The last few days have been grim. The siren calls from hospital workers, the mounting numbers of casualties, the criminally incompetent leadership from the oval office, the crippling anxiety that washes over us… wave after unrelenting wave.
The last few days have been sparkling. The return of the indigo bunting outside my window, flats of winter seedlings getting their first feel of wind, Finnegan laying peacefully in the sunshine, lazy conversations over the morning kitchen table with my love, and the glorious unrelenting waves… of that brilliant new green.
While I admit to finding myself frozen in my easel chair, not able to summon the creative energy to pick up even the tiniest of brushes, I am showing up every day. I know the Muses are here and I’m listening, but it sounds like static now…loudly buzzing and confusing.
And what I know about that is to get up outta that chair and go outside.
The glorious gift of having Herself by our sides during these stay at home days means Finn and I are at our happiest in our happy place… wallowing in the brightening colors of the studio garden…
My organizer using her superpower…
Anyone who needs or wants some of this plastic just holler…
While she sorted…I planted…
Two rows of peas planted in Ruth…which is a bit spicy to read back…
And…at the end of that glorious day…a bit of well earned sky chair rest…
So today’s painting will be a very early work which honors another of my love’s superpowers…
The Folder – 2000
This is quite simply inspired by my friend Rex. He is a poet. Our histories have walked side by side for over forty years. Our paths have criss-crossed over most of them. Our souls have always been as one.
And it is for Pat, my folder.
Folded things speak well of you when you’re out of the room. They hold the near future captive, like children about to go on recess or sexual pleasure at the brim of control. I think of the pressure of your hand smoothing over the cloth napkin, the bedsheet, the piece of clothing that signals the meal to come, the lovemaking, the spent day — and how you stack the bath towels as high as they’ll go, as a driver well keep the fuel tank near full during times of shortage. I step out of the shower looking to the center of my life, where you have folded it. Creases will have nothing to do with edges: It’s no accident that ledges are ledges and valleys, so far removed from any real horizon, where people most often choose to put down roots and grow. I like to imagine that God, who, faced with formlessness, folded the world into manageable corners, sent me you to repeat the gesture. Rex Wilder
Finn and I hauled our groggy souls across the puddles in the lane and up the path to the studio this morning and just like that… we both had smiles on our faces.
Not only was our quarantine delivery box full… but the scents of a friend left behind had both our tails wagging.
Thanks to you Sue, our coffers are full to brimming and the added bonus of saying hi over the sack of flour…priceless.
I’m only back here for a quick dip because it seems I forgot to add some artwork to yesterday’s post.
There is only one painting from the archives which speaks… nay it screams all the colors of green that are burgeoning here in the studio yard…
Fiddlehead Primavera – 2006
From my salad days. After a long day of framing pictures at the Harvard Coop I would make my way home from Cambridge late in the evening. The Red Line bus would stop at the Star market across from the Mt. Auburn cemetery. The overhead electric cable would often slip its grip there so I sometimes had enough time to run in, grab a bag of mussels, the fiddleheads, some butter and a bottle of wine… and make it back on the same bus. All for under ten dollars.
Bend towards the light even in this week of storms be the hope for us all.
Gotta start with the veg. A few of the flats are ready for planting out there in the big bad world…but we’ve had days of stormy rainy chilly weather and the little dears just shivered and quaked when I suggested we take a walk outside.
This flat of tomato seedlings is making a gallant effort to feed us, and every glimmer of hope gets a round of applause here in the studio.
Our angels have been checking in…thank you all.
All the many birthday wishes and calls for Herself were overwhelming and she is still smiling from the love.
Our social media platforms come alive with stories of helpers and random acts of kindness which makes such a difference.
Neighbor Sue is preparing a grocery grab and has generously offered to take one for the team of elders and pick up whatever we are running low on. So, in my standard operating mode of neurotic overlord, I have prepared a list…and a C19 shopping kit…
Masks, gloves, and list organized by aisles and accompanied by photos of specific products.
I know this will make her laugh. She puts up with my crazy in such a kind way.
Bagged and ready for her on the porch it will not see the light of day because our store opens for “Vulnerable Patrons” at 6am.
Bless you Sue. I’ll have that extra gasoline for your mower when next you are ready.
On another note of community connections… We have heard from a Vineyard friend who winters in NYC. Worried about all our pals there it was good to hear from her, someone behind the barricades as it were, and to share some quarantine stories. It gets very real at the epicenter on every level. Keeping the lines of communication open just to listen feels important now.
Here in the studio the days have adapted to the waves of crisis and have evolved into a new normal.
Having stayed up later than usual… this week we are immersed in 16th century England as we watch Wolf Hall in companion to my re-listening to Hilary Mantel’s series as I paint. Tidings to her for completing this trilogy in time for the quarantine so I can listen to over a hundred hours of Tudors comings and goings. Ironically ? the first book chronicles waves of a seasonal corona virus like disease that topples much of the continent year after year. Helps me to understand our current medical experts’ predictions…
anyway…up late means rising later than usual.
So, Finn and I have been missing the sunrises and wandering over to the studio well into the morn.
Then we do our news/network and email diving, or I do while she secures the perimeter. Then she settles in to guard the gates and I begin to put out fires which have smoldered whilst we dreamt. Cromwell you influencer you…
This morning’s pile of woe was not virus related but it began last night when I went to print out some reference photos only to find that the new ink cartridge would not fit. After an hour of scratching my head and searching through old orders and googling info it has come to pass that I…with the help of Amazon’s misleading product searching…ordered the wrong replacements. To the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Ordered in January they are no longer returnable.
I have since remedied this by ordering an entire new set of inks from a more reputable source, B & H Photo. But being in NYC and in the middle of this crisis, I expect there to be delays in shipping…if they ship at all. This can be worked around and is of course not life threatening but I bring it up here in the hopes that I can find another artist or photographer or company who might have this printer in need of ink for which my cartridges do fit…
The Epson SC-P800
I edited this to include a photo of the correct model. And I happen to have loads of ink just waiting to fill one out there…
The ink was purchased in January and I’d be happy to sell for a nice discount and ship for free.
It’s a shame to let this go to waste.
the mornings do seem to be given over to managing life in the new world order and soon I hope to be spending those hours in the garden.
With this new normal comes a new goal… to be painting at the easel by noon. It is now 11:55 and the board of health has insisted that I take a shower before handling tiny brushes so this is how that deadline slips oh so easily into early afternoon… and then there are those PT stretches to do… and the stack of bills which have been released from their final stage of porch decon to be paid… and a quick game or three of Mahjong just to let the dust settle… before looking up at the panel before me and choosing where to begin.
From the “Nature finds a way” division of the Ledge…
When, way back in January, or was that February, we, meaning Kory… with me directing from without, frantically threw everything in the studio kitchen out onto the studio porch after finding yet another round of rodential invasion…
the bench filled up with things that were destined to live in the garage… but needed to be sorted… so that never happened.
Herself has been wanting to clear it off so guests could have a place to sit.
But we don’t get many guests, and now…well… we have had to implement a staging area for decontamination of deliveries from the big bad world.
You may be able to imagine my surprise when upon reaching for the blue bag our resident wren flew up and at me and, with a powerful shrillness, bade me to step away from her nest.
Twice in the days since I have impulsively reached for that bag. And both times I swore at my forgetfulness… almost as solemnly as she swore at me.
So yesterday I decided a tactile barricade was needed.
Not for her, but for me.
A quarantine within the quarantine.
It takes a village. Take care of each other out there.
Here’s a very early piece, so early that I was still painting in my old studio… and it was Gulliver by my side.
A Dissembling Breeze – 2002
My studio is on stilts. Telephone polls really. Sixteen feet in the air. We live in a flood zone by this gently flowing creek. During hurricane Agnes in the early 70’s the entire cabin was under water. The single foot of it’s chimney remaining above water gaining mythological proportions. So when they rebuilt the washed away garage it had to be above the highest flood level.
The supporting beams and joists underneath my tree top studio are exposed. For the last two seasons an industrious couple of sparrows have been constructing a condo under there. Massive in scale I suspect them to be former hippies ever redesigning the commune. Celebrating diversity, they have woven in feathers from every visiting species and a generous helping of wool from Pat’s grandmother’s hooked rug which rests on the steps beneath.
The other day, on our fifty foot commute to work, Gully and I found the nest fallen to the pavement below. A treasure for me… at some cost to the dear ones.
For months thereafter we heard them busily knocking about below our painting feet. The subsequent structures lacked some vital element because they lasted only an average of a few days.
It has been a dry hot summer. I don’t expect them back until spring now. In the meantime I am collecting a pile of feathers and pine needles and dog hair at the base of the studio steps. We are not expecting rain.
Living with six feet of separation… in the hopes of staying on this side of the garden… which as you can see has just begun…
And potatoes newly nestled in Ruth’s bed…
I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am, as an artist, to actually enjoy working at home. Social distancing is my norm. The creative life is not always lived in isolation, but art often begins there.
Making art is about making sense of the world around us and within.
The irony is not lost on me in these early days when artists of all types are filling the airwaves with song and words and paintings…
Spontaneous acts of generosity offering touchstones to beauty portals of peace that simply reach out to remind us of the importance and precious value of our common human existance…
When, for the price of a presidential golf trip, how many schools could bring back the stolen art and music education to teach new generations to make that art.
Maybe that will be one new thing that we change after so much tearing down that is to come.
So, yeah, I feel very lucky to still be able to walk over from the log cabin each day and walk around the studio yard with Finn as the sun rises over the hill and know that my easel awaits and the brushes are ready…
I am very scared. Anxiety and raw fear blend with the persistent vulnerability of aging so that those familiar edges have now become ledges.
But, so far, the Muses have not wavered.
They greet me at the door. Remind me of our new family motto…
So I’m going to join the chorus and start sending out little postcards from the studio.
To share some of what is still so good in our world some paintings that speak to me of that and the constant reminder that the garden gives me that grace abides.
I begin with Skip…Swan Song – An abstract Chilmark Aria
This is Skip.
One of this world’s truly authentic selves.
A person for whom the esthetics of beauty is the fundamental element of existence.
Someone deeply connected to nature’s expressions, who finds art and music and dance vibrating between all living things, and whose joyful spirit, when unleashed, can fill an island with song.
Over a year ago I asked Skip to model for me. I had some ideas. Skip had other ideas.
We met and shared some croissants and coffee, listened to each others’ stories, talked about art, and Findhorn, and philosophy, and listened some more.
Then we set out to seek the muses. Skip pointed me down up-island roads that were hidden from maps, we stopped for stone walls, and wildlife, wildflowers, and whispers.
There were stories behind every corner, pebbles on the road, on Skips’ journey, and a few on mine, and new ones we were creating together.
Skip is a painter. And one of the things we talked about was including one of those paintings …in my painting. We brought it along, and let the muses decide.
We ended up at the bluff, Camp Sunrise. A melding of sacred spaces. The morning sun had risen to clear October skies, and the meadow was just waking up to the light.
This is the part where I get emotional.
Because the morning sessions I spent working with Skip studying and working, in that profoundly familiar space, was the last time I saw the house, perched on the edge of the planet, in all her grace and glory, before they demolished it.
We all knew it was coming. The time when nature’s pounding would erode the bluff, wearing away at the land, until there was no where else for the houses to rest.
In my island time… which began as the great gift of knowing Lynn Langmuir, whose generous heart was deeper than the ocean, and steadier than her beloved stone wall, that very wall which wanders through this painting… over the thirty plus years I have been coming to this bluff, the chicken coop of a farm house, had twice been moved back from that threatening edge.
It is hard to imagine, in this painting, that there is a 40 foot drop from bluff to beach, just a mere five feet from the edge of her front porch.
And, still, this old Yankee stalwart ship-of-a-shack, she stood proud, holding her own, and by that I mean generations of the Langmuir family, and the many who were welcomed by them, into the embrace of this enchanted space.
But the land…ran out. And so, while the other, more modern structures of garage and bunkhouse, were able to be moved out back and beyond the wetlands, to the farthest section of the parcel, the bones of this old gal had been deemed too fragile for the move.
You couldn’t tell, from our distant vantage point, that while Skip and I gamboled among the stones, and communed with the muses, the house had been emptied of all its touchstones.
The old wicker woven lounging chair was gone… the daybeds stripped of their sleep-softened pillows, kitchen shelves bare of the pastel colored fiesta ware, paperback mysteries of Riggs and Craig, no longer insulating the cubby-holed shelves.
Puzzles and kite string, checkers and cribbage… amber eyed owls who lit up the hearth, journals of writings from visiting friends, with new chapters each year for us all to catch up.
New nicks, and old, from bumps on the bedroom lintel, where a hundred layers on the yellow painted symbol of a duck…reminding us to.
The tears in each sink from the iron and rust, the old brown barn coat ever-hanging on the white wooden hooks behind the green door.
All these objects, and a hundred more … they have been the keeper of our memories.
The sunny days, the stormy nights, we grew up in that house, on the bluff, as she grew old, and, in her weathered-shingled way, became… the things we are made of.
This painting then, for the house, is her swan song.
Skip sings it for us all, an aria as abstract as the tapestry of souls who have ducked to cross her threshold, and sought refuge in her wings.
“Always approach the shrimp bowl as you own it.” Mary McGrory
‘Tis the season…of Shrimp Mousse
In the all kitchens of my adulthood Along the margins of each recipe Tucked and retucked inbetween the pages of all the cookbooks I have written in tiny script some words to mark the making and the maker each time I make my way back to that particular recipe.
A trail of micro journaled jigsaw pieces which periodically get reassembled as I return to refresh the ingredient lists for old and new favorites.
Yesterday, after chatting with dear Peg about birds and pity and beaches and pools, I pulled out the well worn card with her original instructions for her shrimp mousse.
It has been updated and upgraded and tweaked over the years, but the bones remain strong and the sentiment has become crystalized.
The first entry I wrote on the card was…
1 Jan 2000 – The world has celebrated. We made it ! Now for some special treats to start off the new millenium.
What follows are regular entries just about that time almost every year with the exception of the few years interim when I seem to have lost that original card. I do remember the desperate searching but it seems that the Muses returned it a few years ago…
22 December 2016 – Thought I had lost this recipe – but in the wild autumn of home repairs -when both kitchens had to be redone – it was found. Now we are in the dark ages – and need some peace.
And here we are… planning on making a double batch I sat down with all three of the Shrimp Mousse incarnations and when Herself wandered into the studio kitchen I was smiling through tears.
Chronicled on that little slip of paper was celebrating the “first day of full time Artisanship” The last walk with our Gulliver and the first snowy Christmas with Finn and this year’s entry made all the more special to be able to write that we are all still together around that kitchen table a bit gimpier and slower afoot and settled deeply into our seasons of happiness.
As squalls of snow flurries surround the studio, the artist within is happily ensconced in her hermitage and the brushes are flying. Had a bookend of visits with Peter Follansbee last week so his painting gets the pride of place here today.
I’ve been away from this portal for so many months that there is a towering pile of posts waiting to be written. Look for me to promise a regular flow of entries, but I’d hedge those bets. My energies and attention span tends to be hyper focused at the easel when I return from weeks away.
While the weather freezed me out of the garden, and the darkness deepens into the solstice, the dust collects on every other corner of the studio except where I and my brushes are at work.
But I’ve taken a quick break to visit the office today because I need to give you a heads up about the prints offered here on my site.
Due to the increased costs of paper and ink the price of prints will be following suit.
Figure I would return the kindness of your years of support by giving you all a heads up…so I’ll wait another month or so and make the price changes take effect on January 31, 2020.
The small prints will go from $95 to $125 The large prints will go from $195 to $225 And I will be charging a flat shipping rate of $12 for all tubes, multiple prints can be shipped in one tube and will only be charged once.
The Menemsha Basin and Strider Prints will remain at their current prices for now.
OK, that’s done.
Now back to my snuggly spot by the heater in the corner with my Muses.
Stay frosty out there and thank you all for being there. H
It’s beginning to look a lot like fall around here. We have been home a month since our Vineyard visit and Granary Gallery show. A great time and very successful show was surrounded by a warm and positive energy which has been riding in my back pocket ever since.
And we needed that to get through some stressful weeks with a string of those unwelcome but generally benign hiccups that lurch your well laid plans into a different gear…or reverse in this case. Extreme heat kept me out of the garden, silly germs kept us all sick and snotty for Zoe’s camp Gran and Mima, the blue screen of death on the studio computer meant a week of tech gurus replacing one motherboard after another, and then there is…( and here I will allude to, but not elaborate on because I have a strict “NO politics in the studio rule”… the mother of all shit storms that is the current state of the nation and the planet )…but worst of all our dear Finn has been plagued with one infection after another.
None of the usual anti-depressants were working.
Putting all the bags of yarn on the daybed to plan out the coming winter of knitting…didn’t help. Getting out all the spoon carving tools and making pile after pile of shavings on the porch…wasn’t helping. Planting flats of seedlings for the fall garden and weeding out the old for the new…was hampered by the summer’s sauna.
I just couldn’t shake the blues.
As of today, most of those bumps in the road have been worked out but they wore this artist down and sent some old dragons a’ knocking at the door.
Alas, I caught them on the whisper… and realized that in spite of all the things I was trying to do to pull myself up and out of that negative space…what I really needed to do was to get myself back to my day job.
The second I sat down at the easel I felt better…lighter…centered and safe.
I have come to understand that this work that I do, the art that I create, the focus that is demanded of the process of bringing a painting to life…it is all of me. It has become what I am not just what I do. And it has an intense and powerful connection to something that is much bigger and vitally more important than Mercury going retrograde and blowing up the schedule.
It is no longer quiet listening, but a fierce reckoning with truth, and finding where it lives at the core of my soul, and then looking hard for where it lives in others. The closest I’ve come to labeling it is that “common ground”. I catch glimpses of it now and then, like a pixie winking from behind a garden shed. And more often when I stand behind someone studying one of my paintings and watch as they step closer. The noise in the gallery shuts off, and they are pulled in to a very private place. Sometimes, when they step back and notice me, they will take me where they went. Sometimes there are no words. But the recognition is there, between us, that there is some common ground.
I can think of it as a portal. Through which there is a tapestry of threads, more like live wires, and we, the artist and the patron, have found one or two that we recognize as familiar, that are alive in our own paintings as it were, and we come to see that we are not alone.
Well that is starting to get a bit tingly…like I said…the universe..or is it those muses… is shifting things around here in a most unpredictable and frustrating way…which is when I know to step out of the stream and go to a safe place.
OK I’m back now. This started out as a quick peek at the burgeoning fall garden, which is plugging along all on its own tingly threads in spite of the heat and my profound neglect.
And since, I have already articulated that the best place for me to be right now…with a tiny brush in my hand…and not playing in the dirt…I shall simply throw out these pics of this morning’s garden.
Beginning with a before shot of the Ruth Stout Memorial Arch to compare with the opening photo of today’s vining mess. You will see that the black eyed susan vines are finally thriving but the morning glory (mostly on the right) are insane…with nary a blossom.
Here it is again…before
In general I am very pleased with the RS bed experiment so far. I will elaborate in future posts but here are some random updates…
WE HAVE A LUFFA !!!
Finally. You can see how showy this vine has become. It has smothered the tunnel and begun to invade the lower forty…
looking back it is on the right
Here it frames the now almost cleared potato run…as it waddles on over to make an annex out of the old pea trellis.
Back at the far end of the bed you get a whole lot of rotting tomatoes and a fair supply of peppers showered by Pat’s zinnias…
A row of bags and boxes are mostly cleared of the failed onions with some lingering leeks…
Walking outside and into the raised bed area it’s the sweet potatoes that have taken the lead…
Three bags full, they hold some promise but it will be a month or more before I peek. The second planting of cucumbers are fighting off the squash bugs and going strong…
The beans have only now begun to provide enough for a meal for two…
Underneath that tunnel are some newly planted carrots and broccoli …
And the brussel sprouts and parsnips are roaring in the back bed…
On the backside of this very large array is the sad state of the strawberry beds, I am flummoxed at the heavy invasion of grasses and weeds which have taken over every single bed. I’ve weeded this bed intensely 4 times this summer !!! and look at the mess.
Back in civilization…
the new herb beds are doing well…
and the salad bed is once again producing lettuces and spinach…
After taking this pic I pulled a couple of those radishes, and then I yanked them all because I found cabbage worms on each one and a heavy infestation of baby aphids. They all went to the bucket of death. Now Herself can come and pick her lunch in peace.
And that leaves the best part of the garden for last…
Miss Finnegan is starting to feel better. These cooler mornings are just the ticket for a Bernese Mt. Dog. She lays here on the shaded cement and supervises my ramblings while she waits for her buddy to come over and take her for a ride around the neighborhood. Her favorite thing is to turn left out of that gate and jump into the car.
As I write this she and her buddy are getting ready for the tennis finals. Finn lays in front of the TV and as soon as the ball is hit she follows it. She got bored with all those double faults in the match last night but has a special fondness for Nadal, so she’s looking forward to his forehand.
And there we have it. A winding look into the labyrinth that, for my sins, is my world this month.
Now I’m headed to the kitchen for some lunch, and then up for one more cone at Reeser’s, and then back to the easel…
Yours in brilliant blazes of Mexican sunflowers, hovering hummingbirds… and finally flying brushes,
I want to take a moment to thank all of you for the kind words and support for each of the paintings in this year’s Granary Gallery Show.
Both Pat and I have enjoyed reading your comments and I greatly appreciate those of you who have shared the images forward.
In this day and age, so many of us are self-employed, and sharing your support on social media increases the opportunity for success exponentially. It means a lot to those of us creative hermit types.
There is always a crazy rush here in the studio on the eve of our departure, and this artiste is feeling her age. So, in amongst this last minute multi-tasking, I wanted to take a breath and give you a look at all 15 paintings together.
I won’t get to see them this way until Sunday, when they are up on the walls of the gallery.