Thursday, September 14, 2017

NYC Gallery Hopping

A bad head cold + bad rain kept me from attending the immigration panel discussion.  Bummer.  But, I was able to head to the city to go gallery hopping.  In Chelsea, a number of the galleries will host their openings on Thursday nights, and the streets are packed with people going from one to the next.  There were a number of fascinating exhibition openings.  Here are glimpses of what I saw:

Some of Robert Motherwell's early paintings were on view at the Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Orange Personage, Robert Motherwell, 1947
Oil and sand on canvas
Orange Personage, detail
You can see the fabulous texture in this detail image here
Maya Lin had an opening of "Maya Lin: Ebb and Flow" at the Pace Gallery.  It was too crowded to be able to get full pictures of her installations; many of them are huge and extend from floor to ceiling.   There were guards posted throughout the gallery to protect the work on the floor. I asked one of the guards how all the marbles were adhered to the walls, and he said hot glue.  I don't know if that's true or not but it gives me pause to think about finger burns and threads of glue if I had done it (but nowhere to be found here).

Detail, "Ebb and Flow", Maya Lin

Detail, "Ebb and Flow", Maya Lin
I discovered a new-to-me artist that I found captivating: Nathalie Boutté.  Her exhibition at the Yossi Milo Gallery called "Crossing-over" was amazing. From a distance, these works seem to be, perhaps, a woven textile.  But no.  They're collages made from tiny hand-cut strips of Japanese paper, individually assembled into rows, using the tint and text on the paper to create images.

L: The African Choir (9), 2016; Japanese paper, ink
R: The African Choir (11), 2016; Japanese paper, ink

Detail, The African Choir (11)
Detail to appreciate the complexity of these collage constructions
The James Cohen gallery featured, A Line Can Go Anywhere, a curated exhibition featuring seven Bay Area artists who use fiber as their primary material.   It was a wonderful compilation of a variety of work dating from the 1950s to the present.
Installation view
Trude Guermonprez in front
Untitled (Space Hanging), 1965
silk, double weave
Ed Rossbach
After Miro, 1970
jute, horsehair

Any of these appeal or resonate with you?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Vacation stitching

A while back I came to the conclusion that, despite the extra time I seemed to have over the summer, it really wasn't a great time to set art-making deadlines.  I still wanted to make art, but with different expectations and parameters.

My solution: create a project that's a "vacation" quilt.  I only work on it while on vacation, during those downtimes when I don't want to nap, read, or just hang with my family. It had to be something I could pick up after months -- or years -- in between.

With that in mind I bought fabric, sorted it between lights, mediums, and darks, and cut out piles of triangles.   I stored them in bags to keep the sorting intact. Then it was time to go.

A few years passed before I had time to join triangles into a few blocks.  It wasn't significant stitching progress, but it was fun to touch the fabrics again, to enjoy the fabrics I'd selected.  More years passed and then this past week, I re-visted the project and sewed, making enough progress that the hidden pattern within the quilt began to emerge.

I really love where this is going and it's a pure pleasure to sew.  The color palette was inspired by the colors of the California coast.  I think it's speaking to me particularly strongly right now because I have a series of quilts in my head that have been percolating since our family scuba trip in December.  The series is a reflection on our governance and care of the ocean.  Perhaps after I've made progress on one of the quilts I'm thinking about, I'll show it to you.  In any event, it's exciting and cathartic to sit back down at my machine and piece.  I hope I can keep it going.

But not this week.  After so much travel, the house and gardens need some TLC.  PLUS, if all goes well, I'm heading into NYC this Wednesday to attend a panel discussion on immigration.  Should be very interesting.  

Hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend.  Right now, I'm off to dust.  My house is very happy.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pure Magic

This last week was a gift.  My husband and I spent four days together on vacation.  Just the two of us.  No itinerary.  We hiked new trails and discovered new (to us) coves.

Took off our shoes to explore shores shrouded in fog.


Hiked along redwoods burned in last year's fire that were - miraculously -- surrounded by seedlings.  

Took in textures of all sorts; this is a rock wall battered by the ocean.

We woke to an incredible morning in San Francisco.  That city really is beautiful.

I also read (finished A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny) and sewed (a blog post for another day).

Now I'm home and trying to stretch the hours as long as possible.  Our oldest daughter is in for the day; she leaves tomorrow and I'm soaking up all I can.  

And so, I'll write more another time.  For now, I'm going to chat with her just a bit longer.  The empty nest begins in earnest tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


The last two-ish weeks have been a mishmash of luxuriating in the the company of family and nature,  speeding through to-do-lists, and giving bittersweet hugs.

We started the month with a lovely week in California, alternating between doing nothing and exploring. I re-read some Harry Potter books, though I had lots of new books waiting for me on my Kindle.  Do you ever do that?  Revisit a particular book or series?  I was in the mood for a good yarn in which good triumphed over evil.  I knew how it would all turn out and that's what I wanted/needed in the quiet moments, when I wasn't sitting with my eyes closed, absorbing the sun and the sounds of nature.  On the flip side, it was also a vacation with LOTS of new adventures.  We went riding on the beach

A view from our ride
and hiked to the top of a mountain.  The rewards for this were a spectacular view and, as we hiked down the other side, a mountain lion which crossed our path about 20 yards ahead of us.  Added bonus: (s)he left us alone.

Can you spy the lone picnic bench at the top?
When we returned, it was a mad dash to run errands and pack because my youngest was heading off to college in Indiana.  I've reached that time that parents are proud of and dread.  Children starting that final march to independence.  We're so proud of all that our children have done and become and will do, but we'd still like to take care of them when they have a stomach ache.  But now we can't.  This is part of the thrilling and maddening end to our being that actual place of solace and support.  Now we're the voice over the phone, telling them it will be okay.    But it's all good.  My daughter is safely and happily moved into her dorm at Notre Dame.  Her new and exciting life phase has begun.

Ready to head off

But I'm not quite done yet.  I am back in California.  I drove home from Indiana on Sunday and hopped on a plane Monday morning to meet my son.  (Sidenote: I was airborne during the eclipse; we crossed its path over St. Louis.  The sky and the plane interior slowly got grayer, as if a major storm was approaching and we were flying through clouds.  Then it suddenly went dark.  It was so eerie and cool!)  My son and I are no spending a few days together before he heads back to school (also in CA).  I am, once again, going to revel in the luxury of doing nothing, and spice it up with periods of actually doing something (though what that will be remains to be seen).  All I do know is that I'm off to a good start. I woke up unexpectedly early this morning and finished my book, The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny.  I'm a fan of her Chief Inspector Gamache series and I made the effort to carry the physical book with me.  It didn't disappoint.

I also recently finished The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard.  I didn't realize that it, too, is a part of a series.  However, this series is historical fiction about women during the time of the American Revolution.  The Midwife's Revolt has Abigail Adams as one of its main characters, though not the protagonist.

I think I may read The Radium Girls next, by Kate Moore. It's an account of what became of the factories full of women who painted radium onto WWII equipment so it would glow in the dark.... as they eventually did from radiation exposure.

What are you reading?  Any recommendations?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

So, What's New Art-wise?

It's been a while since I've had art-y things to talk about, but that changes today.  

I'm thrilled to report that SPUN is accepting entries!  This year's juror is Jeffrey Mueller, Gallery Director of the Silvermine Arts Center in Connecticut.  The prospectus can be found here.  Here are the most important details: The deadline for entry is September 15th and works of any size up to 60" (any dimension) are welcome, including 3D works.  I hope you'll enter.

2) Docent Training
I'm heading to the KMA tomorrow for a docent training planning session.  This new exhibition will include a steep cultural and historical learning curve for me.  The show's not posted on the KMA website yet, but suffice it to say that it will be the largest of its kind ever produced on the East Coast.  More details to come as I can share them. But don't wait to visit the KMA until Februarym when this show opens.  Right now there's a fabulous exhibit called Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists on display.  "Featuring seventeen artists from across the globe, the exhibition reveals carpets to be a powerful locus of meaning today, one that cuts across subjects of design, art, décor, production, and geopolitics. Wall to Wall proposes that artist-designed carpets play a role in modern art history as a critical form that is becoming increasingly popular in artistic practices."

Visitor interactive weaving at the KMA
3) Studio Time
This spring held a number of personal challenges for me, not limited to my parents' health issues; most notably, my son had to have a painful surgery with a difficult recovery.  I'm happy to report that he's fine, but I didn't anticipate how much time I'd spend on his care.  Some work I had hoped to submit had to be postponed but, nonetheless, I've made some in-roads in the studio.  I'm not sure I'm ready to share a sneak peek yet, but it's exciting to have time to sew again.  Now, I just have to wait for all the yellow jackets who've invade my studio to go away.... with the help of the pest management guy. 

4) Writing
I've been spending a bit of time helping a friend write about her art and, I must admit, I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It's fun to delve into another artist's psyche to discover what makes them tick.

5) The Garden
My garden continues to enthrall me.  Some years are just magical. This is one of them.

An overabundance of hydrangea blossoms

I hope all's well on your end.  Please fill me in on what's going on!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Shift

Baby me...

FACT: My mom won the door prize for getting old: cataracts.  She had surgery scheduled.

FACT: My dad was still in rehab, following a unexpected hospital stay.

FACT:  They needed help and I'm the only one around who can give it.   There are no other surviving relatives.   I may be the baby of the family but for now, I'm taking the lead.

If we're lucky, we have the blessing of having our parents with us for a long time.  If our parents age, we children have the difficult task of helping them navigate the transition to a new normal, where the definition of independence changes.  It's a tough road, and one that every child with elderly parents travels.  

And so a new normal takes shape.  One where abbreviations like MI (mobility independence) and ADL (activities of daily living) make sense and are thrown into sentences.  Where I make color-coded medication charts to simplify things.  Where home health care angels provide guidance and support, explaining medications and checking vitals (and double-checking charts to confirm I didn't make a mistake).  

I'm lucky.  Up until now, my parents have been very healthy. And, with the help of some new medication, home OT and PT, and diligent exercise, my dad will get better.  My mom's eye should be okay (though it's not a given yet, there's still follow-up to be done). And I will help as I can, thanks to the support of my family and the availability of lots of flights between NY and Chicago.

I'll be back here when I can.  For now, I'm off to the grocery store; I have some cooking to do.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Garden snippets

It's been a crazy and emotional week.  You know what it's like. There's little time for much except what needs to get done, and keeping your sanity can be tough.  So how to keep balance?  For me, I've found solace this week in spending five minutes in the garden, watching it evolve from day to day. It's put on an incredible show and the pause in beauty has uplifting.  Let me share some of my garden with you.

I love these brush strokes of color
An inula emerging in the early morning light

A perfect bud ball. Love how this unfurls
The white poppies after the rain have technicolor accents

Blossom and buds; they're everywhere!

See what I mean? They're everywhere!  This rose looks like it's made of fondant
Salmon poppy with that hint of citroen.  Luscious

Friday, June 2, 2017

Hope springs eternal

I was on a domestic tear this past weekend, particularly outside.  Admittedly, it was necessary.  I haven't worked in the garden, really worked, for a few years.  I'd let the perennials -- and the weeds -- do their thing.  But I had an urge to actively engage with my "green space" and I attacked it with a will.  I dug up of dying shrubs, icky plants, and aggressive weeds, and tossed them into our compost pile.  I transplanted hollyhocks, and other such perennials, that had grown too large.

And then I started planting anew.  My beloved poppies are once again gracing the space in front of our stone wall.

The "traditional" orange poppy
This year I added white to the mix
An unexpected pink poppy in a pot marked "orange".  Love the serendipity of this

I planted annuals in the spaces "between".  One of my goals this summer is to eat at our patio table more often and I'd like to enjoy the beauty of our big pine trees and the splashes of color from snapdragons, verbena, and other such summer flowers.

 Some of the annuals, pre-planting
I also planted a modest vegetable / herb garden.

My marigolds "guards"

We'll have lots of fresh basil, cilantro and parsley for pestos and flavor, lettuce and tomatoes for salads and, if everything goes right, colorful carrots later in the summer.  It's a very active process to plant a garden.  In the beginning.  And then you pray for gentle rains and warm sunshine.  You hope bees visit, but not hungry bugs.  You cross your fingers that everything takes hold and grows in your garden, except for weeds.

Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spring Book Report

My reading has been as far-flung as the pollen seems to be this spring.  It's all over the place!  Here are some of my recent reads that I would recommend:

I think Hillbilly Elegy deserves the accolades it's received.  This is a memoir of a life shaped by culture and dire circumstance. But I also thought it was a balanced view of how efforts for change, no matter how well intentioned from the outside, need to be done in concert with the folks that will be impacted by the suggested changes.  A thought provoking book -  at times chilling and, at others, uplifting - of a part of America that doesn't often make the headlines.

The Maisie Dobbs series is an enjoyable one, and I'm pleased that the latest edition to the collection doesn't disappoint.  In This Grave Hour, the 13th in the series, finds the our British female investigator trying to solve the murder of an immigrant who settled in Britain after WWI. (Yes, a bit spooky in its applicability to today's debates.) I continue to find Maisie an entertaining and engaging character.  Do you have a favorite series?  (Mine are almost all murder/mystery books.  Hmmmm.....)

Paul Kalanithi's book should be required reading for everyone (along with Being Mortal) about the choices we may choose to make as we near the end of our life.  This is sad, no doubt, but it's also humbling. And, I think it's important for those of use with aging parents to consider how we'd like to help them maintain dignity.

This time I got my science fix from The Soul of an Octopus, a charming and well written account by naturalist Sy Montgomery, of her experiences getting to know captive octopuses (no, it's not octopi, I've learned; you can't put a Latin plural "i" at the end of a Greek word), seeking to discover them in the wild, and marveling at their intelligence and individuality.   This was particularly compelling for me after our diving trips this past December/January.  We watched octopuses ink, change colors, and scamper about reefs.  I don't think I'll eat octopus salad again.

An octopus on one of our dives.
What have you been reading?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bunnies on the Mantle

The stitched Easter bunny
Back in February, I showed you a canvas I had stitched.  Now the flat canvas has been transformed into a three-dimensional bunny that sits on our kitchen fireplace mantle for Easter.

The kitchen fireplace mantle
This is a wonderful time filled with faith, family, friends, and food.  I hope your weekend, whether it's spent in Easter or Passover celebration, is joyous as well.  


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Seeing the Light

Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled, 1994
From the Kitchen Table series

One of the interesting things I've discovered leading tours for the Picturing Love exhibition is that many people have a hard time considering a photograph from an art perspective.  Perhaps it's the predisposition that photography is "the medium that doesn't lie".

Well, photography is just as manipulated by the the hand of the artist as any other art form.

How is the photograph composed?  Has the photographer chosen to emphasize some elements and to hide others?  What's been cropped?  What might be just beyond the frame?  How does the decision to make the photo black and white vs. color influence our narrative with what we see?  The answer to each of these questions -- and more -- are the result of the photographer's artistic process.

I've been leading tours focusing on light.  Photography can't exist without light; it's fundamental to the photographic process.  However, photographers can choose to shoot in ambient light, enhance a setting with studio lighting, or increase/decrease the light in the dark room process. It's been a fascinating conversation point with guests.  In one case, the light serves as a metaphor for trust; in another, the light is as much a character in the narrative of the image as the people within it.  So I'd like to challenge you to consider light as you view photography.  Not passively, but as an active choice made by the photographer.  I look forward to hearing how this line of inquiry might influence your appreciation of the art form.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Love, Captured

Image from Katonah Museum of Art website
On Wednesday, we took the deep dive.  We started docent training for the KMA's upcoming exhibition, Picturing Love. I am fascinated by this exhibition.  All right.  At first blush this seems right up my alley.  But, I was intimidated.  We had 47 images that we needed to research, write about, and explain.  And, we had to be able to teach it all in two 2-hour sessions, sharing bios, making connections, clarifying process.

But, I'm in love.

I love, love, love this exhibition.  It includes such compelling imagery.  I've been surprised by the artists' process and intent, by the cultural context in which many of the images were created and the stories that are shared or intimated.  There are so many themes to consider in the exhibition within the  broader intent of showing how love has been captured on "film" by artists and the populace alike.  We're all interested in gestures of affection.

I'm leading the opening night public tour, at 6:30 PM on Saturday, March 18th.  I hope you'll join me.  If you can't make it to the KMA that night, I hope you'll find some other time to experience this fabulous exhibition.

Oh, and you can be part of it, too!  The KMA is encouraging the public to share their own images of affection.  You can send them in to or tag your pictures with #pinmypic on Instagram and Facebook.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting a Head Shot Taken

I figured getting my head shot taken for work would be a no-brainer.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I was wrong. It took two tries over two separate days.  Here's what I learned:

1) Know which side is your "good side".  We often prefer pictures of ourselves taken from one side or another.  It may be the way our hair falls or how one eyebrow arches.  Whatever.  If you have a preference, know it going in so (if possible) you can have your picture taken from that angle.

2) Get sleep the night before.  I didn't the first time, and "Blech" is all I have to say about that.

3) Be thoughtful about what you wear.  I'm sure you all know that solids or simple patterned tops are best.  Nothing too distracting.  And yes, you should wear something that you're comfortable in.... but not too comfortable.  Whatever you wear should rest smoothly on your form; if it's too loose fitting, the rolls and folds of the fabric will not flatter your figure.  Be sure to ask the photographer to check your collar is straight, your shirt fabric's not bunched up under your armpit, etc.  Clean lines will help, a lot.

4) Look like yourself. I was repeatedly advised to put on make-up so I wouldn't look washed out.  But I didn't put on too much.  I  don't regularly wear that much make-up and if I had put on a lot more, the resulting image just wouldn't have look like me. This isn't high-def TV after all.  That said, if you have the time and the funds to have a professional do your make-up for you, absolutely do.  But be sure to try it out a few days beforehand so you're not surprised with how you look.

5) Get to know the photographer, even for just a few minutes.   I was nervous.  I'd never done this before and it showed in the pictures from my first session.  It's hard to smile naturally in front of someone you don't know, especially when that someone might be asking you to continue smiling with your head at an angle, with your chin down, now close your eyes and open them again. Just taking a few moments to chat will help you relax and will likely result in a better picture.

6) Ask to review the proofs so you can choose the image you like.  A professional photographer will undoubtedly have a good eye, but only you can decide which image you like best, that represents how you'd like to be seen.  Try to keep control of that process.  A good photographer will try very hard to please you and will, if necessary, come back again if you don't like the end result after editing.

7) Be realistic.  No matter how little or much I weigh, I'll never have cheekbones.  I'll always have dimples.  My eyes have turned from blue to green.  It's how I look and that should be my expectation.  We should expect the editing process only to work with what we have, not to turn us into someone we're not... not even our selves from five years ago.  And so, here's me today...