Friday, November 26, 2010

comfortably fearful

(This picture was taken in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia back in 2008. We had started our journey from Kuala Lumpur; toured the city and I gave a lecture at an arts space on Contemporary Alaskan Artists. It was a good turn out and I met some lovely people and students.)

Some time upon leaving on our treks I seem to absorb fear; I get this nervous anxiety before our departure. In fact, I hear these random horror stories from people here and there and of course my ears are wide open for the media coverage in the part of the world I will be visiting. Accidents can happen anywhere. In fact, coming back from a tedious trip to Bali and Java in 2006, at home in Anchorage, the week later I slipped on ice and broke my wrist. Things happen! Things can happen in your home. You can even trip over your dog and break a leg. What about car accidents? Of course, I don't want to amp up the hysteria, but I do believe that a little fear is good to have. My father told me to always fear the ocean. He taught me how to swim in the Atlantic current and I practiced doing my crawl in the bouncing surf. Fear teaches you to be respectful. It teaches you to do a head's up, to pay attention and listen. However.......

Years ago, before venturing on my first major jaunt to Egypt in 1989, I had a girlfriend tell me how the men over there pull out your hair. My trip was astonishing fabulous; the people kind and welcoming. In fact, whenever we visit places, we are greeted with openness. Of course, there were places that are edgy too, but most of our travels have been successful and timeless. My travel agent, who is Cambodian, told me not to travel to Laos. She exclaimed that they will kill you! Maybe there was a little prejudice happening with this comment, but Ken and I seriously look into the travel warnings, alerts and read up from other people's comments who know of this area and have traveled in those parts. There is also the Thorn Tree Website that lists areas of the world; people can ask questions, leave comments, most everyone gives recommendations and wonderful, helpful advice.

I do think the older you get, you are more hesitant to travel. Why wait until you retire? You need to be in excellent shape to walk, experience challenging places, must transition and adapt easily. I have noticed a grand malaise over the years from the American people about traveling though and maybe this has happened since the 9/11 incident. We have become a nation of fear. In fact, we see more Australians and Brits on our trips, along with Italians, French and many German, not to mention Koreans, Japanese, Israeli and Russian. However, Americans seem to be seen the least on our journeys.

Once over in the country, I seem to forgot all these fears and settle on the adventure. The anticipation before going is always the worse part of the escapade and so this will be my last posting in my blog until I RETURN home! Adieu America!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sapa, a preview

We take off the early morning of December 4. Our route starts at Anchorage with China Airlines and we fly directly to Tapei. It is about a ten hour flight (the way coming home is almost three hours shorter.) This flight is usually coming from New York, so we enter a crowded airplane with lots of tired groggy folk ready to get on with the rest of their journey. When in Tapei, we have a short layover and then take a plane to Hanoi, Vietnam, for another three or four hours of additional flying. We will be staying for four days in Hanoi; taking care of our jet lag and perusing the city sights. Hanoi boasts some world class art institutions and there is a combination of old and new colonial architecture. But, the creme de la creme will be the venture to the northwwest to the local villages of Sapa, taking the soft sleeper train; an eight hour journey close to the border of China which boasts of cascading rice terraces with mountains towering above the town on all sides. It will be chilly with some fog and drizzle. The H'mong people, once the poorest of the local tribes will be all over town selling their handicrafts and trinkets. Most have had little formal education and are illiterate. Other minorities like the Red Dzao are visible in town with their billowing red headdresses that send a surreal sight. I understand that there is a crowded market that is held each Saturday and lots of interesting villages are within walking distance of the centre. This is what I love; the color and these authentic lands of people of cultural differences that will immerse me into the grand wonder of this planet, the world and the exultation of experience.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

getting ready

Traveling for distances can take careful planning. Usually before we do our five and a half long week treks, there is much reading to be done. Ken does a great job scrutinizing the places we travel to, while I read contemporary authors that talk about the places we will visit. Once over there we both use our intuitive reasoning to either break the plans we sketchily thought about or devise another route.

We will be going to Vietnam and Laos in three weeks. We applied for our visas which takes some paper work and cost. Sometimes, there are mistakes on the dates of departure and you need to call the embassy to straighten out these mishaps. If you don't pay close attention, these small details can cost your some money you hadn't anticipated. Our visas had expired two days before our departure while exiting Bali a few years ago. It caused quite the stir at the airport, some jangled nerves and a couple of hundred of dollars from our pockets.

There are always travel precautions about certain diseases that the country might carry. Almost always we take malaria medication with us because we visit rural areas. Last year, we were given oral typhoid which is good for five years. A combination of hepatitis A and B usually comes in the form of a booster shot good for ten years and Japanese Encephalitis was a concern in 2004. This time our Lonely Planet Travel Guide strongly recommended to invest in extra travel insurance because both countries do not host the excellent facilities as Thailand and India have for instance.

These are just a few things to gather before taking off, not to mention getting time to do this venture, a house sitter for the dog and to take care of the house in case a pipe breaks. I get anxious too before departing about our safety. Once over there however, you see everyone traveling from the old to the single wanderer to families with small children seeing the outside wonders of the world. There is this general excitement that you glean from fellow travelers; a camaraderie of togetherness of adventure. All in all, the work (and some worries) is worth it; the travel fantastic and edgy and the journey always indescribable.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

dia de Meurtos

The Day of the Dead is a prehispanic tradition linked to the agriculture calendar celebrated at the beginning of harvest. For the prehispanic people "death is not the the end of our existence, it is only the path of transition to something better."

Following the Mexican tradition, November 1st is for the children that passed away and November 2nd for the adults. In that day people who died come back to their former home to enjoy earthly delights if only for a few hours. Their relatives light up a copal or incense to "cleanse their home of bad spirits, so that the soul of their deceased can come in without any difficulty." The offering ritual allows us to be close to the people who have departed and commune with their memory with their life.

I was asked to do an altar at Out North Exhibitions curated by Indra Arriaga. While setting up my design in the exhibition space, I felt the tenderness of the moment and being surrounded by other altars that people devoted to their loved ones, I worked very intuitively. It was a deep meditation; afterwards finding out the meaning of what I showed and the objects that I chose for this piece came out automatically. You can see a glimpse of my altar in this video. Mine has a dark cloth draped on the wall with stars, suns and crescent moons(owned by a young man who died at 21 years old), a chair covered with a goat skin, a moose skull, dried straw flowers, leaves, significant stones and several pictures of friends that I had lost over the years. I was moved setting up the altar and felt a benevolence completing this piece. This was the first altar that I had intentionally completed (although my studio wall hosts numerous recollections from both the living and the dead.) A local Mexican singer can be heard in the background of the tape and I don't understand all of his lyrics but the song bellows a sweet sorrow of tune. During the festivities, Mexican bread and hot chocolate were eaten. It was a nice evening and well attended by the locals; in the future one I would encourage everyone to see and experience. It is open for everyone to participate and do their own homage to their ancestors. You can discover these small gems in Anchorage; this one in particular left me with a profound recognition of my temporariness, my community, the closeness of the living and the now, and most importantly, how to cherish the people around you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

follow the ecstasy

Sometimes I wake up and seem to spin circles around the day rather than be productive using my time to the maximum. It was such a day today (although still not finished) and with bright sunshine, the light is just good enough to watch all day long. I have discovered that acknowledging the beauty of the day can be good enough!

Last week, I went to the library and being interested in the spiritual and contemplative life, I set out to investigate a few teachers or mentors that I had always wanted to read. One book is by the Dalai Lama called An Open Heart, Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life and the other book is called Follow the Ecstasy, The Hermitage Years of Thomas Merton by John Howard Griffin. I started with the Dalai Lama and left it mid way to explore the Merton book. Currently, I am engrossed with Merton; a slow but fascinating read. It is a minute by minute psychological journey of his thoughts, actions and consequences; how he sought out solitude to achieve a purity of spirit and to become closer to God. Merton was a wonderful poet/mystic; deep and clear resonates his words. He was also a painter.

What is clear about both men is that they exemplify humanness and as I delve further and further into the Merton book, I see how it mirrors myself. It is honest, edgy and real. Follow the Ecstasy examines the last three years of the monk's life. (And with a little gossip expressed here - Merton fell in love with a young nurse during convalescing with some back surgeries. It makes me think of the great painter Michelangelo who also struggled with his love for a young boy and was so torn apart by his feelings because his actions did not follow the dictum of the church. Oh, guilt - we can do without you.......)

The book doesn't leave me feeling anymore composed or relaxed about the human condition but it does deepen my thoughts about being okay the way I am. The best part on this journey called life is that we learn to love ourselves in a profound way so we are able to give it back while slinging it and singing it at the same time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

what gets me started

It's money making time for me; adjunct teaching and doing some freelance jobs affords me exotic travel to invigorate my art making senses. This time, pictured above and below, I included two pages of a sketchbook recently completed for the Brooklyn Library Archive, NYC. Artists submit small 8" x 6" moleskin renditions of whatever they might want to fit or include in the creative book. The exhibit will be traveling throughout the country next year in January 2011. My sketchbook will be included in the library's permanent archive where the public can peruse and leaf through my journal of creative journeys.

Presently, I am working on several sketchbooks at the same time; weaving in and out from one to the other, letting paint dry in one book while setting up another page makes for a constant interaction of doing and trying to make the pages work. Sketchbooks are good in between projects and they instigate other ideas.

I enjoy working on these small canvas like sheets; you can easily rip one out if the expression isn't working your way but otherwise, I paint, glue, cut, shape and collage my way onto these works - in other words these manipulated sketchbooks are perfect examples of readjusting and formatting a design that can evolve into lovely paintings, drawings and sketches. My sketchbooks include some personal travel notes and thoughts. You can go back and forth with your ideas while they evolve into some interesting sculptural identities.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

fall dance

Fall is my favorite season because it is dramatic and in Alaska it is a sudden alarm after the heat, long days and sunshine of the summer. I grew up back east where the weather turned suddenly around late September. Around me, I would stomp through the massive swirling leaf piles and softly observe the turn and smells of nature. It is a subtle expression that fits me more than any other season. Living in Alaska, it brings back memories of my childhood on the Jersey coast and Indian summers were marvelous to observe by looking out on Atlantic's sparkling horizon. Of course things change from season to season but with the golden colors, you have the fresh air and winds, the waving trees and sprinkling of falling leaves like someone emptying out their drawers. Fall is an announcement of change, Alaskan darkness and things around the corner. I guess you could say that with every season, but fall is remarkably distinct, mysterious and beautiful because it seems to linger with newness and anticipation. I embrace it with fondness every time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

just a short note about time, attention and things

Summer is officially over. Usually, I find myself dragging the last bits of summer sun into my life by ignoring the fall/winter signs. I wind up wearing sandals and shoes without socks or I go out without the extra outer wear that is so prominent in this area. (Outer wear is our Alaskan style or mode of having a coat, jacket or a sweater for all of the occasions. And, still that is not enough and we feel we are still missing something or it is not the appropriate thing to wear.)

With this weather, I am forced to be introspective; am back to gathering funds for outside travel and getting sufficient studio time while quickly scurrying to set up our affairs before leaving leaves me overwhelmed and waking up late at times into the night. Faced with pressed time, I realize that I cannot cut corners with my family, friends and my dog. Everyone deserves to be listened to and given thorough time, attention and focus. Blue, my dog, needs my care and I find her more responsive by brushing her and being with her whenever I can. Before going out in social gatherings, I resign myself to listening to others rather than broadcasting about myself and what is going on with my life unless I am asked. This is a small service that I try to do but I often fail at.

We recently bought a iphone and the action of getting another thing to learn threw me off; it sent me into a tizzy but I soon recognized that I must follow what I preach to my students about being updated with technology and electronics. My husband commented that these changes are good because we are forced to use our minds to apply different, innovative transformations and configurations. Last night in bed, I couldn't sleep and I found myself with this new gadget, playing around and surfing the net. This action seemed more off than perverse, but I readily accepted this diversion and chuckled to myself. At this time, I need to embrace all the subtle contradictions that I inhabit. Paul Campbell, the great philosopher, commented that humans constantly seek the ultimate experience of feeling or what it is to being alive - that is our quest and inquiry. No wonders and great wonders.

Monday, September 13, 2010

like an old lover

There was ugliness I saw cruising the Los Angeles freeways; a low laying haze fog/smog (what is it really I would continually ask to this day?), concrete block structures line the roads, whizzing cars, far away trees that looked like they needed good watering - this city has a way of wrapping you in it's industrial claws but you wind up loving it nevertheless. Throughout my time spent there, I would term Los Angeles as industrial romantic. I lived in the downtown area and arriving as a visitor last week to see friends and art sparked and renewed memories of when I first moved to the city. I felt the California allure all over again (without having to travel to the Westside) - especially tweaked by seeing Baldessari's Pure Beauty exhibition I fell in love with it's powerful mystic. At night, I would achieve an insomnia persona hearing all the familiar sounds - the hum or the buzz of the freeways, this lingering roar coupled with distant barking dogs, lights would flicker in and of my room by the passing cars on the street. I would remember my loft nights and the trucks barreling down the streets that would thunder through my nerves; it was in Los Angeles that I fell into the artist community and developed additional substance as the creative thinker, (but always with distances to go.....)

I was happy to leave early Sunday morning. When I got back to Anchorage, I looked at the photos of this city and found it looking beautiful and inviting. Los Angeles lives up to it's massive culture laced with eclectic surroundings and people. My girlfriend says that the city has something to offer for everyone. Los Angeles sets up an illusion encased in a Hollywood facade - a fascinating place that holds onto the mystery, the charm and the Peter Pan existence of never having to grow up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alleppey travels

Appelley, India, is located on the southwest coast and is known as the backwaters of this sub continent. We hired a driver from Mysore and along with a French Canadian traveler from Montreal, we all decided to split the costs. It would take twelve hours to travel south costing fifty dollars each to get there. Along the way, two hours from Alleppey, we got into an accident on Christmas day. A woman and a small boy seated between her legs on a scooter drifted onto our path, causing the driver to skid a good hundred feet. Fortunately, the woman was okay with a slight head wound and her boy bounced off the scooter unharmed. Our entire windshield was smashed and I was in the back seat while I quietly examined this terrifying slow motion happening. There was a police station across the street; we were taken there and sat in their offices for almost an hour while the driver was questioned. They didn't speak or ask us anything about the incident and we were told that a new driver was on the way to continue on with our journey. It was a good thing that the young woman was going to be fine and not sure what would have transpired if it had been serious. Travel in India is perilous and you literally take your life in your hands because of the hoards of people in this country and the general congestion on the main freeways and city roads.

We arrived to Alleppey, hot and exhausted, late in the evening. Finding a temporary room, we slept and got up to look for a better lodging along the backwaters. Along the wet lands we found a duplex of cottages privately owned. Deepu, the caretaker (and is our friend today) made our lunches and dinners. It was a centrally located area where we hired a boat to peruse these fertile territories. The Keralans are darker and kinder in spirit; the Alleppey attitude is more laid back and there seems to be a wonderful shared sense of humor among the community. This video clip is taken on site at our lodging. Crows would assemble each morning and dusk to socialize; it is the sounds that I was drawn too and their massive enchanting cries.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Part Two of my Raven Solitude

Four new house posts were installed at the clan house at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. You can see the interior of the four nations represented - the Haida, Tsimshian, Eyak and Tlingit tribes. In the background, the Eyak complete their song and dance.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Raven Solitude

Realizing it was Friday the 13th, I thought it apropos to work on my blog statement. It has been raining for the past week with constant gloomy, gray weather and the summer has been a record of terrible and disappointing weather. I find myself though enjoying the time to focus on reading and catching up on loose ends; my studio work is healthy and complete at the moment. At times, I find myself imploding and needing to get out of the house because the lingering gray seems to sit on my head. Ken is away on a ten day flying survey and I find myself experiencing solitude and quiet. My dog Blue is with me, my shadow and constant companion who is suffering from a poor spine but is amped up on steroids. She keeps me busy tending to her needs; we take simple walks to ease her mind and she remains a good source of distraction from my singleness.

Today was my adventure day! This morning I loaded the dog in the truck and we headed to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This past week was the inception of four new house posts from the four nations - Tlingit, Eyak, Tsimshian and the Haida tribes. I was thrilled to be able to see the naming of the clanhouse ceremonies, experience the quirky behavior of these colorful people in dress and dance. Moreover, the sense of their self respect was radiant. I love Alaska because of this native core and it has drawn me closer to the land and forced me to embrace another way of seeing and experiencing this hidden culture. When I first arrived to Alaska, it was the Alaska Native people I searched for and found this culture too assimilated and strained under layers of many complexities and subtleties. It is prevalent however in the coming together of festivities that reveals their native pride and I sense their desperate grasp to hold onto their language and native ways. The video posted above is The Tsimshian Incoming Song sung and danced by a sister and brother.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

studio work

A series of new works called Blindfold Series are being completed in my studio. These pieces are done on board with gesso, graphite and oil; are done quickly at times while others are reworked to achieve the resolution that I want. The word blindfold is used to describe these works because I feel around, not seeing, not working with a photograph but drawing and painting intuitively and instinctively. I would assume that these pieces are records of memories lingering in and out of my unconscious.
Each piece is approximately 20" x 18" or smaller and I start with a gessoed surface, make my first marks with graphite and do some random scrawls, some more defined than others. My work has always been about combining the two medias of drawing and painting and my new philosophy is not to struggle with each, but to settle into a peace and let go of the hand or in other words become a channel to be led into this expressive path of consciousness/unconsciousness (I could never figure out which term is more appropriate.) This casual process doesn't always work and because I want to contain the painting, I become anxious and feel the need to cap it and finish it.
The image above is one of my favorites quite possibly because it is lighter and easier to look at; mark making is comfortable and airy, they are free and roam around and lines seem to rest without toil and aggravating the senses. My smaller works are more successful at times because of the size issue. At the moment, I am sitting on half a dozen unfinished large pieces and they appear stagnated and the paint or marks don't move like the smaller pieces. Movement is an important aspect in my work, this constant flux of thoughts and expressions that move in and out of my existences and landscapes of thoughts.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

before fall to dark

I have been observing the dwindling light as we move towards August and I see the changes and feel moods of summer slip away. This is a view outside my front door; it has been rainy and gloomy lately, so the darkness is even more apparent in its coming. However, I love this time the best; the neighborhood is tucked away and a settled peace seems to prevail over the world. It is quite beautiful and I make sure I study it well before I go to bed, hold it close and inhale it before I forget about it upon waking to another day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

two landscapes

Pictured above are two different scenes that I inhabit during the year. One is in my backyard where nature is full with abundant natural space and clean air. The other video is what I experience another time of the year - city life and it's massive culture. The second video was shot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the Batu Caves. The towering caves are made from limestone and you walk up 227 steps. Along the way, we experienced Hindu blessings and services.

I haven't been inspired to say anything lately, but today is (another) cloudy out and I find myself sitting down at the moment rather than painting and slashing it out in the studio. Also, I find the video making fresh and I love the challenge of pasting the scenes together with my capricious editing program that I use.

At the moment, I am experiencing dullness, very similar to the gray dark clouds that I see outside our computer room along with the metronome of the wind swaying trees. Perhaps I suffer from a cogent direction or a discontentment of what I have been painting. They are newer works of the figure and I seem to latch onto these images because they give me substance and a new ground for making work. Thinking and observing what you paint is as difficult as the physical act of painting. The inner necessity of having to say something and having it be good work is my main focus and general preoccupation. There is that ongoing continuation, that process that we forget much of the time while making the work and I often look towards the finale which is deceptive and absorbs useful energy that could be put back onto the canvas. Moreover, I find that work has to sit, incubate and gather energy throughout time, where it surprises and catches you off guard. It is truly a metaphysical journey. A friend's quote at the bottom of her emails reads, keep loving, keep fighting. It couldn't be better expressed!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

bird fluff

The past few years, I have noticed that robins have been building their nests around our home. I hear that is good luck. Anyway, here is one bird using our birdbath. I caught this clip from inside the kitchen and miss the slight sounds. Last year, the birds nested in the eaves of our carport and this year they are nestled and well hidden in the center of our Mayday tree. I am happy they find peace in our yard and I love having them around, seeing them scurry for their food and flitting here and there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

nature and more nature

We spent four days at the Upper Tangle lakes with some friends; a four hour road trip from Anchorage became a beautiful and non stop scenic view that seemed to go on interminably becoming breathtakingly unbelievable in scope. This morning, I was reviewing the video tape that I filmed of this region and couldn't believe the immensity of landscape. (The Tangle Lakes extends 160 miles of winding and convoluted lake terrain; is 120 miles south of Denali National Park and can be portaged between locations, the further area called the Lower Tangle Lakes is where it ends called Dickey Lake.) Once we arrived at the drop off, we headed out with our canoes for a two hour row and found a camp site that gave us a view that extended for miles. The next three days, we hiked and relaxed. The bugs could get bad at times so we put on our head nets. Otherwise, the weather cooperated and was cool and not unbearably hot. We didn't see too much wildlife except for some waterfowl and a beaver warning us with the slap of his tail to stay away from his abode. I found a caribou rack on one of our walks with some fresh skull still needing more attention from the maggots. Bleached wood attracted me and I managed to squeeze out a nice bundle for perhaps an anticipated art piece.

Below is our Himalayan Poppies that we harvest each year in our front garden. They have doubled in size and the color is unusually stunning because you are not so lucky to get this type of blue. I am fortunate because I live in nature. I don't live in Los Angeles anymore and miss the avid art scene. It is a trade off I guess where big city dwellers miss the purity of the outdoors and where I miss the ruckus of city life. These days however, I seem to make it a fit and have determined to make this place a home, for now, and will adjust it to my art and style, to my life and call it a grand existence.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peggy Sue at the pound

Pictured above is Peggy Sue, a pit bull mix. They get a lot of pit bull mixes at the animal shelter but you find full breed dogs there too and puppies are the first to get adopted. Every Monday, I volunteer two hours of my time walking the dogs (and hopefully I will squeeze another couple hours here and there). I try to walk each animal for thirty minutes which translates to four dogs during my time. Fortunately, they adopt several dogs a month and manage not to hold onto them. (Unfortunately, Peggy Sue has been in the shelter for over a month. You need to be a special person to adopt Peggy Sue.)

As a volunteer, you go through a training for five hours and the staff preps you on the routine and all the rules. You receive a badge, a key to the cages and a leash. You can walk the dogs anywhere around the grounds, but they must be on the leash at all times and cannot come in contact with other dogs. On the papers listed outside their cages, you can see how old they are and how they came to the shelter. Many are termed strays and others are titled owner surrendered. Some notes are mentioned what needs to be done to the animal, if their teeth need to be cleaned or if they have other health issues. Some don't get along with children or other dogs.

This morning, I did my small service and I walked this mixed breed named Case. Case had such strength for a small slender dog and he went wild when I brought him outside as he pulled me all over the place. I walked across the street to an abandoned large ball field and observed that it was completely fenced in. I hesitated and wondered what would happen if I let Case go. I took the risk, and let Case rip into the field. He ran like a race animal and bolted here and there, so happy to be free. Case came back to me and as I bent down to greet him and he put his head on my shoulder. It was a hug.

The dogs are very appreciative of the walks and the affection you give them. Most of them are so nervous and excited to be out that you wouldn't know this, but after they calm down, you see the their sweetness and gratitude. They correspond and let you know this by their pleading eyes.

This is Tabu, a senior citizen of 11 years old. She was a kind dog who didn't pull me and seem so laid back. Usually, the dogs are freaked out and need to run; are afraid and skittish. The seniors know what's going on......Tabu wasn't at the shelter when I returned the following week.

Pictured above is Scout. He was a super kind gent and walked nicely on the leash. There was little pulling. Scout has since found a family.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

wind mosaic

This morning is a breezy and balmy day experiencing changes from massive sun the past few days if you live in Alaska is not the norm and expect the weather to turn from day to day. I have been enjoying the heat however and how it fills and radiates throughout my being making me realize how missed a sensation. When I lived in Los Angeles the weather could be very predictable including hot (sometimes smoggy) and sunny days and at times it became monotonous and dizzying. Living in the upper Pacific Northwest you never know what you will wake to. We live across from the inlet and experience more winds and cooler temps. Here is a short experimentation on the winds of Alaska.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

knee deep in Nevsky

Pictured above is an icon painting of
Alexander Nevsky, a saint and known as the Protector of the Russian army.

Every semester, I take a course at the university because it is free for me since I teach as an adjunct. This summer, I decided to take a five week course called the History of Alaska. It involves a good deal of reading, which I enjoy; missionaries from the Russian Orthodoxy and Presbyterian ministries, anthropological stories on the Native Alaskans and Russian history to list a few topics are some of the issues that we cover. You need to do a power point presentation among other things for the class. I decided to do my talk on Alexander Nevsky, known for the famous Battle on the Ice where he conquered the Germans. I tied my speech in with the films of Sergei Eisenstein, a 20th century film maker known for his brilliant epic stories on the grandiose scale and who created 12th century medieval Russia wonderfully in his films. (You can rent his films at the Loussac Library in town or most certainly at Netflix.) The actor seen above portrayed as Alexander Nevsky, was one of Stalin's favorite artists.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

homespun sounds

The subtlety of sounds and the home of hundreds of many bird species sometimes draws me in. Last Sunday, a beautiful and cool sunny day, Ken and I took a short drive to Potter's Marsh and observed the fresh noises of spring. I caught the Arctic Tern flying and hanging on the waters and read that it is known to complete one of the longest migrations of any known animal. From a distance it looks so small and unassuming, but after looking through the lens of binoculars, it is powerful and strong with a massive wingspread. This bird lives close to thirty years.

Sounds from the roaring Seward Highway can be heard on the video clip and oftentimes when I look down the coast, I get that vacation feeling of immense excitement and freedom. Alaskan summers does that to me; stirs up old times when I was younger and on the road with my parents, going somewhere new. There were family vacations to Gettysburg, Washington DC, New Hampshire and Niagara Falls to name a few. Staying at roadside motels were thrilling because we got to swim in the pools and showed off our diving skills. Early mornings, I couldn't sleep because I would listen to the sensations of a new place; the adventure of traveling and seeing and experiencing a first time destination presenting itself with possibility and it was the most fantastic thing that anyone could do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

between distances

Ken's new bureau is finally finished. It was specifically designed to fit our computer area in our home but after moving the object in from his shop, we decided that the piece got too cramped and lost. I felt it needed more visibility for this fine art furniture and so we moved it to the front room.

Speaking of place, below is a larva or monsoma pulveratum, the sawfly; new and recent discoveries have been significant on this insect. Ken also writes and publishes scientific information for the Forest Service and his photographs of his field work are often included in pamphlets, booklets and scientific journals.

Last evening, I caught a glimpse of Ken, my husband and partner of close to ten years. As I was standing in our dining room, I saw his head from outside the front window of our door, perfectly framed and peeking out to me. He was fully engaged hanging with our dog Blue not knowing I was looking at him. It was at that point I saw how handsome he was. And within that distance, that moment, I realised that I had forgotten him. At the same time a fresh picture of someone I knew so well became outstanding. Perhaps we lose sight of each other; perhaps we get too close and they become too familiar.

Great impressionist painters painted these glimpses of fleeting images, these instants of lost time. These moments are magical and cogent realizations of what we take for granted.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Antony Gormley

(Pictured above is Antony Gormley's most famous sculpture that dominates the landscape in the north of England. It is called the Angel of the North and is 65 feet tall.)

Yesterday, I got up early on Sunday morning to film the art installation in downtown Anchorage that will accent the new wing of the museum. Lots of other folks were there too, at 6:30am to witness the cubed geometric figure of Antony Gormley. We all hung around for a good couple of hours, drinking coffee and nabbing quick bites of doughnuts; meeting with the artist and seeing his giant Habitat sculpture being lifted by a massive crane, slowly being toppled to it's upright position and then carried to the designated spot where it will be cemented and forever hold part of the grounds was the anticipated climax. I describe it as many boxes of a small city complex. Also, the gray, somber skies of Anchorage seemed to welcome in Gormley's sculpture and it couldn't have been a better day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

running fences

Every Monday night I travel to Eagle River to teach a course called Art Appreciation A160. It is a low level required class that students must take to graduate college and often this class is looked upon as an inconvenience to their studies. The question I continually pose to my students is, what is art and is art important in our lives? This course also helps me examine my own persona as an artist and with each semester I begin with a new premise and a new introduction to teaching. This spring, I introduced art as being integral to our society; how it investigates our cultural understandings on what society is composed of - the myriad of peoples, our ethnic backgrounds, and most importantly how art explains our histories and the universe. It is a general exploration of art history and I try to show a variety and a wide array of visual expressions aside from regular Western stigmas and household artist names.

But, the piece de resistance comes from the students themselves. The last five weeks consist of each student presenting a ten minute PowerPoint lecture on an artist of his/her choice. I stress the importance on using successful visuals to explain what each art piece means, what it expresses and it's historical importance. Many students pick difficult concepts to investigate - like installation art of Christo and Jeanne Claude (an example is pictured above called Running Fences completed in CA) or Donald Judd's minimal geometric sculptures or Robert Smithson's earthworks. Others chose more traditional artists like Rembrandt or Delacroix only to find the magnitude and complexity impossible to examine faithfully giving the artist full credit of their mastery.

Often I think we cruise through life in a sleepwalker's mode but this semester students made curious investigations and explored new things outside the box. Bravo!

Friday, April 9, 2010

something about nothing

The other day a fellow instructor asked me about my plans for the summer. I rattled my list to her in a short minute that included my time up to the month of September and shortly afterwards, she gave me a list of her itinerary. One of my students expressed that she had nothing going on with her summer. I commented that it was healthy and it could inevitably lead to some wonderful surprises. This afternoon, I almost became alarmed because I felt that my summer space was being eaten up with all these things I was planning to do. Are we so afraid to have empty time before us? Are we that insecure that we need to have our months listed with the must dos of projects and places to go to? There is something about nothing. Space does lead to some interesting unplanned, insightful journeys and it has kept me focussed too when I created a short list of intentions. I would like to think that there is a natural progression to the mania of our lives. Perhaps the aspirations are part of the program to an enriched time but I also feel that quiet and contemplative observances are a part of eloquence that can be special and uncanny. They are moments of the breath and the digestion to our spiritual well being.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the mascot and color

People never tire of elephants; these cumbersome beasts are lovely to observe and seem so foreign and they certainly don't fit in our environment but only in the wild. Here you see the mascot gracefully moving the best he can and in such sad spirits it seems to carry, as he drags every bit of weight with him reluctantly. Afterwards, you can see the riot of color by women adorned in their green saris bearing offerings to the Ministry of Tourism. The festival was fun and loud; often the off beat drumming was too much noise but who cared because we were all so happy to witness an Indian celebration.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the ghats

After coming from the town of Aurangabad, Hampi was a soft and wondrous place; filled with Westerners like us, experiencing India's landscape of enchantment and awe. Early mornings, we would wander down by the river and observe all the bathers at the ghats doing their ritual cleanse for the day. That day, we got to see their mascot, the elephant being bathed. We were to see that elephant in Hampi's festival later that evening. Also, the elephant would be placed on the corner of the town square; taking your rupees by his trunk and flinging it into a coin basket would only leave you smiling. Hampi is set up for the Westerner, but it didn't take away it's ancient ruins, humble countryside nor it's magic. It is a place to be visited.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

intermezzo and gray studies

Here are some cowboy hats that eight graders painted using tempera paint. Our objective was to study values of gray. I brought in my cowboy hat that I bought in Arizona years ago and I illuminated the object by using a strong bulb overhead. The light cast a good shadow on a sheet of white butcher block paper. Shadows create the shape, form and make the object look like they are sitting on something rather than floating.
This is another example using shades of gray. Done nicely!
(I took a three month assignment at Mears Middle School for the art teacher who is away on maternity leave. The experience has been challenging and I am continually fascinated by the behavior of these young adults.)
Hats off to some good work!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

rural India, a Hampi landscape

(I have been tooling around and experimenting with video for almost three years; working on editing and not to mention meaningful content is a rigorous journey. This is a new art form for me and most of these clips I term as travelogues or vignettes.)

While we were in Hampi, we discovered rural India and everything else under the sun. We loved walking down to the river mornings while most of the community bathed and completed their daily rituals. In the same water, you can see woman doing the laundry. Other parts of Hampi were peppered with ruins and some very significant temples. It was very magical and had a relaxed air of centuries past. One day, we rented bikes for five bucks and rode to the outskirts of the city. The warm breezes and dusty winds were very comforting. Every minute in India is full with never a dull moment; you are either surrounded by the locals walking by or the painted oxen in the fields, not to mention a musical air that accompanies the scenery, that uplifts, takes you in and sweeps you off your feet.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

temple dancers

These drawings are done on masonite with oil stick, paint and gesso. After observing several caves and outside facades on our India travels, I decided to do some figurative gestural studies. I work on a table surrounded with several boards (perhaps fifteen or more) and I rotate very quickly going from one image to another. I look at some imagery of photographs that I took from the sites; but work collectively and intuitively, mainly stemming from gut responses, these drawings were hatched very freely. Personally, I love them, because the figures dance openly and evoke movement from the moment.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hyderabad street life

Hyderabad is a bustling old city in the southern interior of India that is predominately Muslim. We decided to stay a few nights at this hotel before heading to Alleppy and I got in some film clips of street life from our second floor room. Not only is this a busy, noisy area, but crossing to the other side was sometimes perilous. Our room was comfortable, clean and quiet however. Ken and I finally found a restaurant to have a beer; located off the major boulevard, we climbed upstairs to a dark and smoky eating establishment. There were no women, but plenty of men drinking, smoking and carrying on. We had a wonderful shrimp dish with our Kingfishers. We found India to be very conservative in the interior and I have to admit, more interesting because we saw a side that the normal tourist wouldn't care to explore. We were virtually the only Westerners on some of our days of travel. People were wonderfully polite to us, and I found the Muslim people very intense with wicked, sharp humor. There were the fantastic tombs of the Qutb Shahi Kings - immense towering sculptures, bell shapes monuments and not only one, but the site was peppered with a least a dozen of these mausoleums. We also visited the Gaolconda Fort that wasn't as superb as Daulatabad fort in Aurangabad. I love the forts in India; works of art that carry this old age empire of the Mughal sensibility.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the groom

On our way back towards town from the Aurangabad Caves, we fell onto a wedding party. You can visibly see the groom on his horse before he goes inside to the wedding area. I wished I possessed the nerve to follow into the ceremony, but felt this really wasn't any of my business. However, I truly think I would have been welcomed to join in the celebration. You can see the dancing in the streets and everyone is very happy and elated. What I did notice throughout India, were the masses of men walking together; almost like a herd mentality. India is very patriarchal. While seeing men in groups walking around, I often wondered, where are the women and when I did see them, they were usually solitary and fleeting. Othertimes, I noticed that they were usually hidden inside the homes and most likely in the kitchen!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aurangabad Caves

This is a video of one of the Aurangabad caves. Aurangabad is located nine hours northeast of Mumbai and we traveled on a second class train - something you should do once while traveling in India and afterwards go A/C first class all the time! The town was a mess and we arrived at one in the morning; nearly fainting when the rickshaw driver dropped us off at the shabby hotel. The room had bars on the windows, a shower that dripped cold water and we were charged over thirty dollars for a run down space while questioning to ourselves why had we ever gone the distance. Even in the daylight, Aurangabad is a terribly dirty, trash strewn town. We hired a driver the next day who took us to the Ellora Caves and then the following day to the Ajanta Caves located two hours through charming rural countryside. Meanwhile, all the caves are immaculate and well maintained. This video shows one interior of the Aurangabad Caves (while these excavations are considered a lesser of the sites but what I love about this clip is the distant sounds of a Hindu wedding, which I also filmed and will post at a later date.) In retrospect, it was a wondrous journey and a trek I would do over and over again. I highly recommend seeing these first class 5th century Buddhist carvings considered as World Heritage Sites. India constantly throws you all over the place but you land standing on two feet in rapturous awe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chamundi Hill, Mysore

Mysore is known as the sandalwood capital. They boast the Majaraja's Palace which is indeed magnificent. However, one day we took a rickshaw up to Chamundi Hill, known to be a special pilgrimage site. It was indeed special; spirits ran very high with hundreds of people perusing the temple lining up to see the special icon. I stood in the fast moving queue and you are pushed or almost carried among several people on all sides; the excitement is quite clear. Once at the idol, you quickly pass by, whisper a prayer or drop flowers at the alter. It was a sunny and breezy day; clean air and the perfect temperature infested everyone it seemed. I made this video and although it is a bit fuzzy, you can catch the environment and good spirits of the people. Mysore is a sprawling city and a good mix of Hindu and Muslim cultures. One of my favorite things was waking up to the call to prayer each morning.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

indelible India - journal entry 1

Our journey was long; distances covered involved a giant loop starting at Mumbai, going east into the interior, and ending up on the southern part of Alleppy, riding up the coast to Goa and back to Mumbai. Our interior search was the most intensive - Aurangabad; visiting the Ajanta and Ellora Caves was the trek of a lifetime, down to Hyperabad, Hampi (a genius temple sight), Mysore and Alleppy. Kochi and Goa were silent retreats, relaxing and finishing our novels, resting up for another transition was often the case.
If you can get past the dirt and pollution, masses of people and poverty - abandon your "western" perceptions and comforts, you will arrive at having a fabulous trip; glorious in color and people immersed in this ancient land, India is an assault to all your senses. The immense smells of latrines, scattered trash almost everywhere you go (except for the tourist parts) and the persistent nag of asking for business or your money can be draining. Returning to your room helps. At the same time, the country is continually fascinating. You cannot help but be thrilled with their crazy ornate festivals, temple grounds, the cheap but good food and the quirkiness of the people takes you in unexpectedly.
My favorite places in India were the countryside. I loved the open and tattered fields, shed like abodes and the subtle parts gold/green places that screamed water. (During the monsoon months though, I hear the landscape takes on another appeal. It becomes rich and powerful with lushness.) Driving to the caves, we experienced the quiet jewel of the farmland; the immensity of the animal life is a constant - herds of goats, cows, large carts with an overload of hay just about to make it and everywhere the beautiful people walking modestly and carefree seem the happiest. Most of the villages were clean and humble; some amazingly beautiful estates with haystacks peppered among giant palm trees and of course the myriad of farm animals bring it altogether.
India is always full, always big of heart and it carries a multitude of complexity. You love it and at times you deplore what you see and experience, tiring of the constant shabbiness of the people and not knowing who is telling you the truth or not. It isn't the easiest place to get around but the trains, buses and drivers all take off on time. Negotiation is a constant, but when done you arrive at the set price and always, always, you get your change back. Indelible India (for starters.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A dedication - Jacqueline Coons 1923 - 2010

To a great friend, mentor and teacher. I will miss you mom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

my persona

After returning from India last week, I was thrown into the real world of confronting work, new art projects, skiing, a birthday - so much to do. This trip will take time for me to process and digest. When I review the photos from our trip I cannot imagine that I was at this place, this wondrous country, so foreign, bright and bleak at the same time.

With an active week-end in front of me, I fell seriously ill. I was struck down with the flu; a roaring fever, chills, etc, etc. I had never before felt or experienced this type of sickness. Ken panicked for a moment but with his science mind came to the conclusion that I would be okay. I stayed in bed for two days sweating it out. The third day, my strength returned; still with stomach upsets but I could finally read in bed and catch up on my New Yorkers.

Things change is a heartbeat. Being sick makes you realize how fortunate you are that you can get better again and will get back to the routine of things. And that is putting it mildly.