Saturday, December 31, 2011


I like taking a page or two from Joyce, Carroll and Swift to make words up - long ones - especially in a time of abbreviated postings, texts and tweets....

I run by this part of the Potash Brook almost every week and as the weather has gotten colder (still no snow) the icestallations around branches, rock and leaves grow and begin to assume their own lives. I had intended to put my boots on and photograph them in their crystalline glory, but holidays and balmy weather conspired against me slipping away and into the icy waters. Today, I was pleasantly surprised by the way they assumed a new life, having been warmed, and then re-frozen...There are now opaque, dripping forms that had some crystalline, cellular structures overlaying that milky white interior. Where before, light could refract through them, to distort the images of what lay beyond, the icestallations had become their own and in doing so formed haunting colonies of the still and quiet suspended above the rushing and chaotic. That's a beautiful poem for me this New Year's, to stay close to the chaotic and powerful currents of life, and craft my form from that seductive energy.

Happy 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011



 There's poetry to it. To me, the resemblance of limestone to human bone engenders a connection that's visceral and magical. As old sea beds, limestone reveals former inhabitants; shells, fish and other aquatic life. Like the wonder I feel when I walk on a frozen pond - I never tire of the sensation that I am walking where I would not have been able to walk before. This limestone has a creamy texture, slightly alkaline on my hands, a soft, soapy feeling that is novel in my ecosystem where acid and rough quartz dominates.This limestone came from Kansas, more exactly, from the sidewalk leading to an Opera House somewhere there. I smile when imagining people spilling out from Tosca, or Carmen onto these rectangles - their bodies filled with arias and stories set to song. I'd like to think that over the years, the music may have made it's way into the stone. I get the feeling that there's more Magic Flute than Ring Cycle in this stone.

The layering of story in the stone, the sea beds, the Opera, and now here, compels me. True, everything has a story. However, there's a power to hearing a narrative from someone, seeing evidence of that narrative in an object and then integrating it into an installation that just does not exist in many pre-fab or over-designed objects these days. The imperfections of chisel marks and wear indicate that these stones were connected to people, the ones that mined the stone and the ones that walked the stone. Salvage materials, antiques, slow food, herbal medicine, these are ways of connecting to deeply satisfying feelings of humanity and the powerful stories that we all carry within.

The limestone patio space is about 450 square feet. The generosity of the stone size creates a bold pattern that relates to the strong lines of the house. Having the patio at ground level creates a more instantaneous connection to the landscape than the previous wood deck did. The renderings illustrate the anticipated final result. The columns that resemble those on the front porch, would support red triangles of canvas that could be rolled and unrolled like a sailing jib, as the weather dictates.The following photos are at the intermediate stage of installation, as well as some details of the beautiful shells and chisel marks. I'll include photos of the finished installation in the spring.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Art Show

The art show at Meekins came down the other day. 

It's always easier to undo something like that than it is to put it up. Perhaps in amongst all the contributing elements to the challenge of installation are the butterflies so present before the opening of the show. I truly enjoyed the experience of seeing my work up and in the world. Pictures framed, in a dedicated space for showing and with others from the same series gives a new context to the work. Having them all there where I could see them from a distance and in different light gave me a new understanding of my work from my own perspective and, most importantly, from the feedback people gave me. It's funny how easy it is lose myself in the minutia of my mind. I loved hearing and seeing peoples reactions to the paintings - and I re-learned that those responses compel me to paint and make stuff as much as my personal need to understand and honor the world around me. 

So, Thank you to everyone who came to the show and helped get it together.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Santa Fe Railyards

We've been back a month now, and I am still living portions of the trip to New Mexico in my mind. We spent alot of time at the Railyards while there. It's where there's some great art, the farmer's market and some beautiful design. Recently - as in 3-5 years ago, the area was rehabbed to accommodate a park, playing fields and the Farmer's market area - among other uses. Walking in an area that has new life without remnants of it's old one stripped away or paved over deeply inspired me. I found it refreshing that the design choices respected the old in ways that are culturally relevant and engaging today without being saccharine, facile and overtly commercial. Keeping the connection to the railroad - with the commuter rail service that runs to Albuquerque, the old Santa Fe Railroad, (even the logo design is iconic) and the layout of the old tracks establishes the sense of place - and establishes a strong rhythm for the site, wherever you move through the site - there is always the datum of the straight line to refer to. These lines run through spaces with mostly hardscape and those without - the poetry of these lines is that they always make sense given their location and retain their integrity as path, incised design element or material. Being such a long site, the lines also helped to choreograph movement though narrow spaces and helped to delineate the different programs going on. 

I could go on about the cool, landscape geeky details that abounded. The best summation though is expressed by the joy of the children I saw there - who delighted in the market, waving at the trains, and in the creative spaces for sliding, running and being their age. What a great accomplishment for the city and what a gift for the people that live there.

Friday, November 11, 2011


One of my favorite lines is “keep redreaming the world with more light.” It’s from the Famished Road, a novel by Ben Okri. What a directive. I attempt to do so in my paintings, and aspire to do so in my daily life. Inspiration lies out the window – there are so many types of light and characteristics of it that it would be a project to document them all. 

The light in New Mexico astounded me. The combination of altitude, no humidity and colors in the landscape produced some of the crispest, cleanest light I’ve seen. The sublime scale of the sky and mountains, desert, and mesas displayed the variability of light and deep contrasts of shadow – that trees, hills, and soft, well-watered landscapes obfuscate. (It’s funny that before going to NM, I posted about the nature of Fog.) Walking around every day while there, I could see why artists – especially Agnes Martin, an abstract painter, gravitated to the area. While buildings, hills, mesas and mountains were legible as such to me, the powerful contrast between light and shadow, and sky and earth, created abstractions and compelling patterns on forms that were already engaging  – adding unique dimensions to my visual experience. The following are some examples of this light phenomenon. I am eager to explore them more deeply through painting this winter. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


Winding through the canyons near Los Alamos and seeing the steep cliffs pocked with holes should have been an indication of the wonder that awaits at Bandolier National Monument to me, but I was so inspired by the beauty of the surroundings they did not register. A short distance from the visitor’s center at the monument, the canyon cliff walls rise precipitously, and in them are many, many caves and dwellings from centuries ago. Since I was little, I have always loved going to places and seeing how peoples there lived before modern times. In these past years, I have had the good fortune to see monuments and sites in the Americas. What I am struck by in these locales, be they in Peru, Mexico, or New Mexico, is the rootedness in place they exhibit with the materials and configuration of the settlement patterns. I have never visited any settlements that were based on the circle as the abandoned pueblo at Bandolier and the thriving pueblo at Taos are. There’s something powerful to me about basing the town pattern on a sacred geometric form. I am no expert, but it’s a compelling way to connect people to the land and to their ancestry. Besides, it’s also very defensible against marauders. The cave dwellings were beautiful and interesting as spaces, and the prospects they offered of the verdant valley were inspiring and at the same time comforting. I enjoyed the adventure of climbing into them and imagining what the scene must have been like centuries ago. 

Perhaps the most exciting experience of going to Bandolier was seeing the petroglyphs in the canyon walls above former dwellings. There were many incised circles, spirals, people figures, and abstract step patterns. My favorite one was of a parrot. At 100 paces and after centuries, this rendering had a divine sense of humor, spirit and gesture. I love when art makes me laugh. Seeing this art, in this setting, and how the connection it shared with patterns of settlement and belief was marvelous. As an artist, it inspired me greatly to see that the compulsion to make stuff, to express wonder or confusion or just joy, spans time, cultures and place. It’s a gift for today, the future and the ones who went before. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Water in New Mexico

I just took a trip to New Mexico with my family. I thought a lot about water, its qualities, and our need for it, how it defines our lives – with either too much or too little of it, or the delight of discovering it in a stream, a landscape, or a hot spring. Driving through the desert, and looking at the mountains, you could see where the streams were – with the sinuous lines of aspens making their way down the mountain sides along the beds. In the valleys, rows of gnarly cottonwoods lined the arroyos to create lush screens between stretches of desert or grassland. The greatest river in the area, the Rio Grande, was sunk into the earth, so, that you had to descend into it to reach it’s cool green waters, and the lush banks that held healing plants. After the great expanses, and muted palette of the landscape it was healing just to see many shades of green. Hearing the water was also a joy -  its sounds cooled my thoughts, and refreshed my soul with its melody. 

In the midst of the formal settlement of the west in the nineteenth century, John Wesley Powell recommended that the western states be defined by watershed. Experiencing the critical nature of water while there, embracing such an idea would have been genius – considering the legal wrangling over water rights and uses that define modern times. That idea too would have helped to give people a stronger tie to the land – linking them to a specific basin that was responsible for their resource – making them stewards instead of consumers – with little consideration for those down the line or at the other end of the pipe.

It makes me glad to see that while there are the pervasive methods of storm water “management” that funnels runoff into giant catch basins– (the biggest I’ve ever seen) and into deep, deep detention ponds, notable examples of alternative storm water “management” are to be seen in that area. They include blue/green infrastructure in a traffic calming bump out by the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe – with an infiltration strip and plants instead of a giant gutter, and the well-preserved corridor around the river in Santa Fe to give a semblance of an intact riparian zone. Through thoughtful planning and design, the culture is beginning to change around storm water, rain and its critical role in sustaining life. 

Perhaps the most inspiring water related experience I had there though was learning about how the Taos Pueblo people won back their sacred blue lake that had been portioned off into a National Forest. This lake holds significant spiritual value to them, and its waters sustain their daily life. In the Pueblo, a Unesco heritage site, the stream from the blue lake is the only source of water. It runs directly through the center of the Village – from east to west. Along its banks are signs that ask visitors to respect the waters and keep them clean. The banks are verdant, and Cottonwoods and aspens thrive nearby, offering shade and color. I sat by the river for a large part of my visit there – listening to the water and looking to the mountains – following the colors of the aspens to observe the course of the water to the lake I would never see (only tribe members are allowed to go there). I am still struck by the power of being connected to your water source, making it sacred and part of a daily meditation. I don’t want to project too much onto anything that I don’t know much about, or romanticize, but that experience was powerful to me. It’s marvelous to see the caring people are capable of when given a sense of connection to where they are, and how the relationship they share with the landscape can go both ways and develop into a something profound and lasting. 

Santa Fe River

River, Taos Pueblo

Hot Spring by the Rio Grande

Rio Grande

River, Taos Pueblo

Rio Grande Gorge

Saturday, October 8, 2011


There’s something reassuring about waking up in a fog. Everything blends, the world is softer, not so bright. Fog always seems to be around in these transitions days between seasons – easing us into a new awareness of the change around us. I always feel a deep sense of poetry with fog – it befuddles the clarity grasping part of my mind and pushes me to accept the multi-tonal variation of the scene before me. As a human, that’s tough for me. These days there’s a premium placed on being right, clear, concise, and decisive.  I agree that there are indeed situations that call for that – when in long lines at the local coffee shop, being an important one for example. However, there’s a joyful confusion that’s good for my mind to enter into while walking through the foggy landscape. 

I guess that the foggy landscape enhances our peripheral vision (the importance of which is in my consciousness because of an old friend)  a faculty I would like to focus on – yes, I note the irony there - maybe develop is more apt?….It’s not too often that I get a chance to be muddled and be safe about it. It’s part of my mind and self where I believe the creative process wells and then spills over onto the page, the landscape or the canvas. When I think about it further and where many fertile and exciting areas are in an ecological context, it’s the ecotone, or the transition zone – the periphery of determined ecological areas. These ecotones, examples being: salt marshes, forest edges, Black Oak savannas, etc., are where diverse species meet, intermingle and cross paths. Because of the degree of “slippage” from one context to the other, they are therefore hard to classify and defy common taxonomy. Fog is the ecotone of conscious states for me, and as such, I can glimpse elusive dreams, more defined landscape forms and a range of elements in between.