Yesterday I spent six hours doing three different installations of the paper-cast rocks that I have been making for the past four months (see previous post). The idea was to take something that I have been working on in my studio and find a venue to place it in so that I could see a) what the reaction was and b) how the objects changed when placed within the context of a public space. There was just so much information that I could ascertain stuck in my studio so I ventured forth to the Horowitz Center at the Howard County Community College in Columbia, MD. (Thanks to Becky Bafford and Janelle Broderick for giving me the opportunity to do this.)
I arrived at the college at around 10 a.m. and started emptying the box of rocks soon after. I really had no idea what I was going to make but I immediately had some very interested people checking the whole thing out. It was quickly apparent that the best moments of the day were going to when I put a “rock” into someone’s hand. The surprise was immediate, their eyes telling them that this object should be heavy and their hand telling them that it was lighter than air. Sometime during the day I started to ask people “Which do you believe, your eyes or your hand?”
I had several wonderful conversations and met some really interesting people. The place I had chosen was one of the major throughways from the parking garage to the rest of the college. Howard Community College has an incredibly diverse student population and I was talking to people of all ethnic backgrounds. I was also intrigued by the amount of older students as well. I was not the oldest person in the building by any means.
Here are pix of the three installations that I worked on during the day.
I learned a lot during this process. Most of it was fascinating to me only, but I will share a few things that really intrigued me.
- This was less about an installation than about a performance art piece. The finished product was great but my interactions with the public were more important to me as an artist. Especially when I was able to start a deeper, more philosophical conversation.
- It is very difficult to create and record at the same time. In the future, I will look into finding someone to visually record the experience. (It also helps to have someone to go get lunch and give me time to eat it.)
- This experience was very different than a gallery show or a craft show. It was not about me only, but about my interactions with the surrounding environment. Because I was not looking to sell the piece, I was able to concentrate on talking to people in a more relaxed way.
- Some people didn’t see rocks they saw shells or even bread. This last one threw me a bit as I didn’t see that at all. But I went with it anyway. One man’s rock is another’s bread roll. Of course it meant I better understood the gentleman who thought the last installation reminded him of Hansel and Gretel. Mmmmmm…food for thought???
- Daylight, time of day, placement of objects is of the utmost importance. I was located in a very well,travelled corridor, although enough out of the way that no one tried to walk on them. The light changed drastically throughout the day which then changed the success of taking pictures. I need to take this into consideration.
- It’s better to do this when I am in good gardening shape. I hurt today.
I am sure there will be more of these experiences, I just have to figure out when and where. But with so much else going on, I don’t know when that will be.
Update on the Great Blue Heron…I was featured on the front page of the local rag…there is something to be said for social media…
Click here to read the article and watch the video…
I returned from Namibia less than a month ago and I can honestly say I’ve never had a better trip. The country is trying to grow environmental tourism in such a way that everyone benefits. Their goal is to create a win/win for people AND animals, especially predators. It is a long term goal, one that will take a generation to really grow strong, but already there have been some positive stories. Not to mention the fact that the infrastructure construction is booming.
The good news (for me) is that the experience was amazing. There are still large swathes of the country that are uninhabited, mostly because they are uninhabitable. The sand sea of Namib is an immense section of land that has been evolving (and dying) for millions of years.Water is more than scarce, it is practically nonexistent. And yet some lifeforms do exist. The recent drought (how can you have a drought in such a dry country?) have made it even harder for them to survive.
Because of this, my experience in Namibia was much different than many visitors to Africa. There were no plains, there were no huge herds of anything. There was an enormous amount of sand. Each time I encountered an animal it was magical and exciting. (Except for Oryx, there are lots of them. No wonder they are the national animal.)
Here are some things I learned on the trip.
- Elephants do actually listen to humans. I found this out when an adolescent elephant began leaning on our vehicle while we were standing looking out the top of it. Instead of turning the truck on and scaring it away, the driver just said calmly “No, don’t do it”. The elephant stopped leaning, thought about it one more time, then walked away.
- Watching seals is not fun when there are newborns around. The newborns are not protected and often die by being squashed, especially if the seals get spooked and exit quickly to the water.
- I know exactly how big and heavy the horns are forester kudu. I also know how tall kudus are compared to me.
- I am a better photographer than I give myself credit for. That being said, there is still room for improvement. (Auto focus does not always know what it is you are trying to focus on. I will not show you the thousand blurry pictures that I took.) I thought I would be out of my league on a photography tour but it was actually extremely helpful and I learned a lot.
- There are few actual “wild” places in Africa. Even in the bush, animals are often collared in order to monitor them. Sometimes I felt like I was in what I call a “natural zoo”. In other words, the predators and other animals run free…until they get to the fence. The fact that there are miles in between fences does not take away from the fact that they can’t go wherever they want. The good news is that they are protected from local farmers who have a desire to kill any predator that might take away their livelihood. The bad news is that it creates an unnatural ecosystem that constantly has to be monitored. One place had so many lions that they were regularly catching giraffes. However, if it weren’t for these places, I would never have had the amazing experiences that I had.
- Even seasoned trackers get excited when they actually find the animal they are tracking. I will never forget when I heard our tracker say “I got them!” in an excited tone when he found the rhinos.
- White rhinos are less persnickety and mean than black rhinos.
- Rhino horns are made from the same materials as our fingernails. If you know of anyone taking Chinese herbs that contain rhino horns, shoot them. No, wait, I mean explain to them that by taking those herbs, they are killing off an entire species.
Of course there is tons more stuff I learned but I see your eyes glazing over. So I will move on to the visual part of today’s lecture. Enjoy looking through this group of photos! (If you are viewing this on the WordPress Reader, visit the actual blog site in order to see the slide show. It’s definitely worth it.)
I am off to Africa tomorrow and I thought I would write one last blog post. Well, actually I won’t write much because I thought I would give you guys a break from the intensity of life. So I am just posting some pictures that I have taken over the past couple of weeks.
I spent a great day wandering around scrapyards with the photographer Alyssha Csuk. She specializes in abstract photography, and has a passion for rust. These pix came from that experience.
This was the morning sun coming into the studio.
And here is the latest on the river of rocks project…
And you can’t have a truly successful stress-free post without a picture of Ginger and Lucy waiting for their Sunday pancakes…
I’m off to Africa tomorrow evening…stay tuned for lots of photos of my trip!!!
I think I’ll go for a daily ramble…wanna come?
“Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.”-Lily Tomlin.
Some days I wake up and start the day and some days I don’t. I have learned to appreciate the former and ride through the latter. Recent days haven’t been so bad. I have done lots of nothing and a little bit of something and I am content. My brain, however, continues to work whether I am or not…pushing out thoughts and rationalizations and fears throughout the day. These thoughts seem to stem from the world around me, both near and far. Here’s just a sample of a typical day.
Okay, time to get up and start my day. What day is it and what are my goals? How do I feel? Is it shower day? I say hello to R. out of habit and preference, he is usually downstairs working on his laptop. I am not satisfied until he responds. If he doesn’t, I know I am alone in the house.
Cereal, milk, bowl and spoon…today I managed to get them without having to think too hard about the next step. What’s the weather like? Can I sit on the back steps and eat while hanging out with my four best buds? They circle me like vultures, hoping today is the day they get to have some leftover milk.
During my morning ablutions, I notice that the redbud tree has grown so much that I can see the mockingbird from the “throne” and I am thrilled to see him back again this fall. I imagine he and I have a relationship, even though he is a bird and I am a human…yes, I really do believe he is looking at me…and then of course I have to get my real camera and catch him hanging out by the berries.
When I am satisfied that the pictures look good and post them on facebook, I stomp out to my studio. It is blessedly cool and I actually feel like welding. I seem to be focused and there are no cobwebs in my head which is a super bonus. I take note of what’s around me, the air, the sky, the smells, the sounds of the wind in the trees.
Putting pieces on the third seed pod form, my mind is occupied for brief moments while I determine which piece goes where and how should it get bent in order to fit. The rest of the time I am left to think about other things, the plight of the world, the plight of my friends, family and neighbors, the latest conflict both personal and worldly. I take the time to mentally connect with my three siblings and think about their lives for a while. And I usually touch upon a friend or two, especially if there are any moments of happiness, angst or disruption in their lives. The latest book, the latest movie or TV show is great fodder for rumination as the steel sculpture grows steadily.
Then I come back to me for a while. I think about what a great time I had hiking with my niece and her daughter one day and with my neighbor and her two horses the next. I fantasize that I am the horse whisperer, that there is some magic that was passed down the generations from my grandparents that allows me to be a natural horse person. Then I think maybe I’m ridiculous and I should just be careful, horses are not magical beings, they are 1,000 lbs of unpredictable animal. Of course if the horse wants to take a selfie, who am I to argue?
I often spend lots of time rehashing all my moments of interactions, both pleasant and unpleasant which might lead me to wonder how to resolve a very small and seemingly insignificant dispute over driving speeds on our driveway with one of our neighbors. I think how totally silly it is to have tensions around this issue and I don’t want to be the speed Nazi and I don’t want to yell and I have had my share of neighborly conflicts over the years and I am simply tired of it and I refuse to play this game anymore.
Then it’s on to the country, the world…Trump, blah blah blah…Hillary…blah blah blah. I am scared of what the future holds, I see major problems, I feel like the country has opened up a Pandora’s box and it isn’t pretty. I wonder about our civility, or lack thereof and then I wonder about whether the media is making things bigger than they really are (very likely). I also wonder if the media and algorithms and facebook are controlling what we think (also very likely) and what I can do to stop it. And I wonder if maybe this is the year that I get off my butt and stand up for my convictions, come out of my self-imposed political black out of opinions (a lady does not discuss politics or religion. A lady understands that everyone has their own opinion but it is nobody’s business but theirs. That way conflict and tension will not be present when relating to others. Oh, wait…then there is the other side of the parental coin…I’m going to argue vehemently and loudly with anyone who crosses my path even if they agree with me. Hmmm…which one will win???)
If I am honest, I also will tell you about the multiple times that I think, “Am I done yet? Can I go in to the house? Can I take a nap? Is it lunchtime? ” But finally it is time to stop and then my thoughts come back to the mundane, the in-the-moment of meal preparation. And the anticipation of chocolate.
After lunch I sit down at my computer to work (and check facebook) and work (and check the newspaper) and I spin myself into fear about the world and what is going on in it. How the world is disappearing, the land, the ice, the water all going away because of man and his/her attempts to control, to live beyond the necessary into the have-to-have world of cars and TV’s and plastic and petroleum and technology and nuclear weapons/power plants and it is all so scary as to make me want to run and hide but then I remember that there is really nowhere to run to. I have been known to take a nap at this point, I am so tired…and then I remember a conversation that I had with niece and all of a sudden I am reminded to take a step back and see what is important in this world. This does not include any of the nominees for president, nor does it include conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, terrorists, global warming, silly neighbors…it includes (not in any particular order) cereal and mocking birds and dogs and cats and horses and chocolate and husbands and friends and family and…and bugs. Especially ones that are hanging out on my screen window making new bugs for next year.
And then I breathe.
And I finish out the day reading and learning and making a good dinner and drinking some wine and eating more chocolate and yes, playing a few games of solitaire and petting a cat and letting the dogs out one last time before bedtime. And life is mostly good. Now if I can just get to sleep…
Well, it’s hot. If you’ve been wondering whether I have given up working in the studio during this heat the answer is…sort of.
I am not welding but there is plenty of other stuff to keep me busy. I finished the second of the seed pods on Friday and managed to get it into the garden on Saturday. I don’t know if it’s going to stay there forever, but I’m not moving it until the temperature goes back down to the mid-80’s. Or lower. Much lower.
So for now, here’s a sneak peek at the pod in its temporary place. We decided maybe it should be called “Pod de Deux” since it is the second in the series.
I have started the third piece, but again, it will have to wait a bit. In the meantime I am busy doing research and thinking and drawing and thinking some more to come up with the next designs that I will be tackling. Stay tuned!
In other news, my installation, “Pipeline”, is still ensconced at the Delaplaine gallery in Frederick. MD. The opening was well attended. The show is up until Saturday the 30th (I know, not much time left to see it). I was happy to see it up, but I have to admit to some trepidation over this particular installation. I had had to jerry-rig it due to an oversight when I was packing all the tools for the installation. (I forgot to add the special nails I was using and had to make do with regular nails.) So even though I was the only one who knew how fragile it was, I spent some time last Monday fixing it. It is definitely stronger and more stable now.
And finally…it is official! We are hosting a fundraiser event in September. Creative Alliance is a community arts organization in a cultural dessert in downtown Baltimore. It has grown over the years and now provides an amazing focus for the arts in that community. Every year they offer a group of events that are designed to raise money for the organization. These events, titled “Art to Dine For”, are a combination of art and good food, put on by various local artists and board members. This year, Rich and I will be hosting an event called “Art Camp”. Here is the write up on their website…
Look forward to an afternoon of pure fun and bring the kids, too! Explore the 100-year-old barn Virginia Sperry has converted into her welding studio where she creates life-sized animals and birds out of steel. Wander through Virginia’s six acres where several of her animal sculptures are carefully installed. Enjoy homemade ice cream sandwiches made from fresh cookies and Hoffman’s ice cream and watch your kids play together in rollingdownhill races, creating masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, and riding a handmade rocking llama.
2–4:30pm | Adults $55 | Kids $25 (Call 410-276-1651 Tues – Sat to purchase Kids’ Tickets)
Food: Fun Treats | Attire: Country Comfy | Location: Carroll County
You can find this information and sign up for the event at http://creativealliance.org/calendar/art-dine.
I urge you to check out all the offerings. There are some really fun evenings planned throughout the fall and early winter.
Please note…this is the only other time this year that the sculpture garden will be open to the public. This event is not free but 100% of the money that we make goes to fund community arts education and programs. It is really going to be a lot of fun!
I thought I would leave you with a photograph that I took recently. There have not been many butterflies in my garden which is too bad, because this has been a wonderful year for flowers. But I did manage to capture this beauty while it was dining on my echinacea.
Okay folks, I have racked up another bunch of minutes on my 15 minutes of fame clock. As you may know, I am hosting an open studio and sculpture garden on my property this weekend. The local paper found out about it and asked to do an article. Of course I said yes! It came out online yesterday and it is really a lovely article. Many thanks to the writer, Lois Zymanski, the photographer, Dylan Slagle, and Jim and Susan who said such nice things about me.
To read the article, click here.
In the meantime, I am aware that, like many previous days this spring, it is probably going to rain on Saturday. Ugh. I really wish that the weather were working out differently, but there’s nothing I can do.
So here are ten reasons why you should come out even if it is raining:
- You can pretend you live in Seattle. Seattle is a nice city. People there do things in the rain all the time. If they didn’t, nothing would get done.
- It’s a good chance to see if your rain gear is weather proof. Wouldn’t you like to know this before you go on that camping/hiking trip?
- You will get to meet all sorts of interesting people…including me! You have to figure that anyone who comes out in the rain to see steel animals is going to be interesting.
- I will have binoculars so you will be able to see some of the sculptures from the dry, warm studio.
- Wine. I will have wine.
- This is the only time I will open the gardens to the public for free this year. (Unless I change my mind. I have been known to do that before. I am fickle that way.)
- I will be bored if you don’t come. Boredom is bad for your health. Keep me healthy.
- Photographing the sculptures is better when it’s cloudy.
- I have extra umbrellas.
- It will give you great joy.
So see, there is no excuse for not coming to see me this weekend. Don’t forget…10 to 5 Saturday and Sunday (May 21/22, 2016). 415 Heath Dr., Eldersburg. I will be waiting.