A Different Line – Dots and Dashes
A point in geometry is a location. It has no size i.e. no width, no length and no depth.
A line is defined as a line of points that extends infinitely in two directions. It has one dimension, length.
I am driving to a 2-week artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont https://vermonter.com/nek/ where a 2008 report rated 74% of the roads in poor or very poor condition. And 408 bridges need repairs of some kind.
I am going to VSC for an ‘artist spa retreat.” There will be yoga classes, healthy meals, gym and pool close by and no requirement to produce a work of art.
Nothing is a straight line when you are driving to Vermont from Maryland – everything meanders: roads, ski trails, cow paths, Green Mountain Range, and rivers.
All serve to create a circuitous route – no matter which direction you are heading. I have planned a 2 day drive to allow for detours. It will be easier on the body as well as what I euphemistically call the Granny car.
‘Bert and I’ records were first released in 1958. Most Mainers of a certain age can tell this story by heart when folks are asking for directions:
Detour 1: Collar City
My goal was to be in my pajamas at the Airbnb by dark . However, I missed my exit. So I just keep following Siri’s directions. Like many others have discovered, she isn’t always up to the task.
As the sun was setting, I was still wending and winding my way across the City of Troy. Due to the confluence of major waterways and a geography that supported water power, the American industrial revolution took hold in this area. Troy was known as the “Collar City” due to its history in shirt, collar, and other textile production.
I drive past churches of all denominations that line both sides of the street – all with Tiffany stained glass windows and steeples that tower above each community I pass through. I was looking for the Woodside Presbyterian Church.
Henry Burden (April 22, 1791 – January 19, 1871) was an engineer and businessman who built an industrial complex called the Burden Iron Works. He designed the “Horseshoe Machine” that could produce 60 shoes a minute and became the chief horseshoe producer for the Union Army.
In 1869, Burden built the Woodside Presbyterian Church as a memorial to his wife. She had expressed concern for the iron workers and their families who had to walk miles in inclement weather to churches in downtown Troy and wished for a church closer to the Iron Works.
Its location may have been advantageous to the workers but finding it before sunset was proving to be elusive.
A few years ago, the church was scheduled for demolition but members of the Contemporary Artist Center purchased it in 2007. For several years it operated as an arts center and artist residency. http://www.cactroy.org/history.php
They now offer rooms through Airbnb to raise funds for upkeep and to continue renovations. It seemed like a perfect fit for me. After all, I had been an artist in residence in a Benedictine monastery and live in an 1884 firehouse. https://www.stgertrudes.org/
Well after sunset, the granny car and I take a sharp left hand turn, climb the steep hill to the parking lot and began the arduous process of dragging in luggage and groceries while walking precariously on ice. ( YUP still winter in Upstate New York.)
I entered the code and the door opens into a large kitchen, dining room and studio area. CAVERNOUS is the only word to describe the edifice. There are 2 stone structures. One is currently occupied by a composer/musician and I will be ensconced in one of the 3 Airbnb rooms in the church itself.
The church brochure notes that early inhabitants of Troy expressed their passion for architecture by using the following materials in their buildings:
- Iron: cast and structural iron works (facades, gates, railings, banisters, stairwells, rooftop crenellation, window grilles, etc.)
- Stone: carved hard and soft stone foundations, facades and decorative elements
- Glass: a vast array of ornate stained and etched glass works
- Wood: fine wood work.
The Woodside Presbyterian Church reflects all of them.
My host Shea (also an artist) provided a tour of the studio workspace (formerly the worship area), a small library (originally the choir loft) and my well heated room. The bed was constructed from pews – and I fell asleep to the sounds of running water in a nearby creek and awakened to light streaming through stained glass windows.
I take a mini-walking tour to the local Farmer’s Market (well attended though temps hovering mid 20’s) and enter the Daily Grind café – a breakfast place whose walls are covered with artwork. https://www.dailygrind.com/
Troy’s empty mills, factories and churches now provide large artist studio spaces that overlook the Hudson River. Both work space and living spaces such as the Hudson Arthaus Shelter for the Body, Art for the Soul. https://hudsonarthaus.com/ breathe new life into moribund communities.
Troy is also home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute https://www.rpi.edu/ whose graduates establish cooperative work spaces, eat at farm to table restaurants and are involved in the evolving mushroom technology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACoA6vUD-h8
And of course, drink lots of coffee.
Detour 2: Art and Soul of Vermont
Leap Year provides a gift of an additional day. I can think of no better way to spend it than with a longtime friend.
I find myself taking a detour to Brandon, Vermont – known as the ‘art and soul’ of Vermont. Brandon is just a 2-hour drive from VSC as well as the home of B. Amore – my mentor and friend for more than 30 years.
The exit names seem familiar as does the scenery. It is the same route I followed to Rutland, Vermont 33 years ago where I learned to carve stone.
B. founded the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center https://carvingstudio.org/ that helped to spark the revitalization of Rutland and stone carving. She recently published an article on ‘Sculpture Walks in Barre and Rutland, VT.’
The last time we saw each other was at the Maine Jewish Museum when she reviewed my Welcoming the Stranger show for Sculpture Magazine.
B. is never at a loss for ideas or projects. We will celebrate the publication of her most recent book – Journeys on the Wheel: Poems by B Amore and the completion of several public art projects and initiation of others in New York and Boston.
Best of all, we will have time to tour her new studio and talk about the roads we had traveled since last we met. We would have the time to enjoy each other’s company.
And of course, mangia bene.
A Different Line: Dots
dots“; (2) a thoughtful or troubled pause, as in “I … I just can’t help myself”; and (3) a trailing off thought…
The Vermont Studio Center was founded by artists in 1984. Our location—situated along the banks of the Gihon River in the historic village of Johnson, Vermont—was chosen with the intention of fostering creativity through community, collaboration, and quiet reflection supported by the unspoiled beauty of the northern Green Mountains.
Sunday: High 25; Low 5
Tours, reception, dinner
Over the last 30 years, VSC has grown to become the largest international artists’ and writers’ residency program in the United States. Our mission is to provide studio residencies in an inclusive, international community, honoring creative work as the communication of spirit through form.
Upon arrival, we receive a packet of forms, general information, and tour the campus.
Each building has a specific designation.
There is an ever present sound of the river as we walk. Most of the snow is gone BUT locals call the respite ‘fake spring..”
Keys are then distributed – it has the solemnity of being awarded a key to a city. In some ways it is. Our key opens every studio.
Once settled into our rooms, we gather in the dining room.
I join 56 artists – both writers and visual artists They come from as far away as Germany, Pakistan, Argentina, Ireland, Egypt, Korea and Canada. Their ages range from mid-twenties to 70 +. All come to have uninterrupted, concentrated studio time to work at their craft.
Tink – Tink -Tink. That is the sound of someone tapping on an empty glass to signal quiet. This is the first of many protocols that have developed over time.
Unlike my residency at St. Gertrude’s Monastery where we ate in silence, the dining room is strictly reserved for connections and conversations. It is a designated ‘no cell zone.‘ Everyone rapidly stashes their phones and conversations resume.
If the decibel level of the room is any indication that communication is taking place, we are adhering to the letter of the law. Our conversations even drown out the sound of the river flowing beneath us.
A friend always says Peaks Island, Maine (where I spend summers) is the belly button of the universe. I sat at dinner with a printmaker from Massachusetts – Julia Talcott. https://juliatalcott.com/
She is a friend of Scott and Nancy Nash of the Illustrator Institute. https://www.illustrationinstitute.org/
Vermont Studio Center says there are no expectations for the residency – no required proposals, products, presentations. When asked by fellow artists why I came – my response is consistent: – to care for my corporal and spiritual self:
Really good food 3x a day that I didn’t have to prepare
Exercise (yoga, gym, pool at local college, hiking trails)
I jokingly add I might apply for asylum in Canada.
As part of taking care of my creative self, I would be going dark for 2 weeks.:
no news, no internet, no phone
I would listen to podcasts, read and sit in silence until I had an idea for an artwork or until the end of the residency.
No Place Like Home
I am assigned to the Wolf Kahn Studios for painters. I am somewhat perplexed as to how I ended up with painters and not sculptors but I assume there must be a cosmic reason.
Like all of the VSC buildings, Kahn Studios had a former purpose before being purchased and renovated.
In 1925 a group of citizens agitated for the construction of a community gym, and after a local volunteer construction effort, completed the project in spring, 1929.
It was built to serve as a community center for public gatherings, dancing, basketball and candlepin bowling lanes in the basement kept citizens recreating during the long winter months. The town sold it to VSC in 1996.
It is named for a well-known artist with ties to Vermont. Jonathan Gregg, one of the VSC founders, studied with him. Kahn belongs to the discipline of color field painting —-
Kahn is 93 years old and still making art.http://www.wolfkahn.com/artworks
The jamb on the doorway into my space is lined with the nametags and signatures of artists that preceded me.
It is sparsely furnished:
2 work surfaces
4 saw horses
A rickety chair and stool
Swapping of chairs is allowed but no outright theft.
What came before
There are remnants left by previous artists:
A Kleenex box attached to the ceiling (about 24 feet up) and
raised braille-like splotches on the floor.
I came with no clear project or plans. I am not afraid of the white walls or empty space.
I establish a ‘no boots’ policy in my studio. I supply a chair in which to sit to encourage their removal. The chair also affords a view of the river.
There is a well-known Van Gogh image of boots. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0011V1962?v=1 The philosopher Heidegger used the Van Gogh image to support his treatise: The Origin of Art. I want to understand his premise but found it impossible to interpret. I viewed a U-tube class, listened to a podcast, watched a Khan Academy lecture but to no avail. But I still love the boots.
If you grow up in New England, you know that the first topic of any conversation is always the weather. Often before a greeting or asking how you are or how did you sleep, the inquisition starts. “What’s the forecast.’
The response determines what you wear and how much effort it will take to get through the day.
High or low boots?
Hat, gloves, scarf – none, all or some?
Do I need a shovel?
I listen to a podcast about the book – Weather Machine: A journey inside the forecast https://www.npr.org/2019/06/30/736822395/how-the-advance-weather-forecast-got-good
In The Weather Machine, Andrew Blum takes readers on a fascinating journey through an everyday miracle. In a quest to understand how the forecast works, he visits old weather stations and watches new satellites blast off. He follows the dogged efforts of scientists to create a supercomputer model of the atmosphere and traces the surprising history of the algorithms that power their work. He discovers that we have quietly entered a golden age of meteorology—our tools allow us to predict weather more accurately than ever, and yet we haven’t learned to trust them, nor can we guarantee the fragile international alliances that allow our modern weather machine to exist. Goodreads
Predictions travel faster than the clouds.
But in New England, you just look out the window.
A Different Line – Dashes
dashes indicate a sudden shift in thought or a break
Day 1: 15 degrees low; 36 high
Sleet, rain, SNOW (no expected accumulation)
TO DO: Re – arrange furniture
My windows face northeast. I have a view of the river and the Red Mill Gallery. A flock of pigeons gather on the roof. When disturbed, they fly off in unison, perform an aerial ballet and return to stasis, roosting once again on the peak of the roof. The performances are repeated throughout the day.
I walked the hill to Northern Vermont University to check out the gym and pool. However, the walk was enough of a workout that it would suffice as my cardio for the duration of the residency.
Attempting to adhere to my original idea of a VSC spa residency, I attend yoga class. The instructors are certified yoga teachers that work multiple jobs. Like many in Johnson, they depend on the VSC to provide opportunities to practice their craft. Capitulating to the ever increasing limits placed on my body through accidents and aging, I spoke with the instructor and was assured of the gentleness of the class.
However, the serenity of the space was broken by frequent ‘snow thunder’: the sound of snow sliding off the metal roof and crashing to the ground.
Day 2: Temperature at Sunrise 37; High 55
Fog lifting to sun
TO DO: Inventory materials
Create paper wall
Draw lines – dots and dashes
I spread out my materials and take an inventory.
oil bars, gamsol
6’ long piece of roofing rubber
6’ piece of canvas
Rope of various lengths
Sewing thread, needles
Wood carving supplies
Upholstery pins, needles
Letters and numbers stencils – 2 sizes in an oatmeal box
Tools – sewing machine, iron, staple gun/staples, plumb line, hammer,
Shards of sand paper
Assorted pens, pencils, markers, chalk, charcoal, erasers
Tape – duct, blue masking
Lined writing paper
Scissors – large, small
Book making tools and supplies
As I sort – arranging and re-arranging – I listen to a variety of podcasts whose topics include creativity, developing imagination, meditation and self-care.
Protocol #4: Leave No Trace; Take only memories
At the end of the residency, I will need to return the space to the way I found it – white walls, clean floors. This usually means at least a day of painting. Huge rolls of rosin paper are provided to the painters to cover their studio floor.
I decide to create a wall of paper using duct tape, rosin paper, and push pins. When completed, I begin to draw parallel lines across the ‘wall’ using a chalk line and level. It is reminiscent of children’s writing paper.
I have no idea what to do next. So I listen to another TED Radio Hour podcast
February 28: Jumpstarting Creativity –
One of the solutions to jumpstart creativity is to take a walk. So I do.
Day 3: 20 low; 37 high
Sunny to cloudy
Intermittent snow ish’
TO DO: Sew canvas
VSC is unique among residency programs in the diversity of voices and visions that come together here each month from across the country and around the world. We ask that every artist- and writer-in-residence honor and celebrate that richness by embracing a shared spirit of respect, harmony, support, and non-competition throughout your stay. https://vermontstudiocenter.org/
If creativity is measured by the number of boxes you receive from Amazon, I am definitely not even in the running.
Almost hourly, the delivery trucks unload boxes of all sizes and shapes filled with canvas, paper, paints, stretchers, charcoal. Between deliveries, we visit studios and remark on their size or shape or light. We share our origins and a little about our work. I notice once again that I am the only non-painter in Kahn.
However, I do have 2 pieces of raw canvas to do something with and decide to sew them together.
‘Straighten the grain’ is the mantra of home economic teachers and quilters everywhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF60qVY83j4 I tear off a strip from each side of the pieces of canvas to insure the grain is straight. I retain all scraps and toss them onto the trash pile. My machine is 100 years old and only sews forward. I sew and sew. And sew.
Protocol #5: Privacy/Sharing
Music is often integral to making art. Yet, there is a noticeable absence of music or noise in general. To avoid conflict, head phones are de rigueur. The same rule applies to podcasts, news, television. Closed doors indicate the artist is at work so knock at your own risk.
Tonight is the first of a series of weekly “Presentations “- ‘’volunteers’ are allotted 7 minutes to share their work.
First to present are the poets. Followed by essayists, authors. It is a poetry slam without the slamming – at the end of each 7 minute reading, I expect snapping –
In a culture ruled by the instant feedback loop of retweets, likes and hearts, the snap (and by “snap” we mean the old-fashioned act of brushing the thumb and middle finger against one another in an effort to make a popping sound) is more often being used as a quiet signal of agreement or appreciation in conferences, university auditoriums, poetry slams and even at dinner tables.
Protocol #6: Snapping seems NOT to be a VSC protocol.
The Visual Artists share next. As each image is projected, I am astonished by the caliber of the work, diversity of the imagery, underlying concepts, and highly developed craft.
It is hard not to feel competitive. Comparing one’s work to another’s is a fool’s errand. Mostly I feel honored to be in their company.
Day 4: 27 degrees ; High 40
Sunny, intermittent clouds
Very , very, windy
Sound of rushing river increasing as the snow melts
TO DO: Sand upholstery pins
As I continue to draw more lines on the wall, I listen to another podcast entitled the Source of Creativity. https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/351538855/the-source-of-creativity
After decades of acclaim, the musician Sting could no longer create music. For 8 years he suffered from writer’s block. He defines creativity as the ability to take a risk. If you are compelled to put an idea out there, then you must take the risk. You must put yourself on the line.
I am still unsure what I will ‘put on the line’ or the lines on the wall.
I re-arrange my supplies again and notice that the upholstery pins are rusted. I sand them. Then I experiment with a variety of techniques to wrap clothespins. “Pegs” have a long and history in many cultures. So I conduct research https://medium.economist.com/the-curious-history-of-the-clothespeg-3f8615519c61
I end up using waxed linen thread from the book making supplies.
Day 5: Low 26; High 45
Sky clear blue – no clouds
TO DO: Stencil roofing rubber
The ice has re-frozen overnight and makes walking treacherous. I overheard a discussion of “yakstrax” –. These devices are a kind of personal traction system that attach to boots or shoes. I do not have any.
I gingerly make my way across the frozen parking lot. As we stood in line for breakfast, I commented to a woman holding a ski pole how prescient she was.
Unknown to me, my brief exchange was with Louise Von Weise, one of the founders of the Vermont Studio Center and driving force behind its continuing mission.
She takes her dog on a daily walk and wondered if I wanted to go on a field trip. The emphasis on the ‘field’ part. It could be icy and being ‘yakless,’ I would need hiking poles – extras are available in her ‘mudroom.’
Most mudrooms are filled with the detritus of outdoor gear: boots, coats, hats, wet mittens, dog leashes and of course, mud.
Louise’s mudroom is a misnomer. I would label it an “Alcove Museum”- floor to ceiling shelves overflowing with artwork, unusual ephemera and mementos of a life time as an artist, arts supporter and visionary. And, of course, walking poles.
We drive to Eden (yes, that is really its name), park along a dirt road and follow the dogs along a path created by snowmobiles. It was a glorious Vermont day – replete with crystal blue skies, views of mountains and the crunch of boots on the snow. And the quintessential covered bridge (in need of repair.)
It was a perfect time to practice being in the moment.
Everything is connected
When I return to my studio, I open the oatmeal can filled with stencils – numbers and letters and dump them out on the roofing rubber. I set the letters aside. I return the numbers to the oatmeal box, shake them and cast them onto the roofing rubber – like runes. https://www.yourtango.com/2018316703/how-to-read-cast-interpret-rune-casting-astrology-zodiac-horoscope
Using a sponge dipped in the gesso, I fill in each stencil. To create a more random pattern, I recast them again and again – filling the space with layers of numbers. Since the paint can is open, I decide to gesso the canvas.
Day 6: Low 16 to a High 31
Snow melt continues and mud season has arrived today.
Road grit and dust prevails.
TO DO: Attend community workshop
The Town of Johnson, population 3446 (as of 2019 census) is a stone’s throw away from Canada and boasts:
Library (where you can check out snow shoes; cool kids’ reading nook)
Chinese Restaurant and Downtown Bar and Pizza
Ebenezer’s Book Shop (amazing)
Johnson Woolen Mills outlet
Butternut Mountain Farm Store (supplies to make syrup)
Art Supplies Store (well stocked and helpful sales people)
Laundromat (open 24 hours)
Grocery store (attached to the liquor store or vice versa)
Sewing machine repair (I had mine serviced before I left)
2 barbers; 3 salons; Massage
2 Covered bridges ( 1 repaired; 1 waiting)
Johnson Elementary school
Johnson suffers from the ills of most small towns – lack of economic opportunity, affordable housing and youth programs. However, it is a community that seeks solutions. A coffee shop will open soon as part of a rehab program designed to provide job training to those in recovery.
Protocol #7: Connect to the Community
A Community Pizza Oven is located at the town playground.
It is a visual metaphor of the mission statement of the Town of Johnson:
The people of Johnson embrace inclusiveness and together we will build bridges to understanding, ensuring that all who live, work and visit our town feel welcome and safe. We reject racism, bigotry, discrimination, violence and hatred in all its forms. The things we embrace are kindness, gentleness, understanding, neighborliness, peace, tolerance and respect for and toward all. Together we can have a cooperative, sustainable and thriving community where everyone is honored and valued.
To support their mission, a workshop on Implicit Bias (facilitated by the Vermont Human Rights Commission) will be held in the elementary school gymnasium. https://hrc.vermont.gov/news/12220-implicit-bias-training-discussion-montpelier
Sitting with residents of Johnson and participating in workshop exercises, I realize how fortunate I am to be part of their mission – even if only for a short while.
I spent the Leap Year day visiting with a friend but tonight is a full moon and the start of Daylight Savings Time guaranteeing I will be sleep deprived tomorrow..
Day 7: 16 low; 47 degrees
Mud and mud
TO DO: Prepare presentation
What if I slept all day
Waited until everyone headed to breakfast to roll over and avoid thinking
What if I didn’t make the bed
What if I stopped being brave
Or didn’t shower for a week
Didn’t eat right or do my exercises or take my vitamins
What if I stopped expecting so much of myself
What if I slept all day
On the 7th Day (s)he rested…
Actually, no one ever rests at art residencies. It is hard to take a day off. No one wants to squander the gift of time – and losing an hour through daylight savings seems particularly unfair.
I sort through my materials again. I decide to grommet the edges of the sewn canvas while I listen to podcasts on Meditation.
I write another blog entry.
I prepare for my presentation.
Before enlightenment you
Chop wood. Carry water.
After enlightenment you
Chop wood. Carry water.
I do laundry.
A Different Life
Day 8: Low 37; high 55
Snow continues to melt
River grows louder
To Do: Taking stock
With 5 days remaining at the residency, I begin to think that maybe the seemingly disparate objects I have been creating could be components of an installation.
Some artists embrace those moments of uncertainty before an idea is fully realized. Others – like myself – avoid the start as long as possible until the whisper of an idea gets so loud that you have no choice but to take the risk.
Wars produce the missing: soldiers as well as civilians. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. Occasionally, remains of soldiers who died during WW2 or the Korean War are found and they finally “come home.”
We are familiar with the faces of missing children on milk boxes. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York, we saw posters of the missing pasted on walls and attached to fences. We see MIA flags flying since Vietnam.
On February 28th, I listened to a TED podcast on ‘Jumpstarting Creativity’ as I headed to VSC. On that same day, the last news story I heard before going dark was a report on the annual search for the missing by mothers in Mexico.
Mexico’s Statistic of Horror:
There are more than 3600 mass grave sites and an estimated 61,000 ‘missing’ as a result of the government war on drugs that began 10 years ago. It is now an annual event in Mexico for families of the missing to search mass unmarked graves. Their only technology are feet, pick axes and shovels. https://www.npr.org/2020/02/28/810287984/mexican-families-join-annual-search-for-loved-ones-among-mass-graves
To the searchers, it doesn’t matter why the ‘disappeared’ went missing – only that they deserve to be found.
In 1983 peace activists Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert performed a song about the missing women of Chile during the Pinochet junta. Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SxKkVVtpLY
Women. Men. Children. Missing. Everywhere.
Day 9: Low 37; high 62
Snow continues to melt
River grows louder
TO DO: Cut Tags
Looking – artists are always looking – at objects, at spaces, at people – to find that illusive next piece. We search both the outer world as well as the inner for ideas. We visit museums and artist studios. I visit the Schultz Sculpture space and notice several artists working with grid imagery.
” For centuries, artists used the grid mainly as a tool to achieve proportional accuracy. But only in the 20th century did the grid itself become the subject of artistic study and inquiry.
The grid is especially salient for painters. As a network of woven linen threads, the canvas they work on is already a grid; https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artists-grids-inspire-order-rebellion
The painter Agnes Martin said she was thinking about how to paint innocence and there appeared in her mind’s eye an image of the grid.
Martin developed her signature format: six by six foot painted canvases, covered from edge to edge with meticulously penciled grids and finished with a thin layer of gesso. ..her practice was tethered to spirituality and drew from a mix of Zen Buddhist and American Transcendentalist ideas. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/22/agnes-martin-the-artist-mystic-who-disappeared-into-the-desert
She maintained that she painted with her back to the world.
Grids are used in archaeological digs and forensic archeology.
Grid searches are used to locate missing people. It is considered a last resort technique.
Day 10: Low 34; High 52
TO DO: Pull threads
Construct a grid
It is always a challenge to ‘begin again.’ Every time you open a sketch pad or gesso a canvas or put a mark on a stone, it is another beginning.
There is a daily life drawing session with a live model in Kahn. I decide to attend in hopes of using a material that has sat in my studio for years: oil bar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXXolGecBro Our life drawing model is an artist in her own right. She is adept at holding poses that challenge the hands and capture the eye.
I attach my ‘grommeted canvas’ to the wall. When I work in charcoal and chalks, I cover paper with chalk and then use my bare hands as ‘erasers’ – excavating the images.
My oil stick experimenting is more difficult than I expected. The oil bars proved not to be the best choice – the canvas is unwieldy – and I couldn’t ‘erase’ using gamsol without endangering the health of everyone in the room.
I retreat to my studio – not defeated – but struck by the irony:
I am attending a ‘Life’ Drawing session at a time I am researching the dead.
I carry my health directive when I travel. I keep it in the glove compartment. Several years ago, I attended a ” 5 Wishes” workshop conducted by Hospice in which we recorded answers to these questions:
- Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
- The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
- How comfortable you want to be.
- How you want people to treat you.
- What you want your loved ones to know. https://samaritannj.org/resources/5-wishes-living-will-documents/
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care professional, wrote about the most common regrets expressed by the people she had cared for .https://www.amazon.com/Top-Five-Regrets-Dying-Transformed/dp/140194065X
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Ho‘oponopono, the Hawaiian forgiveness process, relies on 11 words to create personal peace:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
But the ‘missing’, as well as those left behind, were denied the time to make peace with each other. And themselves.
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Little Foxes, 186
Day 11: Low 24; High 35
TO DO: Volunteer
Excavate the trash
Taking stock – again
A Line is a Dot That Went for a Walk
There are artists that grow up in families that support their interest in making art. But there are many other children who do not have those opportunities unless it is provided by their schools.
Each year, VSC’s School Arts Program offers weekly hands-on arts instruction to over 200 students at the Johnson Elementary School. VSC artists-in-residence can volunteer to assist. I sign up.
“Challenge Yourself,” Program Coordinator Arista Alanis exhorts her students. “How many more colors can you invent?”
Her art classroom is overflowing with evidence of creativity – paintings, ceramics, puppets, origami. Recent work is drying on clotheslines strung across the room. There is not an empty surface.
Students are expected to behave like working artists. Each has a designated work space, smock and a high quality sketchbook.
Create a castle– doors, windows, parapets – using one line. Then create ‘stained glass windows” – each a different mixed color.
They work diligently and intently – some struggle to stop as class ends. They want to keep ‘challenging themselves.’
At the beginning of my travels to VSC, I explored Brandon, Vermont – a town of 3,966 inhabitants – many of whom belong to the Brandon Artists Guild (BAG). https://brandonartistsguild.org/
The 30+ members exhibit a variety of work: paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry. Several pieces brought a smile to my face – especially Judith Reilly’s. Her gallery, studio and home are housed in a rambling connected farm house that spans multiple eras. She generously gives me a tour. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connected_farm
Fabric art doesn’t adequately describe Judith Reilly’s work: colorful, quirky, inventive. Her process includes original image design, painting fabric, working with scraps and “free motion” machine stitching.
She conducts workshops. Author of the 12 Life Lessons for Creativity https://www.judithreilly.com/creativity/, she commented on how difficult it is for artists to complete the ‘cross the page with one line’ exercise. Adults are afraid of not ‘doing it right’.’
Artists have to learn to be brave or learn to live with anxiety and fear.
Young artists appear to be fearless.
Go back to go forward
I always retain my discarded sketches and scraps of material until a project is completed. I often ‘excavate’ the pile of trash.
This time, I retrieve strips of discarded canvas to sew a grid. I gather up the strands of thread that came from ‘straightening the grain.”
It is two days before Open Studio and my departure. I am cognizant that my time is running out to complete a work before I leave. My studio floor is a holding cell.
Wall of paper
Canvas with grommets
Rubber mat with stenciled numbers
Hole punched tags
Protocol # 9: Spray fixative outdoors.
Is what I have started – done, good enough, not worth the energy to continue or something in between? Members of the life drawing group come to look. They ask questions. They encourage me to continue. They want me to be fearless.
I start to write on the wall.
Days 12/13: Low 24: High 44
TO DO: Request help
Prepare for Open Studio
The Way It Is
There’s a thread that you follow.
It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
Or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Protocol #9: Collaborate
Tink – Tink – Tink
Much of my prior work has been socially conscious. Frequently community based. Often collaborative. It is my turn to tap the glass at lunchtime. I request help from everyone in the room to tie a thread onto a tag. I cannot finish the piece in time for tonight’s Open Studio without their help.
The cosmos finally reveals the reason behind the location of my studio in Kahn. I have the beginning of a vision for the piece. But I need painters – painters who are brave, skilled at their craft, and generous with their time to work with me.
Mimi Pantuhova spent every moment at VSC working on her paintings – braving the cold to spray charcoal fixative outside as she layered image upon image. https://www.mpantuhovapainter.com/
Stefan Berg is a highly disciplined, skilled full time painter who creates works of great precision. https://www.stefanberg.ca/Painting
Brigitt Kocsis came to VSC, abandoned her previous work to begin anew. https://www.saatchiart.com/kocsis
Each generously volunteers to lend a hand – literally.
Protocol # 10: Express Gratitude
Tink – Tink – Tink
The entire staff stands somber before us. Unlike our welcome – filled with expectations and opportunity – They announce that VSC is closing out of a ‘preponderance of caution.’
Although I had managed to remain somewhat detached from the severity of what was taking place in the outside world, I suspected that we could not hide from the Covid 19 epidemic.
Most VSC attendees were scheduled to be in residency for a month. The closing would be a hardship for all – from the kitchen staff to those who had traveled so far to be part of this community. There are those who have to leave unfinished sculptures and wet canvases. Everyone is disappointed.
We must now all be fearless.
Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.
With much gratitude to the staff and artists for your help – especially Mimi, Stefan and Brigitta whose assistance and support contributed to the completion of the work: Aletheia. Be well everyone.
Aletheia is variously translated as “unclosedness”, “unconcealedness”, “disclosure” or “truth“. The literal meaning of the word ἀ–λήθεια is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.”