We didn't get a total solar eclipse here in Southern California last year. We did get a nice little crescent partial eclipse, though! I had big plans to go and take photos of the eclipse through the trees in a eucalyptus grove, but then I came down with a fever. I dragged myself off the couch, drove about 90 seconds to the beach, and watched it from the pier.
Ultimately, I decided to focus on the reflection of the light in the water during the peak of the eclipse. What I shot is below, and what I painted based on it is above.
I loved exploring a purple and yellow palette for this! For the first layer I mixed cobalt, ultramarine and pthalo blues with burnt and raw sienna. Then for the final layer I mixed those blues with cadmium red, permanent rose and some alizarin crimson, adding this and that here and there.
So, what do you think about a future scarf design?
I've had these on my mind for a year. Part of what I like to do with my art is inspire people to consider issues through beauty. Part of what I like to do with my life is explore dialogues between cultures. My Artisanat line of luxury accessories will do exactly that, and this is the first item! I've made seven, and they're available on Etsy for purchase. Here's how I made them:
First, I selected three different linens, cut them to size, folded them in traditional Shibori styles and dyed them. With my unique backdrop set using ancient techniques, I could then get down to the carving business.
I had been taking pictures of these specific mosaics on an inner arch of the second level of the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul since 2004. Every time I went, and later when I lived there, I would visit them, take more photos, and know that some day I would do something with them. So for this project I started drawing, then I transferred the design to a linoleum block and got to carving. Finally it was time to print.
A few finishing touches later (hours with my iron) and voila! Traditional Japanese design meets Byzantine designs from circa 600 AD. And a beautiful spread that tells a story for your table. Each table runner is very unique, thanks to the printing and dyeing process. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to pick out the perfect one for your table!
This is it. This is the one. This is the one that I like enough to consider doing watercolors on the regular:
The first two layers of this piece can be found at the Grand Prismatic, in Yellowstone. In case you don't know, not every photo of the Grand Prismatic looks like the geodesic cover of National Geographic Magazine. There's a certain amount of steam... but here are some of my highlights of what I caught. Below, the reflective mirror-like edges of the hot spring.
Now, this is not the Grand Prismatic, but it is one of the springs you walk past on your way there (a lesser prismatic, I suppose). It is bright turquoise. And steamy. Imagine you are a lobster...
Now, the overexposure! This naturally-fabricated popcorn ceiling can actually be found on the ground, under a tiny layer of acidwater, at Mammoth Springs. It reminded me of coral. It's tough to capture the little ball texture of this in a piece of cut paper, but I really like how it turned out with the lighter paper and the curvy edges. I rotated this piece 180 degrees so that the first layer had horizontal stripes, the second layer was composed from upper left to lower right, and the final layer spread from lower left to upper right. In sum, my favorite piece came out of my most drab source photos - go figure! Maybe I'm onto something....
I am newly obsessed with the geothermal colors and textures of yellowstone. I've picked up this little watercolor pad of 15 sheets, and my goal is to create a mixed media sketch out of every last page. Here is my second attempt:
It all starts with an oil pastel resist layer of texture. You can see my inspiration, below. This time, instead of sticking with the white oil pastel exclusively I decided to highlight the shadows with raw sienna and some charcoal, as well.
Then I chose my all-time-favorite color photo. I am obsessed with this hot spring, as is my friend and traveling companion who came up to me on the trail to make sure I got the photo. I don't even know where to start. It's opaque... but it's like a looking glass that leads to Narnia or something.
Finally, I broke out my tracing paper and, oddly, leatherman to add this overexposed outline of the Grand Tetons. I was away at a cabin, my dog was sick so I couldn't really leave, and I had only brought an exacto knife. The complicated fibers of the paper didn't exactly get along with the exacto knife, so I broke out my leatherman - otherwise for use in dire moments of survival, bears, etc. - and trimmed each little thread with the tiny swiss army scissors. I knew there was a reason I always pack for the worst!
Over the summer I moved to LA. It wasn't so out of the blue, but it sure felt like it once I made up my mind to go. Consequently, I've been absent! But I'm back. To get from DC to LA my friend and I drove 5,285 miles through 9 National Parks/Monuments/Recreation areas. As two women from two different countries of two races with two puppies, we experienced some things. We also won the License Plate Game at Yellowstone with our highly-coveted Washington, DC plate.
Between Yellowstone and everything else I have a ton of great art fodder. I'm taking technique ideas I got from Venice and applying them, one by one, to these pieces, which I will share with you. Surprise! I'm doing mixed media. Allow me to walk you through my first Yellowstone-inspired piece:
I hadn't been to Yellowstone since I was a little kid. Now that I know about science, this place was awe-inspiring. The geothermal activity was astounding. This piece is exclusively made of acid hot springs and the ire they wrought on nature.
I started with a base layer, inspired by the texture of the hot springs. This photo is from one of the many springs in Mammoth Hot Springs. Nature does this. Man can't touch it, or he incinerates.
On top of the texture, I did a watercolor painting based on this colorful hot spring photo. I believe this is from Norris Geyser Basin. It is insane what color chemical reactions can make!
Finally, I used artisanal paper to add the silhouette of these trees, scorched by the moving acid that bubbles up from the core of our planet. Let me know what you think of this new series!
Bravely facing Memorial Day bridge traffic, my friend and I drove the Eastern Maryland portion of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad driving tour, starting at the new Harriet Tubman Visitor Center in the Eastern Maryland marshland. It's an odd area, and in the 1850s it was also different from the stories we heard growing up about slaves following the drinking gourd from the deep south to freedom. This is the environment in which Harriet Tubman grew up. She lived to be an old woman, escaped slavery, returned home repeatedly to help about 75 friends and family escape in daring rescues, and later was a scout and spy for the Union Army, freeing 750 slaves in one operation behind enemy lines. Here is part of her story.
In the Eastern Shore, about 50% of black people were free. The enslaved black folk were owned by white families who usually owned small farms. As both white and black families grew, they splintered off onto other farmsteads and were given or sold or rented out. Harriet Tubman spent her early childhood years here, but was often rented out to other families. As she grew older she hired herself out for manual labor. Through this work she developed entrepreneurial skills and a wide network of both white and black contacts, including Quaker abolitionists and free black sailors, who became critical in her freedom operations.
Early in her life, a teenage Harriet was in this store when she refused to help a slave owner pin down his slave. When the owner hurled a weight for the store's scale at his slave, he missed and hit Harriet in the head, almost killing her. From that point forward, Harriet suffered seizures in which she believed she had a direct line to God. She was a devoutly religious person even before this incident, and attended church every Sunday as was required by law. She learned from listening to scripture that God delivered his people out of slavery, and these seizures helped her put into action her desire to set her own people free.
Local laws stipulated that blacks were not permitted to congregate, for fear of organized rebellion. In any case, it wouldn't make sense to hatch a rescue in a public area. One of the places where Harriet would rendez-vous with escaping slaves was a rural cemetery, like this historically black church cemetery that remains in use today.
When the deep south began industrializing agriculture, the Eastern Shore was a chief supplier of slaves who were shipped off to plantations from the Cambridge wharf to never hear from their families again. Two of Harriet's older sisters were sold to the deep south to pay off their owner's debts when Harriet was a very small child.
In front of the Cambridge courthouse was the slave auction block. Here one of Harriet's rescues took place. As Harriet's niece and her children were being sold on the auction block, the niece's free husband outbid the crowd. Before payment was collected, however, the entire family had disappeared on the way to freedom under Harriet's care.
In addition to Harriet Tubman specific lore, the Underground Railroad trail features other remarkable sites illustrating life during and after slavery. One such site is this 7 mile long canal, dug by hand by slaves to float timber down to the shipyards.
Slaves were not permitted to learn to read, prior to emancipation. After slavery was abolished, a group of families founded this one room schoolhouse in Cambridge, which remained in use long after it was founded.
The Eastern Shore is far more than a respite from the city. Its rural quietude rich in wildlife belies a complicated and diverse history of people eking out a living in an isolated, waterlogged patch of land. The Underground Railroad here is unique to the Eastern Shore's geographical make-up, proximity to the north via the Chesapeake, and lack of industrialization. Every rescue was a story onto itself and you can explore each one today with a map, a tank of gas, and some curiosity, thanks to the descendants of this cast of characters from the 1850s who have restored the sites and welcome you.
I first learned about Peggy Guggenheim’s palace in Venice on an airplane, watching the movie “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.” On an intellectual level I understood that she was alternately the patron or the muse of some serious modern art heavyweights during a very influential period of the New York art scene. She was married to Max Ernst, and while that didn’t last their collector / collectee relationship seemed to, and she ended up with a wide variety of his pieces. My impression after seeing the film was that Peggy Guggenheim, aside from being an eccentric member of a bizarre family, spotted and promoted a Who’s Who of 20th century American art, and her estate in Venice was a necessary box check for anyone interested in modern art.
What I didn’t fully realize was that Peggy Guggenheim’s own home curation stood the test of time. Neither did I fully appreciate the completeness of her artistic vision until I saw it with my own eyes. This woman was not collecting baseball cards, she was collaging the tableau of her home. The curation is outstanding. I’m not going to list off examples of now shining stars that grace her walls, since they blinded my own impressions until I got there. What I will say is: LAYERS.
The pieces speak to one another - there is a Bridget Riley next to an Agnes Martin. Lines, lines, so many lines! And there are glass sculptures of Picasso figures lining a window facing the Grand Canal. And there are layers and layers and layers and layers and layers. When you visit Venice you must go here on your first day, because afterwards you will see inspiration everywhere. With Peggy as my muse, here are some of the photos I took:
Finally, like many art museum experiences, my brain was overcome with ideas that I feared were fleeting so I walked, umbrella-less, through the rain pouring into the open courtyard to the cafe to jot down my notes. They are:
Keep an eye out to see what I do with them!
*Also, Tancredi. That is a post for another time.
Queuing line after line through the Hirshhorn’s Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit, when you take the time to read about the boundary-breaking Japanese artist’s work you are overcome with a very relatable sense of fear. First fear of sex, then fear of death, then a resolution of both as death and existence lovingly become metamorphosis. Out of fear comes immortality, just like Kusama’s artwork and her reputation over decades of an evolutionary career.
Fear is of course a very relatable human experience, and the journey through #infinitekusama is like walking through her self-soothing medicine cabinet. Sculptural works and infinity rooms guide the viewer as Kusama, a celibate who enthusiastically participated with performance art in the sexual revolution, works through her fear of sex.
Not all of Kusama's thoughts are fear-mongering, though. According to Sarah Thornton in “33 Artists in 33 Acts,” Kusama experienced hallucinations of pumpkins speaking to her in a “generous unpretentious” way when she was young. The pumpkin infinity room certainly pays homage to these beings, which one imagines have been Kusama’s constant companion while she wrestles with her fears.
While the exhibit is very much a walk through Kusama’s internal world, the visitor is always a participant. Windows into small infinity rooms overpower the viewer with millions of lights or fantastic polka-dotted beach balls, with one view of the viewer’s eyeball lest she think she could hide. And the rectangular roped-off lines of people waiting their turns juxtapose with the observation that not a single Kusama work seems to contain a straight line.
As the exhibit progresses, wrestling with the fear of death becomes an increasingly potent theme in the infinity rooms.
In one, lanterns to guide the souls of the departed overpower the viewer with brightness at first, then entirely blacken. They come back, as do the departed in our memories, but never as bright as the first celebration of a life well-lived.
Finally, a fantastic overlay of sculptures created in the manner of Kusama's early work over bright two-dimensional paintings rounds out the visit, with one description noting that these works could depict the souls of well-loved departed animals. Each work has a floral element, which to me speaks more to love and fertility. It gave me the sense that even if Kusama’s fears have not subsided, she has played a trick on them and morphed them from the prospect of sexual violence and death to love and eternal life.
My photography attempts to capture the same ethos of a place as my painting, but I approach photography from a fine art rather than technical perspective. I enjoy a good challenge, so I shoot on manual and manipulate the lenses and settings to capture a specific feeling with each shot. No photoshop for me. For the same reason I most often print directly on acrylic or brushed aluminum - my goal before hitting the trigger is always to envision the contrast or ethereality of the final product.
I've been enjoying playing with some of my photos to create unique textile designs, lately. Click over to SHOP: OBJET to see what I've done with cherry blossoms and architecture.
I've painted as long as I can remember, but taking fine arts classes "for fun" in college became a massive creative roadblock. After three years without picking up a paintbrush, I got back into painting in 2007 by embracing limitations. I stopped using brushes and I stopped caring about figurative work. This selection of my paintings reflects that - these are all based on photos I took that I wanted to recreate with the beauty I felt when I saw the original image.
My painting hones in on the colors and textures that I find in nature, archaeology, and even mythology. I believe strongly in the ethos of place, and my paintings are designed to recreate that feeling for the viewer. Then, I take it a step further and design accessories based on my paintings so that everyone to whom they speak can enjoy them in creative ways.