Friday, July 29, 2011

grants and grandma's

We Were Born (left) is my foray into believing in myself as a painter.  I have finally gotten a palette that is colorful, neutral, yet vibrant and if you look closely some graphite scratches begin to give it the texture I envision. This is the 2nd in a body of work I am currently putting together for a November show entitled:  Assemblage & Narrative.  My work investigates social relationships, identity, and family secrets.  The paintings here are 48"x24" oil on canvas.  I still want to work bigger but this is a start and I'm having a ball!

You have to believe in yourself or it really isn't worth putting in the effort of getting a grant application together as I did this week.  A grant for US painters over 45, gifted by the Lillian Orlowsky & William Freed Foundation.  They studied with Hans Hoffman.  Hours really-- of thnking, writing, rewriting essays on why "you" are deserving, how this will advance your career at this very moment in time, financial income, expenses, four copies of everything including images on CD.  Artist statement is optional. Actually the biggest roadblock besides my own confidence (or lack of) was understanding how to 'fill-in' the text on the downloaded pdf.  I actually ended up uploading the application to a website called  that provides this exact service.  For a fee.   I surrendered to the $12.99.  Sometimes it's like that --nothing to do with the fee but with that goal/dream just to apply, to believe enough, to keep articulating in your own best interest.  Have to believe that you are as deserving or worthy of being chosen --one painter over 45 out of a pool of 300 which actually doesn't sound like that many, and I do believe but have to practice it into a positive mantra. . .to articulate who I am and what I want as an artist.  If you don't have "the dream" how can you make it come true. . .?

Ferne & Grace is homage to my two grandmothers.  In their respective boxes. One I never met and the other I wish I had more time. She lived to be 96 but I was too late in my own "enlightenment" to even know the conversation I wanted to have until she was gone. Grace married at 16 (though the marriage certificate said 19 --she lied) to a gentleman farmer, had 12 children.  He died when my mother was only seven.  Ferne had four blond boys --my father the youngest and the only one still living.  They used to sing together.  A mother that encouraged singing in the house must have been a loving person. I keep looking at the canvas not sure I have them here at all.  Not as beautiful as I'd like.  Maybe I'll add some yellow.  Not the clean washed palette of above but then I see two women separated by a conversation, a river of life that kept them in their own small towns.  Windows to their own world or the others they might have imagined --if they did.  I guess I want to know their dreams. Did they have them or were they content within the walls of their own family, baking bread and playing cards?  Grace loved baseball, the Detroit Tigers, and ate bacon for breakfast.  Shouldn't I know more about her than that?  And Ferne will come alive as I poke into the past.  Poke and scrape and excavate. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

All the bills are showing up. . .

As the bills announce themselves in my IN box:  Student Loan $151.00, Wifi $36 (for the first 6 months and then increases to $45), Verizon $47, etc.  I am proud to say my gas bill is only $17.49 this month.  A friend teases me that I chose my apartment because it came with a parking space, but at $900/month + utilities not an inexpensive undertaking.  Truth is I'm a walker.  I used to ride a bike and I miss it but now I walk. I like to walk.  The highlight of my day job is the walk up Abeyta every morning --and maybe a few other perks.  Electric is cheap, even with the fan blowing cool air onto ancient adobe walls (I keep the windows open), only $10.49. I figure even my wine budget is at the poverty level though I haven't yet resorted to the "box" good on river trips and such but thank goodness for Trader Joes.  The day job is going well but at only a few hours a day the paycheck dwindles to under $350 this week after GRT.  What's a girl to do?

--well I've decided to create my own Girl Friday will work for. . .ad --not sex of course because at 53 frankly it isn't worth the freak show for any amount of $ --not that I actually know this.  Really, it is my upper Midwest upbringing --that good girl ethical thing, throw in compassion and always rooting for the underdog and well, money is not my priority (as in driven by greed and violent methods of making) and so I contemplate how to mainfest my own creative destiny.  I try the Louise Hay method of positive thinking.  Of verbal daily self-talk on my way to the day job which includes the possibility of two bronze currently on display in various Santa Fe locations selling so I can pay off my Alaska Airlines Visa before the next adventure. . .I contemplate a grant but first I must explain in articulate language why I deserve it, gather rave reviews as attachments which brings me back to present time.  To not enough money to go around and yet I am thankful I'm not in a wheelchair in a building where the electricity is off because of the heatwave or my refrigerator filled with food and rotting because the electricity is off --Ferndale, MI --well you get the idea.

 I am thankful for my good sense, my intuition, my joy of painting, my belief in the possible despite all odds.  And not once in all the debate on how to settle the budget crisis have I heard anyone mention the wars we wage around the world, the money spent on guns and armor and special security forces and border crossings and violence because that's what it boils down to.  A bottom line that has nothing to do with the people of America or even the country as a whole and so I am grateful for my little slice of heaven.  For now.  I am a survivor on so many levels.  My battle grounds of family secrets and domestic violence and financial insecurity are simply footsteps on the path to everything else.  Maybe a beach in Mexico if I can put enough miles on that Visa to make it so.  The gifts of the week include an abundance of key lime pie, 3 days off in a row and a few sprinkles in Santa Fe that might turn into rain.  Okay so this is a ramble but not quite a rant and so goes the life, my life as an artist in residence at El Zaguan in Santa Fe. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Evening, Santa Fe Style

Sitting alone in the casa, a bad Grateful Dead album playing, a light cocktail poured, the fan blowing.

This past couple of weeks have been quite a challenge, one that I somehow managed to get through with at least a  little grace and a sense of humor left intact.

There is one more week left for my solo show here at El Zaguan, eight works on paper, all unframed, hung the show with clips and push pins. The presentation would be stunning of I could afford framing, not that it looks bad, but we all know that everyone loves framed work, makes it real art somehow.

The foot traffic on Canyon has been light for several days now. I think it may be a combination of several things, maybe the fires scared people away, well many of the mountain destinations and camping grounds were closed. The air quality could potentially get bad, as it has on occasion, that plus the heatwave and whatever negative economics that would deter a middle class tourist have all created a potential lack of seasonal monetary influx. There are still tourists here and they are frequenting the galleries, but our non-profit space is often overlooked.

The potential for bad inter-personal politics of residency, emotions and drama can run high, have seemingly passed over our little group here, for the most part. This program is a boarding situation, artists are entitled to stay for years if they choose to, as long as they are not completely disruptive and manage to cough up the subsidized monthly rent. We all live very close in what might be called a compound, it is nearly impossible to slip by unnoticed. We do respect each others privacy but do not shy away from gathering often, talking, laughing, drinking, planning.

The foundation is not focused on the artists, they have a mission and they stick to it, historical architectural preservation. Once in a while it feels like we are leeches on each other, but for the most part things flow together with an open and honest understanding. I have done my research on residencies and there are the artists and then there is the need to raise money and bring in support. The staff here is small and busy, still it would be amazing to generate some focus on and funding for the artist/tenants.

Am still unemployed and beginning to lose my interest in looking for a job, this has become combined with a fear that I am unable to even find a suitable position. I have been assisting my neighbor Greg, bitch is a hot mess, he pays me in the form of a stipend, yes that's what I'll call it. I certainly do not mind doing anything for him, think I might be hypnotized. Actually he is a very good friend and I will be there for my friends, he said once that we poor need to take care of each other.

One curious dynamic that adds to the mix here is the intern position, a ten week internship during the summer when a college level student studying architectural preservation applies for the right to come here and work alongside the foundation. From what I understand the likely candidate usually stems from New Mexico, but this year a brilliant young man who is attending Columbia, wooed the jury, in comes Peter. The intern is housed in a tiny barely private adjoined casita, the placement of the room is situated so that one might feel like everyone can always see inside. Don't get me wrong, not unlike everything else about this place, there is charm up the wazoo, though I am not sure that I would feel completely comfortable in that room.

Well soon Peter will be leaving our humble adobe, and with him will go a certain energy, one that has been captivating, invigorating and sometimes frustrating, for all of us, including Peter, I think. It is a tough position requiring great physical stamina. The opportunity sounds very romantic on paper but doubt that I would have made it, although at 23, well still, I just hope that he takes some of this to heart and takes with him some fond memories.

So now my lite cocktail has reappeared, there is a nice breeze, big fluffy clouds, sun slowly descending. Haven't much energy, not enough to read the three books that I am working on, Pynchon, Joyce and Pound, the sound of wet paint does not sound appealing either, could hang out with Greg and watch bad tv, could head out for the portal and swing, maybe I'll do some show promoting. Anyway whatever I do do, it is a summer eve, I live in a fantastic home with terrific neighbors and I couldn't want for anything else right now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Art of Pastry (in a tiny space)

Finally today after two and a half months in this residency I truly christened this tiny little kitchen that is wedged in between the bedroom, bath and studio/living room space. "Sally" my gun metal gray Kitchenaid mixer who has been holed up in storage for 12 years while we were on the road traveling here and there (Sally weighs about 20 cumbersome pounds so she had to stay behind) was brought out into the light of day and she and I bonded over pate a choux and tropez pastry cream to make cream puffs.

A 400 degree oven on a 90 degree day in a very small space is nothing you want to experience any time soon.... but I have lived through worse conditions in professional kitchens of the past so I dove in for the stuffy hot ride. Eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla beans and pastry flour come together on the stove top for the pastry cream... set it in the fridge to chill. The choux paste is baking science starting with water, butter and salt simmering... add the flour, stir, stir, stir.... the mixture is shiny and steaming.... stir til your arm hurts, until the paste goes matte.... then into the mixer to release the steam... add the eggs slowly and the mix turns a deep satisfyingly rich hue of yellow... turn Sally on medium high speed and watch the dough quickly get sleek and shiny again. Gorgeous. Into a piping bag... pipe the little mounds on to the buttered sheet tray and into the 400 degree oven they go for 45 minutes (turn down to 325 after 15 have passed.) Steaming and puffing and turning golden brown the choux is transformed. The end result is perfectly delicate vessels of pastry to hold the rich tropez cream inside.

When the time comes to fill the pastry... whip up some heavy cream, fold it in to the pastry cream... creating a light, sweet, silky vanilla bean cream. That's a lot of cream y'all. Ghirardelli bittersweet chips and guess what? More heavy cream get whipped up for the sleek ganache that graces the top of each pastry. They look good enough to eat, right?

Worth every minute of hot kitchen time, YES! Worth every calorie? Only if you eat one or two... which is what most folks do... Billy and I? Ummmmmm.... yeah. Let's just say our end number was a multiple of two.

Painting is Process and the Roadside Cash Store

 In the beginning there is gray and oval and  I think of my friend Kathryn's "artist talk" at the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer, Alaska (kick ass place to have a solo show and yes I did too) on how her painting changed from inception to completion. About process, and though she likely had "a concept" or at least a sketch (or several) I seem to work completely from an intuitive place.  My "concept" easily distracted though it rallies around texture and idea and palette and though I swear I have a visual "concept" it is nothing like what originally appears on the canvas. 

Week 2: Transformation of palette and scratches, windows and conversation
I am distracted by possbility, by happy accident, wistful of de Kooning, Rothko, Anselm Keifer, and Sandra Pratt from across the street at Selby Fleetwood (one of my favorite galleries in Santa Fe. though they never visit) --that's what I envision for myself.  Success --not exactly, more along the lines of Aha moment! --I actually have them on occasion and then I wake up, look again. . .apply the paint, think, scratch, palette, wipe, more of the same, different color --oops! For me art is process.  Maybe even survival.  And despite the obessive nature of my painting of late it has been good, even delirious with happy stay up past my bedtime painting before work moments, after work, wine in the afternoon, paint on my face kind of joyful moments and I give thanks as the moon rises to full.  It has been a good two weeks in the studio.

New Mexico Skyline from Sparksville somewhere near El Rito

Not a bad thing I suppose as I paint and paint over like Tom Hanks on that island talking to that soccer ball, as if this is the last canvas of my life. And please Scotty beam me up to the roadside cash store.

The Gardens of El Zaguan

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who Am I and Why Am I Here

Eleven months ago I found myself in Santa Fe and during this period of time my world has been filled with life, painting, photography, loneliness, new friends, and a rejuvenated inspiration.

Today I find that I have been compromised by a nasty little flu bug, certainly after the hectic week that just passed my immune system was open and prone to harbor such an unsettling dose of the flu.
This dreaded attack on my body has made it difficult to derive the necessary energies to sit for hours and focus, so my painting sits there pleading to be worked upon. It's funny how my physical force goes into painting, not that I am splashing paint, no I am very precise and slow, but when I don't feel well it doesn't matter which technique I do use in the studio, I just don't have the ability.
As a matter of fact my mental and physical prowess are currently being challenged, so after a little snack I may need to take a short nap, recuperate some, and hopefully later today I will paint, I must paint.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mining the Unconscious. . .

This is a video, an art exhibition and a way of life.  If you haven't please put this on your calendar of "artful happenings and things to do" in Santa Fe.  At the Santa Fe Community Gallery through August 21, 2011.

"Formative Years"
This was sand cast from a baby hot water bottle (nursery rhymes, etc.) as a symbol for healing

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Got home and made the case for bantam chickens to Bethany and Billy. All in. Drank vodka and sugar-free raspberry soda on ice with Max and Greg in Greg's pad. Pad. Then another. Sugar free is too sweet. It's a crazy world. Made the case for bantam chickens to Max and Greg. Max is in. Greg deflected. It will happen. I will make the coop. The chicken coop--I will make the chicken coop. If you've got a table saw, you've got to cut a couch in half from time to time. If you're carrying around an axe, you better damned well cut down a tree from time to time. If you claim to be a cannibal, and you don't eat a friend from time to time, people will wonder. I will make the chicken coop, and it will be a glorious chicken coop, the sailboat of chicken coops. Chickens will salute me as I pass. "Thanks for the coop!" they'll say. I'll nod, stoically

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This Earth is on Fire

Annie Bundren could not want a better one, a better box to lie in. It will give her confidence and comfort. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner