Monday, December 29, 2008

How I get there from here

I am posting this series so people can see the development of my ideas as I get to know, love and make art about a given landscape location. You are seeing Fawn's Leap, a waterfall in the Catskills near Tannersville. This waterfall has been drawn and/or painted by Sanford Gifford, Asher Duran, Bolton Brown and many others. Big footsteps to be walking in.

On top is "Fawn"s Leap, Wide View" -- collage on paper 38 X 50" (now on view at Gallery North Star in Grafton, VT)

In order to make the collage, I had to make the watercolor paintings. In order to make the paintings, I had to make the drawings.

Image list:
Fawn's Leap Wide View, 38 X 50" collage on paper, framed $7500 Gallery North Star
Darkness in the Grotto, Sunlight Beyond" WC/gouache 16 X 12" Chace-Randall Gallery $1800.
Fawn's Leap, Midsummer Day, 14 X 10" Kiesendahl & Calhoun Gallery $1500.
Fawn's Leap, 16 X 12" pencil, Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn $800.
Fawn's Leap, Rock Shadows, 7 X 5" collection of the artist NFS

I rely completely on the drawings and watercolors to make my collages-- I do not use photographs. Drawing is the most essential element in my work. I pin up color xeroxes of my paintings on the studio wall so that the flying gunk from my messy collages won't ruin a good painting. And did I learn that the easy way? oh no not me.

I now glue up the collages onto Belgian linen over stretchers. I use all manner of paint and drawing materials freely as I create surfaces exploring sunlight, shadow, rock, water, trees and foliage. I have recently learned how to get to a new vocabulary of textures by printing at the Womens Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. I won a residency there last November and I'm easy company so they invited me back for February '09. I hope to be using their presses again next year to help me replicate the color and texture of Vermont. The collage works are the culmination of my explorations. I put everything I've got into them. I draw, paint, print, glue, scrape, peel, glaze, and glaze over in pursuit of the finished image until I get there. Sooner or later, easy road or hard road, I get there.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life imitates Art

Above is a field painting in watercolor/gouache, 10 X 14" of a Catskill site we call Kitchen Falls-- because it's where the artists go to wash their dishes at the AIR Cabin in Platte Clove. Click on it to see the entire painting.
Second is a jpeg sent from Linn Perkins Syz of the VT River Conservancy. It shows Hunters Brook near Montpelier. When I look at the beautiful white shapes of the water and feel the powerful weight of the rock my heart expands, my hands start reaching for the brushes...
Just my kind of place...

I am hot on the trail of the project sites for the River Conservancy. What amazing, beautiful hidden places will be found!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Posted PLaces- No Trespassing No Painting No How

Palenville, New Morning, collage 40 X 60"
Palenville Panorama, collage, 26 X 54"
Stone Bridge on Camelot Road, 60 X 40"
Field painting: Downstream of Dylan, Oil/Board 12 X 9"

Here are photos of some of the work I have done from painting trips to beautiful sites before their new owners put up the fences, the razor wire, the video cameras etc. Bearing in mind that the waterways themselves are public-- I now float my materials UP THE MIDDLE OF THE STREAM in Palenville and SWIM them across to the rocks. Public space goes up to ten inches beyond the high water mark in NY State, so they can't kick me out if I waded, swam and rafted my ass on over to my favorite landscape places. If that what it takes, then take me to the river...

I greatly look forward to finding river sites with my newfound guides from the Vermont River Conservancy. I have seen their photos on their website and I am still hyperventilating over some of their waterfalls. I could make a whole new solo show for Gallery North Star in Grafton all about these Conservancy sites. It would take about two years to complete, but I can feel that vein-of-gold feeling. I felt that way the first time I saw Platte Clove in the Catskills. How amazing that this Art of Action project is bringing me to places I never knew in my own home state.

Friday, December 19, 2008

POSTED: a posting posing problems.

My recent researches have led me to the good people at the Vermont River Conservancy. Their website is beautiful and informative and scary. I had believed that protections were already so securely in place that preservation was a done deal. I love being wrong. Good thing it happens all the time. Vermont still has so much work to do to protect public access to swimming holes, waterfalls, fishing streams and watersheds.

The River Conservancy cites several ongoing problems for us to examine:

1.) Loss of Public Access to Water Places
I have seen this happen is several of my best painting locations in New York State. High Falls, NY lost its heart and soul when their cash-strapped Fire Dept. sold a piece of riverfront that had given access to a spectacular swimming area below the wide and thundering High Falls. The new owner is a big believer in razor wire. Now you can't even SEE the Falls anymore. Gone means GONE FOREVER. No Trespassing.

2.)Inappropriate Development of Shore Properties
In Rosendale, NY, a lovely lake that was owned by a hotel and open to public uses for hiking, cross-country skiing and boating got sold to developers. They intend to build a gated complex for those recovering from plastic surgery. The gate is up. The gate is closed. Plastic surgery??? Hello???Talk about a boob job... The Lake is gone. No Trespassing

3.) Over- Development of Watersheds and Lake and River Corridors
Pave the shores and watch where the water goes-- watch what's in it.

4.)Unmanaged Misuse and Abuse of Water Places
From their website: Without proper and thoughtful management, many exceptional water places are too popular. If Vermont's swimming holes, waterfalls and gorges, and other popular sites are to be well cared for, Vermonters need to be excellent stewards of the lands along Vermont's waters.

Stewardship is all about the future-- the seven-generation future and beyond.

As part of my AOA project, I'll be offering art-making workshops at some of the many sites handled by the Vermont River Conservancy. Because my interests as an artist and their work in preserving the waterfalls are so closely aligned, I hope to offer them a series of postcards for their use as promotional premiums or sale items. I will be visiting and painting their locations including Hancock Brook near Montpelier and Twentyfoot Falls in Claredon. I am so excited to find these new locations. I am thrilled to find new friends in Vermont.
Let's go painting!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Take me to the River

Thank you artist/friend John Wall of Queens, formerly of the North Danville Road, St. Johnsbury for his great photo from September 2008 of the dark, cold churning waters of the Moose River.

As my AOA project pours through the streambeds of my mind, I am designing a workshop, flexible enough to accommodate many different kinds of students, open-ended and positive, an experience that opens peoples' eyes and hearts to the waterways. I offer new ways of looking, listening and relating one's own life-currents, heartbeat and breath to the rushing water. Understanding geological forces; pressure, direction, siltration, dissolution will lead to using those forces in drawing and painting. The workshop will lead to a statewide celebration -- I am big believer in having some fun down by the river. Art is a joyful endeavor.

Despite the many frustrations, challenges and rejections, art is still the sacred heart rush, an endless self-renewing spring of laughter and beauty. No coincidence that water figures prominently in religious traditions. We go there for spiritual renewal, for reassurance and to borrow some of its endless energy. Take me to the river!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shadow Lake, geological borders

Shadow Lake
In the heart of the Northeast Kingdom, this little lake sits in perfect contrast to the mountains of Vermont and beyond to New Hampshire. I was born on this road. My father lives here now and has his studio on Shadow Lake Road.

People often wonder how Vermont can be so different from New Hampshire. Just like Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland-- they are side by side, but so different from one another in character. The Green Mountains and the White Mountains are two distinct and different geological ages. Ireland too is divided by a massive geological fault line and it falls just where the North/ South border lies. The Connecticut River is a lovely blue dividing line between Vermont and New Hampshire. Do people determine where a border will fall? Are they unconsciously responding to earth energy and far more ancient history when they sit down to draw a border?

Painting and drawing landscape opens fields of research into geology, meteorology and
social history. Reading and understanding a landscape means looking for signs and interpreting them, putting a story back together. The last ice age was only 11,000 years ago and its marks can still be seen in Vermont.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How to Have fun with less money or Where is that waterfall?

Families are worried. Everyone is wondering how we are all going to manage with less money to spend. Everyone. No matter what the circumstances may be, we are all thinking about reducing gratuitous spending. That means the entertainment budget, the vacation money, the weekend trips, tickets for amusement parks and similar expenses are OVER! What can a family do that is deeply rewarding, endlessly interesting, memorable and special without losing half a paycheck?

I am going to quote my grandfather, Aime Bisson of St. Johnsbury ( Does anyone remember Aime's Restaurant?-- that was our family business for 3 generations just east of St. J ) Aime used be baffled at the very idea of "entertainment." La Natur est GRATIS!" He used to say meaning the great outdoors in free. Meaning get on outa here and go have your own fun under the clear blue sky of Vermont.

There is a deeper meaning to all this-- people need nature. If someone gets cut off from the land and the weather, stops following the phases of the moon, loses interest in the changing seasons, that person risks falling into depression. An inexplicable loneliness sets it. Even in Vermont, people need encouragement and guidance to explore the outdoors. Odd, how much fear there is of the unknown. Fear and depression can shut people right down.

I am always surprised at how few people can give me directions to a natural feature near their town. I did a test recently in St. Johnsbury. I asked people how to get to Emersons Falls, a large, dramatic waterfall directly beside and visible from a paved country road 3 miles from the center of town. I asked 20 people, young and old. Seven people were able to tell me and thirteen had no idea, no clue, had never heard of it or "don't usually drive out that way."

I want my project for AOA to address these issues:
Families and finances: How to Have Fun with Less Money
Encourage people to avail themselves of the cost-free wonderment of the big green amusement park of real life. Forget Disneyland. (I have alway said I'd rather set myself on fire than go to Disneyland-- at least I would be having a REAL experience...)
Encourage Vermonters who are not yet involved in hiking and waterways to give it a try
Teach people how to look. The more you look at, the more there is. Skills are involved in looking, perceiving, noticing, Reading the landscape is fascinating-- areas of knowledge geology, botany, and drawing intersect, overlap, inform one another and give beauty and meaning to the viewer.

Just in case you wondered: Emerson Falls is located on the Old North Danville Rd. just west of the Rte 2 interchange at I-91. Follow signs to North Danville, take the first right hand turn onto Old North Danville Rd. The Sleepers River is on your left and you'll hear the falls before you see them.