Friday, January 29, 2010

New horizons

After dumping a substantial amount of liquid gelatin all over the stove and myself yesterday, I took my industrial-strength gelatin plate to the Big Studio today. We printed quantities of fabric, wild and crazy time.
Back at home I've pushed a smaller projects back into action. This piece has been bugging me for quite a while. Yesterday I stitched on it again, etching some dark and contrast in:
I took out my acrylic paints and worked over a piece which felt way too sweet for me. Now it will be the base for new ideas: Years ago a colleague told me, if you don't like something, don't throw it out. Use it to try something new. If you already hate it, you can't ruin it, her logic ran. And you might learn something. I've been reading some good books about acrylics and just signed up for a course, Painting Without Parameters, which I hope will push/lead me to new places.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The goal for the week was to get to the Big Studio, but the reality was I crossed the threshold of my Little Studio upstairs, cleaned off my table, and made some cards. It felt good to move color around again.
Hours on the phone working the way through mom's bills have also improved my ability to cut through those endless automated phone trees. Next comes 2009 taxes.

Our chair arrived. This was a piece my mom bought decades ago. I brought it home when we closed her house: it was already "shot" from my dad loving it. We wore it right through. The bottom was dragging on the floor. After months of thinking and budgeting, I took it and my favorite upholstery scraps to the same upholsterer who donated fabric to Lowell Fiber Studios almost two years ago.
He was surprised, but charmed, I think, by the trust. I've had waves of doubt since then. But look: it's a work of art! They used symmetry to balance the onslaught of pattern. I especially love the way the cording changes from place to place. And if you flip the cushion over, it's different on the other side. Wonderful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Art and Alzheimers

From the blog of John Zeisel, author of I'm Still Here, a book I recommend for anyone with Alzheimer's in their life. Watch this clip to see how theater reaches these "unresponsive" people:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Warmth in Winter

This weekend was my daughter's break between hard semesters. Sunday we rode the T into town and snagged half-price tickets to In the Heights, in Boston for two weeks.
O wow. Music, rhythm, love; an old lady as a central character; talent, lights, dancing. I love the theater.

Then a long walk under the fairy lights along Commonwealth Avenue, and a bus ride down Mass Ave back to Harvard Square, where my honey met us for dinner and a bus ride home. Bliss.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Work with What You Have

Yesterday reality intervened in my thoughts to tell me: work with what you have.

I spent the morning reading about Alzheimer's and art therapy. I found an image of a doorway, and cut black foam-core rectangles for students to trace.

Only two students arrived. Both were kind; I reached them socially. But paint/paper/hand remained a mystery.
I watched my student's hand poised above the paper, his eyes closing with fatigue, and thought "This is fine. Drop expectations. Praise. Repeat."

Then, of course, there is the continuing news from Hatii.

"Behold, I tell unto you a mystery." All rushing around after lesser things -shows, taxes, deadlines - they amuse us, but they are illusion. Sit with a friend. Call your mother. Hug your spouse.

So today I made sourdough starter. I'll pick up my daughter at noon, give her lift to her old school. And I'll send money to the Red Cross.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inching up the Pile of To-Dos

Butterscotch keeps a vigil in my studio, waiting for me.

The New Year Paperwork pile diminishes. The Loading Dock Gallery Press Release shipped yesterday: I found the Power of Attorney and faxed it to my mom's credit card company. I reached the social worker to remind her that business mail comes to me now, then I sent mom envelopes and stamps to forward what slipped through. I asked the doctor for paperwork to confirm that Skilled Care is medically required. I talked to her tax accountant, and got her estimated taxes in the mail.

Then I taught class. I decided these women, all wheelchair-bound and many quite frail, could use a little freedom. So I bought 1.5" paint brushes for everyone - the kind you use for painting trim. I made sure everyone had a ruler. You should have heard the whispers. What? No flowers? No still life? I put this sample on the board:"Start with a straight line. That's your horizon. Now paint the paper with water til it shines. Thend add color, and see what happens."

Tentatively, each student began. The hour's never sped by so fast. "I love the pastels!" said one when I held up one woman's work. "It looks like beach in winter." Soon we had as many different visions as we had students: night sky, winter landscapes, northern lights, tall dunes. Two people asked to hold on to their paintings, so they could work on them later. Yahoo!

Now it's time for my book-keeping. Then FINALLY Iwade into my studio. After holiday sales it is trashed.Wish me luck. January is the month of peace: a time to sort, toss, restore order, as Mimi Kirchner so beautiful describes here. I'm late getting started. Put on some music. Let's go.

O yes: I have to order scarves too. My sister wants to take some with her to sell when she goes to France in February.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rushing Forward While Sitting Still

My paperwork has spread to the dining room table (actually in the living room). I have been rushing forward mentally, researching art and the elderly. I believe art can be beneficial without being therapy. Apparently this is a radical New Idea. Not much is out there. Gene Cohen, so recently gone, was a "pioneer." TimeSlips uses stories. MoMA does Alzheimer's outreach. But there should be so much more.

So I'm reading about teaching art to children: they are also beginners. But adults have years of experience even if they're not artists (as one of of my students frequently protests). Plus my students may or may not be mentally intact, and their bodies may or may not cooperate. Experience, vision, hearing, mobility, understanding, I must take these all in stride, in 60 minutes, while teaching art.

What to do? Take a course in teaching? Volunteer with Hearthstone? Or maybe put aside the books and take a painting class, find out (again) what it's like to be the beginner.

*Breathe* Pay the bills. Run the errands. Make dinner. Flip goes another day.

Here's a shot from a quiet moment in our house. Nina The Tramp comes inside now its so cold, but you can tell from those eyes that you better watch what you say.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Advance Class in Organization

I'm hip-deep in the flotsam from my mother's apartment. Layered on top of my left-over holiday inventory are piles for resale and donation. Paperwork is everywhere: IRS forms, medication receipts, bank statements.
Then there's the table full of jewelry, sorted for resale. Check out these pieces from the early 60s.
Yesterday's big event was the retrieval of donation receipts from Lancaster (I'd stored them with my Ipod) and winnowing the number of suitcases in the living room down to five.

Then last night two good friends from Long Ago arrived for one short night. We went together to hear their son's college choir. To overlay beautiful music, lovely children almost adults, and shared memories from when we were the ones just setting out - my heart is all upside down today.

Catie says, time for another walk.