Sunday, May 30, 2010

Color and pattern

A turtle I found on a morning walk--Alex studied him for a day and then released him back into the wild.  I am struck with the similarity of color scheme to this painting....

New layers

A new version of an old painting that just nagged me until I acknowledged it actually wasn't finished...I am much happier with the painting now.

37 heads of garlic

Our garlic crop was an experiment last summer.  But when our harvest turned out to look and taste just like garlic, we were hooked.  THIS summer, Chris put a lot of cloves in the ground and yesterday we both gasped when thirty-seven big, beautiful, wonderful heads of garlic came out.  We are addicted to growing garlic, thrilled by it actually.

You should see the beets!

Floating Circles

This recent painting links to this painting from the end of last summer--in my mind at least.  I like the yellow painting and I don't have it anymore as my friend Jered owns it now (which thrills me to no end!)  Making the above painting gives me a more direct connection to the experience of my yellow painting--carrying it forward to some degree.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notes on painting (from a current studio notebook)

I don't really want to discover painting as predictable.  I also don't want painting to reflect some facet of real life or real culture or contemporary reality--suggesting of course that painting is not real in comparison.  Of course painting will grapple with reality but I don't want painting--my paintings--to be a shadow, a facsimile or a tame approximation of lived life.  Instead I want painting to rear up on its hind legs and BE what it is.  My painting is most interesting to me when it stands fully alone and strongly alone.  The paintings are best when, knowing I made them, I am nonetheless still incredulous about how they came to exist in the world.  They are very separate and real and upright and full and I cannot take my eyes off of them--what I just describe is not a common occurrence but an ideal and rare one.  Most often I am faced with the unavoidable evidence that yes, I made this.

So painting is like a river running parallel to my living.  It never stops, is constantly moving along, and I periodically step in and fumble along for awhile until I get a handle--my bearings.  And then when I am upright and full I can move along with the river--and painting tells me how to see the world anew.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lacto-fermentation experiment #2 (Kishk)

Kishk is a powdery cereal of bulgur fermented with milk and yoghurt.  It is easily stored and is valuable to the winter diet of isolated villagers or country people. Kishk is prepared in the early Fall when the wheat crop is harvested. Milk, yogurt and bulgur are mixed well together and allowed to ferment for nine days. Each morning the mixture is thoroughly kneaded with the hands. When fermentation is complete the kishk is spread on a clean cloth to dry. Finally it is rubbed well between the hands until it is reduced to a powder and then stored in a dry place. To make kishk porridge, melt one tablespoon of qawwrama. Add several garlic cloves and fry lightly. Add (preserved wheat) two tablespoon kishk and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Add one cup water and salt to taste. Boil and stir until the desired porridge consistency is reached. Serve hot.

From Food from the Arab World Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge, Khayat's, Beirut 1959 

I am on day five.  The smell is delightful--strong, but also slightly sweet.

Aside from the fact that it is not fall and I have not harvested any of my non-existent wheat crops, I think living in Climax, NC qualifies me as a "country person."

My recipe is from Sandor Katz' book, Wild Fermentation,

Sketchbook page

"When I painted a chair recently, I noticed that I put the paint on indifferently, smoothly but without particular attention.  The results were satisfactory but not in any sense beautiful.  Does the attention in itself with which paint is applied in art actually change the effect of the paint?  Does the kind of consciousness with which we act determine the quality of our actions?  It would follow, if this were true, that the higher the degree of consciousness, the higher the quality of the art.  I think it likely.  Training in art is, then, a demand that students increase the consciousness with which they employ techniques that are, in themselves, ordinary."
Anne Truitt, p. 130-131 from Daybook

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Delirious joy! It's official, we've another bookworm in the house!

Lacto-fermentation experiment #1 (summer)

Despite my teaching leave in the Fall and despite my sincere hopes for a different spring semester in terms of physical, spiritual and artistic equanimity, I lost it by about April.  The studio went up in smoke.  All personal reading turned into a growing pile of unopened books beside my bed.  My blog lost steam.  And worst of all lunch frequently became handfuls of peanuts eaten while standing in front of the cupboard.  As might be expected, I got sick toward the end--not majorly so, but enough to result in a 7 day course of antibiotics.  Antibiotics are not evil obviously but I really don't like taking them, especially for seven days.  Every day I'm on antibiotics is one more day during which all the bad stuff is being killed (good!) but then all those nice, friendly, helpful bacteria we all have and need are being decimated too (bad, very, very bad).  At the end of seven days my body is functioning without infection--but wearily, and all in all I feel kind of like an empty corn husk.

Being that this last course of antibiotics was so obviously the result of some pretty unbalanced living, I effectively woke up to the fact that I am really, REALLY not twenty-two any longer.  I gave up coffee, cut way, way down on refined sugar, flour and alcohol, eliminated peanuts from my diet (because I found out they contain mycotoxins very frequently which is not so agreeable to our bodies) and started eating a lot of, well, sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut is a miracle food!  Not the cooked kind of sauerkraut but the kind that is made by mixing chopped cabbage with some sea salt and whey (the rather gross looking liquid that always sits on top of your yogurt the day after you've eaten some), pressing it hard into a glass jar until it's covered in its own liquid, sealing it up, setting it on the counter--and then waiting a couple of days for it to do its thing!  In those three days or so something amazing happens!  All the good bacteria in the jar start fermenting the cabbage, little bubbles begin to dot the sides of the glass, AND if you are like me and decide you are going the press the crap out your cabbage while piling it into glass jars, then you might have something of a fizzy, explosive science-experiment kind of event when you open the jars.  But if you throw some purple cabbage into the mix your explosion will be pink and rather beautiful, as you can see above.  And really, no harm done--in fact, it is quite humbling to experience the reality of food that is actually, truly alive. 

But back to sauerkraut, the miracle food.  Faced with the slaughter of all my good bacteria, I began eating lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and really, truly my body is humming again, back to its preferred balance.  But to be honest, I feel even better than normal; I feel kind of like my body is glowing with health.  So now I am hooked on fermentation, and I've resolved that aside from this being a summer of painting, reading, gardening and general all-around vibrancy, the summer will be filled with as many forays into lacto-fermentation as I can muster.  I doubt they will all be as visually lovely as this one.

Here's the recipe I used--from Sally Fallon's wonderful book, Nourishing Traditions:
(Makes one quart)
In a bowl mix one medium chopped cabbage, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 4 tablespoons whey.  Pound with a meat hammer for about 10 minutes until the juices are released.  Press down firmly into a quart sized jar until juices come to the top of the cabbage.  The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar--very important!  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before placing it in the fridge.  The sauerkraut can be eaten at this point, but it gets better with age.

Piles of green

In April I do not believe it's possible to have too many greens in the garden...or that we couldn't feasibly handle EATING all of greens in our garden.  And then May hits.  We are drowning in greens!!!  Spinach, swiss chard, kale!  (My list fails to account for the arugula and mustard greens already gone to seed.)  Yesterday I cut half of our spinach down, filled two big bags, AND turned all of it into one relatively small quartsize bag of sauteed green--now frozen and ready for lasagne or soup come whenever we should need frozen spinach again.

The semester is over too--I'm deeply happy to have space in my head again for posting.