Monday, December 24, 2007

The Untrimmable Light of the World

Every Christmas eve, after dinner, my family gathers around the fire and each person reads aloud something that has inspired them this year. I share here one of my candidates for tonight’s reading – a poem by Mary Oliver from one of my favorite volumes - a 2007 collection edited by Roger Housden called Dancing with Joy. I wish you a holiday full of "the untrimmable light of the world, and the ocean’s shine."

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light
It is what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy
and acclamation
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gift Giving and Guerilla Art

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is gift giving – thinking about each person, brainstorming gift ideas for them, making or acquiring the gift, and then wrapping it in colorful paper and ribbons. There is creative thinking and some handiwork involved that is very satisfying to the artist in me. In fact, during the holiday season, I usually derive more pleasure and excitement from the act of giving than the act of receiving.

Lately, I have been thinking more about the relationship between art making and gift giving. One person said to me recently “Art is a gift to society that the artist pays for.” This was a rather world weary response addressing the fact that artists are usually not well compensated financially for their hard work and dedication, and yet the art gets made anyway. My more optimistic attitude is that the artist is compensated in ways other than financial – namely the satisfaction of having expressed something from deep within that in turn can connect and communicate with others, sharing beauty, insight, and new perspectives.

One of the more provocative ways art can be a gift is anonymously. I have been so intrigued by the work of Keri Smith and her recent book, The Guerilla Art Kit. She defines guerilla art as “any anonymous work installed, performed, or attached in public spaces, with the distinct purpose of affecting the world in a creative or thought-provoking way." Her book includes great ideas and tools for guerilla art projects – some as simple as arranging a pattern of leaves in a chain link fence or chalking a favorite quote on the sidewalk. I love the idea of art like this that is ephemeral, generous, and perspective changing. I was delighted to interview Keri for the Arts and Healing Network’s current isuse of AHN News. As Keri explains in this interview…

“Coming across something that is unexpected helps to pull us out of our habitual ways of thinking and reacting to the world. This goes for the creation side of things too - we must tune in to the environment in order to allow it to speak to us and to notice the little things. This, in my opinion, is the greater purpose of art - to pull us out of our unconscious behavior and make us aware of something we might have missed. It asks us to pay attention, and, as I mention in the book, guerilla art says, 'the human spirit is alive here.'"

Keri also writes a wonderful blog, called The Wish Jar, which I often read with my morning coffee before heading to the studio. Her writing reminds me to slow down mentally, think creatively, experience and appreciate the details of nature, and enjoy the exploratory process of creativity. What better gift can art give.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Remnants in Woodstock

Judi and Bernard at the Galerie BMG recently sent me these nice photos of my show, Remnants, which will be up at their gallery until the end of December. It was a treat to get these pictures because unfortunately I am not able to travel to Woodstock to see the show. Thanks to the wonders of digital photography and the internet, I can virtually visit this show even though it is 3000 miles away, and now you can too. To learn more about the exhibition, please click here.













Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Open Studio

It is that time of year - the holidays are upon us. I am celebrating by having a festive Open Studio over two weekends in San Francisco. Tomorrow I will put the finishing touches on everything and open the doors on Saturday at 1pm. I invite you to stop by and see my latest work.

Holiday Open Studio
Two Weekends: December 1-2 and December 15-16, 1-6pm each day

Special Reception: Friday, December 14, 5-8pm
3069 Washington Street at Baker, San Francisco

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Wide-Angle View

I have spent the past week taking photographs of my Muir Beach studio to accompany an article about my art and studio space for a new magazine, Western Art & Architecture. It has been a learning experience. It has shown me how I have cultivated an eye for detail, and this assignment really challenged me because it called for a wide-angle view. In fact, I don’t even own a wide-angle lens and had to rent one from Adolph Gasser. Seeing my creative space with this broad vision was rather exciting, and made me more aware of how the architecture of the space with its high ceiling offers a sense of expansiveness that I often take for granted. Above the clutter of my collage making materials there is clear space - clean, white upperwalls and empty air. I like to think that this is where my ideas swirl around and germinate before landing.

The article by Leissa Jackmauh will be published in the Winter 2008 issue. Click here to learn more about Western Art & Architecture.


A Glimpse of Cornell

The other day, I caught a riveting glimpse of Joseph Cornell. I was running errands South of Market in San Francisco and found myself with a pocket of time thirty minutes long. As I drove down Third Street, I said to myself, “If I can find a spot on the street, I am going to SFMOMA to see the Joseph Cornell exhibit.” And sure enough, as luck would have it, there was one empty spot on the same block as the museum. I pulled in, and dug for quarters in my purse, only to get to the meter and realize in less than 15 minutes this parking spot would become a tow-away zone (3-7pm everyday). So I had to act fast and decided to glean what I could from an even shorter visit than I had planned. Once inside, the elevator deposited me on the 3rd floor. The shadowy galleries (lit low to protect the work) revealed a space of dreams. There is such whimsy and reverie in Cornell’s boxes and assemblages. It was painful to rush past them – like skimming a really well-written book. I will have to come back soon to re-read this exhibition before it closes on January 6. But at least those 15 minutes introduced a bit poetry into the midst of prosaic day.

The image above is the cover of the exhibition catalogue, which I have added to my Christmas wish list. Click here to learn more about it, or click here to see a google image search yielding an array of Cornell artworks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Making Mail

I have spent the last several days making mail – addressing, stamping, and notewriting on over 1000 combined invites for two upcoming art events. The first is for a solo show in Woodstock, NY at the Gallery BMG that opens the day after Thanksgiving (click here to view that exhibition online). The second is my biggest correspondence endeavor of the year – invitations to my Holiday Open Studio held in San Francisco over two weekends – December 1-2 and December 15-16 with a reception on Friday, December 14 from 5-8pm. If you would like to get a snail mail invite, please send me your address.

I have a tendency to underestimate how much labor it takes to do mailings like these. Friends have repeatedly advised me to hire help for this task, and yet there is something meditative and personalizing for me about doing this myself. I touch each name and think of that person, and often add a little note in red ink for them. It’s way of acknowledging the community of people that have collected around my art. I am deeply grateful for their presence in my life. I would still make art without this concrete sense of audience, but it is definitely affirming to know personally all these people who value creative endeavors such as my own.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Swimming to Turrell

A week ago Sunday, I was my father’s guest at a party at the Napa home of art collectors Nora and Norman Stone. They were celebrating the completion of James Turrell’s Stone Sky – an installation of two of his signature sky ceilings, one of which hovers in the middle of their infinity pool, encased inside the cube (pictured here on the left) that can only be reached by swimming under water. The Stones graciously provided paper bathing suits for their guests, yet only a few ventured into the warm water and dove under the edges of this box into the magically lit space inside. A perfect square opening in the ceiling revealed the sky, but unlike any sky I had ever seen. Somehow Turrell combines special lighting and optics to create an ever-changing colorfield. The occasional bird or insects flying above reminded one that it was the real sky up there, and yet the range of color was unusually magnificent – pale greens, purples, deep indigo, and even orange. The light had a strange, almost spiritual eminence. The process of getting wet, crossing the length of the pool, and diving under into the unknown enhanced the sense of pilgrimage or transformation of one’s reality. As an artist who is an object-maker, I have deep respect for this artist who is an experience-maker. The memory of it will linger with me for a long time.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Gifts of Sanctuary

I spent the morning prepping my pieces for the Bolinas Museum Miniatures Exhibition, an annual fundraiser benefiting the Museum. All work in the show must be 6 x 6 x 6 inches or smaller, so I printed some maquette versions of three pieces from the Sanctuary series (pictured here) and fit them into 5 x 3.5 inch frames. I am always charmed by small scale things, so this show is really fun for me to participate in. The Mini Show opens with a reception on Saturday, November 17 from 3-5pm. To learn more, visit www.bolinasmuseum.org.

I have also donated regular sized prints from the Sanctuary series – 16.5 x 11 inches – to two photography non-profits for their annual auctions. Sanctuary #2 will be auctioned off tomorrow night, November 3, in Carmel to benefit the Center for Photographic Art. You could see the nice range of work donated by artists for this cause by clicking here. I also have donated Sanctuary #1 to SF Camerawork for their annual photography auction which will be held in San Francisco on December 1. Learn more by visiting their web site at www.sfcamerawork.org.

The secret about these art auctions is that most work sells much below its regular retail value, so it can be a great place to begin collecting art or add a treasure to your already existing collection. Usually 100% of the sale goes directly to support the nonprofit. As an artist, I can only afford to make a certain number of donations each year. It depletes my inventory, and under current tax law, artists cannot deduct the retail value of their work when they donate - only the material costs. The organizations that I do donate to are ones that I truly value and am honored to support in this way. I invite you to support them too by bidding on or buying a piece at one of these events.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jeff Wall and Happy Accidents

On Thursday night, I went to see a sold-out artist’s talk by Jeff Wall at SFMOMA, where a retrospective of his work has just opened. His is work that has never grabbed me visually on its own, but when words are added to his images they come to life in a new way. He is very much a conceptual artist, well-versed in art history, theory, and criticism, and his work is deeply informed by this. One of the very interesting things he has done is to make pictures that are more connected to the traditions of painting and even cinema than to the history of photography.

Wall describes his process as “disciplined improvisation” and “near documentation.” For example, in A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) from 1993 (which you can see on the SFMOMA web site), he composited 75 photographs, combining them digitally to re-create his own version of a well-known painting. He scouted out the proper landscape, hired actors to perform for his camera and spent long stretches of time photographing each element in the scene. Wall does all this labor-intensive work to create just one final image. But for him, it is because of all this effort, that the one image he does make has (what he hopes is) staying power on par with great 19th C paintings.


I enjoyed his conversation about accident, which plays a crucial role in his work. As he said, “Every starting point is an accident…I’m always surprised...Accidents stacked on top of each other are necessary for something to happen.” In A Sudden Gust of Wind, it was the accidental smile of the twirling figure in the center that changed the whole sense of the photograph. Wall took 300 shots of the twirling man alone. It was after having spun many times, that the twirler’s smile emerged probably in light of the absurdity of repeating this action again and again. Yet for Wall it was the crucial element for unlocking the mood of the whole piece.
Prior to his talk, I had always viewed Wall’s work as tightly controlled, but now I am intrigued by his sense of serendipity. As an artist, what I take away from his lecture is a reminder that you just have to collect your tools and props and get started and let the accidents happen that lead you to the best possible picture.

To learn more about Wall, you could read a nice piece from the February 25th NY Times Magazine by Arthur Lubow. His exhibit at SFMOMA is up until January 27, 2008.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Rhythm of Open Studios

I had a really lovely Open Studio last weekend – lots of people, nice conversations, and some good sales too. One thing I have learned after doing these kinds of events for almost ten years is that each weekend I open my doors to the studio is a unique experience with its own distinct rhythm. Some have a steady trickle of people all day long, other weekends they come all at once and then leave me with long lulls. This one had a very nice, gentle rhythm – some overlapping visitors and also some nice breaks. In between visitors, I got to catch up on my photography reading. I subscribe to many photo/art publications including Photograph, Photo-Eye Booklist, Art on Paper, Camera Arts as well as newsletters from photography non-profits. Here a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend’s reading…

“One might compare the art of photograpy to the act of pointing…”
-John Szarkowski, from his NY Times Obituary

“Art is an additive process and the thing about photography is we go out and we’re at the mercy of what we find. That’s the real discovery. The important thing is quality of attention span and to use it for acceptance rather than for negation.”
-Frederick Sommer quoted by Emmet Gowin

“I like to think that in order for any of us to really do anything new, we can’t know exactly what it is we are doing…It’s cool to be wrong. It’s so essential, so necessary. It’s so appropriate to be confused, to be muddled, to be unsure. We preach clarity. Get your ideas organized. Get your thinking straight….But it is the aliveness of the unguarded intuition and the persistence of our own feelings that guide us to our discoveries.”
-Emmet Gowin interviewed by John Paul Caponigro

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Studio This Weekend!

The past few days have been full of preparations for my Open Studio in San Francisco. Although I do most of my creative work in Muir Beach, I am fortunate to have use of a space in San Francisco where I have a black and white darkroom, and can store and display my completed work. A couple of times a year, I open the doors there and invite the public in. This particular Open Studio is part of the city-wide Open Studios sponsored by Artspan - each weekend in October highlights a different area of the city. You can learn more and download maps at www.artpan.org.

My studio will be open Saturday and Sunday, October 13 & 14 from 11am-6pm each day at 3069 Washington Street at Baker. It would be wonderful to have you stop by and see my newest work in person.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Day of Art

I spent this past Sunday several hours south of home, looking at art accompanied by my husband. We started in Carmel with the Center for Photographic Art, which has a lovely show of one of my favorite photographers, Masao Yamamoto. His photographs are elegant and intimate treasures. The largest image was only about 8 x 6” and many were much smaller than that. He flew in from Japan with close to 1000 photos and selected 70 to install. Frameless, they are arranged in a poetic musicality on the wall (as seen in this photo here). I first learned of his work from the wonderful publications by Nazraeli Press, and being in this exhibit was like standing inside of one of those books. It is a show whose meaning and mood builds over time the longer you spend with it. Above all, I took from this show an affirmation that work can be quite small and hold a gallery space quite powerfully.

After visiting PhotoWorks and the Weston Gallery, we left Carmel and headed to Palo Alto for the Maggie Taylor exhibit at Modern Book Gallery. Maggie collages various elements in Photoshop creating surreal dreamlike scenes. It was a treat to see so much of her work in one place – altogether her prints begin to tell a fairytale narrative tinged with mystery and some darkness. Modern Book has just produced a great monograph of her work – Solutions Beginning with A – which I bought as soon as it was released.

Not only did these two exhibits inspire me – encouraging me to muse about scale and poetry and storytelling in art - but they were also in spaces were I am scheduled to have shows in 2008. So I also viewed these shows with an eye for how the art was arranged and how my work might fill that same space. It was quite awesome to know that my art will hang on the same walls as the work of these two remarkable artists. I can’t imagine better company.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Feeding Myself Good Books

I woke up feeling blue today and so I spent the morning feeding myself good books. I started with SARK’s A Creative Companion – a loan from my friend Britt – who just interviewed SARK for the new artheals.org podcast. I took comfort in SARK’s whimsy, her affirmation of her readers’ creative potential, and the invitation to dream. It’s a playful, and at times very light hearted book, possessing some keen insights, such as “Creativity adores solitude. Provide quiet creative time for yourself. It can first fit into the cracks of your life, and as you nurture it, it will expand into a glorious interior garden.”

Then I turned to two new books from the Fraenkel GalleryThe Book of Shadows and Eye of the Beholder: Photographs from the Collection of Richard Avedon (pictured above). Both books are wonderful objects. The Book of Shadows is covered in a soft dark blue velvet that felt so good under my fingertips – perfect for comfort reading. It is a book comprised of anonymous snapshots in which shadows play the significant role of indicating the presence of the photographer. It reminded me that photography is at its essence about light and shadow, and that you can’t have one without the other. The Richard Avedon book (pictured above) is a delightful boxed set of five separate folios – each dedicated to a different aspect of his personal photography collection – Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar, Irving Penn, the Countess of Castiglione (fascinating 19th C woman), and the final one called Etcetera. I enjoyed pondering how these photographs may have effected Avedon’ photographic vision. I can only guess that they expanded and inspired him as they did me this morning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Work Online

Here is one of my new images from the Evocations series. You can now see all the new prints online by clicking here and here (once there click on the thumbnails to enlarge them).

Also, the Emerson Blog did a nice interview with me this week about my art. You can check it out by clicking here. Enjoy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Prints

After a couple visits with Kris at Electric Works (formerly Trillium), my new prints for Evocations are in production. Soon I will have nine new images to add to the series. Here you can see the proofs emerging upside down, rolling off the printer. Very exciting for me!

I did a lot of shooting for this series over the summer. It is always a challenge to edit the images down. To do so, I make small proof prints in my studio and shuffle them around for a while. Then I begin to selectively share them with people whose opinions I trust. I usually start with my husband, and sometimes my parents – asking them, “Which are your favorites and why?” I also have three trusted photography friends who I consulted this time – artists Candace and Jules, and curator Nora. Candace helped me see more clearly how space works in the series. Jules helped me focus on how the details interact with each other. Nora helped me see the series as a whole and edit out work that was too similar or too different. After integrating all the feedback, I made my final selection – adding nine new images to grow this series to twenty.

I have begun to think of Evocations as my summer series. I shot the first batch of prints in the summer of 2006 (and then printed them in 2007). This past year, found me shooting in July and August again because that is when the foglight I love is so prevalent. Maybe every summer for the next few years, I will pull out my maps and objects and play again in the fog, creating new images to keep the series growing slow and steady over time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Permission from Sugimoto

I recently went back for a second look at the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition at the De Young Museum. One of the things that really struck me this time was the wide range of dates within some of his series. For example, in his dioramas (one is pictured here), Sugimoto shot some as early as 1975 and then some as late as 1999 (more than 20 years later) – the exhibit features some from 1980 and some from 1994. As an artist, I often feel a certain pressure to create a series, complete it, and move on. But I love the idea that there are series you work on, put aside for awhile, grow something new, and then come back to it and flesh it out further. There is a certain freedom and permission in that way of working that really honors the organic nature of the creative process.

There is a lot of great information online these days about Sugimoto. One of my favorites, is an audio interview with Sugimoto by Tania Ketenjian of Radio Tania.
I liked Tania's intro in which she describes how for Sugimoto “photographs are like a time machine…a way to document and recreate memory.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Catching up on the New York Times

Every Sunday, it arrives – a fat issue of the New York Times, the only newspaper we get all week. Its arrival prompts the creation of a nice breakfast enjoyed slowly while reading the news. However, rarely do I finish the paper in one sitting. And so this morning, I spent some time catching up on the Times from Sunday, September 2, which had these three points of intrigue.

The Arts section included an article with several photos of the Starn Twins studio - a treat for me as I have always loved their layered, tactile, ephemeral work. A former ice-cream-truck garage, their studio is an impressive 10,000 square feet, where the Starns and as many as 15 full-time employees work on photographic projects focusing on their fascination with the passage of time and with perception and illusion in nature. You can view a slide show of these images on the NY Times web site.

On the facing page was an article on Olafur Eliasson, whose exhibition, "Take Your Time," opened at SFMOMA earlier this month. The featured photo depicts him as an action photographer – leaning far over the gaping hole of a glacier to record the changing topography of Iceland. He too, like the Starns, has a crew that work for him – 30 employees including mathematicians, designers, architects, artisans, and office assistants. I was struck by what a different kind of creative process that must be to make art with so many other people involved. This quote by Eliasson makes clear the appeal for him in working collaboratively. “For some reason, our history has produced the misconception that experiencing individuality has to do with being alone. But being together is greater than being alone, because we can do more. We are more responsible.”

Finally, the Op-Ed section had a short, but great piece on listmaking – featuring a montage of post-it notes (pictured above) of people’s goals for the summer – everything from “Be Nice to George” to “Find the Yellow Rainboots” to “Reconcile with Tolstoy” to “Kick my Habit.” Altogether it represented a nice range of human aspirations. If I could add one to the list it would be “Make more time for the Sunday NY Times.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Studio Visitors

Usually, it is just me and my dog at my Muir Beach studio, but yesterday brought two visitors. The first was Coleen, a wonderful book binder who lives in Muir Beach. We have been talking for ages about connecting to see each other’s work spaces, and yesterday we finally did it. We started with mine. It is always interesting to see what draws people’s attention first – for her, it was the shelf of Bottle Dreams pieces (pictured here).

After a full tour, we headed toward the ocean to her home and newly built studio space. I wish I had brought my camera as she has some wonderful old binding presses and the view from her studio is amazing – a full clear shot of the ocean. Coleen’s focus is creating unique housings for special texts she finds. One had just arrived in the mail – an artist friend had sent Coleen a text block featuring quotes she had found underlined or highlighted in used self-help books, now re-arranged and letterpress printed. For Coleen, the text block really inspires her process – she creates in response to this subject matter, bringing together great materials, leather collaging techniques, and even creating a cover with secret pop-up flap. Driving home from her studio, I thought to myself how she and I creatively are the inverse of each other. She initiates projects from the inside out – the text pages of the book lead her to the creation of a wonderful cover. Whereas I move so often from the outside in – finding a great bottle or an old frame and then working to find the right content with which to fill it.

Later in the afternoon, visitor number two arrived – Rachel Bagby. We gathered to record a future podcast for artheals.org about her amazing work with choirs, music, and healing. In preparation for our meeting, I have been reading Rachel’s book, Divine Daughters: Liberating the Power and Passion of Women's Voices, and have really loved the rhythmic quality of the writing and the circular, organic nature of the storytelling. Her tale of empowering her own voice and the voices of others (especially women) resonated strongly with me. In our conversation, she both spoke and sang news of her latest vision to unite choirs across the country to create positive change. She left me humming – re-awakening my own desire to sing.

At the end of the day, I felt filled up and reminded that it is important to take breaks and meet face to face with other creative people. I do treasure my solitary studio time, and yet it feels so good to stretch and be expanded by the visions of others.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've Been Memed!

Britt Bravo has memed me from her blog Have Fun Do Good. I am new to memes – from what I can tell a meme is kind of like a game of tag and once you get hit, you follow the rules and keep spreading the game. So here it goes…

First the Rules:
  1. Post these rules before you give your facts
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they've been tagged

Then the Facts:
  1. My nickname, and what most people call me, is Danny.
  2. One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a cup of ginger tea and a piece of dark chocolate.
  3. In college, I thought I might major in photography, but got to Vassar and learned that there were no photography classes to take. Oops. Then I wanted to major in English, but English classes were so popular and I got a terrible draw number, so I wound up instead filling the last seat of Art History 101. It was such an interesting class (each section was taught by the professor who specialized in that area) that I became an art history major. From there, I began researching the history of photography, and it is that study that has really deepened my vision as an artist.
  4. After getting married on September 22, 2001, my husband and I took six months off to travel. Most of that time was spent exploring Mexico in an old Ford Aerostar van replete with a two-person kayak and fishing and camping gear. Our favorite spot was a sleepy fishing village called Xcalak (pictured here), just north of the border with Belize.
  5. I have one brother, four years younger and a whole foot taller than me. His arm appears in my collage, "Paz en el Mundo.
  6. My first "real" camera (aka 35 mm) was a Nikon FE gifted to me by my parents when I finished 8th grade. I still have it.
  7. Growing up, I always wanted a dog. Initially my parents gave me a parakeet, which I named Lassie, who became the subject of some of my earliest photographs. Eventually, we got a cocker spaniel.
  8. The only sport I follow is baseball. A San Francisco Giants fan, I was there when Bonds hit 756!
I’m tagging the following blogs…
  1. Create with Spirit
  2. Ebb and Flow
  3. Lauren Usher
  4. Michelle Bates Photography
  5. Photographing Children
  6. Superhero Journal
  7. Works in Progress
  8. Xola

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Harvest Time

Over the weekend, I harvested quite a bounty. The garden is exploding these days with zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, chard, green beans, and even pumpkins. Pictured here are the first of our pumpkins – yes, they are small ornamental ones and the big ones have a ways to grow – but nevertheless these pumpkins said to me, "Fall is almost here." Realizing that, I was filled with a rush of sadness. This summer has been so sweet with much time in the studio, in the garden, and in my yellow chair with books in hand. As I pulled weeds from a bed planted with lettuce, I pondered how to keep the energy of summer with me as I move into the fall. The answer I got was that this is the wrong question. Each season is its own distinct time. To try and hold onto what has been only will get in the way of the graceful unfolding of what is emerging. The fall will have its own rhythm and pace, and the more I can accept that and step into it fully, the easier the seasonal transition will be for me.

One thing I do look forward to this Fall is the satisfaction of getting my work out in new venues. I have shows in Portland, Brooklyn, Washington DC, and Woodstock, NY among others. I will also be doing two Open Studios – the first October 13-14 and the second in December. A full list of all these events can be found on my web site. It is good to feel that the fruits of my summer labor will be harvested well.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Art Deliveries

I left the drippy fog of Muir Beach this morning to drive to sunny San Rafael to drop off art at two venues. My first stop was the Donna Seager Gallery to swap out inventory. Donna has been displaying some of my Bottle Dreams pieces with her rich selection of artists books. Today, I brought her three of my new, single bottles, each layered with photos, texts, and maps sealed in mineral oil. I was delighted to hear from Ama, her gallery assistant, that the September show, called “Women’s Work,” will feature one of my favorite local artists, Lisa Kokin, as well as two other mixed media artists, Laura Kimpton and Nancy Youdelman. And in her artist book gallery will be a show curated by Macy Chadwick called “Narrative Thread,” that will include one of my father’s books, “red thread, two women." It's nice to look forward to this.

Then I traveled a few blocks up the hill to the Falkirk Cultural Center to drop off a Sanctuary piece for a group show called “Photographic Narratives.” Curated by Beth Goldberg, this show features several other artists I know, including Beth Moon, Michael Rauner, Judith and Richard Lang, and Susan Hyde, as well as plenty of artists new to me. This show is a nice long one – after its opening reception on September 7, it will stay up until the end of December. The Falkirk is a wonderfully unusual venue. As you can see from the photo I took today, it is an historic building with great architectural detail – inside the wood paneled walls and stained glass make you feel like you have stepped back in time into a 19th Century parlor.

In the parking lot, while leaving I ran into artist Mary Wagstaff, who complimented me on my blog, which is always so nice, because I often write here unsure that anyone is listening. It’s heartening to hear that people are tuning in regularly. Thanks to all of you who make up my audience - whether by seeing my shows or reading my blog - it's nice to know I am connecting.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Editioning Evocations

I spent yesterday signing my editioned prints from Evocations. They were printed in sets of 10 in February, but slid to the back burner, and only now, in the open space of summer, have I found time to tend to each print - signing it, naming it, giving it a number, and then sleeving it in crystal clear envelopes. It is satisfying work, clearing the way for the new to emerge in this series.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Living Inside Books

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner, wind themselves around your limbs like spidersilk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you, they work their magic…” -Margaret Lea in The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This summer has given me the time to dive into words again. I feel like the child I once was who spent hours living inside novels. The first of several books on my path this summer was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I listened to this story unfold on my iPod. It was so well read that the world around me disappeared and I was wrapped in the twin stories of book-lover Margaret who is recording the life of writer Vida Winter. There are such wonderful passages about the joys of reading. In one stretch, Setterfield describes Margaret’s mundane tasks leading up to 8pm when “the world came to an end - it was reading time…. Against the blue candlewick bedspread, the white pages of my open book illuminated by a circle of lamplight were the gateway to another world.”


One of the other worlds I traveled to this summer was an island off the coast of Maine. A friend lent me her copy of Joe Coomer’s Pocketful of Names about an artist who lives and works in solitude on an island until one day a dog washes up on her beach, then a teenage boy looking for a place to a hide, and soon others…Her solitary life gives way to one of connectedness. There are some great passages about the creative life.


I also succumbed to the Harry Potter craze, and re-read book 6, before reading the new book 7. Although these books are not perfect, they cast a perfect spell. They rendered me half alive to my own life while I was engaged in their plot. It was pure escapist pleasure.


Diane Setterfield warns, “Reading can be dangerous.” For me, the danger is that the worlds in books begin to shine more bright than the world around me. It is as if I must shake cobwebs out of my brain to get back to work (of which is there is plenty). I have to tell myself that later in the day – after I have organized my inventory, shot new images for Evocations, responded to my email, etc. – then I can find my way back to the yellow armchair in the sunroom and open a fresh new book and see where it takes me.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Ode to Stillness"

“Is it possible to make a living by simply watching light? Monet did. Vermeer did. I believe Vincent did too. They painted light in order to witness the dance between revelation and concealment, exposure and darkness. Perhaps this is what I desire most, to sit and watch the shifting shadows cross the cliff face of sandstone, or simply walk parallel with a path of liquid light called the Colorado River. In the canyon country of southern Utah, these acts of attention are not merely the pastimes of artists, but daily work, work that matters to the soul of the community. This living would include becoming a caretaker of silence, a connoisseur of stillness, a listener of wind, where each dialect is not only heard but understood.”
-
Terry Tempest Williams from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

Summer has opened up space and time for me. In that new openness, I find myself not wanting to add more doing, but more being - time to watch the fog paint changing colors on the hills out our front windows, and time to sit and re-read some of my favorites, like essays by Terry Tempest Williams.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Creative Chaos

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." -Friedrich Nietzsche

The studio is a mess these days. I have excavated my drawers, piles, and files, discovering maps, photographs, and other symbolic objects buried in my studio. Now they flood my main worktable, inspiring me to try new directions with my Evocations series. It is a healthy chaos they have created. The kind, that I hope and pray, will lead to the creation of a “dancing star” or at least some strong new images.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Playing with Fog

I am almost reluctant to speak this aloud in case it might jinx me – but, after overcoming some resistance, I have been shooting new photos for my Evocations series. Every foggy morning for the last week, I have been on my studio deck – my table filled with a variety of props and backgrounds – working intuitively, quickly, before the sun bursts through. I prefer the even, filtered lighting of fog to the shadows caused by bright sun. Fortunately for me, Muir Beach is one of the foggiest places in the Bay Area and summer is fog season. It feels a lot like fishing – putting in my time, taking photographs, and later I will edit and see what I caught. But for now, I am having much fun playing in the fog with bottles, maps, and other ephemera.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Space to Grow

My studio overlooks my vegetable garden – a view fertile with metaphors for the creative process. Weeding, watering, fertilizing, planting, sprouting, growing, harvesting…are all apt expressions of artmaking.

Last night found me planting. I love beets, and so I bought two six packs of starts when one probably would have been plenty. To my delight, each cell of the six-pack had 3-4 separate seedlings, so I planted approximately 40 new plants last night! The challenge was finding enough space for them. After filling the rows I had pre-designated for them, I had to squeeze them into beds with slower growing plants. This was a reminder to me that everything in life needs space – yes, sometimes you can find a extra spot for a great thing, but in the end, all projects/dreams/visions manifest best when given adequate space to grow.

This week, I have planted my art in the center of a big open week. I call this an “art retreat,” and take several throughout the year. I map out days in my calendar and place secure fencing around them – no work for artheals.org, no teaching, no errands – in fact, no leaving Muir Beach. I stock up on groceries, and spend the week fertilizing my artistic roots. I work in the studio, tending existing projects and seeding some new ones. I also garden, hike the hills with my dog, journal, daydream, and read…filling myself back up.

I have also been cultivating my blog. Today I added some new links to my blogroll and have also finally figured out how to set up an RSS feed - which means, if you like, you can now sign up to receive my blog posts via email. See the right hand column here for details.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Creating Sanctuary

I am frequently asked "How did you make that?" - especially when it comes to my series, Sanctuary. Many speculate that I did the whole process in Photoshop. But no, my PS skills are not nearly sophisticated enough for that, and frankly, I love the tactility of composing art with my hands. So I start by photographing a spot in nature that is a "sanctuary" or refuge for me – most often a place within five miles of my home. Then I print the photo and bottle it in mineral oil layering it with old maps and handwritten texts - essentially building a sculpture. It is this piece that I then place on black velvet and re-photograph with my digital SLR, a Canon 30D (as pictured here). Then after some minor adjustments in PS, I have them printed with the help of Kris at Electric Works in San Francisco. It is a bit labor intensive, but a multi-layered process seems to come with the territory of creating multi-layered art.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Behind the Scenes: Hiroshi Sugimoto at the DeYoung

Last week, I had the supreme pleasure and surprise of being invited to the press preview for the Hiroshi Sugimoto retrospective at the De Young Museum. I say pleasure because I have always loved Sugimoto’s photographs for their masterful beauty and powerful concepts. And I say surprise, because I was quite shocked (thrillingly so) to get an email invitation from a media relations officer at the Fine Arts Museum to attend the press preview with the artist, because she had read my blog entry below about the Legion of Honor. When I started my blog months ago, I never realized the potential for such benefits from it – it made my week.

So last Friday found me in a museum conference room with four kinds of coffee, cucumber sandwiches, press packets, 40 or so members of the press, a museum director, one of the exhibit’s curators, and the artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto himself. After introductory remarks, we all headed to the galleries – which Sugimoto described as his “spookiest” venue of this traveling exhibition yet. Sugimoto designed the installation, and it is quite remarkable. The lighting is such that the large photographs (many of them close to 4 x 6 feet) seem to glow as if illumined from within while the dark walls evaporate into shadow. It is as if you are standing inside a giant camera – each photograph becomes an aperture through which his ideas are imprinted onto the viewer.

As curator, Kerry Brougher, said so aptly, “Sugimoto is a photographer of ideas.” In particular, I learn from him how photography can expand and collapse our sense of time. For example, in this shot below of a drive-in theatre, the shutter was left open for the full duration of the movie, recording every second, and yet in the end, the compilation of all those moments is simply bright light. It seems fitting then that when I snapped the photo above, holding my camera high above the other heads around me, Sugimoto was illuminated by the flash of someone else’s camera - he is rendered a white, bright blur himself – burning with ideas.





Friday, June 29, 2007

Thinking about Art

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco always makes me feel like I have been transported to Europe. My father and I traveled there together this week to see “Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper.” It was a treat to wander the marble halls with my father because his knowledge of printmaking combined with mine of photography allowed each of us a more complete understanding and insight into the works on display. In the first room, I fell in love with an intimate etching by Rembrandt of a puppy (I am always a sucker for dogs), and my father gave me a crash course in print media, such as the distinction between a mezzotint and an aquatint. In the next room, I was struck by the illusionistic beauty of a drawing by Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype – it was certainly not a lack of drawing skill that inspired him to become one of the inventors of photography. If I could take one thing home with me, it would be the Tina Modotti photograph of an interior mural in Mexico – the way she photographed it turns it into a sweeping dreamlike experience.

Walking back to the car, I snapped this photograph of Rodin’s The Thinker. The next day, while listening to Anna Halprin on the artheals.org podcast I was touched to hear her say that it was a visit to the Musée Rodin sculpture gardens in Paris that provided an antidote for the deep horror she had experienced just prior in visiting a concentration camp – that it was art and beauty that truly have the power to heal the soul. I had a moment of inter-rushing connections – Rodin’s sculpture in San Francisco that I just saw and the ones that populate the Musée Rodin that inspired Anna who then inspired me…and it made me all the more grateful that I took the time this week to let art speak to me.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Practice: Art + Text

Last week, I received a delightful package in the mail. A simple brown cardboard box yielded these treats – loose leaf tea, a tea strainer, and five copies of the journal, Practice: Art + Text, which includes reproductions of my series, Bottle Dreams. As a participant in the journal, I receive these gifts plus a small stipend. I have enjoyed sitting down with my hot tea feasting on the literature and images published here.

In particular, I love the interview with Alec Finley and his discussion of “letterboxing.” Alec has planted wooden boxes in the landscape, each containing a “circle poem.” Directions are made available to those who would like to find them and they become a hiking destination. Each box has a “keeper” – a local friend who plants the box and caretakes it. Alec is currently half way to his goal of creating 100 of these around the world. I love this idea of planting art in the earth to be discovered as a hidden treasure.


I am also honored to be in such good visual company in this journal. Paddy Sutton’s absorbing photographs of the ocean are made more haunting by his statement in which he reveals that each of these locations marks the death of a ship and its crew during World War II. Colette Calascione’s paintings (one is featured on the cover of Practice) are wonderful surreal explorations that blend human figures with the animal, and composite references to art history and natural sciences. Aaron Cruse’s pinhole photographs are marvelous in the way they inscribe a circular photograph in the center of a black field that leaves the impression of looking through a peephole or tunnel at the outside world.


You can enjoy these images and texts yourself by ordering a copy of Practice at www.practicejournal.com.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

“Divine Dissatisfaction”

I just refreshed my bulletin board – removing what no longer hums and leaving lots of blank space for new quotes and images to inspire me. Keeping a bulletin board in my creative space has been a practice of mine for many, many years. There is one quote that has made the cut every time – this one here by Martha Graham (click on it to view it larger, or click here for a more legible version).

This very copy of this quote was gifted to me upon graduating from college by two good family friends. At the time, I did not understand it yet. It took a couple years in which I grew into myself as an artist before I really experienced that sense of “divine dissatisfaction.” But when I received it at the age of 22, I kept it because I could tell it was profound, and because the friends who had gifted it to me are extraordinary people. I am grateful to them for having known that this quote would serve me so well as I grew more deeply into my creative life. It’s like how a coach can see what you can become before you can even see it yourself.

Today, this quote speaks volumes to me about trusting my creative process. As Martha Graham articulates, my job as an artist is simply to stay receptive and clear -- “to keep the channel open.” I often experience working in the studio as a process of lifting a lid on the top of my head and allowing ideas to pour through me into form. I also love that she spells out “it is not your business to determine how good it is…” This phrase sends sweet relief into my shoulders. Also, this quote and the many others I collect and hang on my bulletin board make me feel connected to a larger continuum of creative individuals. It reminds me that though I work in solitude, I am not alone.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Spring Cleaning before Summer Solstice

I have spent the days leading up to yesterday’s summer solstice in a flurry of studio spring cleaning. I have dusted all the corners and reorganized my shelves. I have thrown away what I no longer need, which honestly was not much. I am a consummate collector and the objects I surround myself with hold ideas that can go dormant. I have been re-activating them through the act of touching, sorting, dusting, and looking deeply at them again. The ideas hum in the air now – full of possibility in this fresh open space.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sausalito Art Walk

Last night I participated in Sausalito Art Walk – a monthly event celebrating the arts with live music in the streets, and galleries and businesses staying open late. Prints from Evocations and Sanctuary were on display at Sausalito Picture Framing at 310 Caledonia Street, and they will be up all month until July 9. Bob Woodrum just opened Sausalito Picture Framing a few months ago, and he did a great job on all my framing for the Bolinas Museum show. It is a pleasure to have my work displayed in his very professional shop with crisp white walls and great lighting. I also love that my work is in the company of all of his molding samples since I am such a frame junkee (as witnessed in my series Mapping the Body).

I took this photo above through the front window. It seemed fitting somehow to photograph a piece from Evocations through the distortion of the glass storefront window as it mimics the distortion already happening in the photograph, which was shot through a glass bottle. In the background you can see additional pieces from the series that are more clearly displayed in the photo below.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Good Review

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, artist Julian Schnable answered the question, “What is the worst thing you can do as an artist?” with the response, “Try to get people to like you.” I agree. Yet, nevertheless (for better or for worse), it is quite thrilling when they do.

So I was delighted to read the positive review of my show at the Bolinas Museum in the June issue of Artweek. Thank you to contributing editor Frank Cebulski for articulating such a full picture of my art practice and honoring its surrealist roots. For anyone who would like a pdf copy of the article emailed to you, please send me a note. Or you can pick up a copy of the magazine at these locations.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Musings

Today is Memorial Day -- a holiday initiated in the 1860’s to honor those who died in the Civil War and, since then, honors all soldiers who gave their life in combat. However, over time, this holiday has come to be more about the joys of a three-day weekend, outdoor BBQ’s and summer starting soon. I, myself, had my fill of BBQ yesterday while volunteering at the Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department annual fundraiser – a great spirited community event and part of what I love about living in a small town.

But today is not about BBQ for me. Today, I will drive to the East Bay to meet with my students at JFK University to watch two documentaries, each about an artist honoring death and change. The first is KayLynn TwoTrees Trail of Hope: The Building of a Ceremonial Earthwork produced by Jean Donohue. It documents the creation of a large spiral carved into the earth in the Ohio River Valley that honors, with ritual and intention, the various people’s of that landscape – those present and those past (including the Native Americans killed in the Trail of Tears).

The second DVD is Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision directed by Freida Lee Mock. The bulk of this film is dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The first time I saw this film, I was just stunned by how young Maya Lin was - a 21 year old student - when her proposal won the jury’s vote. She had to fight to keep her vision from being distorted by politics. In the end, she created one of the most powerful memorials I have ever experienced. As she describes so eloquently in the film, she designed the memorial as a cut in the earth, so that you walk down into a subterranean space to find the name of the loved one who died - you can reach out and touch that name, trace it with your fingers, feeling the intensity of that loss as a cathartic moment. Then you walk back up into the light, into the world of the living.

In watching both of these DVD’s I was struck by how important it is to create space, both physical and temporal, to confront and honor death and loss. Memorial Day, despite its festive atmosphere in our country, is an opportunity to do just that. Both KayLynn TwoTrees and Maya Lin remind me how art can provide that invitation to deepen by shapeshifting the pain of the past into something that heals and transforms the present and future.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Contemporary Quarterly: Art and Text

I am pleased to have been curated into an online exhibition and quarterly publication called Contemporary Quarterly – which is dedicated to putting contemporary art in context. This issue's theme is "art and text," and it includes some of my work from Mapping the Body as well as art by Donald Farnsworth (whose work is on the cover above), Arthur Huang, Rachel Wieking, and Catherine Courtenaye. Each artist’s work is quite distinct offering a nice affirmation of the myriad ways text can be incorporated into art. As the curator Robert Tomlinson explains in his essay, “The five artists represented here are as diverse in their imagery as they are in their choices of mediums. They are, however, unified in their use of text as a means to marry content with form to transform the common and ordinary into the personal and profound.”

You can view the online exhibition which features a clever room by room 3D format by clicking here. Or download a free pdf version of the catalogue by clicking here. Or purchase a hard copy catalogue for $20 by emailing info@contemporaryquarterly.com.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Magic Mail

Amid the bills, catalogues, magazines, and other post box ephemera, I found this jewel – an artist’s book by Alisa Golden. Several weeks ago, I signed up for a subscription series by this Bay Area book artist, and Time Travel was my first installment. Not only was it magical to get an unanticipated treasure in the mail, but the book itself is full of the whimsy – uneven pages, varying textures, and even a tea bag filled with the words “read me.” What a delight. What a reminder that art need not be complicated, expensive, or formal. This tactile treat made my day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Artheals.org Launches a Podcast!

It’s official. The Arts & Healing Podcast has launched! Britt Bravo and I have been working to birth this new feature of artheals.org for the last several weeks. It is very exciting to see it go live. For the first two podcasts, Britt interviewed Alli Chagi-Starr who speaks so eloquently about art and activism, and Britt also interviewed me (as the director of artheals.org) about my life as an artist. You can tune in and listen to the podcast on your computer, or subscribe thru iTunes by clicking here.

Here are some of the other podcasts I listen too. In listening to these, I experienced the enlivening power of hearing people’s voices online, and it inspired me to enrich artheals.org with audio interviews.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Inspirations for Object Makers

I have been combing through my notes from Photo Lucida today – in particularly googling several artists who were recommended to me by Leslie Brown at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston.

I started with Robert Hirsh whose installation World in a Jar: War and Trauma includes 800 bottles of found imagery of horrors from the past three centuries. This project startled me. In 2002, when I had the dream that led me to collect and work with bottles – the figure in my dream had told me “you can bottle nightmares.” And so I tried. And I had to stop because I realized I was not psychically strong enough to work with nightmare imagery. My project, Bottle Dreams (one piece is pictured here), became instead about bottling memory, emphasizing its fluid and fragmentary nature. I marvel at the fact that another artist who I have never met pulled through such a similar idea. It affirms my belief that there exists a collective soup of ideas floating around in the atmosphere seeking artists to channel them into form. Very often it is more than one artist that heeds that call, transmitting it into form in his or her own unique voice.


I also looked up the work of Susana Reisman and learned so much from the way she engages her “ambivalent relationship to photography” by creating sculptures out of photographs printed on canvas. Next she constructed sculptures with blank canvas, recording photographically how light interacted with them. I resonate with her shift from making sculptures to making sculptural objects that are meant to be photographed. I love the playfulness and sublime abstraction in her work.


I also explored the historical archive of The Laboratorium, and then admired the beautiful, haunting emulsion transfers of David Prifti. Now, my eyes are full and the mixed media artist in me has been deeply fed.