The Sketchbook Project

In my first spread for the Sketchbook Project, one of my "better angels" is launching a paper boat through waters that I anticipate will remain anything but calm.

For the first time I am participating in The Sketchbook Project,  an annual project wherein thousands of people from across the world make a sketchbook to be included in a traveling exhibit of artist books, coordinated by the Brooklyn Art Library, a branch of the Art House Co-op based in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Participants pay a fee to the library for inclusion and are then mailed a small sketchbook to use during the year prior to the project’s ending date which this year is January 15, 2013.  An additional fee allows participants to have their books digitized and included in an on-line display. Sketchbooks are the main attraction for this project, but all kinds of handmade books are welcome as long as they conform to a few basic guidelines.

 

I am planning to use this book as a way to loosen up a bit with my drawing.  I anticipate that it will be a place where I will work more personally and spontaneously than I usually do, and yet in a way that is refined enough for me to feel comfortable with its public display.  I plan to doodle, ramble and play, and to explore themes that  I am working on in my daily art making process but that are not worked out yet. In my first spread I drew over a newspaper article that I glued down.  The article is about the new healthcare law that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court yet still condemned by my state’s governor. I’m interested in making relationships and connections between personal experiences and the bigger world of politics and culture as seen through the media, particularly my daily newspaper, and especially during this year’s presidential campaign.

Better angels, a deer, and a boat

One evening I went on a walk with my family around our neighborhood. Storms were in the area, and the weather was overcast and very still. Suddenly out of nowhere a deer came running down the street. She was out of place and confused and was heading for a busy intersection. Neighbors grouped together and watched, but no one knew what to do. The deer was like a symbol (or an omen) for our world out of whack.

Lately I’ve been investigating ideas towards a theme for a show at Marty Olson’s “Do’s Deluxe” in Lawrence, in November. The process is like making a collage; images and ideas come from almost everywhere as I respond to experiences, memories, and the world around me.

 

At the core of this exploration, though, is the feeling that I along with many others are standing on a precipice – or facing an impending storm. The storm is literal (wildfires, massive thunderstorms, and blinding heat) and a metaphor too — how the rage of intolerance, war, corporate power, anti-science extremism and climate change threaten our neighborhoods, environment, civil rights, voting rights, human rights.

 

"Better Angels," 5" x 5", Ambersand Scratchbord

But the change that is in the air is also seasonal and sensual and filled with preparation. While we teeter on a precipice in a worrisome sort of waiting game with many people not responding quickly enough, some people are feeling the weight and see the risks and the hard times ahead. Some will roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done even though it will be hard to turn things around. They’ll try.

 

People know what to do with a storm. Memories of my mom and dad canning peaches in the heat of summer for the winter ahead come to mind. I think of the transition to fall’s bitter-sweetness and time passing, when wood is stacked in preparation for the looming winter. But more than that, people come together in the storms of winter and through their collective work and actions actually become the spring.

 

The seasons are like history repeating itself with a comforting regularity. I can hope for a more reasonable day because more reasonable days have come. Public schools, social services, healthcare and the arts have enjoyed broad public support, even in Kansas.  And a conservative supreme court (however cynically) can surprise us by upholding the healthcare law.  Maybe it is too much to hope.  But isn’t that a good role for an artist?

 

"Boat," 6" x 8", mixed-media collage

Foreboding and illumination. Churning and solace. Despair and reverie. Images as they develop in my mind and find their way into my sketchbooks, drawings, mosaics, and collages, are about storms real and political.  But more than that they are about the feeling that comes before the storm; the stillness, the headwind, the first clinks of hail. This work is about seeking the “better angels of our nature” and finding the comforting reverberations of possibility.

 

 

New Mosaics at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, KS

Here are two new mosaics that I made, that will be on display and are for sale at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, Kansas, from early November through December, 2011.

 

Each Mosaic, Winter Tree and From the Dark, includes many hours of work. I first created the basic concept and design for each, and then shaped the ceramic pieces to fit where I wanted them to go. The images change as I proceed, and I design each piece anew as each element is placed and new relationships are formed. I find the process to be a bit like putting together a puzzle that evolves as the creative process unfolds.

 

I made both mosaics from ceramic dishes that I found over time, mostly from thrift stores. Sometimes friends give me the remains of beloved dishes that were dropped or met some other dark fate, and I incorporate these, too. I stockpile dishes of particular colors that inspire me or that I know I’ll need eventually, especially black and white.

 

Each piece was inspired in part by the impending winter.  I wanted to create a stark winter beauty in the piece Winter Tree.  I have been thinking about the arch that appears in this piece for a long time.  It is a personal symbol for everything that is here within, a bit like a rainbow but matter of fact and without the emotion.  The other mosaic, From the Dark, is about illumination — the light that carries one through the dark — a dark winter or a dark time. The carrier of the light in this piece for me connotes fragility, yet the medium renders these papers boats rather solid.  The boats were interesting shapes for me to work with.

 

The Strecker-Nelson Gallery is located at 406 1/2 Poyntz Avenue, Manahattan, KS.  Hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm. Phone the gallery at 785-537-2099.