Month: May 2018

Painting to Save the Trees

Last weekend I got to be part of the Elisabeth Jones’ Art Center’s Painting to Save the Trees. It was very rewarding. We spent 2 days painting trees that are threatened by development. I find it so backwards that we cut beautiful trees down to make way for development when human habitat is clearly improved by access to nature. Developments that preserve notable elements of the local landscape are more unique and inspiring. What keeps this from being standard protocol besides how deeply we have buried our heads in the bottom line.

There is so much more to life than profit. We know this, we see how many of us are depressed, sick and stressed out. We now have daily reminders on the news of how being rich doesn’t make someone admirable. It’s time for each of us, in some small way, to bring more nature back into our lives: visiting the park more often, planting a native species in our yard, planting a flower in a pot on our apartment window sill, talking to our friends and neighbors about how lucky we are to have the natural features nearby that we do, paying attention to developments in our neighborhoods and commenting on them, sending messages to our representatives to let them know we prioritize nature and equal access to nature.

I have made some small efforts in my personal life to preserve and prioritize nature but I’ve always wanted to use my art to this end also and have not been able to wrap my mind around how to do that without merely making art as commentary. Painting to Save the Trees was a great way for me to get involved on a deeper level and I hope it inspires me in new directions.

I painted the oaks twice because I had extra time and I thought I might like them better in a more illustrative style, which I do!

New Studio

I moved a couple weeks ago, here’s my new studio, still getting organized!

I am pretty excited to be back in Portland, I have already been on a couple birding trips, a yoga class. There are just so many more options here it’s easy to make fun things work with my schedule. Tomorrow I am going to a tarot meet-up as I have finally reckoned with my mystical side. As someone who loves and appreciates science I felt a little squeamish about how drawn I am to tarot but there are a lot of people these days using it for personal growth instead of fortune telling.

What I like about the cards is the archetypes combined with art and chance. It creates an opportunity to see things from a new perspective and think different thoughts on an area of my life where I was stuck. Whether or not my spirit is drawn to particular cards based on a message it wants me to hear or if my own creativity simply makes a meaningful message out of the cards I happen to pick is a question I don’t feel like I need to answer. I’ve been reading for friends lately and they find benefit in the readings so I’m eager to learn more.

In the meantime here’s the first art journal pages in my new space.

Other Mysteries

Shotpouch Creek is lined with little homesteads and ranches, homes and barns on organic shaped plots of emerald grass between the highway and the creek protected by hills on either side. Some of these steads have tiny herds of livestock, perhaps 8 head of cattle, a dozen goats. Some have odd collections of alternative dwellings like converted buses, most run-down, or just cars sinking into the mud. It does not seem to be a very prosperous valley except for the tree farm on either side. Still, the enormous maples covered in moss and the rich green along the creek make it seem idyllically pastoral.

I am driving up the gravel road on my way to the Springcreek Foundation’s cabin where I am to do a 4 day artist residency. Of course I have been looking forward to spending 4 days in the woods painting trees. Taking 2 days off from the office job to do so felt like getting away with something even though there was no subterfuge required. As a relatively straight-laced person I derive an enormous amount of pleasure out of any sense that I a bucking an oppressive system. The discovery that I could wear flannel pjs under my work slacks, for instance, kept me in good spirits for weeks.

I had planned to arrive early this morning but now it’s just after 3 pm and my former excitement has waned to a dim hope that whatever I have become so desperately allergic to in the last few days is magically not present at Shotpouch. The organizer of the residencies did inform us that there is no poison oak on the land. This is the sort of miracle that could be followed by more miracles, I reasoned.

I arrive and settle in with great hope, chatting with the other artists between coughing bouts. I go for a walk in search of a place to hang a hammock. My allergies are not improving and sleeping outside is not a promising option. I hang my hammock anyway then spend some time admiring the art projects former participants left at the cabin, visit some more, journal, make a simple dinner and then head out for a dusk walk

I know I won’t be able to stay long and am strangely at peace with this lost opportunity. It is so calm here I can’t help but wade through the stillness and feel that things in the waist high nettles are as they are: answering to no one, accounting for nothing. The robins are making a late night of it, chuckling and flitting across the trail, their gray bodies easily mistaken for bats, mischievous fairies or other mysteries. It is not a peace I am sinking deeply into, I have a move to make, a housing application pending. Perhaps my psyche is so invested in future concerns I can’t fully grasp that my painting retreat is slipping through my fingers.

After attempting to sleep outside, feeling that each particle of pollen is a tangible presence in my lungs I go in to sleep on the couch and leave in the morning when I realize I’m losing my voice and I can’t not talk to the other guests.

I am a bit slow to the ways of the world. In a few more days it will occur to me that other people medicate themselves and go on with their lives when the pollen hits. But I will still feel magically as though nothing went wrong. The creek still winds through the homesteads and the cabin’s land. It is a place protected and cherished and there is another time for me to be there.

Inspirations: Francesca Woodman

House #3 by Francesca Woodman

Yesterday I decided to work with photography, layering drawings and pictures together. I felt I was betraying my tactile-painter-self but I admit, it was enjoyable. Today I encountered the work of Francesca Woodman on-line. I’m assuming most of my artist friends are already acquainted with her work, her influence has clearly spread long and deep in the arts. It’s just like me to be oblivious to anything outside my own tiny sphere. I am totally enthralled with her work. It is hard in this age of visual overload to find work that grabs me so completely I can be riveted by an artist’s entire body of work and not just a few things that look good on Instagram.

What moved me the most was how she seemed to be defining femininity as as a thing vulnerable and soft but imbued with wily, mischievous strength and wrought with the same luminous decay that fuels nature. Delicate blossoms command the lives of bees for a brief moment then bruise and rot into the ground, a nurse log in the forest gives up its structure to feed new roots.

There is much debate as to whether Woodman was a feminist. I believe the feminism we see in her work is simply that she was a woman making the work she wanted to make. I don’t believe her work is about resisting the male gaze, it may give that impression at times but only because she was too busy making her art to be concerned with the issue at all. She works completely outside the idea of a male gaze and men who can’t fathom such independence assume she is merely resisting their gaze, classic.

Francesca was raised to be an artist, a whole person defined by her passion, she did not relinquish that.

For as remarkably tuned in to the beauty of decay as she seemed to be it is ironic that she cut her own life short in her youthful prime. I feel heartbroken we didn’t get to watch her work evolve, let it be another reminder that metal illness should be talked about and treated instead of shamed and hidden.

Photo Experiments

The other day I started experimenting with layering drawings on top of photography. The next day I encountered the work of Francesca Woodman which had a profound effect on me. I was mesmerized by her photos and heartbroken to learn she ended her life early at 22.
After work that day I made another photo and drawing experiment, this one influenced by Woodman though I wouldn’t expect that to be obvious to anyone. Her work is infused with decay which makes me think of vultures who have the same kind of sweetness about them that Woodman’s work has. Obviously that’s subjective. I’ll write another post about¬† my encounter with Woodman’s work.
I don’t think I’m creating anything terribly unique with the photos I’ve made but it inspires me to try out a different medium.

Diary May 2018

Mostly May 2018