WOULD YOU COME?
I have a Studio Cat.
Her name is Tiny Angry Dustcloud,
but she isn't Tiny
and she isn't Angry.
We are heading to my summer studio
the end of May.
I'm trying to figure some stuff out,
making plans to apply for a 10-month MAT program
starting in July of 2024.
I'm also figuring some stuff out to paint,
and some stuff for writing.
I'm figuring more stuff our to research
and even more to knit.
I'll be in my studio
on an island off the coast of Maine.
Someone mentioned I should have a time,
an Open Studio time for visitors,
tourists who come on the ferry.
Maybe they'll buy a puzzle or two.
My Studio Cat loves people.
George and I were heading down to Long Pond in Massachusetts. It was a place my dad's side of the family had been going to every summer since I was little. We always stayed in a big, old house called Ashanty with my dad's brother and sister and their families and my grandmother, Gran. There were 17 people staying in one house on a pond for a week in August and it was always the very best time. This time, though, was different.
My grandmother had been diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of 1998 and it had progressed rapidly. By August, there was not much time left and Gran did not want to die in a hospital in Lexington. She wanted to be at the place she loved the most, surrounded by family. We were all grown, many of us were married, and a few had kids, but we all dropped everything to head down to be with her. My uncle and aunt had gone to get her and on the way back to the house, she had slipped into a coma.
Gran was put into a beautiful, old wrought-iron bed in the bedroom she always stayed in when she was visiting Pompey and Margi in their house. It was a little cozy room off the screened-in porch, facing the pond. All the windows were open so the gentle wind could blow through and she could hear the loons in the evenings. The living room and dining room were right next door so she could hear us laughing and talking as we had our giant dinners and know we were all there for her.
We all would go in to kiss her on the cheek and say goodnight before heading to bed. I was six months pregnant with my first child, so instead of having to walk through the woods to Ashanty, I stayed with my aunt and uncle, along with my parents and a few other cousins while everyone else headed over to the other house for the night. There was a feeling, that second night, a mystery none of us could figure out. The night was eerily calm and a misty rain was falling as we all headed to bed.
I had a dream that night. I heard a branch snap outside my bedroom window and knew without hesitation it was because my grandfather was there. He was coming to get Gran and bring her back with him. He died in 1975 when I was eight, from a heart attack. As he was finding his way around the house to her, I was sitting on the edge of Gran's bed, talking with her. She was no longer in a coma but was sitting propped up on the bed with pillows behind her back. She was holding my hands and we were talking. I was telling her the names George and I had picked out for the baby. She was the only person I told. She agreed Annika was the perfect name.
I woke up around 3 a.m. On my way to the bathroom, I ran into my uncle. As I became more awake, I heard the soft rumble of a car engine in the driveway and muffled voices downstairs. She was gone, he said. She passed away about 2:30 a.m. while she and I had been dream-talking about baby names.
A few hours later as cousins began arriving for breakfast, we all discovered every one of us had woken up at the exact same time in the early morning, at the same time she had passed. We had all had some experience of saying goodbye to her and we all knew PopPop had come to take her home.
I wrote yesterday
during the last critique
of the last group of senior painters
on our last real school day
just before our last school installation opening
for the first public invitation
in four years.
I wrote a poem
about each of the kids
(they are all the same age as my kids)
and what they like to paint
so I will remember them later.
I greeted a friend,
my son, Ajax and
my daughter-in-law, Taylor
who came to the opening
because Ajax can't come on Friday
the day of the Formal Opening.
I got home,
my introverted levels low,
hand-in-hand with my emotional levels.
I read some posts
I shouldn't have read.
I should have skipped,
I should have by-passed.
They weren't to me, or for me,
but they felt like they were
because I post what I write,
because I want to hold myself accountable,
because I think maybe one person,
might feel they aren't alone.
to those who stood up for me.
to those who said to ignore the haters.
to those of you who said to not listen
to keep writing
to keep being me
to keep posting
to keep doing what I want.
I am doing what I want
and what I came here to do in the first place.
I had a last minute assignment to do before my final critique for Paintings Major class today. It had to be sent before class and in an email. I wrote it yesterday night but the editing is taking place today, so, as there are no rules for this fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, technically, this still counts as writing. So here goes.
Question One was find contemporary artists who are similar to me in form and content.
What are my forms and content and who are the contemporary artists I should be looking at? What does this mean to me. Alphonso Dunn has amazing techniques using line drawing with a crow quill pen and ink. I love how he draws his flexed hands and feet, the curvature and shadowing he can get on his skulls, and his use of colors on his tree frogs.
Rick Shaefer works beautifully (and LARGE) with pen and ink. He draws gorgeous landscapes, cityscapes, and animals, all exquisitely rendered.
Ed Fairburn creates portrait drawings with pen and ink using pointilism. His surfaces are topographical maps where he pulls facial features from what he sees within the map key, using lines representing rivers, mountain ranges, and roads.
Olivia Kemp doesn't even use a pencil to sketch out her ideas, she just starts right in with pen and ink. If she makes a mistake, she incorporates it into her design. She draws from imagination, creating worlds and cities that look as though they could be from anywhere, or from your favorite book. The details are amazing, it's like a puzzle, trying to find all the bits that make up her whole.
Then there are the artists who paint to music. James McNeill Whistler who's paintings were made to Chopin's solo piano compositions or Paul Klee who enjoyed Bach's polyphonic choral works. Stuart Davis, Piet Mondrian, and Henri Matisse all enjoyed listening to jazz. Melissa McCracker, similar to Kandinsky, is a synethesia painter, seeing music in colors and shapes. I am not saying I am a synethesia painter, but I do believe my paintings gain some inspiration from the music I listen to.
Question Two was what is the formal element I used to install my thesis work?
Although, most of what I found was for painting techniques,
I'm assuming the same reasons
can be for installation purposes as well.
Am I looking for order or
am I trying to rebel at 55.
The grid brings order to chaos,
it keeps information neat
Installing in a grid calms
let's me see clearly,
when the artwork is not so calm.
Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture,
Chuck Close's grids,
to help him with his Prosopagnosia.
Betty Tompkins's allowing the grid
to stay visible.
Michelle Grabner created her own grid.
A working mother,
she used grids to stop and start,
to stay on track when she couldn't sit
for one whole sitting.
Agnes Martin's grids
comparing nature to grids,
representing ideas she saw,
like trees to innocence.
Grids can be quiet or bold
meditative or vibrant.
Grids can be a vehicle
for movement or color.
Pat Lipsky painted mosaics,
sometimes in color
sometimes in black and white.
The grid can be a palette,
The grid can help with drawing
buildings or Frank Stella's shapes.
Grids are organization,
a direction to follow,
to stay within the lines
........or to not.
Who am I?
I've been trying to figure it out
because I don't think I understand
I don't get the question?
I am a mom
to three adult children.
I have twin boys and a daughter
who got married last October
so I have a fabulous daughter-in-law too.
I am a wife
to a Sergeant in the police department.
We have been together
since I was 24.
I love him dearly,
I don't want to be with anyone else,
except maybe myself,
but I don't know if I LOVE him.
There's a difference
and I don't know what that means
I am a daughter
who feels the same about my parents.
It makes me feel guilty
it makes me wonder,
and it makes me sad.
I am a sister
the oldest of three.
I see my parents more,
my brothers live out of state.
I am not the favored one
although we are always told
there are no favorites.
Even my children know, we have always known,
that's not true.
We are not the favored.
I am a bagpiper.
I used to be.
Thanks, Anxiety and Depression.
I play just for myself now
on an island.
I play for seagulls and boats passing by.
I am an artist.
I am a Painter.
I am a Weaver and
a Writer and
an Explorer and
a Linguist and
I love my cat, Dusty.
I am not the same as normal.
I don't know what that word even means.
I have always felt off,
Who am I?
It's a gray day.
It's been this way
for over a week.
My feet are cold.
We ran out of oil
the end of March.
It's been raining a lot,
the wood is all wet.
I go to bed early,
partly because I don't have
to stay up late anymore.
That was for writing papers
finishing art projects
starting new paintings
having assignments to work on,
to worry about.
Now I can watch a movie
with my husband and
knit real wool socks
for my frozen toes.
I can curl up in my bed
with my heated electric throw
for my frigid feet.
I have three chonky cats
tucked in close
and an overdue book
I'm too tired to read
I've been thinking maybe
I shouldn't have done this.
but not as scary as
applying for art school
at the age of 51.
Not as scary as
actually going to art school.
Not as scary
as being in classes with 18-21 year olds
when that age group
even as an adult
because it brings up bad memories
of being teased
and pushed into bushes
when you were ten
but were taller than the teenagers
Not as scary
as presenting your senior thesis
to the faculty
the Board members.....it's ok
all the seniors have to do it.
We are all scared
but we do it because we all know
it's a requirement for graduation
and that makes it less scary.
I look at this picture, one of my favorites, and it makes me smile. This was such a good day. Everyone was in such a good mood after a day in Bar Harbor. Now these silly monkeys are almost out of the house. Annika (middle) will be 21 in about 2 months! She moved out of the house last October and has been struggling, but mostly happy (I think) living in Maryland with her most amazing girlfriend, Taylor, and their melange of animals. Shippen is figuring out life at the University of Maine at Orono while Ajax is at University of Southern Maine in Gorham. George and I decided college should be for everyone in the family so he is going to Husson. As for me, I couldn't be happier as a 52 year old freshman at Maine College of Art in Portland.
Of course, now that my fall is starting, I was looking ahead in my calendar when the realization that I have a HUGE amount of things to do between now and Christmas, hit me like a tidal wave. These first few weeks of school has been a whirlwind of activity. I have been a little overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. I am still trying to figure out how to get all my homework done. The difference I am finding between art school now and school 30 years ago, living on campus, is immense.
For those who live in or around Portland, you all know how much fun it is to find parking. Luckily, I am extremely fortunate to have a friend be my taxi service to drive me in to school as well as picking me up afterward. There have been a few days where I have had to drive myself and even finding a place is nearly impossible. Today, I circled the block 5 times before I finally found a space near my drawing building. I didn't have that problem when I was at Hood. The other big difference is getting work done. I have to go into school later at night or on the weekends to make things such as pots for my ceramics class. This time, there is no strolling from the dorm to the art building any time I want.
I am having the best time. I love all my classes and the kids are starting to talk to me. I am trying to make a point to say "Hi" to at least one person I don't know every day. I also knit all the time. I knit during my English class, during critiques, during assemblies and at the end of day when I am waiting for my ride. I have had a number of people come up to talk with me. It's a great ice-breaker as well as keeping me calm and less stressed out with the day. I have also sold a set of dryer balls and been told I should try to get a table at the MECA Holiday Craft fair in December. My application was sent in yesterday.
Every now and then, your life needs a restart. It may feel slow or stagnant, old and reliable or just kind of "blah" or "meh." It's not a bad thing for that to happen but maybe you want more, maybe there is something you have always wanted to try but you have been afraid. Sometimes, you need to take a leap of faith.
I took a leap of faith this spring. My last two kids were waiting to hear from colleges. Maybe it was fear of being an empty nester or excitement for them to be able to experience a new world without mom and dad. They can go do whatever they want to, I don't know and neither do they. Whatever the reason was, I applied to my dream school, Maine College of Art. To my shock and amazement I was accepted. To make it even more exciting, I did not transfer any of my credits from Hood College, the school I graduated from almost 30 years ago. I applied as a freshman, taking all the freshman classes, hoping to earn at least one major in Painting, maybe two, Textiles, and earn a minor in Arts & Entrepreneurship as well. Maybe that's biting off too much, who knows?
I spent the end of last week at Orientation, me, with about seventy-five 17-19 year olds who looked at me as though I had two heads. A few teachers came up to ask me if I was a student or a new member of the faculty. I was given business cards from professors if I needed someone to talk to or meet for lunch, or coffee. As much as I wanted this, I think I was totally unprepared at the same time.
Today was the first day of classes. The night before I went from pure excitement to feeling as though my whole stomach was going to land on the floor for the whole world to see. I had trouble falling asleep. What if no one talked to me? What if I had to sit by myself? What if I was ignored? What if I didn't understand anything? What if....? I finally fell asleep around 2:30 in the morning.
Mondays and Thursdays are my heavy days...three classes and if I thought the teachers were going to go easy on the first day, I got a very rude awakening. First class, 8:30am on the 5th floor, 3D Design. I got there early so I could find a seat near the back. Seven absents and you automatically fail. Yikes! Not that I was planning to skip, other than the first Friday when we take the kids to their respective colleges, but failure is a stiff price to pay. First assignment: create a 12" cardboard free form sculpture due next class...ummm….that's in 3 days....I had to read the instructions at least 4 times to even begin to understand the directions. I now sit in my home studio with two massive pieces of cardboard sheets I have to cut down to 12"x1"x1" strips to make into a 3D square tube to create alternate meanings for a sculpture. Don't get it? Neither do I.
English class was next. I love my teacher. I think this class will be informative. Not only are we going to learn how to write well for research papers, but also learn to write as an artist for grants, residencies, scholarships etc. First assignment: write a simple Artist Statement. As easy as it is now, I know it isn't going to stay that way. The teacher mentioned the Foundation Reviews as our final exams. Have we heard about those? No? Oh, well, those are oral presentations we give in front of 3-4 professors about what we have learned during our semester. Excuse me? Regular exams are bad enough but now you want me to stand and talk about what I have learned?? As I told my Textile Group in the final class, the last 4 days have thrown me COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone. And oh yeah, did I mention I am terrified of teenagers? They laughed and one of them said "Don't worry, we are too."
This whole experience is a massive leap of faith. I have jumped with my eyes tightly closed but found myself completely curious as to what the environment was like as I fell through the sky so I opened them. My inner, tiny voice has been screaming at me, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE????" while my curious voice keeps shushing it and says "Wait. We can DO THIS."
I can do this. I WANT this and if you have something you want, you should go for it as well. We are not getting any younger and no one is going to give us what we want. The path is going to be full of sticks and stones, potholes and mighty hills but there will always be someone there to help us along. Even if it is an 18 yr old young woman who looks like a deer caught in the headlights who has the 2D class but can't find her room. We are both nervous, both early and together we go make sure she knows where she is going.
I believe the actual photo for the inspiration to this painting was taken by my cousin, Nina Houghton. The picture was taken along the Sandy Beach Road on Islesford in the evening so the boathouse was dark against the amazing sunset. This was one of my earlier paintings, acrylic on aquaboard. Clouds and skies intrigue me, among many things, and trying to paint the beauty of an incredible sunset is very difficult. I was told by someone, "Why bother? You'll never get the sunset to be as magnificent as it really is."
I agree with this statement. I will probably never get any of my paintings to look exactly the way they really are and I'm not trying to. Instead, I see it more of a challenge to see how close I can get my paintings to invoke some sort of response from the viewer. There are colors I see in the night sky that make me think anything is really possible. Or, how is that possible? How is that color, right there, that bit in the mountains, how is that possible? And why isn't it reflecting somewhere?
I often use photographs from family and friends as my jumping off point. The photograph gives me shapes and positioning of objects such as an old boat house, or a boat in the tall grasses or the formations of clouds in the sky, and then I go from there. I take bits and pieces from the photographs and integrate them with my imagination. Maybe the final painting reminds the viewer of a special place but in reality, it is nowhere at all.
I know I will not get close to the brilliance of some of the sunsets I have seen but the challenge to try is right there. The same can be said for finding the various shades and textures of green for the trees and bushes and grasses outside my studio window right now. I'm not painting to give an exact replica of what is out there. I paint to remind myself, and to show others, of what I see in my world right now. My paintings remind me of people who are gone, my kids growing up, pets that are no longer here and my favorite places. I know "impossible" is all around me, but the rewards I get from trying to create the Impossible have been incredibly fulfilling so far.