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.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sticks and Stillness

Page from The Book of Broken Branches

Hope you are having a fine weekend...restful and rejuvenating!  We just got back from a lovely drive out in the country....bee line to the farm/orchard about a half an hour away from here, before they closed, to get fresh apples and a homemade apple pie and then a long meandering drive through the rolling farmland on the way back.  Such exqusitie color, subtle yellows and reds and the light in the blue-violet sky against the land at sunset was pretty breathtaking!

So now, here I am with a portrait of the little stick I found on the ground as I came out of the music museum on Wednesday, along with the book page it inspired....titled page from The Book of Broken Branches!  Other views, including details available here.  As I made tiny stitches I thought about so many things, including the book page as a format.  Here's what my moving hands reminded me as I put needle to paper.  The reason I am drawn to the book page (at this moment I can't quite recall the proper term for this open page format) rather than making the book itself, is that I am very much about the still image. What I have to say can be said in the single still image. Stillness.  Somehow I need stillness to see clearly, to look, to process what I am seeing.  In a culture totally obsessed by the moving image, I feel rather lost in time, as I struggle visually to keep up.  Our times thrive on bigger, faster, louder and we move too quickly....it's no wonder we can't remember anything in such a blur of rapid movement. In watching a film, I am often transfixed by the momentary flash of a scene that I process in the exquisite composition of the  still frame, but alas it's gone so quickly, the script has moved on and I am mourning the loss of that moment of perfect and beautiful stillness.  I'm sure this is why I work at such an intimate scale and in a process that demands a length of time, both for me and for you, the viewer.  I ask for the slowness that approaches stillness. In viewing, the work demands a one-on-one experience.  These are not works that can be even remotely seen across a room, in a space shared by others...a moment of privacy is necessary to view the work, to slow down, to look, to see and to be...all alone.  Whole worlds can unfold inside us when we slow down.  

Here's to slowness...a gentle reminder to myself!

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Page From The Book of Tattered Fragments

Page From The Book Of Tattered Fragments

I've been so busy lately on this computer that somehow the days have gotten skewed.  It seems as if an artist should be spend the bulk of his or her time in the studio engaged in the creative process, but somehow lately, I find that perhaps 3/4 of the day is spent here at the computer, juggling all the sites I'm trying to keep up with.  I think it's been a subtle shift, as more and more time has been spent each day here at my desk, even as I try to get back into the studio.  The other day I realized how very little time I was actually in the studio in any given day and now I'm trying to figure out how to get things realigned.  We won't even talk about not having time to read a book!  I am happiest when there is a delicate balance to my days...time in the studio, reading, banjo practice, blog reading and writing and other computer tasks, a bit of fresh air, good healthy food and a nice glass of wine....not to mention relaxed, quality time with my dear husband!  Hard to pull that off...and I don't even have children....hats off to those of you who do all these things and raise your children too! 

So, having said all that, for whatever it's worth, I also just want to say that I sure do love making these book pages and would like to focus on them entirely, but feel I should keep my shop balanced with a variety of work. And what can I say about the delicate color and patina that a used teabag imparts laying softly against a bit of cream colored Japanese paper....so wonderful.  I've got three new ones just starting, so I'm headed off to the studio for a bit!

Hope your week is going well.  Big midwestern storm passsing through and we've had constant wind for days, it seems, with 50 mile an hour gusts (no snow down this far thankfully!) and whitecaps on the Missouri River.  Winter is just around the corner!  Cheers!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Place, Part III

The last Monday in October, and just how did that happen, I ask you?  As usual, time is flying by and it's really true what they say...the older you get, the faster it goes!  We're still thinking about Place on this meander through the universe and I'm going to bring you some of the latest paintings by another dear friend, Robin Cody, who is also very much an artist tied to the idea of conveying a sense of place. Incidentally, she happens to be the wife of our earlier feature, Peter Brown--it's a fine painting partnership, to be sure.  Robin is on sabbatical this semester and was able to extend the summer months they usually spend in Maine through a bit of the autumn. She is a painter through and through, along with many other fine qualities, including a wicked sense of humor and my husband, Johntimothy, still says she makes the best pecan pie on the planet! Robin spends her time painting on location and I include a few words direct from the artist about that process. Works painted while recently in Maine follow.

Landscape sketches on the beach in Maine:

The speed with which all things change in the landscape is daunting, but it establishes the game - the race, or pursuit that is painting. I’m aware of painting from memory, remembering certain colors or gestures that define time and place. All of my looking is in the past as I rush to record it.  Possibly, Boudin and Constable are standing behind me, one at each shoulder, sadly shaking their heads. And sighing. -- Robin Cody

Robin is in the midst of creating a new web presence, so at this point additional work is not available to view, but please leave a comment here that you'd like to see more and I'll make sure to get you a link when the time comes! I love the sense of light in her work, the delicious paint surface and always, a sense of time and place.

What path shall we follow next month? Clearly, the thread that has connected each post in this topic of place, has been memory. But, that's just so broad, I'd like to sharpen the lens just a little bit and use this very powerful notion that Robin brought up in her statement. I'm very intrigued by this idea of looking backward, which is of course, what we do, because by the time we record and process the present moment, it has quite vanished, often without a trace. Let's frame it this way: The Fleeting Moment, The Backward Glance.  See you next Monday for A Walk Through The Universe.  But I'll be back before then with posts of a different order!

Thanks for your interest and would love to hear from you...cheers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pages from the Book of Open Windows and Counting Days

I've just got a few minutes here, before I head into town to go to my one-afternoon-a-week job, performing librarianesque duties at the National Music Museum in Vermillion (now, that's something to Google...it's world reknowned collection of musical instruments...right here in Vermillion, South Dakota!).  So, I'm off soon, but thought I'd share the resolution of the piece I posted several days ago, Page from The Book of Open Windows. A bit of randomness here and there and it announced itself finished and allowed me to move on to the following piece...a bit more subdued, but still, I do like it...a page from The Book of Counting Days (complete with detail shot below).

Hope you are having a good week....so far, so good for me.  Back into the studio tomorrow for more fun, merriment and a good dose of angst!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Place, Part II

Another week in October, bringing a new opportunity to think about the idea of "place" in our walk through the universe.  I gave myself an invitation to weigh in with my own thoughts and fairly recent revelations regarding place, so I'll start by giving you a bit of background.  

In 2005, my husband and I decided to make the rather drastic move from Florida to South Dakota, with the acceptance of his appointment on the faculty at The University of South Dakota.  We'd both been in the same location in Sarasota, Florida at the Ringling School of Art and Design (since renamed Ringling College of Art and Design) for quite some time...I'd gone to school there in the mid-70s and had remained working in the library ever since and my husband had come there to teach in the late 1980s.  My father had passed away several years before and we were both ready for a change.  For Johntimothy, it was a change, but not as drastic as it was for me, since he would actually be returning to his alma mater, having gotten his graduate degree in printmaking from USD many moons before.  But...I digress.  So, here's where my story really begins.  We came out to look for houses in mid-May and I immediately felt at home in this landscape of the mid-west.  I'd only lived my 40+ years up and down the east coast, so this was a pretty new experience for me.  I attributed my new found sense of place to a kind of connection to the town in eastern Montana where my parents had both grown up.  It was a much different landscape there, situated on the edge of the badlands, but still it was my only explanation.  As we settled into our life in this very small university town, in a terrain of rolling farmland, I not only felt an affinity for the land, but the sense of history coming from the land itself.  All of this was new to me.  I'd lived in Florida for thirty years and as much as I loved it there, I never felt connected to the land and only knew of the "sense of place" as an intellectual idea. Here I felt it in my bones, in a sort of uncanny way. I began to read more about the history of this part of the country--the Native Americans who spent countless generations here, the white settlers who came west, changing the lives and the land forever.  The land is a palimpsest and contains a rich history in its layers.  

While I was reading about the history of the west (I realize that we are firmly placed in the mid-west, but generations ago, this was very much the west), I also began to delve more into family history and genealogy, as there were tales of my ancestors having come from Canada and clearly they had to have come through this area.  I come mostly from French Canadian stock and I started with my mother's side, but found very little that I didn't already know, except that my great-grandfather had truly come through these parts, through Omaha,to the Black Hills of South Dakota during the gold rush there.  He apparently had a stagecoach operation (information is quite sketchy), traveling supplies (and people?) between Bismark, ND and Deadwood, SD (at that time all of it known as Dakota Territory) and then followed the railway out to Glendive, Montana.  However, what was most astonishing was the genealogy I uncovered on the RootsWeb site that traced my father's ancestry all the way back to France in the early 1600s.  There I learned that my ancestors were indeed in the mid-west, along the Mississippi River by the 1740s...before St. Louis was in existence, just as the territory was being juggled back and forth between the French, the Spanish and the English.  I learned that since that time, all of my paternal ancestors have been in Missouri, Minnesota and Montana, always on locations with a river and until a couple of generations ago, farming the land. As I noted all the locations in this extremely thorough genealogy and made the connections with locations of ancestors on my mother's side, I understood something about this land and why I feel a sense of place....I am sitting, literally, in the middle of the circle of my ancestors.  

The artwork that came forth during this period is called Bloodlines, which refers to my own bloodline, that I have now found, is clearly part of the bittersweet history of this part of the country.  My own blood runs in the layers of this landscape and I am part of the history of this place.


This is a land of wide-open spaces, gently rolling, rich with color in every season of the year.  I think the mountains are beautiful, but given a choice, I'll take the plains.  A few shots below, taken the other day on an off-the-interstate drive back home from Sioux Falls.  The corn and soybeans are being harvested like gangbusters, but you get a sense of the wide open spaces.  Don't despair, just because there aren't a lot of trees in these photos, doesn't mean we don't have them--really!

Thanks for listening to my tale and I'd be curious to hear if you have a similar story about a strong sense of place that you have found is part of your very own history.  I think there is something that is handed down, perhaps, something akin to memory.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Processing The Process, or Pursuing Randomness

So, it's taken me a long time to get anything done this week and I'm not sure why.  I've worked on several pieces, all but abandoning them three quarters of the way through.  And here's another one that has taken quite a bit of time.  It's calling itself Page From The Book of Open Windows and I've been working on it diligently, sewing tiny stitches, as you can see in the botton photo....but I'm at the critical stage now of needing to create something askew...something to take it off someplace much more interesting.  I was just about to say I'd sleep on it one more night and then, uh oh...I turned it over...now THAT (top photo) I find ever so much more interesting.  It's random and accidental and uncontrolled...and it brings up that age-old conundrum.  You can't plan the random...if you plan it, it ends up being controlled and loses its life force.  Isn't it like the whole notion of being "in the moment"...once you become aware that you're "in the moment", you are no longer really "in the moment"...

So now I have to trick myself.  Because this is another piece that is a "book page", there's no reason that both sides aren't part of the piece...so I guess I just keep working on the front and try to give it the zest it needs, being very careful not to think about the back....OR, perhaps I work on the back and in turning my back on the front, the random quality will happen naturally on the "front".  If you can follow that, you're much more awake than I am. 

It's late and I still need to get in some banjo practice or I'll never move beyond the beginning beginner stage!  Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Page From The Book of Tiny Houses

Mid-week greetings!  First, I must apologize for all the on-again, off-again business with the photos for these Walk In The Universe posts the last couple of weeks.  I can't explain the problem of their disappearance, nor can I explain their inexplicable reappearance!  With the post from this week, each time I tried to get the photos back on the blogs, my last paragraph disappeared, so depending on when you read the post, you got version no.1, 2, or 3!  I think I figured it out now and hope the photos of Peter Brown's will stay put.  I also figured that the post of work by Fiona Dempster from the previous week would have gone AWOL again,  and sure enough when I checked this morning, they'd gone missing and who knows how long they'd been wandering around, floating freely in the ether.  I tried what I thought was my sure fix and couldn't make it work.  Just now, I had another brainstorm and went to get the photos back on the post and there they were, as if they'd never gone off wandering on their own!  Is this some plot to drive me, barely able to navigate this technology anyway, completely off my rocker!?!  On to something more interesting than wayward posts....I hope!

After several false starts, mishaps and fatal errors (for the artwork anyway), I was able to call another piece finished yesterday!  I'm trying to stay focused on these book pages, whatever strange form they want to take...and see where it goes.  So, introducing a Page From The Book Of Tiny Houses.
It's pencil and ink on two pieces of Japanese paper dipped in beeswax and held together by the strip of lace-paper sewn to either side.  In the middle are two parts of a drawing on a teabag dipped in beeswax that are sewn on.  You can see in the second photo how yummy and translucent the paper is once it's been dipped in beeswax!  I'd better not push my luck, but adding anything more to this post!  Have a lovely day and enjoy the season (fall or spring!) wherever you are.  Once more, thanks to all the followers and other bloggers out there for giving me such inspiration on a daily basis!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Walk In The Universe: Place...Part 1

It's Monday and we're back on the Walk in the Universe (not that any of us have actually left our walks through the universe in the intervening days), but I find that I'm meandering at a slower pace.  There's a lot to think about and to digest in these topics we've looked at each week...they all have endless possibilities.  At first I thought I might just make A Walk Through The Universe a monthly feature, rather than weekly, but now it occurs to me that we'll just look at the same topic for the whole month over each of the Mondays during that month.  I won't feel like I'm on a trek with a deadline and we can explore a topic from various angles and take the time that will allow for more input from readers that might want to participate.  So, having said that, let's say we'll continue to look at "place" through the month of October and then see what the link seems to be...where will the path take us next!

Place...so nebulous and yet so specific...temporal...spatial...as Gabriella Mirollo (Two Tigers Creations) said in her comment last week, almost anything can be seen in terms of place...very true. Somehow, for me, my experience of place is so often tied up with memory and seen through it's half-open window. There are lots of ways to look at this subject and another week, I'll share a bit about my own experience of place, having moved to the midwest five years ago from Florida.  There will still be time in the month to see where else we go with the topic of "place". 

Part of what I like to share in this feature is the work of artists who are dealing with the topic of the week in some way through the creative process.  This week, I'm happy to bring you the work of a very dear friend from Florida, Peter Brown.  I've known Peter for decades and have watched his work evolve over time...always beautiful and always of a time and place.

Peter's work, as you'll see, beautifully juxtaposes pattern with imagery, in ways that for me, conjure a half-remembered time and take me to a place of deep longing, always for something unnameable. I've selected just three pieces from his blog, but many more wonderful works can be seen here. Here's what Peter has to say about his most recent work:

"My current work combines elements of painting and printmaking (mostly simple stencils). They are composed of multiple images, both representational and decorative, joined together in an attempt to give various symbolic visual and psychological perspectives to the larger narrative. The paintings are autobiographical and are all inspired by specific places. It is actually the description of the sense of place that is the subject of the work. I think of them as entries in a visual journal. The references are mostly from my own experience, but some of them are stories that I surmised/invented from family photographs taken during the 19th and early 20th centuries." 
-- Peter W. Brown

The Erosion of Sentimentality, acrylic on wood panel, 9x12", 2009
Full Moon, Long Sands, acrylic on 7 wood panels, 12x19", 2009

Countless Stitches, acrylic on canvas, 24x24", 2010 
Well, here I am a day after the original post (Monday, October 11, 2010), having to add the disappearing images back to the blog, yet again.  Each time I go through this process, the very paragraph I type here also disappears....so this blog post is now on it's third ending, alas each one slightly different in wording.  This time, I'll hold my breath that everything holds, as I tried a different process to get the images loaded. Bizarre!!! 

I really encourage you to investigate Peter's work further by visiting his blog Peter Brown Paintings...many more beautiful paintings, as well as photocollages to take your breath away!

I'll wrap this post up by saying that I'd love to hear from you with comments, suggestions or your own stories and experiences of place that you might want to share.  We still have at least a couple of Mondays left in the month, so your input can help enliven the conversation on this topic that is, all at once, anywhere and everywhere...place!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From the Book of Blue

Just after I pretty much ruined a morning's work on another piece, by messing up the blue ink (the piece has now been painted over a multitude of times  and is in the recovery phase!), I decide to fold another sheet into one of the pseudo book pages that I am so fond of making.  This time the blue ink decided to behave itself and followed in step nicely, one dot after another carefully bleeding, just so, into the Japanese paper.  It's been dipped in beeswax, which makes the whole thing beautifully translucent. This looks like some sort of text that needs a bit of translation or decoding.  I'm calling it a page from The Book of Blue.

I hope you're having a fine weekend!  See you on Monday with A Walk in the Universe post on "Place"...until then, enjoy your inner and outer life, one moment at a time!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Your Marks Are Your Fingerprint

So I just have to share this discovery I made in the studio the other day.  I found one of the hardbound sketchbooks that I have sometimes used....I'm not actually one to make good use of a sketchbook, since I work so intuitively most of the time.  This one had hardly been touched...in fact, the few pages that had been used dated back to 1997!  I leafed through those initial pages and was astonished to discover this page...it's like I made it yesterday!  I can't quite say why I found it so odd, except that I saw that my mark making language is so consistent....as much as I like to think I've changed and moved in other directions, there it is...I'm the same me that I always was.  This is a comfort in some ways, because it's like a fingerprint...your language is always a part of you and probably always has been, even before you knew how to "speak" it.  It's all there...the book page, the whimsical drawings, the intuitive marks.  And on an adjacent page, a short list (always a list maker!) with these words....flight, ritual, intimacy, self, place...I might have written that list a moment ago...all those same concerns and ideas.  They are big ideas...it takes a lifetime.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Book of Hours

Welcome to another weekly feature of A Walk Through The Universe.  The topic this week was The Book of Hours, based on a connection from last week's topic of palimpsest.  As many palimpsests were prayer books on ancient vellum that had been scraped and written over, the Book of Hours, a prayer book very prevalent during the middle ages, provided the path for this week's amble.  The trouble is, I kind of got lost in the woods, and couldn't find my compass for much of the week.  I did a good number of searches on Book of Hours and turned up more sites and images than I knew what to do with!  The easiest place to start a quick investigation is with a stop at Wikipedia, which you can get to here. As I began to understand it, these prayers books were quite widely collected in the middle ages by all classes of people. While the beautifully illuminated volumes commissioned by the wealthy have been handed down to us and are more well known, many of the prayer books were quite spare and may have had only decorated capital letters.  Containing a wide variety of texts, including among other things, psalms, prayers, saints days, church teachings and calendar of important days, these books were used throughout the day for meditation and devotion, in order to give the laity a more direct access to God. 

As I contemplated how I might handle the post for this week, I began looking for contemporary versions of the Book of Hours and found quite a few, not only in the form of handmade books and visual art, but in music and literature as well.  I didn't quite think that any of these pointed me in quite the right direction, and while I tried to find a link to the world view of an "everyman" of the time period, I couldn't make a real connection that made sense to me. The same questions kept arising...what was it like to live in the Middle Ages with the Church such a dominant force in daily life and what were the joys and fears of people five hundred years ago as they lived from day to day?  While no doubt beautiful and intimate as a book, just how was daily life structured by a Book of Hours? Life was vastly different then, to be sure, but at our core, are we so very different as human beings now? I am aware that a few hundred years from now, people may look back at the early 21st century and wonder how we could not have known all the things that they will have taken for granted. I am careful then, to remember these were people living in a particular time and place, just as we are. Five hundred years, in the scheme of things, is really no time at all and I think human beings are still human beings...and as such, are we not all searching for meaning, for answers and for a connection to a larger context so that we can find our place in the universe?  Are we not looking for a peaceful way, for solace and safe passage? Do we not, in various ways, try to make sense of the vastness, the mystery, and the wonder of existence?  Do we not feel the need to leave behind even the faintest trace of our journey, no matter what our religious views? 

Trusting my instinct that I would find my own truly connecting thread to this week's topic, I contacted Fiona Dempster, a calligraphic and book artist whose work I had recently discovered through her wonderful blog, Paper Ponderings.  I knew right away I had found the path through Fiona -- we have had a wonderful correspondence over the last several days.  Spare, elegant and meditative, her work is a beautiful tribute to her ongoing investigations into all these ideas of connection, place, the journey.

With Fiona's permission, I quote a bit of her end of the conversation:

"...My love of books and text is what drives my art.  I love the intimate nature of artists books - the ability for you to have a one on one experience with somebody's creativity. To hold books and feel them; move them and go back and forth to rediscover messages and beauty.  I think its the personal and intimate nature of artists books that appeal so much.  

My work is also quiet. It doesn't shout or grab attention; I think it invites people to quietly spend time with it, reflect and ponder.  I hope that people get a sense of stillness and peacefulness when they engage with my work..."

"Finding My Place" is a lovely dos-a-dos book that reflects the journey and finding a sense of place. She describes it beautifully in her own writing on a recent blog post found here.

Another book, "In the Silence", seen below, is described by Fiona: 

"...also a meditative book - each page has a letter of the alphabet 'pulled' out of copper leaf; leaving the coloured pastel underneath the copper leaf revealed.  Each letter suggest a word for reflection - perhaps for just opening up and seeing what you may be encouraged to focus on for that day.  I felt it was precious enough to make a box for it - interestingly with an "x" within a circle, within a square. All symbols I have been re-using in my journey and home works. I like the notion of having a daily focus - in amongst our busy lives, pausing to find a word that encourages us to reflect, ponder, think, or focus on that element and how it plays in our lives. Even if only for a brief moment before the chaos returns."

And so, I've found another kindred spirit whose work touches a deep chord.  More than once in our conversation we had "aha" moments where we encountered our very own sentiments expressed almost verbatim by the other...about the content of our artistic investigations and about books, hand held and allowing for an intimate one-on-one experience with the work.  I still have a lot of reading to do at Fiona's blog and if you're not familiar with Paper Ponderings, I encourage you to visit her blog here.
That brings me to the subject of the coming week's meandering walk and I think the topic is "place"...guess it'll be another busy week!

Thanks for stopping by MissouriBendStudio.  I'd love to hear from you with comments, ideas and even corrections, if they are in order!

Have a great week...see you soon with mid-week posts!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Black Hills Views

As promised, I am delivering a few of the photos from our jaunt out to the Black Hills on the other side of South Dakota last weekend.  That's out west...long about the middle of the state when you cross the Missouri River, it really feels like you're in the west.  The Missouri River runs east to west on the eastern side of the state where we live, and then about halfway across turns north and bisects the state. We actually live right on the Missouri River which, in this part of the state, forms the border with Nebraska. "East river" is generally flat, though sometimes rolling, farmland and "west river" is much different with wide open range, badlands and then mountains that contain amazing rock outcroppings. I'm posting just a few photos from the trip--thought you might like to see our friends, the buffalo and the wild burro (who doesn't appear to be quite so wild as he is curious) that we met in Custer State Park.  The scenic views are also taken in Custer State Park, one along what is known as the Needles Highway and the other at Sylvan Lake.  Haven't even downloaded a fraction of the photos my husband took, but I'm anxious to get to the pictures of the amazing patterns on the aspen bark that has inspired a whole new body of work.  Those aspens are just so beautiful!

Have a great weekend and I'll be back Monday for A Walk Through The Universe!