I have two paintings in Small Wonders at the Maryland Federation of Art. Both are for sale online through the MFA website. Both are framed in silver leaf 10x8" frames with 8 ply mats. Through December 26th.
I am going to be leaving Hawai'i in less than two weeks. You probably missed most of my adventures here, but I can tell you that I am chasing everything and also accepting that I cannot see it all. This has me reflecting on the number of times I have moved in the last 6 years, and how each time my exit snuck up on me. Suddenly there were many things I I realized I had put off. It is hard to look back and look forward at the same time. But each move I made peace with leaving, and left.
In coming months I will be sharing a new place with you all. But for now the paintings are for me.
Coming into my last weekend I had an out of hand to-do list. Things to buy, Instagram posts to share, emails to return, taxes to file, incomplete paintings to finish- you get the idea. The paintings were at the bottom of the list. Not that they were the least important, but as long as there were tasks left incomplete I would not be giving the art my full time and attention. I needed to enter a new form of lazy- one where I shirked my to-do list and made myself so busy I had no time for any of it. I would focus on making art over sharing it, on climbing partway up a mountain instead of looking at someone else's photo of one.
I woke up at 04:45 Monday morning (my Saturday) and considered staying in bed. Before I could really put much thought into it I was biking by headlamp out to the caldera. I was outbound.
8 hours later I was in the last mile to Red Hill Cabin, 10,000* feet up the slopes of Mauna Loa. The only permit holder for that night, it was easy to hold some gratefulness for all of those people who do not hike- for they were giving me this landscape for the next 24 hours.
The process in which I fall for a place usually starts with documenting the locations that are important to my experience; my residence, then the views I see most regularly, then views of the places where I look out from. In a 16 hour time on the mountain I went through the whole cycle. Now when I look at Mauna Loa I see my experiences there along with the martian landscape and the volcano.
*full disclosure* I could get cell phone reception on the mountain and called my grandmother while scrambling around. I sent under 10 messages/ photos. Otherwise I was unplugged. Also I did not hike 10,000 feet, I started from a trailhead and dealt with about 3,500 feet of gain.
During my first season at Glen Canyon I was exposed to the history of art in the creation and establishment of the National Parks. That it was the painters- Moran, Church, Innes, Catlin, Bierstad- who brought both the image, and more importantly the feeling, that those living in the east needed to feel like they too had seen the grand vistas of Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Grand canyon and the High Desert. Having recently graduated art school I continued this tradition of painting the landscape to send the image home to the east.
While interpreting a petroglyph panel called "The Descending Sheep" for visitors I learned to speak of the simple images of Bighorn Sheep in terms of location, not as language or with the view of an art critic. But I could speak about the process, the resulting image, and the way we could pull some historical details out of them. To me these images were such a part of the landscape it was as if over time the sandstone grew the image to reflect the feeling of the west. The reason behind their creation is unclear, but I have no doubt that the maker's surroundings were important to the process. It is hard not to know that while viewing the panel in it's context along the edge of the Colorado River, at the bottom of the famous Horseshoe Bend.
That same summer I learned the role of art in exploration, that the Dominges Escalate expedition had a painter, and that John Wesley Powell dragged a painter with him on his exploration of the Colorado. (One of my favorite stories is that Powell sent the young painter up a large mountain, nearly the exact same consistency of a sand dune, in order for him to paint the view and bring it back to the rest of the party. If you have never climbed 1,000 feet up a sandhill you should go walk on the soft sand of a flat beach and see how your legs feel after 20 minutes.)
In the last 5 years I have run into musicians 10 miles into the backcountry, dancers in tree groves, sculptures set up in front of elk herds, and figurative drawers and painters doing sketches of the crowds. Not to mention the countless photographers in all manner of weather extremes. No matter what the medium I always appreciate that someone has slowed down to make something of where they are in real time.
During a recent discussion on the merits of art and the parks, specifically on the idea of National Parks putting funding toward individual artists, I came across a few thoughts that I had previously been unable to put into words. Yes, art is often a solitary process. Yes, it is not always easy to integrate it into a park's education program. Yes, to have an employee out teaching a small group the basics of painting may not be as helpful as having another person to answer visitor questions at the desk of the visitor center. But when I considered my experience of painting outside in the busier areas of the parks I thought about the hundreds of conversations I could have a in a couple of hours of painting. The large number of people who were amazed to see someone set up to paint in one location. I was struck by how many people told me that they "used to draw," or "always wanted to paint." I thought of the first time someone shared with my via social media that they started sketching again. And I think about how many people slowed down their frantic rush to see everything to join me in looking at what I was seeing. That they gave me 2 minutes out of their trip to watch my process is a very generous gift of time. If you have never spent time visiting a national park you may not realize the amusement park style movement that is the base of a Yosemite Waterfall, the edge of a vista, or a boardwalk through a Geyser Basin. So while it is hard to put to words the need for artists- I have experienced firsthand how they can enrich the visitor experience.
I have been fortunate to be an artist in residence at three National Parks. The experience at each one was unique, and exposed me to new people, new parts of the country, and took my work in new and exciting directions. I am currently at Weir Farm, one of only a few National Park Service sites dedicated to American Art, and the only one to be dedicated to American impressionism. There is no question here of art's role in the visitor experience. It is a cool November weekend- but from where I sit I can see a painter set up on the grounds for the day.
A sub part of the earlier mentioned conversation was the creation of a list about what National Parks offer artists in the context of the artist in residence program. As you can tell I am a landscape painter. For me the parks are both studio and muse. But for many artists were is a disconnect between parks and the modern art world. For this reason the staff at Weir Farm decided to appoint me a year-long title as Centennial Artist Ambassador. The purpose of this program is to connect artists to the facilities that Weir Farm has to offer, as well as the general promotion of the National Park Service artist in residence programs. I am honored by this opportunity. 2016 is the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service, and while I will continue my work as a ranger, I am thrilled to be able to dedicate my off-hours to the continued relationship of art making in the public landscape.
If you are an artist who has considered a residency in the parks, or perhaps have never considered one, please send me an email through my contact page. I would be happy to answer any questions or try to help you find a park that suits your medium.
Below is the studio at Weir Farm. It is a recently re-designed facility with high ceilings, Northern light, excellent lighting, and many windows that can be opened to the outside. Weir Farm has a working relationship with The Center For Contemporary Printmaking, which is only 25 minutes away and offers cheap studio rentals to Weir Artists.
Hello All! I am super excited to announce that my painting, Vespertine, will be included in Art in America, curated by Julie Torres, for Tiger Strikes Asteroid at the Satellite Show in Miami Florida. The Satellite Show takes place the same week as Art Basel Miami (December 1-6)- so there is a good chance some of you may be there- check out Art in America at the Ocean Terrace Hotel (ROOM 214 @ Ocean Terrace Hotel, 7410 Ocean Terrace, Miami Beach.
Sketches from life, graphite drawings in the studio. 2015 Lunar Eclipse as seen from Mammoth Hot Springs, and on the right, Beehive Geyser.
Many people I speak to while painting assume I want absolute quite and no interruptions to create. But I find the interactions motivating. As an outdoor painter, my studio is frequently shared with the public. And those I run into while working are the only people who see everything else. All that did not draw me in. They understand the challenge of choice, especially when I use the country's most precious landscapes as inspiration. If my subjects were to be removed from their respective landscape, the topography would hold strong, and maybe the trees who once blocked the view of the spring, the bridge, the vista, would miss the removed subject only for the loss of acknowledgement from the viewer, damming them for obstructing their photographs. (As a painter, composing these trees out of view is a frequent activity. I am sure they appreciate that I think of them while doing it.)
The paintings below are of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. The location afforded me several hundred brief conversations with other visitors, a few self reflective comments from others that they should start sketching again, and a young British girl telling me that things were beginning to look proper.
With your eyes, which in their weariness
Barely free themselves from the worn-out threshold,
You lift very slowly on black tree
And place it against the sky; slender, alone,
And you have made the world, and it is huge.
And like a word which has grown ripe in silence
And as your will seizes on its meaning,
Tenderly you eyes let it go
Entrance, Rainer Maria Rilke
Name and the process of naming are often associated with moments of great importance (e.g., discoveries, births, treaties, exchanges, marriages... a change of name. Sometimes you have had time to understand something for a while and realize you were describing it wrong the whole time.) I love the word "peripatetic," and found it a good umbrella to create under for a time. But, for reasons practical , I would like to introduce my new studio, Restless Map.
Painting and drawing have presented ways for me to understand the landscape I live in and move through. The need to define drives me, yet with each finished painting see the places I call home become more fluid, with many entrances and exits that change over time. My new name captures something solid, but also something alterable. An object to navigate by with a sense that no place will be the stopping point.
Winter is over for the year. There will still be a surprise snow shower here and there and the occasional hail storm to cover the ground in white, but as far as the calendar and ground squirrels are concerned, it is over.
In my last post I mentioned a series looking at and through and out of my home's windows. I happen to live in a historic house steeped in 120+ years of history and occupants that itself happens to be surrounded by some of the most wild landscape in the lower 48. The end result is a hybrid of still life and landscape painting. The stability of the interior vs the ever changing exterior and the connected light quality of the two environments- the shelter needing the storm. A side note is that I also made my first attempt at floral painting. (Besides a dogwood in Yosemite a couple of years ago.)
This was a mild winter for pretty much anywhere in the United States, but especially for Montana. But it made the cold days all the frostier. There were still times of snowy silence. There were still moments when the distance from the front door to the car was far enough for my eyelashes to start freezing together. There were still plenty of satisfying moments when I made good layering decisions and could remain outside for hours on end. And there was all the more moments when retreating into my kitchen, which doubles as dining and living room, was the most welcome activity of all. My whole world could exist in one room. I often had water boiling for tea, winter sqash cooking, and a painting in the works all at once. Jumping from activity to activity is easy when they are all taking place on one table. Winter is for multi-tasking if you believe in such a thing.
I have been adjusting to a new job and my painting schedule has been erratic, almost exclusively using the views of, and through, my house's windows. Rockwell Kent said in a letter written while he was living in Alaska, "In the midst of letter writing I stop to note down a dramatic cloud effect. If I am out of doors busy with the saw or axe I jump at once to my paints when an idea comes. It's a fine life..." This is pretty much sums up my work practices right now. The series that is emerging looks at stable interior features and the ephemeral landscape beyond them.
Walking into my kitchen you will see a window, which is now partially obscured by a gaudy azalea bush that a woman sold me in the grocery store after Valentine's day. It has braided branches and is very pink. But I like how it stands with the backdrop of snow covered mountain peaks and looms over the bison and elk cutting down the first grass shoots in the yard. It does not make a lot of sense, and you will probably see it make an appearance in a painting or two in the future. Imagine the paintings below with a pink azalea growing into them. It is magical. Both paintings below are 4.5 x 4.5 inches, gouache on paper.
I was wrapping up a one month printmaking residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. Surrounded by artists, each of whom was a different combination of medium and subject, from emerging to established- I saw that the struggle of balancing work with art work, of making time to create and time to find new opportunities, even the choice of brain storming or going to the gym, were all things we had in common.
Below are a collection of mono prints and solar plate etchings made at VSC. I have to thank Mary Emery, of maryemerydesign.com, for taking time out of her residency to teach me how to make solar plates. For those interested in this process check out http://www.solarplate.com.
I am on the move again, heading back to the north country and returning to a beloved place for me. In Yosemite I grew as an artist and a person thanks to some amazing friends. I painted down to the last day and left some new work at the Ansel Adam's Gallery for the winter months. Most of my projects were finished to conclusion, but as I return to a place I thought I would't return to, I know that what I think is a finished sentence may be a comma.
Here is a quote from the book On Travel that seems appropriate at the moment.
"Defy ephemerality. Wander not always ahead of yourself in thought, but neither dawdle in the past. It is the art of arrival. Of being in one, only one, place at a time. Of absorbing it with all of your senses. Its beauty, its ugliness, its singularity. Of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed, fearlessly. The art of being where you are."