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Monday, December 26, 2011

To grandmother's house we go

(ndp) Instead of through snow covered forests, we traveled Christmas day across alligator alley in an apparent Florida tradition (judging by the other cars on the road), to get to the other relatives and celebrate the holiday.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stone castle Built for love

Yesterday I visited the Coral Castle in Homestead, FL. with my eldest ( and sometimes lovelorn), son. We heard a story of romantic heartbreak and walked through the flourishing creative masterpiece that resulted. For 20 years- between 1920 to 1940-Ed Leedskalnin carved and moved tons of rock to build a castle in memory of Agnes, his "sweet sixteen" bride to be. Ed was a private man, an immigrant from Latvia, who lived alone after his bride-to-be rejected him the night before the wedding. He may never have understood why, but even as a small man of 5 feet and 100 pounds, Ed understood the physics of leverage and weight. Coral weighs approximately 125 pounds per cubic foot. The walls around the castle are built in sections 8 feet tall, four feet wide, and 3 feet thick, (approximately 13,000 pounds a section). Ed studied the skies. His reading chairs are carved and placed so that, living without electricity, Ed could shift chairs and read with light perfectly aligned to the morning, afternoon, and evening sun. My favorite part of the castle is the crescent moon, which weighs over 23 tons and is 20 feet tall!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Focus on Roots

Judging from all the cards I have sent, all the trips to the post office laden with packages, all the prep done in the kitchen, it dawns on me that this holiday is, for most of us, hyper-focused on seeking where we belong. I can feel completely ungrounded and barraged by commercial promises of a better life (that, by it's very nature, is a strong message that implies my life is missing something). But nothing I buy in a store can give me a sense of my place in a larger family... I need to be near my sons, to reach out to my parents and siblings, and to pass blessings to my friends and acquaintances.
Yesterday I took time at the local park to sit among the roots of a giant Ficus tree. I undertook the drawing in three phases- pencil, watercolor wash, then ink- training my eyes to see the shadows and spaces around the roots. My brush taught me to really look. That is where I live most of the time- looking in the space around things...
While I drew, the ducks came creeping to check me out, a group of kids started climbing the tree curiously peering over my shoulder, and couples posed for their photograph a few feet away. For the time I was creating I felt the sense of place in the wider sense of family.

Hope everyone, including myself, can stay grounded and in the light this day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My day off

Here I sit in the screened patio amid laundry and under a bright blue sky. I should be working on reports, or drafting up lesson plans. The house is scrubbed and the kids aren't coming until tomorrow.

I'll take a walk.
Go see the water.
Eat a fresh papaya.
Learn the words to that Cuban song that haunts me.
Paint another picture.
Call up a girlfriend.
Stay out of trouble.
Procrastinate on the paperwork!

watercolor and ink on paper, 11 x 7 1/2 inches

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feeling a bit like Martha Stewart

Got the sewing machine out to make garlands out of wrapping paper, and am decking the halls with boughs of palm fronds. Its such a strange Christmas without my traditional souvenirs to lay out. We are starting from scratch and it makes you so appreciative of the moments. I can't help but gleefully exalt the new chairs Michael brought home last night. They are metal faux bamboo, and have palm trees painted on them!!! And they are really comfortable!
Martha (Stewart) has a way with working with what's at hand, for setting a beautiful table, and cultivating domestic bliss.

Monday, December 19, 2011

cross breeding art

Here is an example of art and music and farming mixing it up. I am honored to be cited as visual collaborator on Janie Christensen's CD Painted Birds which came out in June of this year. The sound is really lovely. Use the link to her website to order your CD, through CDbaby, and listen to free award winning holiday tracks. Another great gift in our lives has been the art sponsorship of the Hudson Valley Seed library. Michael's art is featured on the packet of sweet salad peppers!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


trying to make gifts for our close circle of friends... the holiday brings out the creativity of our spirits.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coloring the negatives

It's not always about the positive here in Miami!
Take these Palm trees...
Sometimes I like to play painting "backwards". I use it as an eye exercise when I fill in the sky around an object.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tis the begining of elfing season

Pictures of my dad's shop.
He is a major inspiration for me. Over the years I have seen him make magical gifts out of ordinary rubbish.

I don't think he believes anything is rubbish. He sees potential everywhere.
He changes the way I look at the world. And that is the greatest gift he can give anyone.

-So- it actually jolted me overThanksgiving weekend...

to see all that he is working on... a real flow of ideas and an abundance of craft.

There is a tradition in our family started by dad- of making personal handmade gifts.

Some are made with intention specific for the recipient. Most are made and given away to the next person who walks in the door.

Hes' got a line up of art objects this year that I hate to divulge, though the pictures show pretty clearly the diversity and richness of his elf shop.

It's truly only a sampling. I left out half as much. His inspiration is everywhere and completely influences my own creative practice. He nudges me to work harder, and to play more. I have to get going now on my own gifts.
Perhaps I can avoid the mall.
Thanks Dad. (ndp)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Facing questions

I tried to do this without mirrors. We talked about what they knew... what they might have learned about color, drawing, proportion, perspective, depth, value, and humor. They were given scissors, paper, glue and paint. It was meant to be a culmination of the semester of painting class.

Groups of teenagers worked tightly together, generating swatches of color amid sounds of laughter and screeches of delight. Was it all fun and games?

Eyes gaze at me from angular choppy backgrounds. The added text both mystifies and clarifies the personality of the artist. They need more lessons in design! Likeness? Proportional gesture? What am I trying to teach? What is it that the teenage artist needs? They are, to be truthful, trying to satisfy a teacher, glimpse at their true selves, and not lose face. But that won't get us anywhere. It's all a process of seeking, work, and risk taking.

There are 37 portraits in the class. Each of these paintings has had two or three predecessors. Each one shows potential for another transition. The room hovers between chaos and alchemy. There just hasn't been enough time for it. I see my weaknesses.

Todd Poteet, director of the Mill Street Loft, always said- "a painting is never finished, it is just abandoned". Next term I will go slower. Drink less coffee and shed more of the northern pace I arrived with. We wont quit. Maybe we will get somewhere. (ndp)

Here are some of my favorites.

Sharon Butler post: Saatchi slams artworld

"My favorite quote from all the post-Miami anti-artworld posts that have gone online this week is this excerpt from Charles Saatchi's Comment in the Guardian. "If I stop being on good behaviour for a moment, my dark little secret is that I don't actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and simply cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others – a received pronunciation. For professional curators, selecting specific paintings for an exhibition is a daunting prospect, far too revealing a demonstration of their lack of what we in the trade call 'an eye.' They prefer to exhibit videos, and those incomprehensible post-conceptual installations and photo-text panels, for the approval of their equally insecure and myopic peers. This 'conceptualised' work has been regurgitated remorselessly since the 1960s, over and over and over again."

Saatchi's right. Everything about painting is difficult, from makng it, to choosing it, and, for painters, delivering and storing it. Video would be so much easier, right?"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Role reversals

I am an artist teacher... a teaching artist... an instructor, and guide, a painter, (a mom), a critic, a wanderer.

Here are two of my "students". They have taught me about patience, perseverance, time management, focus, flexibility, diversity, friendship, youth, girl stuff 2011, and... I have taught them how to manipulate clay, get right to work, get muddy, build a slab box, glaze bisque-ware, accept flaws as part of the perfection, and... they posed (quickly) in clay class!

still recovering from the pARTies

Ahhhh... Miami!