All Is Not Still

how do we describe our visual experience of the shimmering boundaries of things- from the violent stirring of wings or steady swaying of masts or lines- where the fluttering limbs are here one instant and forward the next?

detail from  Birds, Shore.  2016. Oil on Panel. 16 x 24 inches

detail from Birds, Shore. 2016. Oil on Panel. 16 x 24 inches

detail from  Harbor, Rigging.  2018. Oil on Panel. 16 x 24 inches

detail from Harbor, Rigging. 2018. Oil on Panel. 16 x 24 inches

This poem begins in a way that reminds me of the shimmying, shimmering surfaces all around me. Gerard Manley Hopkin’s use of language sets up in an almost onomatopoeia-ic way the quivering, quick movements of the world’s elements. And ends with the ecstatic, exultant state in which many of us find ourselves upon appreciation of this.

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection 

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air- 

Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches. 

Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches, 

Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair. 

Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare 

Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches 

Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches 

Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there 

Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on. 

But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark 

Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone! 

Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark 

Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone 

Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark 

                            Is any of him at all so stark 

But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection, 

A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection. 

                            Across my foundering deck shone 

A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash 

Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash: 

                            In a flash, at a trumpet crash, 

I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and 

This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, 

                            Is immortal diamond. 

Process of "North F, Orchard"

One of the reasons I love painting light coming through branches- but even light coming through the framing of wires, masts, leaves- is that it accentuates the way light shifts, even in our very truncated experience of the wide sky and spectrum. We can appreciate the way the colors change, the direction and redirection of rays, the variations in cast shadows. This piece “North F, Orchard” hopefully shows my exploration of that.

These lights are like facets of a gem to me.

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2018-09-08 16.35.31.jpg

Mysteries, Yes!

Mysteries, Yes!

by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous 
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the 
mouths of the lambs. 
How rivers and stones are forever 
in allegiance with gravity 
while we ourselves dream of rising. 
How two hands touch and the bonds 
will never be broken. 
How people come, from delight or the 
scars of damage, 
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those 
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say 
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment, 
and bow their heads.

detail of  Creek, Grasses,  in progress

detail of Creek, Grasses, in progress

I enjoyed how quickly and like a final punctuation, was the process of pulling out the sharpness of the grasses and leaves overhanging the creek waters in this piece.

detail of  Creek, Grasses

detail of Creek, Grasses

Literally, Holding my Breath

Despite the absence of power lines and other of my oft-referenced sources for definite lines, this depiction of the mountains and shoreline along Point Saint George required me to be so steady that I found myself holding my breath- to the point of being dizzy. The process of painting is definitely a physical task.

Detail of  Beach, Blue Puddles  in progress

Detail of Beach, Blue Puddles in progress


For the last three shows my works have all been identified by the official names or adjectives descriptive of the physical place upon which they’re based. This I’ve done under advisement of those long established in the art world, and while I’ve submitted to the practice, it is a deliberate reversal, a choice that is antithetical to how I naturally approach and participate in my own paintings; each piece for me is a celebration of an ephemeral, and largely an emotional experience and not entirely dependent on the exact degree of latitude and longitude.

With the most successful pieces, my viewers have a similar experience in reaction to my depictions as well. The best case scenario is that my work draws a sense of familiarity, whether or not the viewers are correct in their identification of the real place. With satisfaction people say, “oh, I know that place.” The more timid want to be affirmed by leading with “Isn’t that…. such and such….?" Yet their questions also come from their personal connection to how the painting <feels> or refreshes a sensory-laden memory.

So, why am I told by several in The Establishment that the purpose of a visual artwork title is for identification and organizational purposes only. Anything else “gets in the way of” the viewer’s experience. We ought not predispose, lead on, or narrow their own experience of the work.

Why then do we not apply the same standards for titles to other forms of art? Movies, books, music? Are their titles ever meant to be identifiers only?

Does Fight Club need to be more blasely titled “Adult Men Experimenting with Anger Management” or ought we suggest to Rowlings that replace the chamber in Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets with something more general and contemporary? Perhaps “MPR”? Yes, in fact more children have direct experiences with MPR’s. That would be better. Let them connect more quickly with that they know. How many of us have actually been in a chamber?! I feel locked behind stonewalls at the mere mention. How can I read the book with an open mind?!

We make songs our own when we say “This is OUR song” or “This is MY theme song”; we pay little attention to song titles, nor do we expect albums to be simply organized by “Track 1”, “Track 2”, and so on. Timberlake’s Cry Me a River has nothing to do with rivers! I feel misled. Sound of Silence sure has a LOT of sound to it; I was expecting something more John Cage-ish, after all the musicians were contemporaries.

Trends in titling visual artwork range all over the place, from references to the widely-recognized cultural tropes they depict to meaningless numbering systems. Some artist’s work is hugely dependent on its title, the title being key to the irony or allusion. Some artist’s work is done with the intention of giving the view no hints for interpretation whatsoever.

So, who “deserves”- who “retains the rights to”- the process of interpreting an artwork? The maker or the viewer? Which party has primacy? The artist making the meaning or the consumer’s meaning-making?

How much ought viewers be trusted with any information the artist wants to give? If non-prejudicing titles are the current trend, what is it about our culture that is asking for/requiring this? What about other cultures allowed more informative titles to be used?

Any thoughts?

"I Don't Get It" = "I Don't Wanna"

Mothering young children and teaching teens gives me some great insight into Grown A$$ Adult behavior.

There’s a particular tone of voice my kids use when saying “I don’t get it!” or “I don’t know how!” <Sometimes> the frustrated confusion is genuine. But plop most young minds into a new situation and they engage with delightful wonder-full curiosity. This is why I so enjoy exploring the world with them.

Conversely, when they don’t want to engage, are feeling overwhelmed or tired, or if the the odds are stacked against their success, then these same kids will balk. They hesitate to immerse themselves and do not even want to try. This is when we hear the resistance in their voices.

All too often I hear that tone with adults when they approach a difficult to interpret artwork- from poetry to avante garde music and movies, and especially with abstract or non-representational visual work. How often they stand in a gallery tipping their heads nearly upside down in feigned exploration, declaring as a way of dismissing the challenge: I just don’t get it"!

Adults who are afraid of being judged or (gasp) wrong, -people who are beaten down into or in fact beating down the path of Correctness -these are the people loudly proclaim. People who are too tired to engage with their own feelings, or fear that emotions aren’t a worthy or acceptable means for connecting to the world- these people have fewer resources for exploring and understanding art.

When they say “My 5-year old could’ve made that!” or “That doesn’t look like anything to me!”, their tone implies is in fact unworthy of their time and energy. Or that, really, given their maturity and intellect, this means that the work is impossible to derive meaning from.

Really, however, I think the adults are expressing fatigue and fear. Such artwork defies rules and objective answers. Engaging with such work is personal, subjective, and inventive. Tired, scared adults don’t want to do the work of feeling their feelings, putting words to these, and the discomfort of sharing them. Maybe they need a hug and be sent in to take a nap!!

Two Rope Swings  in process

Two Rope Swings in process

Summer fires

The smoke in the air from all the fires changed the colors of the sky and land. It was good to be shaken out of my normal palette, trying to match these more neutralized tones.

detail from S unflowers, Rows

detail from Sunflowers, Rows

detail of  Diving Platform  in progress

detail of Diving Platform in progress

Process of Harbor Reflections

For two years I’ve been wanting to address my fascination with watery reflections. I’m finally taking the time and energy to address this self-assigned challenge. Here, then is my version of Oliver’s work; these, my efforts to quench my thirst by sipping at waters, no doubt, flavored by the feet of seagulls; my sitting at the harbor of my longing.

Mornings at Blackwater

by Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank

from Blackwater Pond.

it was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,

feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me

from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is

the past is the past,

and the present is what your life is,

and you are capable

of choosing what that will be,

darling citizen.

So come to the pond

or the river of your imagination

or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.

Harbor, Mast  in progress

Harbor, Mast in progress

Harbor, Rigging  in progress

Harbor, Rigging in progress

Focusing on these reflections and attempting to represent them is not unlike the sentiments of this song, Both Sides Now

at the edge of the unknown venturing forward

Mapping systems are a long-running fascination for me; their purpose to fix into place and closely define a landscape that is context-bound. This poems does a brilliant job of applying those quandaries to the self.

What does self-discovery or self-revelation mean when the role of women in particular, has historically been so subordinate/dependent to or defined/intertwined by their relationships with others? Is it possible to remove a definition of the self from its surrounding relational context? What does it mean for a woman, mid-stride in life, to willing enter unknown territory and map new relationships or create a new key for reading the old maps?

Every Inch.jpg

[how much of the map] by Francine Steele

how much of the map could be labeled

terra incognita

how much unknown invisible to others how much of myself could I shake off

abandon the most remote regions those undiscovered places inside

[I barely know] exist

though the map is not the territory
how I am drawn to leave behind the pattern

for the path for a minute
an hour for one whole day

I’d be like a Wintu describing the body using cardinal directions

he touches me on the west arm
the river is to the east

when we return his east arm circles around me and the river

stays to the west

without that landscape to connect to who am I apart from what surrounds me

at the edge of the unknown venturing forward doubling back knowing

what I see depends on where I am
but not to be lost simply to be confused

five days or forty following the desire not to know

before the first turn where I am going

See her original formatting for this poem.