Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here And There

Life is getting pretty busy and I continue to struggle to have enough time in the studio, with all there is to do here on the computer.  I seem to be here more than there and I'm still trying to figure out how to create the balance.  I'm sure I could do things more efficiently here, but I don't have time to stop to figure it out...quite a ridiculous statement, I realize!  So I continue to be mostly here....

because often times, even when I'm there...

or there...

I can't relax enough to work because I'm thinking of all the things I need to do here...

But this is the thing....wherever you go, there you are!  Being in the moment is possible no matter what the situation, so I'll just have to trust that I can be one with the flow of the river at any point in time.  These pictures I just snapped of the studio downstairs (I sit here now at this little desk area just off the kitchen...how very convenient!) makes it quite clear that it's time for a bit of clean up...no wonder I can't concentrate!!! 

I also want to extend a big thank you to Hazel Terry for the lovely feature this morning on her blog, The Art Room Plant! She has a wonderful blog, which I've followed for some time, and I encourage you to check it out!

We've had our first snow now, beautiful....that is, until you have to run errands and try to make your way through the fierce biting wind!!!  We are on the wind-swept plains after all. Good thing you forget, at least to some degree, from season to season, what it's like to be cold....it does come back to you VERY quickly!

If any of you gentle readers would like to share your own time management tricks and tips, I know I'd be interested in hearing them....and I bet others would, as well.  Feel free to leave comments!

Hope you all have a lovely week...I'll see you in a day or so...hopefully with some new work to share!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance, Week 5

Lucky for me, this November has had five Mondays! It has given me another week to make new discoveries connected to the topic at hand, "The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance" in my Walk Through The Universe....that is, in our Walk Through The Universe...this is a shared journey, after all! We've been treated to such richness in the words and images of our featured artists, Kira Sheker and Bridgette Guerzon Mills, and this week brings another artist and a different look at the subject. I began look again through the shops on Etsy for artists dealing with memory in an unusual way.  It took me some time before the work of Abby Leigh Johnson came into view and I was immediately taken, not only by the beautifully layered mixed media work, but by the titles of the pieces...each a Memory with a number attached, as if these artifacts of memory had been collected and carefully cataloged.  Now, as a long-time cataloger, I found this immediately appealing and fascinating, but also so poignant....as the work of someone who must be dealing with an attempt to capture memory in a very personal and individual way.  Of course, I knew she was my much-hoped-for next featured artist and I was delighted when she agreed to share her work and her thoughts this week for A Walk Through The Universe! I'm pleased to introduce you to Abby Leigh Johnson...

I describe memory as a way that the mind stores intangible things to be recalled at a later time. Through my work I parallel the similarities of the act of memory and how it is mimicked by the compartmentalization of a curiosity cabinet. Memory is constantly evolving and immensely complicated but this act has always sparked the curiosity of man-kind. Afterall, it can be altered by the slightest variable which makes it fascinating. A great example is how one can start at a different point of a specific memory each time it is reviewed. We are always trying to capture a memory and hold on to it, but can we really do this? Since memory is an intangible act, we collect and hold on to objects as a way to try and conquer this obstacle. Typically objects are stored or collected because of emotional attachment or because of a relationship to memory. Through this act the collector can embed memory within an object. This relationship infuses objects with a type of preciousness that is independent of monetary value. The Victorian era is a prime example of the relationship between object and memory through mourning, sentimental jewelry and photography. Victorian mourning jewelry was the initial inspiration for my work that linked all of my ideas together. 

It's hard to talk about my work individually because while I was creating it, it was always about the collective work. I was constantly thinking about it as a collection where each individual piece works together as a whole which mimics how each individual moment collected together make up a memory. I created this work for my MFA thesis exhibition which opened almost a year ago, in January 2010. Now I've sold a lot of my work and am only left with a small group of individual works. These pieces have traveled with me and along the way were included in various exhibitions. I see now that each piece not only work individually but through time they have adapted and created their own new collections, just how memories are altered and adapted throughout time. Each time I hang them I notice something different and they are hung with new pieces. This reinforces the conceptual notion of the curious cycle of memory. 

Memory #26

I started my work by creating abstracted objects through free motion stitching and applique. The stitching is made up of tiny elements and shapes that are reminiscent of familiar objects. These are meant to be interpreted differently by each individual person that interacts with them to create a unique experience.

Memory #204

While creating abstracted objects through stitch I also used different dye techniques, including tea dye, and screen-printing to strengthen these objects with color. I'm using muted colors that reflect the Victorian era. Since my work is created through cloth this evokes different kinds of marks that are similar to stains on functional cloth, like stains on a table cloth. The dye also reacts differently with each type of cloth so it creates an effect of age and often has a rust quality in certain areas.

Memory #129

Eventually I decided to include metals and jewelry techniques in my work. The enameled copper represents the notion of an object that resembles something we might be familiar with just as my free motion stitching and applique does. This time when I bring in metal it represents two different types of  dichotomy; permanence vs. impermanence; and absence vs. presence. The contrast of materials, metal and cloth, show the presence of something lasting, metal, and something fleeting, cloth. The burning on the cloth from an object illustrates absence of what once was there as compared to the presence of the actual metal object. These are all qualities of memory. 

Memory #99

Finally, one sees that by combining all of these different techniques I have built up a surface and created layers similar to the different layers in an individual memory. Most of the layers that I have built are transparent. This is a reminder that memory is complex and made up of multiple layers even if you can't see them all. 

Pieces of Savannah #3

Pieces of Savannah #8

My most recent work still speaks about memory but the work is a little bit different than my previous work. It's more pictorial and is the memory of a specific place. I'll leave you to interpret these as you wish and remember memory will always have a specific relationship to photographs, trinkets and layers of documentation.

I was curious to know more about the Curiosity Cabinet and its relatioship to collecting and to memory, so I asked Abby to elaborate a little.  After such a full experience up until now...here's a bit more to chew on...with more to investigate!

Here are some of my thoughts on curiosity cabinets. I parallel curiosity cabinets with victorian mourning jewelry as well as memory because in my mind they all have some of the same properties...

I started researching curiosity cabinets after I made the unique connection between objects and memory. I find it to be extremely interesting to see what other people collect and how they organize their collections similar to a modern curio cabinet. Jewelry boxes are an example of a modern curio cabinet. Each person organizes their jewelry box in a unique fashion, and typically stores other meaningful objects with their jewelry. I know I have keepsakes from my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and father in my jewelry box. Most of these keepsakes are worthless but for me they are instilled with memory and meaning in a way that makes them more valuable to me than any piece of jewelry that I own. In bottom drawer of my jewelry box, in the very back I have another box. In the smaller box I have created smaller compartments to keep objects. I have a red cross pin from my great-grandmother, a tiny rubber ball that my dad gave me when I was a kid, a necklace that my great-grandmother made out of seed pods, turquoise jewelry from my dad, a tiny heart from my mom, my baby ring, a glass sea horse, a pin from my grandmother, shells from hawaii, a seed that I've had since I was in grade school and my dad's class ring. This is where my collecting started because all of this stuff is from when I was growing up. Now my collecting has overflowed into my studio and influenced my artwork. 

"The purpose of a curiosity cabinet was a venue for collectors to display both the treasures of art and wonders of nature." [Patrick Maurices, Cabinets of Curiosity (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002.), 23.] The intention of a curio cabinet is dual in nature and parallels the revealing and concealing properties of Victorian sentimental jewelry. Mourning jewelry is an exhibited secret that is revealed during the mourning process but because of the highly personal nature is private and has a hidden story. Eventually it is stored similar to how curiosities are collected and put away in cabinets. Exactly like how I talked about jewelry boxes and how they are modern curio cabinets. These objects are only revealed to certain people usually while sharing a common interest or talking about a memory. "Curiosity cabinets were venues for collectors; intended to define, help to discover and posses' unique items as well as to inscribe them within a special setting that would install layers of meaning in each object." [Patrick Maurices, Cabinets of Curiosity (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002.), 25.] The comparison to curiosity cabinets is where the concept of memory becomes important because the mind stores in a revealing and concealing manner just like a curio cabinet. The evolving nature of memories makes us want to capture them so we will not forget. We sometimes use devices or objects to execute this idea but memories are also abstractly stored in our minds this same way. This is the very reason of the chosen formats and titles for my works as well as how I hang my works together. They are cataloged memories stored in the way that our mind compartmentalizes memory and the moments that make them up.

So much to follow up on this post for me...I'm fascinated by Abby's work and want to find out more about curiosity cabinets and Victorian mourning jewelry. I'll see all of you fine folks out there somewhere in cyberspace, I'm sure...or maybe right here, as we share comments!  

Abby's website can be found here and her etsy shop can be found here. Hope you've enjoyed this post as much as I have! Oh...let's see...where in the universe are we headed next? I think this path forks slightly off into the notion of collecting...and holding...and containing...the container and the contained...are we talking about "the vessel" perhaps? 

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance, Week 4

This weekly feature, A Walk Through the Universe, has given me some wonderful opportunities this month as I've pondererd our topic, The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance. I've gotten to know two new really fine artists, as they've each shared their thoughts and images on this blog.  And I have had a little time for my own reading and reflection, amid the chaos of life.  Next week, I’m happy to introduce you to another amazing artist, but now, I’d just like to share a few thoughts about memory and the object as a vehicle for holding memory.

1. The Object as Witness and Holder of Memory

One of my most cherished pieces of writing is a much leafed through photocopy I made many years ago of an essay in a book I cataloged at the library.  I handled thousands of amazing and inspiring art books every year, some of which had me transfixed, while others passed through my hands in a more or less efficient manner.  This was a monograph on the photographer, J. John Priola (Once Removed: Portraits by J. John Priola). I’d not seen a book about his work before, nor since.  The photographs were beautiful, rich and rather formal portraits of simple, every-day objects….laden with meaning.  The essay by Rebecca Solnit, (a writer many of whose books I’ve since read, all recommended) was titled, “The Color of Shadows, The Weight of Breath, the Sound of Dust”….now what does that tell you?  The title alone took my breath away.  As an artist whose work was so much about the layering time and history and holding onto memory, I read the essay once and then again more slowly, so powerful was it and so beautifully written. I have held it close to my heart ever since.  Of course many ideas are touched on in such an essay, much of which addressed the artist’s work directly, but there were a couple of ideas there that struck a chord and gave a voice and language to my nameless  longing. 

One is that the objects that surround us, which we hold dear, are witnesses to the lives that unfold before them and not only that, but their lives of course, may go on long after ours, so fleeting are our days. And also, there is the notion of the souvenir, which we collect as a kind of mnemonic device to hold onto memory.  She quotes Susan Stewart, whose book On Longing, is also in my collection,  Says Stewart, “this capacity of objects to serve as traces of authentic experience is, in fact, exemplified by the souvenir.  The souvenir distinguishes experiences. We do not need or desire souvenirs of events that are repeatable. Rather we need and desire souvenirs…of events whose materiality has escaped us….”

A couple of short quotes from the essay by Rebecca Solnit:
“We part with so many objects in life, from thrown-out letters and fingernail clippings to lost keys and stolen camera, like Hansel’s and Gretel’s leaving intentional and unintentional trails behinds us, trails eaten by time and others as their crumbs were by the wild birds so that we cannot find our way back, either to who we were or to the objects that accompanied that moment in time.”

“There is a tragedy in every shift of wind. Time is tragedy itself; it promises that what is, won’t be, and that we will find some things to be false and some to be irrecoverable.”

There is so much to say about each of these ideas, but I’ll just relate my own experiences.  I was making work at that time very much about the way that holding onto anything, time, memory…seemed impossible, slipping through our ever clenching fingers like fine sand.  Below are a couple of images, actually both among the few larger framed works available at Missouri Bend Studio. The vessels in each, holders of history and of memory, but the “every” man or woman in each scatters the memory of their history behind them, even as in the case of the woman in the lower piece, as it spills from the bowl despite her effort to hold on.

Material Witness, Scattered Memory, mixed media on handmade paper, 11x15"

Vessel of Lost Memory, mixed media on handmade paper, 11x15"

2. Antiquing

These ideas about the object as carrier and holder of memory helped me to understand why it is I am unable to follow along merrily with others who might want to go antiquing and thrift store shopping.  I admire all those amazing vintage finds that others bring home, but when I go to an antique store I immediately feel oppressed.  I think I feel the weight of all that history, those lives and memories embedded in the cast off bits of the material world.  I still feel like an outcast myself, not knowing how to join in the fun, but at least now I understand why for me, it is not the thrill of the hunt but, in Rebecca Solnit's words, the weight of dust.

3. That Old Table

A week or so ago, maybe about the time I was looking for a suitable location for the portrait for my dear stick, I looked over in the corner of the gallery area in our house, at the stuck-in-the corner-nearly-invisible little white side table and realized it was my perfect setting.  I have two of these tables, one in each corner, and they're usually full of objects, vases or small ceramics, as a way to take attention away from their own uncared for appearance. Only now, has it come to me that these objects are pretty much my oldest possessions.  I  got them, still in my 20s, when they were giving away the furniture---bed frames, desk, chairs, from the dorms at Ringling, all of which were by then antiques.  The building had, in its former life in the 1930s, been a hotel in Sarasota and I'm pretty sure that furniture had started its life out then. All the derelict metal furniture had been painted white, over and over and over again, so that now the layers were chipping away revealing every possibility of white that could have been used. I said then that I would get them stripped back down to the metal and paint them some fun, bright color.  Here they are in my house, after accompanying me in I don’t know how many moves since the 1970s, still untouched, still in the various layers of chipping white paint.  We go way back, those tables and I, and it is only now, that I’ve come to see them as anything but ugly eyesores.  I’m feeling rather kindly toward those tables and I know they’ve watched me grow up and they’ve been waiting silently for the appreciation which I now given them…the perfect setting for photographing my work! Not to say that one day I won't get around to repainting them....just give me another thirty years.

4. Beads

So taken was I, years ago, with this idea of holding onto memory, that I had an idea of choosing a beautiful bead from the bead store each time there was some special event in my life that I wanted to remember or to acknowledge in some way.  I loved beads and I would come to associate a particular bead with a particular event and store my memory there…a mnemonic device. They would each be unique and they would represent the layering of time and history as I built the collection. I kept up the practice for about a year I think, but we let many things lapse in our life and this was one that I gradually stopped doing.  For a long time I could look at each bead and instantly recall what it represented, but no longer.  Here is my little tray of beautiful beads, now adulterated with other stray beads and objects, tossed carelessly in so many moments without thinking.  I suppose I could recall one or two of the events embedded in those beads, but even those would be sketchy.  I think this practice was inspired by the lukasa or memory board, a beaded sculptural object used by the Luba people as a way of recounting their collective history.  That's another whole fascinating topic, but you can investigate online...lots of information and images abound on the internet…fascinating!

So much more could be said, so much conversation could ensue...so I'd love to hear comments, your ideas and experiences as they relate to memory, objects and holding on to those fleeting moments.

Have a lovely week.  It may be a bit before I'm back here, as we travel to see my husband's family for Thanksgiving, but I'll be checking in on all my blog friends as I can!  See you soon and thanks so much for stopping by!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Language of Mark Making

I was walking up the gravel driveway the other day and chanced upon this charming stick!  I think it's quite charming anyway and have decided to take its portrait.  I'm quite jealous of the intuitive drawing ability of whatever creature made those marks on the stick, so reminiscent of counting and marking time.
My first thought was the squirrel, the same culprit who has not only foiled practically all our attempts to hang a bird feeder but who chews away at the recycled material in the posts on our back deck when he is especially peeved.  Perhaps he is doing some sort of counting there....is that the number of times he has chewed a big hole in the thistle bag, causing the contents to spill everywhere...or maybe that's the count of the number of times he has been able to yank the whole bird feeder contraption (feeder, sturdy pole and clamp) off the railing of the deck!  Oh, but doesn't the world just revolve around us?!  My husband thinks bugs or worms drew those lines...what could they possibly be counting, I ask you? 

I've had quite a week, just too busy, with a list of so many things to do and so many things to take care of, that any short window I had in the studio was nothing but frustration because, with so many things left on the list, I couldn't relax!  But, today I'm feeling better and spent a bit of the morning finishing up this little meditation drawing...random marks, entirely intutive, no pressure, no wrong moves...it is what it is.  I wish it could always be that way when I'm working and now, I'm heading back to the studio, before the spell is broken!
Winter Meditation no.1

Thank you so much to all the new followers who came this way, no doubt, through Bridgette via the interest in her Monday feature on The Walk Through The Universe!  Welcome to all and wishing each of you a fine weekend!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance: Week Three

It's hard not to look back as you hit mid-November, the realization slowly dawning that soon, head shaking in disbelief, you will be trying to get used to the idea of living in 2011. What could have happened, where did the time go?  I know I spend my days mostly a bit dizzy from trying to get a grip on the multiplicity of lines that connect across the globe as I meet new artists and kindred spirits, then meet up with them again a few moments later on another site in another context. It's like we are all at some sort of progressive dinner, being introduced and reintroduced under each new roof, finally realizing, not only that we have indeed met, but with so many shared interests and ideas, surely we must have known each for decades already.  This little dance happened several days ago for me with Bridgette Guerzon Mills, a mixed media/encaustic artist that I bumped into online repeatedly over such a short period of time, it was like a persistent knock at the door. Once I started making the connections, I knew I must ask Bridgette to be part of the Fleeting Moment, Backward Glance feature for The Walk In the Universe. And here she is!

What Lies Within, mixed media

Fleeting Moment: Backward Glance

The theme that Patti has chosen for this month aptly captures what motivates me to create.  Life is composed of fleeting moments.  You blink, and then its gone.  Time and memory intertwine, weaving their dance, leaving me in their wake. 

When I was a little girl, I used to find myself in moments that I never wanted to forget.  Not that these moments were even that eventful, yet I didn’t want to lose them.  I wanted to hold onto that moment of being 12 years old and running through a field of uncut grass.  Hearing the breath within my chest expand, the laughter of my sisters around me.  The smell of the sun and the dirt filling my nostrils.  The burn in my muscles as I ran through the tall grass and leaped over fallen branches.  I would close my eyes and let my senses free and memorize it all so that I could always return.

The Sky Was Full of Song, mixed media
Memory is unreliable.  Details blur, nuances get lost, and imagination and motive fill in the blanks. And so I write.  I quiet down, let myself be still, and open up my senses.  Let each one tell me their story. So that when I return and read the words, I remember.

P.S., encaustic and mixed media
My journal writing and my art allow me now to hold onto the fleeting moments.  I have kept a journal since I was a young girl and it really has become a habit that I cannot break.  If I don’t write it down I fear that I will lose the moment.  My journal entries also include collage and paint at times, allowing me to tap into feelings that sometimes cannot be expressed through words. 

February 4, 2008, visual journal entry
My mixed media paintings incorporate moments captured by my original photographs with the richness of paint, creating a bridge between two worlds - the real and the reconstructed.  I lay down layers of paint and pieces of photo transfers, papers or fibers to create depth in both form and meaning.

Lesson Plans, encaustic and mixed media
Everything I create is an aspect of myself, a composite of the fleeting moments that make up my existence thus far on this earth.  Once recorded in words or with paint, the moment stays with me, allowing both the inward and the backward glance.

“The true art of memory is the art of attention.” ~Samuel Johnson
The Good Path, Mixed Media

Bridgette has a few links I think you'll want to check out below, including the amanno site where you can buy her handmade journals!

Enjoy your explorations!  Thanks so much to Bridgette for agreeing to be part of this feature!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Winter Rhythms and Fine Reading

Winter No.2 from the Season Cycles Series
Well, somehow this felt like a big week with a couple of nice blog features for Missouri Bend Studio!  Robyn Gordon's blog Art Propelled post on Nature Lovers featured one of my recent book pages, along with the work of some other really wonderful artists.  Many of the readers of this blog are surely familiar and probably followers of Robyn's blog as well!  If not, it's a gem and I encourage you to visit just once...you'll be hooked!  I was also fortunate to be the topic of the day on the Thursday sketchbook feature on the Artisans Collective blog, which you can link to here. Since I don't really keep a bona fide sketchbook, I sort of walked through the process of making one of the book page pieces using the most recent Page from The Book Of Loose Associations.  

Also as you can see, I've moved into a winter mindset and have started up on the winter pieces in the Season Cycles series.  I have a few more in the works in the studio, but the second one was posted today.  I've been reminded of the beautiful shimmering grays that winter brings and am finding out that perhaps this is my favorite season...at least in terms of inspiration for making art!  Not to worry, I'm not letting the book pages go....they are still in process as well!

Late this afternoon I managed to spend a little time on the couch reading and that was delightful...not only to be reading and watching the gorgeous sunset with a glass of wine, but reacquainting myself with the rhythm of winter days when darkness sets in early and I tend to hunker down and surround myself with books.  That got me thinking again about books and the recent  posts about books in many of the blogs I follow.  I have books and bookshelves in every room in the house and have hauled nearly all of these friends of mine across the country and across town in recent moves.  I tried to part with them, but found I couldn't.

Many of the books I've collected have not been read and truth be told, I doubt I'll ever get to some of them, but give them away....highly unlikely...they belong here on my shelves.  Of the books I've read, so many have sent me soaring or stopped me in my tracks while whole new worlds opened up or brought me to tears when I couldn't imagine that such words strung together across a page could be quite so beautifully written or so powerful.  But ask me to tell you about them, to describe them...I'm kind of at a loss.  Perhaps my memory is not so great, but I think the issue is really that when you read a book, it's like a fine meal (the expression "devouring a book" is probably quite appropriate) that you consume and that literally becomes a part of you....in a physical way, but also emotionally as a memory of a time and place.  Enjoy a delicious meal, but in a few days time, if asked, could you describe it to someone else in any meaningful way?  You could only say in the most cursory terms how wonderful it was, or perhaps how awful, but chances are you probably couldn't even call up in your own body the very tastes you experienced.  Any good book read, once savored, is likewise absorbed by the body, nourishing even as it becomes a part of the very structure of our being....it has become who we are.  

So here's what I'm getting to...I randomly pulled a few fine dining experiences to share with you.  I can tell you this about each of these books...every one has been a part of making me who I am. They lifted and transported me to unknown places and I returned from each journey just a little larger.  

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong, beautifully written novel about Paris in the 1930s through the eyes of the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. This was her first novel and I've been looking for something new every since...

The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn...the book must be a classic and if you ask me, it is essential reading for an artist. 

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit.  I think Rebecca Solnit is pure magic...here's the blurb from the cover, which I wholeheartedly endorse: "Brilliant...never less than deeply intelligent, and often very close to inspired." -- New York Time  Book Review

Now I've gotten myself all excited to reread these little gems!

So....what books have so moved you....what books have provided your best meals????  I'm anxious to hear!

A hearty welcome to the recent followers of this blog!  Have a fine weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winter On Its Way

Nothing like a little seasonable chill in the air and frost on the ground to get you mentally ready for winter.  I'll admit, I was a bit shocked when the temperatures began to drop.  At 71 degrees just the other day, I was beginning to think I was back in Florida...but now, alas, as it is nearly mid-November, having nightime temperatures below freezing should be quite acceptable!  One thing it does do, is get me in the holiday spirit, thinking of that beautiful snow falling outside, clinging to tree branches and the mornings of waking up to hoarfrost...glorious!  Clearly, it was time and so I found myself making the first piece for winter in the Season Cycles series.  Hope your week is going well...enjoy!

Winter No. 1, acrylic, ink and embroidery on handmade paper

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance, Week 2

The second week of November and I have a thermometer that reads 73 degrees outside...hard to believe I'm here in South Dakota!  I have had a delightful week corresponding with an artist whose work speaks so eloquently to these ideas we are pondering, "the fleeting moment, the backwards glance".  

I can't quite recall exactly how I found Kira Sheker and her Etsy shop, Labyrinthine Nature, but once I did I knew that she was exactly the person I was seeking! Her photographs, which I saw first, had an ethereal quality that captured moments not-so-fleeting at all.  Then I realized many of her photographs were made with a pinhole camera and I was doubly charmed.  Of course! The pinhole camera....the perfect way to slow down time and capture a reality that eludes us in our race through the day. I've chosen just a few pinhole images from her website, which can be found here, but she is also making beautiful photographs, layered and ethereal, that are not pinhole. At her website and shop you can find her charming illustrations as well...what a creative, inquisitive soul! And, I also encourage you to take a look at her beautiful blog here. Kira has given us quite an insight into her creative process and what fuels her ideas about life and making art. I'll turn it over to her, beginning with her favorite quotes!

"I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited." - Sylvia Plath

From Jane Eyre, a quote that pulled me out of a slump:
"Only one thing I know; you said you were not as good as you should like to be, and that you regretted your own imperfection - one thing I can comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a perpetual bane. it seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would, in a few years, have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure."

"Do you really think it's wise to try to push the sun back down before it rises?" - from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite musicians - Emily Haines (Listen to it here: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgSYwqjlAsU -it's reallllly good!) 

I love to tell a story, and I’m always keen to create a narrative through my artwork, but sometimes I do it in the way of a type of abstract magical realism.  When I went to college, I actually studied literature and had fallen in love with magical realism, but I soon realized that it had always been a part of my own endeavors to create.  In doing this, at least with regard to my photography, I like to use long exposure times, layered images, and pinhole photography. I'm very much interested in dreams, symbolism and the life in-between, what cannot be seen to the naked eye. I'm also keen on representing buried memories that are formless, but hound us in our conceptualization of the world.

Although I am a great fan overall of photography, it's the blurred and abstract images that enchant me, the distorted view of the pinhole, the magical world of layers, the surrealism of double exposures, and the altered view of the plastic lens that intrigue me most.  But out of all these wonderful possibilities, my heart continued back to one over and over, and that was the image of the pinhole. When I first set eyes on pinhole images, my heart raced and fluttered and I felt strangely as if I’d come home. As with all pinhole images, it takes the ordinary mundane existence and transforms it into the extraordinary, breaking established rules and allowing for a different perspective.  Movements that are so subtle we cannot capture them with a “normal” camera or even with our own eyes, but they are captured with a long exposure on a simple lens-less camera.  One of the joys of pinhole photography for me is the process, which takes patience, something I’m usually lacking. 

With regard to pinhole, mostly, it is the movement I'm drawn to, the dreamy, softly distorted portrait of something as mundane as a woman having breakfast.  Is she really there, or is she a remnant of a memory, an entity that no longer breathes?  Perhaps this is reality captured on film and our own eyes trick us into believing something else, a mirage of what is actual truth. 

In these blurred images, the mundane becomes bizarre, strange, and uncanny – things by which I am forever fascinated and to which I am constantly drawn. By having neither lens nor light meter, the pinhole has nothing separating “reality” to film.  The lack of a viewfinder and lack of regularity, especially with regard to light, gives the photographer an element of surprise when the film is developed, something that I find highly exciting.  The pinhole image is almost never a “straight” shot; it is satisfyingly unpredictable and allows collaboration between the photographer and film, nothing else. 


As for inspiration, I can pretty much find it anywhere, whether it be a snippet of an overheard conversation or a phrase in a song. In photography, I've been influenced by, or at least found inspiration in, Diana Bloomfield, Francesca Woodman, Sarah Moon and Ellen Rogers. Other artists I've been influenced by are Edward Gorey, Michael Sowa and Frida Kahlo. But mostly, I'm in awe of those who are diversified in their works or are self-taught. It gives me great incentive to venture forth and do what I want to do myself and not worry about whether it's the "right thing" or not.

A lot to think about here and I know you'll want to follow those links to find out more about Kira, so here's a recap!
Etsy shop

Thanks so much for being here and I hope you're enjoying your walk through the universe! 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Paper Transformation!

I had a lovely surprise yesterday in the studio as I busied myself with a new book page.  Thought I'd shake things up a bit and work with some different paper (and let go of the teabags temporarily, shock!), so I happened to glance over at a pile of this and that on the shelf and spotted this beautiful, soft pale salmon-pink (can't come up with a better color description even though that one isn't on the mark) and tore it down to a reasonable size.  

I wanted to make a book about buttons and thought perhaps the paper might need to be sturdier....in which case, I always turn to the beeswax.  So I turned my electric wok on warm and began to melt the beeswax, imagining how it would deepen and enrich the pinky orange of the paper.  I started rummaging through my big old jar of mostly vintage buttons, dumping a good number of them out on the desk, only to find an amazing array of marbles also....rolling hither and yon all over creation!  Anyway, thought I'd play with some red buttons and began sorting.  However, as you can see, when the paper was dipped in the beeswax, it turned an AMAZINGly rich brown, looking much more like leather than paper.  Oh My!!!  Those red buttons went straight back in the jar and all sorts of delicious brown and tan buttons made it to the "in" pile.  Sorry reds...next time!  Below you can see the amazing difference in color and texture...sort of...in the glare of the lights in the studio.

So here's the page from The Collector's Album of Buttons Never Found.

And so you'll know how it came to be, here's the way I described it in my listing:

What if you chanced upon a page of vintage buttons, all laid out on a double page spread, neatly labeled with a date from a history within memory...what would you think, where would it take you, and where would such a thing have come from? I think it must be a page from The Collector's Album of Buttons Never Found. Perhaps someone had carefully cataloged all the buttons they'd come across, the ones that had dropped off the sweater, the dress, the coat, the ones that were found in a particular place at a particular time, worn by someone who, at some point, looked down in dismay at the place where that button had been. Or this. Maybe the lost buttons gathered themselves together, organized themselves into a book and logged the date they'd gone missing, in the vain hope that the garment's owner would know where to find them....or perhaps...

There's so much to say that can't be said....about loss and longing, and about these objects that follow us through our lives, that become part of our history, markers of memory and that may even have lives of their own. This little page is an echo of an artist's book I made many years ago, which I will show you next time...each button tells a story.  

Hoping you all have a fine weekend!  This afternoon Johntimothy and I will head up to the big city of Sioux Falls (mild joke, all things being relative!) which is an hour away.  A former student has an opening and we'll do a little shopping for things we can't get here and best of all...dinner out!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Papernstitch Studio Tour with MissouriBendStudio!

Good morning everyone!  I was greeted today with the wonderful news that the interview/studio tour of MissouriBendStudio has been posted on the Papernstitch blog.  Hope you  have a chance to take a look!  For the earlier followers of MissouriBendStudio, some of those images may be familiar, but you may also learn a lot in the interview!  It's nice to have such a feature and the exposure to a wider audience!  Papernstitch is a wonderful place to discover artists and artisans and a fine venue for gaining exposure....find out more here.

In the meantime, I've posted a couple more book pages in my shop, but here is the latest!

This one is titled, Page from The Book of Words Blowing in the Breeze.  Sometimes I think about all the words spoken in a day, issued forth into the ether...and while they are most often part of a conversation, what about all those words that don't make it to the intended recipient...or perhaps are rejected, or they fall shy of their mark, or should never have been uttered.  Where do all those words go...aren't they perhaps floating in the breeze, invisible to the naked eye?  Perhaps they are the stuff of puddles in ditches, or the tarnish on metal posts...I don't know, but they have to go somewhere.

Hope you are all thinking creative thoughts and generating memorable moments this fine day!

Until next time...

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance, Week 1

Wow...that's a long title for a post!  But I've had a week to reflect on this phrase "the fleeting moment, the backward glance"... such a large idea...encompassing ideas of time, memory, vastness, intimacy, seeing, reflecting, longing, loss and more.  I'm not sure now whether taking a month to really delve into the topic makes it more or less difficult!!!  So, let's get on with it, shall we?  The photos you'll see below can be found readily availble for viewing or download at the NASA website...this is just enough to begin the journey. I'm actually now rewriting almost this entire post, as I lost over an hour's worth of work when I tried to insert captions in the photos.  So, you won't see captions, but know that you can find an amazing array of photos at NASA!

Our thoughts are often fed by what book or books are currently in progress and it happens that, among other things, I am reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.  Actually, my husband and I are reading it together, in that I'm reading it aloud as time permits...on car trips, sometimes before we go to sleep, whenever the spirit strikes. Our very own book on CD, live and in person! Neither one of us has a strong inclination toward the scientific mind, but we are both fascinated by the sciences, by ideas and how they come to be discovered.  Ooops...off on a tangent.  So, still at the beginning of the book, I've been thinking a lot about the macro (the unimaginably vast universe) and the micro (the unimaginable small universe). It seems to me that in order to talk about "the fleeting moment, the backward glance", it is necessary to place it in some sort of context and for me, the larger cosmos (the micro and the macro) is a way to talk about time and distance.

Whenever we look out at the night sky, it is the ultimate backward glance...we look back into a time and distance almost impossible to imagine.  As Bill Bryson is fond of saying, the universe is just enormous. We look out at stars whose light has been travelling often millions and billions of years and only now appears to our gaze.  And here's a another little bit of perspective about our very own tiny solar system swirling in space. Remember those school room charts that lined up the planets, their size and distance relationships, just so?  Well I must have always known that nothing was quite so neat and tidy, but I wasn't quite ready for this kind of adjustment....that it is impossible really to depict the solar system to scale, even with a multitude of foldout pages, for if earth were reduced to the size of a pea, Jupiter would be a thousand feet away and Pluto a mile and half, but alas also the size of a bacterium and impossible to see.  Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be nearly ten thousand miles away.  Gulp. Enormous doesn't even come close.

And how about the impossible-to-comprehend tiny universe that makes up everything we experience with our senses...oh, including us...let's look at this little footnote from page 104. Avogadro's number, a basic unit of measure in chemistry, is the number of molecules found in 2.016 grams of hydrogen or any other equal volume of gas.  It's quite the formula to write, but here's how Bill Bryson helps us to understand it's magnitude. How about the equivalent of the number of popcorn kernels needed to cover the United States to a depth of nine miles, or cupfuls of water in the Pacific Ocean, or soft drink cans that would cover the earth to a depth of 200 miles if stacked evenly.  That number of American pennies would be enough to make each person on earth a dollar trillionaire.  It's just so big...this is molecules...we won't even make it to subatomic particles before we short circuit!!!  

So, where are we in all this vastness...or that tree, or the wilting flower in the vase, or the vase itself...what do we make of all that we experience in a lifetime?  Are we not, for our brief moment, at the intersection of these vast worlds...everything we know and experience is made of the very stuff of the cosmos, fleeting and yet eternal, as the dance of light and energy continues indefinitely. A kind of loop, all one, the micro and the macro....I can't figure out how to describe it.

Here's how I make sense of it all...I make art that points to larger things. The night sky has long been a feature in my work and I incorporate it as a kind of pointer to that larger context, as if to say, "look up, look out, look back, it's all so much bigger than we can imagine!"  Below is a piece from a few years ago, The Bundle.  There is the "everyman" making his brief apprearance, leaving a trail of his own history in a scatttering of pearls.  That bundle, tightly wound and bursting at the seams....what a very large gift....we must be careful how we unwrap it.

More to think about during the week, as we come to terms with The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance.  I'd love to hear comments, ideas that come to your mind....this feature can be a collaborative venture! I look forward to hearing from you!
Enjoy the days....