Sunday, April 09, 2017

Birthday week

I've had so many birthdays now (71 of them) that you'd think there would be no reason to celebrate it again, but I did anyway. My thoughtful daughter brought grandchildren and flowers and gift card to my favorite art supply store over and Ray told me I had to wait for the weekend for his gift. I thought about my mother and how much I loved her and how I miss her, because birthdays are really about the person who brought you into the world.

And maybe because it was my birthday, it seemed like a good day to finally get a weight off my shoulders that has been sitting there for a couple years. I took on the job of gathering the photos and text to self-publish a small book for the Twelve by Twelve group as a document of our second project—the one that came after our first book was published. It has been a hard project—many hours laying it out, proof-reading, tweaking, making changes, interrupted by long periods when it went on the back burner while I worked on other things. It was finally finished months ago, but I kept having second thoughts and the longer I procrastinated, the harder it became to just make the decision to send it to print. But I did, this week, on my birthday, and then I sent an email to the other eleven and they all got excited and happy and we all ordered books! It is available on Amazon. You can get the details here.

This birthday week then handed us a crazy storm Friday morning with strong winds that blew down power lines and uprooted trees and left the city littered with debris and dangerous roads. We had no damage and didn't lose our power, but near the path where Beth and I walk, at least 5 trees were uprooted and scattered like twigs.

Whew. I was more than ready for my birthday surprise, which was an overnight trip down the road to Forest Grove and the McMenamin's Grand Lodge, where we spent the night. The McMenamin brothers are famous around this area for turning historic old building—schools, theaters, the old county poor farm, and such—into delightfully artsy and interesting pubs and hotels. The Grand Lodge in Forest Grove was an historic (and grand!) Masonic Lodge, now hotel/restaurant/theater. We enjoyed a good bottle of wine, a nice dinner, followed by a dip in the soaking pool. We strolled the grounds, explored a bit of the charming little town and enjoyed the quirky Grand Lodge ambiance. The McMenamins employ a number of artists to produce the very distinctive decor and artwork in all their establishments, always incorporating elements of the lore and history of the properties they inhabit. It's always a treat!

This morning we drove home through farmland and vineyards and stopped at Farmington Gardens where we bought a few plants for the garden.

I think that orange coleus was a great find—and the perfect ending for my eventful birthday week.

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Sunday, April 02, 2017


Once again, over the past few months, I've found myself working on things uncomfortably out of my comfortable scale. My comfortable scale is small—that place where you come in close and recalibrate your eyes to focus in on individual threads and tiny pieces. Exhibitors don't like that scale. I understand. They have walls to fill. They want wow works that drag casual passersby in off the street. So I have been responding to calls for big art. Big art can be exhausting. The way I work is slow. It's a considerable investment in time and materials and often, in the time it takes to get to the final bits, I am so tired of looking at the darned thing my enthusiasm for it is gone. And when it comes to pricing big work, well, it's always a compromise between what my time is worth versus what the market will bear. So when I finished the last one on my list last week I could hardly wait to do something quickly, using things I could easily lay my hands on. A couple hours later this:

That night I dreamed of chairs and the next morning I wandered around my house snapping photos to work from and have finished these in the past few days.

I really like "drawing" with my sewing machine, which is really only effective on a small scale. And wire hangers. Something satisfying about bending and hammering wire. And something even more satisfying about finishing something before I am thoroughly sick of it!

One corner of my design wall is filling up with "small". (The light switch gives an idea of scale)

Small feels good for now.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Escaping the gray

I love Oregon. I love Portland. There is no place I would rather live, truly. But...

In normal years February is oppressively gray. Rain, yes, but mostly it is the gray sky and dim, dusty light of February that makes it such a hard month to get through. But we get through it. This year it has essentially been February since last October. It has been the grayest, rainiest, snowiest, and seemingly the longest, winter in recorded memory. It has rained (or snowed) almost every day up to, and including today. Going anywhere outside one's own house became pure misery. But Saturday morning I had had enough. The sun was out—who knew for how long— and I needed to get out! I had not been downtown in a longtime. The last time was when, in a similar fit of cabin fever I had discovered a new-to-me art store. I had not visited my favorite inspirational store, Cargo, since it moved across the river, so it seemed like a worthy adventure to track it down. I confess I seldom buy anything there—it's more like a museum experience for me, and on Saturday morning it worked some magic to wander and ponder and touch the curiosities and beautiful objects they so artfully gather from around the world. The gray in my brain began to clear.

The next morning the rain was back, with a vengeance, and now Ray was having his own attack of gray-induced, claustrophobia. Knowing the positive effect my outing the previous day had had on me, I was happy to accompany him to his version of happy color/retail inspiration—the garden center. It worked.

Will our long, gray winter ever end? Maybe. Today has offered us sun breaks between showers, and signs on my morning walk, that behind the gray the earth really does know it is spring.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Cuba: The beautiful

In the two weeks since our return from Cuba, we have pored over our photos, and remembered, again and again, every moment. We agree it was, maybe, our best trip ever. We have realized how little we knew and that what preconceived ideas we had didn't quite line up with reality. We went with open minds and hearts and realize that our brief time, while enlightening in many ways, was a mere glimpse of a complex culture. What I keep remembering, though, are moments of grace and beauty, that are a thread, a theme. Art, in all its incarnations, is, it seems, Cuba's heart. Music everywhere. Not the kind of elevator music we experience in our "everywhere" but real, live, excellent music—the violinist in the breakfast room, the guitarist in the square, the combo on the patio, the chamber orchestra in the museum.

Art everywhere—

In Havana we visited a professional dance company, housed in a derelict old building with boarded up windows and dangerous stairs, but the young dancers thrilled and amazed

In Cienfuegos we fell in love with a company of children carrying forward traditional dance of Cuba.

In Santa Clara, Senior Citizens taught us the basics of traditional Cuban danzón.

Most beautiful, in Cuba, are the people. Did you expect them to be downtrodden, heavily burdened by an oppressive system, suffering? I confess, I kind of did expect that, but it is not what I saw. What I saw was a vibrant spirit, humor, intelligence, pride and an enthusiasm for life.

And for natural beauty, it is just hard to beat a tropical island.

So, I will finish my Cuba posts with this iconic Cuban image—Havana sunset along the Malecon.

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