Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eagle Lake, Storm Lifting

The storm will lift!
Think how happy we'll all feel when the application phase is over, we know we have done the best we could have done, and we have been true to ourselves and to our work throughout the entire process...
Put the Vermonters Ahead!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stones of Summer

One of my favorite "big read" books of all time is "Stones of Summer", by Dow Mossman. The phrase can also describe one of my most beloved painting motifs. These stones were photographed near Grafton, VT. I'll be taking my painting students there next summer as part of our AOA Waterfall Weekend program.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teaching drawing

Teaching Drawing
Great teachers I have Known

One of the most rewarding things an artist can do is teach. I was blessed with great teachers both in my life and in the classroom. My mother was head of the English Dept. at Lyndon State for 38 years. She was a great talker with a lovely Welsh musicality in her voice. She taught Shakespeare, Chaucer and Romantic Poetry and reveled in language and the world of ideas. At 85, she is now very frail and homebound, but every year her mailbox fills up with loving holiday cards from her students. Teachers make a difference in people's lives. Larry Golden, art teacher at the Academy in St. Johnsbury was another great mentor for me. I went to school with Curtis Hale's Dad and so a generation later, Larry Golden was an influence on Curtis! Dorian McGowin of Lyndon State helped me prepare my portfolio to get into Pratt Institute. Dorian is endlessly creative and he always made the art room into a wild bohemian environment filled with sculpture, puppets, paintings, stained glass and his oddball collections.
At Pratt I studied with Rudolf Baranik, Gillian Jagger, Franklin Faust and Sal Montano, amazing teachers all. I can still hear their voices in my mind.

I have never been a classroom teacher. I have an Art Ed minor from Pratt and the Brooklyn Museum helped me get a Masters in Museum Education at Bank Street College of Education. I have taught in museum galleries, been a tour guide on the Brooklyn Bridge, created the Education Dept for Socrates Sculpture Park and spent ten years in Prospect Park, Brooklyn where I opened Memorial Arch to the public, and founded the visual art program for the Park. I think I did all this just to avoid being a classroom teacher! I'm too restless....I need art materials in my hands.

Teaching drawing means helping people to see. Finding their edges, editing their forms, placing shapes into space, adjusting tone and value, translating the world onto the two dimensional page. I love teaching drawing and painting. It is exhausting and energizing all at the same time.

I now teach for the Woodstock School of Art and the Arts Center at Old Forge in the Adirondacks. Currently, I am writing a series of grant proposal for the Kentler International Drawing Space to keep the school groups' programming happening for public schools in one of New York's poorest communities, Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The WHERE of it all

What makes a great painting location?

When I look at the photos and talk with Linn Perkins Syz at the Vermont River Conservancy about their project sites, I feel especially drawn to Terrill Gorge in Morrisville, Buttermilk Falls -- which I've visited and painted a couple of times with my dear gallerists Edward and Kim Bank of Gallery North Star in Grafton-- and Hancock Falls neaar Montpelier. These locations have it all, beauty, stillness, water, and a mission, a sense of urgency, a message.

The snow seems deep and the temperatures not so conducive for outdoor watercolors just now. Will the brush FREEZE ONTO THE PAPER in Vermont this morning??

Pictured above:
Shadow Lake, The view from Shadow Lake Road, where I was born and where my Dad lives now. The White Mountains of New Hampshire can be seen in the distance.
Quiet Falls, WC/gouache ptg, 22 X 30" a studio work based on field paintings
Caaterskill Falls, New York tallest waterfall

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Got snow?

I like to imagine the ski-trails as very slow-moving waterways.
"SKi Trails and Snowfields", 25 X 34, collage on paper
"Burke Mountain ski Trails, 16 X 12" oil/board

Monday, January 12, 2009

Put the Vermonters Ahead

I recently received the pin you see above as gift from my family. It is a small metal enamel pin with heraldic looking symbols. There are the Green Mountains, Mansfield and Camel's Hump, a stag's head, and an inscription that reads "Put the Vermonters Ahead" I remembered this rallying cry from Graham Newell's Vermont History class and I looked it up on the web to be sure. The words were the command of Civil War General Sedgewick as he began the march from Manchester, VT to Gettysburgh. The Vermonters wanted to be put ahead. They were fully committed to their values of freedom and dignity for all humanity. They were willing to take the hardest hit. On that day, July 1, 1863, Vermonters were the frontline. We still are today. Who got those votes for Obama up on the Blue Board FIRST? Vermonters! Who ratified civil union for gay couples FIRST? Vermonters! and who is taking a long hard look at the realities we all face and an uncertain future? yup. us again. The pin was my grandfather's -- his VT National Guard insignia.

This Art of Action project is a long and sometimes difficult march. There are fabulous exciting ideas being put forth, serious issues examined with great creativity. I am proud to be part of it all. We are working at it to PUT THE VERMONTERS AHEAD.

That's a photo of my Dad, artist, John Bisson of Concord, VT

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Made in America

And in my spare time...

I have been restoring this lovely Depression-era Widow's Quilt. Originally purchased by a former neighbor of mine in Wilmington, VT, the quilt was in rags and tatters when I fell in love with it. I have restored other quilts so I could see the geometry and honesty in this one. The pattern is called "Log Cabin on A Mountain". As I began to work on it, I realized that it is a so-called "Widow's Quilt" made from a man's clothing. The red centers are cut from his hunting shirt, a Johnson Woolen Mills red. Almost all of that red wool survived and is still visible throughout the quilt. Fragments of faded deep blue-green came from his barn clothes. One small rectangle was found from his World War I Army Uniform. Perhaps he was buried in his uniform-- that would have been customary-- and his wife cut a swatch from an inside hem as it is a flawless, unfaded piece of cloth. In restoring the quilt, I chose to use contemporary cloth so that the quilt will live a long time into the future. I follow the existing pattern with all its errors and crookedness as closely as I can. I hope to have the project completed in the spring. The quilt is half-finished now after two months.

After the last stitch is in, I will make a DVD of the unmended squares fading into the mended ones, with a musical sound track. The ongoing project is on view online through the alternative space Proteus Gowanus of Brooklyn, NY. as part of their show called MEND.

My grandmother Ella Comstock Fifield (My grandmothers were named Mary and Ella-- that explains THAT!) was born in Rutland, VT and she taught me to sew when I was five years old. I always have a sewing project going. Sometimes they take years to complete, but I like the continuity of my family's having sewing skills. It's like keeping a folk-dance alive -- you can only move the past dance into the future dance by dancing it.

Who sews and why?
I do this as an artist meditation, but real sewing, factory sewing, the manufacture of clothing has potent political meaning today. Who is doing our sewing now? Indentured labor ( i.e. slaves) in faraway countries forced to work in sewing factories? Women are enslaved in the Marianas Islands. Companies buy the garments made by slaves and print "Made in America" on the labels. Vermont is the ONLY state in this entire country where slavery was never legal. That's a fact. Makes you proud, doesn't it?
Does me.

That original quilt was made in America. My overlay, the new version is being made in America. The work I will do for ART OF ACTION will be made in America. Artists never lost sight of the importance of hand skills. And we stand for freedom, as artists and as Vermonters. We will be a force in the redefinition of Made in America.