Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I love (Seven)

I love living with art.

Images from top to bottom: 1. painting by Helen O'Leary, teacher and friend, 2. early painting by Michael Christy, classmate at Penn State, 3. early painting by Gerald Davis, classmate at Penn State, 4. collage/print by Adam Wolpa, friend and classmate of Chris's at Iowa

Man-made trees

I remember when cell phone towers became trees. Conversation with friends was periodically peppered with "Have you seen...?" I hadn't but I imagined what they looked like until I'd convinced myself I'd actually seen one. Well, this weekend I actually saw one for the first time. Some things are stranger than we really know.

Memphis: City of Artists and Glorious Food

Last Thursday, just after Alexander left for a visit with grandparents, Chris and I filled the back of our car with paintings, collages and drawings (and a new-to-our-family black border collie mix named Benny who is AMAZING, but that's another post) and drove 11 hours west on I-40 to Memphis, Tennessee. Our friend Hamlett Dobbins, a wonderful painter and talented connector of people, invited us to put up a two-person show in his exhibition space, Material.

Chris and I arrived in Memphis around dinner time--a bit dazed from the road but utterly thrilled to begin a visit that would become expressly devoted to thinking about art, talking about art, and looking at art--particularly painting, of which there is A LOT in Memphis. Hamlett kicked it all off by taking us for the hottest barbecue sandwich I have ever eaten--coupled with sweet tea (something I have never understood until now), baked beans, coleslaw and fries. Our first taste of Memphis barbecue (thicker and more tangy than what I know of its NC counterpart) was the start of many a heavenly food encounter.

We hung the show Saturday morning--after a long breakfast in the kitchen taking up the important question of just what are the best podcasts to listen to while working in the studio? (Radiolab, Fresh Air, Speaking of Faith, sparing doses of Bad At Sports, This American Life) I'll post pics of the show later--we were pleased to see how easily and seamlessly the work mixed and the opening Friday night was fun and packed with gracious folks.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the company of artists. Hamlett took us to Don Estes' studio--housed in a building completely rehabbed and made glorious by Don. We spent a hour with Erin Harmon in her space, talking over the pain and challenge of work transitions and marveling at the lyricism of her touch. Melissa Dunn's strange and compelling abstract paintings link astronomy, mid-century modernism and Better Homes and Garden interior shots--proof again that the specificity of the artist's voice specializes, relishes and glories in melding what should not logically meld. We also visited Beth Edwards and Susan Maakestad.

It is a wonderful and even humbling experience to visit artists studios:
I was/am so struck by the generosity and fullness of lives dedicated to those highly particular and individual questions made manifest in painting. I was/am buoyed by the tenacity and determination to MAKE in the midst of busy lives, busy times and a world that often does not really care if paintings get made/are made. And I was/am encouraged because it seems like my world is a bit larger now--fuller and better. In the quiet of one's own studio, the recall of all the others who are also in their own version of quiet and pointed contemplation can be a very great help.

(The image at the top of this post was taken in the Memphis Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zucchini and Cucumbers

I've so much to say about our recent trip to Memphis. We had three days full of art, studio visits with inspiring painters, and really, really great food. Thank you Hamlett--host extraordinaire!

BUT we came home to an overflowing garden, and so the race was on...I've been pickling and preserving much of today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thinking spaces 2

We are home--the garden is bursting its borders.
1. tomatoes toppling
2. watermelon vines creeping over the cucumbers
3. the biggest patty pan squash I've ever seen is sitting on our counter/I suspect it is now a perishable still-life object.
4. I love the blue of our leaf-dappled dusky sky.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thinking spaces

I gather there exists a small industry which generates and provides pictures, beach-inspired textiles and more to beach houses.

I wonder what the designer(s) think about when they are designing for such spaces.

I understand all the shells and starfish and variations of blue and tan.

But this space, my little room of the week, has been such a lovely place for thinking and reading and being alone--and I like the notion of some designer sitting and mulling over how, just how might she design draperies and images and wall coverings conducive to a thinking space coincidentally residing near the ocean.

I am thinking of using a swath/stripe of the bedspread here in a painting soon to go into a gallery space in Memphis.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beach reading

My son and I are spending the week at the beach with a large contingent of my dad's side of the family. I've spent 1-2 weeks each summer on a North Carolina beach for as long as I can remember. While I am a real lover of the ocean's edge of the world beauty, I also associate the beach with major jags of reading.

My husband likes to joke to our friends about Campbell family beach trips; they are typified by the following.
1. a bunch of people in a room together (or on the beach)
2. no talking
3. everyone's head in a book
4. complete satisfaction, relaxation and delight
I remember the summer I read Middlemarch on the beach; no doubt that volume still has sand buried in its spine. I also recall the summer I frequented our dock in my swimming suit--flipping repeatedly from my back to my stomach while making my way through the heady and wonderful world of Annie Dillard; I'd picked up a three book volume including Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. There was the summer of Anna Karenina, the summer of Watership Down, my Madame Bovary week, and a continuation of my George Eliot love affair with The Mill on the Floss. I recall each of these books vividly, but I also recall the inimitable conjunction of saltwater and sand, beloved family, invented worlds inhabited deeply and intensely amidst a landscape so able to loose one's thoughts extravagantly.

This year I'm reading The Inheritance of Loss, and here's an excerpt from the book which got me thinking through the kind reading I do when I'm at the ocean:

"She was beginning to read, faster, more, until she was inside the narrative and the narrative inside her, the pages going by so fast, her heart in her chest--she couldn't stop."

For some more on the book, go here-- to one of my favorite blogs about art and life and living and reading and writing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Serious Silliness and Set-ups

This afternoon: a marathon "set-up" building session with all the wooden blocks we could dump out onto the floor.

I tried to take some photos with the camera in my computer as Chris has our camera in Georgia to document studio work. Alas, the shots of Alexander dancing were a lot more interesting in the end. (I rather like their quasi film-still look...)

Dancing, knocking ants off trees with water, set-up building, double banana-bread making, and I am investigating the prospect of making some Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly pies...these are the markers of our day together.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine

I finally watched the most recent documentary on Louise Bourgeois last evening. While I determined to turn it off twenty minutes in (feeling too tired at first to endure 99 minutes of Bourgeois's typically opaque intensity) I somehow could not pull myself away in the end, and I watched to the very last credit.

I wonder how woman marry, have children and make art of the highest quality. (I wonder this a lot actually, and so few women who've managed to juggle all three are interested in talking it seems.) Bourgeois of course never touches upon the how, as those questions/wonderings are no doubt so very far from her thinking these days, but I wanted to watch until the end nonetheless to see IF she'd shed some light. Perhaps her intensity is a clue. And her willful, defiant, almost hermetic vision? Cantankerousness might be a requisite? A predilection for hot pink fur coats and spangly hats, singular red rose always in hand?

In the end, I watched because she is a captivating anomaly. She is obviously of the art world, while being so, so out of it. She resides quite fixedly in the history of 20th century art; but she's also adamantly in the present dialogue. She taps into her past and her memories to an almost embarrassing degree, and yet the work is oddly accessible, even frank.

The bigger, more important question/lesson/inquiry to pull from the film might be more readily, "How does one tunnel so deeply into one's own pursuits and still emerge with whole, accessible, enigmatic, fully unique and alive work?"

Shape and Color (2)

My husband left yesterday for a beautiful and wonderful residency in North Georgia. While he's spending his time working in the studio, hiking the many trails on the surrounding land, meeting new artists and writers, AND enjoying an amazing vegetarian feast each evening (I'm off to Hambidge myself in late October so no that isn't envy you are hearing in my words but a plug for Hambidge, urging YOU to go too...) Alexander and I are holding down the fort at home.

Of top priority is the vegetable garden which is putting forth yellow squash after yellow squash, soon zucchini and tomorrow (I think) the heavenly sun-gold tomato. Today, while watering (and subsequently musing) I marveled at the size of our zucchini plant leaves--and their color. I think the possibility of being swallowed up by zucchini leaves is not as improbable as one might imagine; these gain new girth each day!

We've spent today constructing "a world of pillows", making up new versions of mankala, eating our fair share of popsicles, and counting down the days until we head to the sea with Nana and Grandad.

Now I'm exhausted and off to an evening of reading and drawing and perhaps watching a movie.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Surrounding my new studio...

Home, our garden, my family....moments like the one above.

Climax Studio

This is the project occupying me of late--painting and cleaning the space just next to our house that will be my studio come fall--or perhaps sooner.

The space served as someone's workshop in the past. I am drawn by the wood walls--original to our home's construction I believe--as well as the work table which acommodates me at standing height. I've actually long wanted a studio table tall enough to meet my preference for working and standing, so there are ways in which the space already is custom-made.

I think this space will be that last "new" studio I have for a good while--a nice feeling after going through nearly 10 studios in the 9 years since graduate school.