What I'm Learning in my Fifties

Pruning, ˙2014, 5.5" x 7.5," Monoprint I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled, "What You Learn in Your Forties." A humorous article, it included such tidbits as "There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently."

That got me thinking it might fun to consider what I've learned in my fifties, because, as my office mate reminded me this morning, we'll both be turning 59 this year.

The term "synaptic pruning" springs to mind. This term refers to the brain's regulatory processes, in charge of pruning the neural structures in the brain, and thus reducing the number of neurons and synapses in order to create more efficient synaptic connections. This tends to occur in younger folks...

I've experienced a similar kind of pruning in my 50's. As we grow, we make choices and those choices close off certain possibilities--while others open up. It is true that I will never climb Mt Kilimanjaro or become a lawyer, however, in the areas in which I've chosen to focus, the possibilities appear to be growing.

Pruning 2, ©2014, 5.5" x 7.5," Monoprint

I've been pondering a new series I've just started: "the ecology of place”–or, “my ecological niche”: a series using plants gathered within my immediate surroundings, to create monoprints exploring the relationship between me (the human) and my environment (my yard).

As I thought about pruning choices, I realized that it was no surprise that I’d chosen this theme. I’ve had an ambivalent relationship to staying in one place for a long time; the result of moving frequently as a child. Although I truly love my small Central Valley town, there is always a part of me that wonders "I wonder what it's like in…"

This little thought keeps me from living fully in the present, in Davis, CA on Olympic Dr., in my house, and probably in any number of places I frequent. What better way to settle in, than to make a series out of it?

I look forward to sharing this work with you as it unfolds, both in my backyard and beyond.

Gluebooks On The Move

Normally when we get to this time of the year, I'm thrilled. September is the month of my birth, a time when I feel most comfortable in my skin. The leaves are beginning to yellow and the brilliant light of the Central Valley is edged with a hint of shadows to come. While the weather lived up to it's reputation, September brought a greater than normal share of challenges. I'm pleased to say that while I did my share of "pre-whining,"  (a phrase my sister coined for crossing "troubled waters" before you reach them) I met each one fairly and squarely, but with little time for the studio.

Little time, that is, until a barking good case of bronchitis laid me up for a week. While I was there, I decided to explore Gretchen Miller's workshop, Gluebook Goodness, a part of 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. (I figured I could work on it in bed!)

I loved watching Gretchen's hands at work in her video, adding images, words and smudged ink around the edges. I was particularly touched by her encouragement to "dedicate" our gluebooks to particular topics. In her hands, I watched ordinary effluvia such as receipts, tickets and tokens become the diaries of days filled with meaning.

But to what would I dedicate myself and my book? I hunted out receipts and notes around the house, but aside from one that my husband left saying: "Hallie's had hers / Dishwasher mostly emptied" I didn't find any special meanings.

My answer arrived in the form of a Sunday New York Times that my mom dropped off at my house.  It just so happened that this was the issue in which the NY Times Arts section listed all the upcoming exhibits for 2013. I turned to a page filled with Arabic script and saw the words "Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries."

Eureka! My book would be a tour of all of the exhibits around the country that I want to visit next year. I don't know if I'll get to all of them, but here's a partial list with bonus images:

Crossing Borders: Manuscripts From the Bodleian Libraries at the Jewish Museum, NY, NY (Check out the link above for some fabulous photographs.)

Jasper Johns: Seeing With the Mind's Eye: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Girl With A Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from Mauritshuis: DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

Gravity and Grace: Monumental works by El Anatsui, Brooklyn Museum, NY

I'm curious--what exhibits are on your "must see" list this art season?