Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Giving Bush the Shoe

After seeing Bush beaned by a loafer recently, (BTW, where was the Secret Service in all this?) I was intrigued by the Iraqi concept of pelting someone with shoes to express disdain. I knew it was a grave insult to show someone the sole of your foot but did not realize the stigma was also attached to shoes off the foot. I have some shoes that have seen much better days and was preparing to drop them off at Goodwill but now I am thinking that since I can't actually throw them at Bush, I will just send them to the White House- a proxy throw as it were.

If I lived in the Washington DC area, I would consider just leaving them by the fence- throwing them onto the grounds would probably result in arrest, but I don't so I will throw them by mail.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No White Christmas

I am in the middle of preparations for my annual holiday party, this year combined with an apartment-warming. I am still not recovered financially so my own food and beverage contributions to the pot-luck celebration will be modest. I can only trust that my guests step up to the plate, as it were; but whatever happens it will be fine.

That is what I keep telling myself. My usual holiday trappings are missing this year- no cheerfully burning fireplace, the dining room is lit by the most horrible fluorescent overheads (#1 reason why straight guys should never be allowed to design and interior,) and worst of all- I cannot watch "White Christmas" while I decorate my tree. I left behind the large TV I used to have for the smaller one I had used in my old bedroom, in order to save space. I was all ready to hook up the DVD player and watch my all-time favorite holiday movie but then discovered that the TV has no DVD connectors on it. Ah rats!

I am struggling to hold onto some semblance of holiday spirit- right now I just see what I lack- a real sense of privacy, a connection to the outdoors- I used to be able to fill my home with greenery from my trees, a fireplace, a sense of security- I feel as if this will all be taken away from me any moment now, even a connection to my Higher Power- I haven't been able to meditate for a while, a connection with my family. I also know that some of these are things I cannot change so I ask for serenity to accept them and move on. Some of these, I can change so I ask for courage to take that step on my own behalf. And lastly I ask for wisdom this holiday season to be able to discern the difference between what I can and cannot change so that I can be part of the goodness that is around me, even if it is not in the form that in my pride and self-regard I want it to be.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Last evening on the Science Channel, there was a program about people who, after having had a brain anurysem or being struck by lightning, develop overriding compulsions. In the case of one of them, it was compulsive art-making. The man, formerly a chiropractor with no artistic inclinations, now has a compulsive urge to draw. Oh great, I thought, art-making is a result of brain damage... maybe someone dropped me on my head when I was an infant.

I was listening to the television while I sewed in the next room but when the program featured a display of the works of this man along with another fellow similarly afflicted I had to see what kind of art they were doing. I was very disappointed- and a bit relieved I must confess- to see that their works, while prolific, were cliche-ridden, overworked, and uninspired. The brain damage had given them the irresistible urge to draw but had not gifted them with any real talent or discernment. They were compelled to make marks but the marks were not worth keeping.

Another subject of the program had developed a sudden musical compulsion after being struck by lightning but instead of just pounding away on the piano and calling it music, he actually took lessons to channel his new compulsion. He actually became a musician. It took him 15 years to get the music that was playing in his brain, urging him onward, onto paper; while the art-compulsives just spewed onto paper and called it art. That the musician's work may have been equally cliche-ridden when it was finally finished is for others to decide, I do not have a particularly discerning ear; but at least he saw that he needed to train his new gift.

Why the relief? Well, for me art making is both a joy and a bit of torture. I work my way into corners and then have to work my way out of them again. Sometimes I can't solve the problem and have to put the piece aside, sometimes the idea has to percolate on the back-burner of my brain for quite a while. It is work, not spewing. And sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by spewers. There are more than a few talented artists in this area but too often I go to a local salon show and am dismayed by the extremely poor quality of what some people here consider art. Perhaps they suffer the same compulsion as the fellows above and also lack the discernment and discipline to make real art. Even more distressing but inevitable, some of the spewers are also very accomplished promoters and manage to make decent livings. Ah well, back to work.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Today I was out running errands and while crossing east to west over the Hudson River I saw the most wonderful sight. The day has been preternaturally warm and very, very rainy. On my way over the bridge the first time, the roadway leading to the bridge was shrouded in fog. On the return trip I was treated to the sight of the river itself blanketed in the fog with remnants of the clouds still flowing down the steep, high banks. There was a barge making its way up the estuary (the Hudson is not, in fact, a river but a tidal estuary,) it was plowing through the fog leaving a swirling wake. It was quite magical. I wished I could stop my car and get out to watch the sight from the railing but that was impossible so I went on hoping to engrave the image on my memory.

That sight, along with many many others are why I treasure living here in the Hudson Valley, despite the many challenges. The winters can be harsh, full of extremes, unnaturally warm one day, frigid the next. The summers can be brutally humid and that climate promotes many fungi and blights, including what we call the "Husdon Valley Scunge" a persistent, low level chest congestion and cough. Southern Atlantic storms funnel up the river gorge and sometimes meet storms sweeping in across the Great Lakes from the west to dramatic effect. The area is infested with white-tail deer, the concentrations roughly 4 times the carrying capacity of the land; purple loosestrife, japanese knotweed, japanese barberry, tartarian honeysuckle, garlic mustard, mile-a-minute vine and multi-flora rose are all rampaging through our ecosystem like the barbarian invaders they are. I don't think most residents of the area would know a native landscape if they saw one, and it is very unlikely they would ever see one, the ecosystem is so depauperate. Oh, I am ranting... I need to remember the beautiful fog on the water and be grateful for the opportunity to see it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Horse Hockey

For the first time in the 15 years I have lived in this area, I fulfilled my small-towner's obligation to be a curmudgeon and wrote a cranky letter to the editor of the local paper. The project in question is called: "Hors'n Around Saugerties," HITS is a summer horse camp for the very rich that has made its home in Saugerties, Saugerties is located on the western shore of the Hudson River, 100 miles north of NYC, the rest is obvious. Herewith is my rant:

To the Editor:

The upcoming quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's historic voyage up the Hudson is being celebrated by Saugerties with a display of painted fiberglass carousel horses. A call has gone out to local artists to donate their talent and time to this display. With great regret I have decided to not participate in this event despite my great fondness for the village and town. Up until recently I had resided for 15 years in the Township. During that time I participated in the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour, the Little Dutch Barn Auction, and painted 4 panels for the mural in the clerk's office. I was happy to learn that no longer living in Saugerties would not be a barrier to participating.

Then I downloaded the specifications. The transfer of copyright agreement was obviously written without any input from or collaboration with someone representing artists. While it is not as horrible as it could have been, it is still a terribly one-sided document that saddles the artists with a tax burden if their work sells for more than the $50 stipend for materials; transfers all rights to the original piece and all derivative rights to the Chamber; and finally transfers all rights to even the preparatory materials to the Chamber. There are many ways this agreement could have been made fairer to artists without harming the Chamber or the Village or Town. The excuse that the boilerplate was lifted wholesale from the Catskill display? As mothers through the ages have replied: "if your friends all jumped off a cliff would you do it too?"

Then there is the total lack of any connection between carousel horses and Henry Hudson, the Half Moon or the Hudson River itself. The reason why it is carousel horses: HITS has thrown its weight around to get something to promote itself at the expense of history. (And shame on you, Senator Schumer for supporting this cowtowing to corporate interests.) We can only be thankful that an arms company is not the economic heavyweight in town, otherwise I assume we'd be asked to decorate M-1 tanks or howitzers; or a pharmaceutical company- imagine gigantic pills on every corner painted with scenes of the Half Moon sailing up the great river...

Besides the egregious disregard for history- the very thing the quadricentennial is supposed to be celebrating- the use of carousel horses hamstrings the artists who do choose to go through with this exercise because they are already covered with raised decorations. It is in fact not a blank canvas, there is no room for an artist's expression.

So, despite my fondness for Saugerties and my desire to be part of the Hudson celebrations, I will not be hors'n around Saugerties; I hope some other, more relevant, fairer and respectful opportunities present themselves.

When the Going Gets Tough...

the tough wash dishes. This evening was both the opening of a small show in the Founders Gallery at the WAAM and its annual year-end awards announcements. I was gratified to be awarded an Honorable Mention for my piece in the show, "Wings." And I have to admit that I had thought I had a really good shot at getting one of the year-end awards. People seemed especially happy to see me at the event so I thought maybe they knew something.

But I was wrong. It is impossible for me to be churlish about the artists who did win, Elin Menzies and Meredith Rosier, they are both very fine artists and one is good friend, but I am still disappointed. So, what did I do to handle my envy (my most besetting-sin,) self-pity and guilt? I came home and washed dishes. I find the simplest domestic acts seem to bleed off all the negative feelings. Perhaps it is improvement in my surroundings, easily achieved; perhaps it is the warm sudsy water; the combination of the contemplative and the insistent presentness of the chores; whatever it is, it works. So I have a clean kitchen and relief that I did not act on my inner-child's temper-tantrum...

One of these days my emotional age will catch up with my chronological age.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I am about to blow to smithereens any respect you may have had for me- you have been warned.

Its almost 5pm- time to turn off the radio and "All Things Considered" and indulge in my favorite guilty pleasure: NCIS. I am an ACLU-, progressive-, artsy- type gal but I have developed a heavy, heavy crush on Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and am frankly astounded by it. Tuesday has become a real test for me- Gibbs vs House, both in the same 8pm time-slot (no, I don't have Tivo and do not wish to have it, thank you. I spend too much time in front of the TV as it is...)

Gibbs: strong, intelligent, good with his hands, steady, independent, dependable- very easy on the eyes, the Fisher King; House: a real bad-boy who needs the love of a good woman, insanely intelligent, erratic, needy, neurotic, sets off all the scoundrel alarms.

Oh which to choose.... despite my past faithfulness to House I have thrown myself into the sure, capable arms of Gibbs and plan to stay there. Do I feel guilty? Yes, I tend to be ridiculously faithful to cafes, haircutters, masseusses, etcetc- or maybe I am just prone to rut-trudging; but I just can't help myself.

If there is a good documentary on Nova or the Science Channel I am torn again. 9pm is a real smash-up: "Fringe," "The Mentalist," "The Universe (History Channel)," more Science Channel. So far "The Mentalist" is winning most weeks.

My name is Polly and I am a TV fiend...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Better Late Than Never

A few months and several posts ago, I mentioned an exhibit of The Word Project at Sage College and said I would post pictures- which I have not done. Well, here they are finally:

The two women are chums from my Guild days, Lauri Baram and Susan Matthews. Several old Guild buddies showed up which was very nice.

Okay, cross that one off the list. I also have not posted any new work for a while. So here are those images:

Camelia in Her Cups


Sharp as a Tack

So, there they are, pretty much all caught up.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Spotty Mind

I have just returned from seeing "Synechdoche, NY" with a friend and I feel as though my brain has been lifted out of my skull, rinsed in cool, clean water and returned to me- oh, and sorry about dropping it on the floor on the return trip but the 5 second rule applies to grey matter too... What a movie!

I also had some great cider- Doc's Cassis Cider- a delicious union of black currant and apple cider with hard cider's dryness, drinkability and don't forget the kick.

An altogether pleasant evening but the movie will be difficult to forget.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Little Art, A New Word, No Tea

Since the beginning of this year, I have been dabbling in ATC's & ACEO's. No, these are not stocks or some arcane- and possibly unethical, financial scheme- they are artists trading cards & artists cards, editions, originals. They are small works, the same dimensions as a baseball trading card: 2.5"x3.5". The only difference between an ATC and an ACEO seems rather arbitrary and a bit silly to me- that ATC's are traded and ACEO's are sold; as far as I am concerned, selling something is a trade- you are trading the card for a twenty dollar bill in the case of my miniscule works. And besides, Artists Trading Card sounds better.

But I, as usual, digress. The WAAM held what was billed as an ATC swap meet the other evening but though I spent the day churning out my tiny contributions, I came home empty handed. I looked at the work others had produced but by and large they were just little color printouts of their larger works glued onto poster board- very few original pieces in the bunch. The few originals that were offered looked to have taken the artist all of 1 minute to produce- each or as a collection it is hard to say. I didn't want to trade my truly hand-wrought cards for cards I perceived as not of equal value so, I ended up just consigning what I had brought to the shop and consigning myself to disappointment.
So, I ask myself: am I working too hard or are they working too little?

I am always on the lookout for new words for my Word Project and this landed on my desktop the other day: mythologein (to tell mythical tales). This is an archaic word but it packs a real semantic punch for me. Twice in the past week, observers of my work had commented on its connection to deep wells of myth and symbol- they had also asked why my work is not being shown in NYC- a question that I have no answer for since I cannot ask it of any gallery owners, since they don't answer my queries...
So, now in addition to styling myself as a bricoleur (someone who makes artful use of materials at hand) I can now add mythologeinist (teller of mythical tales.) Does this increase my chances of getting my work at the very least seen by the swells in the big city? No, but it puts a name to the mantle I have been wearing these past years and gives me frisson of linguistic delight; for today, that'll have to do.

As for the tea? Nothing to speak of beyond the usual too many cups of.

58 days to go and counting... (W and Dick: resign today if you love this country at all.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

Part of today's agenda was picking up some household items at the hardware store in Woodstock and then attending the opening of the current show at the WAAM, "Grey Matter." I was astounded to find the village humming with tourists and the opening full of optimistic, energized people. There were red dots on a few pieces in the show, unfortunately none of them were on my work, but who knows what the future brings. It was as if a cloud had lifted, a pall had been removed. And then it hit me- of course, the election.

73 days to go and counting...

Sisyphus Gets a Rain Day

I am taking a Rain Day from work at the nursery today. While I was having breakfast, I was pondering what I would do with my day and came up with a list of the usual suspects: housecleaning, errands, and obligations.

I caught myself up short- where was the fun? I tried to come up with something fun to do... hmmm... still thinking, still thinking... aha! um, no, not really... then it struck me: I haven't the foggiest idea of what is fun for me. And I mean real fun- not glee which is the twisted joy of inflicting a small amount of pain on someone else (Karl Rove comes to mind as a gleeful person;) not hysteria, somewhat resembles joy but is actually fear-based (me on a roller-coaster;) not contentment, but fun- the kind of fun that refreshes one's innermost being, that unplugs and drains the sludgy recesses of one's psychic oil-pan. In the old-fashioned parlance: good, clean fun.

I have always enjoyed going to flea-markets (see the ur-bowl story below, March 27th entry) but I really don't need any thing and I don't want to spend the money, and heck, its November, not too many flea markets around here this time of year. But, that is a starting point... So, what does a flea market have that I like? (Besides, large pottery bowls that connect to my semiotic desires like a fork-wielding two-year old to a wall socket.)

  • People: But I usually am at these things alone, so it is people at a distance. Would I prefer to be flea-marketing with friends? Yes, being alone wore thin quite a while ago.
  • Eye-candy: lots of textures, unexpected juxtapositions, colors. Okay, that seems non-toxic.
  • Road-trip: Aha, a critical ingredient! When I was a child, my father would announce on a Saturday or Sunday that we were going to go on a Mystery Trip. Sometimes it was just the immediate family, sometimes it would involve a caravan of other families and friends; but it was always someplace fascinating that my father had found. It also usually involved a picnic or stopping for lunch at a diner- a rare and exotic treat for us. I loved those days.

So, these are the ingredients I want- going someplace far enough way to necessitate a road-trip, a place or event full of interesting things and opportunities, with friends and stopping on the way for lunch...

Then again, dancing around the apartment to the music of Abba sounds like a possibility, too...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting and Hoping

Today is, in case you just dropped in from another dimension, election day. I did my duty, and gratefully so, this morning at my new polling place, the Wiltwyck Firestation on Frog Alley. Shortly after I moved here to Kingston I walked the hundred feet or so down the block to the Board of Elections and changed my registration to my new address. I had read earlier that day about how some folks uprooted in situations similar to mine had neglected to change their voting address with their county boards and because of the rules in their state were ineligible to vote in the upcoming elections. I am a member of the first cohort of 18 year-olds eligible to vote, and barring 2 school board elections and a library vote or two, I have voted in every election since that time- I take my franchise very seriously and did not want to miss this one. I remember going with my mother when she voted at the school, comparing all the different, and anonymous, shoes and legs set off by the booths' curtains and then suddenly, it was my babysitter, or someone from the hardware store attached to those shoes. I frankly do not understand people who don't vote, but there you are.

I have spent the rest of the day organizing, cleaning and attending to the many small chores that needed doing, a little more unpacking- nothing terribly creative or important but just about all I could handle. I know it is anticipation of the outcome of the vote. I am very hopeful it will be Obama/Biden. I am also terrified that by some horrible circumstance it will be McCain/Bible Spice. Even though I am very well aware that the outcome is out of my hands, I am still unable to settle to anything serious or focussed. I am not listening to the radio or the television, I have had the music of Samuel Barber, Percy Grainger, and Ralph Vaughn-Williams on rotation.

I must say I much prefer the English system- the day of the election, there is a crew standing by to remove the old PM's worldly possessions and bring in the new PM's, if that is way the citizens choose. Why wait? Speculating on the amount of damage Bush/Cheney could and probably will do to our rights and freedoms in these last days of his reign makes my blood run cold. Oh, now I am getting all fussed up again; time to go for a walk and be in the present.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hell Is Other People

So said Oscar Wilde, and after this week I am inclined to agree. Up until this past week, I was the sole full-time resident of the building, the 2 floors below me were offices and therefore empty (and quiet) after 5pm and on the weekends. I really appreciated that. Well, in a cost-cutting move, the owner of the building converted 1/2 of the floor below me into a small apartment and rented it to a very young couple- I didn't realize 12 year olds were cohabiting and signing leases these days but apparently i am behind the times.

And like all young people these days they apparently cannot exist without a very loud soundtrack to their lives. I am now treated to seismic bass notes from 5pm onward, it makes me want to clomp around in wooden clogs or build shelves in the rooms above their apartment when I get up at 6:30 every morning...

I have also been in retail hell this weekend, working at a huge Sheep & Wool Festival on the other side of the river. Ah the panoply of human folly that unfolds before me- parents totally cowed by their small children; said children making a mess of the booth while their parents stand by absolutely oblivious; people asking me for the website where they can find some of the merchandise we offer for sale- not our website, mind you; after standing in line for 20 minutes for some food, the couple in front of me finally reach the counter and suddenly can't decide what they want to eat from the extensive menu of 6 choices and proceed to discuss these options in excruciating detail; 2 couples standing in the middle of our space simultaneously having a discussion of the restaurant choices in the area, not buying- or even looking at- anything, and preventing actual customers from entering our space and purchasing our wares, and on and on and on.

The Sheep & Wool Festival has been compared to medieval festivals in its rustic character. These folks makes me wish it was a medieval festival- complete with stocks and ducking stools...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tis a Gift to Be Simple

I work at a northeast-native-plant nursery on the weekends and we are beginning the long process of shutting down for the year. It means a lot of repairs need to be done, herbaceous plants need to be cut down, pots need to be put into the bins where they will overwinter. Between tending to the needs of customers, I spent the day re-organizing the remaining pots of raspberries, currants, gooseberries and other edibles, finding spots for them in the bins, topping the bins up with the mulch that will insulate them. It was a day of many textures and sensations.

Most of the day the sun was out and the air was brisk and dry. The blue of an October sky is a blue even I, who dislikes most blues, cannot resist. The worms had been busy in the old mulch in the bins and had turned the bark mulch into a rich, dark, dense cake of castings. To my nose, the new mulch smells slightly of coffee and dampness- not an unpleasant aroma but inescapable. The texture of the new mulch is very friable and light. The stems of the black raspberries are bloomed with a waxy pale blue over rich purple. I helped myself to a luscious 'Autumn Bliss' raspberry. In the background, goldfinches were calling all day with their "zee-zee-zeet?" merrily feasting on the many seed heads from the summers' spent blooms. Bumblebees were still making the rounds- there are enough blossoms still around for them to do their work. One of the dogs at the nursery, an utterly charming Icelandic Sheep Dog, named Brinja, came by every once in a while to get her belly rubbed and then, in canine quid-pro-quo, insisted on licking my face and ears for me. By late afternoon, the sun had warmed the local fox grapes enough for them to release their heady fragrance. It was like drowning in a vat of hot grape juice- intoxicating. Unfortunately, the pulp of these grapes is insipid- and that is being charitable. At the end of the long day, when I just could not do another row of "socket pots," I headed home and stopping by a hardware superstore on the top of a ridge, sat and watched a glorious sunset for a few minutes.

There were many more delights for the senses- I neglected to mention the lovely colors of the sassafrass tree's three mitten leaves, the large display of 'Harrington's Pink' New England Asters, a few remaining Monarchs nectaring on the New York Ironweed... and on and on and on. A rich and rewarding day; and I am grateful for the chance to be present for its many gifts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Few Trips Around the Colorwheel

I realized last evening that I have not posted for a few weeks- since leaving Thrums End and my first night in my new place; here is what has been happening.

I am slowly settling in here, I have learned the benefits of earplugs for dealing with the noise in the night and block-out liner for drapes for dealing with the street lamps that seem charming from street level but not so when one is trying to sleep. I am getting used to the wonky floors and walls in this place- I do not think there is anything at right angles anywhere
. I am unpacking and have made a few trips to the storage unit to retrieve belongings. Setting up, putting away, slowly but surely.

Starting even before I moved in here, I had assumed that I would paint and decorate using the same palette I had at my former home- I loved the colors, warm tones, earthy and subtle. But the more time I have spent here the more I have been seeing a very different palette- colors my Great Aunt Jean used- icy turquoises, limey greens (overlap with my old palette,) orchid (!) salmon, and eggplant to ground them all to keep them from being too sweet. The wood trim is all dark and that will ground them also. What!? Where are the clays and mosses? I have appa
rently moved from earth to ocean. So, I put my ear to the seashell and my eye to the horizon and pick up my paint brush.

Meanwhile, in the studio- have I been making art? Yes. Happy with what I have done? No, not really but I trust it will come back to me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Well, as of 7:15 last evening, Thrums End is no longer and I am in the new space. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of that grueling day- and the end of a horrible, long process. But, my new neighbors had other ideas- there was someone cleaning the sidewalk across the street with a power washer & generator until 10:30 at night... The light coming into the apartment from the street lights was terrible and also kept me up (today, I need to get louvered blinds for all the street-front windows,) and the former tenants left cat smells untreated... I was not happy. I need to take many actions today for my own comfort and serenity. One of them was having the computer, cable and telephone all hooked up- yippee!!!! A good go-round with an enzymatic cat-odor remover has been done.

The installation took the entire morning so now I need to go out and get my errands run- then I need to take a good nap.

I meant to take pictures of the remains of Thrums End but my camera's battery was dead... perhaps the message is that I need to just move forward.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Hours

I am waiting for the next contingent of moving help to arrive so I am taking a breather. The professional movers were here this morning and 80% of the stuff is out of the house and studio, the furniture is out of the storage unit. The mover has a temper and accused me at one point of purposely deceiving him about the amount of stuff in the unit that needed to be moved. I don't think I was unclear but I also am not thinking terribly clearly right now. (Thank heavens for spell-check) I did not sleep last night- the combination of anxiety, sadness, and the horrible humidity added up to fitful and brief spells of unrestful sleep.

So, one truckload of stuff was loaded and moved, leaving me with lots of boxes, the remainder of my artwork, and some small furniture still to move. Oh, and my poor cat, Bundle, who has been locked in a small room all day and is making his misery known to all in the vicinity. I will give him a big dose of catnip at the new place and I hope that will dope him out and help him adjust to his new life as an indoor cat.

I again called on friends and Jeff came with his truck and we pretty much cleared the studio- bless you, Jeff. But those stairs are a climb and I couldn't ask him to do more.

Another friend gave me the name and number of someone with a van-for-hire and while I would rather not have to spend the money, I am buying peace of mind and a respite from carrying at least 1/2 the stuff up the stairs. He will be by in a bit. Then I have a run to the storage unit to drop off a few bits and that should be it.

The painters are here and they usually knock-off at 5 so I will have a chance to walk around and properly say goodbye to Thrums End without an audience. I am keeping myself in denial by staying busy, but soon it will all be quiet, I will be in a new, unfamiliar place and there will be nothing to distract me. I need to just accept that grief when it comes and hope it also brings some healing.

Tomorrow, I start building my new life and picking up some of the dropped threads the foreclosure unraveled.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Days

I have been hard at work today, shuttling between the new place and the old with my little Saab packed to the gills with belongings. The mover is coming at 7:30 tomorrow morning to do the final move but I wanted to move my artwork, pantry, clothing, and things like my printer and scanner myself. Unfortunately, it is also the most miserable weather we have had all summer- in the 80's but with the beastly humidity, thank you Ike, it feels like the mid 90's. Rivulets of sweat, soaked clothes, and 2 flights of narrow stairs...

I thought I was okay- looking forward, seeing the positive side. Then, my neighbor comes over to say goodbye and suddenly I am devastated.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Common Wisdom

"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." I remember that well from my childhood. It is an Old Dutch (Amish) adage and is apropos to the past two days. I had asked in an earlier post to have an easy couple of days so instead I have thrown up one obstacle after another for myself with my impatience and fretting. Any small glitch- a trip to the copy center but the image was in the incorrect format, I had cut the frame pieces for the three newest Word Project words too long and the saw is not here to fix them- that could happen, did happen. And they happened mostly because I was not paying attention or rushing. Another adage from my cabinetmaker father: "Measure once, cut twice; measure twice, cut once."

Also, a skunk let loose at about 3:40am somewhere nearby. I ended up smearing Tiger Balm around my nose to counteract the smell so I could get back to sleep. Now my nose is nice and moisturized, if a little out of joint.

My opening is this afternoon, here are the 3 Words that will not be in the show because their frames don't fit:

(Lypemania- excessively mournful; frumentarious- relating to corn; and junters- in a sulk)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I have just finished burning reciepts, checks and other tax documents from the years 1983-2000. In the course of cleaning out the attic I had found many shoe boxes full of this stuff as well as one large box filled with the documents that I had apparently brought with me from Brooklyn in 1994. I was glancing through the cancelled checks and was able to trace my journey from the upper west side of Manhattan, to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn and then to here. By chance (?) I happened upon the checks I had signed and handed over at the closing on this house. I set those aside while I finished the burning. All told it took over an hour and a half to destroy that paper trail- old credit card receipts for a card I no longer have but from a time when the full number of the account was on the receipt, many many receipts from bookstores and yarn stores, a thick stack of bus ticket stubs from when I was newly moved up here but had to return to NYC every week to sign the checks for the Graphic Artists Guild, bank statements for accounts long closed, checks from past lives with new addresses inked on them, even the cancelled checks from my divorce- all gone, all reduced to slivers of carbon.

As a last step, I put the house-closing checks on the embers one by one and watched them burn up. A few tears were shed but not as many as I was expecting. I am perhaps already one foot out the door, tired of this dragged-out process yet fully aware that I am the one who dragged it out. I could have called a mover weeks ago, I could have finished this move much earlier- indeed, I kept saying I wanted this to be over, and I do. But... But... But there is still this reluctance to take the actions. "Isn't there someone out there who will do this for me," I hear a small voice say in my mind. No, I have to do this myself.

I have been wonderfully supported by friends through this but they have lives of their own to lead, and they are friends, not parents. And I want to be their friend, not some ever-needy child they need to take care of.

So, I need to remember the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, all we have is today- which is why it is called the present."

My move is scheduled to begin Monday morning at 7:30am.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hanging In There

I drove up to Albany today to hang the show and it looks good- there are just under 100 pieces and it is always a puzzle as to how to hang it as each space is different not only in size but also layout. But it got done in pretty good time- 4 1/2 hours but I did not break a sweat. I needed to adjust some of the placards and other text accompaniments to reflect pieces sold and the many changes in my life since the last time it was shown. I got home in plenty of time to do that. I will adjust the lights and tweak the show on Friday before the opening. These last-minute tasks will give me something to do with my fidgets before the show opens- that time period when I am sure no one will show up..... I promise to bring my camera and take some images....

While I was hanging the show, I kept thinking about 9/11. The weather today was quite like the weather on that fateful day- clear, dry, cool and breezy, the best of the season. I had been preparing to go into NYC on 9/11 but the weather was so glorious I decided to stay home and spend time outside in the garden. Instead I spent the day inside listening to NPR on the radio while simultaneously watching the muted TV. (I would not have been in the area of the WTC and most likely the bus would have been turned away and sent back upstate, not even allowed into the city as the attacks occurred during the trip time- so it was in no way one of those "eerie coincidences" one hears about.) It was an odd thing to be thinking about nonetheless.

Working on the text pieces was a welcome diversion. The painters were here, blocking the driveway, playing loud country-pop music; I was glad to have to be in the studio until they were done for the day. Tomorrow the mover is coming to see what we are both in for. Looking around the place there is not that much but then I remember the furniture in the storage unit- but all in all, much less than my last move, from Brooklyn to here. There is a small bit of satisfaction in that, I must admit.

I was so fussed on Monday and Tuesday about the move and the show, I feared nothing would come together in time, it was all going to be a big rancid mess. I am relieved to say that so far my fears were unfounded, I can only ask that events continue to unfold easily and well; but if they don't that I can handle any problems. I have to have a bit more faith- perhaps the glass is just even right now and that is good enough for today.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Have No Clever Title For This Post...

I am just too tired and addlepated right now. I spent the first half of the day driving up to Albany to hang a show of my Word Project, got there and discovered that there was still art hanging in the gallery and that the show was slated to be up until Wednesday... despite emails alerting the director of the gallery that I was planning to come up and hang the show today, the space wasn't ready and he did not tell me this. The morning was redeemed, however, by a stop over at WAMC, the public radio station for our area, where I was able to promote the show to the station's vast audience. Who knows, one or two of them may actually come to see it. Many thanks to Joe and Sarah, the Roundtable hosts, for letting me share their air time.

When I got home there was a message from the director saying I could now come and hang the show, the gallery was cleared. Well, despite gas being so cheap and all (ahem...), I decided to hang the show on Wednesday and dedicate the rest of the day to moving. Good intentions but I don't know how much I actually accomplished. I moved several loads of boxes, but my car doesn't hold much and I could see this was not going to be an effective use of my time and energy. So, I need to hire a mover. Thankfully, I won't need one of those gigantic vans, but it would be lovely to not have to wrestle the
remaining boxes and furniture up those 2 flights of stairs. So first thing tomorrow, I call movers.

I am feeling very betwixt and between- not at home anymore here but not able to settle in yet at the new place. I have started to paint- the floor of what will be my workroom is no longer the bilious yellow the former tenant had painted it. It is now a calm off-white. I know, I know you are saying- "off-white! has she gone all Martha on us?" No, but for now I need to get moved in, I will probably embellish it later, but who knows... I have primed the walls of what will be the bedroom- they had been another primary color- and I loathe primary colors, its tertiary and sub-tertiary all the way for me. But the actual painting will have to wait- that is what winters are for- sipping tea, listening to the radio and painting.

So I need to just float with this feeling- as the man in the story says, "go up when the water goes up, and go down when the water goes down." Fighting the current will just exhaust me and not get me any further toward my goal. And for the next couple of days, my goals are to have a successful hanging and opening for The Word Project on Friday; and to get all moved before my deadline so I can walk away from here, probably crying my eyes out, but headed toward the future.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Steps Forward in Several Directions

I worked all Labor Day Weekend at the nursery and the former tenants of my new home were moving out so I did little over the weekend to prepare for my own move. I also had to take some time to finish a piece for another show coming up (it was a bit chaotic as I had packed some of the tools I needed and had to dig through to find them, but I did finish the piece.) I had made arrangements for utilities for the new place in the past week, a task I was dreading that did mean several hours spent on hold on the phone, but that is done.

But the weekend is over and it's time to start moving. I will be seeing the new place empty for the first time this afternoon. I will bring paint chips to tape on the walls, a measuring tape and pad to make lists. I am talking with friends- friends with trucks- about moving and trying to figure out the best time to do all this. It seems rather daunting despite all the stuff that I have jetissonned but I just have to take one step after the other- not assume that I can or need to move it all at one time.

Also this afternoon, I will be submitting the altered book and the piece I finished over the weekend to their respective shows at the WAAM. The piece I just finished is for a Works-On-Paper show and depicts several themes I have been exploring over the past 2 years or so- Hiesenberg's Uncertainty Principle, my autobiographical bird-doll-girl, entropy, and recently, deracination. When you stop the wave-form bird-doll-girl and, by observing, force her to be a particle, what happens? Quite a burden for one small composition of paper, paint, glassine and a button.

How am I feeling? My feelings are currently wave-forms, I do not want them to be particles that will spill down my cheeks, so I am letting them pass through me, unremarked, for now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I have found a place and put down the deposit. I don't know whether to laugh, or cry.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life as an Open Book

One of the most unfortunate consequences- among many unfortunate consequences- of all of this has been my inability to create new works. Whether it has been due to the press of outside events, the necessity of action spent on moving, or frankly, the anxiety, exhaustion and despond that have overtaken what little free time I have had, my life as an artist was last in line for my attention. I was also afraid it would not come back when I was settled in whatever new place is to be mine.

But there is a show coming up on the WAAM schedule: Altered Books, that I had put on the calendar when I was still chair of that committee and I felt I needed to enter something. I became interested in Altered Books a few years ago. I love the synthesis of context, sub-context, creativity and the artful use of what's at hand (bricolage.) The techniques overlap/intersect with my work with my dolls and I have incorporated my doll work with the books in the past. But, the book work is time intensive- much time to core out the pages, build the structures etc. Time and energy I just don't have right now.

Fortunately, I found a book I had already cored-out, but then had become stuck as to what to do with it further. Having worked under advertising deadlines for over 20 years had taught me a thing or two about how to get the creative juices flowing when needs must. I bless that experience now. I actually came up with something that I think is half-way decent. Well, decent may not be the best descriptive...

The book I worked on is titled: Human Heredity and the chapter the book is forever open to is titled: Sex. So, a golden egg on one side, flying screws on the other... I am just so happy to have done this even under all of the pressure being applied from the outside. Will it get into the show? I have no idea- but just having something to enter is reward enough.

My search for a live/work space continues...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dismantled Life

One of the conditions of my being able to stay until the 15th of September is that the new owners can begin work on the outside of the house. Today one of the owners came with contractors who started measuring. I stayed in the studio making calls, continuing my search for a place to begin rebuilding my life. An hour or so after they left, a dumpster was delivered and parked in the drive. Unfortunately, it had been used previously to haul garbage and they didn't clean it out enough- it stinks. I hope it was not intentional. If it was, shame on them.

The enormity of my loss has hit me this evening. I look at the stars spangling the sky and listen to the crickets chirp. Today the remnants of the garden were alive with butterflies and birds. Soon, I will not have that view of the dark sky nor the butterflies or birds. My world will be much more bounded and less green. I also keenly feel the loss of all the dollars I spent on this place, none of which I am getting back, the furnishings that haven't found new homes that will end up in the dumpster, the plants that I lovingly chose and planted that will undoubtedly be ripped out. I do not think the new owners care about Wafer-Ash, or Golden Club, or Flame Azalea- if they don't sell them at Loew's they probably don't want them.

I have not felt this alone and forlorn since the night after my mother's funeral when I was left in her home, all alone, with none of my familiar distractions or comforts to ease my loneliness and loss. I was 500 miles from friends. My brothers had left without apparently any thought about how it might feel to be stranded in that house. That is how I feel again, now. I might as well be back there with only overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness, I might as well be 500 miles from anyone who cares about me.

I have to go to work tomorrow at the nursery, I have been away too long. I am afraid of what I will come back to, what fresh reminder of my failure will greet me on my return in the evening.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I had my court date yesterday and even though I was visibly shaking and sure the end had come, I was able to make it through. I felt like a real wuss but I have not been sleeping or eating well, nor really relaxing for the past several months and it is taking a toll. My lawyer handled the negotiations and the questions and was able to secure me a few extra weeks to find a new home and work space. I am so very grateful. I have been working on clearing out the 15 years of living and creating done here, sorting, selling, packing and saying goodbye. The house is pretty much bare except for some sticks of furniture that I sleep on or store my clothes in. The rest of my remaining worldly possessions are in storage or piled in boxes in the kitchen waiting to go to their new home wherever that may be.

I then went into town to get some supper and stopped in to see a friend in his used-book shop. He knows what is going on in the village and when I told him what I was looking for, he came up with some suggestions. So, I actually slept most of the night- a real accomplishment. I have my goal for today: hit the village and talk to the folks Richard suggested and see what shakes loose. I am feeling that slight swelling of hope again and that is a lovely, sacred feeling. So, for today I have a roof over my head, food to eat and clothes on my back- and a list of possibilities.

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Step Back

The Studio Tour went well for me considering the change of venue and the economy. It was a long weekend but I was pleased with the results. I did get many, many strokes for the quality of my work. I am resolved to take my work to the big city and look for a gallery there. It will undoubtedly be another sisyphean slog but I must get my work out into the bigger world.

Finding a place to live has not gone so well. My dream space has been rented, but not to me... I had gotten together the funds to secure the space and called this morning ready to plunk down the dollars but it was not to be. I was and am so disappointed and the anxiety level is being ratcheted up. I need to be out of here and I have no where to go. I looked at an adequate space in Kingston, the nearby city, but it would disqualify me from the Tour and I couldn't get out into green as quickly. Miniscule kitchen, fluorescent lighting in the ceiling and the constant hum of the air conditioning unit for the downstairs business- oh, and its on the third floor with a narrow staircase. I don't even know if my studio worktable would be able to be moved up the stairs.
However, I may not be able to find anything else.

I can't really do anything else today so I just have to let it go. But I fear I am stuck on the bank, watching my future flow further and further away from me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Art's Not Here

This coming weekend is the 6th Annual Saugerties Artists Studio Tour. I have been a part of the Tour for the past 5 years, not only showing (and selling- a trend I hope continues) but also acting as the web mistress and general graphics gadfly.

The Tour is a group of 25 or so artists and craftspersons, there are numerous comings and goings, and coming backs, every year; and we open our studios one weekend every August to the general public. This means months and months of planning by the group- and I want to emphasize that this event is organized, promoted and run by the artists ourselves- and days of frantic cleaning and tidying of studios immediately before the Tour weekend.

The loss of my home and studio threw a real monkey-wrench into the process. The new owners, a corporation of local real-estate brokers, do not want people on the property so it looked like I was not going to be able to show and sell this year. I was crushed. The Tour has been a real locus of much good energy in the local art community and I have loved being part of it.
I was therefore blessed and am eternally grateful to another member of the group who won't be showing this year due to prior commitments who said I could show my works at her studio. Bless you, Loel, for your kindness. I am also grateful to the other artists for allowing me to bend the rules and show at a studio not my own. However, there was a price to be paid- 2,500 maps had to be altered to reflect the change. So, some hours and many little stickers later, all the maps have been corrected. My thanks again to the stalwart group.
This change however, has not been without its bizarre consequences. I had emailled around to everyone I know locally about my search for a new place to live. When the map came out, someone noticed the change in my location, and, putting 2 and 2 together, got 5 1/2. There was a rumor going around that Loel and I are living together.... now, I like Loel but we aren't that close. And besides, I am still working on securing my dream space and all sales I make this weekend will speed me toward that goal.
I will also have to answer many well-meaning, but uncomfortable questions about my altered life. Many of these folks saw my old studio being built, and will be curious about what happened. I'm not looking forward to that and will need to remind myself that these folks have probably left their mind-reading caps at home and don't know how painful this is for me. Some of them may have left their courtesy-cloaks at home, too.
So, if you live in the Hudson Valley of New York, come by this weekend. I'm #25 on the map- the artist with the really great art, and the weary smile plastered on her face.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The sale is over and I had my expectations set too high. Despite moving a lot of items out, there is still way too much left. I had also been hoping I would make enough to allow me to secure the dream space and buy me some time to find a compatible studio- or room- mate. That did not work out. So here I am rattling around in this house that is not a home, everything is at sixes and sevens and I am very, very sad.
I miraculously retain a flickering ember of hope, like a pale ghost of a star glimpsed in a momentary thinning of the clouds. Just a hint, but if that is all I have to cling to tonight, it will have to do.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Priced to Move

The big sale of household goods is tomorrow and Saturday. The past 2 mornings the fellow who is handling the sale has been here pricing the mountains of stuff. He keeps requesting that I not be offended when he prices, say, one of the hundreds of teapots I had collected, at 10 or 15 dollars. Am I offended? No. I have only asked that 3 items be priced a little higher, otherwise I have been granted the gift of detachment from all these things.
I see my choice as either remaining shackled to this monstrous burden, trying- and failing- to keep up the pretense that I am not bent over and struggling with both the physical and the psychic weight of it all; or I can let go of it, hopefully getting some much needed cash in return, and be able to walk upright again. I choose the latter.
The detachment truly began with the death of two of my cats a few weeks ago and I am working through my grief about them and the studio and garden and can see glimmers of hope. Yesterday, I took some time to sit on the porch and read. Just about that time the quality of the air shifted and it became clearer and drier. I stopped reading and looked at the old willow gilded by the westering sun, felt the breeze and realized that I was..... happy. I soaked it in like someone who had been crawling through the desert and had found a spring of clear, cool, pure water. True, it did not last- I can't say I am as happy right now, but I have retained a small bit of optimism.
I also have had to detach from a space I found that other than the price is perfect- in some ways it is my dream. I have taken steps to find someone to rent part of it as a work space to make it affordable and anything beyond that is out of my control. So I have had to detach from it, if it was meant to be it will happen, if not well, I have until the 21st...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Lesson in Semiotics from the Attic

Have I spoken about the bowl? I believe I have- ah yes, when I was boasting about not having accumulated much... a bit of braggadoccio I have had to swallow raw and without any salt.
The bowl came to mind as I was clearing the attic in preparation for the sale of household goods this weekend. I found little to keep, much to let go of and even more to think about.
    Here is what I have learned about myself-
  • I apparently love, love, love Christmas with all the trimmings. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of ornaments and odd bits picked up at post-season sales and yard sales. Thinking about it, yes, I do love Christmas, and I miss the celebrations of my childhood. I had long-realized I wanted- no ached- to have this house be the place my whole family gathered for the holidays; why else would a single person need a house with three bedrooms? But, it never happened- what remains of my family lives almost 500 miles away, they have jobs and families of their own. (More about the Christmas thing below.)
  • I also crave lots of little bitty bits of light judging by the large number of skeins of Christmas lights and boxes and boxes of candles I had. (For those of you too young to remember, Christmas lights were once large, clunky and only put up at Christmas time unless one lived in a cantina somewhere very far south of Poland, Ohio and sported hoop earrings.) I have always loved the idea of a kitchen strewn with small white lights, a porch illuminated by flickering candles. These fantasies also include lots of friends eating the wonderful food presented in the large bowls... it all ties together in one big semiotic orgy. Ask me to tell you about Stockholm in the late autumn sometime...
  • I have started many schemes and not finished them: funky wreathes smothered with the Christmas ornaments I had gathered; silk-screened prints- made the frames and the separated images; small pieces of furniture painted a la the Omega Workshop. All of these started but then abandoned, some further down the road than others.
  • Blank books with the intention to write in them everyday; this category includes date books and other devices to make me organized. I see now I should just be organized instead of looking for magical devices that I hope will effortlessly make me so. ( I was in Barnes & Nobles this afternoon and saw some- yes, blank books- and was this close to buying one. I then remembered the stack of blank books I have to cart to the dump tomorrow and, casting a wistful backward glance, walked on.)

So, this is the semiotic stew-pot I am living in. I am glad to see now the casting in 3 dimensions the realm of my desires- I want family; I want warmth and conviviality; I want dancing, soft light; I want to be connected to others; I want abundance but not burden. As of today, I still don't have a place to live after the 21st of the month... but, these qualities are largely interior, they are not dependent upon place. My mental attic is getting cleared out in preparation for .... what?
(Did I mention I found a place I would love to live in but...)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Tie Severed

Something in me has snapped- the tie to this place and its shattered dreams. That tie snapped when I had to euthanize 2 cats last week. I am sure I will be crushed when I leave for the last time but right now I just want to find a new place and get this over with. I have a leave-by date of August 21 but my search for a new home and workspace has been so far unproductive.
I have arranged for a sale of household goods on the 8th & 9th, and mercifully, I will not be here, I will be at work at the nursery.
I have rented a dumpster and am filling it with junk from the garage, studio and attic- filling it rapidly- I may need to rent another....
So that is where I am today. Spiritually, I have to keep reminding myself that the only things I can control in all this are my actions. I have a choice when someone says something incredibly rude or inconsiderate, I have a choice when a rental prospect turns out to be a complete shithole despite the glowing ad in the paper, I have a choice when events don't go the way I want them to go- and that choice is to do something I will just have to make amends for later or let it flow over me leaving me untouched. I am choosing serenity more often than not, but I need to say that I struggle often. Serenity does not come naturally to me, it is a conscious choice I have to make over and over and over again while I begin this new life. Everyday I must get my exercise by taking 12 steps.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

To New Homes

Today was the big garden sale. Many friends, a few friends of friends, and a few strangers came and dug up many of the perennials in what had been my garden. Fortunately there is enough left for the birds, bees and butterflies- many of the shrubs planted especially for them had grown way too large to be dug up. The monarda 'Mahogany' had spread so much that there was more than enough left. And, at 10.5' tall, the Joe-pye weed was left undug. I was a bit amazed at how many plants I had- darn I had worked harder than I thought. Over the past year, I had been so wrapped up in trying to save this place that I had ignored the garden and in combination with the heat and dry weather we've been having, it looked pretty dreary. But people were able to see that amongst the jewelweed there were some real horticultural gems.
To my utter amazement and joy, some dear friends came up from Long Island and New Jersey to say goodbye to my old life. I was very choked up and grateful to them for their support. I was able to keep focussed on the plants for most of the time instead of dwelling on the losses- I was very much in work mode, as if I was at my weekend job at the nursery- a blessing to keep busy helping others.
Now it is quiet and I don't know if that means it is over for today. Someone may still show up- I hope one friend in particular, a very knowledgeable native-plant gardener, will. There is a clump of the double-flowered Bloodroot that with his name on it.
I was shocked by the number of large terra-cotta pots I had amassed- but I should not be shockable anymore considering how I have had to face my acquisitiveness in the house already. For a time I was greatly enamored of the lush overplanted pots seen often in British gardens but I am not good at keeping potted things alive even outdoors. And I find annuals, while charming, are very expensive in the long run. But they have moved to the homes of some good gardeners who will keep them filled with beautiful plants instead of filled with dead soil in my garage.
This week I will continue on my search for a new home and continue packing.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Rest in peace in God's compassionate embrace, Pixel and Twyla. I loved you very much.

Goodbye to Dear Friends

The losses continue. Today I have to take 2 elderly, ill, cats to the vet for mercy. Twyla, a brindle Maine Coon Cat, and Pixel, a B&W Maine Coon, are both on that ghastly downward slope- kidney failure, shocking weight loss, unsteady gait; and today Pixel stopped eating. I will miss them terribly, especially Pixel who has been a joy and delight in my life for the past 16 years; and coming on top of the many griefs and blows of the past month it is just a bit too much today. I had planned to go to my part-time job for a 1/2 day today but I need to stay here and just hold them on my lap and tell them how much I love them and what an honor it has been that they have been part of my life here.
It is no coincidence that Pixel has lived here as long as I have. A few months after I moved here, I buried Poohka in the garden and then Smudge joined her a year later. The beloved Pinkie left last year at the venerable age of 21. Pixel arrived shortly after Poohka left and filled that hole in my heart.
In some horrible symmetry, I am again losing friends and moving. This time, however, I have no garden in which to bury them. I need more spit and baling wire, the few intact bits of my heart now broken.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From the Corrections Dept.

I had posted earlier that I did not have too much to sort through, pack, sell, etc. I was very, very wrong. I am dismayed by the amount of stuff I have to get rid of. I have filled the living room of the house to the brim with goods to be sold on and there are still the garage and the attic to deal with....
Now, I might try to finesse this by saying I was being very abstemious in what I am taking with me, but I will probably have to keep the storage unit- albeit a smaller one- when I find a new place to live. Out of the collection of hundreds of teapots I kept 10, out of the collection of china, I kept 3 small sets, out of the collection of wooden animals on wheels, I kept 5; but even then it seems like there is too much stuff.
How am I going to shift all of this? An antiques dealer is coming by this afternoon to set up an estate sale. I am having a "dig your own" garden sale this weekend and I hope can move on some of the stuff from the garage... Oh, I am getting a headache.....

Lies, Damn Lies & Platitudes

If one more person tells me that "this is just a doorway to something better," I will throw up onto their shoes.
I want to ask them- "How do you know!? Prove it!"
Ever since I was a child I have been bombarded with platitudes about the future- I guess nowadays they would be called affirmations- "you can do anything you want to do," "your talent will be rewarded in due measure," and so on. And I have always hated those obvious lies. I can do anything I want to do? I am medium height , middle-aged and overweight, can I be a model? A ballerina? Not that I want to do those things but those careers were not/are not possible for me.

Listening to those platitudes in my own head is, in part, how I landed here- that magical thinking that tomorrow my talent would be discovered and rewarded and my home & studio would be saved. I just need to hold on for one more day, and another, and another. While today I stand in a shambles of a dream surrounded by excess stuff that I hope can be sold.
And its not that I have been spending my time dreaming- I have taken so many actions that my head spins, but all of them to no avail. The list of galleries and publishers I have sent DVDs or dummies of my work to and have gotten absolutely no response- not even an email saying "thanks but no thanks"- reads like a directory of the industry.
Well, perhaps my talent has been rewarded to its fullest extent- a sobering thought.
I have also heard from many people who have gotten through ghastly life circumstances and for those stories I am grateful. But then I think of the millions of people who have also been visited by great misfortune and who have not come out the other side to something better- we don't hear their stories but we see them on the streets collecting soda cans in shopping carts, or buried in unmarked graves in Potter's fields.
Today, the glass is half-empty, please don't tell me its half-full unless you have a pitcher of water with you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Twixt Pillar and Post

The past few days have been rather rough. I have been bounced between pillar and post and have not an unbruised spot on my body, soul or ego. On Thursday, just as I was rushing to finish a cover assignment for Cricket magazine, there was a knock on my door and it was the deliverance of a 10-day vacate order. I pretty much fell apart. I had asked my lawyer to request a boon of the purchaser(s) of the property to allow me to stay until the end of August so I could sort out, pack up, sell off, and find a new place to live.
After about an hour of pure panic, I was able to speak to my lawyer and he reassured me that in 10 days the sherriff would not lock my house and throw everything out onto the lawn. That the dance was longer and more complicated but that I also needed to make some substantial progress on getting out to show a judge I was not malingering.
Later that day I got a call saying that I had won the prize for the current show at the WAAM.
That evening I got some boxes and started sorting and packing- I had to something other than what, deep down, I wanted to do- which was to run mad into the night.
The next day, a friend announced that on Sunday, she and several other people were coming over to help me pack. I had made some progress on my own but was both aghast and terrified at the prospect. My memory shot back more than 30 years to when my father died. Our house was taken over by well-meaning neighbors, and I mean taken-over. I found someone in my bedroom picking up my dirty clothes; my (open) journal and some very, very personal papers were laying out on my desk. I went down to the space I had carved out of the basement to be my 'studio' and another neighbor was cleaning it up- throwing out the "junk"- actually a project I had been working on. There was no place to go to be quiet and grieve; our lives had been invaded by an army of action-oriented Mid-Westerners. My most persistent nightmare was of home-invasion and here it was coming true, with a grim smile plastered on its face. And now my nightmare was going to be enacted again.
Saturday evening, I went to the WAAM opening to receive my prize and was overwhelmed by the acclaim that greeted me. In some ways the outpouring of love and support was as hard to take as the harsh, "just business" attitude of the person who now owned the home and studio I had loved so much. I cannot find the still point between the pillar and the post but keep being slammed from one to the other.
It is now Sunday evening and one of the harder days of my life is over. I am exhausted and trying to deal with my feelings of admixed grief at what I am losing, anxiety about the future, shame about having to ask for help, shame about the condition of the house, grief about the future- I have two elderly cats with kidney failure, and have to take them to the vet for euthanasia this week, I cannot take them to a new place, and much gratitude to the many, many people who have expressed their support in many different ways. The friends who came today did not pass judgement on me, they went to work and accomplished a lot. Most of my worldly (household) goods are now boxed for taking with me or piled for sale. I must begin tackling the studio this week.
My heart is currently being held together with spit and baling wire. All I can do is just take the next right step and after that, the next, even as the pillar comes rushing at me and then the post.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Moving On II

Well, I've been putting off announcing the big change in my life that is coming up- I have lost my home and studio and have to sell off, pack up and move on. I have struggled so for the past couple of years and despite my best efforts, and because of some of my greatest shortcomings, I must now move on. This is a wrench and it stinks but it cannot- nor should it- be avoided.
The selling off part is actually okay. I am not as much of an accumulator as many but I still have stuff that I will not miss and cannot take with me, so I am arranging to have a moving sale conducted by a third party. I will be at my weekend job while the sale is going on so I won't have to watch people pawing through stuff- a small blessing. The smaller bits of the garden will be dispersed- that will be the second hardest part. I don't know where I am going yet and I probably can't afford anything with any workable land so gardening may be off my agenda for a while. A blow to be sure.
The hardest part is losing the studio. Besides the loss of all the money I paid to build it, I have been so very happy and productive here, surrounded by birdsong and green. I fear I won't have a place to work which would be like not having lungs to breathe with. But that is my fear, so far not reality. I am applying for emergency grants from arts foundations so I may be able to find a decent place to live and a congenial place to work. I want to stay in Saugerties- I love this place and its people and would truly miss not being able to be part of the annual Artists Studio Tour. I also work north of here in the winter and south of here in the summer so a move in either of those directions would make one of the jobs impossible. But mostly it is because this is first place I've lived as an adult where I feel part of the community, I treasure that.
Friends have rallied round and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their support. Indeed, people I know only in passing have been generous and supportive. I am reminded of the final scene from "It's a Wonderful Life"- I have thought that I was alone in the world but I am not, a gift truly beyond all riches. So, with the help and forebearance of my friends I will make it through this. Crying often, I hope laughing sometimes, but still moving forward with their love and support.

Atta boy, Clarence.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lewdly Sing Cuckoo

Spring is in full swing in the garden. I was very happy when the "Dawn Chorus" - the early morning challenges of the male birds protecting/proclaiming their territories, seeking a mate- started again after a long 6 months without significant birdsong. The term Dawn Chorus is a bit misleading, however. The chorus starts with the first gloaming- often around 4:00 am here when dawn is still a ways off. I have sometimes wakened a few birds if I have been working a late night in my studio and tripped the automatic spotlight on the garage as I make my way back to the house and my cozy bed. That gets a few of them going and lest they fall behind in their begetting, soon they are all cooing, chattering, rilling, riffing, fluting and gurgling away.
There is also the Evening Chorus, to put a nice roundedness to the day- especially now that the warblers are back. I haven't taken much time recently to just sit and watch for the birds and perhaps it is overdue. The fireflies will be starting soon also- always a welcome sight. My garden seems to be especially attractive to them- lots of shrubby bits and a pond. I have often sat on my screened porch with the lights off to watch them flit and flick through the darkening scene. Their sulphurous, dancing lights will soon garland the evenings- I look forward to that.
The screening mentioned above is essential- what makes the place so attractive to fireflies and birds also make it attractive to mosquitoes. On the upside, night-flying mosquitoes also mean bats, so I watch them career about and wish them excellent feasts.
The butterflies are back now too. Emperors, swallowtails of several types, mourning cloaks, and others. How do they manage to get anywhere? They are too subject to the breezes, endlessly blown off course. They do manage, of course, but I hope there is no room in their tiny brains for frustration.
I can't let this post go by without mentioning the bees- the chubby, lumbering, impossible, native bumblebees have been making the rounds of every flower- rolling around like tiny pigs in their golden wallows, impudently poking up the skirts of the more modest downward bells, busily dive-bombing the upward-facing blooms. They are joined by the orchard bees, the mason bees, a few wood bees and a few immigrants- the honeybees from a feral colony; but there's plenty for all, even if the Hummingbirds don't think so.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Last Leaf

In an earlier post (The Thief of Time, Feb/08) I wrote about a dear cousin and sister artist who was slipping away from the world synapse by synapse. She suffered a sudden decline earlier this month and died. I will miss her greatly. In the past years, she had been sending me dried magnolia leaves that she had picked up on the grounds of her home. In her spidery hand, she mused on her fascination with them and what she could do with them if only she had the time or the focus she had once had. They were lovely objects. Leathery to the touch and the eye, stiff and gutsy, they invited us both to consider them as more than mere compost-fodder, but possibly as small canvases.
You may think from the above paragraph that we had a lively and constant correspondence but I am ashamed to say that while she was eager for news of my current work and invited me to a meeting of the minds, I was at best scattershot in my response. I have no excuse, one of my many faults is my inattention to others. And as is the case with all shortcomings, I hurt myself the most. I missed the many opportunities to get to know her better, to be more a part of her wonderful, enigmatic, charmed world.
So, now I hold in my hand the last leaf she sent me, despite its sturdiness, it did not come through the post intact. It is cracked and a small section has broken off. Even in its diminished condition, it speaks to me- in the soft, southern warble of my cousin's voice- it says " Don't forget me," I promise I won't.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Humble Materials

I am often bemused when people ask me what materials I use- I can imagine the wheels going around in their heads, trying to either figure out my technique/working process, or attempting to square the asking price for the piece with the amount of money invested in the materials. My answer- I use humble materials but elevate them with creativity, skill and talent- doesn't give them much to hang their preconceptions on. Perhaps they are thrown by the idea that creativity, skill and talent may actually be worth something or may not be purchased along with the buttons, cardboard or acrylic paints I also employ.

And I do use very humble materials. I have placed restrictions on what materials I will use- and the difference between the two categories of materials (authentic and fake) rests on my idea of what is authentic. Things like toothpicks, ordinary buttons, waxed-linen thread, coated wire, illustration board, chip-board, masonite; to me these are authentic materials. They have no pretensions or need to social-climb, they would be content being used in their more traditional ways. Some, like the feathers, the colored-grommets, fancy papers and beads are pushing the boundaries a bit, I fear- a little twee, a tad uppity- and I do worry about slipping into kitsch or craftiness. I pray to the guiding spirit of restraint, Joseph Cornell, to keep my eye flinty.

I also resist falling into assemblage, I use ready-made items sparingly and with some trepidation. If I need a comb for a piece, I use cardboard and toothpicks to make a comb, not purchase a doll-house scale comb from the craft store. Bricolage -using the materials at hand- is a stern taskmaster. Using store-bought pieces brings someone else's hand into the work- not authentic.

What brought on this reverie on humble materials? I brought home a nice big sheet of chipboard today and was lost in thought for a few moments considering all the delights ahead of me as I use it up...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pride Goeth Before...

I had written in an earlier post about jurying and the possibility of work not being accepted into a show (in other words: rejected.) Well, I can now reaffirm that while it is not fatal, it is not the best way to start the day. I had entered a piece into a show with the theme "Poetic" and felt pretty sure I was going to get in... well, think again.

I was not able to assist the jurying last evening but came in this morning to hang the show. I came into the gallery and saw some pieces arranged around the walls- mine not among them. Aha......

The morning was an exercise in not letting my sharp tongue get the better of me- as the saying goes, it's never too late to shut up. But we hung the show and despite my not being in it, it is a coherent show. And I have a piece in the show in the lower gallery so I should buck up and shut up, which I will starting now...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Cleaning

I am once again in the process of tidying my studio. I tend to keep my work bench clear, putting away the many jars of paint, the piles of tools, the stacked containers of buttons and other findings, on a regular basis. I also sweep the floor regularly. But around the edges, framed works are stacking up, there are some teetering piles of junk mail waiting to go to the dump, and miscellaneous items have gathered in rather frightening number on most of the seldom-used horizontal surfaces. Time to clear out a bit.

It is mostly a matter of stowing the framed pieces in an orderly manner, sorting the misc. items- making some choices about keeping, tossing or donating- and then the payoff: making a great purging dump run. I also see that I need to tidy my files- not as satisfying as the results are not immediately visible but it is going to be dreary weather for a few days and that is good weather for such an activity.

I must confess that I am not a tidy person by nature. When I was younger, I was rather a slob. I love the term the British use for such a female: slut; but it has such a definitely sexual connotation in the US that I cannot use it... and I hope I have mended my sloppy ways enough to not have to. It has been an uphill climb.

One big factor in my reformation has been the many reality-tv programs featuring truly frightening slobs and their pigstyes. How sad that people have gotten so overwhelmed by stuff that they will suffer the humiliation of having their lives dissected on TV- okay its cable but still!- just to have help dealing with the mess. And then they have to agree to let a third-rate interior designer do-over their place once the junk is gone. But perhaps as they say, "a kick is as good as a kiss" to someone in this much distress.

As for bringing in more stuff to clutter up the home or studio- I had an epiphany several years ago. I was at a flea market and I saw a beautiful stoneware bowl. I could almost hear the music swelling in the background- "Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you...." My reaction was so overwhelming- and so out of proportion to the item- that it made me pause. I took a moment to analyse my emotions and found an image in my mind of a table laden with bountiful, delicious, beautiful food. The stoneware bowl itself was the centerpiece, luscious food spilling over the rim. Many candles shed a golden light. Around the table were many friends, all of them there to share the bounty of my life and to bestow upon me the bounty of their love and esteem.

Wow! Quite a semiotic burden for one bowl, large though it was.

Then came the epiphany: I could have friends over and serve them delicious food with the bowls and plates and platters I already had. That what I really wanted was the friendship and the love and that no piece of craftily modeled and glazed clay was going to provide that. That realization has put a real crimp in my yard-saling and flea-marketting but there you are. Better that than to end up like the Collyer brothers or on some reality-tv humiliation fest.

So, time for a good spring cleaning. I will meditate on and be grateful for the bounty in my life, the gifts I have been graced with, and my friends while I tidy, dust and organize.