Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I haven't given myself any time to write this morning, but thought I would post a couple of pictures of the falls in Beacon after last weekend's hurricane rains. Flooding here but nowhere near as terrible as, say, in the Catskills, with the massive damage and loss up there. Followed, here, by several beautiful days, during which I stacked, made things, bicycled around town and talked to many people that I had not seen in a while. Easing my way back into Beacon, it's not that I was away very long at all, but it felt that my mind was opening up and beyond, in the same way that it did when I decided to leave the city and move here, 4 1/2 years ago. I may need to reread and edit what I have just tried to say, I suspect it isn't very clear, and it's something that's on my mind. Speaking of the city, I'm heading there this afternoon, to see friends and probably walk around and get overstimulated til I am worn out. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

full service

These are two paintings from 2007 & 2008 that are relevant to today's theme and a perennial subject of interest for me: Super X Gasoline (16"x20") and Gulf Gas Pump (12"x16").

Rain is beginning to lash against the windows in earnest now. It's been raining most of the day and the deliveries were cancelled, though I did stack yesterday in the pre-storm heat. I'm working on some little collages using the old road maps I found last month. Distributed by the oil and gas companies, they are cheery, helpful affairs, with illustrations of white-clad station attendants and happy families cruising the beautiful sights of America in their big gleaming '40s cars. Ah, "the pleasures of motoring", "the spotlessly clean comfort stations", full service and local tips "given gladly". Not to mention the "open road-- reasonable and cautious" policy of many of those big Western states- sure enough, no speed limits. No wonder everyone's smiling! Though next to that, a gentle warning: "Be careful! The life you save may be your own!" Sound advice.
The maps make the stations look like such welcoming destinations in themselves, they make me a bit wistful. Maybe I can function as a conduit through which these images can be released once again, as I glue them onto wood or canvas, trying to miniaturize that anticipatory excitement of travel or at least the depiction of it! I know they're selling the image in order to sell their product, and it's so very American but it does trigger something in my imagination. My childhood car trips were never of the cross-country variety, but I liked waking up before dawn to pile in the car and head 120 miles east to the beach at Rhode Island. Or, with four siblings, a long drive usually meant a happy visit to one or another of them, at times in NJ, PA, MD, VA, or upstate NY. When I got older I went by train, which had its own romantic aspect.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

shake and make

There was an earthquake the other day. Apparently rumbles were felt by others very close to where I was, but I didn't register anything. I was outside at the time, and the woodpile didn't even wobble. My life usually feels pretty unsteady anyway.
This weekend there is a hurricane slated to hit here. One guy canceled his delivery tomorrow cause he was afraid the wind would "blow the wood around." Those kinds of people you can't even reason with, I mean, it's not exactly a bunch of twigs.
I spent the day making pieces for the kind supporters of my (Kickstarter) fundraising efforts for my NM residency, and listening to the news about the storm and the uprisings. Some paintings I'd done out there but I was just finishing them up. Also little tiny drawings. I'll feel good about getting those out. I haven't talked to anybody today so my words feel sort of formless and blobby in my head.

Monday, August 22, 2011

leaf series

milkweed. Pulled from the nearby field, flowerless and oozing sticky white.

peppers, green.

sunflowers. In a future drawing I'd like to tackle the intricate Fibonacci spirals of the center.

morning glories. By the time I'd finished, the single flower had furled itself tight as a fist.

crabapple branch, before the fruit was plucked and roundly smacked.

Here are 5 of the 18"x24" pencil drawings I did at the farm last week. I think I'm going to keep on with this series now and then. I like drawing leaves and plants, and this is a bigger format than I've done before. It's a good way to revisit the process of really looking at something for a while as I draw, seeing how my hand renders it on paper. All while flicking away bugs and bits of grass, or taking a short break for a baseball game using crabapples, which you can satisfyingly obliterate with a swift crack of the bat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

august notions

In the 10 days since I posted last, it's gone from being early-mid August to suddenly feeling that the month is drifting to a close. To me it still feels decidedly like summer though there are not as many birds at dawn as there were in June. I'm never in a hurry for summer to end, but I like noting the subtle changes in the weather, the light and the sounds of the outside. Last weekend I crisscrossed NY State again, first to my brother's, a great visit (and where I took yet another moon photo, this time an orange moon over blue farmland), then up to Better Farm again for a few more days. I know I'm getting used to driving around when 3-plus hours on the road is no big deal. The days still feel leisurely and stretched out. In Perry I presented the Rufus Smith painting to its new owner, always an intense moment, but it was met with genuine satisfaction, I believe, and that always feels good. I made some 18"x24" drawings, sprawled in the grass or on the deck, of things growing around the farm. I also painted the birdhouse's rainwater barrel, and this "better be" mural in the main house. The painted piano with cascading morning glories is a permanent installation there which I like. On the drive back I detoured to the Fenimore art museum in Cooperstown to see an Edward Hopper exhibition, mostly drawings and some paintings. I liked seeing it shortly after that dream I had. Unfortunately, I didn't get accepted to that Small Works show at the Hopper House, a small disappointment, but I just need to research, or create, more opportunities for the fall.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

chasing the shade

When I'm working in someone's yard and the sun's beating down, there's always some shade to be found and if my path between the pile and the stack can be partially shaded, you can bet I'll be going that route. Then the sun moves, as it's wont to do. Today was fine, there was none of that energy-sapping humidity in the air. For a month I'd forgotten what humidity felt like, but when I came back east, my hair and skin reminded me. Next to the stack there was an old rusted bicycle built for two.
For a few days I decided to give the truck a break (and me a break from its many quirks) and swap it for the nondescript taupe '98 Camry with the missing hubcap. It's really just trading one set of quirks for another, those are the only kinds of vehicles I've ever driven, but I know I'm lucky to get whatever car's coming down the line to me. Felt the truck suited me better but the car's more fuel efficient for my next spin around the state, this time to visit my brother in Perry. While I was transferring my stuff (I'm like a turtle these days), I received a surprise visit from one of the owners of the art foundry I worked at years ago in Brewster. He'd been mining rocks across the road and we chatted awhile as I examined some other rocks he'd found and polished to a gleam. On the way back to Beacon, I stopped by a classic-car cruise by a diner off the interstate. I cruised the lot, but I prefer to come across them on their own, in whatever shape they happen to be in, and see what beauty I may find there. Another gleam in the evening, that of the nearly full moon reflected on rows of highly buffed hoods.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I admit I've got a few emotionally-related things going on lately that've made me feel more frayed than the persistent piece of string that walks into a bar (neat tie-in to a past post). This is not exactly the rarest occurrence for me, but it's not something I planned to blog much about. The idea is to balance this potentially derailing aspect of my nature with the part that often makes me feel better, that is, the art part. In the past few days I did enter 3 works in the Hopper House show; even if I don't get in, the entry fee is my donation to a nice spot. I also painted some free furniture I'd scored and a small room in the Brewster house. When I'm a bit off my game, it still feels good to dip a brush or roller in white paint and slather away. So does baking cherry cakes, which I've also been doing, and running around the yard in the pouring rain (much more fun and cathartic than stacking wood in the pouring rain).
Sadly though, the recent rains caused the cancellation of Electric Projected, a much-anticipated, long-planned art event in Beacon involving large-scale animated projections on a factory building, an awesome collaboration of numerous artists and local sponsors. The hope is to fund a rain date, to which purpose I will post info when it is available.
Did I mention though, how happy I am in the new studio? As soon as I enter, I feel more focused and calm, I've created a designated separate space to do whatever I want to get done. It's different than wandering over to the corner of my apartment I'd designated as 'studio', but on which other stuff-of-life inevitably encroached. I used to like the overlap of everything, but it's not always helpful if your mind tends to go all over the place.

Friday, August 5, 2011

hopper to hauser

The other night I dreamed about Edward Hopper. We were talking, I wish I could remember more, but he did tell me to go and paint. I recall trying to text someone about this amazing incident but my keypad didn't have enough letters to use. I'd like to have found out what he thought of my work.
He probably was on my mind for several reasons in addition to his being one of my influences: because I read and reread a great section about him in that Art of Travel book I just finished; because, being regularly on the road myself this summer, I thought about him making his many cross-country drives between NY, NM, Mexico and then Maine, painting what he saw; and because I'm considering the current call for entries at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack for their annual Small Matters show, deadline Aug 8. I had a piece there in '06 but not since. The theme is 'interior/exterior'. Unsure if I can meet the requirements, though I'd still like to visit the house again. Maybe when I'm in Westchester after stackings I'll make the trip over the Tappan Zee. I end up doing all sorts of things as add-ons to wood-stacking days, as it takes me all over the region; for example, there's an antiques/junk shop way over in Pound Ridge that I like to visit for glass bottles & kitchen tools.
For today, I stay in my little blue-floored studio in Beacon, all moved in, and take Hopper's advice and get to work. Who says I never take advice from anyone? I wonder how he'd advise on other stuff. Maybe for further consultation I need to wait for more artists to appear in my dreams. Artists are known for their sound, reasonable, well-thought-out decisions, right?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

been there

At my show in Cold Spring last month, a visitor brought me a film about Georgia O' Keeffe, a gesture I appreciated though I only just got around to watching it. The film is essentially about the love affair between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz, and mostly matched up with what I have read about her life, but simplified for the pace and limitations of cinema. I usually approach films about artists with a decent dose of skepticism, having watched some flops. There've been some good ones. My main complaints are usually the twin offenses of oversimplifying and misrepresenting, making me want to stand up and clarify in the artist's defense.
What excited me most, naturally, were the scenes filmed in New Mexico. "I was just there!" I exclaimed to the screen. It was no small thrill to have recently seen the desert, the red rocks and that sky, myself. I felt very in the know. It made me want to go back. I'd wanted that anyway, and the urge was renewed. It may be a while, but I think I'll get out there again. I liked seeing the repros of so many paintings, remembering my wish that (while I enjoyed the show that was up) there'd been more of her work on view at the O' Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. In the past couple of months I admittedly got re-absorbed in upstate New York's scenery in the green summertime. That's all good too, but I liked having a reminder of those southwest images and colors from May, and observing, without too much exposition, the way a place gets inside an artist's spirit and grants her solace.

Monday, August 1, 2011

back to better

Ended up not posting "bits that I like from the book", nor posting at all. More like living the traveling life for as long as I can get away with it, which won't be much longer. I was at my sister's in PA again for a few days, a quieter but pleasantly activity-filled visit. Then, with a couple more days off, decided semi-spontaneously to drive the five hours north through PA and NY, to visit Better Farm again. Just for a couple days, then back to Beacon. As I drove, the landscape opened up to rolling green hills and wide skies and I passed fewer and fewer cars (after an unfortunate traffic snarl early on, which with no air conditioning on a hot day is some sticky business), pulling into the driveway by the art barn in early evening.
I met the current (very cool) artist-in-residence and talked to my friends, gaped at the abundant garden- so much growth in a month's time- and slept in the birdhouse again, falling asleep to the chorus of insects outside (much more of a racket than in June's cooler nights, when it was mostly the occasional coyote or whippoorwill) and waking at dawn to the birds. This morning I picked beans in the garden and worked on a painting in the sunshine with my friend, which we were doing on a metal sign found in the shed. I've kept up with Better Farm through their blog, but it's lovely to actually be here, and the driving, even long and solitary as it is, gives me open space to think open thoughts, and more images and ideas from which to draw.