Friday, October 31, 2008

Never Say Never

Well, never say never. Not too long ago, I declared that I'd never work on another mosaic in all my life. The entire color coded collection of broken tiles that I had gathered for years was recently given to a very grateful art teacher.

Technically, it's not a mosaic but it sure feels like one...only on a super sized grand scale. This newest project of mine is designing and installing a buckskin flagstone and brick patio in the back yard. The genesis behind the new patio is relocating our old patio to better accommodate the charming cherubic fountain. Our $13.88 small child's wading pool will (sadly) likely be replaced by an official landscape pool, much more suited to all this new work that's going into the patio.

Today, Hilary went with me to the stone yard. Everything was rocks, dirt, dust, and spanglish -- I loved it! The price for the stone has gone up since my last visit, which admittedly was a while ago, but I just wasn't expecting that big a jump. Originally, I had planned on buying approximately 100 square feet of buckskin flagstone. But the price increase per ton freaked me out a bit. So, in order to keep the price down and the square footage up, I figured that picking and choosing thinner pieces of flagstone would do the trick. The silliest part of that was trying to explain it to the guy loading it in the back of the suburban in my limited spanglish.
"Por favor, yo necesito mas skinny flagstone y no necesito el gordo flagstone."
He laughed, and helped find "skinny" flagstone. God bless him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

-- untitled --

As mentioned before, Reese and I attended an open mike poetry night a couple of weeks ago. During the same event, a notebook was passed around, and whoever was in the room had the opportunity to write a few words or phrases as part of a collective poem based on the Astrid painting. This method of collecting words in part to become a whole was invented was by surrealists in the mid 20's. The end result is generally referred to as cadavre exquis, or exquisite corpse.

It was nerve wracking waiting and wondering how the various people in the room would respond to the painting in verse.

The finished product was a pleasant exquisite corpse. Thanks to all the poets that night who contributed.


Wondering why I can't go outside today?
When this cold is over, I'll play in the sun all day
And embrace each ray, letting my skin absorb every ounce of its beautiful light.
I will become.
I will be and reflect
Shining summer and sniffing flowers
and romping in fields like a kitten chasing butterflies
until I fall into a pond!
(knowing glance. wonder. life.)
It is only until I fall into the pond that I see who I am.
If only I had followed rather than just glanced
And to follow would not be so bad if but I followed the One.
Looking for Him, I seek.
One precious in His eyes. Praise be to God.
Your gaze is like a cold drink
pure water to renew my strength
and hope for another day
Another day still coming.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pink and Ike

"Naturaleza Muerta en Rosa" (or Still Life in Pink) is my offering for Lawndale Art Center's Dia de los Muertos exhibit. It's so named for a few reasons. My friendship with Francoise blossomed because she generously and graciously helped me learn a little french. One of the things we did together was watch the Oscar winning movie, La Vie en Rose, the tragic life story of French singer, Edith Piaf. Though the actual translation for La Vie en Rose is Life in Pink, Francoise explained that it was more akin to our phrase, "looking at life through rose colored glasses." So thinking about la vie en rose, and how even when one looks at life through rose colored glasses, life still ends in death. Morbid, yes, but consider that this painting is for the day of the dead celebration. I originally wanted to name it "nature morte en rose" which would be the french term for still life in pink....or to take it one step further, death through rose colored glasses. Therefore, my retablo is named with that phrase in mind....except dia de los muertos is a mexican tradition, and so instead of french, I translated the title (and idea) into spanish.....lots of words to explain a little painting. The exhibit opening is tonight.

Fresh Arts put out a call to artists for art made from the debris left behind by hurricane Ike. The strong winds of Ike tore down many fences, both literally and figuratively. Because the electricity was off in so many homes, Houstonians gathered in neighborhoods all over town and started sharing ice, drinks, meals, and stories. So I built a table top out of torn down fence pickets, because the fences were down in our hearts and in our yards. The black bamboo that was ripped out of a friend's yard became the support, or the legs, for what are we without the support of a good friend? The fence table top was tied to the bamboo legs with bits of electrical wire, because really, it was the common loss of electricity that tied us all together anyway. The wine corks under the table top signify the unity from a shared experience and a shared glass of wine.

"Join the Houston community in a celebration of art and perseverance as we hold a silent auction with the art submitted to the MADE FROM IKE art contest. All proceeds from the auction will go to Americans for the Arts Emergency Relief fund and William Graham Emergency Artist Fund that helps local arts service organizations rebuild the arts in their communities.

Caroline Collective Courtyard
4820 Caroline St
Houston, TX 77004

Oct. 24, 2008 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

At 6PM, the doors of the courtyard will be opened and the community invited to celebrate the perseverance of our beloved art scene. Meet artists and organizations who have determination in the facce of adversity, bid on some amazing home-grown art made from Ike´s remnants and enjoy a Saint Arnolds among friends."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The following poem, Canvas, was inspired by "Astrid" and written by Joe Down.

He called a couple of days ago and said that he had written a poem about the painting, and was going to perform it Tuesday night, and that he'd like for the painting to be on stage as he read, and would we please attend? I, of course, was thrilled to oblige. So, last night, Reese and I went to Taft Street Coffee House's open mike poetry night. Having only ever been exposed to Hollywood's version of poetry readings, it did not disappoint. The evening covered a wide variety of thought, naturally as diverse as the little collection of people in attendance. There was feminine anger, ghetto rap, general angst, lightheartedness, and even a few guitar songs. But by far, the poem that grabbed our hearts was "Canvas," for Reese was as moved as I. During Joe's reading, there were several times when the audience snapped their fingers in quiet applause.

Joe is in the top photo as he's finishing. The guitarist partially hidden behind Joe (in the photo) is Rich Lewis. He played some background chord progressions as Joe passionately read the poem. Rich also performed two of his songs in a clarion voice and is performing solo in the bottom photo.


washed in soft light
patient you are
quaintly plain and still
beautiful brown hair
filled with golden light
a daughter of wisdom
yet to be known
beautiful and growing,
you are,
your face alive on the canvas
gentle, quiet and noble
you are
wise for your age
and patient
you are,
there on the wall in peace
alive on the canvas
bathed in beautiful light,
brown hair above shoulders bare
bathed in beautiful light,
a summer dress clings to your frame
holding you in still embrace
holding you safe,
bathed in beautiful light.

even in the wake of disaster
Jesus clings to you
a garment of peace
he will even cling to your neck
and around your shoulders
he is always clinging
bathing you in love
even when life is forlorn
he is there,
yes, he is still there

beautiful young woman
your eyes catch mine
on this cool Sunday morning
and I do not even need
to turn my head
to see your eyes
reaching, alive
longing to be held yet held
longing to be near yet near
your eyes are strong
strong enough
to hold back tears,
waiting they are
glancing forward into years
reflecting dreams of some other day
beautiful young woman
you are not alone
breathing from the canvas
lighting this room with joy
sowing seeds of hope
into these quaint walls
and this polished stone,
hope for a day yet to be known

Monday, October 13, 2008

Star and the Dalai Lama

Carol and I met because she's wonderful. Oddly enough, the Dalai Lama brought us together. Last May, the 14th Dalai Lama came to Rice University to speak on "The Meaning of Compassion in Everyday Life." The event sold out pretty quickly.

How often in life will one have the opportunity to walk a few blocks and hear the Dalai Lama speak? Not only that, but to speak on the meaning of compassion in everyday life? I wanted to go, but there were no more tickets.

So the amazing Reese and I started searching hourly for tickets on ebay and craigslist.

Carol posted on craigslist that she had an extra ticket, and agreed that I could have it! When I went to pick up the ticket, she was preparing for a garage sale the following day. Turns out that she had some wonderful old French garden furniture destined for the sale. Yada yada yada, and the next thing we agreed upon, was a trade of the garden furniture for a painting.

She loves the painting (and I love the garden furniture!) And I already mentioned how wonderful she is, right? When she started thinking about doing something really special for her best friend and partner's upcoming 50th birthday, she thought of me. She commissioned a painting of Star, the beloved pet of her best friend, Slade.

This is the painting that I struggled with so much this summer. One reason it was so hard was because it was a portrait (the dog,) it was a still life (the bluebonnets,) and it was a landscape. All of those aspects had to be believable in and of themselves, and had to be in harmony for the painting to work as a whole. Star's expression is what really gives the painting pizazz, though. What a happy dog. No wonder Star is such a beloved pet.

Happy birthday, Slade.

According to Carol, "Slade received the painting on Saturday night. He just loved it!"

Monday, October 06, 2008

Outstanding in the Field

It was enchanting. It is a movable feast.

The concept of performance artist and gypsy chef guru Jim Denevan is to dine on the very soil that nourishes the bounty on the plate, in the company of the farmers who cultivate it. The event is called Outstanding in the Field.

There could't have been a more perfect location on the Jolie Vue Farm near Brenham, Texas. The tables were set in a gentle curve on a hilltop overlooking waves of pasture. The guest chef, Monica Pope of T'afia, created delicious dishes with complicated names and mysterious taste combinations; names like gruyere, sambal, gribiche, cajeta. It didn't really matter what these words meant, except to confirm that Monica Pope was Jim Denevan's brilliant choice for guest chef. The local farm food and Texas wine pairings were Monica Pope's oil paints. The inspiration of time and place were Jim Denevan's canvas. Together, in the studio gallery of Jolie Vue Farms, they created a small masterpiece.

Reese and I had the privilige of being part of the art for the afternoon. That's me in the black cap across the table. Our dear friends the Globes and the Brownings have their backs to the camera. Reese, bless his heart, is literally outstanding in the field taking the photo.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Busy Week in Review

What an excellent and productive week! Amazingly enough, just as I was lamenting to a friend that there didn't seem to be enough time for all the creative things that I wanted to do, I realized that it had been a busy and creative week after all. This first photo is from the Xnihilo Gallery Showcase Showdown opening reception last Friday night. Dear friend Helen brought some buddies along before going out to supper. They might have all voted for my painting as the Peoples' Choice for Best in Show. If so, muchas gracias. Reese and I still want to go back and really look at the show...we were so preoccupied the night of the opening.

On our trip to Guadalajara, Mexico this summer, I took lots of photos hoping that some of them would be worthy of painting. This little boy was in Santa Ana in the school where we worked in the mornings; Santa Ana is a very impoverished area of Guadalajara. We were there to help the locals finish the actual hard labor work of pouring concrete floors and building walls for classrooms. This little boy was precious. He was sitting in the doorway of one of the front rooms close to the street. Normally I leave out details, but I like the effect of the truck tire in the background. It helps makes the poverty seem more real (in the painting.)

Earlier this week an e-mail came in reminding me of the October 9th deadline for submitting retablos for the Lawndale Art Center's Dia de los Muertos exhibit. How could I have forgotten about this?!! No inspiration -- none at all, except that I had been planning on painting a still life anyway...and what better image to represent a lost loved one than a painting of flowers used to decorate a grave. These sweetheart roses actually decorated our living room, but that's beside the point. Hopefully, it will be dry enough to submit by October 9th.

Whew. After two years, I've finally finished this mosaic. Two years. OK, it hasn't been non-stop work; it's just been looming in the background. Our den is long and lean. Just a few months ago, I gave our over sized "family heirloom" mahogany coffee table to Erin to replace it with the much smaller "better scaled for the long and lean den" unfinished mosaic coffee table. It took an impending visit from very young friends to propel a giant leap in work on the top. It took sheer determination to finish it this week.

A few weeks before Hurricane Ike, the light from our across the street neighbors' front porch light left the shadow of our red bud tree outlined on the front window. I quickly traced the shadow that night, and have been waiting for the right time to paint it ever since. Years ago, when daughter Erin was a senior in high school, she took a class in art history from Miss Mundy (who has since married.) One of her end of year class projects involved a self portrait painted on an old glass window frame. It was so interesting, and is still propped up in a window of our long and lean den. I've basically been wanting to paint on glass ever since. What better than our own front living room window? When I first traced the outline, Hilary and Joy though it was cool. But when they learned that it would be a semi-permanent painting on our living room window, they thought it was a little excessive. When the paint drys, I'll re-paint the inside to make/help it look neater. Right now, from the inside, it looks messy. It's hard to tell from this photo, but it looks pretty neat from the outside.