Monday, February 13, 2017

What the Flowers Know

What the Flowers Know
mixed media collage,  11 x 8.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover and ephemera, dried plant parts, found objects, image transfers, mica, brads

When I made this piece, I was really thinking about this subject in the poetic sense: personification, metaphor, just to name a couple of literary devices that might apply. But I recently read a very thought-provoking and seemingly incredible article in the the New Yorker called The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollan.

"The new research, he says, is in a field called plant neurobiology — which is something of a misnomer, because even scientists in the field don't argue that plants have neurons or brains.
'They have analagous structures,' Pollan explains. 'They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives ... integrate it and then behave in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what's incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information.' "  (PRI Science Friday)

Amazingly, he goes on to explain detailed experiments that show apparent presence of memory by plants, as well as responses to stimuli, such as hearing, and even the ability to learn. To me, this is poetic in itself, because it makes us aware that all living things are more alike than we ever thought possible. How could we not be connected, when we are made of the same stuff?  Life started as a single cell, and grew and differentiated from that cell, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the commonalities among different forms of life. You can listen to the podcast of Science Friday or read the article by following the links above.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

You Never Know

You Never Know
mixed media collage,
ingredients: vintage ephemera, pencil, image transfers, magazine cut-out on multi-media board

It seems I've been saying this a lot lately. The world continues to grow more puzzling by the day; the future seems more uncertain than it has in a very long time. Things you thought could never happen, well - they have, and they are. Still, the world is full of good people; the amazingly selfless things they do often take me by surprise. Perhaps they are angels in disguise. You never know.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Art Challenge: Sticks

When Tammie of Beauty Flows chose the theme "sticks" for this week's art challenge, I knew I had to jump in! I love sticks - in the woods, on or off of the trees, in art, or laying in a pile in my studio. Here are a few of my favorites.

 Snow and ice accumulated on these sticks in my yard to make a lovely black and white abstract...

 Sticks with seeds overhanging the Kinniconick Creek...

 I used a smooth bleached stick from the creek in this mixed media piece called, "Flight Talismans".

 Sticks outlined in the light of the super moon...

 Weathered, twisted sticks on the sand dunes at Cumberland Island.

 My friend, Mish, trying to hide behind some bamboo sticks.  Not working too well.

Years ago, I used to make sculptures from sticks, grapevines, rocks and copper. This was the only example I could find. The background is a topological map of a region in Kentucky that is very important to me, the rocks, which have seeds or flowers of indigenous plants glued onto them, have holes in them and are hanging on - you guessed it - sticks.

 Sticks from a tree submerged in the Kinniconick Creek...

 Beech sticks still hold onto their leaves in winter...

A redbud tree in bloom...

Do you think that's enough, yet?  Thanks for inviting me, Tammie!  Go to Beauty Flows to see what the other participants came up with!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mary Walker's Pants

When I started working on this collage, I didn't really know who Mary Walker was; I just thought she looked fascinating, and that it was pretty bizarre that someone could be arrested for wearing pants. So I looked her up to see what else I could find out.

Mary Walker's Pants
mixed media collage, 11 x 8.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover, vintage book pages and ephemera, cut-outs, child's drawing, lace, image transfer

I also found a page in this history book where someone had made some notes about women's rights, written right underneath the heading, "Manifest Destiny." Since women's rights seem to be in the news quite a bit lately, I thought now might be an appropriate time to share this.

Here are some things I learned about Mary Edwards Walker (November 26, 1832 – February 21, 1919): According to Wikipedia, she "was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war, and surgeon. As of 2017, she is the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor." Though women were not allowed to serve as doctors, she nonetheless served the Union Army during the Civil War as a surgeon in an army hospital, and was captured by the Confederates when crossing the lines to treat injured civilians, and sent to the prison at Richmond.

   After the war, "she became a writer and lecturer, supporting such issues as health care, temperance, women's rights, and dress reform for women. She was frequently arrested for wearing men's clothing, and insisted on her right to wear clothing that she thought appropriate.
Walker was a member of the central woman's suffrage Bureau in Washington... She attempted to register to vote in 1871, but was turned away. The initial stance of the movement, following Walker's lead, was to claim that women already had the right to vote, and Congress needed only to enact enabling legislation."  She also wrote books and articles about these issues which concerned her so deeply. (Wikipedia)

Yet the history book only mentioned that she regularly got herself in trouble by wearing pants. What else, I wonder, has been left out of our history books?

Thursday, January 12, 2017


This much I have learned. Never give up. No matter how broken you are, it is possible to mend. It may take a very long time, and it may be the fiercest struggle you ever face. And you will probably be completely unprepared, like I was.

mixed media collage, 17 x 11.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover, vintage book pages and other ephemera, vintage textile, image transfer, watercolor pencils, found objects, acrylic ink, rice paper, feathers, stitching
available for purchase here

I thought I was unbreakable. Just pile it on, I can take it; I've been doing it for years, right? I never gave any credence to that whole "straw that broke the camel's back" thing. How could one little straw make a difference? After all, it was nothing at all when compared to what I'd already been carrying around for so long.  The phrase, "nervous breakdown" never even crossed my mind.

But I was wrong. To my great surprise, there is a tipping point, and I suddenly landed flat on my back, broken into pieces. There's a saying, attributed to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Rumi, something about the cracks being the place where the light gets in.  That may be true, but that light can be blindingly, relentlessly painful.
For a year and a half, that pain seemed unbearable, unsurvivable. It's difficult to talk about this without seeming melodramatic; I just want to say this as plainly and as honestly as I can.  If the last straw has broken the camel's back, the camel will have to build up it's muscles, to become stronger than before. If you lose a wing, it can be mended, and the mended place will be your greatest strength. And someday you may fly again.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


mixed media collage, 7 x 4 inches
ingredients: vintage book pages, ephemera, watercolor pencil
Available for purchase here.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (excerpt)
 By Wendell Berry

Denounce the government and embrace
You need to make a commitment, and once you make it, then life will give you some answers. Les Brown
Read more at: the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns....

... Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts....

I have no answers, but this, one of my most favorite poems by my favorite Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, makes me feel there may yet be reason to hope...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fear Not

Fear Not      
 mixed media collage, 9 x 5 inches
ingredients: map fragments, vintage book pages, image transfers, watercolor pencils, mica, stitching

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression