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Rapunzel, After

I’ve been working on writings in a new journal specifically set aside for the Fairy Tale Series (I tend to have to do that when a new series begins to seriously coalesce).  With the new journal, a sewn binding with lots of pages printed with a 4-square graph, I feel more free. I scribble over what I’ve written, test words, move things around, throw stuff out. The painting that goes with this one isn’t done yet, but I did know when I began it what it was about.

Rapunzel, After


It’s hard to piece the story together

from a handful of photos

half-truths, evasions

outright lies.


It’s true about the long-haired girl

and the prince, though he didn’t act

the way princes are supposed to.

He rescued her, he said, but she

was just looking for fun

a little wild maybe

just a girl.


The witch

if she really was one

died. Stroked out on the kitchen floor

while the girl was out shopping

about the same time the prince left

for good though he’d been leaving

all along

over and over and the girl with

first one baby then two

no one to comb her long hair

forgive her, soothe her when she was tired or

rock the babies so she could sleep.


After that it was years wandering in the woods

searching for a prince finding

one after another just like the first

or worse.

Gretel’s Tale

Forty-five years later I can still

smell her stink, indistinguishable

from sour cabbage in the halls, carpets

too old to clean.


Mother laughed at the old woman’s shapeless

black dresses, her shrunken shoulders, the mottled

skin beneath her thin black hair. She was

never home to see her chase


us up dark stairwells, shrieking

imprecations until, breathless, we

slammed the apartment door behind us.

The dog was young then and


the fourth violent husband

still a few years away. The third appeared

amiable as long as he was drunk, and in California

1955, before Las Vegas, Boulder City, Reno


Apple Valley, Albuquerque, before

sitting on the kitchen floor, a cold beer open

between her legs, weeping and talking about

suicide to her 13-year old


Mother was on the way up.


But even then, when

it looked like, in a year or two, we might

have enough to go around, she

and the woodcutter husband


planned one day to lose us

in the woods. If we hadn’t been

so hungry, we would have saved up crumbs for

the trip, because we already knew


the old witch was out there

firing up the stove

bringing the water to boil

eager to pinch the meat on our bones.

Working on new series

What began as the Fairy Tale Series earlier this year is occupying my mind. With the upcoming show at Banfill-Locke in March (March 7-April 10), I have a lot of work to finish.

I feel a bit uncertain about showing work that is so different from what I have been doing for the last 20 plus years. Though my nature-driven work has always been about a few other things besides nature (as some viewers and collectors have noticed), this is still a major step in a different, more obviously autobiographical, direction.

Each of the fairy tales I’ve worked with so far plunges me into contemplation of my own history, both as a child and as an adult. They are all stories of survival against monumental odds, but I also find myself wondering what kind of survival? Does the young woman whose drunken father brags to a greedy king that his daughter can spin straw into gold have much of a future, even after Rumplestiltskin “rescues” her from the king’s promise of certain death if she cannot do this truly impossible task? What if, at some later date and after the goblin has been dispatched and the child she bore the king is saved, the king’s coffers run out? Thinking about this possibility makes me think about my own struggles, and those of my sister, to survive our childhood. The piece I am working on right now, “Straw into Gold,” is based on this tale.

The second piece I worked on tonight is “The Frog King.” The story, which is one of manipulation, lies, and betrayal, features a princess at its center, though mostly as a pawn, which is pretty typical of fairy tales. I keep writing about it, trying to figure out exactly why I am certain I need to work with it and what kinds of imagery will convey my sense of what the story means. It’s a struggle!

The painting above is one I finished a few months ago, the second of those I began. It is based on a dream I had about events in my life, and my reading of the story “The Armless Maiden.”

Play date today

Maybe all I really need is someone I like coming over to work with me in my studio for a couple of hours. Bouncing ideas off each other, listening to music, painting, cutting things up and pasting them down with acrylic medium, talking about our lives, taking a break for lunch and going back to work.

Susan F. came over today and we did just that, holding up our work for one another occasionally for comment or praise, while Sammy followed us around begging for attention (or food – bad dog!).

Even Sammy had a good day. He got to go to the dog park and run, sniff, slobber and be slobbered on. We both came home tired and happy. I’ll try to get some photos up soon of what turned out to be a very productive day in the studio.

Cold January Blues

It is almost impossible to find anything interesting to do or see at this time of year. And this year is particularly bad because it has been so very cold. Even my dog, who is very hardy, doesn’t want to go outside. The early snow, the repeated snow—already more than a winter’s worth—then the deep freeze has me longing for green. Even the view out my office window of the park across the street holds no interest for me. No one is playing in the tennis courts. No one is walking a dog. There are no football games. No one is playing basketball. There are no families having picnics or kids playing in the wading pool. Just snow and trees covered with snow. Brrr!

I checked out a book on collage, thinking that trying something new would inspire me to work, only to find that I am already doing my own version of collage with texture, paint, stencils, and stamps. I managed to finish or nearly finish one painting this month, but what I REALLY want to do is take a very long road trip! I’d like to leave here tomorrow and drive across the country to someplace where it is already Spring. Just driving, seeing the landscape go past the car windows, watching the road unroll before and behind me would make me feel better.

But no. What I am doing is eating the wrong kinds of food (starch, sugar, fat), watching very bad TV (and too much of it), avoiding my studio, and sleeping a lot. Also staying up too late, abandoning books half way through because they cease to interest me enough to finish them, and dragging myself to the gym the requisite 12 times a month.

Sigh. This too shall pass. Just not soon enough!

New painting, part of the “Point of View” series that I started last year. Thinking about how I can show the layers of images that attract my attention when I look out the window—not just what is there, but what could be there, what I imagine is there.

6 to the 27th power

My “Foot in the Door” piece came back with a few dings. There were also some sides to the smaller cubes that I didn’t like and wanted to work on some more. It took me awhile to be more satisfied with the piece, and I still wish I had spent more time preparing the blocks before I painted them. But after working on the piece some more, I feel better about it. Each time I have finished working on the painting part of this, I then spend about 4 hours moving the blocks around trying to find the “perfect” arrangement. I don’t know what huge number 6 to the 27th power turns out to be, but I do know that the choices in arranging the blocks into the final cube is visually complex and a fascinating exercise in composition.

The block was challenging to photograph. I took a number of shots from several different angles. I think this one offers the best glimpse of what the piece actually is like. Along with others of my work, it will be in the WARM Mentor Program exhibit at Bloomington Art Center from September 3 to October 8, 2010. The opening reception is September 17 from 6-9 p.m.

Learning MailChimp

A friend taught me yesterday how to use MailChimp to send my email announcements of exhibitions and classes. It took awhile to figure out all of the options, but I’m glad to know I’m now “legal” and no longer in danger of being reported as a spammer. I’m really pleased that so many on my mailing list have already opened and read the email I sent – some names I haven’t seen for quite some time! This is the first campaign I’ve sent, and the first time I’ve been able to put in practice some of the information I was given at the Internet for Artists workshop on June 16. Afterwards, I went through my calendar and scheduled days on which to send out new campaigns for upcoming classes and events. I’m feeling very organized!

Opening at Banfill-Locke July 11, 1-3 pm

Along with several other members of my Project Art for Nature group, I am showing work at a month-long exhibition at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, 6666 East River Road, Fridley. The time and date have changed since the event was posted on my website (trying to get that corrected before the date!), so please make a note of the new time and date. The opening takes place during their Family Art Day. Several PAN members in the show will be doing demonstrations of their process as well. I hope you can find some time to come out to see some of the work this great group produces.

Moving along

With another two hours work, I finished carving the bird wing stamp on Wednesday. I like the look of it and the amount of detail I was able to retain from the original line drawing.

I needed a couple of days after that to rest my neck and arms, but yesterday I proofed the stamp and then went right away into using it. Here’s the stamp rolled up with acrylic paint:

And here’s the first printing of it, along with the robin’s nest stamp I had previously carved.

I never know where these beginnings will end up, especially when I am using new images. I do expect that the wing and the nest will be gradually covered, then revealed again throughout the painting process. The next stage:

This shows the addition of a texture material inserted between the wing and nest, three eggs in the nest, and the skeletons of trees. Today, I’ll keep adding things to the mix, covering things up, and playing with color.

Hardly working

I’ve found it difficult to make it into my studio during the past week. The stamp remains half cut, the textile piece waits for a decision: should those shiny charcoal beads stay or should I take them all away? My Foot in the Door piece sits on the work table mutely demanding that I adjust the colors just a bit more and do something about the parts I managed to hide during the exhibit, as well as fix the dings that have mysteriously appeared on the corners. But the sun is shining, a warm breeze is blowing, my house is dirty, and my dog wants a walk. Nevertheless, I’m having a hard time sleeping because the art muse is getting cranky. I’ve been having intense dreams over the last two days that remind me there is something I’m supposed to be doing. I’m heading up now!

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