Staying the Studio

Mending Wall 6, ©2012, 38" x 12," Paper, fabric, watercolor on panel When I began this piece, I wanted to find a new way to work with triptychs. My love for the magical number 3 and Amish quilts stimulated the idea of a 3 panel piece using a traditional 9 patch block worked out in paper instead of fabric.

I extended the idea of the botanical blocks from previous pieces, but combined them with pieces of children's school work. I combed the streets around my house for fallen pieces of paper and other wrinkled script that caught my eye.

The piece was created block by block, assembled, and then reworked so that the blocks harmonized.

As I stare at it now, several months later, I'm struck by the contrast between the squares containing children's numbers, letters, drawings, and the more adept collage squares.

It reminds me of trying to balance the improvisational demands of practicing art therapy in a busy urban hospital with my more considered collage work in the studio.

I also thought about the concept of "blending" in the Japanese martial art, Aikido. The Japanese character ai, or, harmony, can be thought of as blending energies or forces. The principle of harmony is to avoid conflict by transforming the energy of opposition into a new form of resolution. That's what I'm working towards.

With this in mind, I've made a big decision. I backed out of our city's Open Studio.

Recently, two close family members were diagnosed with serious autoimmune disorders. There have been a lot of doctor's appointments and shifting of priorities, and for now, I need to keep my concerns closer to home.

It's funny; in encircling my wagons, I've actually spent more time in the studio and without the concerns of showing it, I've had more energy to explore new directions in my work.

Initially I was very sad; about the huge changes that illness can bring and the loss of opportunity. But for a long time, I've wanted to learn new techniques, take classes in art and design, without the concurrent pressure to produce for shows. If what they say is true, that when one door closes,  a new window opens, I think I've found that opening.

Opening a Studio

Mending Wall 5, ©2012, 12" x 12," Watercolor, fabric, paper on panel I recently googled the history of Open Studios and discovered that the open studios, called salons, were started by a certain Madame De Scudéry in Paris. It was a place where intellectuals, writers and artists gathered for discussions.

More recent open studios, the article said, focus on the creative act of making and sharing. And while that definition applies to studios where people are making art in a common space, I like it: a place that focuses on making and sharing.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do April 12 and 13th, when along with 23 other artists, I'm going to be part of an open studio tour sponsored by our local Davis, CA gallery, the Artery.

I'm taking on the challenge because for a long time, I've really wanted to share my artwork in an intimate space; it's intimate work and the more impersonal walls of a gallery don't always do it justice. It looks good in a gallery, but in the home, it looks great.

When one of my friends pitched the idea to me, I bit.

I also decided to extend the open studio into my blog and for the next several posts, I'll introduce you to some of the work I'll be sharing in April.

The piece above is part of a series I worked on over the last summer. It's called Mending Wall, after a poem by Robert Frost.

Before I built a wall I'd ask

What I was walling in or out

And to whom I was like to give offense

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down.

In the series, I explore how I put up walls with people, when I take them down and under what conditions. Walls are needed in life; the trick is to figure out what to do when.

The process of putting the text and image together was not unlike building a wall. I used watercolor paintings of jade plants, which I had cut into squarish "stones" and blocks of text from some papers I'd found at my father's: 50 year old documents from his career as an English professor.

Lest I sound like I'm still in an English lit. class, I have to tell you that when I made the collage, none of this was conscious. I was spurred on by sensation and under the spell of memory.