Words, wordlessness, and differentiation

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I’m fascinated with the concept of thoughts without words… Have you ever tried contemplating something without putting it into words? Maybe it’s normal for you… but for me, the moment I try to do that, I find I can’t experience it until I find the words. Are thoughts without words simply feelings?  Not necessarily.

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I find it frustrating when I’m trying to think about something because I’m not so great with finding the right words… I’m great at finding different words for something – I love being a walking thesaurus sometimes.  But putting the initial label onto a feeling, thought or idea — that’s really difficult.

I ran across an interesting article in Psychology Today about this – unsymbolized thinking,  “the experience of an explicit, differentiated thought that does not include the experience of words, images, or any other symbols.” It’s apparently possible, but it’s often a mirage… once you get close, it disappears.

I suppose it’s not a coincidence, then, that I create art out of words… but unless you know that the images are made out of words, you’re only experiencing part of what’s there.  And sometimes, that’s enough, right?

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The Fish

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New layered piece – not a great photo of it, ‘cuz it’s, well, layered 😉

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Ink micrography on mylar over watercolor, 3D original, poem “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.

He didn’t fight.

He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.

While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
– the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly-
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.

I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.

They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
– It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.

I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
– if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.

A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.

Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.

I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

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Who needs eye charts?

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Poem by Rumi, “Green Ears,” ink micrography on paper – in progress.

Bread and Roses

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In 1912 the successful Lawrence (Massachusetts) Textile Strike was led by women and immigrants fighting for better working and living conditions. One slogan, made popular in culture and song, “We want bread, and we want roses, too!” summed up workers’ desire for both life’s necessities and its glories.  It must’ve been in the back of my mind since my childhood (both my parents were big folkies, so I’m SURE I had heard this many times growing up), and it jumped off the page onto an abstract I just finished.

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“Bread and Roses,” ink on layers of acrylic (C.Bloomgarden, 2018)

The poem, written by James Oppenheim after the strike:

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men—
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes—
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew—
Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater days—
The rising of the women means the rising of the race—
No more the drudge and idler—then that toil where one reposes—
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!

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“Bread and Roses” detail

Back in the saddle with eight legs

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Back in the saddle with eight legs

Back in the studio after lots of time working on other projects — OK, yeah, a little TOO much time.  Got a bit of an artistic block, I think.  Too many ideas, too little motivation. After all, my next show isn’t for another —-  FEW WEEKS!!!  HOLY TIME SINK, BATMAN!  While online project management stuff can be really good, it can take ALL OF YOUR TIME just to learn and organize.

In other words, procrastinate.

But it’s all good.  I’ve got show applications in and am starting to hear back on the earlier ones, at least through early May.  First one (unless I get REALLY stir crazy before then) will be in Morristown NJ – at the Spring CraftMorristown show again.  Then maybe Syracuse, maybe Gaithersburg MD, definitely Rockville MD, and WE’RE OFF!  Oh, uh, off as in Off to the Races, not off as in time off. Outdoor show season — I’m looking at another 20-25 this year. Watch my calendar for the latest updates.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah. Back in the studio.

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Watercolor on paper with a layer of clear acrylic above it with the last chapter of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea written in ink as contour, texture and shading.

Octopuses (that plural doesn’t look right… is it?) are amazing creatures. Intelligent, curious, and alien. Well, not really alien, but kinda.  You understand, right?  Anyway, this piece isn’t part of my Endangered Species series, even though a few of the critters I’ve painted are classified as Threatened, including several of the coral reef species and the sea turtle. But this is more a celebration of underwater life, and how really stunningly different most of the rest of the planet is from our usual home environs.

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To wit: couch, dog, spouse:

Not that I’m saying that my home environ is anything to take for granted. On the contrary, I am DAILY thanking my lucky stars that I have what I do.  But I’m also incredibly grateful to be a part of this amazing planet, home to us and the beautiful alienish creatures we share it with.

 

In the spirit of the season…

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So, ’tis the season of gift shopping and gift buying.  If you’re like me, your tastes are pretty specific and difficult to describe to someone else.  That also means that unless I’ve actually said “I love this artwork because” X, Y, and Z, it’s really hard for someone to pick, out of a selection of paintings or photographs or even pottery the one thing I would choose for myself.  Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but someone wouldn’t necessarily know which thing I would be really drawn to, or what I think would go well with my style or decor or space.

Which is why I think it’s difficult to do a holiday show with large, somewhat expensive (though it’s all relative of course!) original artwork.  I think folks prefer to buy artwork for themselves rather than for others, because they’re afraid of getting something the other person wouldn’t like.  And if it’s something that has to hang on the wall, well, let’s just say it’s not something easy to switch out at the last minute when Aunt Mabel is coming over and you need to suddenly rearrange your walls to put up that awful thing she bought you two years ago but has been in the attic ever since.

So far I’ve done a few holiday shows, and I’ve found that people who like my work and gravitate toward it prefer to buy my original art for themselves and prints for others.  I love it — they want to share my work around!  They also tend to opt for more well-known authors or stories, something more easily relatable than some of the obscure stuff I find and embed into my artwork.   In this vein, many a gift-seeker has requested certain themes… a flamingo, a giraffe, a lizard, a collection of Emily Dickinson poems, funny quotations, etc.

Your wish is my command!  For the season, I’ve begun a line of handpainted giclees, most of animals and pets, which are all either well-known stories or sets of moving and/or funny quotations by famous folk.  Check out my Etsy shop for the latest, and PLEASE! keep those requests coming!  I’m having a blast!  But don’t worry… I’m still working in layers of glass, I’m still working with poetry… it’s ALL (still!) WORDS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Cohesive Body of Work”

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I am an artist.

I art.

To me that means I keep moving, keep experimenting, keep trying new materials, new methods.  It fits my personality, my ADD.

It’s hard not to.  It’s why I ditched the Ph.D. track early on… getting a Ph.D. means you have specialized in something.  Something so  focused that you are perhaps the only expert in that one thing.  I couldn’t do it. Gave up a fellowship and left grad school.

Now, a couple of careers later, I’m back to my first (and only, apart from my amazing hubby) love — art.

When it comes to applying for shows, though, it’s coming back to me. Specialization. When I get rejections, I’ve been told show promoters don’t want to see the breadth of work that I’ve done — watercolor, ink, printmaking, etched glass, layers of glass, mirrors, etc. They want to see a Cohesive Body of Work.

That’s kinda a new concept for me.  Not that I don’t have it… my work is cohesive in theme — exploring the physical manifestation of poetry and language.  But from a viewer’s perspective, you don’t get that at first.  It takes some time to absorb. Ya gotta get closer.  So they’re right in the sense that you don’t see that there’s a Cohesive Body of Work in front of you. It looks like a mishmash of styles, which, I guess, it is, when I present it that way.

So I’m learning to present my theme as a visually Cohesive Body of Work. Group all the works together by materials and colors. Separate out the 3D from the 2D. Mirror backs go with mirror backs; watercolors on paper go with watercolors on paper. Etched glass with etched glass.

And you know what?  It looks great!

Only problem is… each style requires a separate application.  And maybe even a separate booth.  Wow.  Maybe I’d better specialize?

Nah.

What are your thoughts?  Got any suggestions?  What’s your favorite piece or style? Enquiring artists want to know!

The best part of having hundreds of strangers come visit…

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Art show season is upon us here in the Northeast and I’m learning how to be an Art Fair Road Warrior.  Seriously, I want a membership card, just ’cause I want to see what the logo would be.  Sadly, it’s mainly just a virtual group on Facebook, but still.  I think it’s gonna take a lot more shows and a lot more miles behind me before I really qualify, but I’m working towards it.  This weekend will be my third show in four weeks, so that’s a damned good start if I say so myself.  And I do.

Amazingly enough I don’t really get bored to tears sitting, standing, or futzing around in and around my booth. I thought I would, but I don’t.  At least as long as there’s somebody around.  The first show was pretty rough because the weather was so awful (Pouring in Pittsburgh) that people just didn’t come around, or if they did they were moving quickly.  The second show (Hot in Harrisburg) started out fabulously to the point I was freaking out — my first customer came in and picked out a piece before I had even gotten my sales book and credit card thingy out and ready, and there were early crowds that made me panic thinking that they were all getting impatient waiting to buy something.  Sadly that turned out to be a common first-day early morning rush, and I had no other sales that day or the next.  And did I mention hot?  It was hot.  And I was in a spot which, while on the grass (so it coulda been a lot hotter), received no shade from the gorgeous park trees to the east or the west for the duration of the show. My face and my fan were never more than four inches apart.

But Monday, Day 3 of the show, was a beeeeeeYOUtiful day, and all the visitors seemed much more relaxed and interested in hanging around and talking.

THAT’s my favorite part.  Well, apart from writing in the sales book of course.

There are always folks who bring their kids in (usually bored-looking preadolescents) and tell them that my work is just like that project they did in fourth grade, right?  To which I usually reply with encouragement to the kids, and try to ignore the obvious corollary to the parents’ comment that indicates their opinion of my artistry, skill, and/or experience.

But many times — MANY times, thankfully, I received or heard comments from visitors such as “this is absolutely fabulous,” “how creative,” and, the one that will keep me going through the next dry spell, “this is the most unique work I’ve ever seen.”

Thank you, stranger. You paid me more in warm fuzzies than I’ve gotten in a long time.

I know my work is not conventional. It doesn’t fit into many folks’ conception of art. It doesn’t fit into others’ view of craft.  I have difficulty getting into some shows because the jury doesn’t know where to put it, or I don’t know which box to check on the application.

But I do it because I love it and I love experimenting and tweaking ways to experience language and image together. On paper, in glass, in shadows, in layers, with watercolor, with ink, on mylar, on vellum, on cut paper, whatever.

And if you enjoy it, please let me know.  If you don’t, but have some constructive criticism, please let me know that too.  Beyond that, just enjoy the show. I’m sure you can find another artist that fits your style better.  We’re all here just waiting to find our peeps.  While that’s no guarantee we can make a living doing what we love (or even just make back our expenses and booth fee), it helps to build a following.  Someday they’ll need a gift of fabulous, creative, and absolutely unique artwork.  And I’ll be here. Or there. I’ll be somewhere.  Come find me.

 

Come see me!

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So here’s the calendar for this summer’s shows… Now the tricky part is to figure out a) which pieces to bring to each show, and b) once everything is set up and I’m waiting for folks to come look and hopefully talk to me, what do I do with myself?

There’s a weird balance between making sure that people feel welcomed and that they’re not bothering me, making sure I’m not hounding or pressuring them (see: carnival barker description from last year),  and being out of my mind bored.

I can work on some sketches or perhaps even paint, but I’ve been told that people feel awkward interrupting me and don’t want to bother me.

I can read a book but that’s just kinda rude.

I can try to hide an earbud and pretend like I’m not listening to anything, which would also be rude.

I can just sit there eating fair food all day, but, first of all, ick, and second of all, I need to not have to buy yet another larger size.

Or I can be bored out of my skull hoping people will come talk to me and praying they’ll buy something to perk me up.

What would your reactions be? Would you avoid talking to someone who’s working on a piece of artwork? Would you feel it’s rude if I was doing something other than sitting there waiting hopefully for customers?  Got any other suggestions?


May 21, 22  Shadyside Art & Craft Festival, Pittsburgh, PA

May 28, 29, 30  Patriot-News Artsfest in Harrisburg, PA       (http://www.jumpstreet.org/events/artsfest/)

June 11, 12  Art at Ives, Danbury, CT

July 9, 10  Haddonfield, NJ

August 20, 21 Arts at the Gardens, Sonnenberg Gardens, Canandaigua, NY    (http://www.artsatthegardens.org/)

September 10, 11 Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester NY  (http://mag.rochester.edu/events/clothesline-festival/)

October 8-9 and 15-16  Greater Ithaca Art Trail (www.arttrail.com)

Don’t pick up that pen!

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Single-line drawings pull only the essence of an image and force you to concentrate on the contours that matter in depicting a scene. Once the pen hits the paper, you can’t lift it until your drawing is done. Sure, you can trace back over a line to get to a different part of the image, but it muddies it up and in a way defeats the purpose.  And for me, I can’t do that because my lines will then become lines of text – writing over a previous line is not an option.

Here’s what I’ve just finished on paper:

I love the challenge of drawing with a single line. Will add color soon.