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.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Empty Room

Greetings! I believe another shift is coming....in my reading, in the work and where my attention is directed. A gradual turning toward a yet, nameless direction. Time to dig out that compass! Actually, I have a sense I may not need it, as the voice of my inner compass seems to be calling.

Often I sit for periods of time in my comfortable reading chair, staring out the window at the falling leaves, more gradual now that the trees are nearly bare, and at the river, moving sometimes slowly, sometimes swiftly. I contemplate the beauty and elegance reflected in the spareness in the landscape at this time of year. I have a sense of envy and desire for that spareness in my life, even as I cling to all the objects that surround me. Isn't it odd how, at least in my own culture in which I am fairly well embedded, we spend our lives in pursuit, in accumulating the stuff of modern life, objects of adoration, the things we believe we may one day use. And one day, or maybe over an accumulation of days, we find that there is a large part of us, mostly kept secret from true awareness, that would love to be unburdened of it all.

Perhaps it comes at the time of life when we are confronted with aging parents, also with a houseful of "stuff" that will have to be dealt with. This aspect of life casts a kind of mirror on our own lives....at least it does mine, as I look about the house, the closets, the storage area and wonder where all the stuff came from and why it's still here. There are times when I would truly love to be rid of it all, but I am quickly overwhelmed and close the door once more.

In my mind, there is a large empty room, painted white, furnished only with a simple wooden writing desk and a chair. The table sits alone in the center of the room, facing the one wall with a window quite off center and to the right, where the sky changes from morning sun to evening sunset. I would write, read and draw there, if I could and I would just "be". It's a dream, I know, but it gives me the space and emptiness I sometimes crave....from being too busy, juggling too many things and being so easily overwhelmed.

I'll keep you posted on new work as it develops....in the meantime, this little accordion folded drawing found its way into my Etsy shop today.

Hope you have a great week! Would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Hello, from the frigid midwest! Wow, it's cold today....hard to believe that it is only November! Wanted to share these last three pieces with you before I got too busy and forgot! These are the latest from the Dust to Dust series, all of which can be found on my website under the artwork tab. This is an ongoing series, revealing itself slowly over time, a reflection of my readings about the land, not only here in my own locale, but over the entire earth. I am fascinated by the interconnected histories of the land and humanity and find myself delving into books related to geology, archaeology, sustainable farming practices, etc. etc. Everything is ultimately related and I find that the farther afield you cast your net, the more you can make connections to what you may have already come to understand. The picture gets larger and the possibilities are richer as you see the connection between things far, far below the surface. 

Dust to Dust no. 14

Dust to Dust no. 15

Dust to Dust no. 16

These pieces are all made with layers of drawing/painting with acrylic and ink on Ampersand cradled clayboard.....wonderful to surface to work on.....and the 8 x 8" size suits me perfectly.

Just got my copy of  Seth Apter's book The Mixed Media Artist this afternoon....can't wait to sit down with a cup of Lapsang Souchong (my favorite smoky afternoon tea) and peruse the book! 

See you soon....have a great week!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Mixed Media Artist by Seth Apter

Hello everyone....please forgive what seems to be an unforgivable lapse of time since my last post. Everyone knows the juggling act that is modern life, I'm sure. My library job is taking a vast amount of my energy and what is left has been spent reading and a little precious time in the studio. I am thrilled today to announce that I am one of the Gallery 14 artists in Seth Apter's amazing new book on mixed media.

Seth, the artist and blogger extraordinaire, is doing another amazing job of connecting artists with one another and with a wider audience. His blog post today on The Altered Page highlights this feature of the book. Other posts throughout October have highlighted other aspects of the book, which is now available, although the link above from Amazon shows it still as a pre-order until next week. If you are not familiar with Seth's blog and his amazing and infectious energy, you are in for a treat! He has many talents and gifts and is himself a gift to other artists throughout the world as they spend their time, often squirreled away in the their studios, creating because they must. 

Seth, thank you once again for the invitation to be part of your second book venture and for the kind and thoughtful words about my work on your blog post today!

By way of keeping everyone somewhat abreast of the latest work in the studio, these pieces below are the continuing saga of the research into the land and the layered history of the earth itself in my ongoing Dust to Dust series. I do have three more of these pieces (all 8x8" on cradled panel) that are just in the final tweaking stages. I should have them finished and photographed next week and will post them here before they go on my website. These pieces will soon be on my website as well!

Thanks for much, Friends....hope you are all well and enjoying a fine autumn!

 Dust to Dust no.11
Dust to Dust no.12

Dust to Dust no.13

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sense of Place

Dust to Dust, no.10

Dust to Dust no.10 (detail)

Hello from the banks of the Missouri River in the last hot days of summer! My posts are rather infrequent these days, but am so busy during the day at my job at the library that my blogging life has suffered. As everyone knows, it is extremely hard to keep up with everything and we all must make choices. My friends here in cyberspace are still very important to me and I hope you will all understand my absences. 

I'm very busy at the public library creating a whole slate of new adult progamming, which is very exciting, but keeping up with all the threads of contacting folks, publicizing and marketing on top of my regular tasks, is keeping me more than engaged each day (well, 4 days of the week). It is bringing out my inner list maker, that's for sure! I'm exciting to be involved in this community building effort here in our small town. And now, to talk about this newest work from my studio.

As those of you who have followed my work for some time may have guessed, these are a continuation of the the Dust to Dust series. My reading and study of the history of the grasslands, the prairie and plains continues, enriching my understanding with each new book. There seems to be an inexhaustible amount of material and I find it all fascinating. The threads are all so interwoven, like a tapestry. The selling of the plains to folks from the east as an agricultural paradise and then the subsequent turning of the grasslands, which evolved over millions of years, into fields for planting....well it's a very long, complex story, still unfolding today. All the reading and ruminating finds its way into the work as I try to make sense of the history of the land and my place within it. 
Dust to Dust, no.11

Dust to Dust no.11 (side view)

Dust to Dust no.12

Dust to Dust no.12 (side view)

Dust to Dust no.13

Dust to Dust no.13 (side view)

These pieces are made on cradled panel or canvas with layers of acrylic and ink. The top piece, no.10 is 8" x 24" and the others are all 8" x 8". For me they are about the trace of buried civilizations, the bittersweet history and memory of those who have come before. Even as a relative newcomer to South Dakota (8 years),  my own history is steeped in this part of the country, as my parents were born and raised in Glendive, Montana, a town in the eastern part of the state on the Yellowstone River. My great grandfather, a French Canadian, was one of the first settlers there, having gone out with the railroad in the late 19th century. So much history to mine in this land. I think we all searching for identity and a sense of place. I would love to hear your stories of finding a connection to place and to the land.

Three new pieces in the Dust to Dust series are currently underway! Look for all the pieces in the series, along with other recent works (Notes From the Ancestors, Celadon Suite and more!) on my website www.robertspizzuto.com

See you again soon....look forward to hearing from you to share ideas and conversation!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Timeless Prairie

Hello again from the now the waning days of summer....do I detect a shift in the air and is there a sense that fall is around the corner? Except for the weeds, out of control in the front and just barely under control in the back, the garden beds are looking rather fine. We are in need of rain though and are looking to the skies for moisture coming our way. Tomatoes seem slow to ripen, but I think that seems to be the case everywhere in this area, given the late start to the season with all those winter storms until mid-May! My days are busy, as are yours I'm sure, between my life at the library and my life at home and in the studio. I've been concentrating much more on larger panel pieces, rather than work for my Etsy shops and have been listing the newest Dust to Dust works (8" x 8" on 1 1/2" deep cradled panels) over on my website. I'll show you the latest finished pieces here and hope you'll visit the website to see the rest. They all deal with the disappearance of the prairie in the westward expansion and the history of the land....the memories and artifacts that lay buried in strata that speak of time passing. Our histories too will become part of the earth....all these ideas about the trace of memory still fascinate me....always so much to explore.

Dust to Dust no.7

Dust to Dust no.8

Dust to Dust no.9

Still doing a lot of reading, watching ideas cross paths with each other as I explore several books at the same time....well, not in the same sitting! Here's what I'm currently reading:

Beautifully written, full of fascinating information and beautiful photographs, this is a must-have book for those interested in the prairie.

One of my favorite writers....all nonfiction, but her writing and the weaving of ideas will take your breath away.

Delightful reading....visual artists, writers, composers, etc.....so many ways to live the creative life!

Hope you are all enjoying the season, scanning the horizons for new and creative possibilities! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Slowly Unfolding

I just had to tell you about my appreciation and delight with the unfolding seasons, particularly spring and summer. At this time of year especially, I see how the delights of the season make a slow march toward center stage and take their place in the spotlight and then move on to make way for the next star of the show. The seasons instill in us a sense of anticipation, even as we enjoy the present moment, we almost cast our eyes on the horizon for signs of the next act to follow.

The first signs of spring green give way eventually to lush growth and before you know it there are the daffodils and the tulips, right on cue. One of my favorite early highlights is the gorgeous array of irises, each variety taking turn in bloom....all at once and it might be just too visually intoxicating. Just as they are beginning to lose their luster, here come the peonies on center stage....gorgeous! Another of our favorite  aspects of late spring and early summer are the birds, especially the Baltimore orioles, who keep us busy as they feed on hummingbird nectar and grape jelly with abandon. There was a brief lull as the peonies and iris blossoms left the stage...just a brief intermission really, as my anticipation of the arrival of the fireflies had me casting my eyes deep into the twilight each evening. But there they were, as if on cue! On the 25th, as I washed dishes looking out the kitchen window, the flash of a firefly and then another in quick succession! The fireflies are here now....truly one of the delights of summer is sitting out on the front porch in the late evening watching the magic. The anticipation still fills me, as I watch the daylily flower buds growing day by day....soon their colors will be filling the garden. We're getting, what seems to me, to be just the right amount of rain....lush green and daily growth everywhere. Pumpkins and squash, perhaps watermelon is we get lucky this year, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and raspberries....who doesn't love summer! Our neighbor, Ben, will soon be sharing with us the fruits of his off-site garden, also one of the highlights of summer....I look forward to homegrown rather than store bought cucumbers!

Another brief thunderstorm has just finished and I believe the dark clouds are moving on....I have the morning free and will head downstairs to the studio. Hope you are enjoying the summer (or wintery) season wherever you are!

I made this tiny folded beeswax book last week and am making a few more now....you know me, I do love a tiny book!  This one is available in my Etsy shop here.

See you soon!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Greetings in the First Days of Summer

Dust to Dust no.4

Dust to Dust no.5

Dust to Dust no.6

Hello! Hoping the summer season is finding everyone well. Here in South Dakota, the temperatures are turning warmer and more like summer every day. I'd say spring was mostly cooler than normal, but we've also had a fair amount of rain, which is a very good thing! Last year's severe drought is still on everyone's mind, so there is a grateful sigh of relief to have rain this year. The garden is thriving, including all manner of weeds. Time to get back out there and do some serious weeding! The irises and peonies have had their time of beautiful blooms and are now turning the stage over to the day lilies which are showing signs of flowering sprouts that grow what seems like inches each day.

Johntimothy and I had a much needed rejuvenating vacation in Washington, DC, where we immersed ourselves for days on end in museums surrounded by amazing works of art. We were there at the tail end of the Albrecht Durer exhibition at the National Gallery, which was a highlight especially for Johntimothy, the printmaker! We chanced upon a fascinating lecture on the Sunday afternoon we were at the National Gallery by author/historian Ross King who was discussing his new book Leonardo and the Last Supper. We now have a signed copy and I can't wait to read it! One of the surprise highlights of our trip though, was the exhibition at the Phillips Collection, Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life. I had seen Braque's paintings before, but not a collection of them and somehow this time they hit us with their subtle power and for both of us, Braque's work stood out as much more interesting and nuanced than Picasso's. Interesting.

So, back at home now, fully immersed in the chaos of daily life and work. Trying to reestablish rhythms and continuing my reading explorations. Just finished a fabulous book by a local author, Jerry Wilson, Waiting for Coyote's Call: An Eco-Memoir From The Missouri River Bluff. The book is beautifully written and centers around the building of his home and the restoration of much of the land to native grasses. It is labeled an eco-memoir and it is definitely that, but more.....a inspiration for living a thoughtful life connected to place and learning to find the wisdom found in nature and within. Highly recommended!

Somehow in recent weeks I finished these pieces from the Dust to Dust series. I believe I showed them to you while in progress, but now I call them finished. I didn't take any shots of the sides which have drawing on them as well, but they are on 1 1/2" cradled clayboard....they hover somewhere between painting and drawing, but lean more toward drawing with layers of acrylic paint and acrylic ink. I'm still haunted by notions of the buried history in the land....time and memory, the lost traces of our collective lives.

And now....it's a beautiful Sunday and Johntimothy and I will take a drive over across the river to Wynot, Nebraska to the St. James Marketplace crossing our fingers all the while that there will be at least one homemade blueberry pie for us to bring home!  See you soon....enjoy the day!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Works in Progress

Hi, everyone! I feel as if I should be apologizing to you, as it feels as if I've abandoned all my friends here. It's been a time of replenishing the stores with reading and working outside in the garden beds....at long last!! My last post was almost a month ago and I was reminded of that photo I took of one of the many snowstorms we had in April....but that one wasn't the last of it....we had several more between then and the last one on May 1st. But....at long last spring has taken hold and I want to spend every minute outside in the fresh air....digging in the weeds, planting or just sitting on the porch with a book and a glass of wine! If you'd been here this winter (and many of you endured a long, hard winter as well, I know!) you'd certainly want to do the same.

I have been making some new work in the studio, but it's going slowly....mostly because I'm so distracted with my spring fever! I've included a few quick shots of the three pieces in progress....a continuation of the Dust to Dust series I started a couple of months ago. These are all on 8x8" clay coated Ampersand cradled panels. They are evolving in connection to the reading I've been doing about the land and its history...a wide scope of events including the gradual loss of the prairie and the bittersweet stories of the peoples who have passed through these parts. It is a complex, yet fascinating piece of history, still unfolding, and the way I can come to terms with it all is through making the work that I make. These pieces seem to be more about drawing than painting, but I think the next panels will move in another direction....but we'll just have to see, as I don't seem to be in control of how they evolve! Here are the three in progress on my rather messy desk and details of each individually.

Above is a short found text poem made a few weeks ago....I used to make these regularly and kind of missed the process, so have been making them here and there. This one fits nicely with the ideas I've been working with and I thought I'd share it here.

My other last piece of exciting news is that I just received my advance copy of 500 Paper Objects to be published in the next month by Lark Books. Two of my pieces were selected for the book and it's exciting to see them in print! It's doubly exciting around here lately, as my husband Johntimothy, who is a printmaker, is represented in another publication that just came out, 500 Prints on Clay!

Well, I have missed you all and hope everyone is having a fine spring or autumn, depending on your locale. I've just seen some of the pictures of the devastation from tornado in Oklahoma....I know there have been many others and my heart goes out to all those who have been in the paths of those tornados. Frighteningly powerful and heartbreaking to see the damage.

Best wishes to everyone and I will try to get back here much sooner next time! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dust To Dust

The endless winter continues....each week there is at least one storm, dumping rain, snow, ice, sleet or any combination thereof. The several inches of mounting snow this afternoon is due to a visit from Zeus....clearly the last of the winter storms. But, I've said that before and been completely wrong.

I've been continuing my reading investigations into this land where I live, coming to terms with a sense of place. I am still fascinated by the prairie....well, what was the prairie and the history of the land in this part of the country. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I read Grassland, by Richard Manning, which I found fascinating and which inspired a new direction in my work. I was reminded in my reading of the deep history of the land and have always held the idea of the land as a keeper of memory. This is true in a metaphoric sense, but also in a very real and tangible way, as the pottery shards and remnants of past cultures lay buried in the earth. 

I began experimenting with these small cradled clayboard panels, which I have found are a wonderful surface for drawing and painting. These new pieces are part of a series I'm calling Dust to Dust. Since I didn't know just what size I would be most comfortable with, I bought three different sizes to experiment with. So....these are the first pieces from the series, no.1, no.2 and no.3, which are sized 4x4", 6x6", 8x8" respectively. I like working on the 8"x8" so the series is now moving forward in a slightly different way, in that size....please stay tuned!

Dust to Dust no.1

Dust to Dust no.1 (side detail)

Dust to Dust no.2

Dust to Dust no.3

I'm now happily immersed in another wonderful book, Not Just Any Land by John Price. I was happy to lay my hands on it at our library, but it's another one of those books I'll buy because I want it in my library. 

I've finished another piece in the Celadon Suite series as well...now posted on my website, no.6. I wish I was a better photographer....this is just so washed out!

Celadon Suite no.6

While we are complaining about the winter weather here, I am aware of the heartache and misery of those folks along the Mississippi River with it's rising flood waters. The waters here on the Missouri River are quite low, so they are no doubt holding back water releases from the dams upriver. Mother Nature is a powerful force, that's for sure. 

Well, this is the end of my "weekend" and the work week begins tomorrow. Hope you all are doing well....investigating the questions and the curiosities of life, making new discoveries. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ice Filled April

I just looked at my last post, from nearly a month ago (!), with those lovely pictures of the migration and the river....the view out my living room windows. Today, the scene is quite different, as we're in the grips of the last gasp of winter....so I hope! Walda is bringing winter back for a last fling...one to remember! In the last few hours I have experienced rain, wind, sleet, wintery mix, snow, thunder and lightning...let's see what's missing? It is a very odd sensation to be driving at 35 mph home from work down an ice covered road, sleet pelting the windshield, while bolts of lightning flash on all sides. Everyone I know is quite disheartened at this return of winter, even if temporary, as spring has only been coming in fits and starts as it is. This is a slow moving storm, so we have at least another day of this....oh and an accumulation of snow to look forward to....it will begin in earnest while we sleep and build up several inches (forecasts vary), lasting through the day tomorrow. Oh well. Won't we appreciate spring when it really decides to hang around for awhile! I took a few pictures the other day of an approaching thunderstorm....it was warm that day, probably close to 70 degrees.

In my last post, I talked about stopping, slowing down, pursuing depth rather than just breadth in life. I've done that somewhat....I've taken more time for reading and pondering as I try to live a little more intentionally. As we all know, life is demanding....of our time, our energy and we are easily distracted. The last two weeks I spent helping to move our library into the brand new renovated and enlarged space. It was exhausting, I must say....whole ranges of books had to be moved (hydraulic stack movers and a crew from the city of Vermillion to the rescue for that part) and I think it's safe to say every book in the library was handled at least once as they had to be shifted and reshifted, organized and reorganized. I finally have my life back and I'm once again on my course of rethinking things in my life and studio practice. I'm engaged in learning about the land where I live....as landscape, as place and as a piece of the earth's history. It's beginning to inform some new work and that feels good. The best moments are when you feed yourself with new ideas and learning and watch as it filters through you and comes back out into the world through your hands. At least for me, that's very rewarding...making the work allows my own thinking to unfold. As I draw I have a renewed understanding my widened world view, even if I cannot articulate it in language. I'll share some images of these new works soon...when they are finished. For now, here a some shots of a couple of other new pieces, including Notes From The Ancestors no.15, which will find it's way to my website in the next few days.

Notes From The Ancestors no. 15

I'm glad to be back....gathering up a new routine, listening and awaiting each next step. I missed the conversation with you all and hope everyone is doing well. Perhaps you are enjoying the first days of spring...for some of you, summer is winding down and you are entering a time of autumn. Enjoy the seasons....even if, on occasion, like today for me, the seasons get a little unruly!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Moving Rivers and Changing Trains

The Canadian geese are migrating, which is always a memorable sight, especially on the river. Their honking fills the air as they congregate on the sandbars by the thousands, then suddenly take flight....a moving cloud that undulates then dissipates as the birds gather once more on the water's edge. Delightful!

As you may or may not have noticed, I've been absent for a couple of weeks. We had a visiting artist from the Art Department staying with us and, while enjoyable, it threw my routine off. Once you get behind, it's really hard to get caught up and I felt overwhelmed by everything there was to do that wasn't getting done. It felt like trying to get back on a moving train. During this period of frustration, there came a time when I realized that perhaps I didn't want to get back on the same train at all, that perhaps I wanted to switch tracks and get on an entirely different train. I was tired of being so busy that all my time was accounted for....there was very little room for meandering, instead I moved through everything at break-neck speed. So, I gave myself permission to stop. I stopped making dailies for the MissouriBendMusings shop and that alone opened up space for me to just be, to have time on my days off to explore other possibilities. I still have a little daily practice of making small 3x3" drawings, but I had been doing that for months anyway, in addition to the drawings for the shop. By now, I have so much work from the last three years of having my Etsy shops, it's rather overwhelming. 

I stopped because I wanted to see what else could happen, what discoveries I could make without the pressure of "making" work for sale. Also at this time, I became reacquainted with the idea of "immersion" from reading the wall text that accompanied the photographs of William Wylie in an exhibition at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha. The foreword to the catalog was beautifully written by Merrill Gilfillan and the wall text contained excerpts from the catalog. It was then that I realized so much of my life had been lived on a kind of horizontal...I could see it as breadth as opposed to depth, which is what the word immersion evoked for me. 

You know how it is when you stop suddenly....all the things that were following at a certain pace behind suddenly come crashing into you. It was sort of like that, as I realized that I craved depth and immersion--the very thing missing from a life that had become filled with so much busy-ness. Right behind that realization, the next thing to come crashing in, as I began to ask myself the question of "immersion" in what exactly, was the sense of "place". An immersion in place. And then a moment of shame, as I realized that I live right on the banks of the longest river in North America, full of history, lore and a life force that has enormous power....and yet, when it comes down to it, I know very little about the Missouri River. An immersion in the Missouri River will necessarily entail learning more about the history of the land, the prairie, plant and animal life, the push and pull of conservation and commerce.....there is much to understand.

Here are two books I'm currently reading....they complement one another and feed this fascination with place. 

Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American Prairie by Richard Manning. It was already on my shelves from a used book sale at the library....just waiting for me to open it be open to it.

Magpie Rising : Stories from the Great Plains by Merrill Gilfillan. After reading the foreword from the catalog of photographs by William Wylie, I knew I had to read more of Merrill Gilfillan's work....so poetic and thought provoking.

What all of this means for my artwork, I have yet to know, but it will be evident in due time. For now, I'm content to feed myself with reading and with a rediscovery of the Missouri River and of the land where I make my home. The migrating birds are a gift and I anxiously await the warmer weather so I can meander outside for a longer period than it take to get to and from the car! 

I'll keep you posted....hope you are making some great discoveries of your own. Let me know...love to hear from you! Cheers!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A couple of weeks ago my husband came home with a couple of tubes of new watercolor paint from Daniel Smith for us to try out. He'd played with it a bit himself and thought I might like it for my daily drawings, so this week I took the lids off the tubes and began to play....

Oh....I was in love immediately! Something about the vibrant color, the richness and way it handled was unlike any other watercolors I'd ever tried. It was one of those moments when you realized that you were in the presence of true quality....and indeed these are from the line of Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors. It made all my other art materials feel ashamed somehow and it made me wonder why I sometimes scrimp and don't use the highest quality materials. I know the reason, of course....money. I certainly don't use the cheapest materials and what I do use has a fair amount of quality, but these are in another class entirely. It's gotten me thinking about the notion of quality....in the food and drink we put in our bodies and everything we surround ourselves with...and indeed, what we put in our hands to help us express our inner mysteries to the world. I'm going to be buying these paints and expanding the practice and the art of connoisseurship in my life!

New dailies from MissouriBendMusings and no. 14 in the Notes From The Ancestors series to follow:

February 12

February 13

February 14

February 15

February 16

February 17

February 18

Notes From The Ancestors no.14

I'm a bit thrown off with the Presidents Day holiday here, but will be back on track and see you next Monday. Cheers!