Tag: welding

inspiration

“Where do you get your inspiration from?”

I was asked this question this past week. It is a question I hear pretty often. My answer is usually “What doesn’t inspire me?” A bit snide perhaps. But honest.

The person who asked the question was a teenager and in some ways I feel like I dropped the ball on the answer. There was a lot going on, I had a group from one of the local high schools visiting the sculpture gardens and studio. We were on our way from one place to another and he quietly asked the question while the others were occupied with the kangaroo. It has been a while since I led a group of teens and I had forgotten how shy and quiet they can be with new experiences. If I had it to do over again, I would have talked about it differently. I might have brought the question up later when we were all gathered, and answered it seriously and at length. Because I think that it is the crux of being an artist.

Here’s what I would have answered:

“I am inspired by everything I take in sensorily. Patterns, rhythms, smells, colors, animals, plants, tastes, weather, books, music, textures, life experiences, feelings, sports, politics, psychology, philosophy, religions, interactions, how things work, how things don’t work, theater, film, dreams…okay, you get the picture. I hope. The fact is that when you are an artist, not a day goes by where nothing happens. Every day, something registers in my brain, either consciously or sub-consciously. Some artists like to take photos of these moments, others like to sketch. Journaling is a very effective way of processing these daily vignettes. I like to simply experience them. Because I know that at some point the experience will come out in my artwork. It could be days, weeks or months later. I might not even be aware of it until after it has appeared. But there will be that moment when I think ‘Oh, I know what this piece is about now.’ So my advice to you is to always look, listen, smell, hear and touch, write, draw, photograph…but most of all…live.”



DON’T FORGET!!! 

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Getting pieces ready for “Rust Redux” at Buickster Hall this week.

The exhibit at the new gallery in Taneytown, MD starts this week.  I will be exhibiting there along with an amazing photographer, Alyssha Eve Csük. You are invited to join us on this Thursday (the 20th) from 5 to 7 for an opening reception. (Address: 107 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown, MD) I am super excited about it, the guys have been bending over backwards to get the space finished and to accommodate us for this show. It promises to be a wild event! For more info, click here or go to Buickster Gallery on Facebook.



I was able to spend an entire day in the studio today, something that has not happened for a while. Spent some time just playing…and in one day I finished this study with masonry nails. I really like the shadows!

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Have a wonderful Easter/Passover/whatever and I hope to see you on Thursday!

all in a day

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.

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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?

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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.

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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…

 

the seed of an idea

Seed pods. What are they about anyway? Why did I choose them?

One could argue that I didn’t, but this is not an existential blog post. It’s a practical one. The answer is at both times simple and complex.

The simple answer has to do with shape. Since I made the bulb (garlic, amaryllis, whatever you want to call it) I have been enamored of making shapes. Organic, curvy shapes to be precise. Seed pods tend to be both organic and curvy. It’s funny, but there is a moment in the making of these pieces where I just want to touch and hug them. It’s the moment when the space starts to be enclosed and the vessel begins to appear. The roundness is intoxicating. And observers to the process really start to understand what my vision has been. Up to that point it is a bunch of flat steel welded to steel rods.

I have also been super aware of the reactions that I get to these forms. The forms don’t always have a clear origin but can remind one of milkweed pods, garlic, bulbs etc. And for this reason, I think they inspire a non-verbal reaction. One that is based in something that we may not even be aware of. If you look at children’s books that identify things you will see that it is all about shape. Bananas have a curved banana look. Lemons and limes are elongated circles almost bordering on an oval. Oranges are ROUND. You get the picture (so to speak)

So what is the complex answer?

Well, it has to do with Monsanto. Yes, I’m talking about the company that many in the environmental world call evil. I will refrain from judgement. I won’t refrain from telling you how Monsanto is influencing me as an artist.

You see, I have been introduced to a new term, one which describes a potentially freaky scenario. The term is “terminator seeds”. According to Wikipedia :”Genetic use restriction technology (GURT), colloquially known as terminator technology or suicide seeds, is the name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile.”

This is a pretty scary thought.

We, as a species, have the technology to create seed that will grow a plant that will not be able to reproduce on its own. The logical sequence then says that farmers must buy seeds every year in order to farm successfully. And who will they buy them from? Uh huh.

This is from the Monsanto website:

Myth: Monsanto sells “Terminator” seeds.

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.


Monsanto’s customers range from large family farmers in countries like the United States and Canada to small landholder farmers in countries such as the Philippines, India and South Africa. Each farmer and each culture has different needs and challenges, and we are successful only if our customers are successful. That’s why Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “terminator” – seeds. We share many of the concerns that farmers – especially small landholder farmers – have about this technology.

What is a “Terminator” seed?

Through modern biotechnology, it may be possible to develop crops that will not produce viable offspring seeds. Sterile seed technology – dubbed “terminator technology” in the popular press – is one type of gene-use restriction technology in which seed produced by a crop will not grow.

We remain committed not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. After consulting with international experts and sharing many of the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment. We have no plans or research that would violate this commitment in any way.

This sounds really good, but the wording is such that you can easily overlook the phrase “not to commercialize sterile seed technology”. This means they HAVE the technology but they won’t SELL the technology or any seeds that result from the technology.

Okay, I’ve bored you with all of this rigamarole, what does it mean to a sculptor from MD? It means that I am pondering a world where humans, and by extension corporations, can control the very food we eat. What happens when a seed pod has no seeds inside of it to start the chain of life again next year? What happens if milkweed pods and fruit seed pods and all the different seed pods out there become empty?

That is what is driving me to create these larger than life seed pods sculptures. I don’t have answers, I don’t know if there are any answers. But there sure are a lot of questions.

Here are pictures of one of the finished seed pods and another that is still in progress. They are part of a three piece series.

 

 

 

in retrospect…by the numbers

The open studio is over and life has returned to its normal peaceful, ordered state. I spent the day recovering from being super hostess and will resume being an artist tomorrow. For right now, I am content reliving the weekend in all its glory.

As I ponder the weekend, I am struck by how much we as a society are stuck on numbers to qualify our happiness and success. How many home runs did someone get in a season, how many people voted in an election, what score did your child get on the test, what is your IQ. The list is endless as to how we measure ourselves. Endless, but limited. For we don’t always measure the stuff that is really important. How many people dropped popcorn while they cheered for those home runs because they were so excited? How many people were affected by the policies put into place by the elected official? How many times was your child polite to other people? And how many times did you smile today? Perhaps those are the questions we should be finding the answers to.

I am not immune to the numbers game. Throughout my career as an artist, I have avidly counted things. Dollars I made at a craft show, new names on my mailing list, visitors to my gallery, lizards sold…it all added up over the years. But quite honestly, I can’t say that any of it was really important. I continued to make stuff, people continued to buy it and I wasn’t any more or less happy after I had figured out the bottom line. Or if I was, it was fleeting because I always thought the numbers should be higher.

And yet I continue to do it. I carefully count the names on the sign in sheet for the open studio trying to figure out how many people came. But as I do so, I wonder exactly what is the magic number? What is the number that means that the weekend was a success? That I can use to tell other people so that they will be impressed? And then I think maybe I need to come up with some different numbers.

So here they are:

Number of people who smiled when they were here: All of them.

Number of people who thanked me for opening up my property to the public: I lost count.

Number of people I thanked for coming out to see my work during the weekend of solid rain: Everyone I talked to. (At least I tried, if I missed anyone, consider yourself thanked).

Number of people who told me my work was amazing/phenomenal/fill in any number of adjectives: I lost count.

Number of kids who rode the rocking llama: over 30.

Number of adults who rode the rocking llama: Probably around 20 but I don’t know for sure, I think there were some who did it when no one was looking.

Number of chocolate chip cookies eaten: 7 dozen.

Number of people reached by my facebook post of the article in the Carroll County Times: 1,770. (This last number is quite ridiculous. It is my first encounter with the power of social media. And it doesn’t count the people who saw the article in the myriad of other places that it was posted or shared. It also reminds me of the still strong power of the press. The newspaper may be a dinosaur, but don’t count it out, especially in the smaller communities.)

Number of kids who stuck their tongues out at the kangaroo: Only one was caught on film, Others may have as well. I will never tell.

Number of tire ruts in our lawn: doesn’t matter.

Number of happy, successful artists living here: One.

Thank you.

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busy

Busy.

I am busy trying to forge my way through each day in the best way I can. I am busy watching spring come…slowly. I am busy digging in the dirt outside and planting seeds inside and putting grow lights on top and watering them and watching them sprout and grow and thinking of the beans and peas and tomatoes and flowers that will be adorning my garden in just a few weeks.

I am busy handing out rack cards for my Open Studio and finding creative ways of getting the word out so that it will be a busy weekend on May 21 and 22.

I am busy making sure that my intern has plenty of work to do in the studio. This means I am busy working on two new pieces that are both pods of some sort and will have interesting seeds inside. Here is what one of them looks like. I’m too busy to explain it. You will just have to come back and see it when it is finished. See all those pieces that have been cut and sanded? That is what my intern has been busy preparing so that I can be busy welding them on to the form.

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I am busy applying for shows. Busy applying with work that is really still just in my head so I have to find ways to describe it, draw it and explain my meaning, my raison d’être. I am grateful for the ease of applying online, yet I know that it really doesn’t cut down the time because every application has different criteria (72 dpi with file size no larger than…) and each gallery or art center uses a different application program. I am busy making usernames and passwords and signing up for all these programs that are supposed to make my life faster, speedier, less busy.

I am busy with the animals; cats who get into fights with the barn cat next door who wander onto our property with alarming frequency. Busy with cleaning wounds and monitoring abscesses and trying to run off the neighbor cats before there is a fight. Busy with dogs who don’t seem to understand the invisible fence anymore and whose passion for goat by-products entice them to go visiting the neighbor’s barns. (Yes, the same neighbors that send their cats over here.)

Yes, spring is a busy time. I’m okay with that.

 

what’s new?

I did not mean to take so long with the last three posts but here we are with a new blank piece of blog paper and much to write about…are you ready???

EXPERIMENTS

In the past weeks I have been experimenting with rust and fabric, with mixed results. I was not really pleased with what came out of it so I scrapped the experiment (pun intended) and went back to working on what I thought was going to be a garlic bulb.

FINISHED SCULPTURE

Sometimes I am not really sure who’s in charge of the story in the studio. I fought valiantly for three days to finish the sculpture as a garlic and for three days I failed. So I decided to give up and go with the flow. The finished product is, indeed, a bulb but I am not specifying which one. Some people see garlic, some people see amaryllis, some people see…well…what do you see?

Of course this was only part of the story. I took advantage of both the great weather and the presence of my intern Julia (not to mention the incredible opinions of some four legged animals) to install the new sculpture where it belonged…over the well head in my front yard. There could be an entire debate over whether art becomes craft when it turns into something functional. We’ll leave that for another day. Instead, I’ll just say I much prefer looking at the bulb than an ugly well head.

INTERN

Having an intern has been a wonderful thing. My studio has never been cleaner, I have lots of pieces of finished steel to work with as I make the next sculpture and…what’s that you say? You want to know what I’m working on?

Yeah, I’m not telling.

As I was saying, Julia is great. She finds work to do when I don’t have a specific project, she helps out even when I don’t know I need it, and she is super willing to do just about anything. I am getting a lot more work done and the studio is consistently clean. Plus, she arrives on time and is excited to be here. What more could anyone ask?

SPRING/SUMMER OPEN STUDIO

I have set the next open studio here at the farm. It will take place on May 21 and 22 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. it is yet another chance to come see the sculptures, but this time they will be surrounded by the gardens in their full splendor (hopefully). You can even bring a picnic and sit near a giraffe or musk ox to eat it. It is free and it will happen rain or shine. The studio is handicapped accessible, but if you are unable or unwilling to walk down (and back up) the hill, we are happy to drive you around in a golf cart and give you a guided tour.

If you are in the area but can’t make it to the open studio, I am offering guided studio visits by appointment. Visiting information is on my website. The kangaroo is waiting to see you!

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