Sunday, November 28, 2010


I started this piece several weeks ago, and then I just got stuck.  It's strange, that something that initially seems to fall into place so easily can suddenly hit a wall- that "I-have-no-idea-what-to do-now" place that leaves you feeling frustrated.   It's like you're breezing along a familiar road, when all of a sudden you look around and realize that you're completely lost.  When this happens, I find it's best to put it out of my sight for a while; if I keep pushing at this stage, it's like beating my head on a brick wall.  The result will not make me happy.

Something shifted on Friday- the alignment of the stars, the flow of ions in my room, or, more probably, the little people inside my head (ha!), and I knew.  So out it came, and here it is.

As Above, So Below
Ingredients: Multi-media art board, Rives BFK, monotype, vintage map fragments, watercolor pencils, 
Caran D'Ache crayons, various papers,  acrylic gel, PVA glue.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Butterfly Effect, and Junkmail

 Ingredients:  Rives BFK, Thai unruyu paper, vintage music book page, vintage ledger, 
vintage postage stamps, acrylic ink, Caran d'Ache crayons, ephemera, watercolor pencil.

The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. Although this may appear to be an esoteric and unusual behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position. The butterfly effect is a common trope ( figurative language) in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with "what if" cases where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.  -Wikipedia

The implications of this theory are huge and wide-ranging, so I won't go into them here.  But it does beg the question: Does every action we take really have the potential to influence the world?  Whether it does or not, perhaps we should consider living our lives as if it does.  Because if we did, we might live more thoughtfully, more carefully, more in harmony with everything and everyone.

What got me thinking about this was a post I came across at Trudi Sissons's Two Dresses Studio.   Here's a bit of Trudi's wonderful introduction to The Butterfly Effect OPEN, a project of the Holocaust Museum Houston, in Texas.

The Butterfly Project mandate is to remember the 1,500,000 innocent children who perished as a result of the Holocaust  by collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies. In Spring 2013, these butterflies will then become a breath-taking exhibition to serve as a memory of this event.

The idea of using butterflies to symbolize the children came from this touching poem, written by a 23 year old man living in a Jewish ghetto, who later died at Auschwitz.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The last, the very last,

So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone....

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ’way up high.
It went away I’m sure
because it wished
to kiss the world good-bye.

 For seven weeks I’ve lived in here
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.

Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto.

Written  by Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942 
Please go to her post to read the details. She has graciously volunteered to collect and send the butterflies to the museum for us.  You can also see all the butterflies that have been collected thus far- really an amazing display.

Here's another small way to make a difference.  Junk mail is something that always makes me angry.  Why should trees be cut down, energy and resources wasted, to send me things I DON'T WANT?  It seems I get the same catalogs and ads over and over; I swear, some advertisers must send out mailings every week!  It also boggles my mind to think how much profit they must be making if they can afford to spend the kind of money it undoubtedly costs to print and mail all of this junk. So I was intrigued when I saw this postcard:

I'm going to try to do this, if only to aid in increasing  awareness of the junk mail problem, as well as contributing to what will surely be an interesting array of art made from recycled materials.  I enlarged this card as much as I could so that you could read it, and participate if you want to; you could win something, too.  For more information, go here.  I'll post my junk mail when I finish it.

Happy affecting, my friends!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Written in Stone

There is something about stone.  Solid, like it will last forever.  Maybe that's why we use it to mark the passing of the ephemeral- like people.

 The white limestone glistens in the sun like snow; it has its own beauty, apart from what is carved on it.

Yet even stone will weather, and break, and eventually wear away.  This slab of stone, which has borne the winds and rain so long that any carving is no longer visible, is at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia.  Built in 1741, it was here that Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

 Even the hardest granite is made smooth and round by the constant  pressure of water in the James River.

The passage of time has marked them, as surely as the carving of names and dates marks the passage of humankind.  The time is counted in infinitely longer spaces, and the marks are of a different kind.

These beautiful formations of iron pyrite (fool's gold) are a mystery; no one knows even if they were living creatures, or some type of crystalline structure.  The message remains undeciphered.

These rocks appear to have markings on them.  If this were a sentence, what would it say?

For me, their message may lie in the association with a memory.  These stones were gathered on trips to the Great Smokey Mountains.

 Like this sandstone from Lewis County, Kentucky, stones tell us stories of a past where humans would not yet exist for hundreds of millions of years.  The earth keeps records from which we can learn.

Precambrian stromatolites are fossils of ancient colonies of algae, which grew in layers, forming the beautiful striations seen here.

 What ancient tree was this, before it was replaced with minerals and became petrified wood?

        Detail showing crystals in the center. 

   Fossilized redwood at Yellowstone.

I've been fascinated with rocks forever, and have collected them since I was a child.  This is how my house is decorated, with rocks on the buffet (above), on the mantel, the end tables- everywhere.

 A nice rock at Glacier National Park- I would have brought it home, except it's the size of a small house.

 A geode full of amethyst crystals.  

   Shale formation, Lewis County, Kentucky.

 And speaking of rocks...
 Glacier National Park

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things I Think You'll Like

Lately I've come across some very cool things I wanted to share with you.  Some are useful, and some are just fun, but I think you may like them.  Or not.  But anyway, here they are.  (What a riveting introduction, right?)

My new favorite singer/songwriter is a young British woman named Thea Gilmore.  I hadn't heard of her until recently, when I happened to see this on Public Television (where else?).

I don't understand why she's not more popular in the U.S.  Her songs are sensitive and original, and run the gamut from folk to blues to rock, while remaining unmistakably hers.  Her lyrics can stand alone as poetry; here are a few lines from "The List": "And some folks are drawn to the fire; And some just want to hide; But the lonely are the prettiest of all; They burn from the inside...."

I think her voice is amazing.  As a songwriter, she has been compared to Dylan, Lucinda Williams, and Joni Mitchell, among others, and I think those are all valid comparisons.  She happens to be a favorite of Bruce Springsteen's.  Sometimes her songs give me goosebumps- what more can I say?

As a collage and mixed media artist /printmaker, I'm into paper, as you may already know.  I blogged about my love affair with paper and some really great books about paper here, if you're interested.  I recently bought this DVD called Between the Folds, which I believe I first read about on Dryadart's Weblog.

 I don't know how to describe this DVD except to say that it's mesmerizing, and from PBS, of course!  (I love PBS, but I'll go an about that another time.)  While it's supposedly about origami, and it kind of is, it's really about the intersection of art and science.  I don't make origami, and am not all that interested in it, but this movie is truly inspiring.  It contains no instructions for making origami, but what you will see is breathtaking beauty in the form of paper, as well as some pretty surprising applications to science.  I highly recommend it.

 Speaking of the marriage of art and science, another of my favorite DVD's is Proteus, the story of the life and work of biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel.  From Amazon's editorial review:

The central figure of PROTEUS is biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel. As a young man, Haeckel found himself torn between science and art, materialism and religion, rationality and passion, outer and inner worlds. Through his discoveries beneath the sea, Haeckel eventually reconciled these dualities, bringing science and art together in a unitary, almost mystical vision. His work profoundly influenced not only biology but also movements, thinkers and authors as disparate as Art Nouveau and Surrealism, Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence, Vladimir Lenin and Thomas Edison.

Knowing nothing about him, I bought the book Art Forms in Nature when I was a teenager, simply because I was a science geek and an artist, and was captivated by the images.  Until now, I had no idea he was such an influential scientist and researcher in the field of biology; I thought he was an artist who loved to portray the intricate forms of nature.  I mean, this is the guy who discovered that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"!  Okay, maybe not everyone is as excited by that as I am, but the movie is great, and his drawings are exquisite.

 And last, but certainly not least (speaking of being a science geek), it's CARL SAGAN DAY!  He's kind of a hero of mine, and when I saw this story on DIGG, I knew it was another opportunity to share this!

I hope you enjoy!