drawing in museums

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On Sunday we made a trip to the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery before it closes for several years of renovation to view the many objects that have become familiar friends. I gave myself an assignment to make ten drawings as a way to really look at these objects. Many have not remained static to me but have become altered in their meaning over the last thirty years .

freer-before-inlay.jpgBecause I have looked at them so many times I needed to find a way to slow down so that I could quietly absorb nuances as they were revealed. When drawing I pay attention to details of shadow, surface, contour, and context. I aim for a loose likeness, but I am very accepting of distortion and the interpretation that my hand provides. In some ways the most interesting pots are the hardest to draw because they are such nuanced 3-dimensional objects, alive in rotation so it's hard to visually capture that changing volume without losing something on the 2-dimensional paper.

freer-bottleand-bowl.jpgAfterwards we headed over to visit the Renwick Gallery which was filled to bursting, everyone taking photos of themselves amid the exhibit's objects of "Wonder." I was struck by not only was it a completely different experience of material, but a completely different experience of viewing. There was neither space nor time to absorb the scale or nuance of the work.

freer-korean-vases.jpg"Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory - where it stays - it's transmitted by your hands."
--David Hockney (in Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney)


#21 winter solstice 2015

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I love the fact that in our modern sense of winter I can grow a Myer lemon in my house. I remember in 2011 after our trip to Italy I was inspired to try. Each year since then my friends make fun of my spindly tree that hangs low with two or three lemons each season. With our warm house and digital communication I can grow a lemon, take images of my pots on drawings and share the days of diminishing light with far flung friends. It is a way to find meaning and my way through the maze of a dark and hectic season. The solstice is literally a moment of pause. Writing and photographing is another form of pausing time to find the beautiful, the peaceful, and the mix of mystery that vibrates between the historical and modern worlds.

21 winter 2015.jpg "A taste for winter, a love for winter vistas -- a belief that they are as beautiful and seductive in their own way, and as essential to the human spirit and the human soul as any summer scene -- is part of the modern condition. Wallace Stevens, in his poem "The Snow Man," called this new feeling "a mind of winter," and he identified it with our new acceptance of a world without illusions, our readiness to live in a world that might have meaning but that doesn't have God. A mind of winter, a mind for winter, not sensing the season as a loss of warmth and light, and with them hope of life and divinity, but ready to respond to it as a positive, and even purifying, presence of something else -- the beautiful and peaceful, yes, but also the mysterious, the strange, the sublime -- is a modern taste."
--Adam Gopnick

#20 winter solstice 2015

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Walking in the city we always stop to look at construction sites. Often there are holes cut in the plywood barrier walls abutting the sidewalk. We study the depth of the excavation, the layers of material, the incipient structural blueprint and the possibility of clay. As a potter I look at dirt with a kind of hope. There is the dream that it can be transformed from mud to music, recast from a pile to a poetic plate, serving an artistic meal that slips into the harbor of our experience.

20 winter 2015.jpgIt's that dream that we carry with us
that something wonderful will happen,
that it has to happen,
that time will open,
that the heart will open,
that doors will open,
that the mountains will open,
that wells will leap up,
that the dream will open,
that one morning we'll slip in
to a harbor that we've never known
--  Rainer Maria Rilke

#19 winter solstice 2015

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19 winter 2015.jpg

Up before the birds

who sleep on my windowsill.

Time to meet my day

with my constant companions,

all my memories and dreams.

Michael Boiano

#18 winter solstice 2015

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I pour my self a cup of tea after my last dog walk of the night. I have been skirting the neighborhood my father lived in for 40 years. It is the part of town I associate with being a teenager and the shift to adulthood. The feel of the street is embedded in the arches of my feet, but the particulars of stores,  restaurants, and buildings are being revised. I am forging new experiences, drinking up different views and setting my compass at a different base with each recent visit. The dreams of what I think of as home can stay intact while I amend my sense of home with each changing day.

18 winter 2015.jpg
"My recollections had a kind of intensity which betrayed the way that imagination and memory had fused, which is what happens, with our earliest memories-particularly when they concern places and people we can't revisit, times and realms left behind. My family left Tennessee, one of the many places we would leave, when I had just turned seven years old, and so everything about that life remained for me sealed away, as if in a sphere of its own, a set of memories and impressions unrevised by experience, uncorrected by time.

Unrevised? Well, in a way. Ask someone who's lived in the same house all of his [or her] life what that house is like, and you'll get the adult's perspective, the point of view of now. But when you've left a house years ago, it only changes in your memory, and those changes are different-subtler, dreamier, [...] Memory erases the rooms which didn't matter; locations of feeling become intensified, larger. The dream of the past becomes a deeper dream."

Mark Doty, from "Return to Sender: Memory, Betrayal, and Memoir," The Writer's Chronicle (vol. 38, no. 2, October/November 2005)

#17 winter solstice 2015

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Our day began with the gray and very wet rural view. It ended with a damp urban walk. In between we wandered the open studios of the MFA students of the School of Visual Arts. It is wonderful to see so many artists getting their ideas into physical forms and so many friends, family, and other artists supporting their efforts.

17 winter 2015.jpg

Advice to artists from Jerry Saltz:

envy is the enemy

keep working, always

if you can, only work 3 days a week at your day job

be nice to people & go to openings - no one else knows what to do at them either

you feel the need to dance naked in public, everyone else does it in private

this is your gang (your peers from art school) - protect everyone in the gang, even the runt

85% of what's in Chelsea is shit, but what's fascinating is that your 85% is different from someone else's (like the Wallace Stevens poem Metaphors of a Magnifico: "Twenty men crossing a bridge, / Into a village, / Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges / Into twenty villages")

don't be cynical - once you become cynical you can't make good work

be vulnerable & honest with your art

as retold by Zoe Frederick at http://zoezinnia.tumblr.com/

#16 winter solstice 2015

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Every time I get fresh eggs from a friend or neighbor I am taken by the subtle colors. I work my way through my eggs by saving my favorite colors for last. It is as if the colors might impart secrets, stories, or on these short days another word for light.

16 winter 2015.jpgAnd you -
how long will you listen to these colours
before you hear the language of light?

--Pascale Petit, from Self-Portrait with Monkey And Parrot, What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren Books, 2010)

#15 winter solstice 2015

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This morning the clouds shifted in, the wind and the light swept across hill and field to catch and contrast against leaf and sky, pasture and cloud. One moment the hills seemed so blue, then the corn field orange, and after the next alteration it was if my perceptions had rolled over in my sleep.

15 winter 2015.jpgThe wind shifts, the landscape turns in its sleep.
                                                                                                                            Seasons slough and rinse.

Like trees, we fall in the dark forest and make no sound.

--Charles Wright, from Black and Blue, Chickamauga (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995)

#14 winter solstice 2015

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Walking the edge of a cliché is like looking at the dark side of the moon. It's not always the pair of pears that is important but what supports the pears.

14 winter 2015.jpg"Poetry is the dark side of the moon," he said. "It's up there, and you can see the front of it. But what it is isn't what you're looking at. It's behind what you're looking at."
--from Charles Wright Named America's Poet Laureate, Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, June 12, 2014

#13 winter solstice 2015

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Today felt unreal, so still and warm for December. We had the doors wide open to feel the air. I walked after the sunset in the almost dark. Passing the pond, barely able to discern water from tree from sky, I returned to the house to find our last visitor giving herself a self-guided tour of the gallery.

13 winter 2015.jpg"Time can be slowed if you live deliberately. If you stop and watch sunsets. If you spend time sitting on porches listening to the woods. If you give in to the reality of the seasons."
-- Thomas Christopher Greene, I'll Never Be Long Gone: A Novel  (William Morrow, 2005)

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