What a thrill it was to hang my show at Guardino Gallery a couple of weeks ago. I always like behind the scenes photos, so I thought it would be fun to share the highlights of the hanging on May 25, 2022. My show partner, Nadine Gay, was there with her husband, and my husband/studio assistant/business manager showed up and did a bit of everything to help get the show hung. It took six of us four hours to get the whole show hung.
I did an earlier post about Howard’s hanging of my 25-piece grid made up of individual 8×8 inch pieces, and you can see that post by clicking here.
It felt good to be back teaching at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Last year my workshop was cancelled due to the pandemic and I hadn’t signed up to teach this year because of the uncertainty with Covid. As cases began falling earlier this summer, Sitka’s Program Manager, Tamara, reached out to see if I would be interested in teaching a workshop in September. I jumped at the opportunity. As the workshop date approached, I watched as Covid cases once again surged. I was a little nervous about teaching, but Sitka had worked hard to provide a safe place with lots of protocols already in place. A couple weeks before my workshop, I asked Sitka to cap the class at eight students, to ensure that there would be plenty of space between tables in the studio.
I could write about the week of art-making, the learning, the techniques, the epiphanies, the experimentation, the fearlessness, the laughter, the great energy, the hard work . . . . but instead I’m going to do a photo essay, which I think captures the essence of preparation and our week together.
Back in April, I submitted an application to participate in the annual Word & Image: Writers and Artists in Dialogue show at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, a lively art center located on the north Oregon coast in Manzanita. My application was accepted and 12 artists and 12 writers were randomly paired during a Zoom meeting in mid June. Names were drawn from a hat and I was paired with Evan Williams. We both have North Coast connections: Evan has had a family cabin at Neahkahnie for years and lives in Portland. I grew up visiting our family cabin at Sunset Beach and now have a a house in Astoria and split my time between Astoria and Salem. Here is a bit more about Evan: Evan Morgan Williams has published two books of short stories. A Neahkahnie regular since 1969, his stories are realistic fictions, often set along the Oregon Coast. He lives in Portland, where he teaches in a high-poverty middle school.
The project worked like this (stay with me, it can sound confusing): I submitted three images of art I had created in the past. Evan submitted three pieces of his writing. Evan received an email with images of my three paintings and I received an email with copies of his three writings. I was to create a new piece of work in response to one of his writings, and Evan was to write a new story or poem in response to one of my three pieces of art.
I chose Kimberly’s Hands, which Evan said I could share in this post:
After the love-making failed, Michael let Kimberly’s hands take his. Her pleading touch was dry as paper. It didn’t used to be this way. Michael remembered his hands in water, plunged into a mountain creek ahead of an advancing burn. He and his crew had been dropped in a mile ahead of the flames. It was hazard pay, and they earned it. The creek was going to be the line. Michael did not know where that water came from or where it was going. His hands in the water, cold, clear, smooth, lifting what he could to his sooty face. There were ferns and thimbleberry along the shore, and his hands ached, and the water was clear and silent as it slid over jewel-colored stones. That little stream had no idea what was coming over the ridge. The crew tapped a portable pump into that stream, a two-stroker, ugly noise, shaking like a jackhammer, and they hosed down the brush and trees, up and down the creek, until they ran out of petrol, but it wasn’t enough. The fire came. They ditched the pump and ran for their lives. Nothing they could do. Never found that sweet water again. It was probably dry now.
“Michael, come back. It’s all right. Look at me.”
“I know it’s all right.”
Once Kimberly’s hands had felt exactly how that water used to be. Now her hands felt how that water was now.
I chose to paint my response to the story written by Evan and I began by writing his story across the surface of my prepared panel.
The story was layered and nuanced, so I added layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. For a while the painting looked like this.
It continued to morph and I frequently reread Kimberly’s Hands.
It finally reached that point where I knew it was completed.
My process statement in response to Kimberly’s Hands:
Water, cold, clear, smooth. Ahead of the flames. The water was clear and silent. The fire came. Her pleading touch. The visual language of “Kimberly’s Hands” resonated as I translated Evan’s words into a painting. My own response conjured the passage of time, memories, the devastation of fire, the rejuvenation of water, aging, and desire. I started my piece by writing Evan’s prose across the surface of my board, then began adding layers of paint, partially covering the words. Through the use of layers, texture, and color, I created a visceral and abstracted response.
During my painting and processing over the six weeks, Evan had chosen one of my paintings, The Strange Velvet Beautiful Sea, and in response wrote Diving In.
The engine ticks down. Just enough starlight she can see her reflection in the rear view mirror. She does her lipstick.
She looks out. A tent on the dark beach waits for her. A campfire, too, but a strong shape blocks the light.
She checks her lipstick again.
They met on the beach that afternoon. He taught her how to bodysurf. The water was frigid, but he said, “Keep moving,” and this made it all right. He taught her to lunge when the wave was good, to tuck her head and dive when the wave was bad. The shock of cold, dark, quiet, was exhilarating. She emerged into the light anew.
He said, “Diving into dark water, you accept the unknown. You meet it with your face. Knowing this changes nothing. Darkness reveals its secrets just the same.” She was surprised when he added, “You learn its cold indifference.”
She said she would come back in the evening. Freshen up at the motel. She told him, “I could be into you.”
The rear view mirror says perfect. She puts the lipstick in her purse along with the pepper spray and the Lady Smith. Five bullets. All her things are small. They take up all the space in her small world.
But a mirror’s reflection is an opposite. If you see confidence in the mirror, it means you are a coward and a fool. She re-checks her reflection, isn’t sure. She dives into that unknown.
An image of my new art and the new piece of writing by Evan were due the end of July, and art work was then dropped off the end of September. Using the imagery and writings, a book was published showcasing all of the art and writing from the 12 artists and 12 writers. (It is a beautiful book and is available at the Hoffman Center for the Arts.)
Two broadsides were created, the first featured the art I created in response to Kimberly’s Hands, and the second broadside featured the story written by Evan in response to the art that I had submitted.
Fast forward to October when everything was revealed at the opening reception, which took place virtually because of you know what.
The reception was on a Friday night, and the exhibition opened on Saturday, October 3; we were able to visit the show on the following day. What a thrill to see the exhibit in person. The woman who was gallery sitting that afternoon said several people had expressed an interest in purchasing Under Perilous Conditions and someone had purchased my piece that afternoon.
Frenzy might be an overstatement, but I have been spending more time in my studio and after a fairly long hiatus, I have returned to painting with oil and cold wax.
Since 2016, I have taught a four-day Abstracted Landscape class at Sitka for Art and Ecology on the Oregon Coast. Because of the pandemic, this year’s class, which was sold out and scheduled for August 21-24, was canceled (as were all classes at Sitka).
Somehow the idea of not teaching this year inspired me to jump back in to oil and cold wax after several months of painting with acrylics and working on a series of collages. It felt good to crack open the gallon of cold wax and whip up a satisfying mound of wax, begin choosing tubes of oil paint to mix, and dig out my R & F Pigment Sticks.
I had one deadline for a painting (so that was a BIG motivator to get into the studio and do some painting and I’ll share about that project when I can), but otherwise, I decided to pull out old boards that I had used for demos in my Sitka class last year. None of the pieces were completed, they just had fits and starts of paint and marks on them, all used to illustrate techniques and then set aside. It was nice to have something to respond to besides a plain, blank, board.
I also revamped a few boards that had been completed paintings, but something was niggling at me and those pieces got a light sanding to rough up the surface, and then I started over. It was nice to erase an old painting, but know that there was that sense of history lurking below the surface.
the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over.
What has emerged during my extended painting sessions is the reoccurring theme of circles. I have always loved polka dots and circles and they have shown up in my work for years, but lately I have tipped over into obsession.
the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
I’m using circles to excess and eventually I’ll reign myself in. Or not. In the meantime, here are several pieces in various stages of completion. All are on cradled wood substrates and they all have either Venetian plaster or limestone clay (the fancy name for joint compound) as an under layer. Other than that, some of the paint is from an earlier completed piece, or is from a demo at Sitka. Almost all of these have circles somewhere as a layer – in the plaster, buried in the paint, added on top of the paint, or some of the paint removed using a stencil to reveal paint, the circles serving as a window into an earlier layer.
I’m a tad tardy in sharing about my June class at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, but it has been fun looking through all of the photos a month later. This class was special because Sitka had a last minute workshop cancellation and I was asked to teach an additional session of my Abstracted Play in Oil and Cold Wax (my August class filled quickly and had a long waiting list).
Sitka is located on the Oregon Coast at Cascade Head (between Lincoln City and Neskowin). I got to stay in Gray House, a cabin located just a short walk up from Boyden Studio, where my class was held.
I love the process of preparing to teach – walking the grounds, the lesson planning, and getting the studio set up.
Once class got started, it was a whirlwind of activity. I started each morning with a warm up exercise, and then moved into teaching techniques. Students were given lots of time to practice and play – and they all jumped in with a fearless enthusiasm.
This routine was repeated for four days and it was a blur of heightened energy, creativity, and beautiful results.
On the fourth day, we worked in the morning, and then cleaned up in preparation for our sharing and wrap up.
During our class, I did warm ups along with students and also illustrated how working in a visual journal can be great inspiration for creating paintings.
I’m already excited for my next class, August 22-25.
This premier event is taking place this weekend and I am one of the lucky participating artists. I submitted three pieces of art, all loosely related to ecology and nature.
Friday night was the opening reception, Party With the Artists. Every inch of the exhibition hall was packed with artists, art lovers, and collectors. There were delicious appetizers, drinks, and live music, and of course, lots of art filling the space.
I don’t know if any of my pieces have sold, I’ll find out later today, but fingers crossed that I won’t be bringing all three pieces back home.
Twice a year my Salem Art Group goes on an art retreat, one in the mountains along the Metolius River and the other at the Oregon Coast. For October, we were off to Cutler City to stay at a friend’s beach house, which is perched on a small hill with a view of the Siletz Bay. I rode with Tory, and if you’ve followed by blog for any length of time, the photo of my stuff lined up on my patio is familiar.
Six of our eight art group members were able to make our beach retreat.
In a nutshell, we spent three full days making art. Of course, there were walks, lattes, chatting, a movie on the life of Eva Hesse, reading, laughing, and a bit of sleeping.
It’s finally in my hands: my copy of the newly published and released book Cold Wax Medium – Techniques, Concepts, and Conversations by Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin. I was invited in mid 2015 to submit photos of my art for possible inclusion in Rebecca and Jerry’s book project. A contract was signed in July, 2015, and now the book has arrived. It contains 319 gorgeous pages – full color, dreamy heavy paper, and chock full of beautiful art, techniques, and ideas. (Preorders have ended, but general sales begin May 12 and you can place your order by goinghere.)
These are the two pieces of my art that appear in the book (pages 68 and 229):
The two images included in the book were both pieces that had incorporated niches into the substrate and subsequent composition. Here are the pages as they appear in Rebecca and Jerry’s book.
A bit of the text:
I can’t wait to sit down and begin reading through this compendium of everything oil and cold wax. And more.