homes that fill the landscape.  An open window, an unlocked car, the smell of something cooking in some one's house, a fruit tree loaded with fruit, and that's where they go, using their paws as a human would to open things and start feasting.  One late night, as I headed down the highway towards Basalt, a small town in the valley, I spotted what I thought was a human figure, laying in the middle of the road.  As I got closer, I realized it was a bear, having come down looking for food, then gotten hit and killed trying to cross the highway.  When I finished this piece, and stood back and looked at it, I realized that "Hungry Bear" was an homage to that unfortunate bear.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Alter Ego 1999

 At various times in my life, I've had short hair, but for the most part,  I've had the same hair style since I was six years old:  long and straight, worn in a pony tail or down.  After years of threatening to cut my hair short again, I finally made my way into Crazy Jane's Hair Salon, clutching a photo of Jamie Lee Curtis so that Jane would have a good idea of what I wanted my hair to look like.  After carefully braiding it, then securing the braid with rubber bands, with a few cuts of Jane's very sharp scissors, the braid was off and ready to be sent to Locks of Love . 

Now, with short hair, I find that I don't really know who I am.  I startle when I see reflections of myself and I'm constantly looking at women with short hair(mostly older) and thinking, "Yikes, is that me?"  Some part of me has wanted a change, but I'm not sure if that part wants to be more masculine or more feminine, to stand out more or be less obvious.  I know that part of wanting that change has to do with aging, and trying to look either more age appropriate, or, conversely, younger.  Two days after my haircut, I spoke with the eye glass adjuster at Costco, and told her that I'd had my hair cut because I thought older woman shouldn't have long hair.  She thought for a moment, then said, "People in my family that are older all have long hair.  It's our tradition(she was from Taos Pueblo)".  It gave me pause, and made me rethink my hypothesis about older women and long hair.  In the meantime, I keep staring at the stranger in the mirror and not really believing people when they tell me how great my hair looks.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Two Giants in Their Garden 2018

These two giants are brothers.  The older brother is in front. He is the smarter, stronger one, but not very kind or caring.  Because of this, the younger brother is full of insecurities, and worries constantly about what the older brother thinks of him. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Angry Mother 2016

My mother-in-law was a very elegant 1950's mother.  She was--and is--quite beautiful, now 92,  Albuquerque's own Jackie Onassis. In our scruffy little western city, my mother-in-law stood out like a sore thumb, always dressed to the nine's with beautiful clothes and scarves, always with makeup and hair done, and always in heels.  Something that couldn't have been easy with four kids and a husband who sometimes brought home the bacon, and sometimes didn't.  At one point, she and my father-in-law went to the Mrs. America contest in Florida, and they returned with a pink vacuum cleaner for her and a billiard table for him.

But there was another side to my mother-in-law--not the Donna Reed side.  It was dark and frightening. To this day my husband has vacuum-noise-induced anxiety because of his PTSD around what we call "angry vacuuming". One minute she would be the Loretta Young of the Northeast Heights, and then, there it would be--pure rage over something seemingly trivial at the time. We still see it in her, now with inhibitions gone as her dementia increases.  This small painting must have hit a note with others, either angry mothers or the children of angry mothers, because when this piece was taken to the Dallas Art Fair in the spring of 2016, it sold immediately.  Soon after that, several of the buyer's friends returned to the booth, demanding to know where they could find their own "Angry Mother".

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wild Pony 2018

Most recently, I've found myself becoming involved, once again, with horses.  A friend purchased a horse in March, having never owned one before, and I have been helping her out with him.  It's as if a sealed door to my past has opened, and memories have been flooding in.  So much of my childhood was based on my life with horses, hours spent riding by myself in the open ranch land around our home in Santa Fe, or treating my horse much as other kids treated their bicycles, using him as a way to get places as effortlessly as possible. My library was awash with horse and dog books:  Misty of Chincoteague, the entire set of The Black Stallion, King of the Wind, Smokey, and of course, Black Beauty, just to name the ones I still own and treasure.  The stories formed my moral compass and gave me an understanding of how things worked, at least from a horse's perspective.  As an adult, it was my 20 year old mare's inability to conceive that convinced me that, if I was going to have children, I'd better get going or I would soon be too old.

Many of my horse memories are painful, having to do with problems that arose with my horses, or accidents that could have been fatal--a friend being dragged by that same 20 year old mare.  Some of the worst memories are ones of having to say goodbye to a favorite horse, or having to say no to being offered a gift of a horse because I didn't have the money to take care of him.  And now, I'm not sure where I've landed with this new horse life. Something has shifted, but it's a wobbly shift, with no clear direction and no real sense of where I'm headed or where I'll end up. So I find myself watching YouTube, giving my chair directions on how to make a perfect 20 centimeter circle using my inside(imaginary) rein and my(real)outside leg.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Young Woman Watching 2017

Part of starting a new body of work is trying to think of ways to make images that are new, not only to me, but to all people that look seriously at art. I've been making images now for almost 40 years, and I find that my main battle is in not letting myself do what I know how to do, what I've become good at and comfortable with.  Why would anyone want to do something that's easy, and familiar, that they are skilled at, when they can make themselves extremely anxious by doing what they've never done before?

Since painting is what always guides me, that's my first jump off the cliff:  how can I paint in a way that's new to me, or newish, after all these years of painting?  With that in mind, I recently discovered how to make clean hard edges with masking tape and polymer medium using colors new to me, purchased at Michael's, where all the serious hobbyists shop.  Painting finished, then another precipice to leap off of, this time finding, from my hoard of materials, the right photographs in combination with the right hand-painted papers, along with materials that have no logic to the painting but that somehow work--in this case, a page from an Asian textbook.  As well, I used my mother's pinking shears to cut the bangs, beautiful scissors that are probably as old as I am. And finally, after weeks of trying things out, putting different elements together, discarding, then reforming, I have a finished piece that pleases me. It seems new and different, a self portrait of a much younger me, something I didn't realize until I finished writing this piece.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Two Children Playing 2017/destroyed June 2018

  1. Sophies choice(Noun)
    A choice between two persons or things that will result in the death or destruction of the person or thing not chosen.
  2. Origin: From the title of the book Sophie's Choice by William Styron  Wictionary

    As I continue to work, and accumulate more work, much of which doesn't sell, and some of which never even gets exhibited, I have to face the fact that some of the work must die, or better said, be recycled so that I can make another image on the panel or surface it inhabited.  I sometimes think I'm not the best person to make the decision, being way too close to the images to have to choose.  But if not me, then who?  I can't even ask this of my husband, who is game to help me in anyway he can. So, it's up to me. I put the candidates for the death squad on the wall, and look at them for several days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years.  At last I decide who must go under the big gesso brush, then put them out on tables on the porch, all neatly lined up, and, with my heart breaking a little, dip my brush into the bucket of white Kilz and go to work. After two coats, sanding between each one, I'm left with ten to twelve beautiful new surfaces, all ready to start a new lives. But still, for a little while at least, I will remember  what exised underneath those beautiful white surfaces.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mean Truck 2007

On May 5th of this year, my husband and I headed home, back to New Mexico, from Penland School of Crafts, located in the mountains of northwest North Carolina.  We had been there since early March, me teaching and Bob taking a sculpture class.  Our two small dogs, Niko and Sophie, were nestled into pillows behind the passenger seat of our 2006 Toyota Tacoma truck, which was packed to the gills.  It was full of Bob's sculptures, and all that we had needed for an extended stay including our art supplies and lots and lots of pottery that we had bought while we were there. It was going to be a long drive, one that we were familiar with since we had made the same trip two months before.

We weren't looking forward to it.  Both of us had come down with bad head colds that week, and the virus seemed to be getting worse as it progressed.  None-the-less, we could do nothing except head out early that Saturday morning, heads throbbing, noses running, coughing and sneezing as we pulled away. Our first mishap happened while I was sleeping:  Bob missed the turn for I-40 in Knoxsville and I woke up to signs telling us that we were just outside of Chattanooga.  The wrong turn took us an hour out of our way, but we eventually reunited with I-40.  Our next mishap happened when we stopped at our first rest stop in Tennessee and, upon opening the door to let the dogs out, we were presented with the partially digested contents of Sophie's breakfast sliding down the side of the seat.

We drove and drove, listening to Herman Wouk's "The Wind's of War", 45 hours in all, something we could fall asleep and wake up to without missing too much of the plot.  We checked into the La Quinta Inn in Little Rock, Arkansas after 13 hours of driving.  Exhausted, moving like the living dead, we took care of the dogs, and then stumbled into bed.  The next day we took off again, determined to make it back home in one long day's worth of driving. I-40 was an endless stream of 18 wheelers, us passing some, some passing us, shaking our little truck each time they did.  Rain that was so hard we could barely see drenched us outside of Memphis, and then a gradual browning of the growth on the sides of the road as we continued west.  Another 13 hour day, both of us trading off the driving, sleeping when we weren't driving. At 9:30 that night we drove into our driveway,  breathing in the familiar warm, dry desert air, glad to be home, wondering if we had really arrived or were just hallucinating.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Penland Spring Concentration 7th week.

 My corner of the painting studio with one week left to go

The last week will be a mixture of working, critiques, and cleaning up, with a live auction on Thursday night and "Show and Tell" on Friday, where the entire school will put up the best work they've done over the last 8 weeks.  I've done 20 pieces in this time, all work that I sandwiched in while helping my students who are all, at this point, fairly independent, usually just coming to me for confirmation or advice on how to do something technically.  I've stuck to my rules fairly well, only using materials that I found/scrounged/bought here, or photos taken here as well.  Among other things, I discovered a new technique of using pieces of dry wall mud that have cracked off another substrate, then reassembling  and gluing them down("Trouble").

"Giant Waving", I did using a cast off image from the letter press class for the main part of the body and the ground(found in the trash and used with permission of the artist).

I'm not sure how successful these images are, and I won't really know until I get them home and see them in my studio, away from the clutter and compression of the class.  However, I feel very good about having worked with seven other artists in a fairly confined space, sharing thoughts, ideas, and experiences(as well as being irritated with each at times as well). But most of all, I've loved being part of this community of artists, makers, and art related people who think that spending 8 weeks making art, day in and any out, is just about as good as it gets.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Penland Spring Concentration 5th week

                    "Woman with Spring" 2018

In sharing a workspace with seven other people, I've come to realize how much I need the space and solitude of my own studio.  Because my method of working has evolved over the years, I hadn't really realized what the key ingredients were to my making an image until I found that I didn't have those things.  They are 1. Lots and lots of space(I mean 7-8 large tables space)so that I can spread out and make a mess, and then leave the mess. 2. Not to have to think about what other people are doing or thinking or saying. 3. To be able to go in and out of the many moods I evolve through (among them irritability and frustration) without worrying about other people's reactions. And 4.  To be able put up work in progress and look at it, often for weeks or months, until I feel it's done. 

As we've progressed through our time here, I've found myself stealing as much space as I can and working early in the morning or on weekends when few people are around.  I've learned to tune out much (but not all) of need for approval and attention from the other artists I share the space with.  And I've gone ahead and finished pieces in a few weeks without the luxury of living with them until I'm sure they are finished. And that may not be such a bad thing.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Penland Spring Concentration 3rd week

The rules for working on my own images during my two months at Penland School of Crafts are this:  
1.  I can only use materials that I find(or buy)while at Penland.
2.  I should try and use materials that are completely new and/or foreign to me.
3.  Any photo I use should be taken while at Penland.
4.  I have to stop complaining in my head about the lack of privacy and space available to me.
5.  Students needs come first, except after hours.
6.  I can break any rule I want.

"Round Head" is made from the negative space left over from student Troy Skully's portrait, the white marks are made using a new foam roller from a set bought at Michael's, the mouth is from a piece of dry wall mud mixed with polymer medium with the teeth drawn in ink, the eyes are student Beth Kokol's, and the sweater neck is from a photo of Photography Studio Manager, Betsy Dewitt's cap.  Image not yet adhered, could blow away with the next strong gust of wind that blows in periodically when the door next to my area opens and shuts suddenly.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Penland Spring Concentration 2018

March 9, my husband, Bob, and I left New Mexico for Penland, North Carolina with our two small dogs in tow.  It was a 2 1/2 day drive, and when we arrived it began to snow, and then snowed some more.  It has all melted off and we are left with the purposes of our trip:  me to teach an 8 week concentration and Bob to take an 8 week sculpture class.

I have eight students in a lovely, fairly new painting studio.  I've never worked with students this long, and this intensively(we meet everyday).  It's also a much smaller group than what I'm used to working with.  I have a corner of the classroom for my own materials and work, and have set it up to be as much like my studio at home as possible, which is tricky since at home I have 1200 square feet of studio space and roughly ten tables plus wall space, as well as complete privacy.
I've done a weeks worth of demos for the students, but haven't really started anything of my own yet, and I have quite a bit of trepidation about starting.  I will try and work on the weekends, but have already seen, with this weekend almost gone, and next to nothing done(a trip into Spruce Pine, the nearest town, to buy art and household supplies)how quickly it goes by.  I will be way out of my comfort zone in terms of my ways of working, plus my normal, extreme anxiety anytime I start something new.  I'm going to try and post every few weeks as we progress, so, sit tight, and send a few creative prayers my way.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Not Eating 1997

 As a lonely child I ate for comfort, usually while reading a book, devouring entire bags of potato chips and many many candy bars.  Then, as a young woman, on my own, I found myself seeking out food when I was distressed or upset, which, it seemed, was most of the time.  In the mid to late sixties, there was no information about eating disorders.  I just knew that I was eating too much, always sweet or salty foods, and that I was gaining weight.  I couldn't control it, and it caused me terrible distress. I told no one about it.

Years passed, and I learned not to use food to avoid my problems, instead, dealing with those problems directly. In 1997 I did this painting.  At the opening of the exhibit that included it I noticed a young woman standing in front of the painting, rocking from side to side, clearly distressed.  My memory is that she was very thin, slight and probably in her mid twenties.  I asked her if I could help her, and she turned to me, and said, in a very angry voice, "Why did you do this?  Why?  And what does the red mean anyway?"*.  I don't remember how I replied, only that later I found out that she was from a very wealthy family in Canada and came to live at a resort in Tucson every winter, which is where the exhibit was.  She was, of course,  struggling with her own overwhelming and destructive eating disorder. I wished I could have helped her in some way, but, of course, I never saw her again.

*The red path refers to the cessation of periods in women with eating disorders

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Couple Considering 2017

My relationship paintings almost always portray the woman as being the larger figure, and this painting is no exception.  The woman is from an older photograph of my younger self, and the man, as well, a younger version of my husband. My shoes are red(appropriate), and his green(appropriate but I'm not sure why).  Like the relationship, the making of the image was complicated, involving, but not limited to: many layers of acrylic paint, oil paint, crackle medium, transfers, and direct gluing(not necessarily in that order). The text is Japanese, from what is, I think, a Japanese textbook, but there is no way to know for sure since I don't speak Japanese and don't have any friends that do.  I don't know what is being said, and even if someone were to read the text it would be backwards since it has been transferred.  I simply love the visual look of the letters, and the way they exist and politely enhance but don't intrude. I've found my husband several times pausing in front of the painting and nodding his head in approval. I liked it to begin with, but, with every nod of his head, I find myself liking it a little bit more.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

33 Years: Holly Roberts at the Griffin Museum 2018

On Jan.16 my husband and I flew to Boston for the opening of my retrospective at the Griffin Museum of Photography.  I don't think that Paula Tognarelli(the director of the museum)and I ever exactly planned it as a retrospective, but then, all of a sudden, there it was:  33 years of my work, stretching from 1984 to 2017. It turns out Paula and I are on the same wave length, twins from different mothers. She choose tough images, but also found and underscored the darkly funny ones, like "Sperm and Ovum" and "Snake Truck"(seen above). She ended up selecting over 60 images, filling the beautiful space beautifully, grouping the work following a rough time table of 1984-2003, 2005-2014, and 2015-2017.

 I was there on the opening night to give a walk through to a full gallery, probably 45-50 people.  I went through the gallery selecting images that were especially important or timely for me to talk about, and discussed as well my techniques and processes.  People asked questions so that I could fill in what I do, what I think about, and what I react to when I work.  It was a truly wonderful evening for me, seeing all my children, lined up on the wall, patiently waiting to be appreciated.  I felt proud, a little overwhelmed, and extremely grateful.

There are people like Paula Tognarelli in the art world, but they are few and far between.  She is one of those unique people who love art and artists and have the means and the where-with-all to support us on the rough and tumble journey that we have chosen to take as creative people. It was a night like no other for me, and I can only give thanks to the art gods(and Paula)for having made it happen.

*To see and read about some of the work in the show you can follow this link