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time well spent…

August 21st, 2021

dorothy’s dahlias

This week I was blessed to have a private visit with my 93 yo Aunt Dorothy, who is the light of my life. She, being an extrovert, often has a crowd around her, so for us to just enjoy private time together was so special to me, and seemingly her. She has always had my back, as I imagine she has many others. She is the most kind, giving and generous spirit I’ve ever known; although Marion was a close tie.

In conversation, I ran something by her that had really upset me, although it was by then, days past the incident and I was pretty much over it. I just wanted her wisdom on this. And she delivered!

Upon waking this morning I had an epiphany from that wisdom, that toppled my decades of resentment.  She knew so well this disturbing dynamic having been a witness, for all of my 7+ decades. Her comments were as if she handed me the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my life. All of a sudden, everything fell into place! Old hurts and conversations now all made sense.  Relationships that had tormented me for years all suddenly made sense. I could have been SO angry and yet I wasn’t. I finally felt free of the burden. First, I felt absolute liberation, then I got angry, then I wondered if my time here was nearly over, since I had finally figured this huge juggernaut out?!!!

And then I went into another Zoom meeting. The speaker, Paula Kovarik is an accomplished renowned artist who seemingly is my kindred spirit. I identified with so much of what she said, not only her artistic inspiration (Klee, Calder, Kandinsky etc) who are also mine; but her philosophy about life and art-making. Wow, just wow!

She spoke of bringing what is inside, out; which is exactly what I am doing in my work presently. And in releasing old painful wounds. I am in awe of her work and her art practice, and her discipline (treating art-making like a job!) but mostly what I gleaned from this look inside in her world, today, of all days, is the reminder.

The reminder from Paula and from my  aunt, of paying attention, being present; not only smelling the roses, but observing… the textures, the colors, the patterns, the shapes, all that forms our personal universe. Paying attention, so that when another life lesson presents itself, we notice, and don’t spend decades harboring the hurt. Some folks NEVER get that, whether they are not paying attention or thinking it unimportant. I am blessed with awareness. And most of all, learning from those lessons and moving forward…

And in others news…I just noticed I have not blogged about two pieces of work that were juried into the prestigious Intl Fiber Arts X at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, in beautiful downtown Sebastopol! The show is on now till September 12, open Thurs-Sun 10 am-4 pm; masks required. It is an incredibly diverse exhibit of fiber work, much of it sculptural.

well it finally happened…

July 21st, 2021

detail Liar Liar 2

As a retired workaholic, raised by a workaholic & related to another workaholic, I am one of the most organized artists I know. I have curated, juried, packed and unpacked a number of exhibits, and know all too well that many artists lack this organizational skill-set. I have always been super proud of my organizational abilities and being a low-maintenance artist, at that. Until today.

Today I discovered I am human, that I too can be so distracted that I made a potentially fatal screw up on a submission. Well not actually fatal, but the physical reaction in my body did not feel good! The other thing I learned is maybe I should stop titling work #1 and #2.

I have learned in the past few years that my best ideas bloom while I am exploring them. I want to dig deeper, and make another and then maybe another after that. So other than being more mindful, more fully present in my brain while doing the exhibit paperwork, I will probably continue to do consecutive titles.

Liar Liar 1, detail

So what happened was I entered the image for Liar Liar 1, into an exhibit but mistakenly titled it Liar Liar 2 on the submission. I did not enter Liar Liar 2. I confirmed on the acceptance email that the actual Liar Liar 1 was accepted. How could it be otherwise, when I did not enter the other piece?!!!

The horrifying moment occurred as I discovered this error, as Liar Liar 1, is on its way right now to the exhibit near Chicago. OMG, what if I shipped the wrong piece?!

So I calmly looked at my initial submission and yes I had shipped the same piece I entered. Whew! So basically I had to change the google doc with labels and eat some crow by admitting to the curator that I messed up; that I, the former workaholic/nee organized artist blew it!

Do you have any idea how difficult that is for me, little ms. organized to admit I screwed up? What if they think I am a flaky artist was of course a thought. Until I remembered,  shit happens, they don’t know me, I am quite distracted by the daily life of a loved one with Parkinsons, and so what? I made a mistake. Mistakes happen. The world is not going to end because I screwed up. The very worst thing that happens as a result of this is if the work sells, I make less money. I stuck with the price I submitted, as that is the professional thing to do. And I learned something….slow down and reread those entries!

So tell me, if you have ever screwed up an entry?! I’d love to hear about it…

drowning in paperwork…

July 10th, 2021

can you read this? nah…me neither

Never have I claimed to be a voracious reader. That would be my daughter! How could two lousy comprehension slow readers produce a kid who reads everything she can get her hands on? And if she can’t find it, she writes it! It simply astonishes me.

No, I am the plod along, always distracted (multi-task, moi?!) eventually I will slog through it, reader. My worst nightmare would be to belong to a book club where I have to be accountable and actually read an entire book in a prescribed amount of time!  And y’all who continue to recommend books to me? Ha, you have no clue how long that list is!!!

Several years ago, in a move of supreme ingenuity, I stopped downloading books to my Kindle, which actually served as a holding space for someday I might actually read this. Now I simply save money & titles to my wish list, which is really a giant virtual post-it of stuff I want to remember but likely never will actually do that. The Kindle initially was a great invention for people like me. It ended the visual guilt trip of a stack of books purchased but not read. Out of sight and all that jazz!

A few years back I tried as one of my new year’s goals, to read for 30 mins a day. It started out great for about a week, then went the way of the weekly plank pose. I can have incredible self discipline in what I eat but don’t even think of trying to get me to read daily!

Wasn’t technology supposed to lessen the paperwork load? Whatever happened to that idea? No, I am drowning in stuff I need to read. At this very moment, there are catalogs from three exhibits I have work juried into. This is a good problem to have, and much easier to read as they are very visual; i.e. looking at pretty pictures which goes so much faster than a novel. There are three magazines, as in who subscribes to magazines anymore?! Apparently I do. I canceled my Mother Jones subscription, even though I love the articles, mainly because I just don’t have time to read them. Because for me, reading also means comprehending! If I am multi-tasking, which I most often am, the message gets lost.

I still get the digital morning version of the NY Times but often skip half of those articles. I tried to cancel my subscription which is next to impossible. One has to speak to a live person, who then tries to offer you the world to stay. I have failed that test twice. There are the endless things to read about plastic pollution, a cause dear to my heart. I have taken to bookmarking most of those for that time when I really want to read them, like never! And there is the barely started and then stalled Isabel Wilkerson’s Warmth of Other Suns. I knew it was a fluke that I breezed through Caste. I read that book last winter, in less than a month’s time, which is a new record for me. And I started this one with great gusto; then life and art intervened and what can I say…stalled again.

I guess that is really the answer to the ‘problem’ right there. I can either make art or I can read, but my brain cannot accommodate both, simultaneously. So I read enough to gather research for new work and then I move on. Someone sent me a volunteer manual to proof. Yeah, that isn’t happening. I tried until I realized it is not in my job description as a volunteer to proof documents! I just have too many other things I need to read. Get in line…

I do read the really important things, like prospectus (prospectii?) for exhibits and shipping instructions, etc. In fact I am doing that now, while also researching for new work. If it truly interests me, I manage to find the time and motivation!

 

what good are excuses anyway?

July 1st, 2021

Hypocrisy 1

In the past month, I finished new work that absolutely stumped me in design for the longest time. When I finally figured out what I wanted to do, it went swimmingly and I love it so much! It is titled Hypocrisy 1; because you just know I am making another! It is about evangelicals who worship on Sunday and make mayhem on Monday. It is bound to really anger some devout folks, but most people I know who sing the praises are good, decent, loving, kind people. This work is not directed at them; but instead the hypocrisy of whose who claim to be Christian yet behave badly.

Additionally I have been submitting entries to exhibits and this week got the fabulous news that two pieces of my work were juried into the prestigious biennial International Fiber X at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, July 31-September 12. Seventy two pieces were accepted, many of which are being flown in from all over the world. I’ve entered this show every two years but have not had my work accepted since 2010, so it was really gratifying to get that email!

And, I decided once again to bail on satellite TV. I nearly did a year ago but it all seemed so complicated. Yet when hubs could not watch his beloved Giants (baseball) a couple weeks ago that was the last straw! Oh he could watch it if we added another premium channel to our already bloated plan. So I said uncle and started the process.

The transition required several days of patience, investment in two new Smart TVs, a new iPad for him, because his was too old to stream, several days learning curve and a surprisingly polite conversation with an agent at the satellite company. It turns out I can keep the dish, and do whatever I want with it, for which I have no interest! And no I am not making a quilt of it. My patience continues, as every day hubs needs instruction in how to work the new remote and get where he wants to go. I knew this would be an issue, due to his cognitive challenges, but decided it was STILL worth it to unload the satellite company. And I still believe that.

I joined a FB group for Parkinson’s caregivers which is basically saving my sanity; sometimes having a place to vent is all one needs. I also got my long overdue quarterly art newsletter done (only 3 mos late) and scheduled to blitz mailboxes later this week. I should have taken the time to learn the latest template, but I am a quart low on learning new technology right now! I made labels for work going to exhibit and entered 3 more pieces in another show. Plus there have been those lunches with friends in a valiant attempt to revive my mastery of speaking in person!

So there…all my reasons for neglecting to blog. As an old woman told me when I was young…what good are excuses if we don’t use them?!

the big reveal…

May 28th, 2021

Somebody’s Child 2 photo credit Digital Grange

Now that Quilt National ’21 has officially opened, I can reveal my work juried into this prestigious exhibit. This is Somebody’s Child 2, which was digitally printed on silk organza, fused, machine and hand stitched with tear-drop shapes. This piece was a followup to my work Somebody’s Child 1; both of which were inspired by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, MN .

The artist statement reads …”after the recorded murder of George Floyd calling out for his Mama, I researched black lives taken at the hands of police. Over 4700 names of African Americans who died of gunshots or asphyxiation in police encounters in the past 20 years were digitally printed to silk organza and then layered. Each one was Somebody’s Child. All of these folks had Mamas.”

Somebody’s Child 2, detail photo credit: Digital Grange

This work is intentionally difficult to read, both in scope of the number of black & brown folks killed in police encounters but also in structure. My primary emphasis was on the horrific numbers of people killed just in this century (up to June 2020). There are sadly, so many more, now.

Photo credit: Joe MacDonald, Digital Grange, Petaluma, CA.

Simultaneously the images of Somebody’s Child 1 have been added to the virtual gallery of Art Against Racism.org while the actual work just concluded a run at the Textile Center in Minneapolis through the Women of Color Quilters Network exhibit We Are the Story, curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi. (You can see my work in the bottom center of the banner for that show, on the above link).

Somebody’s Child 1 is now off to Cincinnati to join 41 other pieces from We Are the Story at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, opening July 2 for a 2 month run. I am honored to have my work in this venue.

Meanwhile, another new piece that says something and potentially makes people think is evolving in the studio.

 

Somebody’s Child 1, detail

missing Marion…

April 23rd, 2021

Marion and I, 2018

Today I have been working on a powerpoint presentation I am making next month for the SAQA Board. Essentially it is about introducing diversity to the organization by relating how my friendship with Marion Coleman led me to self-educating about black history. I designed and tweaked most of the morning, and when hubs needed the computer to Zoom with his Parkinson’s group, I left to go pick up some groceries.

As I drove to the store, I suddenly burst into tears. Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of Marion’s death, and it hit me how serendipitous that I am working on this presentation about her impact on my life & art-making, on the very anniversary of her leaving.

I have a friend who says I am the most ‘woke’ person she knows. While I consider that a compliment I am well aware that I still have far to go. I continue to self-educate, by reading books, watching videos and every black film I can get my hands on. I even took an online course about the Civil Rights Movement, which I lived through, but had paid little attention to as it did not apply to me, in my white privileged world. I also catch myself and others, on their stuff all the time.

I owe all of this growth to my friend Marion. We were acquainted for 15 years and had talked about most everything. It was her question, near the end of her life, that prompted this growth in mine. How many black people do you know as well as you know me, she asked? I responded that maybe it was 5-6; to which she said, no I mean who you can talk to as comfortably as you speak to me?  Well that was the kick in the pants I needed to look out beyond the lily white meadow and learn something.

She might be surprised how far I have come from Pollyanna in just two years time. I am continually grateful to her for so much, not the least of which was pushing me out of my comfort zone. I miss her so much.

RIP girlfriend.

musings in the night, part 47…

April 12th, 2021
RHODIE BLOSSOM

Mendocino Botanical Gardens, rhododendron

The other night’s musings brought me some awesome titles for new work. Not the work itself, just the title! I particularly love ‘the writing on the wall was in invisible ink.” Or “how I became an activist on my way to becoming an old woman.” The funny thing about night musing which most often follows a potty break, is if I just focus on my breath I fall back asleep in seconds. Often I forget that and get a good 2-3 hours of musing, worry and planning in, before I drift back off. People often chide me for being a multitasker, and yet it is my happy place. If I did one task at a time I likely would be committed!

After returning from a 4 day getaway to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary (shocking, I know!), my plate quickly filled. Before the celebration for two, I had been scanning and resizing a myriad of photos from the past 50+ years for a Powerpoint for hubs on the big day. Well into it, I realized that he might not be as thrilled with it as I was, so I decided it really was a gift to myself. And good thing, because the stoic Swede came through with a lack of enthusiasm, as anticipated. Yet I loved every minute of putting it together! This is what 50 years teaches one…tamp those expectations!

air bib

rental on Mendocino Coast for our 50th anniversary celebration… comfortable and luxurious

the view from the house

When we returned home, I resumed researching the next piece, and designing the screens for fabric printing. I had to go with plan B when plan A failed to give me exactly what I wanted. And now I am waffling on plan B. So when someone asks me how long it took me to design something, I always include these days and hours of research and photoshop. The actual construction takes little time! It is really how folks justify in their mind, the price of something. If I am charging XYZ it must have taken me hundreds of hours. Well, that just might be true!

Post-trip, I also entered the overscheduled Zoom zone and yet I am loving it. I am learning so much in the Plastic Pollution class, a virtual multi-week course from Bennington College, taught by Judith Enck, former EPA administrator in the Obama-era.

The SAQA virtual conference from Australia-NZ piled on, but fortunately those sessions are mid to late afternoon in my time zone. Hubs has some OLLI Zooms, which require my setting him up, as he is mostly computer illiterate. And in May I am taking a weeklong immersion on Baja CA with Road Scholar, in lieu of actually going there.

All this has been made possible by my unloading an energy vampire which had been haunting me for months. Wow, what a huge difference! That and dropping 20 pounds, walking regularly and I feel like a new woman. A newly educated artivist woman!

supporting other artists…

March 7th, 2021

Family Farm, from catalog. Photo credit:
Larry Berman

Decades ago when we bought our house, we met a neighbor who was a painter, unbeknownst to me, at that time. Her husband was a corporate executive and she dutifully maintained the perfect homestead for all of their married years. When he died, she painted the living room bright yellow and hung her paintings salon style covering the living room walls.

I was raised by a woman who never hung any artwork without consulting her decorator first; and had gone through a myriad of my own design styles by then. I was experiencing great angst about having too much artwork on my walls; and about spacing of said work. After I saw the bright yellow living room covered with her art, I had a revelation! Why not mix it up? And thus began my quest for installing my own art and that of others. That was also the turning point for the man who hates making holes in the walls. Relax, they have spackle for that!

Initially I had a vast collection of Navajo rugs, on the walls. Several came down and were relocated to the floor (what a concept), the sofa, a vintage trunk. Up went other people’s artwork. Well, that was easy. I inherited some paintings that I loved so I kept, and others I did not, so I released so others might enjoy.

Then I started buying 12″ quilts in the annual SAQA Auction online. It started with a blue piece with circles by Jill Ault. Within a few years I had acquired several pieces featuring circles, many of them blue. I installed them on my office wall, below the southern window, to minimize fading. Then I bought a few more in earth tones which were hung in the guest bath. I know, you want pictures, but ironically they all mostly reside in places that are difficult to photograph because of the light. Take my word for it though. Over several years I have collected over 30 auction blocks. They brighten my day, and adorn the walls of our home. Other than the 12″ auction blocks, most of other people’s artwork I buy are not textiles. They are primarily mixed media and paintings.

That is, until two weeks ago. SAQA sent me a care package of two exhibit catalogs and price lists. Most of the work did not move me in any way, but when I saw Patty Kennedy-Zafred’s Family Farm I felt a chill. I kept going back to it. I looked at the price list. It was still available after two years of traveling shows. I slept on it. The next day I was still thinking about it.

This piece resonated as my grandparents were the people represented in this piece. They were farmers in the Midwest during the dust bowl. They lost the family farm and moved to California lock, stock and barrel. Life was hard for them, their entire lives. And yet, here I sit in my comfortable 3 bedroom home in suburbia, surrounded by art I love, in perpetual gratitude for all they endured, suffered and survived. Yes, this work was speaking to me. I bought the Family Farm! (so to speak)

The piece arrived on Friday. I cut the stick and screwed in the eyes. It was ready to install. But where? I had two logical choices, neither of which I figured would offend hubs’ nail anxiety. I had him hold it up while I assessed it from afar. The decision was quickly made… the end of the entry hallway. Bam! It was installed requiring only one new nail hole. Rejoice. And the clutter of the coat and hat rack can easily be remedied. Even the curator approved.

I am thrilled, not only with this exquisite piece of art, but owning a piece of art from someone whose work has dazzled me for years. I am in awe of her research, process and ongoing pursuit of meaning in her art.

I wholeheartedly believe in supporting the arts…and other artists.

Family Farm installed by curator Mopsy

Too Much Information…

February 9th, 2021

scanned papers that found their way to the recycle can

I spent the morning sorting through my Inbox. Not my email inbox but my IRL inbox. Yea, it’s a holdout from my office days that I still have a real life inbox. This one has no sense of urgency however, but rather a place to stash papers I want to remember, revisit or read later. Then once in a blue moon I sort through the inbox.

I find several papers that have essentially expired, in that whatever is printed on them has already passed or is no longer valid. Sometimes I find calls for entry that I have already entered , decided against, or with a deadline that has passed. I find papers I should have scanned in the first place, and then I do so, and file away on the hard drive, most likely never to be read again.

I find words of wisdom, which is possibly my largest category of saved papers. Quotes from the Dalai Lama, Sharon Salzberg, Albert Camus, a friend’s poetry, etc. Wisdom quotes have no expiration date! They are always wise words into perpetuity.

In addition I have the bookmark folders on browsers with articles and websites saved to remember and/or to read. There are videos and TED talks to watch and listen to. Then there are the tangible books to read, the stack now measures 7, not counting the minimally 75 on my Kindle. All this is just Too Much Information!

I had one of those mothers who cut out things in the newspaper and mailed them to me. I promised to never do that to my kid and pretty much have stuck to it. I have sent her maybe 3 things in 20 years, so they must have been really important! I knew my mother was doing what every good mother should do, but then when I started receiving clippings about people spinning goat hair in Montana, from my father’s bestie, I knew a line had been crossed. If one cannot retrain their own parent, how can they possibly retrain someone else’s?

I now believe this obsessive saving of stuff to read or remember is the 21st century version of the newspaper clipping mailed by a ‘well-intentioned’ person! The other day it occurred to me, as I was marking yet another article to read in case I ever want to design work on ‘that subject’, that I may NEVER ever read this article. If I don’t have time to read it now, will I read it later? Will I be sitting in my rocker 20 years from now, with nothing to do but read all this stuff? Will any of it be relevant other than the wisdom? Really it is all information overload…TMI.

We are deluged with facts, figures, quotes, commentary, opinions etc. I never was a good reader to start, being a visual learner. So maybe scanning and filing words away on the hard drive is my adaptation to visual learning?  I think not.

Perhaps the moral to this little ditty is to stop saving stuff I am never going to read. Read it now, or don’t, but please stop saving it! Besides anything I ever desperately need I can likely Google.

And don’t even get me started on the photographs I’ve scanned…

 

 

 

loose ends…

January 20th, 2021

I’ve been fraught with anxiety for much of the past four years. I made a lot of art about subjects that got me fired up and am now exhibiting it as much as I can, in a pandemic. After the election I calmed down a bit until the domestic terrorism two weeks ago. Today on the eve of the inauguration I am beginning to feel as if I can breathe again, knowing full well that we as a country still have a long, long way to go, before we can feel complacent again. In fact I don’t believe we will ever see “normal” again. You know the kind of normal where you don’t think every day about your government, or the pandemic.

In the meantime, I have been preparing for a SAQA Textile Talk next week. If you want to watch, comment below and I will send you the link to register. I am one of 5 artists whose work is being featured from an exhibit titled ‘Upcycle’ on recycled materials. I have spoken about my work on many occasions, so that is the easy part. I was able to put my vintage PowerPoint knowledge to use and prepare 10 slides of art and studio shots for my portion of the talk. Where I got hung up was on the lighting for my ‘person’ on Zoom.

I decided I wanted to do a custom background, featuring some of my work, as one would do. Yet the problem was still with the lighting. A colleague suggested I bring a lamp with a shade to my computer. Uh, I no longer own a lamp with a shade! Our entire house has been upgraded with overhead LED lighting. I tried my Ott-lite and that sort of helped.

Another suggested a green screen. I researched green screens, and decided against it as I did not need more stuff to clutter my office. My sister gave me a new green screen which she bought but decided not to use. I also decided not to use it and passed it along to Goodwill.

Finally I decided to swap out the wall quilt behind me, forgetting that a 6 ft table bearing a heavy midarm sewing machine was between me and the wall as a deterrent to hanging another quilt. Thank goodness for these long arms, as I was able to reach over the extended arm of the table, up the wall and with a little -uh hang a different quilt!

Then I remembered a recent purchase of a clamp-on light can, down in the basement. I brought that up, put a 5 watt bulb in it, clamped it on the shelf above my computer and voila! Let there be light. Essentially I spent two weeks fretting over the lighting.

Some time ago, before the pandemic, as I recall, I volunteered to design a memory quilt for the family of a slain person of color, for the Social Justice Sewing Academy. I  heard back a week ago, asking if I were still interested? I replied yes.

This past weekend I received the information, photos, likes and dislikes for my first memory quilt assignment. After reading the information about this woman, I felt such a tremendous responsibility to create this quilt, which I need to do in 6-8 weeks. What a huge honor to be asked to design something memorable for a family who has already lost so much. Especially in this era of Black Lives Matter, and white supremacy, it is so important to me to step outside of my life as a person of privilege and really look at the life of a woman who didn’t have a chance. The easy path would be to turn away, as so many of us have done for centuries. My hope is I have it in me to do more than one. Stay tuned…

Lastly, I have been mulling over the role of social media in my life. Several people whom I know have left Facebook, and thrived! I have considered it many times. What keeps me there is the contact I have with so many of my art colleagues, all over the world; friends and neighbors. It’s a place to read about others art and blab about my own. I also enjoy reading about local restaurants, taking a class or two through groups, reading local gossip, as the paper comes out just once a week; just catching up.

The lack of security is what bothers me most. And yet I wonder if I do walk, where will I have human contact? Where will we meet up? It looks like it will be another 2-3 months minimally before I get the vaccine, before I can meet friends for lunch, go to exhibits, resume some sort of a normal life.

I guess if I do sign off, I will just have to pick up the phone, which is not exactly a bad thing. I’ve noticed that my ability to actually speak language rather than type it, is occasionally challenged. As in, if you don’t use it... all good food for thought!