Sunday, April 8, 2012


Noel Coypel,The Resurrection of Christ, 1700

J.H.Draper, Mourning for Icarus

Dearest Readers,

It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m thinking about the vertical, both up and down. This day is a celebration of rising straight up, outside the flat line of time, entropy and gravity. The premise of this day offers the craving body the possibility of avoiding dissolution and surface transportation, with all the annoyances of driving around an obstacle, instead of simply rising above it.

There is a vertical landscape above our normal horizontal plane of length and width that for me aligns the spirit with earth and sky. It’s the third dimension that rises from the ribbon of two-D, and offers a bird’s eye view of our journeys from here to there. This up and down line of being makes life interesting. When bent, this dimension gives us mass and shape, volume and heft. Thoughts too seem to hatch out of the fullness. In recent blogs I’ve talked about my desire to fly, which represents a curiosity about the spiritual self. I’ve drawn wings as tools for transformation, and ladders emerging from holes.

This isn’t an Icarus thing of hubris and descent. I’m creating contraptions on canvas for accepting eventual death.

Author Rebecca Solnit talks about taking a leap in her 2005 book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost–meditations on journeying outside our comfort zones. Yves Klein, the French conceptual artist took such a leap from a wall on a quiet Parisian street in October 1960. All that we have of the performance entitled Leap into the Void is a photograph* taken as his body arced upward, arms outstretched defying the pull of earth. I love the possibility that Klein and his dematerialized self made it up into the sky. The bicyclist pedaling by in the picture does not even notice Klein’s escape.

Solnit also explores falling, the literal downside of ascension. The 1958 movie Vertigo is about the fear of falling. Alfred Hitchcock creates a dark psychological landscape with a tower, twisting stairs and windows high above the city streets that beckon the characters over the edge.

Physicists have tackled the subject of gravity too. It’s a force field that is everywhere around us, keeping our bodies planted on the ground, drawing matter to the center. It can bend time and space. Black holes have so much of it that all light that gets too close is pulled inside. The Big Bang theory postulates that for a few seconds at the beginning of our universe, gravity reversed itself and exploded outward pushing particles rapidly through space. Then gravity reverted back to its old attractive self, leaving the universe still in expansionist mode.
Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos, 2005

Whatever the scientific theories, I know I am an earth-bound groundling on this planet for a short moment in time. As I walk on the surface, I mostly look down, scanning the ground over the top of my progressive bifocals to guide my footsteps around objects in my way. I’m often lost in tunnel vision, and thoughts of social relationships or obligations. I notice the ground a lot. Lately I've been practicing dropping the personal story lines through the tool of meditation. Sometimes I experience a crack of understanding. Sometimes not. I’ve learned that it’s not easy to fly, or to let go of the handlebars and stretch out into space.

I leave you, dear readers with two of my drawings that play with verticality. One is a fanciful Flying Asparagus from 1992, the other an Attenuated Nude from 2009.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Dearest Readers,
Heaven and earth fascinate me. So do life and death. I’m intrigued by quantum mechanics and cosmological theories of the origin of this universe. I’m enamored of digging through soil, tunneling below the surface, and the idea of sailing into deep, eternal space.
I own one standard shovel, and a small trowel about the size of a pointy hand. I haven’t dug myself to China yet, or fashioned a pair of wings from feathers and wax, but recently I’ve painted fanciful flying gear, and floating hearts on paper and canvas. I’ve had fun imagining holes underground, under water and in the sky. I’ve acted out Flying Lessons that I’ve given to myself to embody desire for flight. I haven’t given up hope!
Somewhere on my 65-year journey I’ve picked up the image of the heart to represent the self living on earth, and wings to symbolize soaring beyond the places we know. I keep digging down within these two metaphors to see what I might discover. I haven’t found God yet, but I have located a shining something within me. Today’s blog is the story of two new paintings from a nest of five that I thought I had finished in 2008 during a month long artist retreat at the Hambidge Center in the Northeast Georgia mountains.

Meet Thing One and Thing Two, my affectionate nicknames for Heart of Gold, and her sister Hearts in Space.
Thing One’s been on a longer journey, or perhaps I photographed more of her makeovers.

In the fall of 2008 at the Hambidge Center, three odd-shaped hearts in an isolated city emerged untitled as an 11” x 17” drawing in charcoal, ink, conté and oilstick on paper.

During the same residency this drawing became the study for an acrylic on canvas painting entitled Hearts in the City, 30” x 40”. I look at the slide now, and see that I had created a bright, 2-D world, still missing inhabitants, but decidedly more ominous. The hearts are scarier and their location in space is uncertain. I’m not sure what was happening in that cityscape, but I put her aside until 2009, when she traveled back to Hambidge with me for another month-long painting residency.

I had a glass of wine for dinner one night, returned to my studio cottage and courageously painted huge swirling circles of white paint across the canvas. It was a relief. I was thrilled with the intervention and my bravery, but I did not know how to proceed with the imagery that was still visible.

This February, two years after the act of creative destruction, I pulled Thing One out of the basement and put her back on the easel. I reinstated some of the hidden imagery, reduced the scope of the white circles of paint, and added new red striations underneath.

A week later I cloaked the checkered hearts in shrouds of whitewash. I wanted to honor their presence without them dominating my new conversation.

I added one realistic heart astride a set of ribs, and the outline of the horizontal clavicle bones. I think I was bringing the human body into the scene.

I refined the color,

added wings, and renamed her Heart of Gold.

Thing Two has a shorter story. The journey was as long as Heart of Gold, but I was not as diligent in photographing her phases.

In the fall of 2008, during the same Hambidge Center residency, I made the initial sketch for the then untitled Hearts in Space, with flying eyes I called harpies. Like the previous sketch for Hearts in the City, the drawing is of three isolated, odd-shaped hearts at 11” x 17”, executed in charcoal, ink and oilstick.

The imagery in the later acrylic painting of Hearts in Space, 30” x 40”, appears cartoonish and buoyant, but two-dimensional again, with one story to tell. I love the gray roiling storm clouds, but something was missing.

In 2009 I brought this painting to my second Hambidge residency a year later. I unleashed three wide white, pink and light blue painted circles across the canvas, leaning my whole arm and body into the action, with the wine glass in the other hand. Then I didn’t know what else to do, except be relieved, and happy. She rested in my basement for two years until this January, when I brought her upstairs and began painting. I shrouded the old balloon hearts in translucent white, reduced the number and importance of the eyes, and created a night sky. Over the month I added bubbles on either side rising from (or going down into) dark holes in space. I added and removed tiny constellations along the bottom of the piece, added an outline of feathered wings across the white hearts, and then covered most of the feathers in a wide span of butterfly wings. I painted three translucent, realistic hearts connected by dots, redrawing and refining them several times. I reduced the width of the 2010 invasive circles, now comfortably letting them swirl in the cosmic background. This is the mature painting of Hearts in Space.

I am indebted to my four artist friends in two creative critique groups who have helped me dig deeper and fly higher. Thanks to Ruth Schowalter, Lynne Moody, Susie Winton, and Mary O'Horo.