Month: December 2015

different

Part of the world has just celebrated Christmas, and our thoughts turn to the new year. I have always been a bit suspicious of New Years. It seems a time for people to think that a new chapter has started in their lives, one which they have more control over than the last chapter. New Year’s resolutions are made, gym memberships are bought, promises are thrown about right and left to not go through the same pain and struggle as the previous year. There really is nothing wrong in taking a moment to relive your life of the past year and revise how you want to spend your energy and your time here on earth. But time (and by extension, the calendar) is a man-made construct and January first is really just another day in your life.

Yup, you guessed it, I am in a bad mood. I have not felt Merry and I don’t feel like ringing in the New Year with joy and happiness. It seems that this is a time of grief for me, a time of letting go of loved ones, a time of wallowing and struggling and sleeping. My godfather died over Christmas and my dad is definitely crossing the space/time continuum of dementia. I’m in pain and I don’t think a New Year is going to change that.

I could go on and on, but my words seem to be painted with mud and gunk which, from experience, I know is not much fun to read. Instead I will leave you with a few recent and not-so-recent pictures. Sometimes pictures are an easier way for me to express feelings.

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Mr. R. pulled out his chef’s coat to help make Christmas dinner.
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The chicken tortilla soup served for Boxing Day brunch with family and friends.
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Evidence of weather gone haywire…blooming miniature cotoneaster.
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More evidence of warm weather…forsythia and Christmas balls
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Best friends in happier times. My godfather on the left and my dad on the right.
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self portrait…grief.

 

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Lately I’ve been writing posts in my head but when it comes down to typing them out, I draw a blank. I can’t even seem to come up with a title. I have been doing this blogging thing for three years now and it has morphed many times. People (you) have come and gone, and I find it difficult to keep playing the game to encourage new readers. I know, it sounds like I am breaking up with you guys…never fear, I am just acknowledging there are natural fluctuations in any relationship, they all take some work, even blogging relationships require maintenance.

That being said, this is also a difficult time for me. Christmas, while a lovely time of year, has always been tough for various reasons. This year is no exception. My dad has started running faster (wheeling?) down the path of dementia. At 94, it seems his brain is no longer able to keep up with the world as it is and he is starting to disappear. He can still put a “z” on the triple word score, but does not know that he got 60 points for it. (As always, Scrabble is a really good cognitive litmus test.) He doesn’t seem to be concerned or anxious, for which I am grateful. It is just weird to know that my larger than life, narcissistic father is slowly crossing the threshold to another consciousness and he’s going all alone.

At the same time, my godfather, who finally retired last year as organist and church secretary of the Methodist church…at the age of 90…has complications due to pneumonia. This is a man who’s presence has always been part of my life, even if I have gone a long time without seeing him. He was my father’s organ teacher. I took voice lessons from him when I was auditioning for colleges. In recent years, he has been one of my main pillars of emotional support every time I have gone to visit/take care of my parents. He played Vidor’s toccata for my mother’s funeral. (My dad stood with us in the front row of the church, facing the balcony, and listened to the whole thing and then applauded…it was a wonderful moment.) He is a gentle man, an amazing musician, has a lovely sense of humor…I could go on and on. I could always rely on a big smile and a hug when I popped into the church office to say hello. He is in my thoughts these days… big time.

So you can see that my mind is not all about lightness and happiness right now. I have not been taking lots of pictures lately, but I found this one in the camera from one of the rare days where we actually had a frost. Somehow I think it’s appropriate. I found this praying mantis in the bowl of my buddha fountain. Even in death he prays to Buddha.

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Buddha holds the spirit of the dead praying mantis

the sun…it doth shine

This has been a particularly foggy week. Both literally and figuratively. A warm trend for December, making it possible to drive convertibles with the top down, go golfing (both accomplished by my husband…he is happy now) and walk with out shivering. Not typical December weather but, quite frankly, I don’t know what is. What this leads to, of course, is dense fog, both at night and in the morning.

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musk ox? what musk ox?
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giraffe looks a little fuzzy
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even foggy at night

My brain, ever the willing conspirator, went foggy as well. It was a long but happy weekend, lots of people came to my open studio, some I knew and others I met for the first time. People wandered around the grounds, saw the sculptures, ate chocolate chip cookies and asked tons of questions. (The most often asked was “how did you get into this welding thing?”)

Fortunately the fog stayed away, the sun shone and everything was really great. Even the dogs behaved themselves, greeting visitors and making sure that everything was okay.

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Ginger, making sure that nobody misbehaved.

Unfortunately, the weekend did not end on a great note. Sunday night, while in the process of getting the signs that I had put out on the street corners to guide people to my studio, I managed to misstep and fall face first into the road. Fortunately, there were no cars to run me over. Unfortunately, I had to drive myself back home while bleeding from abrasions on my face. Long story short, I am fine, other than some cuts and swelling on my upper lip (exacerbated by my braces), a small knee abrasion and a hurt hand that has healed nicely. (I returned to welding yesterday). My dignity and self-confidence were maimed, however, and I have been hiding out and healing physically, mentally and emotionally for the past couple of days. I only emerged from the house occasionally to take pictures of fog and get the studio back in working condition. Here is Ginger who is modeling my preferred position since Sunday night.

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Tonight I can confidently say that the sun is back out in my brain. My body has kindly worked hard on healing itself and I can now eat without pain. That is always a bonus. Tomorrow is another day and I am looking forward to it. The sun will shine, the Christmas tree will be picked out and brought home and I will go for a long walk with a friend in the warm weather that is reminiscent of May, not December. Life is good.

advice

Advice to young and old artists…but mostly the young ones.

  1. All art is an experiment. If you believe this then you are less likely to be afraid to change course in mid stream. Experimenting means taking chances, trying new things, letting go of what you know to find out what you don’t know. In other words, don’t love your art until it is done. Which leads me to the next point…
  2. Some artists create with a preconceived finished project. Some have a general idea and then allow the process to dictate exactly where it should go. Don’t be afraid to change your mind mid stroke. You can always go back and make the first idea again, but there is a certain magic that happens when you let the mind take a day off and just go with your gut. (This one comes from my amazing sister-in-law who just got her BFA and whose final project was voted Winner of ISC ‘s 2015 Outstanding Student Achievement In Contemporary Sculpture. www.deborahsperry.com)
  3. Live. Just live life. Art comes from experience, from reading and thinking and loving and grieving and…
  4. Find your gang. (This comes from art critic Jerry Saltz) I would rephrase this slightly and tell you to find your tribe of mentors. Art is by definition a very insular activity. Most artists create by themselves. Balance this with connections that are meaningful.Which leads me to the next point…
  5. You will be different than most people in this country. Get used to it. Artists tend to see differently, hear differently, think differently. Most people have no frame of reference for this. But remember…they are your audience, the ones who may buy/watch/listen to what you have lovingly created. Find a way to connect with them somehow. Educate people when you can, love them always, then go back to creating.
  6. Being an artist is fun, being a good artist is work. (This comes from an amazing sculptor friend, Bart Walter). Yes, you can paint, write music/poetry/act/etc. Now you have to do the work to make your art better and put it out into the world. Write a CV, create a website, a portfolio, get headshots, go to auditions, take art/dance/acting/singing lessons, talk to the right people, research galleries, send letters of intent, reply to calls for entries (that all want different sized photographs or written samples), write a blog post, put yourself out onto social media, read about art, go to galleries/plays/concerts, get therapy, get a part-time job to pay the bills until you become famous…oh, wait, there is no guarantee you will be famous. The truth is the world does not owe you anything just because you are a talented artist. Some of the most talented artists don’t become successful. The ones who do, are willing to do the work after they shut the studio door. So do the work, and then do it again and again and again. It can take some time to build up a career but it also takes time to continue it. Don’t stop.

Okay, this is enough for now, I know there is more but my brain hurts. I leave you with another picture of the rust paintings that I have been playing with. (Here’s me doing my work…) These are from the “Oxidation Happens, Chaos” Series #1-3. You can see them at the open studio this weekend (December 5 and 6, 2015 from 10 to 5) along with all of my great outdoor sculptures. Go to www.ccartists.com for more info and a map of all the other participating artists in the Carroll County (MD) Artists’ Studio Tour.

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