Month: December 2013

New Year’s Eve on Useless Bay

Useless Bay. What a great name. It is only useless because it can’t be used by humans except as a great place to walk. The water is too shallow for boating and the winds are too rough for anything else.  But on this bay is the Double Bluff Beach and Dog Park. It’s the perfect place to hang out for a morning, walking the beach, seeing eagles, laughing at the dogs running, making a driftwood sculpture, and looking at Point No Point. Sounds a bit like a novel doesn’t it?

You will find Useless Bay on the southwest side of Whidbey Island which is northwest of Seattle, WA. It looks across the water at the Olympic Peninsula. On a clear day, you can see views of mountains. So far, the weather has been pretty gray. No worries, it is still beautiful. I will have more pix when I get home, I seem to have forgotten the right cord to plug my camera into my laptop, which is so old it is not equipped with a memory card slot. Sigh. So this picture was taken with my iPhone.

I wanted to go down to this beach with my husband and walk up the coast while taking the time to look back at this past year and think about what we want to do next year. It is a tradition that we started several years ago and it was pretty magical to be able to do it on a cool beach in the Pacific Northwest.

So on that note, I send you awesome New Year’s wishes…May 2014 be whatever you need it to be and more.

Useless Bay
Useless Bay

christmas day 2013

I only have a moment, I still have a couple of presents to attend to before we go to Christmas dinner but I can’t help posting some pix of our Christmas so far…and wishing all of you out there in blogland a Merry Christmas. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you a beautiful and peaceful New Year.

our first ornament that we bought together.
our first ornament that we bought together.
wishing someone would come out and play
Lucy is wishing someone would come out and play
snuggling with mom and her new soft throw blanket.
Ginger is snuggling with mom and her new soft throw blanket.
Hey...why did you get up?
Hey…why did you get up?
if you have dogs, you get gifts about dogs.
if you have dogs, you get gifts about dogs.
a little stoned after the Christmas catnip toy
Max is a little stoned after the Christmas catnip toy
Um, can I come out now?
Um, can I come out now? Izzy asks.
one of my favorite presents...now I have to figure out how it works!
one of my favorite presents…now I have to figure out how it works!
no THAT's a wrench!  R is always pleased that he can shop for me in the tool section at Sears.
now THAT’s a wrench! R is always pleased that he can shop for me in the tool section at Sears.
Christmas joy...cooking!!!
Christmas joy…cooking!!!

violence

From Webster’s Dictionary:

vi·o·lence

noun \ˈvī-lən(t)s, ˈvī-ə-\

: the use of physical force to harm someone, to damage property, etc.

: great destructive force or energy

and from dictionary.reference.com:

1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4. a violent act or proceeding.
5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
skinned
skinned

Yesterday I posted a picture of an orange that we had “abused” in the kitchen for culinary reasons. One of my readers was reminded of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which the UN began last month on the 25th. In order to keep it going, they are asking for people around the world to wear orange on the 25th of every month. Her comment made me start thinking about this subject…here are my thoughts as of this moment.

Here I sit in the comfort of my home, secure in the fact that at this moment I am not experiencing any violence against my Self, my body, my mind. I grew up not witnessing any overt acts of violence to my friends. This does not mean I don’t have scars, violence can take many forms, often the more subtle forms are overlooked because they don’t leave bruises. I do know what it’s like wondering which father would come out of the bedroom, and trying to be a good girl so I wouldn’t get yelled at or put down. I became wise in the ways of alcohol, learning that criticism was just around the corner, that emotions were only to be expressed in the safety of your own bedroom and that what father says is always right, even if he changes his mind several times a day. These forms of abuse were often wrapped up in words that were specifically chosen to portray a meaning that the rest of the world might not get. I know what it’s like to expect this kind of behavior from men, to read between the lines in order to protect myself, even when it’s not necessary. I know what it is like to take those words into my adulthood and start to live by them. I know how difficult it is to put them aside, to begin to hear other words, to find my Self and to like her.

That being said, I do NOT know what it’s like to live with fear of physical abuse on a daily, hourly basis. I do not know what it’s like to endure, day after day, someone’s anger that is so intense and has nowhere to go but out the fist. I do not know what it is like to wonder if those soldiers outside my door will cross the invisible line from civilized to uncivilized and rape me, just because. I do not know what it is like to have to pick myself up and feed a family as best I can with no food or money.  I do not know what it is like to be called names that are designed to demean, minimalize and animalize a person.

I don’t know any of these things but I am acutely aware that at any moment I could, the balance of power swings in a heartbeat, chaos is just around the corner, and my safe world could go up in flames tomorrow. I do know what it is like to have someone try to grab part of my life away, to open an envelope and know that my life will be different through no desire of my own. The sense of helplessness is overwhelming, the feelings are myriad: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety…the list goes on.

There is no use saying that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger for there are more ways to define death than what is in the dictionary. There are hundreds of moments of grief in a day. The challenge is to survive and continue. To go on because there is no choice. To strengthen ourselves however we can and to fight back whenever we can. I can’t change who my father was, but I can forgive, transform and grow.

I once was watching a movie with my husband that had a rape scene in it. He did not understand why it upset me so much that I had to leave the room. (As I recall, I had to go outside and pace around mumbling and cursing). I may not have been raped, but I could feel pain as if I had. This is why violence against women is not just an isolated thing. Because we feel each other’s pain. And men, well, for the most part they just don’t. So it’s up to us to tell them.

For what it’s worth, violence is an equal opportunity entity. It is global and crosses racial, ethnic, socio-economic and age boundaries. Nobody is exempt. Sometimes the violence becomes self-inflicted. I don’t have the answers to fixing the problem, I don’t know if it can be fixed. Wearing orange one day a month sure isn’t going to fix it, but I feel that by mentioning it in my blog I can at least put some words to something that happens all around the world. If you live in a country where you can vote for politicians who have women’s interest in mind…do so. As Hilary Clinton says repeatedly, “women’s rights ARE human rights.”

“I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime. I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change .”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

And yes, I will probably wear orange on Christmas Day.

For more information on this subject go to http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/

orange sunday

There is an orange in our kitchen that has been abused. Don’t feel sorry for it though, it has sacrificed it’s skin for culinary greatness…or at least culinary experimentation. On Wednesday I played with the funny little tool that takes strips off of citrus. I was hoping to get cool orange peel curls to put in the really yummy Christmas cocktails I made for a bunch of friends. Alas, I need to buy a whole bunch of oranges to really get this technique down.

Yesterday, my husband, in the search for citrus to put in his pâte sucré for some fruit tarts that he is making for Christmas, spied the half-skinned orange and, lacking any other volunteer, began to remove the zest with a grater. The orange has sat there naked for two days. I will eat it soon, but before I do, I wanted to take a picture of it because, well, I’m me. I thought it was fascinating to look at the texture of a skinned orange. What do you think?

*Update* Please read the first comment on this post by Gallivanta. I did not know about the United Nation’s “Orange Day” but I think I will find something orange to wear on Christmas in order to lend a voice to this day.

skinned
skinned

 

confession of an artist

Yes, I have a confession to make. I absolutely detest wrapping presents. I missed out on Gift Wrapping 101. Somehow I was sick that day. Fortunately, I don’t come face to face with this deficiency very often but needless to say, this is the one time of year where it is glaringly apparent.

When I owned a craft gallery, I was forced to find ways to joke about my lack of expertise on a daily basis so that I could alleviate my embarrassment. Tissue paper was my nemesis. I despised having to create crafty ways of shoving an item into a bag and putting ribbons on it. Invariably I tore a corner of my wrapping, or taped my finger to the paper.

The ironic thing is that my husband is an amazing present wrapper. He delights in cutting paper and taping it together in a precise and clean way. Hand him a package of bows and he is in seventh heaven. Unfortunately, there is a pile of presents for him on the floor beside me waiting to be wrapped and somehow it seems a bit rude to ask him to wrap his own presents. It’s bad enough that he picked some of them out.

So I will sit on the floor with my scissors and tape and attempt to wrap his gifts in a presentable manner and then hide them under the tree so that it looks festive. He really won’t care what they look like…as long as he gets to rip the paper off to see what’s inside. (Have I mentioned that he’s really a nine-year-old with a driver’s license?)

hohohumbug
hohohumbug

In the meantime, Happy Winter Solstice for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere (and Happy Summer Solstice to those of you who are under the equator). I delight in knowing that we have had the shortest day and I have survived it once again. Sweet!

 

 

life is pain, princess

That is a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It was on the other night and as my husband and I watched it we happily shouted out all the good lines that we have memorized over the years. (He’s only mostly dead; you are the brute squad; hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…)

Wesley says this pain quote to Buttercup just before she sends him tumbling head over heels down a steep incline. I have had this saying running through my head all day today. The day started with a painful yoga class due to a sciatic thing running through my body. Because of this I started thinking about pain and how I deal with it. (Not very well.) I have been a dancer since I was little but am now having to honor the fact that my body gets off to a verrrry slow start every morning. I don’t just have stiffness, I really hurt when I start to stretch and move around. Because of this I am coming to the conclusion that I need to pull back on my yoga class, perhaps go back to level 1 instead of trying to power through level 2. I don’t mean give into my morning aches and pains, just try to work around them a little more. I know from experience that there are ways to stretch out muscles by stretching the ones around them and there are teachers in my yoga studio who are really good at it. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing and fun but when I am gritting my teeth, I am definitely NOT having fun. And it’s no use telling me that I don’t have to do the poses full out like the rest of the class, I am much too competitive and stupid not to push things to the max. So I will probably have to move my schedule around to fit in a different class, but in the long run it will be worth it.

After pondering this for most of the day, I then started thinking about this post and how pain fits into my subtitle, “finding art in my daily life”. And I started to ask myself some questions.

What does pain have to do with art? 

Um, everything? Pain is an everyday experience for most everyone I know. It is part of being born, it is part of growing up and it is definitely part of aging. For me, the physical act of welding can cause pain (big helmet, awkward stances, lifting heavy objects). But there is also the mental anguish that is involved with creation; Is it good enough, how do I finish it, why isn’t it working, will it sell? And finally, there is the pain of having to let a creation go, sending it on it’s way with nary a backward glance (if you’re lucky).

So, what does pain look like?

I have a simple answer…La Pieta by Michelangelo. I know, I know, there are an infinite amount of answers to this question but this sculpture, for me, is the most beautiful representation of human pain that I have ever seen. But you don’t have to travel to Italy to see grieving, suffering, sadness and all the other facets of human pain. The fact is that pain in art is all around us. Poetry, prose, music, theater, visual art…all the arts are filled with pain.

How do I deal with pain in my artwork?

As an artist I think that my job is to recreate life and all my experiences in this life through my particular media of steel, polymer clay and all the other pieces-parts that make their way into one of my sculptures. I am not a puppy dog/rainbow/”cute” kinda gal. I have no problems with that kind of art (much) but I would not be authentic to myself if I didn’t go deeper than that. Not too deep, mind you, then I think it can cross the line in to therapy and lord knows I don’t want to share THAT with you. No, I want to think of it as more like a conversation between me and the rest of the world. Perhaps it can be a  conversation that doesn’t necessarily use words but connects with something nonverbal, something that you may not even be aware of.

Isn’t pain too ugly to show? Why would I want to make art that shows such a negative side of life?

Oh my gosh but these questions are getting harder and harder! Will someone turn off my brain please???

I think the answer lies not in whether I should hide pain in my art because it is too ugly but whether I am okay if other people are not in a place where they want to look at it. There will always be people who find pain in any form uncomfortable to look at and contemplate. Sometimes you need a break from the daily struggle. I’m okay with that. That’s why artists like Thomas Kincaid and Norman Rockwell are so popular. But I’m definitely not okay ignoring an integral part of who I am. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. And perhaps my challenge is to transform pain into something humorous, loving and well, less painful.

I leave you with a humorous, loving and definitely less painful picture that captures my thoughts perfectly. Thanks to my two ridiculously cute “grandchildren” who have no problems hamming it up for the camera.

Aidan and Davey, July 4, 2013

struggle

Sometimes it is a struggle to capture the art in my daily life. I looked out the window at one point on this snowy day and saw that the snow, due to the prevailing winds, was catching in the diamonds of the lattice work on the side of the porch. I went out three different times to try to capture it and was unable to get a decent picture. I got lots of lousy ones, blurry, dark, and showing things I didn’t want to show and couldn’t crop out. I will post the one mediocre one just as a reminder of how difficult it is to take photos…especially if you forget to check your settings and your focus mode…sigh. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

In my defense, it is a dark, gray day. Daylight is a photographer’s friend sometimes.

through the lattice and beyond
through the lattice and beyond