Dec 20, 2010

december in the studio

Between the bike messenger bag, the chair and the cabinet, it seems pretty obvious where this painting is coming from - my stuff.  

It's a busy time in the studio right now as I wrap up a group of paintings for the show.  For months I drew, started paintings, drew some more, started more paintings, and looked a whole lot. I'm now in the final stages of wrapping everything up, taking in these paintings as a body  of work, wondering where it all came from.  I do each piece with an intention and a goal, but as I get into the actual application of paint, I allow for chance to have it's place in the process as well.  The fun part for me is seeing where intention and chance end up landing.

Things I've been thinking about in the studio are mostly formal:  

the vertical and the horizontal
expressionistic marks next to graphic marks
long lines over empty spaces 
layers of squares
heavy neutrals with splashes of color
building thoughtful grounds
using sign painter brushes for lines
chunky darks

Dec 12, 2010


This is from John Kelly's performance piece "Paved Paradise".  I saw him in New York a couple of years ago when he screened 'Blood of a Poet' at Queer/Art/Film.  During the Q&A  he said that when it comes to making art "I need permission all the time". A funny statement coming from someone who seemed really confident in his skin.  I jotted down the quote and later looked up his work.  This video has been in regular rotation since.

Honestly, I've never really been that into Joni Mitchell.  I appreciate and respect her, but she wasn't a life changing discovery for me like for so many others.  I have a few friends who  "listened to 'Blue' every day in high school."  I get that.  We obsess, repeatedly look at the same art, listen to the same records and read the same books over and over and over again because they give us permission to do our thing, which is why I've watched this video at least twice a month for the past two years.

In January I'm in a show at the Levy Gallery at the Buckman Performing Arts Center here in Memphis with Mary Catherine Floyd, the resident apprentice at the Metal Museum.  Last spring we met at the museum on a gorgeous spring day and sat at a picnic table batting around ideas for a title.  We talked a lot about a sense of place and rootedness, not just geographically but in our work as well.  I told her about John Kelly and the whole notion of needing permission. We were both drawn to the idea of intentionally claiming permission instead of waiting for it to randomly spring up. With that, we came up with the title "Permission to Roam". 

Well, it's time to get back to work.  Where's my wig, sparkly dress and microphone?

Dec 6, 2010

Dec 5, 2010

                                                                                                             (Mississippi River, 12.4.10)
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

For Gloria Duane Langdon, 1947-2010 and Jim Shaw, 1956 - 2010,
two people who let their lives speak.  

Nov 25, 2010


I'm grateful this holiday for so many things: health, home, means, family, friends, studio. At this particular moment, as I lie on the couch with a full belly, I'm especially grateful for a husband who takes the time to make five pies from scratch.

Nov 18, 2010


This is from a figure drawing class I've been taking at Flicker Street Studio.  Drawing a model is like uncovering a treasure trove of the basics - line, form, color, texture, volume, mass, etc.  When I give myself the gift of observing the nuances of the human form, and actually let go enough for my hand to make marks that reflect what my eyes see, what comes out is a culmination of every mark I've ever made.  I know that for a lot of artists once they  get out of school and find their niche they turn their back on drawing form life.  But for me, drawing form life helps keep my abstractions loose.

Admittedly, it's not easy.   I've got a lot of work to do on drawing the face and hands, which is why of all the drawings I did in the class, this is the one I actually like.  2011 will be the year of "plumbing the head". (Check out the excellent series on drawing from the NY Times.)

Working on doing this better never ends.  Ever.  Which is why when I'm 80 I'll probably be hobbling into some art studio with a person in a robe milling about while a group of people are gathered and setting up to get lost in the challenge. 

stove top neutrals

Nov 8, 2010

drawing outside with other people


These are the drawings I did on an outing to Elmwood Cemetery with Memphis Urban Sketchers.  The light was gorgeous and the shadows were stark. We met, we spread out, we drew, and then we met again and looked at what we came up with.   It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. 

curtain call

The previous owners of our house added on a big den off the kitchen sometime in the 1960s or 70s. It makes for a nice studio with lots of light, a closet, built in book shelves and cabinets, and a non-functioning brick 'fireplace' with gas logs  that I use to prop paintings on. I can imagine the years worth of many family gatherings in this room.  Now there's lots of art making.   The HVAC doesn't extend to the studio but the heater/ac window unit works surprisingly well.  Turn the knob to the right in the summer and to the left in the winter.  In the summer I just leave doorway open, but in the winter I block it off because the house is drafty. 

I'm always a little sad when it gets so cold that I have to hang the curtains. I really like having the view of my work table from the kitchen when I'm cooking or puttering around.  I think the furthest distance I'd ever want my studio away from my field of vision is an out building.  Sometimes I fantasize about living in the country with a studio out back.  In between the two buildings there would be a big garden with  a stone pathway, a bench and a small pond with lotus flowers, fish and frogs.  In the meantime,  my view from the kitchen suits me just fine.

Oct 31, 2010

the collaboration habit

These collaboration paintings with Hamlett Dobbins are currently on exhibition at the Marxhausen Gallery of Art at Concordia University in Nebraska.  

Collaboration has been a part of Hamlett’s art making for as long as I can remember.  A couple of years ago when he asked if I’d like to trade sketchbooks, I was happy to have the opportunity to exchange marks with a painter I’m such a big fan of.  How it works is we start with two sketchbooks, make a bunch of drawings and then trade back and forth.  Late last spring he asked if I’d like to crank it up a notch and participate in a show of collaborative paintings and works on paper.  I really enjoyed the sketchbooks, so naturally I said yes, at which point he brought over about six canvases on board and a big stack of drawings.  I worked on them a little here and there over the summer until I finally decided the best way to get it all done was to clear everything of mine out of the studio and focus solely on the collaborations for awhile.   

Hamlett and I work out of the same school of painting.  We both paint abstractly and make certain parallel choices in our work.   We also look at a lot of the same painters for inspiration, historically standing on the shoulders of the likes Philip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Thomas Nozkowski, etc.  When we initially began collaborating, I was curious to investigate the commonalities in our work, but what I found was the contrasts far outnumbering the similarities and a lot more fascinating to discover.  Each time I painted inside, around and on top of Hamlett’s work, it revealed something new about how I make paintings.  When I saw what he did to my work, I learned even more. 
What’s amazing is that Hamlett did a body of work not just with me but with four other artists for this show - Joshua Huyser, Tad Lauritzen Wright, Jamison Brosseau, and Douglas Degges.  I see why he loves it so much.  After doing all of this work, I find myself falling into a ‘collaboration habit’, as Twyla Tharp calls it.  Sometimes, as I’m admiring another artist’s work, I think how great it would be to draw on their work and let them draw on mine.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the opening.   The images of the installation are borrowed from Hamlett. 


Oct 24, 2010


These two paintings are by the great Memphis artist Jan Hankins.  They've put quite a lot energy into our house since we hung them a couple of weeks ago.  Jan obviously didn't know it when he painted the one above, but it's a portrait of my husband, albeit the late middle-aged version. Here's a man with a pencil sitting perfectly upright determining perspective, something James is a natural at, literally and figuratively. Then to the right are machine parts floating in the air, an image Jan said he pulled from an illustrated parts catalog, another connection to James since he draws and writes aircraft parts catalogs for a living. It couldn't be more perfect. The one below really needs no explanation.  I hung it in the studio.  (Click on them for the bigger view.)

Oct 23, 2010

still life

Drawing feels good.  I believe that artists go back into the studio, the kitchen table, to the sketchbook, and do it over and over and over again because it triggers a pleasant chemical reaction in the brain. The irony for me is that I spend so much time thinking about what my art means, where it fits into the greater scheme of object making, what I'm trying to say, blah blah blah.  The truth is that I keep doing it because I know that when I'm working my mind will end up in a wordless empty place.  

Even though I draw a lot, I don't draw from life much.  Sometimes I'll cluster stuff together, or as an after thought I'll have a look around the room and draw a chair or a pair of shoes on the floor, but mostly I just draw from my imagination.  James and I were talking about still life drawing and how we should have a corner with a small one set up ready and waiting for when we wanted to go and  'have a draw'.  He set up this one with a milk crate, foam, a tube and some cord.  I haven't drawn it yet, but I enjoy passing it by every time I walk in the studio knowing it's there when I'm ready.  

Oct 12, 2010

Oct 10, 2010

scenes from the broad ave. art walk


When I was just out of high school and coming into Midtown Memphis from East Memphis, I spent a lot of time with 'art academy' kids on Broad Avenue.  There was a biker bar called Fred's Hide Out where bikers, punks, art school kids and dead heads would all hang out.  They happily served drinks to young girls like myself.

The street has indeed evolved.  It still has some of the 'edge of nowhere' charm about it, but because of a few forward thinking folks who have bought buildings in the last ten years, the street is home to lots of artists, crafts persons, the Urban Arts Commission, a decent bar and a new diner.  Memphis is really starved for this type of transformation, one that seems to have integrity and quality behind it.

About the pictures.  The top one was from a show at Odessa, where it looked like someone cleaned out their dressers and closets and hung all their crap on the wall.  I'm not sure who the artist was, but always the voyeur, I enjoyed looking at the 'this and that' of someone's life. The second photo is from Gadsby Cresson's exhibit of bike rack prototypes at Urban Art.  And the last one is from the Rozelle Artists Guild wonderful sketchbook show. 

Oct 3, 2010

crunch crunch crunch

This weekend we hiked trails and hung out with friends in the woods.  I forgot my camera.  The leaves are starting to change and fall off the trees, so  hikes have that autumn crunch under foot.  The light is changing too.  For the last few days the sun and moon have been visible in the sky at the same time until almost 11am.   When the earth, sun and moon are in that position it's like a big "you are here" sign in the sky.

Sep 29, 2010

the listed still life

This picture is borrowed from over on the other side of the Memphis art blogosphere at Listwork, where Elizabeth Alley broke down the still life painting she did in my class at Flicker Street Studio.  Her choice of the pignose amp, the old Jergens bottle and the shaker made for nice circles!  

Sep 24, 2010

I'm working on a paintning with varying tones of white.  As I was putting away the dishes I came across this example.

Sep 22, 2010

popping up

Yellow is showing up a lot lately, as is the square inside the rectangle.  

I've never actually watched this program, but I'm beginning to believe these characters are in my subconscious mind, frolicking in the meadow and making those funny squeaky noises.

Sep 20, 2010

Sep 15, 2010


This drawing is from a lifetime ago when I was a receptionist in Chicago.  I drew a lot answering phones at that job.

We all have a unique doodle.  Mine is very Miroesque I think.  I've made hundreds of drawings since this one so in some ways my skill level has improved, but there's a looseness to these marks I want back.  Life can tighten things up.  

A few years ago I had a long conversation about a group of paintings and drawings my photographer friend had just shot.   He said something that has stayed in the forefront of my process ever since - "You should pull more of your drawing marks into your paintings."  It's  easy to become constricted while painting and forget that really it's just drawing.  Looking at Cy Twombly helps too.  

   (Image pulled from poster for show from Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne - no title)

Sep 11, 2010

scheming color

                                                                                   (from the sartorialist)
This is a gutsy gal with some real chutzpah. 

Fashion is a treasure trove of color schemes.  This combination of yellow, green, black and flesh tones with vertical punchy splashes of pinks, whites and oranges in the background will undoubtedly work it's way into a painting. 

I wonder how many paintings around the world The Sartorialist has inspired? 

(Long live the 18 miles of books at The Strand.)

Sep 8, 2010

summer's officially over...

                                                    (Asheville, NC pool side.)

... and what a summer it was.  The weather was extremely harsh with many days over 100 and barely any rain.  The weeks of poor air quality seemed to wear the whole city out.  But when I look back on the summer of 2010 I won't think so much about the heat. I'll remember the color studies and collaborations I worked on in the studio, the new teaching gig and all the walking in North Carolina and Connecticut.  

I also honed a very useful skill this summer: how to properly use a hoe!  I learned that and so much more about growing food at the weekly early morning gardening sessions in the Orange Mound/Grow Memphis garden with Josephine.  ( As she likes to say, "I know it's going to be a good day when it starts with my hands in dirt.")     

So despite the crazy heat this was a great summer. The most wonderful day of all though was back in June when I  trekked out to the suburbs with my two good friends to the JCC water park.  Kellie  and I giggled our way down the two twisty slides over and over again and then took turns pushing her beautiful mom Duane around the lazy river.  After a few hours of sun and play we had the post-swim munchies, so we sat in lawn chairs in our wet bathing suits and ate sandwiches and french fries from the snack bar.  

That day was the best day.  

Aug 30, 2010

From a March day in New Orleans.  Super Sunday 2010.  (For Adam)


Aug 28, 2010

last address

"Breathing" 1987, oil on paper, 11" x 15"

This painting is by Hugh Steers, one of the artist featured in my friend Ira Sach's gorgeous short Last AddressThe film is a deeply moving homage to a group of New York City artists that died of AIDS-related causes between 1983 and 2007.   

There is a painterliness to it that I really love - shifts of sunlight on architecture, the city soundscape, the nuances of daily life.  One particular shot of John Brockmeyer and Ethyl Eichelberger's house in Staten Island reminds me of a Burton Calicott painting, a Memphis artist that I don't doubt was in Ira's field of vision growing up here.

The world keeps turning.