Saturday, April 28, 2012

Man with Cat Jumping 1987

I am the proverbial, "I'm a dog person" person, which usually means simultaneously, "I don't really like cats".  That being said, we were the owners of Sneakers for 17 years.  We had owned her mother, Sonja Gechtoff,  who my husband, Bob had saved from the Emergency Animal Clinic where he worked as a vet tech.  She had come in with a broken leg and since no one wanted to pay to have it fixed, he set the leg and brought her home.She settled in fine, then managed to get pregnant and have kittens with a full leg cast on.  Just after she weaned her babies, she was shot in the field adjacent to our house and died not long after. We kept one kitten, and that was Sneakers.

There was something that Sneakers did that always unsettled me.  You would be holding her in your arms, petting her, most probably chatting with her about something of interest to both of you.  She would seem completely content--purring even. Then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, she would spring out of your arms, pushing off with her claws and scratching you as she bailed, causing you to start with fear. There was a kind of pushing away, a "get me the hell out of here!", feeling to her abrupt departure.  Then she would take off and be gone, clearly with some urgent need to be anywhere else but in your arms.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Woman Listening to Herself 1990

I've been part of a bicycle class for about seven months .  We've learned bike skills, safety, how to ride efficiently, and gotten in shape riding long distances up and then down  steep hills and mountains.  I'm known as the woman in the group who talks a lot.  The other women like to ride with me(I think) because I talk and distract them from thediscomfort of riding.  I seem to really need to talk, especially if I can help figure out people's complex psychological issues in the process.  However, when I'm working in the studio, I work completely alone.  I can't move forward if I'm talking or distracted by another person's presence.  It's not their fault of course, it's that I can't hear myself when anyone else is around.

Listening isn't easy.  I have to trick myself by starting something with my hands. It almost doesn't matter what, just so that I move out of my head and into the experience of making or changing something physically. Moving paint around has always opened the door for me, even if it's sometimes a struggle  to turn the knob.  The voice I need to hear is very quiet.  Often it's not even a voice, but merely an impression, usually fleeting.  It means that I have to try and quiet the normal din of voices in my head, but if I am listening for that wise, smart voice, it's like a hound casting for a scent, then finding and following it.  When I find that scent, or follow where my voice leads me, it's very intense and one of the best things about my life.  It's clear and purposeful, and gives me great joy, especially when I end up with an image I 'm pleased with.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two Boys on a Bridge 2011

At my local favorite thrift store one Sunday afternoon I discovered 20,  8 1/2" x 11", 50 count, unopened boxes of ink jet transparencies.  The IJTs are clear acetate sheets with a thin coating of some chemical which allows them to go through an ink jet printer without rubbing off.  Once in my studio, I began to experiment, printing out different photographs on the IJT, then figuring out ways to adhere them onto my painted surfaces.  I loved the way the images floated on whatever I put them on, revealing what was underneath--unlike anything I had ever seen.  I began using using the IJT exclusively, and decided to buy an Epson 3880 so that I could make larger prints(the Epson 3880 is a huge desktop printer that takes up lots of room and isn't cheap).  I also invested in more boxes and several rolls of larger IJT paper, in all different sizes.  There were lots of finicky problems that developed in working with the IJT,  and I realized I was clenching my jaw so hard that one morning I woke up and found I was having difficulty opening my mouth. However, not really a problem--money, health, whatever-what do they matter when you're an artist and you've discovered something new?

The first part of Boys on a Bridge was done in 2005, when I was making the transition from photos with paint on top to the reverse.  It was about two boys playing/struggling on a bridge, one just about ready to go off.  Although I was pleased with the painting, it was a transition piece, and sat in my studio for six years before I decided to try laying the IJT images over the boys and the bridge, in this case a photo of an old, soft doll along with one of trees full of black birds. The image became about a bad event where the birds exist as bad omens of what was about to happen, and the doll is a witness who has shared some similar, terrible fate.  Once the piece was finished, I had it up in my studio for about six months, but decided that because of technical problems the painting had to go and I took it apart.  It no longer exists.  I'm still working with the IJT, but without quite the same fervor and excitement.  It's better for my jaw this way.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Working spring 2012

working outside
Inside trying to form an image

paint peels
panels ready to go

first version over adhered photo and pattern paper
second version with paint and changes
Six years ago I traded a painting with a contractor friend.  The trade was a painting of mine(of his choice) for a beautiful porch over the back of my studio.  I didn't realize it at the time, but this outdoor studio has allowed me to go absolutely wild with my paint:  dripping, pouring, throwing, smooshing, whatever enters my four year old brain that has to do with putting paint on a surface.  No matter how free I thought I was when I painted inside, it's nothing compared to what I do now, and because of this freedom, I paint almost exclusively outside.  When I've finished painting, I move inside, where I take my photographs and any other material I have at hand (paint peels for example)and start to try and form an image.  I follow the leads of the painted panels and the story of the photographs, whatever that may be, trying hard to listen for the subtle suggestions percolating up from my unconscious. 

In the bottom two images, I started with a large panel which had a photo on it of a good friend and his daughter which I had prepared over six years ago. It had lain idle all those years, waiting to be called out.  Two months ago, I covered the photograph with pattern paper and started this image of the horse on top of the panel.  I liked the horse, but the panel wasn't really working with the image.  I removed the horse (only temporarily adhered at this point) and repainted the panel.  This time, when I dropped the horse and birds back on it looked right.  I made some minor changes, knowing I would come back in and tweak it before I glued it down.  It's now sitting on a shelf, waiting to be glued, with some slight additions made before it's ready for a final varnish coat.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Florida Morning 1975

When I was somewhere around the age of nine my mother and my brother and I took a trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Pensacola, Florida by Greyhound bus.  My mother's brother and his family lived in Pensacola and we planned on staying with them for a significant amount of time. The bus ride was long and I remember getting trapped in the tiny bathroom on the bus.  Unable to figure out how to unlock the door, I panicked, sure I would be stuck on that bus forever.  Later on in the trip, I woke up in my seat to find myself sitting with a strange man, my mother and brother several seats behind us.  The man was kind, and offered to share his food, but I was paralyzed by shyness and couldn't look him in the face. Once in Florida, I fought constantly with my cousins and my brother.  At the end of the stay, my mother bought a new Renault which we drove back to Santa Fe.  Within a year our unpaved rural roads caused the car to fall apart.  My parents were going through a divorce at the time and I imagine that put a darkness around everything.

After I graduated from college, I got a job working at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography, where I was the curator of prints for four years.  One of the perks of the job was that we were able to do prints with the new printer-fellows--kind of taking them out for a test drive before they were turned loose on the artists.  I was thrilled to be able to work with a printer, and decided to use a cotton boll I 'd brought back from Florida as the subject matter, drawing directly from it onto the lithographic stone.  I don't think I thought about the sexual nature of the image until after it was done, but it was certainly there.  But more than that, the print had a dark, brooding, quality that captured my memories of that Florida trip and spoke directly to the lonely little girl that I was at the time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Leaving the Cemetery 1986

As a child growing up in Santa Fe, my favorite museum was the Folk Art Museum .  At the Museum there is a permanent display(given by Alexander Girard) that came about in my later childhood, and I loved visiting it.  In one corner, there is a painting of a scene in a cemetery done by a Haitian Folk Artist.  I found the painting mysterious and beautiful, and I've continued to visit it over the years. Later, in my twenties, I visited Haiti with friends and found it to be a very harsh and frightening place. There was a dark foreboding about the country and it's people which made perfect sense to me after knowing the cemetery painting so well.

In 1986 I suffered a miscarriage.  It was my first pregnancy and I had put off getting pregnant until I realized that if I waited much longer my body would just be too old, so I took the plunge.  I was very nervous about having children, especially babies, with their clingy natures and their mysterious needs.  In spite of my fears,  I had a sense that it was something I needed to do, even if it was just because I was so afraid of those tiny, powerful, little beings with the creepy soft spot on top of their heads.  After the miscarriage I was almost relieved, off the hook--I didn't have to go forward with this dangerous  project that I couldn't back out of.  However, a bigger part of me grieved, and I found myself doing a painting about that small soul leaving, blasting off to the stars with the other babies who, like him, hadn't been able to stay around.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bookmobile 2008

I'm in the process of starting a new body of work.  It's scary.  I don't know what I'm doing, and on a daily basis I slide between elation and despair.  Once or twice a week I have to admit that I'm really lost, and that I don't know where I'm going or how I'm ever going to get anywhere.  I fiddle around with things that take my interest, but don't really help me get anywhere, like buying 24 packages of  paper at Walmart on sale for 25 cents a package, then experimenting to see how the paper glues and prints.  Terrifically exciting, I know, but I will probably just end up with lots of packages of blank paper taking up even more room in my very crowded studio.

When I look at Bookmobile I marvel at how it came about.  I did it while teaching a workshop at Anderson Ranch in 2008 and everything in it I did as a demo or as an experiment to try something new.  I didn't agonize over it, or fret, or avoid getting going, I just did it, with a circle of students watching as I demonstrated different things.  I love looking at it now, almost four years later, with the figure made of bones and writing on the arms that says "Mine to Take" on one arm and "Bittersweet pills" (not planned) on the other.  The truck itself is made from an old fifties illustration of books-perfect for a bookmobile. I wonder to myself, "Did some other person do this little painting?  Someone who knew exactly what she was doing, and without much fuss, just did it?"  Whoever she is, I sure wish she would show up and give me a hand.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fox with Hummingbird 2011

"As a rule, Robert's mixed media photographs are immediately identifiable.  They usually depict hybrid spirits--part human, demon, and animal--all of them reeking with existential angst.  That said, there's one work in the show that doesn't shout her name.  In the piece Fox with Hummingbird there aren't any of the typical Roberts pictoral distortions and the underlying ecological pathos of Fox with Hummingbird is maybe the stronger for it." *

So what do I make of this,  "reeking of existential angst?" When I first read this review, I felt the way I would if a  friend told me how much better I looked now that I had lost all that weight, or that they didn't really care what everyone said about me, they still liked me--that backhanded compliment that always comes as such a surprise as we try to figure out what the heck is really being said.  And since I didn't  really understand  what existential angst was, I looked  it up and here is what gave me: "Existential angst is the name given to the awareness (through lived experience) of one’s existential condition. One who experiences existential angst comes face to face with the existential limits of their existence. For example, through the experience of eg. uncertainty, meaninglessness or endings or death, the resultant anxiety reflects their aloneness in making sense of their existence."  Little did I know....

*Diane Armitage, THE magazine, April 2012 in a review for Under 35, Zane Bennett Gallery,March 2012