Thursday, September 24, 2009

Collectors Everywhere, Unite

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.
----T.S. Eliot,
Rhapsody on a Windy Night, 1917

Objects and Apparitions---for Joseph Cornell
Monuments to every moment,
refuse of every moment, used:
cages for infinity.
Marbles, buttons, thimbles, dice,
pins, stamps, and glass beads:
tales of the time.
----Octavio Paz

"Yet for better or for worse we do love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them." ------Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Collecting is a calling, not a choice. For some people, the impulse to collect takes over. The seduction of the object is too much to resist. When someone acquires their object of affection, there is a feeling of satisfaction. For me, I like anything that is worn, torn, weathered, rusty, or broken.

Signs that you are an obsessed collector:
  1. You will risk life and limb to collect something off of the side of a busy highway/cliff/bridge. (Well, maybe not life or limb.)
  2. You will sort through dirty, dusty, rusty bins/boxes/sheds.
  3. You constantly look down for any shiny, rusty, worn old bit on sidewalks/roads/parking lots.
  4. Friends/neighbors leave dead birds, animal skulls and bones on your front porch.
  5. You will walk a mile into a beach, load up on rocks, and walk out with sweat pouring down your face.
  6. You collect boxes to put your collections in.
  7. You have rust in your hair.
  8. Old junk looks like beautiful treasure to you.
Do you have any odd collections? What is your obsession?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shadows, Dancing

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light.
---Gary Snyder, How Poetry Comes to me

"Such is our way of thinking--we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the pattern of shadows, the light and darkness, that one thing against another creates." Jun"ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

"The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty's end."
------- Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

The Quebec Canada artist, Linda, whose work can be found here,
uses delightful light and shadow to stage and compliment her imagery of text and books.
When new artists begin, they often see shadows as dark gray or black. As they develop their observations and gain insight they come to realize that shadows have color or reflected light. Something seems to be flickering and shimmering in the dim half light. As artists become more attuned to observing nature, and light, the mysteries and secrets of shadows are revealed. As an artist myself, who loves contrast and black and white, shadows can soften the edge between light and dark and be a transition. This "visible darkness" brings balance and harmony to the work. Do you lean towards the light, dwell in darkness, or dance in the shadows in between?

Friday, September 11, 2009

How to Read a Stone

Title: ZEN, acrylic, Japanese scroll, rice papers, metal

"Another fact of prime importance to remember is that, in order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand---or at least to learn to understand---the beauty of stones. Not of stones quarried by the hand of man, but of stones shaped by nature only. Until you can feel, and keenly feel, that stones have character, that stones have tones and values, the whole artistic meaning of a Japanese garden cannot be revealed to you."
--------------------Lafcadio Hearn, Writings from Japan

"When stones are moved and rearranged, they speak to other worlds."
-------------- Ellen Meloy, The Anthology of Turquoise

My aesthetics---what I like---extends beyond my studio. I don't think artists can separate themselves from their surroundings. In my search for my identity in my work, I look inside my closet. I look at my home decor, the books I read, and outside at my gardens. Like the elements in my paintings and assemblages, the stones, plants, and Buddha outside are planned and arranged until they are pleasing to my eye. The smooth stones may be stacked or flat, but they are an integral part of my gardens. A rock garden next to the pond creates harmony. Balance. Peace. Tranquility. Meditation.
Can you hear the waterfall splashing against the rocks above the koi? Your outer world reflects your inner world. My studio is where I do my work, but my gardens become my sanctuary and my inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Lone Crow, or Two

When the blackbird flew out of sight
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
----- from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens

Loud. Noisy. Arrogant. Aggressive. People either love or hate the crow. Messenger. Mystery.
Symbol. Harbinger. Over the centuries, the crow has garnered a bad reputation. They have become a symbol of death or disease. Misunderstood. Myths. The sounds of smaller birds, with their tweets and chirps, sound melodic, soothing. The crows, with their loud "caw, caws" pierce the air. Even their color black can be harsh, a loud note on the snow, or grey pavement. I don't like the gang of crows. I prefer the lone crow, sitting on a branch of a leafless tree. The tree branches form calligraphy marks and the crow becomes a large black calligraphy note. Solitary. Quiet. Alone. I have always been drawn to bare, leafless trees. Or an empty chair at the end of a quiet path. Or a solitary bird on a branch or wire. I like contrast in my paintings. The black bird against the white sky, sitting on taupe branches---three of my favorite colors.
For those bird lovers out there, I know there are differences between crows and ravens, but for me, they are big, black shapes--the focal point on my canvas. There is a need for mindfulness as we go about our daily life in our urban wilderness. I look for textures, calligraphy, contrast.
What do you look for?

Ravensong, a Natural and Fabulous History of Ravens and Crows by Catherine Feher-Elston and illustrated by Lawrence Ormsby. This book is about the spiritual aspects of these birds along with myths and history. The illustrations are beautiful. You can find out more about the book here.