Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Collage Miscellany

I am taking an online screen printing course with Linda Germain. There is a steep learning curve. I have yet to make a proper print that is all silk screened. Linda had us printing on old book pages as we began our lessons. I found myself enjoying the tinted book pages as a collage substrata. This process felt a bit like art journaling. They were quick, and raher improvisational. I used all kinds of mono-printed papers from my stash. Since collage is my primary art form, it proved a relief from the steep silk screening learning curve. I can only take so much inky mess before I'm ready to return to paper and adhesives!

This one is my favorite. The feather image was made with a wooden printing block, and others via gelli printing, along with some store bought tissue and Lakota papers.

I fell for this cheery bird stamp one day when I was at Texas rt Supply. I keep a dictionary on hand to tear up and here I selected the page with the definition of feather (in the blue circle).

I am always looking for ways to use my collection of black and white paper images. Many of them come from Dover clip art books.

This one actually contains screen printed papers, all done with latex paint on silk in embroidery hoops. I couldn't resist putting some of the shapes into this composition. The photo is not the best, just taken with my phone. Later on I will get a proper scan at Office Depot, where some months ago it made my day to learn their color copiers now scan to flash drives. My scanner is not big enough for this 12 x 12" collage. I think it has a midcentury vibe.

Screen printing involves a lot of materials -- tons of duct tape for the frames, the silk, the ink of course, as well as screen filler and drawing fluid. So I'll see how into it I get as time goes on, but for now, it is fun to play with all the methods Linda Germain shares with us. I have access to the 20 lessons for 6 months. At first I tried to keep up every week day. But life has a way of interfering with art, and I decided not to put too much pressure on myself. We also have a private Facebook page for the folks taking the course. It is fun to share images, ask questions and get support.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lone Star Literature: From the Red River to the Rio Grande edited by Don Graham

Lone Star Literature (Norton, 2003), edited by Don Graham, kept me entertained for many weeks. Some pieces were nonfiction, such as Stephen Harrigan's excellent essay entitled "What Texas Means to Me". Most were fiction. And I have to admit that for a few of the pieces I wasn't 100% sure if they were tall tales or true tales!

Since I read this slowly, it would be challenging to write a detailed review. I believe there was good representation of our state, divided into four sections: The West, The South, The Border and Town and City. Most absurd: Donald Barthelme's "I Bought a Little City", wherein the narrator buys Galveston and makes a mess of his ownership. Most enjoyed: a karmic tale by Naomi Shihab Nye, "Tomorrow We Smile". Generally I related to the women's fiction more than the men's tales, though there is special place in my heart for Larry McMurty's The Last Picture Show, from which a section is represented here. Carolyn Osborn's wonderful "My Brother is a Cowboy" tells the tale of of a young woman marginalized and held down by her brother, father and mother until she finally manages to escape from under their thumbs.

I can not keep all the books I've collected. This was a "rainy day book" -- one I brought home years ago as a backup for times when I ran out of library books to read. But after I dropped two library books in to my bath waters (embarrassing for a retired librarian) and had to pay replacement fees, I got smart and started taking non-library books with me into my baths. And that is how I finally got around to slowly reading Lone Star Literature. Now I can pass it on to other readers...

I seem to be in a constant Texas state of mind. Now I am slowly, reading God Save Texas: a Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright. Not being a native, there is always plenty of history and commentary to catch up on! I shocks me to realize I have lived here for almost 4 decades now. I will always feel like a New Yorker, but there's plenty of Texas in me as well.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Read at Whim! and Other Favorite Quotations

I enjoy collecting quotations from books, online sources and out and about in the world. I often think I will use quotations in my artwork, but rarely do. Perhaps you have noticed that illustrated quotations seem to have become a "thing" over the last ten years or so. There are many mass produced quotation-based objects to be found in the American marketplace. I don't know about you, but I get sick of being told to Live, Laugh and Love, etc. every time I walk through Michaels or Target.

In any case, here are a few recently collected quotations, a hodgepodge 
with no particular theme in common:

Read at whim!

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful 
than the risk it took to bloom.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

The acceptable and unacceptable are both acceptable.
 - Lao Tzu

One should never underestimate the power of books.
 - Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies, Henry Holt, 2005.

We only fail when we do not try.
- Sister Monica Joan, on Call the Midwife, Season 6, episode 2.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there 
is any reaction, both are transformed.

Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit. 
(translation from Latin: Called or not called, God will be there.)
- This saying comes from a collection of adages collected by Erasmus, and came to my attention because it is inscribed over the doorway of the Houston Jung Center. Carl Jung had this inscription carved over the doorway of his house in Switzerland. It can also be seen on his tomb.

I took this photo of a piece of calligraphic art at a friend's home in Idaho. She is Catholic and I am Unitarian Universalist. Yet this quotation resonates with me. Walk your talk, more or less... Actually, I appreciate people who do not preach their beliefs unless called upon to do so. As a child growing up Catholic, St. Francis of Assisi was one of the few saints I really knew about. I loved images of him surrounded by birds and other creatures, protecting animal kind.

Wisdom comes from many sources!

(photo at top -- fabric art seen in an antique store in Rosenberg, TX)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, And Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

I cannot stop thinking about this book and recommend it to anyone who has ever been in therapy or thought about seeing a therapist. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone... is such an inside look at what goes on in the sacred space of a therapist's office. In some ways, the book reminded be of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, though I am not exactly sure why -- perhaps because it starts with Lori Gottlieb falling apart after a painful and abrupt breakup with her Boyfriend (I love the way she capitalizes this word, making it archetypal). And so she sets out to reinvent herself and get to the bottom of many problems, also including her health and creative writing projects .

When she chooses a male therapist (Wendall) to see post-breakup, I thought that was a brave step. Often women prefer to talk to other women about their romantic lives. She comes to respect and adore Wendall. So did I. I also loved all the stories about Lori's patients. There is plenty to learn about what goes on in a therapist's mind, their feelings, quandries and boundaries.

I copied out a few passages to keep in my commonplace notebook. Here is one, quoting Lori's thoughts about what she learned from Wendall: 

"You can't get through your pain by diminishing it, he reminded me. You get through your pain by accepting it and figuring out what to do with it. You can't change what you're denying or minimizing. And, of course, often what seem like trivial worries are manifestations of deeper ones." - page 336

Also this (Lori's thoughts):

"Everyone wages this internal battle to some degree: child or adult? Safety or freedom? But no matter where people fall on these continuums, every decision they make is based on two things: fear or love. Therapy strives to teach you how to tell the two apart." - page 234

At SUNY Albany, during my first semester of grad school for library science, I had doubts about my career path. Mostly I was in shock about the number of term papers I needed to write (using a typewriter, no less). After talking to an academic counselor, I was given the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory test. The takeaway: I had much in common with these three occupations: opera singers, librarians and therapists. I could not sing, so opera singer was out. I have always been interested in the psychological problems we human beings have, but thought being a therapist might at times be burdensome. And thus I decided library science was the right direction for me! After all, librarians at times practice bibliotherapy, giving the customer just the right book or movie they needed. We are also often in situations where we must practice empathetic listening.

As for therapy, there have been key times in my life when talking to a therapist was just what I needed. And I always felt better after a session. Let me just say that things came up and self clarification followed.

For an in-depth interview with the author, listen to or read the NPR interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Ten Years Out from Retirement

Ten years out from retirement, I find myself taking stock. Tom and I are getting older gracefully and not so gracefully... Lately I am spending a lot of time battling nerve pain in my legs. Tomorrow I see a doctor who gives spine injections. I am also doing aquatherapy and seeing a chiropractor. I have tried all kinds of potions, creams and supplements. The exercises I have been given in physical therapy help somewhat. The sensations in my legs are wild, ranging from icy numbness to pins and needles and the all time worst is a feeling that little gremlins are sand papering my legs. The nerve pains are related to pinched nerves in my sacrum. I have had sciatica for more than 20 years. But enough of that! I am still able to walk the dog, work in the yard, do yoga and enjoy life. Making art continues to be one of the best aspects of my life.

Here are some recent photos from my art room and garden:

These papers are among the results of a mono-printing session. It was fun to work with black and white, something I had not done in a while.

Here is one of the collages I made with my printed papers. It was included in the Black and White show last month at Hardy and Nance Studios.

Making tiny collages on laminate samples has been my form of "comfort collage" lately. The nerve pain does not permit me to sit for very long and these tiny projects can be finished quickly. Even though they are so small, they (of course) involve composition, my favorite part of collage, and thus are satisfying.

A friend who is moving to Florida gave me some of her plants, which I was happy to add to my shade garden in the back corner of the yard. Shade gardening is the way to go in Houston! 

Shown here are some ganzania flowers with the last of our nasturtiums. I love the ganzanias, though they can not be cut. They open and close with the sun. The word for that is nyctinastic, and may be related to the plant's need to protect themselves from nighttime predators.

Last week I went to a Harris County Public Library Retirees luncheon. It is always fun to see my former coworkers. What else am I up to? Babysitting our granddaughter is always a joy. I am still writing reviews for I loved going to see the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I attend lectures at the Jung Center and will be entering some art work in their summer show later this week. Next month I will volunteer at an art camp. Then in July, I will fly to Idaho to visit a childhood friend. Though I really look forward to the trip, I sure hope my legs can stand the cramped seating on the plane. As I am sure I have said before in my posts about retirement, no day is long enough!

As Linda Ellerbee used to say, "and so it goes..."

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

To The Bright Edge of The World by Eowyn Ivey

I can’t say that the exploration of Alaska during the late nineteenth century was a plot line that grabbed my attention, but because I adored Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, The Snow Child, I could not wait to get my hands on this, her second novel.

Perhaps you remember that the United States purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867. There was much unknown about the place, so naturally the U.S. sent military personnel out to see what could be found there. And thus we meet U.S. Army Colonel Allen Forrester and his small band of men as they begin their expedition into the Wolverine River valley in 1885.

Forrester keeps a journal of his travels so that should he not return, his newly pregnant wife Sophie will know at least most of what he went through. They have not been married long and it is hard to be separated. Back at the Vancouver Barracks in Washington territory, Sophie keeps a diary of days apart from her husband. Mixed in with these entries are illustrations, photographs and drawings of all sorts, as well as modern day letters between the Colonel’s great nephew and a museum curator in Alaska.

Greatly dependent on the native tribes’ knowledge and guidance, Forrester and his men are mystified by their seemingly supernatural practices and beliefs. Challenged by the snow and ice, the loss and lack of foodstuffs, torturous rocky climbs and bodily injuries, often it is the native people who save the lives of the military men. Lots of suspense herein!

But I have to admit that for me, Sophie Forrester’s story was the heartfelt stuff that gave this novel its richness. A bird watcher, Sophie loves to roam the wilderness near the barracks. She tries her hand at sketching birds, but feels dissatisfied with her efforts. The she gets her hands on a book about the new art of photography. Soon she manages to acquire a camera, chemicals and plates. Before too long, Sophie creates a tented structure to use as a blind, and from behind its folds, aims her camera at her beloved birds in their nests and in flight.

But all is not fun and games for Sophie; she worries about her husband so very far away in an unknown territory. Letters reach her only rarely and we feel the anguish both wife and husband must suffer through. Thank goodness Sophie has a servant girl who helps the time pass. The other military wives at the barracks find Sophie odd. Women photographers were unheard of but Sophie begins to succeed in capturing light and motion. I was delighted by this turn of events.

So much happens during this one spring and summer of 1885, the novel has an epic quality. Rhythmic in its perambulations between the various journal and diary entries, letters and clippings, given these methods of telling the story, somehow Ivey makes it all come alive. To the Bright Edge of the World is historical fiction well worth the snow glare! Venture out to its chilling, thrilling edge.

(This review first appeared on LitLovers.) 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Yes, We Went to Vegas

We are not the kind of folks who you might expect would go to Vegas. But neither my husband Tom or I had ever been, so for our 11th wedding anniversary this month we went on a Southwest vacation junket to the so-called Sin City. I'll go anywhere I've never been once! We are not gamblers. I did play some Pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame. We ate well, walked a lot and I took plenty of pictures. 

What struck me most was the throngs of people crowding the streets of the Strip and how diverse they were. Most folks probably America and a few people from all over the world too, I suppose. More than anything, walking those crowded street reminded me of Manhattan. They say Houston is the most diverse city in America, but rarely do I walk through such crowded streets here. Vegas is surreal, but the happy throngs of people somehow grounded me. I did not like walking through casinos. They all seemed the same and for me, had a sad undertone. 

Our favorite tourist attraction: the Neon Museum. Here is a wonderful cactus sign from an demolished motel. We much enjoyed talking to one of the guides who had just gotten her history degree. She had such enthusiasm for the place, as well as knowledge.

Can you see Aladdin's Lamp? The Aladdin Motel is famous for being the place where Elvis married Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967.

Beverage neon!

A huge, rusty old pool shooter sculpture.

The Pinball Hall of fame was a bit underwhelming, really just a big arcade. But I loved dropping my quarters into a few tables. I also enjoyed taking photos of the retro pinball imagery.

Here is the Statue of Liberty replica designed and created by the artist Robert Davidson outside the New York-New York resort. An interesting tidbit about this statue: the U.S. Postal Service used a photo of this statue on a 2010 Forever postage stamp, not realizing the image was from a replica. You can read more about that fracas here in a NY Times article.

We could see the Bellagio fountains from our hotel room. They provide a fountain show every night. For me it was something akin to a ballet or fireworks show, all done with water, amazing! And the last night we were in Vegas, we took in a Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio, a wonderful gift from my sister-in-law and her husband.

Would we ever go to Vegas again? No, but I'm glad we crossed this trip off our bucket list and saw the city in all its nefarious, funky and oh-so-polished glory.