Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Wish For Us All...

Image: Empyreal(adj) Celestial, elevated- from "The Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words- Illustrated."

PS.Publish "The Word Project" My project, thanks.

Bits & Bobs to Wrap Up the Year

1. I come across some truly baffling button designs during my button-hunts. I sometimes get the bags of mixed buttons from craft shops and cull them rather drastically, usually only 20-30 make it but the hunt is the thing. I really enjoy an evening of sorting buttons- well, it takes all kinds and it is harmless... Here are some that I came across recently that are so fascinatingly ugly that I have designated them the "2009 Buttons of the Year!" No, there have not been B-of-the-Y's for previous years and I will probably forget by this time next year, but there you are. What makes these worthy of this accolade? Well, to me they look like little maggot tartlets. You cannot see the detail but the little curls close up look like larvae and the edges look like nut-crusts. I have absolutely no idea where or when I will use them- though thinking of it they would be perfect for a "Mad-Men" style jacket made of a brown and lavender tweed.... that'll be #734 on my list of things to do.

2.I saw "Avatar" this past week in 3D. It was my first experience with the new 3D technologies. The last time was at a drive-in in the early 70's... It was stunning. I still have some problems motion-capture CGI figures; there is always something stiff around the chest/collarbones/shoulders; the skin is too tautly elastic- no wrinkles at the joints. The world seemed very completely realized, but I had to ask myself why all of the other fauna were consistently hexapeds while the "humans" only had 4 limbs- doesn't make evolutionary sense. But these are mere quibbles- I highly recommend it as an immersive experience- absolutely frivolous but life cannot be all serious all the time.

3.I am so very very grateful for all of the good things (and there are many) that have happened this past year. And even a little for the no-so-great things (and there have been more than a few)- they have been lessons that I needed to learn and I hope I am the better for them.

May you have blessed new years.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Once more with feeling...

I'm trying again with Kickstarter- this time with a much more focussed project: Publishing The Word Project.
Please visit the site and if you like what you see- pledge and then tell your friends. Even if you don't pledge- tell your friends! link to the page! blog about how wonderful it is!

There is currently a problem viewing the video, please check back- (but there's nothing stopping you from pledging now.....)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tea & Shortbread

ince the name of this blog is "ArtWordsTea" and it is full into winter, I thought I should write a bit about tea. I drink a lot of it- mostly iced. I know- iced tea in winter? Well, (too many but that is another post) many people drink sodapop during the winter but you don't expect them to drink it hot do you? But I digress...
This time of year, I also drink a lot of hot tea. It used to be Earl Grey but nowadays it is more likely to be Lady Grey which is more fragrant with bergamot yet also not so strident. I also commit blasphemy by drinking it with milk- and sometimes a splash of caramel syrup. This is my version of the what the Hudson Valley Coffee Traders cafe- just down the street from me- serves. They use vanilla syrup and call it a Fog and it is delicious. I didn't have any vanilla syrup but I did have a dusty bottle of caramel syrup left over from something I can't recall and gave it a (pardon the pun) shot. I'm calling it a Cashmere and I'm sticking with it. But most of the time my tea is milky but unsweetened.
Since we are hurtling towards Christmas there have been invitations to potlucks. If the event is in the afternoon, i usually make Lemon & Rosemary Shortbread. I use a recipe from Melissa Clark's delightful column for the NYTimes and it is a hit every time I make it. I use a battered food processor- a benefit of my older brother's brief flirtation with cooking. (I also scored a stand mixer from the aftermath of his quixotic attentions.) On the low-tech end of the tool spectrum, I use a mezzaluna to finely chop the rosemary. This tool has two parallel arced blades and you use it by rocking it back and forth over the herbage. It never leaves the surface of the cutting board and chops much finer, in less time, and uses less effort than a knife.
I have an ivitation for this afternoon and the shortbread is in the oven, the fragrance of the rosemary and lemon with the hint of sugar fills the air.
Time for some tea...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But I Wouldn't Want My Child to Be One...

I visited the site for United States Artists the other day when they announced their 2009 grants- alas I was not among the grantees, the notice had not been lost in the mail- and came across this bit of disturbing but not surprising information:
"A country that loves art, not artists
In a survey of attitudes toward artists in the U.S. a vast majority of Americans, 96%, said they were greatly inspired by various kinds of art and highly value art in their lives and communities. But the data suggests a strange paradox. While Americans value art, the end product, they do not value what artists do. Only 27% of respondents believe that artists contribute "a lot" to the good of society."

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Consider the Persimmon

I ran into a friend the other day at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock. He reached into a shopping bag pulled something out and put it into my hand. It was a Japanese persimmon, still hard and a bit cold from the air outside. A small, simple act but it really stopped me in my tracks. I just couldn't stop staring at the persimmon nestled in my palm. It was as smooth and marvelously opaque as soapstone- as dense and hefty, too. The burnt orange of the skin just radiated like an ember. The smooth symmetry of the fruit, contrasted with the ruffled, brown remnants of blossom- ah, it was just enthralling. I sat and contemplated it for a while, resisting the urge to gurgle "preciousssss...."

It now sits on my bedside table reminding me of the beauty and perfection of nature, and to take the time to appreciate her gifts and the generosity of friends.

A Tree Grows in Kingston

There has been much activity around the trees on where I live on Wall St. in Kingston- much of it sad but now some of it serendipitously joyful and a bit subversive. The sad started about a month ago when crews started to cut down many of the Black Locusts that lined the street- also sad was the fact that they usually started in with their chain saws at 6am. There are damn few natural amenities in this area, the shade of the trees was one of them.
But a wonderful thing happened late one evening about 2 weeks ago. I heard pounding outside of my front windows. I saw a "tree" going up on one of the bare stumps left after the decimation of the locusts!
The activity was anonymous as so many wonderful happenings are- the anti-vandals struck and disappeared, melting into the night.
I remember thinking that the tree probably wouldn't last the night let alone the next day, but I was wrong. It has stood these past weeks totally unmolested.

That must have encouraged the anti-vandals because just a few minutes ago, I once again heard pounding out on the street...

Another tree- even more charming than the first- has gone up right in front of my windows:

I want to thank these anonymous anti-vandals who have taken something so ugly and crass and turned it into an opportunity for wonder and gladness.

(The sound of pounding continues down the block....)

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week in Art and Gardens

This week was an interesting one in both art and gardens- really, art and kitchen/gardens but that is even more of a mouthful.
5 years ago I was part of a group that built a clay bread oven at the Catskill Native Nursery. It took 12 of us stalwart souls- or 24 soles as you will see- to build the oven over an exhausting 2 days of work. The expert who ran the workshop built the base out of stone and gravel but it was up to us to construct the beehive oven out of native clay, straw, plus blood, sweat and tears with a large side-order of advil. The clay was very, very stiff, not like the clay you might use for throwing pots or making sculpture, so mixing in the straw binder was quite difficult. We ended up putting a mound of clay and straw on a tarpaulin and attacking it with our bare feet. We pounded and stomped until the mound was reduced to a pancake. We then rolled the pancake back into the center by lifting and pulling the tarp. It usually took us 5 rounds of this to get the consistency we needed. Then we took fist-sized gobs of the mixture and working in rows, slowly built up the dome of the oven. That was the first layer. the next day we got to do it all over again to build the walls to the correct thickness (8") At the end of the weekend, I would have gladly agreed to have my shins removed, I hobbled around for about a week before the muscles recovered.
Why describe this process? Well, Diane- one of my bosses at CNN- has tried to do a pizza-making session every year since then but it has inevitably rained out. (the oven still does not have a roof over it so it can only be used in fair weather) She has cooked in the oven several times for herself and her partner, Francis, but not yet with a group of people. This past Sunday was our day. I helped tend the fire to heat the oven up. This can take 3 hours to do properly. Unfortunately, we jumped the gun a bit in our enthusiam and the oven was not quite as hot as it should have been so the pizzas did not bake in the proper 1 minute's exposure to the 700 degree heat. But it was still good.
The dough I made was overworked and therefore just too darn springy- it just would not hold a proper pizza thinness. But even so, I enjoyed it immensely and hope we can try again next season. Then it was back to work putting the nursery to bed for the winter. A nice respite from the usually quiet work of cutting back, sorting and binning.

On the art side, I mentioned below that I had done a piece for the recent "Small Works" show at the WAAM but had neglected to photograph it before running out the door to submit it. Well, I won't get the chance now to take the picture. I got a call on Saturday from the gallery saying that a Dutch couple wanted to buy the piece and they were going to take it with them- Sunday was the last day for the show anyway, and they were heading back to The Netherlands. So I wish it:
"Vaarwel, weinig werken van kunst. Ga naar een goede thuis."
(Farewell, little art work. Go to a good home.)
I also picked up my piece "Prosthesis" and dropped off a small piece for the annual Holiday Show & Sale. The Holidays?... egad

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enough Already

Its been about a year since I changed my domain name and the look of my website, from Thrums End Art Studio to Buttonwood Art. Today I made another detachment from the past. I deleted the bit from my site that expanded on the reason for the change. Its time to move on and I am tired of the recitation of the litany.
I do not "regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it," but it's time to look forward.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apropos of Absolutely Nothing

I was reading the BBC newsfeedand saw an article about Andrew Lloyd Weber. The accompanying image struck me, so I did a little Google image search. The result:

Separated at Birth:

Nothing more to see here, move along, move along.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nothing ventured...

nothing gained. Well, my Kickstarter project failed to reach its goal by the deadline so its over. I would like to thank everyone who pledged, who supported my work. I am so very grateful.
What will I do now?
I have another month of work at the nursery so I will keep on at that and also start looking for another job. I am applying for a NYFA grant but that is another gamble and wouldn't be until April if I got it. I will still try to get my work seen by gallery owners in areas outside of the Hudson Valley, it will just take a bit longer than I had hoped.
A few weeks ago I got an email from someone saying essentially "Who do I think I am, asking people to support me so I can do art?" I must say it kind of soured the process a bit for me, especially when I was struggling to finish pieces for the shows at the WAAM mentioned below, but apparently that was the desired effect. (And I do have to mention, to be fair, that this person has reason to have a grudge against me, but I am unable right now to complete my amends.)
I really do think art is what I should be doing, so I will keep at it, come hell, highwater, ill-wishers and recession. Who knows, there may be some red-dots (sold stickers) on some of my pieces- stranger things have happened.
Again, thank you to everyone who pledged, my heart is so full.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well, that's one option...

A big weekend over the 17th & 18th. I was working at the nursery's booth at the Sheep&Wool Festival across the river in Rhinebeck. This is an annual fiber-fest when the fair grounds become a womens' tribal council for those 2 days. Oh, there are men there but the vibe is overwhelmingly female. All the various knitting/spinning tribes were represented- the Dames, the Earth Mothers, the Middle-American Crafters and the Urban Hipsters. The binding thread that connected them all was wool, from the sheep to the distaff to the dyepot, the winder, and the needles. It was cold, very cold, but a bustling day on Saturday. I had to leave the booth a bit early to drive to Woodstock for some art events.
I had my 4 openings this past Saturday. A triple-header at the WAAM; Mixed-Media (juried,) Small Works (juried,) and 11PICK2, an invitational in the Towbin Wing, usually the home of the permanent collection. Still patting myself on the back a bit about that one. I was very happy and honored to be in the company of many of my favorite living artist-members of the WAAM. I am sitting at the grown-ups' table.
I left those openings a bit early to get to my show of 8 works at Oriole9, a delightful restaurant right across the road from the WAAM. I was very pleased at how good the pieces looked in the setting. I had to wait for the crowd to finish their devastation of the spread the staff set out for the reception, but after they were done licking their fingers they turned their attentions to the art on the walls.
I sat in a corner and just watched people. I was just plain knackered from working at the fair all day and all the run-up to these openings, so I let others come to me if they wanted to.
Many compliments on the art. One comment left me somewhat speechless, however- someone came over to where I was sitting and said that they thought I was one of those artists who would become famous after they died...
So, do I opt for instant fame or struggle along for another 40 years...?
Bemusement reigns.
(photo courtesy of Loel Barr, thanks Annie!)
(Now, where's that Photoshop filter that takes off 50 lbs...)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Poke in the Eye, Part II

The eye is much better thanks to Dr. O'Hara. I do not have a patch but I am wearing a "bandage contact," so no pirate jokes. Yesterday, she dilated the pupil of my eye before putting in the contact so I sported a slight resemblance to David Bowie- well, if David Bowie was an overweight, middle-aged woman. It made working a bit interesting but not impossible.
All the art is done and delivered, some to be hung, some to be juried and then maybe hung.

Here is the piece I did for the Mixed Media
show, I'll know tomorrow evening if I got in or not. No image of the piece I entered in the Small Works show- slapped the glass on it and was out the door.

Anyway, it is titled "Prosthesis." Nice and cheerful, don't you think?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Poke in the Eye

I have often said, when asked how an experience was, "better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." Well, now I have a real benchmark for that statement. I was at work today at the nursery and was repotting some large shrubs preperatory to closing down for the winter. I bent down and bingo! Fortunately it is just a scratch but boy these things sting like the dickens. I've had scratched corneas before so I know the drill. Thank heavens I didn't have more downward momentum, that could have been very bad indeed. Now for a week of jokes about pirates... and just in time for 2 biggish art openings for shows* my work is in...

*WAAM/"Eleven Pick Two" & Oriole 9, Woodstock NY.

Last weekend at the nursery, I was clearing a small area near some rotting logs and found a nest of young eastern milk snakes. It was interesting watching them up close, they reminded me of inlaid enameled bracelets, they looked so perfect and intricate. There is also a group of large garter snakes that hang out under the potting shed, even though they are quite harmless, their drab colors give them a slight air of menace. Both of these species help keep down the rodent population so I am glad- and feel a bit priviledged- to see them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From a Kind Friend

A dear and kind friend sent me these quotes that she had collected for another friend who had to move from her home of 35 years:

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely
Edward de Bono

Remember, what you possess in the world will be found at the day of your
death to belong to someone else, but what you are will be yours forever.
Henry van Dyke

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward
change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength
Helen Keller

Thank you, Michele.


Today is one year to the day that I walked out of my home, studio and garden for the last time. The workers that were there to do over the house for the jackals who were hoping to flip the house for a quick profit had already popped the lock on the front door and ripped out swaths of the gardens so there was little time or opportunity to take one last look- it had stopped being my home quite a while before and was merely a holding box while I secured a new place to live.
But I do miss the starry skies, the birds, the goldfish pond, and the crickets, I miss them every evening.

Here is what I live with now:
"according to the sergeant on duty, at about 1:42 am, [Kingston Police] received a noise complaint at BSP (Back Stage Productions, just down the block from my apartment). Officers sent a group of persons who were standing outside back in, noting that there were about 200-250 people inside. At 2:55am they received another call for noise which turned out to be a fight inside the premise which was spilling outside. Due to the large number of people involved, all of [Kingston Police] shift and some officers from the Town of Ulster and UC Sheriff's Dept. responded. The crowd was eventually dispersed[4am] and three young females were arrested for disorderly conduct... Also, a guy showed up at the hospital with a large cut on his back that [Kingston Police] strongly suspect he suffered at BSP but he didn't cooperate with [Kingston Police]."

All I can do today is look forward and keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trust that that is what I am supposed to be doing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kickstart me, please!

Earlier today I read an article in the NYTimes business section. That's odd enough because I almost never read the business section, but there was an article about Wikipedia above the fold so I took a look. Below the fold, there was an article about and I was fascinated. I emailled them and was utterly gobsmacked when they responded positively. As of 3pm this afternoon, I have a project entitled "Breathing Room" on their site.
I already have 4 patrons helping me towards my goal- I was so overcome with gratitude that I burst into tears when that first pledge arrived. I have 59 more days to reach my goal- $4500 to give me some breathing room to be able to make art and promote my work.

All too often, I succumb to feeling isolated and totally on my own. I need to be reminded that that is just F(alse) E(vidence) A(ppearing) R(eal)

To quote one of my favorite movies-
"No (wo)man is a failure who has friends...
Atta boy, Clarence."

(And thank you Mark, for your support and reminding me to write about this miracle.)

Lovely Lovage

I wandered into my kitchen just now and smelled lovage (Levisticum officinale.) This took me aback since I have no lovage in my kitchen nor its cousins celery and cilantro. I used to grow lovage in my herb garden and loved to use it in salads and salsas- wherever a recipe called for cilantro. Cilantro is infamous for bolting (going to seed and becoming bitter) about 10 minutes after it starts to grow its first true leaves so I never bothered to grow it. Lovage, on the other hand has much better manners and comes back for at least 4 years, getting shrubbier and shrubbier, before it needs to be replaced, so I could snip leaves all summer.
But I digress... maybe the kitchen across the alley is cooking with cilantro and my melancholy mind threw me back to what I would recognize.

Perhaps one day I will again be snipping lovage from my own herb garden.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

I was sorting through some clippings I had accumulated and found this one. It looks like one of my Word Project creatures but it really exists. The long-beaked echidna (genus Zaglossus) is a monotreme; it lays eggs- into a pouch where the eggs hatch- but feeds its young (young echidnas are called 'puggles') with milk. The milk, which is pink, seeps from openings in the female's chest. Grown echidnas eat ants and termites. They are native to Australia and New Guinea along with the only other monotremes - the short-beaked echidna and the duck-billed platypus.
This particular critter is Zaglossus attenboroughi.
Below is a picture of David Attenborough. Myself, I don't see the resemblance...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Art Tour

The Saugerties Artists Studio Tour was the weekend of the 8th&9th and I realized I hadn't written about it. Since losing my studio last year, I have relied on the generosity of others to have a Saugerties venue in which to show my work. I am also grateful to the members of the Tour who allow me to continue to be part of the group. The fact that I do the website, poster, postcard and this year's tee-shirt design may have something to do with it too... no, they really are a good group of people, the kindness of some of them shames and astounds me.
Anyway, over the weekend I came to somewhat regret not leaving the area altogether to start again somewhere else. I find the endless questions about where I am living now, how do I like it (I don't,) it must be nice there (it isn't,) surely I will be able to move back to the country soon (I won't unless I win the lottery or you all buy my art...) I just stand there with a gritted smile on my face but as Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, "insincerity is exhausting."
I sold some small pieces. I debated whether or not to bring small works but in the end my fears got the better of me and I did bring the set of postcard-sized pieces I brought back from the show down in the city.
Do I sound ungrateful? Perhaps I am a bit. I am tired of being grateful for scraps. Sometimes I think this is a big lesson in humility; sometimes I think I didn't need this big a lesson; perhaps this is a lesson in provoking me to get off my sorry butt and take my work down to the big city...
It is terribly hot and humid here nd the "a" is sticking on my keyboard, perhaps it is time to close.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Some things I learned today:

  • Eastern Yellowjackets are wasps of the genus Vespula

  • They can build nests in spaces left by voles in the soil in potted plants
  • If you lift the pot and begin to weed it, the yellowjackets get angry
  • They are very aggressive and will follow you a great distance
  • Yellowjackets can sting multiple times, especially if they get inside your shirt
  • Those stings are extremely painful and the pain is long lasting
  • My middle-aged, overweight carcass can really move when sufficiently motivated
  • I can still type although my right hand resembles a baseball glove right now, but I do have go back and correct a lot of mistakes
  • A little knowledge is a good thing but a little Benadryl is a better thing

Monday, July 13, 2009

Degrees of Separation

2 posts in one swell foop!

I watched a fascinating program just now on the Science Channel about networks and connections and it got me thinking about my connectedness and I must admit I was gobsmacked.
Here are a few of the connections I could think of:

  • I am 2 handshakes away from Theodore Roosevelt (my grandmother, as a very young child, attended William McKinley's funeral where she shook hands with TR.)

  • 2 from President Barak Obama
  • 3 from Queen Elizabeth II

  • 3 from Peter Jackson and therefore 4 from the entire cast of LOTR by one route; 2 and 3 by another
  • 5 from Albert Einstein

  • 2 from Liberty Hyde Bailey
  • 4 from NC Wyeth

  • 2 from Kevin Bacon (had to add that one...)
  • 2 from Paul McCartney
  • 2 from Bo Bo Brazil, originator of the Coco-bop

    (Bo Bo's on the right, not delivering a Coco-bop, but such is life.)

And I am just a nobody originally from a tiny village in Ohio, now from a small city in upstate NY. None of these are connections that I could call upon, they are merely handshakes but still it boggles my mind. Wow...

Treasure Hunt

My piece for the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour's "Explore Saugerties Artists Treasure Hunt" is in place. ( I have to say that there have been 2 storms since I put my piece up and who knows about vandals, maybe I need to go check it...) Anyway, I am relatively happy with it but mostly happy that I got it done in time. Since I no longer live in Saugerties I am out of the loop and even more out of touch than I used to be- if that were possible... so I have no idea if anyone has made the effort to decipher my clue and found the piece. But I would be happy if only 1 person did that, just that one hardy, persistent soul would be vindication enough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ghosts of the Hudson Valley

As part of the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial, the Artists of the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour are doing a public art project entitled: "Explore Saugerties: Artists Treasure Hunt." It was the result of some brainstorming between another member of the group, Gus Pedersen, and myself to have members of the Tour wreck our artistic will on 18"x18" boxes or frames that have been painted gold (hence the treasure aspect.) The theme of the works should be Hudson-related. My contribution was the idea to have the boxes/frames hidden at various locations around the township and have written clues to the whereabouts of the works for searchers to find them. I had assumed that being artists, all of us would seek out odd and unusual nooks and crannies of the township in which to put our treasures... well, a few of us have; the rest are putting their boxes in shops in the village- about as exciting and evocative as having an easter egg hunt at a mall...
Anyway, I have found a nice spot for my contribution- titled: Ghosts of the Hudson Valley.

Here is my clue:(I was going to have it translated into Old Dutch but that was pushing it a bit too far...)
I was a maid, then I was a wife.
We came to the New World
to start a new life.
But a new life took me
ere I was one and twenty;
my child, not I, walked this land of plenty.
From Aesculus' Crown I watch below
as iron wagons rush to and fro.
An argent stag for company I keep,
I wander in shadows, I dream,
yet I do not sleep.
(Please tread lightly, I share my prospect.
Others here too deserve your respect.)

(location: Chestnut Hill Cemetery, which for those not familiar with the area, is on a hill across from a place called New World Home Cooking, and it has a big silver stag statue there, and the major road between Saugerties and Woodstock runs below.)
I am in the process of putting together a page on the Art Tour website for the Treasure Hunt, the whole thing should be set up in the next week or two.
My own piece is two-sided and made of masonite and sheet acrylic. I have weatherproofed it to the best of my ability and who knows about vandalism- its a gamble but there you are...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts on a Kingston Saturday Night

I HATE THIS PLACE! It is noisy- once again the folks at Backstage Productions, just down the block, are totally disregarding the lives of those of us who live here, they are playing loud, loud music with the doors and windows wide open. To put the icing on the cake when the gig is over, the street will be filled with loud, obnoxious drunks- oh joy. Most afternoons they also have drum sessions, again with the windows open so that everyone has to listen to the drumming. Calls to their office yield no results.
When the sidewalks are dirty, instead of using push brooms, the city workers use leaf-blowers- I guess their fragile male-egos can't take using something that is not energy-wasting and horribly noisy. There is a building behind me that has the noisiest air-conditioning unit on the planet- oh, and they are going to do a "green" roof to help curb air-pollution- that's great but how about cutting down on the noise pollution too?
Motorcyclists use these streets for their nightly "big, loud motorcycle=teeny-tiny brain" noise-fest.
I HATE THIS PLACE! It stinks- trucks making deliveries (4:30-5am) idle their engines for 20 or so minutes and my apartment fills with exhaust. I apparently am the only person living/working here who does not smoke- the sidewalks are always littered with cigarette butts- and then people wonder why no one comes here to shop, etc- who wants to walk through an ashtray?
I HATE THIS PLACE! The frigging street lights are on full all night and aren't capped so the light pollution is just horrid. They are supposed to be charming but mostly what they are is a nuisance. The street is so overly lit that skateboarders use the block as their playground at 3 in the morning. There are lights under the porticoes that run the length of the block, they shed enough light and that light does not shine up into the 2nd & 3rd storey windows. The street lights are totally superfluous.

I HATE THIS PLACE! I HATE THIS PLACE! I HATE THIS PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009


On Thursday I went down to NYC to drop off 8 pieces for a show of postcard-sized art at the APW Gallery in Long Island City (actually a section of Queens.) I have been trying to get someone down in the city to look at my work for a while now but to no avail. This show is a chance- a long shot probably but what the hey. I will not be able to attend the opening, but if I ever get a 3 or 4 person show or- gasp- a solo show, I promise I will attend the reception.
I took the opportunity to have lunch at Shopsin's, my favorite NYC eatery. I had to wait for about 40 minutes to get a seat but as always it was worth the wait. I also did some shopping in Soho- oh I am such a hick from the sticks...

Anyway, here are 7 of the 8 pieces I did for the postcard show (the photo of the 8th came out quite blurry, sorry.) I'm pretty happy with them, I like making the little cracked open rib cages.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shooting My Mouth Off Again

Here I go again...

I got an email from the Graphic Artists Guild about a debate being held at The Economist website about copyright. I went and voted but since I also had to register, I figured I should add my 2cents while I was there:

Dear Sir,
As a creative- and copyright holder- I propose that the concept of copyright is invaluable to insure that artists like myself can benefit from their efforts. However, since the inception of the Works Made For Hire designation in the 1976 Copyright Act, creator's rights to profit from their works have been continually eroded by corporate interests. We now have 2 classes of copyright holders, creators-in-fact (artists) and creators-in-statute (corporate publishers and distributors who have used their power in the marketplace to grab the rights of creators-in-fact.) Creators-in-fact are being squeezed between two monolithic forces: the creators-in-statute and consumers who feel entitled to what they want when they want it. To remedy this, I suggest a simple solution: eliminate W4H from copyright law and recognize that all-rights contracts and the practices corporate creators-in-statute use to force them on creators-in-fact are monopolistic and patently unfair. Utterly pie in the sky, of course, but that is my role in society...

So, there it is. I fear the pro-artists' rights side will lose, the forces of consumerism and the utter greed of the publishers have joined to make art and creativity just another "thing" -a bit of cheaply produced and easily replaced consumer junk. In the "Alvin Maker" series of speculative fiction works, there is an image that best illustrates my feeling about my place in society: the character is building a neverending wall, patiently placing one stone upon another; while behind him, the wall is being collapsed and destroyed by the forces of entropy.

Ah, this stone will perfectly fit with the one I just set..

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Boasting Rights

Not having any children of my own, I have to rely on my brothers' children to provide me with boasting material.
Here is one of my nieces singing on YouTube.

I'm not too chuffed, no not a bit...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Misjudging The Book By Its Cover

I don't watch "American Idol" never have, never will. But I had read about a woman named Susan Boyle who appeared on the British version of "AI" and had utterly stunned the judges and the audience with her singing. I googled her this evening and watched the YouTube video of her performance. She is a very plain, frumpy middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland; when she walked out onto the stage, you can see and hear the snickers from the audience and the judges, too, are skeptical to say the least. But she is plucky and so utterly believes in her talent that I feared for her because obviously she was going to make a fool of herself- she was going to be the next "joke" contestant, the delusional person the audience supports out of sheer snarkiness. I felt sorry for her and dreaded her utter humiliation.
Then she opened her mouth and sang and it was an epiphany. Her voice was gorgeous, her rendition of the song was heartfelt and stirring. She shamed us all as she embraced us with the generosity of her talent and her complete confidence in her ability. I was in tears at the end of her performance. Even Simon Cowell was stunned- the look on his face was one of utter amazement and pure delight. (I understand he has her under contract for his recording company as a result of her performance.)
I wish her every great thing- what a lesson in persistance, vision, belief in oneself, and courage. Her victory over our cynicism, our culture's erroneous belief that great talent must be accompanied by physical attractiveness, our focus on the cover instead of the writing are complete. But she does not need my wishes, she took the chances and is now going to get the recognition her talent deserves.
So from this plain, frumpy middle-aged woman whose talent is often dismissed because it does not come in the culturally-approved package, I say- you go, Susan!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ache for the Past

I started my summer "B" job this past weekend, working weekends at the Catskill Native Nursery from now until the end of the season. I knew I was going to be stiff and sore, feeling every day of my age and every moment of a long winter spent not doing much physical work. I was not prepared, however, for the heart-rending beauty of the birds and their songs. At my former home, I had planted and planted and planted just for the comfort and support of the birds and was rewarded with an abundance of song and movement. Now, however, I am living in town and while I hear a few English Sparrows singing in the morning, it is otherwise a desert. When I got to the nursery I was overwhelmed by the song and by the many bluebirds, tree swallows and other species flitting around. Oh how I have missed them.
Nostalgia literally means "the ache for the past." And it was literally an ache in the middle of my chest. The only cure for it that I can see is to be grateful for this small blessing- to be able to hear and see the birds at the Nursery, allow the sights and sounds to soak into me to sustain me for the intervening 4 days, keep putting one foot in front of the other and take the next right step.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Start

Ever since I moved into my current place, I have wanted to replace the color in the large back room- a room I am using as a dining/living room.As noted in an earlier post- "More Sheep & Goats"-the former tenants had painted it a lurid crimson and I had begun to paint over it in preparation for a mural. Here it is in its former state (actually this image looks better than the true wall color):

I took the plunge this weekend I got out my brush, my jars of homogenized acrylic paints and began. I have an idea in mind and I have roughly sketched it out on the walls but I am by-and-large winging it. This is just the first layer of colors, I will add to and embellish the shapes with stencilled, sponged, painted and printed motifs: leaves, grasses, bark, shadows etcetcetc. Also, many of the colors I will use for embellishing the surface will be more complex and interesting than these rather straight forward colors. Also, true to form, I am working somewhat piecemeal (I still haven't finished painting out the crimson on one of the walls but I just couldn't wait to have some fun.)
I did have to re-paint one area already. When I stepped back and looked at the wall, it was starting to look too much like a pediatrics ward- too cute and sweet. too easter basket-ish. There is still one patch of the offending viridian left, I ran out of the bronzy green that mercifully replaced the bulk of it. Phew, what a relief. Here it is so far:

I am also just glad to be exercising the art muscle. Friday evening a bunch of artist friends came over for an informal evening in my studio and that was very very pleasant. Saturday afternoon I attended the opening of the "River" show at the WAAM and that was good also. A few too many questions about my life right now, but there you are. By the end of that reception, however, I was all peopled out and opted for a quiet rest of my weekend. I painted, and graded papers for the class I teach up in Albany. Monday will be here all too soon. Ah well... sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Dispatch From the Garden of Entropy

Today is the drop-off day for the big "River" show at the WAAM so "Muhheakannuk" has been framed and is on her way. There is also the submission for the "Small Works" show downstairs in the Founders Gallery. I had decided to not enter some of the fluffier pieces I have been doing recently and get back into the darker territory I began to explore in my "A Child's Garden of Entropy" series. Its much closer to the bone and ultimately more satisfying. It is not, however, remunerative. Not many people want to buy pieces about child abuse, but there you are. Somehow I don't see a bunch of Chinese artists cranking out oil paintings sized to fit over a sofa, on that subject...

I, of course waited to photograph it until I had installed the glass- sorry for the myriad reflections. But since it probably won't sell, will be able to remove the glass when it comes back and shoot it properly- or as properly as I can. It is in an old box I found, the figures are in my button/doll style and the leaves are lovely dried magnolia leaves- I have commented on them earlier. These I gathered at my summer job at the nursery. The title is : "The Garden of Entropy: The Stain." I won't exhort you to like it or enjoy it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Sheep & Goats

Well, the auction was today and I saw several people loading my excess furniture into their cars. I blessed them and wished them well. The furniture served me well and I hope the new owners soon have as many pleasant memories attached to the pieces.

I also called the president of the local quilters' guild and arranged to give them 6 bins of fabric that I had amassed over the years but never used up. That was what I was sorting yesterday. I am keeping 2 bins worth, offering some yardage to friends who might be able to use the fabric and giving away the rest. The quilter's group makes lap robes for local hospitals and nursing homes so I know the fabric will be of use and hopefully bring some delight to someone with the beautiful patterns and colors.

I also spent part of the day painting over the rather lurid crimson the former tenant in this apartment had painted the largest room. In combination with the grey industrial carpet and the dark wood trim it managed to look both overly suggestive and wildly inappropriate (and sloppy too). Right now the walls are white. I plan to paint a mural on them. Since I no longer have a garden or a view of mountains and trees, that is what I shall stencil, print and paint- all with a rather Bloomsbury/Bawden/me twist. I'll keep you posted.

Well, back to my other work that is giving me reproachful looks from the worktable...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Surprisingly Un-Difficult

This evening I got together with an acquaintance who has a high-end salvage company and who does auctions every once in a while. The business also happens to be next door to where I live now. We met up at my storage unit and he took much of the remaining furniture on consignment for the next auction. I got to the unit early to finally go through some boxes and sort the contents, a task that should have been done before they were stored but time was of the essence.
The sheep and the goats have been separated, one group of reorganized boxes stays with me, the other goes on to ... well, I don't know where yet but I hope not to the dump. As to which are the sheep and which are the goats? Does it matter?
I did take a few moments to listen to the spring peepers and I felt a sharp stab of nostalgia. I used to cherish those first songs of spring and where I am now is far away from such delight.
But beyond that, I was surprised at how unemotional I was at the decision to let go of the furniture. Pieces that had been part of my former home. I feared that I might be pushing myself into a slough of despond but I was clear headed and optimistic. And for that I am very very grateful.
Who knows what my future will be? Is there a home again in the country for me? A cozy fireplace? Spring peepers? A garden? I don't know and for today, where I am and what I have is enough.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Birds of Ulster County

I am in the position to not have time to do my art work, my "A"job, because my "B" jobs are piling up and filling my time. I truly am grateful for the income and realize I need to adjust the way I apportion my time away from these jobs- if I do not do my art, the internal pressure builds to a point where it becomes almost intolerable. I used to make detailed plans for my days and I see the necessity for doing so again. Ah well, for the while its either (relative)feast or famine... when I am not earning, I do not have the desire to create. Still trying to make it to that sweetest place where my creative work is bringing in the income and the income is taking the pressure off of me so that I feel secure and free to create. A bricoleur can dream can't she?

Anyway, here are the next 2 in the series "The Birds of Ulster County"-- "Cardinal" and "Owl"

birds of ulster county: cardinal birds of ulster county: owl

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I was sitting in the local Panera this afternoon having some lunch (tomato soup, tomato/mozarella panini, iced tea) when I became utterly fascinated with the back of the head of a baby that was perched in a high chair a few feet from me. This child was slender and way its large, almost perfectly round head was perched on its tiny little neck- and especially the indentation formed between the tendons at the meeting point transfixed me. The little seashell-like ears jutting out on either side completed the composition.
The whole picture was just utterly delicious.

Was I filled with longing to have one such creature of my own? No. I was content to enjoy the sight and let it pass when the parents finished their meal and left. Even if I had such a longing, my biological alarm clock has long since rung and been flung against the wall, smashing into smithereens. No, my appreciation of that tender sight was just that- an appreciation without covetousness, for which I am grateful.

May I be open to more such happenstances, more tiny everyday miracles.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Curse For Our Times

Although I strive for kindness in all things, I do make pre-emptive moves to protect my works. But in the cyber world such protections as copyright registration seem to carry little weight. A friend sent me a link to a Wiki article about "book curses," used in long-ago times when each book was hand-made and was considered a precious object in and of itself- not just for the knowledge it contained (precious enough on its own merit.) These curses were written into the books by the scribes and called down the wrath of God upon book thieves and even book "borrowers" who neglect to return the volume.
Perhaps it is time to update the "book curse." So, here is a modern version:

"For him that stealeth this image from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let computerworms gnaw his entrails ... when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Out of Touch

Oh the perils of dependence on electronic communications... my computer died about 10 days ago and I was without web-based communications for a week... I was in the process of switching ISPs at the same time so my email had no home from which to retrieve it. Worst of all I couldn't indulge in one of my favorite diversions- Civilization. (Yeah, I know- ) Anyway, it was a real lesson to me about how much time I fritter away being diverted and maybe I should be making art instead or having a social life. Especially since I now have another "B" job (my art being my "A" job) and will in a month or so have a third "B" job at the nursery- and hopefully more web design jobs sprinkled in here and there. Teaching goes until May- for a month or so I will be extremely busy. I vaguely remember being very busy, it was tiring but good...
Anyway, I have a nice second-hand machine now and it is running like a top. I had a few beloved programs on the old machine that were lost in the crash and burn of the hard-drive (do I hear a chorus of "you did back things up didn't you?" in the background. Only a few things, but fortunately Gerry Brady at MacDiagnostics saved my sorry butt.) Especially Notetaker from Aquaminds. They and the other apps' developers very kindly sent me my original registration/license codes so I could get new copies. I would really miss my journals in the form of old-fashioned spiral-bound notebooks. I have a real nostalgia for them and I love the concept of a cyber version of the oaktag and wire notebooks.
So, I am back on the web. I still have some problems with sending email but I am working on those.
Oh- I have a few minutes- I can get on with building the Great Library and eventually dominating the entire world...

PS- Here is the piece currently on display at the WAAM's Small Works Show: ( I also have a piece in the upstairs show but I neglected to photograph it...)

"The Birds of Ulster County: Raven"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Coraline, hmmm...

I saw the animated movie, "Coraline" over the weekend (not the 3D version, more's the pity.) I had an odd, delayed, reaction to it. Don't get me wrong, the animation and the art direction/design are wonderful. But...
I left the movie theatre cheerfully bouyant, had a very good East Asian supper with a friend, and then when I got home I felt horribly displaced- like I really should have gone to my former home, walked to the back door, through the garden under a starry sky, and sat by a crackling fire in the fire place before retiring. Instead I came back to an apartment that that evening all I could see were its many faults, and when I dreamt that night, I dreamt disturbing dreams of Thrums End.
I had an experience like that years ago when I was living in Brooklyn. I had walked the 10 blocks to the local cinema to see Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life," ostensibly a comedy. I had left the cinema cheerful but by the time I had walked the 10 blocks home, I was in tears. The premise of the film was that as a child, the main character had not stood up to a much older and larger bully and was therefore going to be punished for eternity. Unfortunately, that storyline dovetailed rather too neatly with my own view of God at that time. To say it triggered some existential angst was an understatement.
So, what was it about "Coraline" that caused me to react so?
The parents were cold and distant, more concerned with working than paying any attention to their child; the home they had moved into looked dreary and, again, cold. There was no comfort to be found anywhere in that place. The parents could only be kind and loving to Coraline after they had brought in money- so the equivalence was made: poverty=coldness, not loving; money=warmth, loving. Maybe that was what triggered my reaction.
Anyway, was it a good movie- I can't really say. But that's just me...

Friday, February 20, 2009


Glorioski! I have found my art-ism! My place in the art universe. I am a Stuckist. (profound silence except for the chirping of crickets follows.)
Okay, so what is Stuckism? Well, go here to read the Remodernist manifesto.
I must add that I am very grateful to the founders of Stuckism for not only giving me an identifiable group but also for sparing me the task of having to write my own manifesto. I merely had to go to the cathedral of contemporary art, step up to the doors and read the theses, as it were.
Am I being facetious? No, I am not. I have felt alienated from much of the contemporary art world's cynicism and over-reliance on irony and just plain snarkiness for some time. Also its promotion of profoundly unskilled and untalented people. I visited the Tate Modern the last time I was in London and it had a tremendous effect on me. I was quite thrilled to see the work in the galleries devoted to Stanley ("Cookham") Spencer and other between-the-wars painters. I was quite dismayed when I was in the galleries devoted to very contemporary conceptual art- which seems to only embody the concept "I can't draw, and I can't paint, but I can self-promote to gullible people who are only interested in appearing hip." I had left the former galleries inspired and delighted; the latter, disturbed and upset. Later, when I was talking with the friends I was staying with, I mentioned that since the purpose of the very contemporary art at the Tate seems to be to disturb, and there was much of it concentrated in one place- I left the museum disturbed and upset.
I would rather that after looking at my work, people are thoughtful, inspired and- dare I say it- delighted.

Stuckists of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your cynicism!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Humble Button

A very amusing snippet about buttons and Koumpounophobia- the fear thereof, from Neil Gaiman.

(Buttons rule)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Thought It Was Over...

But I was wrong. I have been out of my former home since September but in the virtual world I was still living at Thrums End. My web site was still up- frozen in time since then but no indication on the site that the house, studio and gardens were no longer mine. The site also had much about my work but according to the statistics, as many people visited the pages about the home as they did for the art. I knew I had to deal with it but I just didn't have the heart.
I had actually built a new site and secured a new domain late last year, but had not arranged for hosting nor finished all the little coding details- yes, I write the code myself. The pressure to close this chapter of my life was building, the hosting for the old site was expensive and holding onto the last shreds of Thrums End was becoming intolerable. I felt dishonest sending people to the old site- it was no longer me.

Well, the time finally came this week. Another tie to my old life has been cut. I had an ache in my heart the whole time and I did shed some tears but I did it . The old site served me well for 16 years, practically an eternity in the life of the internet. All there is left is a placeholder page and soon going to the old address will send visitors immediately to the new address. So, is dead; long live I hope you enjoy your visit.

(PS The Word Project site has been carried over to the new site)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Taste of the Past

I am in the middle of cooking my supper and have been transported back to my childhood by the smells of onions, garlic and lentils cooking together. Now, you must know that I am celtic mid-westerner, a child of the land of meat-and-potatoes, so what am I doing rhapsodizing over lentils, garlic and onions frying in olive oil?
My mother subscribed to the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery- a series of cookbooks that came, one volume a month and spanned the culinary world from A-to-Z. They featured many exotic (remember this is Ohio in the 60's, so anything not served in cream sauce was exotic) cuisines, among them middle eastern. My mother cooked her way through all 26 volumes so when we got to the M's we first tasted M'Jeddrah or Jacob's Guile. For those of you who are not familiar with or have forgotten their Bible stories, Jacob sold his birthright to Esau for a "mess of pottage" and this pottage was and is M'Jeddrah. Coming from a family tree rampant with clergy, the biblical link added to its attraction.
It is a simple stew of lentils, rice and onions served with a crisp lemony salad and pita bread. (Imagine trying to find pita bread in Poland, Ohio 40 years ago. Fortunately, nearby Youngstown had a Lebanese immigrant community. My father became familiar with all the less mainstream markets in the area during this period.) Here is the recipe:

Slice up 1 large onion and 2 cloves of garlic
Sweat them in some olive oil
Throw in 1 cup of rice (I use brown rice nowadays) and parch it- saute it in the oil until the grains turn transparent and then back to opaque.
Add 1 cup of lentils
3 cups of boiling hot water
salt & pepper

simmer for about 1 hour or so, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked

Make a salad of greens, cucumber , sweet pepper, tomato, whatever is crisp and cool. Toss with a lemon and olive-oil dressing.

Pile some of the stew in a bowl, top with the salad and serve with pita or flat bread.

The combination of hot and savory (umami) stew with the cool, sweet and sour salad is delightful.

I understand some levantine cultures serve the stew with caramelized onions on top and other variations but since this is the one I grew up with, this is the one I'll stick with.

So, the tug of aroma does its magic- hurtling me back 40 years to a kitchen in the woods in Ohio where a middlewestern housewife tried to cook the world.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year, New Art

Here is the first new art work for the new year. Speaking of the new year, I am so happy to see the warty, decrepit backside of 2008. Good riddance, get outta here! I spent a very quiet new year's eve and day meditating on the passing year and clearing the decks for the coming year. At my former home I would go out into the snow at midnight and set off a fountain firework then go in and go to bed. This year I had a cup of decaf tea, watched a romantic movie, cried a bit and knitted, hugged the cat and went to bed- such an exciting life. 2009 can only be better. (11 days and counting)

But I digress. The first art work for the new year was done for a regional competition being held by the WAAM as part of the Henry Hudson quadricente
nnial celebrations going on this year. Her name is "Muhheakunnuk" which is the native name for what we now call the Hudson River. The work depicts a native/nature figure transformed by European culture. I like it. Whether the juror will is another matter and out of my control- it will be interesting to see. I'll let you know.

Until then, may you be happy and healthy in the face of the challenges of the coming year. As the saying goes: "The past is history, the future is a mystery, all we have is now which is why its called the present." (Corny? yeah but I have never said I was sophisticated and I eschew cynicism.)