Bridging the Gap

I've been tucked into my studio for the last couple months, drawing jade plants, diverse succulents, taking notes and obsessively printing gelli prints. I’ve filled a notebook, and in the process, found a rhythm and perhaps some answers to a problem I've been trying to solve.

For the past couple of years, I've worked on a series called Shift, in which I explored my ecological niche of Davis. As the series progressed, I became more interested in the unusual shapes of plants I found visiting various botanical gardens. I began another series of collage works I called Botanical Dreams, inspired by the 30 paintings in 30 days  challenge presented by Leslie Saeta.

I’ve wanted to continue this series and I wanted to wed the monoprints of Shift with the collage, but after several months of trials and lots of recycled prints, I think I’m trying to make an arranged marriage. Shift needs to be one series and Botanical Dreams another.

As I write this, I realize that actually, I'm the bridge. I think that it's hard to leave the safety of a known series and decamp to another largely unknown territory, but the connection lies simply in my own two hands.

"Be Happy and Color!" Goes Live

IMG_5734(1)I was standing in front of my art cart about a year ago at the UC Davis Children's Hospital, looking over my supplies, organizing them for the day, when a nurse came through the door and began riffling through the coloring  books on an adjoining cart. "Do you have anything for a three year old?," she asked. "That's a good question," I thought as I too flipped through the stack of donated coloring books. I saw Spider Man and his assorted cohorts, but nothing that would really be appropriate to a 3 year old's developmental needs. As I walked back to my office, I thought that we could really use a book with healthy images that connects children to the natural world without the inclusion of violence.

When I got back to my office a bit later, I logged on to my email and found a new  note from a person that I didn't know, Pauline Molinari, a book editor, asking me if I would be interested in writing the text for a coloring book.

Kismet? Ask and ye shall receive? I was delighted that my unspoken question was answered so promptly. I quickly researched Pauline and the publisher for whom she worked, Walter Foster Jr.(an imprint of Quarto books), and picked up the phone.

Thus began a collaboration between myself, the fabulous illustrator, Stephanie Peterson Jones and Pauline. I was fortunate to have free reign over the structure of the book and decided to focus on 4 of the 5 primordial elements: fire, air, earth and water. (I didn't include ether because, well, you get the picture.)

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Over the next several months, we mapped out spreads, I created prompts and Stephanie's illustrations unfolded in response.  All the while, I began to see more and more coloring pages emerge on artists' and art therapist's sites. I was excited and after the last prompt was done, the last quotation cited, the last drawing approved, I couldn't wait to hold the book in my hands.

But I did-- until last Friday, when I arrived home from an opening to find a package with the publisher's return address on the label. There, packed neatly, was the quotient of copies promised to me; crisp and ready for crayon wielding fingers.

I'm very pleased with the results and can't wait to share the book with my family and friends.  If you'd like your own free copy of Be Happy and Color, leave me a comment at the end of the post. I'll put all the names in my husband's Irish cap and draw one. (And I promise to draw blind.) That fortunate person will receive a package full of inspiration and coloring bliss.

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Monday Morning Art Circle

mandala

In March I'll begin a new job at Wellness Within, an amazing organization that provides support to cancer patients, survivors, their families and caregivers, all at no cost. They offer programs in expressive arts,  yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I feel very lucky to be a part of the program.

As I worked on designing a class, I came up with the idea of an art circle. I think of it like a living mandala; a gathering of people exploring the healing powers of art making. Creating art in a community setting is a gentle way of bringing all of us, facilitator (me) and group members alike, back to our essential, inner selves.

We'll be using a variety of media; collage, visual journaling, creation of personal mandalas and a wonderful directive that was created by art therapist, Gretchen Miller; Creative Covenants. Don't let this list scare you though.You do NOT need any prior art experience. The only requirement for our time together is the ability to wield a glue stick and use a pair of scissors.

If any of you reading this knows anyone with a cancer diagnosis, cancer survivors or their families and caregivers in the Sacramento area, who might benefit from this group, please have them contact Wellness Within. If you’d like to learn more about this workshop, you can email me at hkhunterarts@gmail.com. I’d love to have you join us!

The Monday Morning Art Circle

Date/Time Date(s) - 03/07/2016 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

25,24,23, 30x30--Counting Down!

I got busy over the weekend with an art therapy project for Wellness Within. They are a wonderful organization in Roseville, CA that works with cancer patients, survivors, their families and caregivers. It's a new job for me and I wanted to do my best for the workshop, so I put the 30x30 on the backburner for that time and let it simmer. In order to catch up and cover the three days, I laid out the ground papers and worked on all three simultaneously. It was fun and gave me some ideas about how to expand aspects of this series into larger pieces.

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Day #22, 30x30, The New Year of the Trees

Tu BiShvat Seder, or the New Year of the Trees is a Jewish holiday that takes place each year at the end of January or beginning of February. There are many different explanations for the holiday, but I'm most fond of the one that expresses gratitude for the quickening of life within the trees, or, in other words, the first invisible signs of spring.

Although it is gray and rainy outside, warm inside my studio, I think of the Dylan Thomas' poem: The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.

#22 celebrates the greening of life, becoming juicy and ready to bloom whatever our age.

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Day #15, 30x30, Talk about blessings!

Attachment-1(5) I'm straying again from my theme of Botanical Dreams, for good reason. This morning our family traveled to one of our favorite beaches to explore. I stopped in front of the crashing waves and offered a short prayer for the day: for protection, for grace and for generosity and walked off towards the lava rocks.

I stopped to put on my Keens, knowing the danger of lava cuts. As I bent to pull on my sandal, a man appeared and began to warn us of the 40 foot waves. My mind took in the information, but as it did, a huge wave flipped me over and dragged me out. There was nothing I could do, but shout for help.

My sister and the gentleman had to wait for the water to go out before they could reach down and pull me to safety. My next thought was for my daughter and her boyfriend who had gone on ahead. I asked the man, who appeared ocean savvy, to go with my husband and find them. Which they did.

But the story wasn't over. My leg was fairly cut up from the lava and my husband also scraped his foot, trying to help. We stopped at a local store for band-aids and Neosporin. My sister, who was still in shock from the incident (as was I) ran in without her wallet. When she got to the cash register, she discovered she'd forgotten her wallet. Another protector emerged in the Australian woman behind her in line, who simply said; "I'll get it." Amy promised to pay it forward.

After two such incidents of grace what can one do but be thankful?

 

Day #12, 30x30, Flight to Paradise

I took a break from 30x30 over the weekend to begin my Yoga Teacher Training program at Kaya Yoga in Davis. Not making a collage Saturday and Sunday felt like trying to keep my hand out of the proverbial cookie jar. And then, flying to Kauai on Monday, well how can you argue with that? Now, settled in our home away from home, the colors of #12 surround me.

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Day 6, 30x30, the storm is here!

Last night, as I lay in bed, wind lashed at the trees, and sheets  of rain streamed down the windows. "California dreaming indeed!," I thought. And as I thought about "Day 6," and what kind of background I might use, I imagined using my gelli plate to print paper with gray droplets and layer the plant forms on top of that. Gray droplets however, soon shifted to aqua skies and a strange amalgam of a lauhala tree* emerged. Keep the rain coming--I'll create the blue skies in my studio!

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*The lauhala tree is native to Hawaii.

When Yellow Leaves Do Hang

Early Morning West Pond, ©2015, Snapseed filters People say that there is no fall in California. That's not true. Fall arrives slowly and takes its sweet time once here. Sometime around mid to late October, the leaves begin to turn--first the sycamores fade bronze, the gingkos go yellow and finally the pistache leaves take off like bottle rockets with scarlet, crimson, pumpkin and wine, lighting up the city parkways with their stationary fireworks.

It's a month that calls for poetry and I was lucky enough to receive one of the most exquisite autumnal poems ever.

I was talking with my father. We spoke about our understanding of retirement. His definition, which I love, is that all retirement means is that you have left behind a salaried job with all the fringe benefits. My father has written five books since he retired as an English professor and, in his early eighties, is wading deep into his sixth. As we ended the conversation, he told me that he wanted to share a poem and began to quote from memory, Shakespeare's sonnet Number 73. I share it with you because it says so much about the season of autumn and the turnings in our lives.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see'st the twilight of such day, As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by-and-by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by. This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Perhaps that is the benefit of retirement. If we are lucky, we burn brightly with all of the colors of our life; the complex layers of experience, relationships and gifts which come together to be set out again in any form we choose.

The Artist's Master Class; A Study in Values

Shift, ©2015, 8 I've been working closely with Lisa Call in her Artist's Master Class for the last 6 months. A combination of coaching, goal setting and support from fellow artists, the class has challenged me to examine the parts of my life that do NOT support my art/life.

Broken Nandina, 2015, 8

I've taken classes with Lisa before and the pace, challenges and comradery are exhilarating. I had expected the same approach in the Master Class. But initially, I was frustrated-- I wanted to move full speed ahead with my artwork. Instead, I discovered all the things that got in my way.

On the short list for roadblocks were my health and my job. My health was suffering because I was burning out from the intense pace of hospital art therapy. All the self care that I could muster; yoga, therapy, exercise, massage, you name it, didn't seem to budge my exhaustion or my myriad collection of maladies.

Lisa invited me to slow down and piece together the elements that weren't working. Then, I was to imagine what might help me grow stronger. I put down my ideas: acupuncture, more time with friends and more travel, less time in the studio. A couple of the myriad maladies began to melt away as I put my ideas into action.

My favorite exercise is one that cost nothing in time or money; a values inventory. I thought about the values that circumscribe my life: intuition, stewardship, tikkun o'lam*, healing, acknowledgement, responsibility, respect and compassion.

After coming up with my list, I decided to bring each of these values, one by one, into my art work. I was amazed--because I actually began to relax.

Nandina With Words, 2015, 8

Although I have deadlines for exhibits. I've began to be more thoughtful in my process; less let's get it done! and more  what is it that I'm doing?

And slowing down is good. It's hot, it's summer, but beyond that I'm simply enjoying the ride, curious to find out how my ideas about art will change as I do.

How do your values affect the art you make?

*A Jewish principle that means to heal the world, to fit the broken pieces together, and in modern terms to talk about fixing what is broken in society.

Tiny Desk Art

One of the first squares; Chinese text and monoprint papers, 5" x 5" How does an artist keep making art when the flow of life brings a series of not so fortunate events? That's what's been happening to me lately. From a fractured foot to a persistent virus, not to mention getting rear ended, was life conspiring to keep me from the studio?

With little time and less energy, it seemed that the obvious solution was to make smaller work. "But I don't want to make smaller work!" an inner voice whined. "O.K.,"-- I answered the voice, "but smaller work can add up." It occurred to me that I could use the same journal format that I'd been practicing in my recent work.

I approach my work in an additive way anyway, creating one print or collage and building on that with the next one, and so on; day after day. At the end of a run (determined by season or plant material), I curate them into a composition that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

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This time, although the size would be smaller, I could still use a sequential format. Then, the words "Tiny Desk Concerts" came to mind. I remembered that these were intimate musical events  performed live at the desk of one of NPR's music hosts, Bob Boilen.

Great idea! I figured that I could work the same way. During a break at the hospital or lunch, I could stack the key board on my computer monitor and employ the resulting 13" wide open space for art making. Tiny desk art indeed. But my patch was large enough to fit a cutting board. And where would I keep my materials? I slid open my file drawer, revealing a box of jasmine tea, some almonds and chia seeds, and added a pencil box of collage materials and a folder of colorfully printed papers.

There is a sequence of 3 letters: prn, medical shorthand for the Latin phrase: pro re nata, or, "as the thing is needed."

I love that phrase "as the thing is needed," meaning not always, not every hour or even every day, but when you need it. And that, for the time being, is how I'm making art.

One of the recent squares, vintage origami text and monoprint papers, 5" x 5"

Bookends

Paradox, ©2015, 26" x 32," Monoprint I was lying in bed the other night, almost asleep, when very softly, these words began to play in my head:

Time it was/And what a time it was, it was/A time of innocence, A time of confidences/Long ago it must be/ I have a photograph/Preserve your memories/They're all that's left you.*

In just a handful of syllables, the song, Bookends, captures the fleeting nature of time; the ever changing landscape of a life. When I first heard the song many years ago, I thought that the words referred to adolescence. Now, I know they refer to any collection of moments in life.

Up in my studio, I've been trying to capture, as in a photograph, this same transience. I gather the plant materials and know that the tender, tiny leaves of the Nandina will be gone in several days, replaced by tougher more mature leaves. The sprigs of jasmine buds that I'm printing will yield to the fragrant white blossoms.

Earlier in my series of prints, which I call "Shift," I was celebrating the plant forms of the Sacramento Valley. In any series, the more you explore, the more nuances are revealed and this spring is no exception. I am enchanted by the way plants pile new life onto old. New green stems push their way out of seemingly dead branches. A flirting shoot of jasmine twirls around a twiggy, yellowing stem.

I look forward to witnessing how this element of surprise plays out as the season continues to unwind. I'll be preserving them in prints.

* Bookends, Simon & Garfunkle, 1968

A Clean Break

IMG_2097 Several weeks ago when I was coming down my studio stairs, I tripped on the second to last step and went flying, my hands holding a mug and several brayers and my feet imbedded in unwieldy Dansko clogs. I was barely able to twist myself around so I'd land on my foot rather than my shoulder.

I discovered the next day that it was a clean break of the 5th metatarsal. Bumping around the house in my new Bledsoe boot, I earned the name "Mama Pegleg Pirate."

Two days later, I came down with a virus that has taken my voice hostage for two weeks. Since that time, I've spent rather more time looking out our upstairs window at my studio, rather than in it.

I've often thought that nothing occurs in a vacuum, and that for most things there is a good reason; this accident being no exception. And there's something definite about a break. It insists that you pause, that you look at the world in an unaccustomed way.

Upstairs dreaming

I began to dream. Ideas that previously floated beyond me felt within reach. I created a retention plan to capture "waiting for warm" water from showers, bath and the kitchen faucet. With the help of my husband and daughter, we installed a family of buckets in strategic locations. Despite no winter rainfall for the past month, we've been able to water the plants with what we've collected.

I also decided to take a more proactive stance toward the studio. I wrote out a plan for the Davis Art Studio Tour, printed  some calendar pages and scheduled tasks  and events, so that I could see them clearly in front of me (rather than having them creep up from behind). I made a list of posts for social media, searched for frames for my monoprints and in an inspired moment, asked for help.

We often think we have to do everything ourselves, but in the last several days, I've asked both my husband and sister to be shopping ambassadors. Monty headed off to Dick Blick's in Sacramento and when they came up short there, Amelia, my sister drove me into Berkeley so that I could visit the well stocked DB's on University Ave.

While I'm still frustrated that I can't stand up for very long and that I haven't been able to get in a good block of time in the studio, things are moving along for the Davis Art Studio Tour coming up April 11th and 12. Most of all, I'm grateful for the love of family and friends and my long suffering husband who amiably smiles when I say once again, "I'm so tired of being sick and tired," and simply says: "I know, Sweetie."

unexpected moments, small miracles

IMG_1325During the winter holidays, our pediatric unit is festooned to the nines in greenery, glittering balls and ornaments. Stately trees decked with stuffed animals and toys grace each alcove on the floor. In my early days here at the hospital, there was always some acknowledgement of Hanukkah too; a garland of dreidels or decorations made of cobalt blue and white. This week marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the 8 day Jewish festival of lights and it's been a long time since I've seen any blue, white and gold decorations on our floor. By the first day of Hanukkah, I was growing weary of Santa visits and a pervasive sense of Christmas as the ruling paradigm. I didn't think I could do anything about it;  I just observed my irritation.

But later that day, one of the nurses came up to me saying: "A surgeon just called me and asked me if the Art Lady could come up with some kind of Hanukkah decorations. The surgeon is Jewish, it's her birthday and every time she comes on our unit and sees only Christmas decorations, she's sad."

Was the doctor reading my mind? I decided to make some decorations STAT in Art Group, although I was a mite concerned about parents becoming upset when their little girl or boy set to cutting out Stars of David or dreidels.

And that's when the tiny miracle happened. That afternoon, most of the children were confined to their rooms on isolation, but one family staying close to the playroom rolled in. I explained that we were making a paper chain with stars for Hanukkah. They became very excited, sat down at the table and the dad asked me "Do you know why they use that dark blue for one of the Hanukkah colors?"

He explained that the cobalt blue was inspired by a kind of dye that was used in ancient Israel. I was impressed, especially when he told me that scientists were still trying to figure out the origins of that dye.

A wonderful hour of linking one paper ring to another followed, with stories and memories exchanged. More people came in and they too, got excited. When we finished, we had a 30 foot-long chain dripping with brilliant yellow stars and blue rings.

I gathered the collection of stars and rings in my arms and carefully placed them in the nurse manager's office. When I arrived the next morning, I wondered whether they would still be sitting there or hanging in the entry way. I entered, turned around and saw them, signaling in their unique way, the miracle of the season.

The world has, for far too long, traded upon exclusivity instead of inclusion and it seems to me, that at this time of year, is there any better time to honor our traditions? Everyone's traditions.

The Head of a New Year

Pomegranate on the first day of the New Year 5775; the day of the first rain. This week marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, or "the head of the new year," an important holiday on the Jewish calendar. It's the third day of the High Holidays (or High Holy Days), a ten-day period that ends with Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the Jewish year.

A time of reflection, we look back on the events of the past year, and our actions. Have we harmed anyone or anything? It's time to make amends, to forgive and to ask forgiveness. We remind ourselves, in a gentle way, not to repeat those mistakes.

It's also a time to open our hearts, to grow, even when the opening and growing is a bit tough. What an amazing thing; this holiday that aims to make us bigger hearted people!

In that spirit, I share this poem/prayer by Rabbi Ariel Levy.

As we stand on the edge of this New Year -- readying ourselves to cross over to what will be -- may strength and inspiration rise up within and around us.  May the skies inspire a vast perspective that opens us to new possibilities.  May the fires of devotion turn us toward each other with love.  May the waters remind us that all things change and we are part of the continued unfolding.  And may the earth shine its beauty encouraging our gratitude and dignity. Each of us is here for our short time.  May we live well what we love, offering our gifts and blessings for the well-being of all.   May this year show us the way to live in harmony and peace with each other and all the earth.   And may we help each other believe that this is indeed possible.  

Wish best wishes for a sweet and fulfilling year. May we live well what we love.