Friday, May 23, 2014

Ephemeral II

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.     

~ from "When Death Comes" by Mary Oliver

Ephemeral II
ingredients: vintage book cover, antique photograph, vintage/antique ephemera, vintage buttons, acrylic ink, pencil, artist pens, vintage textiles, pin, lace, leaves, feather

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.

from "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" by Wendell Berry

Thursday, May 15, 2014


BLUE is...

 the James River in Richmond, Virginia on this particular day in October...

 The clear sky on a fall day at Shabo Mekaw...

The cystalline water of a Rocky Mountain lake reflecting the beautiful azure sky...

Don't Forget to Breathe...

 One of my favorite early spring flowers,

the tiny and delicate bluet...

and last but not least, this Rocky Mountain beauty...

Please visit the blogs of Jennifer Coyne Qudeen and Julie Booth, our wonderful 'Searching for RoyGBiv' hostesses, for links to lots more blue!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Dharma and the Dao

This piece took form very organically, though it probably doesn't look like it. I had this figure from an earlier work that had just never worked out, and I really didn't think it was likely that I'd ever find a use for him. I copied him from an ancient Chinese or Tibetan medical drawing (minus a bunch of the tiny pathways), showing the pathways of energy movement through the body. Apparently they saw the human energy/astral body as having only five chakras at that time; I represented 4 of these as flowers and one as a butterfly. (Later I added the crown chakra in the form of a stitched 'star'.)

 Anyway, I had cut out the eastern hemisphere from a vintage atlas and ended up not using it on the previous piece; somehow they ended up together, and I thought, well, maybe... Then I remembered the moon I had cut out for something else. They looked alright together on the ledger cover I had just taken apart, but it was pretty boring., and seemed too large for the narrow cover. I then played around with the idea of placing the ledger cover on top of a larger one, but the only one that was really large enough was, well - a LOT larger.

Now I had the opposite problem - what to do with all that empty space. I decided that since the design was very centered and simple, it might be best to stick with that, and also to continue with the circle motif. Oddly enough, I immediately opened one of my map drawers and found this beautiful semi-circular piece of a star map that was just the right size.  When that happens, I figure I've got to go with it; I cut out a piece of  a topographical map the same size for the other side.

Whenever I see a design that's very balanced and symmetrical, I think of yin and yang, and the dao.  With this piece, I began to see the left side, which is marked off in regular and specific increments, as the more civilized, regimented part, associated with learning to do things a certain way.  The right side became for me the side of nature, unpredictable and meandering, like the rivers I stitched. So the left side was the dharma - the Buddhist teachings, while I have always connected Daoism with nature. I have always seen Buddhism and Daoism as being quite compatable, and many of their philosophies seem to overlap.  One idea common to both of them is that everything is connected, part a whole. I wanted to emphasize that humans are part of that whole by having the stitched lines on both sides leading into the circles on the figure.

The edges were empty, so I chose two different types of characters to embellish them with: Tibetan letters with instructional arrows to represent the teachings (dharma), and very early primitive Chinese characters to represent the dao (nature) side. This piece is very logical compared to most of my work, and so I felt the title had to be The Dharma and the Dao.  My other possible choice was Toward the One.  What do you think?

“The Formless Way
We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,

nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.

Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.” 
― Lao Tzu (Daoism)

The Heart Sutra  (Buddhism)

...form does not differ from emptiness;
emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form.
So too are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.
Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty of characteristics.
They are not produced, not destroyed, not defiled, not pure;
and they neither increase nor diminish.
Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, cognition, formation, or consciousness;
no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind;
no sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or Dharmas;
no field of the eyes up to and including no field of mind consciousness;
and no ignorance or ending of ignorance,
up to and including no old age and death or ending of old age and death.
There is no suffering, no accumulating, no extinction, and no Way,
and no understanding and no attaining.
Because nothing is attained,
the Bodhisattva through reliance on Prajna Paramita is unimpeded in his mind.
Because there is no impediment, he is not afraid,
and he leaves distorted dream-thinking far behind.
Ultimately Nirvana!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Collage as an Art Form

There is just something about collage; I'm not sure if I can really find the words to explain why, but it continues to fascinate and mesmerize me like nothing else.  Is it because of the juxtaposition of disparate elements?  How do things that came from such different sources manage to look so right when glued next to one another? It seems very mysterious, almost magical at times, like some weird form of alchemy.  In short, it defies logic.

I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic.  Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness.      ~ Alan Moore

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Making collages, however, at times seems a lot more difficult than it should be, at least to me. It's something of a challenge for me to coax those elements from diferent times, places and applications into looking as if they magically go together. I like a challenge, though, which is probably one of the things that drew me to collage in the first place. Others, however, appear to do it effortlessly. Those are the artists I'd like to focus on in this post.

Collage is an artform that has really come into its own in recent years, with the growing popularity and ever-widening diversity of mixed media art. I think it's important to note that collage has gained much credibilty and respect considering that it is an artform that began only 100 years ago.

Still Life with Chair Caining - Pablo Picasso

Picasso and Braque were the first to coin the term 'collage', which comes from the French word for glued paper, 'colle'. Picasso used collage in his oil paintings, fragments of news print which were meant to reference current events. No one is sure which of them was first to make a collage, but both began sometime in 1912.

Merzbild-Rossfett - Kurt Schwitters

"[Kurt] Schwitters introduced the use of collage as a snapshot of the everyday. He integrated scraps of cardboard, bits of text, and ticket stubs found in the street, their juxtapositions emblematic of life’s chance encounters." (From Cut and Paste to Action Montage: 100 Years of Collage History)

Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden was another artist who did much to advance the use of collage as a primary form of artistic expression.

The great post-impressionist /fauve painter Henri Matisse did an entire series of collages when he was  confined to bed later in life due to poor health. These pieces were combined into a gorgeous book called Jazz.

collage on linen by Rex Ray

Graphic designer Rex Ray sometimes uses collage to solidify designs before they are made into fabric, rugs, etc.

One of my favorite collage artists is Fred Otnes.  The link here leads you to a beautiful book about Otnes written by Jill Brossert, which I happen to own and highly reccommend.

Fred Otnes

White Flag by Lance Letscher

Helicopter Ride by Lance Letscher

Cecil Touchon

I love how Cecil Touchon  uses the positive and negative shapes of letters to form these gorgeous abstract compositions.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.   ~ Anais Nin

Hollie Chastain's work is so emotional and nostalic in mood. And, what is even more fascinating to me personally, she often uses old book covers as substrates.

Science Fair by Hollie Chastain

Michael Waraksa's detailed collages often incorporate maps - a material near and dear to my own heart.

Kayli's Wave by Matt Cusick

Collage artist Matt Cusick constructs his very complex and detailed collages completely from pieces of maps.

Bonnie by Matt Cusick

 Missing Pieces 2012-3 by Lisa Hochstein

Parts of Speech 8 by Lisa Hochstein

Derek Gores

Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.   ~ Stephen Sondhiem

Of course, these are only a few of the many exciting and inspiring artists working in the medium of collage.  To see more brilliant collages by a wide variety of contemporary artists, try Randel Plowman's book, Masters CollageThe Art and Craft of Collage by Simon Larbalestier provides a fascinating look at innovative collage techniques.  Another favorite of mine is Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art: Creating Unique Images and Objects by Diane V. Maurer-Mathison; it has been a great source of inspiration for me.

Eunice Parsons

This video about 96 year-old collage artist Eunice Parsons is well worth watching; unfortunately, I could not get it to embed, but if you click on the link, you won't be sorry.  I so want to be 96 years old someday, sitting on the floor of my studio, ripping up and gluing paper!  What could be better than that?