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New Year’s Day

I am living uneasily, tentatively—my lovely life held upright, alongside the reality of lives lived with unnecessary barbarity. I can’t find the balance that makes any sense between I and other, the individual and the collective. When I pray, I pray that Kindness is present in the darkest of moments for everyone, and is recognized as the truest thing. Which leads me, once again, to Naomi Shihab Nye’s beautiful poem.

Kindness
Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

logbook for palimpsest project

One day this fall the world news was so devastating that for the first time I thought humans may kill ourselves due to our inhumanity*, well before climate change. We seem to have lost our way, and I feel complicit in this; I’ve traded faith in our collective family for anger and fear—a terrible and dangerous trade.

I’m not sure what to do about this but offer reminders of who we also are, and who we might become—artifacts of words, ideas, landscapes and art that express our grace, humor, intelligence, imagination, gratitude, generosity, empathy and kindness. That point to our ability to appreciate this miraculous existence.

Every week in 2024, I will create an image and post it, calling this project palimpsest** because I like the idea that metaphorically we are each a palimpsest, marked by DNA, familial and cultural blessings and blindnesses, mores, commandments, art, passions, beliefs and yearnings. Marked by all the ways humans wrestle with being human.

Palimpsests inherently are evolving—new marks over old—which seems apt for our young species as over time we teach each other how to be human. We are becoming tomorrow from whom we’ve been, and whom we choose to be today.
______________________________

*It’s telling that the most dire invective we use to describe our bad behavior is “inhumane”, literally non-human.

**pal·imp·sest
/ˈpaləm(p)ˌsest/
Noun:
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

(I can’t reliably pronounce “palimpsest”, but hope to learn during the course of the year … )

logbook for The Arbor Institute show

5.15.22

The last day of the show. Emmet suggested asking the space for what was next for me, and in the quiet first hours, I did and received inklings for a new idea. I danced and sang around that beautiful space and felt utterly grateful. A nice easy flow of people came and went. I talked with many people about possible collaborations. I met a 90 year-old artist, saw her work and heard a bit of her journey. A couple of young friends and former students talked about which piece called to them at that moment, which was very beautiful. A dear friend bought my five favorite prints—having my work go to people I love is a slice of heaven. At the end of this day of tender interactions with people, I wrapped up everyone’s pieces and took down the show. Len helped as the best brawn money can buy. Kindness. I never get tired of kindness, or enthusiasm. My emotions got turbulent by the end—due to I’m not even certain what. Perhaps exhaustion, some thwarted expectations, and receding energy from hosting a 7 week party.

And that wonderful chapter is finished. An important time, in part because I was forgetting all the impulses, choices, yearnings that went into these pieces, until I had the space and time to remember. Until I shared them.

 

 

5.14.22

If the entire show was a river, this Saturday was Spring runoff. Full of people—beloved friends, honored activists, and brand new faces—engaging in conversations about life, grief, politics (the pro-choice parade went by the gallery for a moving stretch of time), how to communicate about climate, and staying in the brilliant light of possible futures. My first visitor was an artist who said about one panel, “I think this one could grow on me,” which made me laugh; as Mama would say, “damned with faint praise.” There were different approaches to addressing climate that I hadn’t considered, and many artists shared their work (astonishing work), and almost everyone drew on the mural. One friend said she drew what she “first had mastery over” = an apple tree. Too dear. One young boy drew many, many extremely cool creatures—some hidden behind other drawings—finally leaving with his father, only to return after some sustenance to continue drawing. Julian Peterson came and played in the sunny window for a couple hours which carried my heart aloft, and two young people from Austin came late in the day and were so full of grace I felt cleared, renewed, reset.

 

 

5.8.22

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day. A dear friend walked around the gallery and then told me his favorite piece and why, describing what the three panels evoked in him. Heaven for me. And Ting Lester of the great quote stopped by with her father: Hear my song as I soar on the whispers of wind     as I tumble     as I laugh     drunk on sky.

5.7.22

Eliza, Kate and Tyler are all in town (!!) and the gallery has the most constant flow of visitors, from old high-school friends to new faces from the street. Many conversations echoed each other. Favorite comments: in answer to the question, are you an artist, a man said, “I make sketches for grandchildren.” A Naropa student spoke of studying a master who took his questions/problems to the forest to find answers and wisdom. And a friend said, “None of us are separate, we’re all connected, part of something greater than ego.”

 

 

 

5.1.22

A slow day of delicious conversations. I noticed that I will read a poem—or Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful quote—aloud to anyone who will stand still long enough and not visibly roll their eyes. Actually, I don’t really notice or mind eye-rolling. I simply love these words, am lit by these words, and am in love with sharing them. Perhaps I’ll rethink my reclusive lifestyle …

 

4.30.22

Today a sublime thing happened. Julian Peterson and Buddy Jones—old friends—came into the gallery and played together, while people wandered in and talked and peered in the open window. A slice of heaven for me. Dear friends and brand new baby walkers visited (some ingesting a fair amount of chalk), many unknown people and the very first artist to work on the mural (5.5 years old) returned for her fourth visit. It was the busiest and most wide-ranging emotional day, including a conversation about this being the driest April ever recorded in this area, and how that feels in the mountains.

 

4.27.22

Ukraine. The reality pulls against any optimism. After reading the news today, I read an old copy of High Country News a friend left at my house. Jennifer Sahn, Editor in Chief, writes about resilience, “Perhaps resilience is believing that there will be a kind of comfort in the discomfort, that our spirits will remain intact, that our capacity to love the world and one another cannot be diminished by hardship. In fact, maybe that capacity to love is the very thing that will get us through.”

This image is a poster created by Anja Rozen, a 13-year-old from Ravne na Koroškem, Slovenia. She is the 2021-22 Peace Poster Contest Grand Prize Winner, sponsored by Lions Clubs International. She said, “My poster symbolizes that we are all connected to one another and to the planet. People are holding onto each other; if one lets go, the rest of them would fall. When people look at my poster, I want them to think about how much we are connected to people we might not even know. We are all members of the earth community and we need each other to survive. In addition, I want them to realize we need to respect the earth more and take better care of our planet. I believe that only when there’s peace can nations and the whole world achieve political and economic stability, as well as cultural growth. Thank you.”

 

 

4.24.22

Being at the gallery this weekend I felt as if I were following clues—small shining white stones—towards ??? Some clues I hear myself say, some I hear others say, sometimes people share their inspirations and I write them down. I am following a path that is actively being created in this collective conversation—being both baker and dough. Sometimes I’m too excited or exhausted and not quite listening, but often I’m right there and sense the stones being placed. Dropped? Appearing. Someone remarks what a blessing it is to be in this conversation; it feels like a blessing.

 

 

 

 

4.23.22

Old friends came by and we talked of everything under the sun. And then they sent their friend by, a physicist, who walked around with me, sharing what element he felt when he looked at the triptychs. So delicious, as he and I rarely felt the same element. For some reason, this was very funny and satisfying. Perhaps because the pieces weren’t broadcasting an idea of an element, but a feeling, which is more likely unique to our own individual narratives and lives. Not even these two evoked similar elements (clearly a wood burl and air, right?!)

Also, it was the celebration of Earth Day. A mother sat near her young son drawing on the mural. Her drawing was of nature with the text, “We need her.” A tear slid down her cheek.

 

 

4.22.22

I met early in the gallery with a friend of a friend and had a wonderful conversation, lit with many overlapping ideas. She said she had needed to step away from working on climate change as it became too emotionally devastating. We talked of how the way Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the earth is perhaps essential; to feel that deep belonging to the earth, to act from that belonging—almost as a spiritual practice.

 

 

4.17.22

Easter Sunday. I write early to my family: life and love continue beyond form and time, and we serve that continuance. We are simply and profoundly channels for life and love. It is quite a day. For some reason, the connection between capitalism and the rupture of our sense of belonging to the earth and to each other seems on the minds and lips of everyone I talk with. It is very clear today. In different ways the conversations circle around this rupture and the choices surrounding it. Conversations include talking about the connection and relationship children feel with the natural world—one father talking about his one year old son reaching out and stroking a dragon-fly who stays utterly still—people choosing to step away from a culture that monetizing everything, people talking about art in the service of change. A very powerful day for me. Five groups, all distinct conversations. At the last, I’m asked what was the impetus for the show and immediately begin to cry.

 

4.16.22

I talked with a woman about the importance of working everyday. How you can learn things you don’t learn any other way. I can feel something let go in me, or maybe sit up straighter, yes, that is true, I know this. Perhaps I can quiet the wrestling about working for now …

I’m told that I seem willing to be a channel, letting things come through me and right out my mouth. I am honored and know it is what I trust most right now, what I am moving towards with all my heart.

 

4.10.22

More wonderful conversations, family, time talking about art, the earth, what is useful … I notice my favorites pieces in the show: the huge first Triptych and two of the most simple, small triptychs. I really love these pieces, and even when it seems people don’t respond to them, I feel full with their beauty.

 

 

4.9.22

So many beautiful conversations. The show feels very much like a coherent marking of my thinking at this moment—and complete. I am more able to drop into conversations with full hearted attention. Really sweet for me. Often people come in and stay for a long while and we talk, and when they leave, another individual/group/pair comes. I love this magic one-on-one time. Many people I don’t know wander in, often pulled by children. Everyone loves their lagniappe (“a little extra”, a free gift); one little girl says she’ll sign it too. It is an utter pleasure to give.

 

 

 

 

4.3.22

My Mama’s birthday, celebrated throughout the day (her rug is central in the gallery space). Many conversations with guests and I’m a bit embarrassed at how much I have to say about everything. Interesting. I’ve been in my teeny studio wrestling with how long it takes to make these pieces and whether that is useful in the face of our climate crisis. With the noise of that uncertainty, I’ve not heard what I think about them. Interesting to hear what others say, and what I report I’ve been feeling. Very useful: it feels as if this project was necessary to discover what is next for me. I love when people I’ve acknowledged in my statement come in and read what I’ve said about them.

 

4.2.22

Opening day. Dear friends and family come, with enthusiastic love and support. The highlights are young children who come in, pulling their parents in their wake, crystal clear about their love of the earth and happy to draw upon the mural. Shown is five year old Elliot’s eagle, birds and mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

4.1.22

April 1st was the first day in the Arbor Institute with my show Wide Belonging: earth series, showing a dear friend and former student around. She remarked on how good it felt to have the show feel so warm when talking about the earth and climate change, as it usually feels hard and sharp.

Around the gallery I have copies of my artist statement: Every piece in the earth series has a singular purpose: to bring attention to and affirm our sense of belonging to the earth. 

I believe we are devastatingly lonely—and a bit bewildered—thinking and acting as if we’re separate. Even more dangerous, that separation engenders short-sighted actions, leading to our climate crisis which now looms over our very existence. We have forgotten the obvious truth that everything is connected.

I have books, poems, art books, and quotes up that eloquently speak to this belonging, including this beautiful piece by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

 

We often forget that the planet we are living on
has given us all the elements that make up our bodies.
The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells
inside our bodies all come from the Earth and are part of the Earth.
The Earth is not just the environment we live in.
We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.
Realizing this, we can see that the Earth is truly alive.
We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet.
Knowing this, we can begin to transform our relationship to the Earth.
We can begin to walk differently and to care for her differently.
We will fall completely in love with the Earth.



 

 

 

beauty

Beauty. However, whenever, as often as possible.

so human

This is perhaps my favorite piece of writing. It’s from The Diary of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain. This is from Eve’s diary and echoed in my thoughts last night. The Illustration is by Lester Ralph

By watching, I know that the stars are not going to last. I have seen some of the best ones melt and run down the sky. Since one can melt, they can all melt; since they can all melt, they can all melt the same night. That sorrow will come—I know it. I mean to sit up every night and look at them as long as I can keep awake; and I will impress those sparkling fields on my memory, so that by and by when they are taken away I can by my fancy restore those lovely myriads to the black sky and make them sparkle again, and double them by the blur of my tears.

pairs

I just set up an Instagram account, a step towards being more public with my artwork. I will focus on my current paintings on paper–the pairs. More than any other work of mine, I follow them; working on one and then the other, moving back and forth until the “conversation” between the two is beautiful and viscerally moves me. The “voice” of each pair is based on their relationship to the other.

These pairs affirm my sense that everything is talking to everything else, that we are always in a dynamic exchange with another, inherently changing both entities. These pairs are about belonging. Belonging to each other, speaking to each other, changing each other.

These two were my first pair; the moment I finished them, I felt they were the work I have been moving towards for most of my life.

a daily whistle

Religion, prayer, ritual, poetry and art serve to keep mystery close to us. Like calling a wild animal, or a happy dog back to our side. A daily whistle.

choices

Always good to remember there are choices. And the importance of keeping surprise on your side … Got to go whip my hair into something stranger.

beauty

Emmet (17) and I went to Macky Auditorium last night to hear a concert—Emmet bearing one of the only non-gray heads in the house. Joshua Roman played the cello through a very eccentric Gulda concerto and then returned to the stage—to mad applause—to offer a gift: Mark Summer’s Julie-O. The entire audience was rapt. I was aware of how special this moment was and thought of the line from Colum McCann’s Dancer, “The real beauty in life is that beauty can sometimes occur … ” Art.

awareness

Anstis Lundy

The homepage quote is from a letter Anstis Lundy wrote me many years ago. She was an artist and a dear friend of my mother’s, living down the road from our house. As a child, I gravitated to her—soaking up her warmth, humor and artistic sensibility—and she would often let me sit at her table and draw. My sense of myself as an artist was born in her presence, from the inspiration of her life and work, and the encouragement she poured into me. Today, as I prepare for my MUSE classes, I have her letter tucked into the front cover of my notebook. In her elegant handwriting, she reminds me,You must fill your heart, soul and mind with awareness … I truly believe that you are as good—and visa versa—as your art is, and I don’t mean the word “good” as nice, pleasant, or anything like that, but “quality”, “interest”, “guts”, “passion”, “joy”, those kinds of words. The translation into a work of art is putting that awareness into your fingertips.”

 
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