Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Dream of Spring

I go out everyday to take pictures, usually this means that there is a leash that I am holding and on the other end a dog. I am not necessarily a dog person.

Santa Fe can be kind of bleak in winter, no not bleak, um, dismal, nah, um, monochromatic, yeah that's it. There are the evergreens which are well ever green, big skies, usually blue, deep crazy intense blues. Clouds that pick up crazy color from the sunset and the sunrise. But there is outside of these instances very little in hue differentiation. Bare trees, adobe adobe adobe, I believe that it is law here that one's home can only be of three shades of an earthy color.

Last winter I freaked, I thought that I would lose my mind, much of my palette is derived through natural color. But over the summer this place comes alive, and on our property here we have some amazingly beautiful blooms. I am still working from that inspiration.

I dream of spring.

Friday, January 20, 2012

From the studio: contemplating prosperity, drawing circles, time, and nursery rhymes

Time for action
Remember that mantra from childhood "head shoulders kneesandtoes kneesandtoes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. . ." (in case you forgot) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8FwBSITW-4 --it came to mind this morning with my sudden burst of bending toward the prosperous rather than the poverty conscious.  Benign ambition but action nonetheless. Time is now. Made an eye appointment.  My last visit was 4 years ago and the scratches on my perscription sunglasses are easily 10 years old -- dry eyes are really my only climate complaint (besides the lack of an ocean) about living in Santa Fe. I also checked out the LaFamilia dental options and what a pleasant surprise to reach a very friendly and articulate hygenist who explained everything with detail as if we had all day to chat, and when it became clear that "getting in" is slim to none she provided several first-hand referrals and called me "sweetie".  Wow. I celebrate by buying a bottle of wine outside my $6.99 budget though the jug red brings it all back in balance.  Balance.  Yes. 

To beach or not to beach.  This will be my first winter in 10 that I am not flying to Mexico.  I'm mostly fine but it just seems wrong --out of balance so to speak --not to go since this is the first year in a long while that I've actually had enough miles for a free ticket (well free is relative since the bulk of those miles have come from carrying a balance on said Visa which hinders the actual decision to. . .well you get the idea).  And of course the money for travel is somehow connected to the need for new glasses and a potential root canal and unexpected visits to Urgent Care or not connected at all depending upon the day and which friend is offering links to exotic locales.

So this is not really about eye exams but action. Time is now.  I also invited friends for dinner, had a great walk to and from my part-time day job, roasted the last of the brussel sprouts, read about Christopher Hitchens and took a shower.  Okay too much information but I feel the art of possibility and THAT perspective can change a life.

In the studio I'm working on my puzzle panels of "p" poetry and mixed media for the Odes & Offerings exhibition.  Here is a sneak preview.  A detail. Circles and text and what I thought would all hang together (as 6 panels) but separately I now contemplate attaching as one 24"x18" block.  Do I think this because it will be easier to install/hang or because I like it better?  And whenever I put a drill in my hand, for seemingly simple tasks, it somehow evolves into a problem I did not anticipate. . .that is the joy and the dilemna in my process.  I do begin with an idea, of course.  In this case the puzzle panels. The image is often nebulous which might be problematic.  Or not. I have remained true to my palette --well sort of.  I'm the girl who never follows the recipe though I like to have it for reference. . .always some modification.  I am still using Iridescent Pearl and Alizarin Crimson but have added my favorite (it gets into everything eventually) Payne's Gray, and a touch of Parchment to tone down the pink, and the gel medium creates texture that is workable and the pomegranate rich gloss I envisioned is now a dull distressed version.  I'm not really into gloss anyway.  I'm considering hiding one of the small panels to keep its "solitude" pure because sometimes I just cannot help myself when it comes to color --oh just a little and then it's all over (but the shouting).  But I am having fun.  And I look forward to the weekend because I have time for the studio. And energy.  The ideas are morphing into a whole. There will be a show.  The piece will participate.  Hang with those other 30+ artists.  Hope you can come and stay tuned for an official invitation.  Put if you want to mark your calendars now consider yourself invited:

WHAT:   Odes & Offerings
WHEN:  Opening Reception 5-7pm
               Friday March 23, 2012
WHERE: Santa Fe Community Gallery
               @ 201 W. Marcy, Santa Fe

Gallery Hours:  10am to 5pm TU - SAT

When words and images come together in the guise of creativity we give you Odes & Offerings

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pomegranate in the studio and when life brings death

The Happy Coast
 I am back in the studio this weekend after a long holiday hiatus.  Deadlines are good for motivation.  And emotional Saturday's pondering the death of a friend.  A birthday/memorial. Working on a new piece for an upcoming group show (April 2012) curated by Santa Fe poet laureat Joan Logghe.  "Odes & Offerings".  Pons AsinorumPunica granatam sent me to the dictionary. More than once and still I need cliff notes.  It is my job to create a piece and use the text of poet Phil Geronimo's words in my art.  Not to respond to the poem though how can you not?  With all those p's:  pomologist, pomegranate, prose (by Robbins), pons. . .and so I decide on iridescent pearl and alizarin crimson with a little pyrrole red (which is a very expensive color for some reason).  That --and circles and photographs and other interesting objects.  A bit of a puzzle on panel.  Excited.  Yesterday I spend much time contemplating.  Looking.  Printing.  More contemplation --hmmm?  Never know what brush to use.  Gesso.  Medium.  Move things around.  Think.  Take a walk up Canyon and Acequia Madre then back to Pandora Radio.  Pour myself a glass of red.  It is a beginning.  That is good.

Alberto 2005
I  find out through the FB grapevine that it is the birthday of a man I had a "fling" with in 2005.  An Italian chef musician transplanted to a small beach community on Golfito Bay along the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica near Panama.  I went there for 4 days after a yoga retreat, then back again (unannounced) for 9 days two months later.  I won't tell you how I walked into his restaurant in a dress with no panties since that is too personal. . .Alberto Ferrini. He rocked my world --this skinny passionate person.  Long dark hair all the way to his waist.  And played a mean harmonica. Guitar. Gravelly voice.  Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones all rolled into one little package.  Smart and political and on fire in the safest place he could find to live out his days.  La Puerta Negra a little beach cafe.  Pizza on Thursday nights. Decent wine.  Lali. Music. One night he knocked on the door of my casita (well shouted really Brenda are you in there?) and I emerged straight into "Like Water for Chocolate" in my April Cornell nightgown jumping on a 4-wheel stallion in the spring darkness we blast up the beach.  Hair blowing, stars galore and I hold on tighter exhilarated yet fearful of a log in our path that will tumble us head over hills.  He slows down.  I've always appreciated that gesture.  That sensitivity.  At the end of the 9 days I felt a bit like Shirley Valentine but that's okay.  Such is life.  My long blonde hair. Said he would know it anywhere. And he stayed in touch.  A post card from Paris,  phone calls from Zancudo. . .saying it is important to remember your sweethearts.  And so I light all my candles and remember --wishing him a Happy 51st Birthday though he died a week before --go well my sweet Alberto into whatever is after.  A life lived full out and without apology.  You touched the hearts of so many.  May your light shine.  Shine on. 

La Puerta Negra
I find it amazing really how a person I knew only 13 days can have such an affect on my own.  My time there inspired a body of work (paintings over photographs) entitled Postcards from Zancudo http://www.brendaroper.com/work/fenced.html. And I reflect on our choices to be authentic.  To break free from expectation (often our own) and go forth onto a path not known.  What to give up and what is gained?  He thought he was dying once years before.  A heroin addict.  Went to the beach and laid down.  Then woke up.  To begin again.  A shot of rum and a glass of water every morning.  A little codeine on the side.  A business written in the guide books (Frommers, Lonely Planet the Moon. . .) for those lucky enough to find themselves there.   Making his way, tending a garden, making foccacia, anchovies and parmesan fresh from Italy.  Pasta. And music --always the music.  Wine and joy to a life he created on the black sand beaches of Zancudo. A reader of good books. Spanish, Italian and English. What a gift.  The only man I've slept with that kept a machete by his pillow.  No judgements please.  One of the most authentic human beings I've met.  And loved. Thank you Alberto.  May your light shine on.

Someone Forwarded This To Me.

I am not the author of this information, thought that I might share it on this platform. While very basic I think that there are a good number of points made by this writer. I find a lot of this demeaning and pedantic, what do you think?

Mistake #1: Presenting an inconsistent body of work.
Artists generally love their freedom. They want to experiment. They love a challenge. They crave variety. All good things, except when you are presenting your work to a gallery. The work you present to a gallery needs to be unified. It doesn't need to be repetitive or formulaic, but it must present you as a consistent artist with a clear vision. Often I feel I am looking at the work of multiple artists as I review a single portfolio. To avoid this problem you need to find focus in your work.
If you work in several media and a variety of styles, focus on just one for the next 6-12 months. Create a body of work that feels like a "series". Once you have 20-25 gallery-ready pieces in this series, you will be ready to approach a gallery. You can further create consistency by presenting the work in a consistent way. Use similar frames for paintings and photographs, similar bases for sculpture, similar settings for artistic jewelry. Make it very clear all of the work is by the same artist. If you simply can't rein your style in, consider creating multiple portfolios, one for each style. Don't confuse the galleries you approach by presenting multiple styles in one portfolio.

Mistake #2: Producing insufficient work to sustain gallery sales.
Many artists create marketable work, but in quantities too low to make a gallery relationship viable. Successful artists are consistently in the studio creating artwork. You may be surprised to learn the results of a recent survey I conducted. I asked artists how many new works they created in the last twelve months. Painters responded that on average they were creating 53 pieces every twelve months. Sculptors 31. Glass artists 500! A gallery owner needs to feel confident you will replace sold art quickly and maintain high quality. They want to know if you are successful that you can replenish their inventory. Don't despair if you are far from reaching this goal. Rather, look at your creative production for the last year and set a goal to increase the production by 25% in the next 12 months.

 Several suggestions to increase productivity:
1. Dedicate time daily to your art. Maybe your schedule will only allow for two hours daily, but you will produce more by working for those two hours every day than you will by waiting for big blocks of time.Treat your studio time as sacred. Train your family and friends to respect that time. You don't interrupt them when they are at work; ask them the same courtesy when you are in the studio.

2. Set a production goal. If I could tell you the secret to producing 50 or 100 pieces per year, would you listen? Here it is: create 1 or 2 pieces of work per week.I know it seems overly simplified, yet few artists work in a concerted and disciplined way to achieve this goal. (A common objection I hear to this suggestion is that quality will suffer if an artist works this quickly. In my experience, the opposite is true. A certain level of quality may only be obtained by putting miles on the paintbrush, spending hours in the darkroom, or moving tons of clay or stone.)

3. Remove distractions from the studio. Relocate your computer to another room. Unplug the telephone. Nothing kills an artist's focus faster than the constant interruption of technology. Your inbox and voicemail will keep your messages safe while you work.

Mistake #3: Delivering a portfolio in a format inconvenient for gallery review.
Often your portfolio is your only chance to show your work to a gallery owner. Poorly formatted portfolios are rarely viewed. Your portfolio should be concise, simple, informative, and accessible.
25 years ago, formatting a portfolio was simple. A portfolio was either a literal portfolio with sheet protectors and photos, or a slide sheet. The choices have since multiplied. CD? Digital hardbound photo-book? .Pdf file? Email? Which format is the most effective? None of these, actually. Each has drawbacks limiting effectiveness. They are either too much work for the gallery owner to access, too easy to delete, or too hard for the artist to maintain. A couple of things to keep in mind with your portfolio:
1. Your portfolio should contain no more than 20-25 of your most recent works. You should not create an all-inclusive portfolio. A gallery owner does not want to see your life's work. They want to see your best, most current, most relevant work.

2. On each page you should include pertinent, relevant information about the art. Include the title, the medium, the size, and the price. Don't include the date of artwork creation.

3. Place your bio, artist's statement, and resume at the end of the portfolio, not the beginning. Your artwork is the most important feature of the portfolio- don't bury it behind your info. Limit press clippings and magazine articles to 2-3 pages.

4. Include 2-3 images of sold artwork. You should try to include at least one photograph of an installed piece. These images will establish your credibility more rapidly than any resume ever could.

 Mistake #4: Lacking confidence and consistency in pricing.
Is your work priced correctly? 
One of the greatest challenges you will face as an artist is knowing how to correctly value your work. Many artists price their work emotionally and inconsistently. Galleries can't sell wrongly priced art.
Worse, nothing will betray an unprepared artist like not knowing how to price his/her work.
Many artists mistakenly under-price their work. They do this because they feel they are not established. They do it because their local art market won't sustain higher prices. They do it because they lack confidence in their work.
Mistake #5: Approaching the wrong galleries.
My gallery is located in an art market dominated by Southwest and Western subject matter. My gallery stands apart from most of the galleries in Arizona because I have chosen art outside the norm. Yet I am constantly contacted by Western and Southwestern artists. They seem surprised and hurt when I turn them away. They could have saved us both some discomfort by researching my gallery before approaching. Which markets should you approach first? How should you research the galleries? Is it safe to work with galleries in out-of-state markets.

Mistake #6: Submitting art through the wrong channels.
Conventional wisdom and even some highly respected art marketing books will advise you to send your portfolio with a cover letter to a gallery. You may also hear it's best to call a gallery and try and make an appointment to meet the owner. You might visit a gallery's website to learn of their submission guidelines.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fall down go boom -- Syncope

Village at Grand Traverse Commons
former state hospital in Traverse City
They call it "syncope" that language of the medical profession.  In layman terms it means to faint.  A black out where not enough oxygen is getting to the brain. The body shuts down just like your computer.  Poof.  It happened to me for the first time at 10pm last Monday.  I was standing at the sink doing dishes after reading a Nelson DeMille novel in a very comfy chair for the past two hours.  Up for the rest of the keylime pie.  Back to the story. A Happy New Year's day off.  Ran into an old friend at a local bookstore.  And his mother.  Life is good kind of day.  I suddenly felt very hot inside my funky new flannel pjs and couldn't focus or hold the dish and so I turned away to contemplate -- so sudden, I went to the kitchen door and fumbled with the lock.  To let in the night air.  I held onto the very thin wood that crossed the screen door not sure what to do. What is happening?  The next thing I remember bang the back of my head hurts and my neighbor Max is asking "are you okay?" --I am on the floor trying to sit up.  I tell him I think so.  "I was hot and I hit my head but I think I'm okay".  At that point I didn't understand that I had fainted.  I was confused.  I got up and looked in the mirror.  My pupils were dilated.  Hmmm.  Was it an aneurysm?  Am I bleeding?  I check out the back of my head but not even a bump.  Not a headache.  But ouch it slammed hard.  Is there such a thing as a mini-stroke?  I have a good friend who lost her sister to an aneurysm a few years ago.  She was my age.  She called 911.  They found her address book on the floor near the phone.  She didn't make it.  But I feel fine now.  I'm okay.  Should I be worried?  No insurance (though I have had it off/on) which suddenly is a big factor in the decision to go to the emergency room or not.  Do I just go to bed?  Should I call someone?  I think I'm okay.  I go to google and look up stroke.  No tingling.  Not a seizure.  No bleeding.  I guess I'll just go to bed but before I do I find Max and tell him I think I had a mini-stroke.  He tells me not to google anything but I ask him to check on me in the morning then lock myself in.  I send an email to a sister before I go to bed.  Just in case I die in my sleep.  Sounds ridiculous I know but at this point I think it is brain related.  I wake in the middle of the night grateful I am still alive but wonder why my tailbone hurts.  And then I get it. Wow.  Fell back on my tailbone and slammed the back of my head onto the kitchen floor.  Grateful it is wood and not brick.  There's a rug. 

Now I know it was just a faint.  Syncope.  Low blood pressure.  But why?  I didn't do or eat or not do or eat anything different than any other day.  It was quite a burst to the "I'm the healthiest person I know" bubble.  I am healthy.  I like being healthy.  But do healthy people faint away onto their kitchen floors?  Hmmm?  Blood sugar?  Too many carbohydrates?  Was it the keylime pie?  The wine with my early dinner hours before?  And after I vacillate about the expense and whether to go to Urgent Care or wait two months to get an appointment at the low-income clinic I find myself making an appointment for Urgent Care.  Before I walk into the office where I live, here at El Zaguan, just to talk to someone.  I am emotional.  I haven't even called my family.  Might as well wait until I have something to report. A sweet little dog named Pierre jumps into my lap.  What a gift.  Turns out our Administrative Assistant has a history of fainting.  Wow.  10 times?  Turns out (as the week progresses) that there is a history of women in my family with low-thryoid.  And a cousin who fainted because she didn't use enough salt.  And Grandma Higley (who lived to 96 years and bore 12 children) had a goiter. She took a shot of iodine in her glass of grape juice every morning.  My mother tells me these things.  My sisters. I look up the symptoms for low-thyroid and the only one that jumps at me is the poor memory. 

But now nearly a week has passed and I've been in a doctor's office twice.  I had my first EKG.  Normal. I took the little pink paper gown they gave me to put on with the opening in the front.  It might turn into an art project.  My results were normal.  Low blood pressure.  90/60.  This is a good thing I think but my doctor tells me (prefaced by he would never tell this to everyone as if the salt police are listening) "you might want to add more salt to your diet".  The glucose was good.  He writes up an order for blood work:  cholesterol and thyroid.  I'm waiting for results.  By now I've talked to many people who have fainted.  And I feel naive in my good health bubble.  Amazed really at how uncommon to be so well but now I'm just like everyone else.  Fainting with no good reason.  It is very perplexing and a bit sad to walk into Tricore at 8:30am on a Friday morning and find every seat taken.  They offer a 50% discount to the uninsured if you pay now which is a whole other topic I find interesting but do not have the energy to explore.  Hmmm.

I am healthy but I fainted.  Get some perspective.  Okay.  My sister tells me, after I lament that I don't want to be on any medication for the rest of my life, that if I have to be. . .thyroid is the best option.  High cholesterol runs in our family too.  I know this and hope the oatmeal I eat is enough to compensate.  The walking.  No fast food.  Hard to give up my 1/2 & 1/2 in my Italian Roast.  I bought myself a NY Steak in case I need more protein.  Eat meat.  One neighbor is sampling a vegan diet.  Another is going in for a second heart surgery on Monday.  Life is precious and it goes along until it doesn't I suppose.  These little wake up calls. 

And I sit here today trying to organize my priorities.  How to make a living tops the list but not nearly as interesting as where to travel, or is it possible to move to Mexico as I ask myself if I'm simply done with visual art --the making of more "stuff" and how I need to resign myself to working for other people but I love to write and how do I design myself on paper for anything?  Is it worth applying for a residency?  A grant? Do I want to move?  Is $700/month really a savings if I have to pay utilities?  I like my apartment.  Even if I could afford to live where I can sit outside in a chair before the ocean would I --or would I be inside watching a movie?  Last night I opened the door to say "hi moon" but so often I miss it --tucked inside this old adobe when darkness comes.  I am well but I haven't ridden a bike since I moved to Santa Fe three years ago.  What does that mean?  That I'll never ride a bike again?  Does it negate all the places and joy that bike riding brought me?  That time to the top of Trail Ridge Road?.  A moon light ride down Going to the Sun in Glacier Park?  All those years to Kincaid Park and back?  Up the Big Mountain Road in Whitefish?  That time I rode up those steep grades in Tuscany going so slow I almost fell over but never giving it up?  Something that was once as vital as breathing I just let go.  Sold it.  Still have the bike rack on top of my car.  Just in case I suppose.  I walk.  Sold my tent too.  Does this mean I'll never go camping?  Do I even want to?  Maybe--Is this aging?  I know it is all about perspective.  The ability to love yourself and greet each day as it may be.  To paint or not to paint.  To read or write or watch a movie.  To eat steak or sweet potatoes or key lime pie.  The joy of "fainting" as far as I can tell so far is the connection I forge with my family.  With my neigbhors.  Of telling someone where I hide the key in case I don't come out in the morning.  Of stopping and facing that I live an independent life and I need to figure out what to do if I suddenly don't.  Who to contact.  Let someone know my wishes (not to be on life support) or what to do with my art and all those journals under the bed.  For me.  For them too I suppose.

The irony is that is what I do.  My day job is to organize information for someone else.  How to get inside her house if she dies overnight or over the weekend?  How to get beyond the slider bolts if she doesn't leave them open.  How to know if she doesn't answer the phone (because she never answers the phone).  How to remain independent and safe --?  And now I'm getting off track but this is where my thoughts have gone this week.  This is what happens when you live in the "I am the healthiest person I know" bubble.  It bursts. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

CIRQUE JOURNAL: Pantoum poetry and other artful words & images

A good friend of mine started an on-line arts and literary journal for the North Pacific Rim three years ago.  The same year I left Alaska to move to Santa Fe.  Since I live in the desert now I brushed off his invite to grandfather me in (though I did submit photographs for Issue #3) but Cirque updated their submission guidelines for this and future issues to include artists/authors who have a history or connection of 5 years or more to the  North Pacific Rim.  I'm ethical that way so now that it is official I took a chance and submitted some poetry along with my textural photographs.  One was selected and you can find it on page 68 http://www.cirquejournal.com/ along with a handful of photographs scattered throughout.  I am thrilled to be a part of these pages.  Part of a dream that found its way to fruition, and to watch the quality of the magazine grow.  The on-line format is fantastic and easy to use.  It also offers the option of purchasing a hardcopy which is a beautiful piece.  For all you writers and artists with a connection to Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest please take a look and consider submitting your work to a future issue and at the least enjoy what you find by taking a look through these pages.

My poem A Cup of Coffee was originally titled Outstretched Hands and emerged from a poetry workshop at UAA with Linda McCarriston over 10 years ago.  Wow.  It started in shorter stanzas modeled after something that I don't remember but turned into a Pantoum.  "A Pantoum is a Malayan Form.  It consists of an indefinite number of quantrain stanzas with particular restrictions: lines 2 and 4 of each stanza in their entirety  are repetons --they become lines 1 and 3 of the following stanza and so on.  The rhyme scheme is interlocking and follows this pattern." (from Lewis Turco -The New Book of Forms). 

A1, B1, A2, B2
B1, C1, B2, C2
C1, D1, C2, D2

Oh how I rebelled against everything in this book.  A form felt too confining.  I still get them all confused and have to look at each pattern carefully, but the truth is it woke my poetry up.  Gave it a voice.  The form took my words and put them on the page exactly where they needed to be.  Structure can be a very good thing --especially the repetition.  This is the 2nd pantoum I've had published so perhaps I should pay more attention to form in my writing life --a life that has been relinquished primarily to my journals while letting the visual side of my creativity run wild.  Not a bad thing I suppose but it makes me happy to see it here http://www.cirquejournal.com/ all these years later.

Happy New Year! and since it is the end of one and the beginning of another --that death/resurrection scenario-- on my list of self-reflection & goals for 2012 is to spend one hour a day doing something you are passionate about -- for me that will include a more focused type of writing.  Also including deconstructed poetics in my visual art --a technique I used in my recent show Conversations with Bones & Barbed Wire and will continue to explore in the year(s) ahead. 
I miss my writing group from those long summer/winter days in Alaska:  James P. (Jim) Sweeney and Mike Burwell and the occasional guest sitting around my table by the window.  Alute on the deck outside. Wine and snacks, and energy that drove us all forward and sometimes apart -- but never for long.  So this post is dedicated to them.  Mike and Jim, editors and authors and friendship of the best kind.   Love you guys. 

Go well into the world of words.