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Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

art making in the time of Parkinson’s…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2022

seeing red, both in life and in headlines

I continue to be both amazed and amused that I am able to make art while living through one of the most difficult time periods of my adult life. As I bear witness to my husband’s steep decline into Parkinson’s; as he loses more and more of his independence and thus becomes more dependent on me; as my workload increases; as I assume responsibility for the myriad of tasks he has always done for me, our home, our family and community; as each day of my life is filled with more and more time consuming tasks; I make art. In fact this week I have two pieces running concurrently. Both are mostly red, which is a great metaphor for my current mood.

As a ‘recovering’ workaholic, I know I am up for the task. Actually I don’t think about it much, I just do. And do and do and do. My multitasking abilities are still on point, halfway into my seventh decade, which I find very reassuring, as dementia runs in my family. I mostly sleep well, without any medicinal help, but often wake up at 5 or 6 for the day, which is very strange for me; having never been much of a morning person. And yet I am very aware how important it is that I be present in my body, as it is when we are so distracted that accidents happen. And breathe…

Yesterday was a milestone day in that I took away his car fob. I have been concerned for a while that his neurologist said it was still ok for him to drive when he can barely stand up, hardly walk, and falls constantly. I kept saying we needed him to stop driving before an accident and not after. And yet he still drove; often too slowly and too close to parked cars, but he was ok he assured me. I was just overly cautious. It was ok, until it wasn’t.

His PT caregiver informed me he had run a red light, then stopped dead in the middle of the intersection and nearly hit two people. I immediately scheduled an assessment of his driving, and in the meantime took his car key. So far he has shown no interest in driving my new car, but just in case I hid that spare key as well. It wasn’t an hour later he noticed and complained that the caregiver and I were just paranoid. I know it was the right decision and particularly the right time, before an accident happened.

As I mostly maintain my composure at home, I am releasing tears all over town. In the car on the way to buy groceries, I cry; in a Zoom meeting I weep, in the shower I sob. People worry about me, do I have support, while simultaneously not offering any. Actually the best support I have is available 24/7 and that is the Parkinson’s Caregivers Support Group on Facebook. There I go to learn, show empathy, concern and compassion, vent and weep. What a God-send.

And still I make art…for which I am immensely grateful.

Be well,

summer exhibit at Petaluma Arts Center

Friday, June 10th, 2022

Common Threads postcardI was invited to show 5 pieces of my narrative work in the summer exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center, June 11-July 23, 2022 . The Arts Center is located in the former baggage room of the Petaluma Train Station (now the SMART downtown station); 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA. Hours: Friday and Saturday, 12-4 pm.  Opening reception: Saturday, June 11, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Common Threads: Art & Fiber curated by Carole Barlas, Irma Vega Bijou and Llisa Demetrios, includes some of the early history of Ida Belle McNear and the nearby former silk mill; with examples of the range of plant and animal fibers locally available like cotton, flax and tencel to wool, silk, alpaca and angora. Also included are many of the spinning and weaving tools that take a fleece to garment; as well as art and wearables made from these fibers.

The curators statement: “As we spoke to the artists about their art works, there was a passion, joy and enthusiasm for what each could make with fibers. The possibilities were endless from functional to decorative, from practical to artistic, and from utilitarian to playful.  They are all very hands-on as they work. Some work by hand every step of the process of taking the fleece or fiber to the finished piece.  The artists would often iterate on an idea. There was a boundless, endless curiosity of each artist about what fibers could do.”

My works in this exhibit are Defining Moments 1: Maternal Grandparents,  Defining Moments 2: Paternal Grandparents Defining Moments 5: Handcraft Heritage (detail of which was used on the postcard, far right),  Defining Moments 18: Inner Growth, and  Wisdom Gatherers: Dorothy, 94  chronicling the life and wisdom of my own beloved elder.

It looks to be a dynamic show. Go see it if you can!

where have i been, part deux…

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

tulip garden at the Biltmore

Earlier this month I was blessed with a 7 day respite in No. Carolina. As we rounded the bend of what was 2021, and three years of not traveling, I recognized that I was fast approaching lala land if I did not get out of town, or at the very least get a caregivers respite. In December I asked our adult daughter if she were willing to come stay with her father, and “baby-sit” him (his words) while I took a week to clean out the cobwebs? She agreed, so I changed our joint reservation to single supplement and begin to plan how to best use my time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I was in Asheville for just about 40 hours which were crammed full of weather extremes, galleries, good food, tour of the Biltmore and art-filled economy stimulation. An old friend from college  drove 8 hours round trip, which continues to amaze, to meet me for lunch. Additionally,  she introduced me to Ann Harwell, an art quilter I knew only from social media, who had a solo exhibit at the Momentum Gallery. What a joy to meet her, and see her work in person. A very gifted artist!

ceiling art, ATL airport

My friend dropped me off, further in the mountains at Montreat where I attended a 5 day Road Scholar program on the Scots-Irish Migration to Appalachia. The curriculum was less enchanting than the music and the company. I met a variety of strong, wise, aging women, primarily from the eastern half of the country. Had I gone with my hubs, I doubt I would have been privy to such deep and meaningful conversation.

Many had been or were currently caregivers so lots of conversation took place regarding that. You know how you think you are taking exemplary care of yourself, until someone points out that you are not?! That kind of conversation. I slept well, ate too much, battled endless tree pollen, eventually adapted to the 2700′ altitude and walked 20 miles in just 7 days.

I came back refreshed with a new perspective, which took several days to appear. I decided it was time to hire a PT caregiver, for which there has been great resistance from hubs. I finally realized that he will never agree to this, and that the caregiver is for my respite, not his. I also have experienced a deeper level of grief, as his decade of Parkinson’s takes new ugly twists and devastating turns. I remain grateful for the time away, for new perspective, and for feeling all “the feels.” And I am pondering when I can go again?!

Since I got back, I have been mostly doing more downsizing. Initially I set aside one day a month to do this, but the past two weeks, I have done a couple months worth. For example, right now I am uploading a big stack of old fav CDs to my computer, then to Bluetooth which will transfer the tunes to my car. I have gone through, culled and scanned photos from over 7 albums, sorted through DVDs and CDs. I’m hoping this inspires other people here at the old homestead to consider going through their own stuff! There is small progress, in that he stated he needs new fluorescent tubes put up in his shop, so he can “clean it out.”

I remain hopeful.

 

Lake Susan, Montreat, NC

where have i been?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

new work on climate change

Where have I been? Good question…After battling eyestrain and migraine much of the fall quarter, I made some lifestyle changes, which thankfully cleared that problem. With new tinted grey Rx glasses for the computer. I cut back on my screen time, and when I was on the computer taking breaks every hour or so. I also upped the dry eye drops. I started a neurological cocktail of CoQ-12, magnesium oxide and Vit B2, which calmed everything down. However, the most significant change was to completely give up wine, aged cheese, fermented foods and chocolate; the latter being the killer. What is life without chocolate? And what is sweet and fabulous without chocolate in it?

Slowly but surely, the auras stopped and the headaches disappeared. So until I have to learn that lesson again, I feel so much better. I say until I have to relearn it because isn’t that how life goes with us humans? We know what we should not do, but we make allowances and do it anyway? Example: I am lactose intolerant, but they make Lactaid for that. So take a Lactaid and eat that gruyere. No more, until next time, which I hope there will not be.

Additionally I volunteered for a four month project called Cool Block. https://www.coolpetaluma.org I am a Cool Block leader, guiding my neighbors with small changes we all can make towards lowering our carbon footprint. It is requiring far more hours than I anticipated, but I am learning something in the meantime, so all is not lost.

hand-stitched meditation scarf (on linen)

Also I have been hand-stitching a piece of soft linen for a meditation scarf. It is random stitching, and interesting to me where the needle takes me. My stitches are a tad tight as the cloth takes a shape of its own, but I love it the same. I am about ¾ finished and fretting because I am taking a trip soon and wish to take stitching with me. So should I finish this one now, or then, or start a new one, later? (rhetorical question) I am leaning towards starting a new one.

Meanwhile, I painted some cloth that I had commercially printed, about climate change. I am in the design process now, and really loving how it is coming out. I continue to feel immense gratitude for my own good health, and yet sorrow for so many contemporary issues, not the least of which is Ukraine.  Be well.

 

three down, three to go…

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

Dorothy, 94

For most of my adult life I have felt that older women hold the wisdom this world so sorely needs. As young as 30 I longed to visit “old folks homes” and ask them about their stories.  Life intervened, I never had time being a working Mom and wife, to pursue the idea. Fast forward 35 years and with my father and sister both living in assisted care, I realized that many elder women’s minds are gone; memories and wisdom stolen from them. And again I shelved the idea.

When Marion died and I had finished our shared Defining Moments series, the elder women’s wisdom idea resurfaced. First, I asked younger women what wisdom they would want to know from elder women? Their responses were predominantly about menopause. How long does it last? When will the hot flashes stop, etc. I found it humorous because once ‘the change’ is past, who gives it a thought anymore?!

I developed a series of questions and asked women over 80 if they would participate? Most I asked did so. A couple did not. One was an immigrant who still feared for her safety and privacy, years later. I honored and respected her wishes. Most of the “interviews” took place by email. They sent me pages and pages of luscious details about their lives and lots of photos to scan.

Frances, 98

The first piece was about Frances who I spoke to in person. I had never met her before, but she was a former neighbor and long-time friend of the sister of an acquaintance. (lost yet?!) She was 97 at the time. I just learned this week that she died earlier this month at 101, and in her own home; something we all hope to achieve. Frances was a Navy nurse who worked at the Marin shipyards during WWII. She met her husband who was a ship welder, when he came into the clinic with a slag wound. They courted, married and bought their home on a quiet street in Mill Valley, where she continued to live the rest of her life. She spoke with great emotion about her experience with gender pay inequality, as if it were yesterday…that a janitor on the base property made more than she did as an educated nurse.

It took me a good year to design the second piece, on Vivian, 95, the mother of a woman in art group. She too had an interesting life, one of privilege and education, a doctor’s wife (and daughter), mother and accomplished artist. It wasn’t that it took an actual year to design; but that I was driven and motivated to make other work about relevant issues of our time; aka artivism!

I soon figured out that it was the interview process that really stimulated my muse, not the actual quilt making. And it did not help my motivation going forward, when Vivian commented how much she disliked the work, after I sent her images of it completed. Although I had explained my design process when I requested to interview her, she was unhappy that her story was not completely legible.

As my favorite person in the world, my dear Aunt Dorothy was approaching her 94th birthday, I decided I needed to get the piece made about her life; and potentially by her birthday which was earlier this month. She was 92 when I interviewed her. I really don’t know what sparked the design of this work, other than my great love for the woman and human being that she is.

Making this third piece about her life in particular, was the perfect salve after Vivian. First she gave me a big stack of photos to scan, and then a juicy & lengthy interview. She was the 2nd of 5 children born to a teacher and farmer in Iowa. Her childhood was filled with song, chores, and church. They lost the farm in the dust bowl and migrated to California. The family was poor and yet the richness that surrounded them in song and scripture sustained her. She married at 18, saying it was the best decision any 18 yr old ever made and their union lasted 72 years. They adopted two babies, both of whom are now seniors themselves. Her education was determined and lengthy earning her post grad degrees in psychology and education. Her husband’s occupation of pastor and counselor took them to many states and then to Europe where they served in major cities and in Lebanon during the civil war. In each place they lived, she found her place to thrive & contribute as special needs teacher, friend and confidante. They returned to California and continued their life of service to others.

teen Dorothy at the beach. when I pointed out the young man watching her, she named him right away!

If I were to sum up my Aunt Dorothy in a sentence …She is the most kind, selfless, generous, optimistic person I have ever met in my entire life. She makes everyone feel special, whether they are or not! She always has time to listen and wisdom to impart. For as long as I can remember, at maybe 4-5 years old, I have been aware that she ‘saw’ me. I never felt seen as a child; and by that I mean seen for who I was, not for my “flaws”. And yet, even as a very young girl, I was aware that she saw me. This piece became my love letter to her, that yes, I see her, in return. And that is why it was such a joy to create.

Initially when I started this series, I thought it might become my life’s work, as there are so many living elder women, as potential subjects. Many people told me about women in their 80’s, 90’s, 100’s who I could talk to. Immobilized by grief, I never followed up. The loss of yet another good friend to cancer (Marion grew the list to four) somehow inspired this series initially, but then it lost its luster for me, after the ‘interview’ process.

I suspect my lifelong yearning to speak to older women was satiated by simply doing that. I have three more quilts to go. All three women were in their early 80’s when I interviewed them. Time will tell when they are completed.

Meanwhile I am ordering paint for another activism piece! I just can’t help myself.

the weary life of a studio artist…

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

Endless, 5″ x 120″, photo credit by Joe MacDonald, Digital Grange

I’ve been actively limiting my screen time for two reasons, both related to over-use & my body complaining. After a three day migraine caused by a “small” volunteer project for a non-profit organization; a database update that required three documents to be open simultaneously and transferring data from those three to another file online while ignoring the screaming body, as we workaholics are prone to do; followed by eye problems which are ongoing and now nerves in my back and legs screaming from sitting too much. Aging is a privilege for sure, but definitely not one for sissies!

Before all this drama, I finished two pieces about plastic waste. Two years I became aware of all the plastic floating in the ocean, washing up on worldwide beaches. Apparently I had been living under a rock until that time; too bad, so sad, you know the drill.

Upon awareness, I immediately began to take note of my own plastic consumption. I was horrified as I began to notice all the little bits of plastic in my life, everywhere. I stopped buying bottled water in plastic right away and then added more measures such as bringing mesh bags for produce, refusing plastic bags entirely, no straws or anything I did not absolutely need for living.

At that time, I was also finishing a year’s course of braces to restraighten my lower teeth. So I had all these little plastic boxes of plastic toothpicks, and those containing wax for the metal ends of the braces, and plastic toothbrushes, and hotel room keys I had collected for years and expired credit cards, (thinking someday I would do something with them), plastic food netting, berry baskets, straws and so on and so forth. I decided to hand-stitch these to a cloth-covered substrate and thus I created Endless.The piece is 5” high by 120” long which when coiled sits in a 24” circle and was photographed by the fabulous Joe MacDonald of Digital Grange..

Also I designed Recycling (Plastic) is a Myth. Inspired by Plastic Free July and the myth that if we all just recycle a bit more, we could solve the plastic problem. The key to solving the plastic problem is to stop making the plastic. But as fossil fuel companies have stepped back from gas-powered engines, they gotta do something with that fuel. Enter the “cracker” factories, which produce plastic. As we speak over 300 new factories are either permitted or under construction in the US. I digress.

We have been indoctrinated since the advent of recycling that if we toss all plastic into the blue can it will be recycled. Wrong! Actually less than 8% of plastic is recycled. 12% is incinerated, emitting cancer-causing toxins into the air; primarily in lower income communities. Over 80% of plastic goes into the landfill or is sold to brokers and shipped overseas. So the solution to plastic is to stop making it, to stop buying it, to refuse it and to use other reusables such as aluminum, wood, glass, etc. This piece is aptly titled Recycling (Plastic) is a Myth.

Right now I am sewing scraps in colorways, mainly because the scrap drawer was too full. I hope, in short order to being able to start new work.

time well spent…

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

dorothy’s dahlias

This week I was blessed to have a private visit with my 93 yo Aunt Dorothy, who is the light of my life. She, being an extrovert, often has a crowd around her, so for us to just enjoy private time together was so special to me, and seemingly her. She has always had my back, as I imagine she has many others. She is the most kind, giving and generous spirit I’ve ever known; although Marion was a close tie.

In conversation, I ran something by her that had really upset me, although it was by then, days past the incident and I was pretty much over it. I just wanted her wisdom on this. And she delivered!

Upon waking this morning I had an epiphany from that wisdom, that toppled my decades of resentment.  She knew so well this disturbing dynamic having been a witness, for all of my 7+ decades. Her comments were as if she handed me the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my life. All of a sudden, everything fell into place! Old hurts and conversations now all made sense.  Relationships that had tormented me for years all suddenly made sense. I could have been SO angry and yet I wasn’t. I finally felt free of the burden. First, I felt absolute liberation, then I got angry, then I wondered if my time here was nearly over, since I had finally figured this huge juggernaut out?!!!

And then I went into another Zoom meeting. The speaker, Paula Kovarik is an accomplished renowned artist who seemingly is my kindred spirit. I identified with so much of what she said, not only her artistic inspiration (Klee, Calder, Kandinsky etc) who are also mine; but her philosophy about life and art-making. Wow, just wow!

She spoke of bringing what is inside, out; which is exactly what I am doing in my work presently. And in releasing old painful wounds. I am in awe of her work and her art practice, and her discipline (treating art-making like a job!) but mostly what I gleaned from this look inside in her world, today, of all days, is the reminder.

The reminder from Paula and from my  aunt, of paying attention, being present; not only smelling the roses, but observing… the textures, the colors, the patterns, the shapes, all that forms our personal universe. Paying attention, so that when another life lesson presents itself, we notice, and don’t spend decades harboring the hurt. Some folks NEVER get that, whether they are not paying attention or thinking it unimportant. I am blessed with awareness. And most of all, learning from those lessons and moving forward…

And in others news…I just noticed I have not blogged about two pieces of work that were juried into the prestigious Intl Fiber Arts X at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, in beautiful downtown Sebastopol! The show is on now till September 12, open Thurs-Sun 10 am-4 pm; masks required. It is an incredibly diverse exhibit of fiber work, much of it sculptural.

what good are excuses anyway?

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Hypocrisy 1

In the past month, I finished new work that absolutely stumped me in design for the longest time. When I finally figured out what I wanted to do, it went swimmingly and I love it so much! It is titled Hypocrisy 1; because you just know I am making another! It is about evangelicals who worship on Sunday and make mayhem on Monday. It is bound to really anger some devout folks, but most people I know who sing the praises are good, decent, loving, kind people. This work is not directed at them; but instead the hypocrisy of whose who claim to be Christian yet behave badly.

Additionally I have been submitting entries to exhibits and this week got the fabulous news that two pieces of my work were juried into the prestigious biennial International Fiber X at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, July 31-September 12. Seventy two pieces were accepted, many of which are being flown in from all over the world. I’ve entered this show every two years but have not had my work accepted since 2010, so it was really gratifying to get that email!

And, I decided once again to bail on satellite TV. I nearly did a year ago but it all seemed so complicated. Yet when hubs could not watch his beloved Giants (baseball) a couple weeks ago that was the last straw! Oh he could watch it if we added another premium channel to our already bloated plan. So I said uncle and started the process.

The transition required several days of patience, investment in two new Smart TVs, a new iPad for him, because his was too old to stream, several days learning curve and a surprisingly polite conversation with an agent at the satellite company. It turns out I can keep the dish, and do whatever I want with it, for which I have no interest! And no I am not making a quilt of it. My patience continues, as every day hubs needs instruction in how to work the new remote and get where he wants to go. I knew this would be an issue, due to his cognitive challenges, but decided it was STILL worth it to unload the satellite company. And I still believe that.

I joined a FB group for Parkinson’s caregivers which is basically saving my sanity; sometimes having a place to vent is all one needs. I also got my long overdue quarterly art newsletter done (only 3 mos late) and scheduled to blitz mailboxes later this week. I should have taken the time to learn the latest template, but I am a quart low on learning new technology right now! I made labels for work going to exhibit and entered 3 more pieces in another show. Plus there have been those lunches with friends in a valiant attempt to revive my mastery of speaking in person!

So there…all my reasons for neglecting to blog. As an old woman told me when I was young…what good are excuses if we don’t use them?!

musings in the night, part 47…

Monday, April 12th, 2021
RHODIE BLOSSOM

Mendocino Botanical Gardens, rhododendron

The other night’s musings brought me some awesome titles for new work. Not the work itself, just the title! I particularly love ‘the writing on the wall was in invisible ink.” Or “how I became an activist on my way to becoming an old woman.” The funny thing about night musing which most often follows a potty break, is if I just focus on my breath I fall back asleep in seconds. Often I forget that and get a good 2-3 hours of musing, worry and planning in, before I drift back off. People often chide me for being a multitasker, and yet it is my happy place. If I did one task at a time I likely would be committed!

After returning from a 4 day getaway to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary (shocking, I know!), my plate quickly filled. Before the celebration for two, I had been scanning and resizing a myriad of photos from the past 50+ years for a Powerpoint for hubs on the big day. Well into it, I realized that he might not be as thrilled with it as I was, so I decided it really was a gift to myself. And good thing, because the stoic Swede came through with a lack of enthusiasm, as anticipated. Yet I loved every minute of putting it together! This is what 50 years teaches one…tamp those expectations!

air bib

rental on Mendocino Coast for our 50th anniversary celebration… comfortable and luxurious

the view from the house

When we returned home, I resumed researching the next piece, and designing the screens for fabric printing. I had to go with plan B when plan A failed to give me exactly what I wanted. And now I am waffling on plan B. So when someone asks me how long it took me to design something, I always include these days and hours of research and photoshop. The actual construction takes little time! It is really how folks justify in their mind, the price of something. If I am charging XYZ it must have taken me hundreds of hours. Well, that just might be true!

Post-trip, I also entered the overscheduled Zoom zone and yet I am loving it. I am learning so much in the Plastic Pollution class, a virtual multi-week course from Bennington College, taught by Judith Enck, former EPA administrator in the Obama-era.

The SAQA virtual conference from Australia-NZ piled on, but fortunately those sessions are mid to late afternoon in my time zone. Hubs has some OLLI Zooms, which require my setting him up, as he is mostly computer illiterate. And in May I am taking a weeklong immersion on Baja CA with Road Scholar, in lieu of actually going there.

All this has been made possible by my unloading an energy vampire which had been haunting me for months. Wow, what a huge difference! That and dropping 20 pounds, walking regularly and I feel like a new woman. A newly educated artivist woman!

stuck on a title…

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Choose Love Over Hate

Usually when I make a piece of art, the title is the least of my concerns. Not so this time. When I was self-educating on black history I came across a talk by a director of the Southern Poverty Law Center who spoke about hate groups in America. Of course I had to follow that lead, only to learn to my shock and amazement that as of 2019, there were over 940 hate groups within the United States. I found that an unbelievable statistic so I explored further. What I found out was that there is not just one anti LGBTQ group in the US but 49; there is not just one anti-Muslim groups but 100 and so on. Nine hundred and forty hate groups in the US, and that was in 2019. How many more are there now? 

This lead me to reading about hate groups, and how hate is a learned behavior. No one is born a hater. They have to be taught to hate. Which lead me to thinking, why could these folks not be taught to love instead, which led to designing this work.

I had Spoonflower print the numbers/names of the hate groups on white cotton. I then designed a collage of love words, from love songs and poetry; both things I recalled or collected over the years. I screen-printed those in white paint over the hate group background, which kind of distorted it, and what I was hoping to achieve. I also screen-printed the same words in red on a vintage French tablecloth. I cut that randomly to create a mosaic effect of a heart partially covering the hate group background. Perfect! I achieved exactly what I wanted…that is until I got to the title.

At one point the label had one title, it went to the photographer with another title, my website had a 3rd title! Right now, they all say “Choose Love Over Hate.” I think that is actually quite adequate as really, is it not a choice whether to love or hate?

Initially, it was ‘Love is The Answer’. Then it was ‘Only Love Conquers Hate’ and then ‘Choose Love Over Hate.’ It seems important to me to include the words both love and hate; otherwise will the message may not be apparent. Maybe so? The jury is out! Your thoughts?