Snow is falling today! Blustery and wet outside, yet big flakes driving past my little cabin make the forest appear slightly opaque, moving in a different way through each torrent of snow to get a glimpse of what is beyond. Disappearing once it touches ground. This area needs snow badly, there has been no snow pack this year which will affect water supplies and agriculture and leave the land open to forest fires.
My cabin looks like a squirrels nest – bark, branches and pine needles are scattered on all surfaces. I’ve rolled up my rug so I can work directly on the floor. Pieces of white, black and printed paper line my table and charcoal covered clothes are strewn about, hanging on various makeshift hooks (including my lamp).
The color of my nose is currently a ruddy sunburnt, the tips of my fingers rough and what seems like a permanent blackness rests under my fingernails, splinters poke into my arms and I cannot for the life of me keep my clothes clean for even one day.
Canoe trip on Blue Lake!
Beetle Trail Prints
This place has a calm and power that has affected all the residents, our dreams have been vivid and plentiful and we all feel blessed to be here. The staff (what staff?) is nowhere to be seen, we are left to our own devices to make or break the rules, open access to all and it results in a feeling of trust and respect. After our potluck the other night we cast glow sticks into the lake to see how deep it is (close to 300ft) and projected Star Wars above the immense fireplace with the fire blazing…just because we could.
I’ve flicked ticks off me, stood in mourning and honor between the charred trees, gone out for a canoe and seen underwater trees, become teary-eyed at the beauty of this place and have fallen in love with the wood-borer trails embedded in the fallen trees. The patterns, the tiny creature maps, the language and symbols they convey. Something that strikes me as so beautiful but their existence is probably the demise of the tree I’m standing over.
I am now starting to get heated, sitting literally in the hearth of the fireplace in the main Hearth Building waiting for my pieces of wood to dry. The hearth is at least 15′ wide and 8′ deep, my lounge chair is easily nestled in, cozy by the fire. The weather has been amazing the last two days- bouts of rain and snow intermingled with sun and wind. At one moment I’m ready to give up and grab a cup of tea and the next I’m putting on my boots to go out. In the same instant big plops of rain fall or snow are whizzing by I see shadows from the hazy sun and sunshowers sparkling down around me, keeping me constantly on the lookout for a rainbow.
I can’t believe I’ve been here this long already. The days seem to whiz by, yet are also very peaceful and there’s so much time to explore, take in, collect – just be in this place. It’s a true gift to have this time. I have been trying to break out of my pattern of feeling ‘stressed’ to produce and valuing my process within a short time-frame. I know now that whatever I do here doesn’t just stay here it will extend into my practice and I want to fully experience each step, each vista, each moment of doubt and success. It doesn’t make sense for me to burn myself out- this is a place and a space where I am relieved from the pressures of my ‘norm’ the overwhelming schedule, the demands of work and on top of that trying to fit in studio time, friend time, family time and me time. To honor that is huge in itself and an awakening to go slower, to take care of myself yet uphold what is the most important to me ~making art, speaking my truth and being in my truth.
I feel so enlivened. I just laid on the dock staring at the windows in the sky, the tiny holes poked in the blackness to let the light in, but only enough to stare at it in wonder, to yearn for more- but appreciate what you have. Long enough to see one of these sparkling holes leap across the sky to impress you even more. My fingers went numb – but my core was warm with more than just body heat. It is a new moon tonight so the stars shown more brightly because of it. Honoring my first full day in this new place, this sacred place of forest, lake, mountains and creeks. This new place of creative energy, inspired people and little cabins.
I awoke cozy in my loft, the heat rising in the night filled with strange dreams and encounters. I strolled out to the dock in my tie-dye pajama pants, with my granola, tea and sketchbook. Writing, questioning, observing and pulling in the energy around me. Shortly after I set out on a walk around the rim of Blue Lake. The 45min hike took me 2 1/2 hours. Each twist and assent sent me into new findings, awe-ing vistas and emotional realizations. Overstimulated by the textures of bark, the intricate patterns of the trees, the glisten of the sun off the lake and Mt. Washington growing in size.
Blue Lake- Rim Trail
What inspired me the most? The trees. T
he deeply grooved layered bark that looks like a complex jigsaw puzzle; the charred skin burnt into charcoal from forest fires; the smooth cream underlayer, exposing tangles of insect trails; the cut sections revealing imperfect rings and stumps as small as the diameter of a basketball and as wide as a tractor tire.
I’ve hit the jackpot for ‘homemade’ charcoal. Parts of this forest devastated by a 2003 fire (B&B complex fire), looks like a field of massive charcoal sticks stuck in the earth. The rich black, frames and accentuates the texture and contrasts the light undersides, creating a stunning visual. However as I later discover due to this 90,000 acre fire, native animals and plants have had a difficult time prospering and the tick population has increased significantly.
During the walk I stop, I look, I touch, I sit, I sketch, I write, I think. I go off the trail to explore. Burdened by thoughts outside of this space, I try to let them go. I want to focus on my creation process and fully take in what this environment has to offer me. On the far side of the rim the ground turns to thousands of rocks of red pumice (lava) from the volcanic explosion of implosion thousands of years ago.
An artist-in-residence (AiR) scares me from above, since I’ve cascaded into the slippery pumice below the trail. Diana is the first AiR I’ve met in person. She’s a writer, from L.A. – working on her PhD. She gives me the lay of the land, telling me about the nearby waterfalls and the ticks you might get hiking there. We admire our new garter snake friend that appeared during our conversation and I collect more bark before we hike in separate directions.
I head to the library to see if I can find any information on the history of place, of the land Caldera is on. Although my search is futile I do pick up an old text-book on ‘The Science of Ecology’, a handbook of ‘The Craft of Drawing’ and a small journal of ‘poetry of place’. Brushing up on charcoal techniques and new ways to think about drawing with graphite is exciting since my most recent set of drawings has been very technical. I am fascinated by the organic shapes a certain type of bark makes. The one that creates the organic ‘puzzle’ pieces. These pieces remind me of a topographical map – the relief layers and the curving lines. I use a soft graphite pencil to rub an impression in my notebook, then I begin to outline the edges of the shapes directly onto the bark. I also have collected a 4′ branch with a multitude of insect ‘trails’, squiggly lines that have been eaten into the surface. I use white conte crayon and graphite to follow these lines, wondering what pathway, what form the stick will take once these lines are highlighted. I know I can accomplish this with a small branch, but is it realistic to try to do this on a full size tree… or part of a tree? These samplings in my studio, can they realistically be transferred to nature? My imagination is my only limit…
Driving through the high desert with mountains beckoning to me on all sides with their ominous presence and stark white peaks I made my way to Bend. Greeted by Kathy in her bright red pick-up we drove away from civilization while she was naming the upwards of five massive mountain peaks surrounding us. Away our wheels spun from the constraints of urban society, past quaint wooded towns and deeper into the forest… the Deschutes National Forest to be exact.
Caldera’s website doesn’t do it justice. The photos cannot capture the space, environment and energy that is here. My cabin is set back from Blue Lake, a 300ft. deep lake formed by a crater. Outside I hear the churning of a water wheel that also houses a fish ladder for the spawning scaled swimmers. The view out my front window is scattered with pine needles, deeply grooved and stoic coniferous trees, sun glinting off the lake and the sharp peak of Mt. Washington piercing the sky. The Hearth Building is the pulse of Caldera with a massive main area that a dancer is using as his studio. The fireplace is a slab of stone or slate that 10 people can stand in comfortably and 2-story windows surround the space, letting the light stream in. Adjacent to this stunning room is a library upon first glance that resembles a posh ski lodge with fireplace, couches, window seats, a massive oak table and even a chess set flanked by shelves and shelves of books.
Fairly overwhelmed at the prospect of this 120-acre parcel of inspiration I unpacked my perishables and caught the last couple of hours of sun, cozied behind the boat house with my book, my journal and what will probably be one of many lizards scurrying among the deck beams. I fall asleep in the warm sunrays without a person in sight to notice my slumber.
Artists in the exhibit use trees as a means to making art such as sculptures, photographs and even music. I highly recommend listening to Bartholomaus Traubeck who plays cross sections of trees like records resulting in eerily melodic unstructured instrumentals. Below is a photo of sound artist Diego Stocco recording a bonsai! The exhibit runs until Sept. 2015, so you have no excuse but to get there!!
With summer in full-swing an Eco-Art Adventure was a perfect compliment and escape to the mid-week Boston bustle and heat. I gladly answered the call to get out on the water and create. It was a perfect combination partnering with Discovery Adventures in Lanesville to provide the kayaks and gear, mother nature to provide the materials and an adventurous family to jump on in. Stocked with sunscreen, sketchbooks and snorkels the paddle to Folly Cove, with the wind at our backs, proved ideal. An environmental art challenge resulted in prime opportunity for family collaboration and ocean front real estate, so name your price… and get there quick!
For Sale- Ocean Front property, name your price… get it while it lasts
Starting her watercolor on paper, 4yr old Simone completed it on herself. Already a master of the pencil, 11yr old Colin used the inspiration of his paddle to draw a kayaker in action, while his 9yr old brother Ian & Uncle Dan tried to engineer a waterfall by averting the freshwater stream flowing into the ocean. The cold water of Folly Cove refreshed us all…if not only to induce seaweed fights. Nature truly makes the best art materials, stimulus for play, creativity and imagination. However the biggest challenge was yet to come – the paddle back to Lanes Cove. The wind had picked up to a steady 10-12 knots with gusts and as a double measure the tide was against us. My hardy crew pushed on through, working our arms, core and backs (whose sore today?!)… while I tied the brave Colin to my rear to keep his bow pointing straight and determination alive through teamwork. I’m only hoping his frustration will turn into a glorious sea story he’ll tell (or draw for) his friends about at school this year in land-locked Texas. Turning at the pirate flag into the calm waters of Lane’s Cove was a treat… and after my group went onward to capture the rest of the gorgeous day, I enjoyed the tranquility (minus the rumbling of fishing boat engines) with a thankful swim and a jump off the 20ft wall…just to prove I’ve still got it in me.
To book an Eco-Art Adventure go to www.discoadventures.com or call 978.283.3320
Do you have the patience to watch and observe a periwinkle leave its trail in the sand? They move in-between tides, cluster together in communities and create abstract designs that are walked on and washed away. But have you actually seen them move, seen the formation of periwinkle parties during the slow passage of time the ocean’s edge grows?
How do we take these small intangible motions and movements to create larger theories, ways to live by, or will they continue to be unseen without an observant – well in truth a more patient eye. Perhaps the only lens we can see the movement through is the camera, setting up a tripod and walking away… like a watched pot our need for instant gratification & constant expectation overwhelms us. Think about our own trails we leave behind. Since we can’t see or feel the intangible wake of our movements is there really nothing there? Imagine your day, your week, and then imagine if your feet were constantly covered in wet paint, your tire wheels burning marks in the asphalt, your gestures leaving colorful fibers floating with each heart flutter. What would your imprint’s visual trail be?
Daniel Ranalli snail drawings on exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum force a controlled choreography between the periwinkles and their destination asking us to question whether we create our own dance everyday or embrace the chance path that may lead us in a different direction with our brilliant orange strings following us.
2014 arrived as I danced barefoot on a grassy field at the edge of the Tasman Sea, stars shining bright and the bonfire even brighter. Warmth penetrated my soul from generous people, the sound waves of ambient music and the bottle of bubbly in my hand. Falling asleep as the sun came up and the rain poured down… awaking to sun and perfect stretches of cotton candy clouds I knew it was going to be a good year. Energized by the gifts of nature and deep-hearted people, my path on that first day of the new year took me to the beach. Called me to the ocean, the large stretch of sand, the shells, driftwood and oyster catchers…to collect and create.
Joined by my accomplice, Stephan, we scoured the beach in our foggy, somewhat slaphappy state of mind, settling our sights on the abundance of triangle shells. White. Triangular. Mollusks. Hunting & gathering.
The wet, dark sand proved a perfect background to compliment the stark, pure whiteness of the shell… and what is creating on the beach without the race against the tide? Intuitively moving the shells to observe their interactions, the way they overlayed and intersected, I began my explorations. Circular forms seem to exist within me and desire to emerge. Triangles creating circles. At the start of a new year I began without expectations and avoided symmetry, a perfect visual solution that is pleasing, yet so predictable. I wanted to leave it open for chance, for play, for new perspectives.
As Stephan dozed on the warm dry sand and left me to my inner contemplations I looked to the horizon and to my surprise saw a massive stormy front moving in. So not the tide but a wall of rain and wind would force me to quicken my pace and challenge the typical West Coast weather. I called to my ‘assistant’, who came ambling down and fearlessly aided me in placement, photography and critique. As the first rain drops started to splatter on our barely water-resistant jumpers and thunder boomed in the distance we added the final element, flat stones as markers to hold the open spaces between the shells, to honor the emptiness and let it be.
Running, running as the booms drew nearer to wipe out the blue sky, we laughed and panted. Then as fast as the front approached, its path changed and took a sharp turn to the left, towards magnetic Mt. Stormy. Sheepishly celebrating our good luck we slackened our pace and took in the sun, once again the natural world reminding us of the gift it is and that change is inevitable… to allow room for free and open spaces to invite unexpected pathways to emerge.
Within perhaps 10 minutes of our arrival home a resounding, awe-inspiring hail storm fell upon the tin roofs of Karamea. Stephan and I counted our blessings and then he threw an early summer snowball just for fun.
Graphite stems from the Greek word graphien which means to write/draw. Luckily raw graphite of varying densities is still being compressed with clay into wooden casings. Of course, you say. Pencils. Yes a harmless #2 that you used in grade school to fill in (completely, mind you!) those intimidating empty bubbles for the standardized test, or as you reached maturity for mayoral ballots in your former gymnasium that smelled mildly of powdered mashed potatoes from school lunch.
Yes boring. I know, nothing very memorable about those dull moments, except the perfect sharpness the electric pencil sharpener gave that #2. But wait! Fellow artists where are you!? How did it happen? When did I transition from the schoolgirl using pencils to hold my hair up to the obsessive collector and miner of this raw material? Screw #2. I want 8B, 6B, 2B, HB, F, 2H, 4H, 7H and the rest in between and I want it now!! Am I having a relapse into the world of Willy Wonka and geese laying golden eggs? These straight-edged wooden drawing utensils are now my geese, laying endless lines of varying darkness, waddling persistently while I scratch for hours on the surface of a beautifully soft piece of paper and honking fiercely as my arm convulses in stages of preliminary carpel tunnel syndrome.
Obsessed a little? Maybe. I don’t use the term junkie lightly, just look at my stash.
Oh and that’s not the worst of it. I am also a destroyer of these harmless purveyors of line-making. With reckless abandon I ruin their chances for survival by choosing a large flat area to shade – in my clutches the B’s may last half-way through a drawing, the H’s are luckier. Their layers are harder, mixed with more clay to protect the fragments of graphite being left behind, in turn saving them from expiring at an accelerated rate.
5B has little hope for survival
So I’ve been using pencils, graphite on woven paper as the ‘proper’ art terminology would have it. I could never have guessed at how satisfying ‘going back to the drawing board’ would be. I’ve been using them primarily for 2-D work for over two years and this simple tool keeps on surprising me. Here are a few of my sketches & final drawings with the stars of the show, you guessed it the Pencil (with multiple backstage changes):
initial sketch for time-lapse drawing
final time-lapse drawing. a couple actors taking credit
marine debris initial sketch
While I wait in desperation to get my next fix I’ll leave you with a couple useless trivia facts… the typical pencil can draw a line 35 miles long… and did you know graphite is an electrical conductor? Next experiment coming up!
Listen, listen. “Sometimes it’s so hard to listen in the city” What was I listening for? My last week in the woods I spent listening. Listening with my heart, listening with my eyes and finally with my ears. I didn’t question as much why I was doing something but let the pull of creation, place and material drive me. I was learning to trust, let go and sit with a more confident and calm mind.
The first weekend met me head on with challenges. Primarily my work has always been 2-D so my ideas as a sculptor appear grandiose in my head yet never necessarily follow through in action, once materials, environment and technical skills are taken into account. I realize my visions are still very based in my 2-D experience so I think primarily in line rather than form. Essentially trying to ‘draw’ with the materials I choose. My first sculpture of the week was using pine boughs… I have never got so mad at an inanimate object, it was truly humbling. Navigating the process became unwieldy, they didn’t want to hang, stay connected or form in the way I wanted, I was held hostage to the limitations of the material. More than once I just wanted to tear down all my work, I felt like the student in my classes who eventually gets so frustrated when he can’t translate his ideas from his head to paper that it ends in crumpled, ripped, angry satisfaction. When I finally, finally positioned the boughs just right and no twig fastenings were slipping out of place – I then realized the light was horrible to capture a photograph… oh the defeat!
Playing with form
Luckily this didn’t set the tone for the whole week and my dedication to squeeze in every moment for art-making found me drawing at wee hours of the morning among fluttering moths; hiding under large branches while manipulating materials during rainstorms; re-visiting old sculptures and camping through a wet night at the Wild River; lugging my drawing board,and pencils with me out to every site near and far to catch the ‘perfect’ shadow; and not seeking out Internet service, even once!
The Wild River continues to capture my intrigue and appreciation. I had the luck of being the ONLY person camping their this week… that besides my new toothless friend, Maurice, the very self-important camp host. I arrived at the campground with a site in mind and upon entering saw three pine bough rings hanging from a large stump in the middle, it was a piece of my Regeneration sculpture. This immediately struck me with a sense of belonging and contentment. I was so thrilled someone had taken my work and placed it in another location with some nature collages of their own. This unexpected movement and change is what I hope for when I walk away from my pieces, that they continue to shift in ways that I cannot expect through natural or human influence. As I walked around the campground I noticed small nature assemblages gracing trunks and rocks…I was absolutely in my element and so inwardly happy. As I re-visited the sculptures I created in the weeks prior and experimented with color and line, the river kept me company like constant comrade and observed me playing with a new material… burnt wood from my campfire … likened to charcoal. If I had more time I would have composed all the cream-colored rocks into black and white masterpieces.
Line & Color
Finally John Anderson & I exhibited our work at the Patricia Carega gallery, a beautiful barn gallery in Sandwich. John showcased his time-lapse work and photographs, while I my time-lapse drawings and environmental sculpture. It was rewarding and brought the residency full circle. An impressive crowd turned out and once again I felt the gratefulness of being accepted to really delve into my passion and have the opportunity to really feel like an artist. Thank you to the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, White Mountain National Forest service, Meade Base and all the new friends (& woodland creatures) I met along the way. What I like the best is that I am welcomed back with open arms…”Once an artist in residence, always an artist in residence.”
At the close of this half of my journal is filled with rantings, questions, discoveries in art and appreciation for the natural world… here are some more quotes to leave you with:
Coming back from the city and feeling over-stimulated, thinking about how to re-enter the space and creative spirit , “ I wonder if that is what is ‘drawing’ me to do the time-lapse drawings. To capture moments of stillness in the constant movement? To showcase the moments of change within the limitations of our environment… how even when we are still, we are moving. Is this what a lot of artists try to do? Capture a beautiful moment in time – the light, a landscape, a sound, a color? It bridges to our hearts, it bridges to our senses. It embodies life itself”
“I did another hanging piece. For all I know it could be 6 o’clock and I’ve been here since 10am. The sky is finally blue, my feet are completely pruned, dirt embedded beneath my fingernails. Weaving tear drops together to accompany a small waterfall on its journey to greater Falls.”
After leading a program with adults that combined hiking with environmental art on the Greeley Ponds trail, “The hike directly informed the art and thinking of things such as balance, we had to use our own balance many a time – color, various shades of green, leaves turning in a range of colors – brilliant crisscrossing roots that made what seemed like a random interstate of connections, yet resembled basket weaving… it made me think of randomness and how even though the roots appear totally random they have a very controlled and intentional purpose, found a place and its support system. It is so difficult to actually be successfully ‘random’ and ‘spontaneous’ in art.”
“Trusting in the process, such a life lesson. Creating, making, sculpting and drawing, we all jump in not knowing, a little fearful but with trust that something will work out. That something might be complete failure, that something might be accidental discovery of a new technique or idea, that something may be surprising success! The underlying value is trust, because we are essentially trusting ourselves and trusting the universe to provide whatever answers/questions/thoughts may be presented in the moment. Life in itself is a journey – it’s a process and if we question it or live in fear of making next steps all the time we will find ourselves doubting our purpose…. Some will gently brush on the paint with a fine sable brush, while others will throw, splatter and mix it with sand to see the unexpected effects. There is a level of risk one takes in pushing the boundaries- most of the time there is failure… but when there is success the fruit is sweeter and worthwhile.”
“Creating art in nature is goddamn frustrating – I didn’t realize how much until this residency. Working within the limitations of what nature has provided – trying to sculpt with finicky, stubborn, breakable, prickly, unsymmetrical, slippery and unpredictable materials in an environment where you are reliant on the sun, rain, clouds, wind or calm is tough… mastery of patience!”
“looking at the past are we able to see what the future holds in these landforms. Crouching, bending, peering over the river balanced precariously on the rock, rubbing, scraping the wood against stone – leaving a mark – fingertips gray – now burnt wood has seeped into my grooves, my crevices, and won’t wash out the lines of my existence. What can these say about me, my past & future?”