Here Comes the Sun

I started this collage before the solar eclipse in August, and just finished it during a wet spell.  Cool days, chilly damp nights, and water spilling out from above in downpours and drizzles . . . while it feels like ‘so much’ rain, really it’s not.  We listen to stories about flooding in Texas and Louisiana, Bangladesh, Nepal, and India, moving to Pakistan, and the versatility of water, from nourishing to devastating, it’s numerous qualities does more than amaze.

There’s a great scene in an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender that illustrates the power of water swell.  In it, the Waterbender stronghold is under attack from Firebenders and Ang, the last Airbender, is standing on the ramparts facing the ocean where the fire nations’ ships are congregated in mass numbers.  He begins waterbending, slowly lifting and raising every last drop out of the ocean into a gargantuan water wall . . . and there’s a small wave where he realizes he can drop it and destroy all the fire nations fleets with their troops on board, but  . . .  he doesn’t have to: he can waterbend and show the power water has without letting it fall instead, mercy moves fluidly like water  . . .  from within the bender in question, for the elements themselves are without partiality, joviality, preference . . . (or are they?)

Water.  Moves boats full of gratitude to shore.

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Gardens Delight

A garden is such a bountiful space, I’m in awe of it, marvel often at all that it has to offer! The year before Jasper’s birth we planted the garden but didn’t tend it at all.  That was the year I learned that you don’t have to.  That a garden is beyond a place to plant vegetables and fruit.  It doesn’t need a gardener to enliven it, rather it will enliven the ‘gardener’.  That year our plantings limped along and the entire space sprung up with red clover, milkweed, chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace, evening primrose, goldenrod; and oh it was intoxicating.  We gave up going to hunt for what we’d planted and simply moved through the labyrinth of eight foot tall chicories and towering evening primroses to the center, where we eventually had a bed to sit and be with the garden that had grown itself, to be with all the beings that came fluttering, crawling, buzzing, humming from flower to flower.  We harvested next to no ‘food’ but we were well fed all the same, and when asked, “So how’s the garden doing?”, I’d reply, “Abundantly.”  We had friends visit and they’d look at the jumbo ‘weeds’ and shake their heads, “You have food growing in there?”  We’d walk inside, sit for a spell, and they’d experience what the garden was doing.  It was amazing.  One of our friends drove  up a few times that summer . . . she spent most of her visits just being in the garden.

Since then we’ve shifted how we garden, and sometimes it is we who are gardened.  The asparagus goes to fern and a thicket of milkweed, goldenrod, Quenn Anne’s Lace, pokeberry, and chicory fills the beds; each year in different measure.  Last year goldenrod was predominant, this year it’s milkweed.  We laid out straw pathways so we could get to where we’re planting and aside from a few vagrant docks and dandelions, the wildflowers are keeping their growth either at the edges or in the beds . . . we pull some and leave some.  It feels as though when we read the living language round us, we begin to communicate differently, in ways that every ‘body’ understands and when we’re speaking the same language, it’s not that the world suddenly starts to hum and vibrate, it always is, it’s just that we begin to listen and understand it more or less, joining in participation.

I’m made aware of this when a car comes up the driveway, the folks driving are lost, gps told them to go this way and they have no idea where they are, why don’t their cell phones work, how do they get to where they want to go, are they even in Rockbridge County anymore, where are they??  Often they’re edgy and nervous, some of them leave in a hurry, some of them stay a while.  All of them reflect back a common thread:when they enter places off the gps, it feels like they’ve dropped out of the known world into unknown territory, yet we are here on this planet simultaneously the whole while long, as has the universe been humming whether we listen it or not.

Yesterday I went to pick zucchini and beans, and the sounds coming from honey bees, bumble bees, wasps, hornets, and three hummingbirds moving about was melodious. They each have their own particular noise, some buzzing some thrumming a bit of whirring mixed up with hovering, and together they make music in motion. Plump black and rust ants march from goldenrod to Queen Anne’s Lace, caterpillars munch on milkweed leaves and dill, butterflies dance about the flowers landing to drink, and there’s food for everyone all in a small little colorful place with eloquence written on the rustling pages of maple leaves flecked in orange.

After picking I stayed in the garden for a while, enjoying musing on literacy with the lively muses. Wondered if the emphasis on literacy for everybody may take away rather than be of service to at an individual level.  What expressions that a child wants to utilize energy on get suffocated when they’re not yet interested in becoming literate, on a schedule determined for them from without?  While they are developing something else from inside themselves at the time . . . .but are forced to give their energy and attention to decoding alphabetic symbols regardless, before they’re willing to or have generated interest from within.  Does something of value get squashed this way?  What would happen if not everybody in the nation was literate?  Would we see something new and unanticipated rise out instead?  Literacy is a tool, it serves those of us who need such a tool.  Not everybody may have a need for such a tool, just as not everybody has need of nor knowledge of the use of a potter’s wheel or a tractor.  What would happen were we to give children the gift of applying themselves to what they’re drawn to, even when it ‘seems’ to be nothing at all, rather than the ‘gift’ of enforced literacy?  Might they be setting themselves up for an unknown forward in their formative time and space?

I mused for a spell, easy to do as though the sun was out it wasn’t swelteringly hot; there’s a slight coolness and clarity to the air now. Crisp as a fresh apple, it has a slight bite that tingles. An awareness flickered: summer’s winding toward something else, so I soaked up the sights and sounds and smells and motivated: to create art with what’s growing now.  Got up and walked about, nibbling on a mixture of mint, anise hyssop, and tulsi, chewing and macerating them into tea.  The zucchini and beans were joined by a few zinnias added to the basket, some goldenrod stems, a bunch of unripe pokeberry, a sprig of phlox, fragrant nectary Queen Anne’s Lace, a milkweed leaf, two cleome petals with their oddly skunky smell, a bit of tansy, a smartweed plume, red clover leaves, and on the way out orange jewelweed; hummingbirds love dipping their long beaks into these, flying quickly from one dangling gem to the next.  Then back inside shaping little scenes of wee folk, expressing gratitude with flowers; though small in number and size, very big food for the heart.

Shukra’s Magha

I worked on a collage piece in anticipation of the eclipse::with Sun and Moon both stationed in The Lion constellation.  The portion they’re in is called Magha, 0 – 13 degrees roughly of the whole constellation.  While The Lion constellation is ruled by Sun, the three portions have their own rulers, and within each portion there are four smaller portions, each with its own planetary ruler . . . the whole constellation thus has as many variations within it as the family of felines::from lion, mountain lion, leopard, puma, panther, siamese cat, tomcat, to cheetah.  The area that the Sun and Moon will be stationed during the eclipse is Magha, governed by Ketu or the South Node (interestingly the North Node, Rahu, is what’s generating the eclipse) and the portion of Magha they’re in is ruled by Shukra, the planet Venus.

The event brought to mind generous gathering of raw energy, potentiality, a birthing pregnant feeling . . . earth body in watery dark womb or seed in dark moist earth being warmed and fired up into cracking and sprouting through, growing into breath and light, ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ being covered by intuition guiding the labor and birth:: out and roaming at large, giving space to delve into depths inaccessible with the bright sun always out . . . even at night, it is not concealed nor hidden, not the way it is veiled during an eclipse . .. at which time the moon does not reflect the sun’s light the way it does at night, the moon simply slips infront of all that light, small and lightless, and manages to completely block illumination for a short period before passing . . . but those short moments are full moments, during which the moon takes advantage of the light shining from behind to cast out shadow, to cast out moon-ness instead of reflecting, reflecting, always reflecting facing Earth, in the eclipsed moment:: to cast out . . . the only reflection occurring will be facing the Sun, Sun’s light shining on Moon mirroring reflection back on itself, a curiousity from which this collage came  . . .

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Odes to Nature

About a month ago I went to the opening of my first solo art show on Friday the 5th at The Blue Phoenix Cafe.  Downtown galleries open their doors till about 8:30 every first Friday of the month, celebrating the opening evening of new exhibits and the streets are busy with people getting together, chittering and chattering, around paintings, wine, cheese, fruit, and in the case of The Blue Phoenix, superb vegetarian fare like sushi, brown rice burgers, and hummus.

My show was a mixture of media: seven framed Giclee prints of creations made with leaves, berries, fungus, and other treasures that I find and look for on walkabouts here in the woods, and eight paintings in a mixture of watercolor, collage, and india ink. I called the show Odes to Nature & Other Wise and in spending the evening chatting with friends, family, acquaintances old and new I learned a little something that was at once obvious in retrospect yet also immediately surprising.

Specifically in conversation with a local acquaintance, he brought to my attention that my work reminded him of South Indian Folk Art, the eyes, the feeling, the expressions. And this was the pivotal point in turning my view, for while I know nothing about South Indian Folk Art, what immediately came to mind was this: when I first set out to discovering who they are, the seven earth ladies, initially my aunts came to the forefront as the heroines of the tales shown. From there the wives of Chandra, the Moon God: Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Ardra, Anuradha, Revati, Chittra, Svati, and so on. I followed my instincts and kept going until haiku’s bespoke their personalities.

Now, this is where it got interesting, as I was ruminating on the South Indian Folk Art discussion, at first I thought perhaps he was picking up on the names and possible identities that had been swirling around in my head earlier but suddenly it came together:: an aha! a hand to the forehead moment! this realization:: I know South Indian Folk. How had I missed what was right under my nose? My maternal grandfather and many of his relatives migrated to Pakistan from South India, mainly Madras and Bangalore, during Partition, and the women of his family all are infused with this ‘look’ that I grew up around. In migrating, they carried over their South Indian style of dressing and talking and eating and doing things to Karachi: a mixed city of mostly migrants from places like Lucknow, Allahabad, Gujrat, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kashmir, and other flavors subcontinental.

The women wear kajal around their eyes, flowers in their hair, and are themselves living art. And they have woven their way into how I shaped this earthy series, which are odes to nature:: both of the earthly green kind and also the nature of the women who spun me round; giving me paint, pastel, dupattas, saris, and bangles to play with while they chatted, walking me home on scorching dusty streets from school when the cost of a rickshaw was too high yet turning the whole walk into such fun that it was how I wanted to go home instead of in a rickshaw, sharing gol gappas, jalebis, and faludas in the busy bazaars with sugar cane juice and falsaas, and then the conversations they’d have with the street folk, also folk art of their own kind, from hijras to one armed men on trolleys to displaced Afghan boys and girls selling marigold garlands, these women folk with heart have appeared in my art . . .

. . . as to South Indian or Not Indian or What’s Indian, does it matter? Maybe I’ll ask the hatter, in the meantime see whether you see the resemblance, which in the end is not localized to or about them in particular, but certainly a fusion of the women I’ve known. Women from many places, directions, times, walks of life, women from myth, fairy tale, legends, dreams; women come together infused, as revealed in community, with a mixed media South Indian Folksy flair.

I have prints available from this series at my Studio.

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Repurposing:: cookbook into paintbook

Making an art journal with a very old, much loved and used cookbook starts with one cookbook that has well-stitched pages and a tub of glue::I use mod podge and glue three pages together, then three more, then another three and leave them open to dry before moving on to the next lot.  Before gluing, I’ll tear out pages then go to the corresponding side and tear out the set that’s on that side of the stitchery, thinning the book this way as it tends to get bulky with time and collaging.  I like to get all my pages glued before beginning arting in books, but it’s not necessary and I know folks who glue as they go along instead.  I work on our dining table, which I keep covered with an old shower curtain.

After the glued pages are dry, I paint two pages at a time with white acrylic gesso, let them dry, then go through about six sets worth to start out.  Then I get to the fun parts::moving color around the pages, usually Jasper paints with me and we get some interesting undergrounds done together 🙂

 

Later I’ll go through them and pull designs out of the swirls, collage, or draw over them.

They sit like this until one day inspiration, energy, and time all come together, then I pull out the paintbook and begin adding in details, turning something of the above over into the below.

Make a paintbook and give it some color, it’s a whole juicy flow to painting your story . . .  . cookbook, picture book, board book, composition book, your kids old notebooks; any book is repurposeable once it’s lived it’s original/intended purpose, the one thing to look for is firm good quality paper and sturdy stitched bindings, then go, glue, paint, give a book new life and flow!  When finished give it a cover of your own to show 🙂

Pieces of Peace

 

When I participated in the World Peace Poet Project I hadn’t imagined I’d receive so many variations of poetry on the topic of peace and resistance, it was an eye opener and enjoyed by my entire family . . . the excitement of walking down to the mailbox to see whether any postcards had come, seeing what each one looked like, reading them aloud, discussing them, reading them aloud again, and in Layla’s case:: the joy of new stamps to add to her album.  It was a fun experience and somewhere in the middle I was inspired to paint a series depicting some of the themes that popped out and so it continued, a surprising turn from poetry to paint.  Above are the beginnings of the series and below are the ones I’ve decided are the pieces of peace that are ‘finished’ for the time being  . . .  maybe they’ll rest a spell 😉