Category Archives: Art

February Highs & Lows

It’s just past Imbolc, candlemas, Groundhog Day. The time we witches dwell on the quiet of winter, halfway to spring equinox, when the fields lie quiet beneath the frozen ground.

swirlingearthweatherMost of my life, in New York and Michigan, winter arrived and laid down it’s coating of snow and ice, transforming the world. This year in southern Maryland, Winter and Spring are doing a see-saw dance, from frosty to balmy as the temperature swings from the teens to the 70s.

My body can’t help but respond with joy to the warming temps. Physical happiness arises as I relax outside the bookstore, comfortable on a bench without my coat, absorbing the sunlight. The animals can’t either; I hear the hawks chittering their nesting talk to each other in a nearby tree.

But my mind knows it’s not right. There should be a thick blanket of white insulating the ground. The fallow season may feel harsh, but it’s been the rhythm of life for millennia. That wintry state has its own pleasures, after you’ve hauled the wood and stoked the fire.

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So my unease isn’t just north or south, past or present, but Rural or Urban.

The rhythm of ancient life is recorded deep within me. I feel out-of-sorts when I can’t heat my home with fire, nor draw my water from nearby. Without a garden, fruit trees and wildlife I feel incomplete.

There’s a lovely song for this moment, when the seeds that feed us unfurl quietly below the ground, that I love. It’s a round:

Small brown seed
Deep dark earth 
Hungry for the light of fire
Driven by a deep desire
Grow, grow. (Repeat)

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

The Unknown Artist that Everyone Loves

Despite it’s tragic ending, most of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the Disney film Bambi.

Originally released in 1942, it’s considered one of the finest examples of animation from the 20th century.

bambi_tyrus_wongYet the artist responsible for the backgrounds, the atmosphere, the ‘look and feel’ of the film is still largely unknown. Tyrus Wong, 104, died Friday Dec. 30th, yet another remarkable artist to pass on in 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, due to the lack of acclaim offered to Chinese Americans of his generation.

Wong worked as a staff artist in Hollywood beginning in the 1930s. He created storyboards and concept art for both animated and live-action films, many of which are  beautiful paintings in their own right.

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Born in China in 1910 he arrived at Angel Island at age 9 and was promptly detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Eventually he was aloud to join his father. It took until 2001 until Wong received  recognition for his remarkable work.

Fortunately for him, and us, he lived a long and creative life.

Read more about Tyrus Wong, here:

 

Barbara Kingsolver on Our Post Election World

UPDATE: I’ve excerpted the end of her article; click the links to read the entire peice.

I’m relying on the words of beloved author Barbara Kingsolver’s words about what’s happened to our country and  where we go from here.  From the Guardian 11/23/16

If we’re artists, writers, critics, publishers, directors or producers of film or television, we reckon honestly with our role in shaping the American psyche. We ask ourselves why so many people just couldn’t see a 69-year-old woman in our nation’s leading role, and why they might choose instead a hero who dispatches opponents with glib cruelty. We consider the alternatives. We join the time-honored tradition of artists resisting government oppression through our work.

If we’re journalists, we push back against every door that closes on freedom of information. We educate our public about objectivity, why it matters, and what it’s like to work under a president who aggressively threatens news outlets and reporters.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-9-49-01-amIf we’re consumers of art, literature, film, TV and news, we think about what’s true, and what we need. We reward those who are taking risks to provide it.

If we’re teachers we explicitly help children of all kinds feel safe in our classrooms under a bullying season that’s already opened in my town and probably yours. Language used by a president may enter this conversation. We say wrong is wrong.

If we’re scientists we escalate our conversation about the dangers of suppressing science education and denying climate change. We shed our cautious traditions and explain what people should know. Why southern counties are burning now and Florida’s coastal cities are flooding, unspared by any vote-count for denial.

If we’re women suffering from sexual assault or body image disorders, or if we’re their friends, partners or therapists, we acknowledge that the predatory persona of men like Trump is genuinely traumatizing. That revulsion and rage are necessary responses.

If our Facebook friends post racial or sexist slurs or celebrate assaults on our rights, we don’t just delete them. We tell them why.

If we’re getting up in the morning, we bring our whole selves to work. We talk with co-workers and clients, including Trump supporters, about our common frustrations when we lose our safety nets, see friends deported, lose our clean air and water, and all the harm to follow. We connect cause and effect. This government will blame everyone but itself.

We refuse to disappear.

We keep our commitments to fairness in front of the legislators who oppose us, lock arms with the ones who are with us, and in the words of Congressman John Lewis, prepare to get ourselves in some good trouble. Every soul willing to do that is part of our team, starting with the massive crowd that shows up in DC in January to show the new president what we stand for, and what we won’t.

There’s safety in numbers, but only if we count ourselves out loud.

 READ MORE

Reblog: What a Buck in the Marsh Taught me About Respect on the Morning After the Election

Dear readers: last night Stephen Colbert reminded me that all the beauty OF the world is still right here IN the world. In that spirit I’m re-blogging my neighbor’s beautiful post from today’s morning walk:

Earthy Blessings: What a Buck in the Marsh Taught Me about RESPECT on the Morning After the Election

I am fortunate that I have the flexibility to walk the woodlands and visit the marsh this morning. Where else would I go on such a troubling day? I went into this election, determined that no matter the outcome, I would continue to do my best to live as salt and light in a world that always needs both. As an unashamed follower of Christ, I have and continue to attempt to live in accordance with what matters to Him…treating people with love, treating the Creation with care, and recognizing my dependence on the Spirit to help me to know and name my blindness and shortcomings.
But this morning, I have to admit that that determination comes hard. I am chagrined to realize who made up the voting block that has elevated our president-elect. I am sickened with grief and foreboding for what this outcome will mean for the earth, for the Creation, its creatures and all the humans who depend upon it for life, as the party elected will not hesitate to exploit it full measure and never look back.

bringlightI was thinking these thoughts, and wondering whether I had anything at all to say in this space this morning, anything gleaned from the natural world around me, as I walked along the boardwalk, when I heard the crashing and say the dried cattails waving wildly. I had seen possible traces before of deer in the marsh, but was never quite sure. “How would they maneuver through the muck?”

But there he was….. Read the rest at Earthy Blessings

Comes the Thinning of the Veil

My mother died 24 years ago in late October, and we held her wake on All Soul’s Day, November 1.  With all preparations completed, my father, brother and I were looking at a long, sleepless night ahead. It was All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, the night when the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest.

flatsatnighta6caOn a late October night the river bears no resemblance to the brilliant, blue-green paradise of summer. Our island home was now unpopulated – summer homes closed up, their dark windows staring blindly across the river, where a chill wind shoved angry waves up the river.

So, of course, we went out in the boat. Not any boat, but a big yacht that my brother skippered. As we sailed up a river dotted with family memories, we shivered, clutching cups of instant coffee for warmth, peering into the gloom.

Her passing had left us all stunned, with a deep sense of unreality. We hadn’t even begun to understand how much strength and stability she provided to each of us. So the dark and barren world felt somehow just right: the earth was blighted without her. All growing things and all joy had gone away with her, Persephone, but never to return.

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The Veil Grows Thin

I wasn’t searching for contact with my mother on this eerie voyage. I had already spent the three days following her death in meditation, helping her soul fly free to where she was meant to be. In truth, I was afraid of her angry spirit. My mother’s judgement has proved as devastating in death as it was in life.

Today I want connection with the woman who was bold, curious and creative, and asked the big questions of life. The woman who would have a bad day and take good care of us all anyway. And the woman who has known the universe beyond the veil.

Stay if you will, Go if you must. So mote it be.

 

Art, Love & Grief – a gift from Pixar

Sometimes one piece of art stops me in my tracks with it’s inescapable beauty and truth.

Here’s one.

Pixar, the studio that brought us Toy Story, Up!, Finding Nemo and so much more, has released a new short that’s a luminous paean to memory, grief and love.

“Borrowed Time” is an animated short film, directed by Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj, and produced by Amanda Deering Jones.

The music was written & performed by Gustavo Santaolalla, composer of The Motorcycle Diaries, Biutiful, and The Last of Us and Best Original Score Academy Award winner for Brokeback Mountain and Babel.

Synopsis:
“A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on.”

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Be forewarned that the story includes a tragic loss. But please, don’t let that stop you.

Winning While Not Winning

Back in September I applied for an artist’s residency at Big Bend National Park, an opportunity to live and work for a month in one of our largest and most remote wilderness areas, right on the Mexican border (image above.)

As I worked on the application, I gained a new understanding of why I paint the way I do:

My painting is both objective and reverent observation, a deep, active appreciation of the natural world.  My aim is to inspire others to look more deeply and develop a more profound appreciation for our world.

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I wrote quite a bit about why painting on the Border would be important to me, and I’ll explore that in a later post.

I didn’t get selected for the residency. When I got the email I was mildly surprised, as if I really believed I would. In the email from the National Parks Art Foundation was a personal note that I was one of the finalists. Which felt really good.

Last year’s Artist in Residence at Big Bend was painter Dawn Waters Baker. I fell in love with her work instantly. I feel it beautifully captures what I had imagined creating at Big Bend.

Please go look at Dawn’s beautiful paintings and leave her comments if you can.

Dawn talks about ‘the emotional landscape’ –  not what is there but how we experience it, what we feel. That really comes through in her luminous paintings. They are filled with awe and a deep respect for the space. And she called the final show Reverence.

I’ve never been one who takes rejection particularly well. But this was a whole other experience. I got to know myself better by applying. I looked forward to bigger, more spacious paintings and the magic of a desert landscape. I enjoyed dreaming about how I would fulfill the residency requirements. And then I fell in love with Dawn’s paintings.

I feel complete, or pau as my Hawaiian healer friend Carol Burbank would say. It’s all good.