Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Day #3: Cosmic

Dearest Readers,
A few years ago I initiated a daily artistic test to answer the existential question, “Who Am I?”–  specifically, ** “Am I my thoughts and feelings?” 500 years ago, the French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes thought so. He famously declared, “Cogito ergo sum”…”I think therefore I am”.  He ignored the squishier category of feelings. As I age, and look at my mortality, I’ve been using art as a language of self-discovery. My process is often diaristic and quotidian. I think this harkens back to my Catholic upbringing. Repetitive prayers like the rosary, saying novenas (prayers for 9 days, 9 months or some sequence of 9’s), or walking the 14 Stations of the Cross were predicated on the idea that if one held a question or prayer in mind, an answer might be forthcoming after sequential repetition. I am not religious anymore in this manner, but the residual practice often emerges as an artistic framework.

Day #32 Groggy

“How Am I Feeling Today?” is a series of self-portraits of my feelings in a variety of media and paper stocks. They are based on 89 days of morning photos I shot of my face in 2009 staring into my bathroom mirror.  Each day I asked myself to name my feeling of the moment. (bored, calm, groggy, nervous etc.) 

Friends Deb, Tony, Karen, Wayne mugging in front of my mugs in 2009 at Henley Studios, Atlanta
I wrote the feeling in lipstick on my forehead and photographed my face in the mirror. Last year I began to paint and draw each one. I’ve completed about 60 so far. There are 89 photos, the number of years my Mother lived, a-not-so-obvious layer of meaning and self -identity for me. 
"How Am I Feeling Today?" at The Dalton Gallery at Agnes Scott College
Fifty-five of these portraits are now on view at The Dalton Gallery at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA as part of the show, Material Witness. If you are in the Atlanta area this Saturday, Nov.16, there will be a closing reception from 3-6pm. Three artists and myself will be speaking briefly at 4:15 about our work. I hope you can join us. Food and drink will be served. The address is 141 College Avenue, but the gallery is actually on McDonough St just off College.
Day #56: Moody
I’m posting the remaining portraits as I complete them on Facebook–usually one a week. “Moody” is the current one.  
**ANSWER: I quickly discovered that I’m not my feelings, or my thoughts. They change rapidly throughout the day, and from moment to moment. I think Descartes was using the idea of thinking as a way to describe consciousness as the seat of self. I tend to agree with him…but that’s a subject for another artistic endeavor.

Friday, November 8, 2013



Dearest Readers,
Behold my beautiful loaf of home-made white bread–warm, crusty, aromatic, and earthy.  It’s been a two-month journey of trial and error, several failures and adjustments to bread recipes to arrive at this successful loaf. 

I love bread. Good bread. It’s comfort food from my childhood. Living in New Jersey as a youngster in the 50’s, my Dad brought home crunchy deli Kaiser rolls, and long loaves of Italian bread. Mom refused to buy the fluffy white brands of sliced bread, allowing only Pepperidge Farm. When we moved to Rutland, Vermont in 1962, Mom often bought bakery bread. 

Here’s my rocky journey to this golden loaf:
King Arthur Flour Education Center, Bakery, Cafe, and Store
September 15: I took a 3-hour sourdough class at King Arthur Flour Baking School in Norwich VT.

Sharon O’Leary at King Arthur, demonstrates how to mix, handle, form, knead and bake sourdough.
Grab, lift, flop and turn the autolyse (first mixing of the ingredients)
Folding ends of dough into the center after first rising

Hands on experience in rolling the dough into a ball

Placing the pre-folded dough in cloth lined bowls to rise again

Shaping the dough into batards (and round shapes)

The class's final baked round sourdough loaves

Each of us in the class leaves with a loaf we baked, a small amount of starter culture and the phase 1 batch of dough we mixed. 
First mix of sourdough ingredients and the starter culture

Sept. 16th: I begin my car trip back to Georgia with the dough and culture in a cooler in the car.

Sept. 23: I leave Brooklyn heading south again. It dawns on me in Delaware that I’ve forgotten the culture, the preliminary dough, and the cooler in my daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn.

Around Oct. 1st I email King Arthur Flour’s help site and they send me another starter culture via UPS free of charge. The living blob of wild yeast and flour arrives healthy, and happily ready to grow.
New batch of sourdough starter culture

 Three tries at making my own sourdough bread ends in flat failures, sticky dough and a final tough culture starter. I did something wrong!
sourdough bread #1-flat and misshapen
sourdough #2-barely rising
sourdough #3-sticky and tough

 I release from my mind the romantic notion of maintaining a live, friendly  sourdough culture in my fridge that I will feed weekly with flour. Goodbye idea!

Friend and bread baker Julie Puttgen sent me a link to a delicious no-knead bread recipe that she used to make a couple of round loaves when I visited her home in Lebanon, NH this summer. It's cooked in a dutch oven in the oven:

I adjusted this recipe three times, trying, and finally succeeding at the right proportion of ingredients. Maybe altitude has something to do with the necessary changes??? 

No-knead bread #1-flat and small

No-knead bread dough #2-rising nicely
No-knead bread dough #2-second rising on a smooth towel per the recipe

Scraping off the dough from the second rising stuck on the cloth
No-knead bread #2-tiny loaf due to so much dough stuck on the towel

During the preparation for Bread #3, my oven dies, but my neighbor with a nice digital stove comes to the rescue. 
My oven refuses to light completely
Neighbor Mary Alma saves the day with her new stove

Another look at the wonderful no-knead bread #3

 The King Arthur Flour site has plenty of bread and pastry recipes. Here's King Arthur's recipe for kaiser rolls:

kaiser rolls picture from the Taste of Home website

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


New Dawn, oil, acrylic, pastel, and charcoal on canvas, 41"x42"

Dearest Readers,
Meet the latest iteration of my painting Golden Dawn. She’s no longer golden, but does still represent a personal awakening…this upsurge in positivity and contentment that I’ve noticed in my being. Death still lurks as a spoiler, but that’s not on the “horizon”, so to speak.

Back in early September I took you on a blog-journey
 through the various lives of Golden Dawn, from initial ground 
Golden Dawn, early stage
 to a raw, vegetal creature, 
Golden Dawn, middle stage
 ending with a kaleidoscopic double swirl that I labeled as “finished”. 
Golden Dawn, "Finished"
Not so.  I noodled a few more times last month toning down the central areas with red and de-emphasizing the black surface lines in an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the busyness.  
Golden Dawn, Additional Adjustments

 I was holding on to parts that I liked, but that just did not work.

This weekend I opened my stash of oils and made some serious changes. With a glass of wine as moral support, and a deep sigh, I slashed away at the former acrylic painting, leaving translucent areas, and reworking the double swirl, which is the essence of my resurgence.  I also pinned up a page from the Portland Oregon Gallery Guide as inspiration showing the abstract oil paintings of Barbara Sternberger whose courageous style I admire. I viewed them this summer at Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

 I’m happy with the result.
New Dawn