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.

New Leaf on Life

This little panel is going on view next week at one of my favorite local art spots,  The Artery. I've been experimenting with collage on hardboard panels, creating rectangles of stacked horizontal strips of paper juxtaposed with rectangles of various shapes and sizes. These short stacks are reminiscent of books, books that I pile by my nightstand in hopes of making my way through them, one by one, before I fall asleep at night.

Arbor Vitae, ©2011, Hannah K. Hunter, 8" x 8," Collage (paper, leaf, watercolor)

The title, Arbor Vitae, or tree of life,  refers to my obsession with the Tree of Life and also makes an allusion to the way in which Jews refer to the Torah as "Etz Chaim,"  the tree of life.

I've noticed that with the advent of Facebook and blogs, it's harder and harder to sustain my attention on a single book. I'm working on that, focusing more on the books surrounding my bed and a little less with the omnipresent white rectangle on my kitchen table. Books: sweet trees of life.

Close to Home

Sara Post, Redwoods, ©2011, oil & cold wax

Last week I had the occasion to attend an opening for an artist friend whom I've mentioned frequently in this blog, Sara Post. Sara's exhibit, Close to Home, was up and ready to see in our local Davis, CA gallery, the Artery.

I had a particular curiosity about this exhibit because Sara had confessed to me over coffee several weeks back that she had one month to come up with the artwork for this show. When she told me this, I knew for a certainty that she would take the proverbial tube of paint and run. And run with it she did.

A couple of weeks later, I stopped by her house to drop off a book. When I walked into her studio, work was spread over the tables, hanging on the walls and arranged on the floor. Joyful abandon reigned supreme.

Sara Post, Sprinklers, ©2011, monotype

I'm fascinated by how specific conditions such as an imminent deadline can elicit completely different creative responses in people. Sara decided to look no further than her own backyard for inspiration.

A wise choice judging by the results.  Sara honors the beauty of houses and gardens and the fascination that we bring to them. It's as if she's taken a magnifying glass to the world outdoors; exploring walls, windows, doors and rooftops; the spaces they create and the landscape they define.

Her work places itself in a tradition of modern landscape painters such as David Hockney and Cy Twombly.

Cy Twombly. Untitled (detail), ©2007

As I gazed at the pieces I found myself drifting into an imaginary back yard where pools of deep turquoise water drifted in and out of focus and grasses blew in the wind, waving their tips of gentle gold.

I crisscrossed the gallery, picking up one observation here and dropping another there,  imagining the possibilities that my own back yard might offer.

Sara Post, Flags, ©2011, monoprint

If, as Voltaire says in his novel Candide, "we must cultivate our own garden," this exhibit invites us to explore the abundant possibilities which may lie therein.