Yep, it’s been awhile. But I’m still here.
When I last posted, summer was fading away, so it seems I have come full circle as this finds summer here in the Sonoran desert at its simmering height. Our first monsoon season storm gave us a good drenching on the 3rd & we were fortunate to get another gully washer over the weekend. Our first rains since the end of last year!
Creativity may suddenly take an unexpected turn, but it doesn’t go away. Sometimes it just assumes another identity. Since last July, I had been involved with designing & managing the major remodel of our home, which finally wrapped up back in March or so (there’s always loose ends & unfinished bits at the end of any big project that need tucking in). After that, the contents of our house had to be unpacked & redistributed back to their former locations or new ones found… we lost some wall space after cutting a big “pass-through” window in the wall that separates the living & dining rooms. But the light it allows into what was once a dark hole is well worth the head scratching as to where to put things that used to live there. We have been learning to live in our “new” space, especially, in my case, the fantastic kitchen. Even the studio got a new floor & rearrangement. During that time, I just did not feel the need to document all aspects of what was a tedious, messy, & inconvenient process here on the blog. It’s kind of like watching grass grow if you’re not going through it yourself. So here are a just few “before & after” images to satisfy the curious…
The only weaving activity that occurred during those months was finishing the small tapestry I started during Shelley Socolofsky’s July 2013 ATA workshop retreat (which she’ll be teaching again at the 2015 Intermountain Weavers Conference). If you’ll be attending HGA’s Convergence in Rhode Island, you can see my tapestry there in the ATA unjuried small format exhibit. I did not really enjoy finishing it, but had made a goal of entering it in the exhibit. It was actually a relief to get it off the loom; I have a strongly held belief that unfinished projects which sit around staring at you until you finish them suck some of your creative energies away.
Condor tapestry (Grand Journey) update: I have been in contact with the North Rim several times this year, but there is still no date for the condor tapestry to be displayed. I am disappointed, but continue to hope. She is still in my possession & the Park is working on the situation.
However, although my looms have been slumbering, life was not completely bereft of artistic experiences & endeavors…
My application for an artist residency at Zion National Park (located in southern Utah) was accepted & I will be living in the Park during the entire month of September this fall. The Park only hosts four artists per year, so I feel very honored to have made the cut out of over 80 applicants. My abode will be the Grotto Cabin. During my time there, along with the usual pursuit of inspiration & creativity, I will host open studios at the cabin & will be giving presentations about myself & my work to both the Park (as a public program) & Southern Utah University’s art faculty & students.
I visited Silvia Heyden at the end of January… not really the optimal time for a desert rat like me to be in frigid North Carolina, but she was to give a gallery talk about her exhibit with painter Edith London, which was up at the Durham Arts Council.
I had long ago promised her to attend it & although I had a wonderful time visiting with Silvia, the trip turned into a bit of a disaster as the huge winter storm that paralyzed the Southeast struck while I was there. Silvia’s talk was cancelled, my return flight was cancelled three times, & a car I was riding in slid off the icy road & into a ditch (luckily no one was harmed, but we spent a chilly 45 minutes waiting for a tow truck rescue). But I did get to see the whole exhibit before all that bad juju went down. It was just Silvia & I in the deserted gallery, wandering from work to work as I listened to Silvia muse about her weaving, her friend Edith’s paintings, sketches, & collages, & their at times heated discussions about art. Silvia said she felt her tapestries & Edith’s works were having their own conversations together, much like she & Edith did when Edith was still alive. I had the same feeling…
I am still active & enjoying my role as a Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalist, co-guiding fall & winter nature walks in the canyon & Mt Lemmon nature walks & hikes during summer months. Back in March, I volunteered to design & teach an art component for a special program held for the entire population of 7th graders from a local middle school who came to Sabino for a Science, Nature & Art field trip. Over 200 kids attended, but luckily I only had two groups of about seventeen or so kids for an hour each. That’s not much time to dig deep into either art or nature, but I think I did a decent job. I repurposed old notecards the Naturalist group had been trying unsuccessfully to sell into mini-journals & outlined several different art & poetry activities for the kids to choose from.
After a brief history of field journaling & its importance during the pre-electronic age in the 1800s & early 1900s (think Darwin, Lewis & Clark, & others who had no way other than ink & paper to document the new plants & animals being discovered), we hit the nature trail behind the visitor center where the kids roamed at will, drawing & writing poetry. A few of my favorite thank you cards from the kids…
During the last nine or so months, I’ve had lots of time to think about how to improve & grow in my work. Even though I was not actively leaving comments, I browsed my favorite tapestry & art blogs, recognizing with renewed awareness that some of the artists I admire deeply--Tommye Scanlin, Kathy Spoering, & Janie Hoffman--seem to do a great deal of drawing, painting, & sketching. As does Silvia Heyden. I had the realization that I have fallen into the habit of drawing only for a specific tapestry design & in the past have relied heavily on my photos. It seems that the more one sketches & draws, the more natural it becomes for the subject matter to be rendered not as a literal translation, but instead to represent & evoke the feeling the subject stirred up within the artists themselves. Although I’ve allowed my photo taking to dwindle, because I had started to feel I wasn’t absorbing experiences fully, I thought it was a personal feeling until I heard this segment on NPR about photographers’ inability to remember details… except when taking macro shots. Seems that composing a macro image can be very similar to sketching in that one must look very closely at the object in order to capture it accurately (& in focus).
In exploring sources which I hoped would inspire me to embrace & develop a regular drawing/sketching habit, I came across Danny Gregory’s book, An illustrated life : drawing inspiration from the private sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers , which I was able to check out at my library. Even though many of the artists’ styles do not resonate with me, I was soon absorbed by their discussions of personal aesthetics & methods of working. After a little web searching to learn more about the author, Danny Gregory, I was excited to discover an online sketchbook class series he has developed with another artist, Sketchbook Skool, which I immediately signed up for & which has just begun.
I am also registered for ATA’s post-Convergence retreat, Creative Capital, & am very excited about the opportunity to study with Marcel Marois. After much deep thought, I have made the decision to entirely devote my time in his workshop to the design exercises, leaving loom & yarns behind. I don’t enjoy weaving in workshop situations as I find it very hard not only to concentrate on the weaving itself, but also feel a great deal of angst when trying to decide what yarns to bring. I have reached the point in my weaving skills where I don’t have to think too much about manipulating the wefts (which is not to say there isn’t more to learn!); improving my interpretation & expression are my focus right now.
Not to worry, though, my loom is occupied again with a new tapestry which is slowly taking shape. This is the first time in several years that I have a work underway without a deadline. Weaving just because. A shaped tapestry of a textural nest embracing a pair of curved-bill thrashers. One of my favorite desert birds, extremely active & inquisitive, they are a greyish taupe with intense eyes the color of a crayon sun, & build messy football-size nests in the prickliest heart of cholla cactus…
See you in Rhode Island.