first child in the woods

Another year, another birthday....So strange how it's all rushing out from under us. The things I love in life are so ephemeral, it's hard to remember how precious life is, until I or someone I love has a birthday, or someone I love dies, or our little one says something we didn't know she knew was capable of thinking or saying. Like when we walk outside in the fall light and she says "it's beau-ful." Or when she watches Spirit Ship and says,
I want children right now.
Painting somepin inside.
Rainbow, rainbow, yes!
So just when my hope is faltering, these sweet words bring me back and make it all okay. And I remember that we are living inside a gift.

So I wanted to post something to honor the adventures we've had this year, in the outdoors . . . All too often M and I only went as far as our own ridiculously urban concrete courtyard (Oh Mommy, she must wonder, why do you have so much work? and I answer, it's for the children, for the children. Which children? She wonders . . . I'm a girl, right Mommy, what about me?), but thankfully we experienced some sun-dappled grace throughout the year. And it all makes me wonder, Have we really come to the Last Child in the Woods, as Richard Louv proposed in his book? For once let's see the glass as half full (I'm talking to myself here, with end-of-year resolutions and such) and let's imagine that we're the very First Child in the woods. It's wonderful to be there, light dappling through, crickets chirping, leaves falling. It's so good to be alive.

This last image is a reminder of the artists who do great work to bring the outside in. When we cannot be out there, we can at least honor the outside and reveal aspects of it that invoke a sense of reverence and help us to see the beauty of life and living more fully. So this is Roxy Paine's mushroom world at James Cohen Gallery this fall. And further above you see Patrick Dougherty's work at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden....a fairy house built of sticks, which is up for a year for all ages to run through with all abandon and mystery. This is the stuff....

And just to remember the Little Creatures, the bush babies of the world, here's one more message from "M-Nolia" to take us on our way:
No cryin

No tears coming out
'Pecial treat M-Nolia and a bush baby

M-Nolia's bush baby


hold out two hands to catch the light

Some pieces from Sean's new What Are Defenders series were featured in a show at Kidd Yellin Gallery (curated by Work Gallery) that opened on September 11, 2010. Yes, that was the date (that one's just out of place). We were so happy to see friends and family including Liz, Mike and company, Jeremy, Shariffa, Masa and Maggie, Damijan and the illustrious Monique, who graced us with her presence on the very week her amazing new novel came out.

We took Magnolia for the first hour and she was
immediately drawn into Richard Oliver Wilson's bubble machine, perched atop Yellin's hulking yet elegant old printing press in the doorway of the warehouse, that was sending larger-than life-size bubbles out into the sinking sun at the edge of Red Hook. As she wobbled and skidded to and fro, chasing, popping, jumping at and into shiny orbs, following ponderous glowy globes as they morphed one into another and alighted on the floor, turning to half-moons, as they increasingly took on a supernatural outline from the falling sunlight, I noticed a beautiful thing: she would every so often turn in the direction of the bubble contraption, and stand still and wait. Then she would reach out both hands, turn palms up to the sky, and wait for the bubbles to come. The upturned palms would then cup the air and the fingers would beckon, gimme...come here, those so-sweet fingers we've watched grow from fetus to baby to girl. "Come over here, bubbles, I'mmonna getchyou," the fingers said. "But I'll wait patiently," the stillness of her body said. I was struck by the quiet and mournful and spiritual nature of the pose, and considered the phenomenon of a 20-month-old child raising hands as if praising something or Someone. I whipped out my phone and started snapping a painful amount of pictures, telling myself the whole time, "how ridiculous, to need to document this much, to take so many pictures of my child," but all along never coming close to capturing the bubbles or the golden light or the otherworldly joy on the face of my daughter. The phone camera simply wouldn't do justice to this unbelievably lovely scene in our lives. Dalton, a talented photographer, offered some solutions to this problem. I chatted away with him and others, but all the while I kept doing what I consider pretty rude (even to photographers?): snapping pictures. Was that as bad as texting while having a conversation? Worse? All I could process was that my daughter was tasting heaven and I was trying my best to see through her eyes and behold just a touch of the glory she was feeling. I knew Sean had brought his Real Camera and I tried to get his attention to find out where it was. Later I found it in the bottom of the stroller . . . it stayed there all along, never used by either of us, even throughout this insane display of light and joy, never even then. I kept seeing her body go still with palms upturned, fingers curling sweetly, back and forth. I was riveted--this looked not only beautiful and amazing, but very much like something that I knew well but could not place. When I asked MaryAnne, she said The Red Balloon. Yes yes of course, that wonderful film that is over and under and through everything I ever do, that one, yes. But that wasn't it. That body, prone, straight, not moving, but waiting, standing, looking. Those hands, upturned. I couldn't place it.

Until I was riding home on my bike (every time I ride my bike at night in Red Hook I ask myself why I haven't done this every single night of the five years I've lived in this lost and broken land by the sea). That's when I discovered what it was. My daughter was re-enacting her father's animated film that he made about his father. She stood still, waiting for those bubbles, exactly as Sean had stood when those bubble-like dots came out of his hands and heart, and floated up toward the sky, toward the ghost of his father, toward the future and the past, in his film Father/Son. I've posted both images so you can see for yourself. If you'd like to see Sean's film, I guess you'll have to ask him.



My daughter is teaching me how to speak, and by extension, how to see and to feel (abilities I have all but lost).

"Bew-fuls, bew-fuls," she says, while looking at the shells we collected at the beach in NC last week. Does she really say beautiful, now? I can't even believe this. "Water comin," she says, when the ocean is roaring toward us, and there is no way to convey how absolutely perfect that word "comin" sounds when she says it. It is the sweetest thing. "Rainbow fall down" she says while reading and re-reading the Noah story, with which she has become sincerely fascinated. For that matter, "Animals comin" and "Fire comin" also feature prominently in the Noah readings.

Which brings me to the "deep fire," or dehumidifier, which was required when I flooded the bathroom at the beach house (oh no, no, no, but all too true). "Petties, petties (pretties)," she says of the small stones we collected on Martha's Vineyard earlier this summer.

"Rainin, poh-in" she sings, then, "ah, moh-nin, ah, moh-nin." Sean and I can't figure out if this is some song abut Morning that we don't know where she learned, or if she's simply singing in her own language, as sometimes when we say "I love you," and she responds, "Ah Mohnin," and then starts singing this poetic phrase over and over. It's what she sings when feeling happy or comforted, and more than anything, it comforts us. It tells us that it's all going
to be alright--really Mommy, really Daddy, really it is.


salvage, redeem

Whenever the Broken Land feels just too broken to be salvaged, and I want to run away, it is somehow redeemed. Today the Brooklyn Botanic Garden rescued me from slow and steady decline into mommy malaise.

A divine lotus and its roots, some intricate star/leaf formations in the same pool, Magnolia's joy at looking up at trees ("I'm just laying down," she said, while looking up through the branches at the sky beyond), her joy at touching the sprinkler over and over and over, and the wonderful environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty working on a new installation at the garden:



Two of my Superimposed Cities paintings have been published in Issue 16 of RUMINATE, a gem of a magazine "created in 2006 by a few fellow writers, artists, and believers who wanted a space for the thoughtful expressions of those who are nudged forward, backward, and sideways by faith in God." The images are not in the online issue, but here at least is the Table of Contents with links to a few sections of the issue posted online. I am posting the two paintings here and you can also see them on my site:

Both of the paintings, like the rest of this series (started in '06 and as yet unfinished) feature overlapping city maps. ‘Sow: Jerusalem/New York’ (2006, blue) marks the death and resurrection of Christ and the city where I live; ‘He turned their waters into blood’ (title from Psalm 105:29
, 2007, red) marks the cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. War in Iraq. Sheer pockets containing seeds hover in the footprints of historically significant landmarks, from Calvary to the Iraqi National Museum to the New Orleans Superdome. (See key to Waters into Blood here for more details).

I am honored and so happy that these pieces are being published the same month that I sold another piece from the series, Hearing the land that was now of my blood and flesh (title from Faulkner's As I Lay Dying). This piece will eventually go to live with its new owner in Japan--I'm thrilled that what started as a document of and about the place where I make my home, will make its own home in a far away place that intrigues and mystifies me, a place I hope to visit again soon.

Perhaps this convergence means that I need to sit down and take stock of this work, lest I forget to make more of it, forget to continue where I left off (when I had my little creature and became obsessed with making Little Creatures live and breathe). So, while the spotlight is on these pieces that I often think of as my "real work," (as opposed to the many small paintings and mixed media pieces, not to mention the jewelry and mobiles and toys and oh, did I say . . . films? Oh yeah, the other "real work," fill the space around me), it might be worth noting here how many times I have written and rewritten my artist's statement concerning these Superimposed Cities. The pithy statement that ends up in my Ruminate bio, "Using a range of materials to collapse space and time provides a transformative way for me to process meaningful and traumatic events," has come a long way over these past four years. So as if to prove that "artist's statement" were the most ridiculous oxymoron, here are some previous incarnations, from dozens of grant and show applications . . . tracing the idea from its genesis, back in 2000, when I was simply cutting into canvas and suspending seeds within sheer fabric attached to the edges of holes, to 2006, when I started drawing cities one on top of the other, suspending the seeds and other natural materials within footprints of buildings:

• My cuts and stitches into my canvases, my stuffing of bits and pieces of the earth, further connect abstract to real.

• I am intrigued that a painting might rupture and give way to sculptural forms, almost of its own will. Perhaps this is a way that I can reconcile my need to make both two and three-dimensional work. Perhaps this is a rebellion of the will, because I know that painting can always reach for the illusion of beauty or reality or life, but can never truly become something that I can hold in my hands and love. Just as I chase light with strokes of a paintbrush, I chase form so far that I must bring the surface and build out from within.
• I cut into the canvas and stuff sheer pockets of fabric with bits and pieces of the earth and its elements--seeds, twigs, moss, stones and glass, to disrupt the picture plane and create a more dynamic interplay of image and object, and to include the actual reference points of my paintings, in the paintings themselves.
By combining disparate elements, I am seeking to make sense of life, death, the injustice of war and the possibility of grace.
• The streets of Ancient Rome intersect those of present-day Washington, D.C. ('Seeds of Empire'); the streets of my neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, intersect those of William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, of the 1920's ('Hearing the Land'), collapsing time and space and welcoming stories into dialogue with one another through visual relationships.
• 'Seeds of Empire' asks the viewer, what is empire, where did it begin, where is it going, and will it implode within our lifetime? Buildings represented by roots and seeds shown in their fullness: the Imperial Fora, Colosseum, Basilica Julia and the Capitolium. Buildings represented by seeds shown in late and rotting stages: White House, Capitol, Senate and Congressional Buildings, and the Supreme Court.
• I cut into canvases to stuff and sew sheer pockets of fabric with bits and pieces of organic objects, marking significant points on these maps where the course of history has changed.
• I am incorporating drawings of superimposed city maps to create imaginary cities from disparate yet sociologically relevant urban areas, as seen from above.
• I superimpose city maps on top of one another, such that new, imaginary cities spawn from disparate, yet sociologically relevant, and very real, times and places.
• I superimpose cities, fabricating locales out of disparate times and places. I stuff sheer pockets of fabric with organic objects and sew them into the canvas to mark significant historical points on the maps.
• These pieces serve as the personal account of the horror I have experienced as these cities have crumbled in more ways than one.
• These pieces serve as a personal account of the horror I have felt as these cities have crumbled in more ways than one, and a meditation on the ephemerality of civilizations.
• I create a new reality as a collapsed space-time continuum, where far-flung places and events are inextricably entwined.

Through these painted and sewn documents, I challenge viewers to see reality as a collapsed space-time continuum, wherein related current and past events are inextricably entwined.
• Through these painted and sewn documents, I challenge viewers to see reality as a collapsed space-time continuum, and to see the beauty and horror of current and past, true and fabricated events for what they are--inextricably entwined.


Much dreaming . . .

Much dreaming and many words, a show featuring a selection of my paintings and mixed media pieces from 2003-2010, will be on exhibit for one more week at the Brooklyn Creative League in Gowanus. Faith Evans-Sills and her husband Frank Sills put this show together, in collaboration with Neil Carson and Erin Carney who founded BCL, a very inspiring "Workspace + Community for Independent Professionals." I'm grateful for this opportunity to show my work and look forward to seeing more art that Faith and Frank curate in the space.


Missing you, Papaw

It's been over a week since you left this world. We are missing you.