Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Among the Native Plants

I rediscovered the wild beauty of Pasadena's Arlington Garden this week; I needed to walk the stone-edged labyrinth to gain some peace of spirit.

If you don't know the spot, it's serene oasis next to a busy street that substitutes as a freeway; drive by at the regular speed and you'll be sure to miss it.  The garden is planted with native flora and tended with waterwise irrigation methods.

Around every twist of the path is another inviting bench, gazebo, or group of chairs.  Bees and butterflies find much to keep themselves busy. Birds provide a continual, yet non-abtrusive symphony, and the air is filled with scents from herbs and flowers.

As I thought about the garden, and the peace I find there, this Mary Oliver poem came to mind, as it often does, when I'm at odds with myself over one thing or another.  I hope you too will find words of encouragement from the trees, the wildflowers, the cacti, and all that is green and good.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
      but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

--Mary Oliver, from Thirst, Beacon Press, 2006

(Photos courtesy of the Arlington Garden website.  Follow the hyperlink in the first paragraph for more photos and information.) 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

But is it "cute?"

(To find out about my personal secretary series, read the previous blog post.)

I've been working on a multi-level personal secretary, a commission.  She asked me to make a cabinet with six unusual compartments.  So I started thinking about differently-shaped doors and drawers.

I came up with this basic design, and started construction.

I realized it would be a good idea to make a diagram numbering each piece so I could keep track of them as I cut them.

So, over the months, as time allowed (which it didn't do very often) began to build the piece, starting with cutting the various pieces, covering them in a layer of neutral-colored paper and acrylic matte medium, and joining them together when they were ready.  As I worked, I learned what steps had to be done before others, and what techniques worked and what didn't.


Even though all the levels weren't constructed, I couldn't help myself from moving on to covering the first layer with the final papers.

Since then, I've been putting in many more hours, and made quite a bit of progress.  As you can see, I decided to reverse the orientation of the top layer.


Here's the thing:  when I describe the series to people (not easy), or sometimes when people see the pictures I post, they say "That sounds really cute" or "Your work is so cute."  Hmmm. "Cute" is not the first word I would want to come to people's minds when looking at my work.  "Clever," maybe.  "Intriguing," definitely.  But as I keep working, like today, making a small beach scene that fits in one of the drawers, and it was turning out to be rather "cute," I wondered if the project is doomed to be "precious."  And yet, the choices I'm making feel true and right for the piece.  How can I rescue it from mere cuteness?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What I've Been Up To: Personal Secretaries

#3 of the series: October 2012; 4" x 2" x 2.75"
#3 holds two miniature scrolls

When I was growing up, my family owned a secretary desk with a fold-down front. It was a rather plain piece of furniture on the outside, but I loved the tiny compartments it contained, especially the ones accessed by opening a door or sliding out a drawer. I continue to be drawn to artwork that has these qualities of revealed mystery and discovered treasure for the viewer adventurous enough to search within.

During a particularly hard time in my life, I accumulated a number of phrases and images that served to carry me through my most difficult moments. I began a sculpture piece with one-hundred tiny drawers, each one intended to hold a mini-assemblage representing of one anchoring thought and memory from my collection. The words “Always Remember” is inscribed across the facades of the drawers. I call this piece Personal Secretary because it is meant to remind me of what is most important, what keeps me going, what I never want to forget. The piece is far from finished—I anticipate adding to the insides of the drawers for the rest of my life.

#1 of the series: August 2012

The small boxes in this project are meant to have the same anchoring effect for the viewer. Some already contain words, phrases, objects, and images that evoke anchoring sentiments. Others are left empty so the owner may add his or her own items. They are created as drawers, cabinets, cases with lids, or a combination of these. The exteriors are embellished with a variety of colors and materials, but they all incorporate the phrase “Always Remember” in some way.

#2 September 2012; approx 4.5"x 3.5"1.5"

#2 with door and drawer open

The drawer has a miniature adjustable telescope!

# 4 in the series is in process.  It will have 6 compartments and open spaces as well.  Here's a preview!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Back to the Blog

I'm back, I guess.  I thought of this poem today by Mary Oliver and needed a place to share it.  Please enjoy and post a comment so I know this blogging thing is worth it.

The Place I Want to Get Back To

is where
  in the pinewoods
     in the moments between
        the darkness

and first light
   two deer
      came walking down the hill
          and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
    this one is okay,
       let's see who she is
          and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,
    so quiet, as if
        asleep, or in a dream,
             but anyway, harmless;

and so they came
   on slender legs
       and  gazed upon me
           not unlike the way

I go out  to the dunes and look
    and look and look
        into the faces of the flowers;
           and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my heand, and what can my life
    bring to me that could exceed
       that brief moment?
           For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods
    not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
       Such gifts, bestowed,
           can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
    come to visit.  I live in the house
        near the corner, which I have named

--Mary Oliver (from Thirst, Beacon Press, (c) 2006)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Disclaimer: I'm not a good blogger.

It's been a very busy few months, and I haven't had time to sit down and blog about it.  Many apologies if you are looking at my blog for the first time through my signature link or otherwise.  I hope you enjoy what I have posted here, outdated as it is.  It's all still pertinent to me.

Thanks for you patience.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Poems

For those of you who, like me, always feel a little melancholy with the coming of Autumn, here are some poems, songs, and art pieces to resonate with that mood.

Forest of Beech Trees, Gustav Klimt, c. 1903

"Autumn" by Rainier Maria Rilke
The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,  
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning "no." 

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We're all falling. This hand here is falling.

And look at the other one. It's in them all. 

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling. 

Click to hear Joshua Shank's choral setting of this poem. 

Late October by Gloria Newton, 2010

"Intercession in Late October" by Robert Graves
How hard the year dies: no frost yet.
On drifts of yellow sand Midas reclines,
Fearless of moaning reed or sullen wave.
Firm and fragrant still the brambleberries
On ivy-bloom butterlies wag.

Spare him a little longer, Crone,
For his clean hands and love-submissive heart.

Click here for Morten Lauridsen's choral setting of this poem, which was dedicated to my choir director, Donald Brinegar.

Silence by Odilion Redon, 1913
"Automne" by Armand Sylvestre
Automne au ciel brumeux, aux horizons navrants,
Aux rapides couchants, aux aurores pâlies,
Je regarde couler, comme l'eau du torrent,
   Tes jours faits de mélancolie.

Sur l'aile des regrets mes esprits emportés,
Comme s'il se pouvait que notre âge renaisse !
Parcourent en rêvant les coteaux enchantés,
   Où, jadis, sourit ma jeunesse!

Je sens, au clair soleil du souvenir vainqueur, 
Refleurir en bouquet les roses déliées, 
Et monter à mes yeux, des larmes, qu'en mon coeur   
  Mes ving ans avaient oubliées! 

Click here for Gabriel Faure's vocal setting of this poem, which is one of my favorite art songs. 

Translation by Peter Low:
Autumn, time of misty skies and heart-breaking horizons,
of rapid sunsets and pale dawns,
I watch your melancholy days
  flow past like a torrent.

My thoughts borne off on the wings of regret
(as if our time could ever be relived!)
dreamingly wander the enchanted slopes
  where  my youth once used to smile.

In the bright sunlight of triumphant memory
I feel the scattered roses reblooming in bouquets;
and tears well up in my eyes, tears which  my heart
  at twenty had already forgotten!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Growing Orbits

In the summer of 2005, when I was about 18 months into the first clinical depression of my life (and hopefully my last), I created a performance that tracked my journey, and looked ahead to the future.  Even though I wasn't feeling it at the time, the show ended on a hopeful, celebratory note.

Anyway, the opening scene, based on Robert Bly's translation of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, was a pre-recorded video segment that remains one of my favorites, now 6 years later and light-years beyond where I was then, emotionally, spiritually, interpersonally.  And yet, as the poem alludes, I live my life in circles, coming back to ideas and thoughts and behavioral patterns I had seemingly moved beyond.  The difference is now that I'm visiting them again, I recognize them for better or worse, and am able to respond in ways that reflect my present self.  The circles, die "vachsenden ringen" are growing ones; I go travel further and more broadly over my exterior and interior landscapes alike.

I'll always be grateful for the partnership of my friend and videographer, Bob Nolty, who not only shot the footage, but so completely understood my idea for this segment that I loved it at his first edit.

Here's to recognizing our own growth and continuing the questioning journey.