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Monday, March 30, 2015

Little Thieves

Looking inward after the boys last visit, I did a little X-ray art. It seems to be the theme at all our office visits. We gaze at images capturing our son's jaw, our teeth, the other son's spine, my foot and then my heart. Our insides are on display.
I didn't like the title "Little Thieves", but it kept coming to me while I was playing with spray paint, gesso, inks, and cut foil.  Over and over, I become aware that for the last 23 years, my heart hasn't been my own, and my babies have embedded themselves into my very being. I can't hold them still. I can barely comfort them for more than a few minutes. They wiggle free, look in the fridge and make plans to meet up with friends, wave good bye.

My sister, Gwen Strauss, has written a wonderful short story, Take the Spaceship, published in Two Bridges Review (just published by NYC College of Technology of City university of NY). There are some lines in it about how mother's are always waving goodbye.
...she writes: "Part of the drama of motherhood is letting go. First you release them from your body, then from your breast, then with each milestone they move further away. They need you less and less. The mother is always waving goodbye. There is only so much you can help them with. They learn to spot your failures. You are often helpless. How do you teach them that life is short, so they take the heart when it is offered?"

That is what these pieces are about...The kids are always leaving. And when the kids leave, they take a part of me with them. I try to hold onto them, to keep them close, and it just doesn't fit any of us.
They struggle with it too.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Brag book

I end spring break with all my tax stuff ready for the accountant, and, (drum roll... please), the 2014 photo album all put together. Both were herculean tasks and cause for much review. One hundred pages of images capturing beloved visitors, pesky children, art openings, graduations and funerals, and dream trips almost forgotten. Now I celebrate by going back to work with a little less clutter in my brain.

So they say....

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Clinton Shepherd in Clewiston

Some fabulous murals in the Clewiston Inn's bar! Clinton Shepherd (1888-1975), the mural painter, was born in DesMoines Iowa. He studied some at the Wisconsin-Kansas City University but dropped out with his brother in 1906 to go live with the Crow Indians. ( I can just imagine what their mother went through). Finally in 1910 he attended the Chicago Art Institute to study painting. When WWI came along he enlisted and was a bugle boy. After the war he worked as an illustrator in NYC for magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and Woman's World. As glossy magazines lost advertisement in the depression, Shepherd moved to Westport Connecticut and took up sculpting and painted covers for pulp fiction books.

In 1935 he moved to West Palm Beach Florida and taught at Barry University. He also became director of the Norton Gallery School of Art in Palm Beach. He died after a heart attack at his easel when he was 87 years old. (A fine way to go!)
He painted the murals for the Clewiston Inn in the 1940's. They were painted in his studio on linen and then installed like wall paper. With his careful planning, the art wraps around the interior of the room, framing the doors and windows with indigenous wildlife of the Everglades.
It was wonderful to sit among the creatures in the flora and take note of what animals still exist and what we may have seen in our travels. It felt truly like a time capsule. The bar room is a gem and worth a stop to see. It is in great condition because it has not been open to the public and is only open for the guests of the hotel.
Only a little older than Howard Simon, an artist I helped install an exhibition for last summer at the horsebarn, Shepherd has some of the same stylistic tendencies but would have just missed Simon in NY. I wonder if they knew of each other...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Circling "The Big O"

Watercolor of sugarcane field, canals edge, and smoking sugar factory along old route 27
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest freshwater lake in the US. At 35 miles by 29 miles wide, it measures only 9 feet deep at the average, so it seems like a wide grassy dish. It is the birthplace of the Everglades and has a controversial history muddied in agriculture and folklore.
Pahokee marina campground

Being on SPRING BREAK (scream that!) I set off with Michael, our binoculars, history books and snacks to travel the circumference, estimated at110 miles. It is about 90 miles up highway 27 from our apartment. Crossing under Alligator Alley, 27 is the road less traveled. I have passed it countless times on my way to the west coast. In my curiosity of wondering what lies ahead in the road, I've wanted to follow 27 and the large power lines that seemed to march stiffly into a faded fuzzy grey in the distance. After much debate and research, we left our bikes at home because of the many closings reported for the Florida Trail along the rim. Construction is estimated to close sections of the trail through 2019.
Driving my Hyundai along the highway we noticed the ground of the landscape changing intermittently from white and sandy (this central Florida used to be seashore a gazillion years ago) to dark and loamy (the product of Everglades rich natural compost). Sod seemed to be planted and harvested to the east, and Domino Sugar cane to the west of the highway. We passed three prisons run by GEO, multiple trailer parks, cattle ranches, and two huge sugar factories pumping out smoke.
We spoke to a fellow at the railroad tracks (where we waited for one of the 5 daily trains full of cane sugar to pass) who told us that the factories worked round the clock on three shifts. Most of the traffic on the highway was large trucks or smaller ones pulling motorboats.
Northern most point of the lake
On the eastern edge of the lake, in the hamlet of Pahokee, we mounted the dike and saw the water for the first time. Michael and I had a picnic of baguette, tomato, cheese and olives with some red wine. We marveled at the white and the brown pelicans, the ring billed and laughing gulls, black skimmers, great blue and common herons. We decided to keep a bird list.
By early afternoon we passed where the Kissimee river meets the lake at the northernmost tip, and we witnessed a dramatic osprey fish kill. We passed fields of cattle resting under palm trees and mossy oaks and were on the lookout for the rare Audobon Crested Caracara. Turning down an access way called Indian Prarie we came upon a flock of endangered wood storks, great egrets, a kingfisher and grebes. Pecking daintily along the shore was a flock of black necked stilts. Out on the lake surface we scanned fishermen and coots, brown common ducks, common moorhens, and Anhingas in our binoculars.  The shore was riddled with wild papaya, and it was there that we got our first sighting of a Limpkin and a red wing blackbird. Spring is really here!!! I thought of my dad and wished the bird would flee up north to give my family up there some respite from winter. I thought of my grandmother and her love of birding. Songbirds I could not identify filled the shrubs and trees.
By 5pm we arrived on the south west side of the lake, at the "sweetest city in Florida", Clewiston, built by the sugar industry. We checked into the Clewiston Inn, which was originally a guest house for the US Sugar company. Asking the check in gal what there was to do, she shook her head sadly and said, "It's Saturday night, not much going on".  She recommended the Elks lodge for their steak dinner, but after we found them closed for the evening we ended up at the  local TikiBar down by the marina. The place was filled with bass fishermen. Apparently everyday is a tournament.

The next morning, heading out and back to Miami, we took OLD route 27 and came upon eagles nests, alligators in canals, lots of turtle sightings, snakes (yellow and red and black), and on our way home we counted 13 osprey and three large nests.
It was a safari along the big O. No Crested Caracara this time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Palette knife paintings culminate the paint focus before spring break

All student work with heavy body acrylics. First we practiced on sheets of paper. This helped them decide whether they liked their choice of image or not. Then we primed small Masonite panels. Surface prep and microscopic " tooth" was discussed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alexander called her, and the middle school class answered

Bad joke. But here are some of the results of our Calder wire lesson. First I had the students watch a film and answer a short Quiz. Then we read together a SCHOLASTIC magazine article about the artist. Then we had a guest speaker who made a demo mobile with wire and plastic coffee stirrers. For the assignment, the kids could make a mobile or a stabile, but they had to think of LINE and grace...and movement. Afterwards they had to share whether they felt themselves to be a 2D or a 3D artist at heart. Their answers confirmed my suspicions.

My colleague Robert really helped with the lesson . He is passionate about Calder. The kids got a lot from that enthusiasm.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The last acrylic project with demos

A week before school let out for spring break, my three painting classes attempted their last acrylic painting lesson. Palette Knife Painting. The point of this was to use heavy body acrylics (feel the difference in texture) and NO BRUSHES. They painted on wood panels with sticks and knives. Everyone had to work from a photograph so that I would know what they were attempting to replicate and be able to help them.
The two paintings above are my demos from two of the three classes. The beaver was from my imagination as I rose to the challenge of student requests, and the poppies were inspired by an image projected onto the wall from the internet. The third demo piece was a football in the grass, and it is already in someone's home.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More beyond Moore

After reading about Henry Moore the middle school mixed media class took to carving blocks of foam and slapping acrylic paint. The idea was to represent a sculpture that embraced both an interior shape and an exterior (contour) line. They came up with mixed results. These were the best.

The small figure with dog reminded me of Alexander Calder and his circus... so that is next!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Through the looking Circle

The most recent assignment called for the students to create a circular viewing window and go outside the classroom to find some natural design to paint with acrylic on a larger circle, (an actual Pizza parlor cardboard pie cutout). We are so lucky to have fine weather this time of year... not too hot yet.
The students had to refer to their color wheels to make sure to maintain a harmonious color scheme. That rendered many of the circles quite abstract. I think they were pleased with the results.
I would love to do this assignment with biology slide specimens. They already look like germs!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Things I love about Miami

The blossoms in January, February and March, southern BarBQ, class trips to Wynwood, and refreshments en plein aire, and balmy nights under palms.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My own art centers

I was able to spend 7 and a half hours in my studio yesterday. I went in there with no idea what to do, and came out with my feet back under me. Once again I learned that it is very important to show up.
studio painting wall shot
 Just straightening up and sharing with Michael my latest paintings, I was made aware of changes that needed to be worked through. I repainted two of the large heads of my son. Then I worked on a large rib cage... putting my boys inside instead of my heart or my lungs.
There is so much worry I can place safely into the art, and cleanse myself so that I can be open to the gifts of God. By painting it out, I make time to completely wallow, and then, most importantly, I let it go. This painting was so illustrative I just had to add the words.
Whispers and Islands (he's getting better)

Healing touch re-worked

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This teacher had an Art Opening on a school night

Got some prime real estate on the wall hanging next to some awesome teachers. It was an inspiring night at the art Institute. And they gave me a certificate too!

The other teachers I showed with were D. Aguilera from Doral Academy High School,  J. Alvarez from Everglades High school, W. Alvarez from Ronald Reagan Senior High School, J. Caldwell from Miami Central Senior High, V. Fascie from Norwood Elementary School,  C. Humes Jr. from Barbara Goleman Senior High, G. Obregon from A.P. May Conservatory of the Arts, L. Longton Lindsay from Coral Springs Charter High School, R. Parris from North Miami Beach Senior High school, A. Richard from Shenandoah Elementary School, and M. Suarez from the Ada Merritt K-8 Center