Sep 16, 2020

Social Distancing

Social Distancing, 25"x45"
 
There's no way around it--I have to paint what I feel.
Often in the evening, I go for a walk at the Berkeley Marina. Mount Tam and the Marin Headlands are blue silhouettes beyond the opalescent water. I see small groups of families there, and I miss my friends. But when I paint it out, it's okay.

Tiny Trailer #5, 11"x11"
 
We're all doing what we can to be creative in our little bubbles.
 

 

Sep 8, 2020

California Fires


 Big Basin 60"x30"

As I made this painting over the last two weeks, I listened to the news of California's fires on the radio, especially the fire in Big Basin. Big Basin has always been close to my heart; there was one of the best walk-in campsites there, a quarter mile from parking with amazing old growth redwoods all around. 
 
I remember camping there with friends when our kids were little. One of the girls was in that gangley growth-spurt stage and was constantly tripping over her legs as the kids scrambled across fallen logs; she'd hit the ground but bounce up and keep running. One night as I was trying to bed our youngest down in her sleeping bag, all of the other children started dancing around the outside of the tent, their flashlights casting magical shadows on the tent walls as they chanted, "Lions and tigers and bears--oh my!" 
 
Our last trip there was cut short by a surprise storm. We were determined to stick it out but ended up loading the car with saturated gear and heading home, but not before we had a beautiful walk through the rainforest.

I was sad to hear that the lodge there was burned in the recent fire, but what I really cared about were the old growth redwoods. It sounds like they have survived. The forest might actually thrive, what with the purifying fire cleaning up the overgrowth.

I thought about all of these things as I painted this portrait of one of my favorite forests. This painting was a prayer as the fire burned and is also a prayer for future adventures under the redwoods.

Sep 5, 2020

Five in the Bed



Five in the Bed, 24"x24" 

I love yellow legal pads. I buy stacks of them at Costco and always have one by my bed. Before I go to sleep at night, I write about my day, sorting through big feelings and trying to remember what I'm thankful for.

During quarantine, I've been writing my life story, going through the boxes of journals and yellow pads, finding gems and making notes. All these disparate parts of me come back, obediant, angry, critical, curious. The shy teenager, the first grade teacher, the world traveler, the new mom, the artist--they all climb into bed with me and influence my dreams.

Quarantine has been going on for six months now, and it's been boring and frightening and lonely. But I'm very grateful for these months of quiet reflection and getting reaquainted with these fascinating bed fellows.

Aug 10, 2020

Dreams of Escape...

 


We are approaching five months under quarantine, and my art is definitely finding a pattern...

 
I mean, I love my family, but woldn't it be amazing to just get away?
 

Jun 20, 2020

National Arts Drive




Today was the National Arts Drive, in which artists all over the United States and Mexico put their art outside for the public to see. I invited Michelle Fillmore to do it with me. We set up easles and put out work in my front yeard. I felt rather vulnerable and wondered if anyone would come, but it was wonderful to share my art with my neighborhood, and I deeply appreciated people who drove over from San Francisco and Lafayette to see my new work. Lots of children got to experience art in a breezy low-pressure environment. If this event happens again, I'd definitely encourage more artists to do it.

May 22, 2020

Curve in the Road


I have been lost in another world for the past three weeks. With my mortality starred me in the face every time I looked at the headlines, I decided to clean out boxes of old diaries. Family skeletons and high school crushes marched through my studio as I read, copied down important bits, threw them away, fished them out of the trash, reread, wrote more, and repeated the process all over again. I've ended up with a 70 page document and am ready to move on. Enough.


May 2, 2020

Sleep #1 and #2



Sheltering in Place... I'm healthy, I have a place to live, and I'm with people I love. So for me, this is a time of slowing down, discovering what it means to move slower, to not watch my husband leap out of bed in the morning for an hour commute. It's strange, but I think I'll miss aspects of this when it's over.

Apr 30, 2020

The Writer


We're nearing the end of the seventh week of shelter in place. A lot of people are approaching this as a time of contemplation, of pausing from the hyper busyness of the past couple of years. I'm pausing and reflecting in my own achievement-oriented way by writing a memoir. It's not something I'd want anyone else to read, but rather it's an exercise in remembering. Does my life have a meaningful narrative? What relationships contributed to the person I am now? What visual experiences led me to be an artist in a seemingly non-visual family? How much can I remember, and if I write it down, can I remember more? As a lover of color and form, can I be a lover of words, too?

Every morning I sit down to write for about four hours. As I progress through the decades, I toss old gilt diaries into the trash. When I leave my computer, my eyes won't focus on distance, and it's hard to readjust to face masks, lines at grocery stores, and unemployed friends. How the world has changed since 1963, since 2019! I rediscover my current self and reaclimate to the world I live in now by going to the studio and painting for a few hours in the afternoon.

Are you writing during this time? Would you like to? Let me know!

Apr 26, 2020

Floating #2


On Thursday evening, I felt so claustrophobic. I just wanted to walk on a beach. Ed and I jumped in the car and drove across the Richmond/San Rafael bridge and down highway 101 to the exit for the Marine Headlands. Everything was blocked. Back in the car, we drove across the Golden Gate and into San Francisco. So many apartments were dark, with almost no traffic on the streets. We went for a walk at Fort Mason; Alcatraz seemed close enough to touch. We drove home across one more bridge.

Now when I walk the Berkeley Marina, San Francisco shimmers inaccessible across the water.

What else is there to do during 2 months of sheltering in place? Read old high school diaries, of course! Which leads to looking up old boyfriends on Facebook. I found Sid, the dispenser of my fist kiss. It made me so happy to see him on my screen, big white beard, big belly, American flag T-shirt, still in the arms of the woman he married right after her high school graduation.

Apr 24, 2020

Another Artist in the Family


 My daughter is working from home right now, but, as a receptionist, she has a lot of down time. She has filled that time with making masks, 13-15 a week that she shares with family and friends and front line workers. Now she's branching out into making art masks....

Apr 21, 2020

Day 38 of Shelter in Place

I texted a friend yesterday. "I am weary of this..."
She responded, "If you approach each day as if it's the one and only day of quarantine, it keeps the day fresh...."


Apr 19, 2020

Quarantine






A friend of mine, Leah Korican, is a poet and artist, and she wrote the following poem. Part of it refers to her teaching art to kids on-line during the shelter in place.

Quarantine

Is it the beginning of the end
or the end of the beginning?
I am bundled in my bunker,
you are spinning on the screen
and you are mute
most of the time. I try to teach you
and sometimes you vanish
or type 25 emojis of a heart eye face
and a brown dog and a yellow flower
or show me a crooked drawing
of Garfield on lined paper.

The worriers are worrying overtime.
The stoners get high before noon
The bakers bought all the flour
and yeast and fill the fridge
I know there are others out
there suffering in the headlines but
Everyone I know is fine but not fine
Everyone I know is waiting it out
Everyone I know is getting a little antsy
and only occasionally cryong

Spring keeps on coming
the birds seem more plentiful
and their song is so lovely
but still somehow annoyingly repetitive
the same three notes
I'm grateful I'm the lucky one
Twitter keeps me scrolling
my eye twitching
in rhythm with the outrage

of what was said and I should
just log off now, log off NOW
and someone tweets it's time for the artists
to create a new world in the forty days
and forty nights-
during the flood
the two by two animals

Apr 15, 2020

Threshold

We're one month into the Shelter in Place. Face masks and disposable gloves have become fashion basics. Zoom gatherings have become routine, but I still can't avoid obsessing about how old I look on the screen. I've gone through my books, sorted my art packing materials, and planted an amazing vegetable garden. Now that  my art friends and I  can flirt with the idea that perhaps we won't die of COVID 19, we're talking about what will become of the arts, and how do we prepare for the new normal?
When the quarantine is lifted, I want every painting in my racks to be a jewel. Our world will need beauty and truth more than ever. If I run out of canvases, it's time to pull out old friends (paintings) from my work space and say goodbye and paint over them.
My galleries are finding new solutions for reaching audiences. Shoh Gallery is hosting an on-line show called How to Breathe. You can see the work at https://www.shohgallery.com/. The Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery is hosting Friday night Zoom sessions. For more info, go to https://jenniferperlmuttergallery.com/2020/02/first-fridays-in-lafayette/



Apr 12, 2020

Woman with Oar

This painting drove me crazy. The sky came very quickly, but then what? A girl on a bicycle? A couple hugging? I must've painted half a dozen variations. But then when I was lying awake, worrying about the virus and our collapsing economy, I realized there had to be water, a destination, hope.
Someday we will go to the ocean. Someday we will have friends over for a big pot of soup. Someday we will go hear a concert, see a movie in a theater, linger in a bookstore, I hope....

Apr 8, 2020

Glad Streams

The week before the shelter in place order, Ed and I went to Chico and Ashland to see family. We went on a walk in Bidwell Park on a gray Sunday morning, and I noticed how the black water had these white stones showing through. When we got home, this painting happened almost spontaneously on the canvas.
On good days during the epidemic, I feel like this, very quiet and peaceful, but I still have my cold feet moments.

Apr 7, 2020

A Poignant Loss

Sheltering in place has its appeal for an introvert like me, but it has its losses as well.
My 100 year old house has a full basement where I paint, and for over a year I've been sharing this space with Michelle Fillmore, a very gifted artist. We'll put a speaker in the doorway between our studios and listen to Ear Hustle podcasts or get angry at the news together. Sometimes when I'm struggling with creative block, I'll hear a long groan come from Michelle, and I'll know she's feeling the same. Sometimes she'll flop down in the recliner by my easel, and we'll talk about the business of art. She has really become a member of the family, especially when she got meningitis and we raced her to the hospital in the middle of the night. She recently had her first solo show at Shoh Gallery which was very exciting.
Michelle's side gig is working at Trader Joe's, and since Ed and I are over 60, I had to tell her she couldn't paint here during the pandemic. That was hard! When I helped her carry her paints to her car, I told her, "I'm looking forward to the day when you can bring your supplies back." I hope that day comes soon, Michelle!

Apr 5, 2020

Painting Loss and Hope

In dark times, do you paint loss or hope? As I did this painting of people together for a meal, I thought of our friends who usually gather around our table every week. It's hard to imagine them at my door again, hugging and laughing. That will be wonderful. In painting Bear Mountain, I claim hope.
But I must also name my present reality. I have my family with me, but I feel cut off from so many friends who are completely alone in small New York apartments and large empty Oakland homes. I also feel helpless. I usually take pride in getting up early and crossing things off my lists. Now it's a time of waiting, reading, praying, being. I watch the oars bob and float in the water.

Apr 4, 2020

Corona Virus Art Residency


When our governor announced the Shelter in Place order for the Bay Area on March 16, I told my husband, "It's like our Alaskan art residency without the bears."(See the previous blog posts.) We have a favorite pre-dawn hike in Tilden Park that is as steep and as beautiful as the walk to the blue bridge that we would do every morning at Alderworks, I have as much focused time in the studio, and contact with friends is limited to screens. I daily feel a fresh clarity--the excitement of a new image on a large canvas, the smell of banana bread baking, the beauty of an empty beach after dark.

But I have to acknowledge that we still have half of our income when many of our friends have none, we are healthy when thousands are struggling to breathe, and I share a home with three people I love while others are alone or worse.

My prayers are for health, safety, employment, and deep connections for all of us as we go through a Lent like no other.

Jun 16, 2019

Closing Chapter at Alderworks

Thank you, Jeff and Dorothy, for your generosity and vision in creating Alderworks, for the multiple rides into Skagway, for the eggs and bear spray and friendly dogs. Thank you, Allison, for all the honest conversations, laughter, and steep hikes. Thank you, Samantha, for demonstrating focus on your work.
Our residency is over but not our travels. On Friday we rented a car and drove two hours into the Yukon Territories, through miles and miles of forest, stopping in Carcross and Whitehorse where everyone we met were artists. Saturday we loaded our bags onto a ferry for Haines, another town with great art, and today we're on to Juneau.
I'll be sorting through what the take-aways are from Alderworks for a long time. Be watching for the mountains in my paintings. I loved the daily rhythm of hiking and sketching that led to new paintings. It was wonderful being part of a working couple, seeing Ed so excited (and frustrated) with his writing. ( I felt frustrated, too, sometimes.) The first thing I want to do after I unpack is apply for the next residency.

Jun 11, 2019

My friend Kathy

We have limited access to the outside world here. In order to send or recieve emails or texts, we have to walk to a bench about 20 yards away by the Bea cabin, under glacial tipped peaks. Sitting on that bench, we get rumblings like distant glacial movements, far away in Oakland or across the globe. A friend breaks up with her boyfriend, another is reunited with a past love, another shatters her wrist.

Yesterday at 5:00, I got word that a dear friend had passed away a few minutes before. Kathy had a huge impact on my life over 40 years ago. She challenged me to live out my faith in hard and tangible ways when many of my friends treated Christianity like a country club. Kathy walked with me through the end of a very toxic relationship which put my life in a whole different direction. We didn't see each other very much for a few decades, but I visited her frequently in Sacramento the last 7 months as her health declined. On our last visit, she was confused and rambling, but as I said goodbye and left the room, she called out after me with great clarity and a radiant smile, "I AM going to Brazil next week!"

I hope you're loving Brazil right now, Kathy.

Jun 10, 2019

New Challenge


It’s a whole new challenge to pick up a pencil or brush after a show. With a focus on an event as a finish line, what is there to do after it’s been crossed but there’s still a week left to go here? Another walk up the logging road to the blue bridge. More sketches. More studies, paintings with an eye to larger canvases when I get home.

Haiku by Ed:

Low clouds snagged by pines.
Glacier ice, crystal mountain. 
I wish to grow young. 







Jun 8, 2019

Birthday



Today is my 61st birthday. That threw the day into sharp focus, like, this is who I am. I installed paintings on slender straight trees and in the studio, and then about a dozen people from Skagway joined us and the Alderworks community. The paintings spurred lots of stories and tall tales. Ed shared poetry he’s written recently. Various dogs drifted through. It was very sweet. A good birthday I’ll remember for a long time.

Here's a recent poem Ed wrote about the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise:

Breathing Deep

First my brother texts me 
that Paradise is in flames,
our birth town
in the Sierra foothills
where Opa hammered
a home together
in a ponderosa grove
that reminded him of Germany,
where Oma planted                                                     
Forget-Me-Nots
in the iron-dense earth.

Then I see on CNN
the hurricane of embers
swirling in a whiplash dance;
every tree a blazing exclamation point
above puddles of boiling asphalt.

On NPR I hear
of the fire’s bared teeth
swallowing horses whole,
then deer, bears, ambulances, hospitals, homes
and the people who flee them
on melting shoes.

On NBC I hear about
the clamor of popping trees
like a chaos of cannon fire,
sky blacker than the
ninth plague on Egypt.

On Facebook I read of
how my cousins drive through flames
to rescue their aging mother;
how they get lost in the smoke,
then huddle for hours
singing hymns
in a parking lot island in hell.

In the Times I read
of my old friend Kevin
whose useless car won’t start,
so he resigns to die
in an easy chair
“with a New Yorker magazine,
his cockatoo,
two tree frogs and a lizard,”
only to emerge, hours later,
to a silent world of ash.

On FoxNews I learn
how chimneys serve
as grave markers,
how chips of teeth and scraps of bone
become precious finds
to families of the missing.

Two-hundred-miles south,
not heeding the warnings
of NPR, NBC, Facebook, and Fox News,
I step outside into the haze,
gaze deep into the honey colored sky
and fill my lungs with Paradise.











Jun 6, 2019

Art Show, June 8, at Alderworks (Skagway, Alaska)


On Saturday, June 8, we will host an art show and reading here at Alderworks, from 11:00 to 1:00. If you are in the area of Skagway, please stop by. (Don’t use the Beware of Dog sign as a landmark—it’ll be replaced by a sign for the event. But the dogs will be here to greet you and guide your truck in.) Ed will be sharing poems, and I would love your input on the art. If you can’t make it, we’ll host an event in the Bay Area on July 20, 2019, at our home.








Here's a poem by Ed:

Mona

Sitting in my kitchen with windows shut
I’m swearing in C sharp
not wishing anyone
to hear me howl.

A warm typhoon has blown in
 from the Gulf of Grief,
wrinkled sky smelling of
thunderclouds and surf.

I’ve always loved the shape of women.
Yours especially.
Your lovely ribs.
Your lotus skin.

 I remember you in the Greyhound depot
with your frayed bedroll and blue canary,
your pharmaceutical bag full of
someone else’s prescriptions.

 Our knees touched
 and somewhere in the Pacific
an island sank.

 I want you still
but you are thinking of one thing only:
crossing me off your list.

Just now, I thought you were smiling
but you were simply drifting 
wanderlust.

Please--before you go--
sit with me just long enough
to watch the trees grow old.

Jun 5, 2019

Alaska Update: Check out photos by Allison Nichols

Two days ago I painted a portrait of Allison Nichols, the other artist in residence here.She creates dreamlike abstracted photos and is compiling some of her photos into a secular prayer book. Check out her work here.

Yesterday we caught a ride with Jeff into Skagway. A huge cruise ship loomed at the end of Broadway, and the tiny town was flooded with shuffling tourists, us included. Ed filled out a request at the museum to find out about his great-grandfather's trip up the Chilkoot Trail in '98. I stocked up on carrots and canned tomatoes--the food from the weekly barge hadn't been shelved yet--and buried myself in a book at the library until Jeff was done taking garbage to the dump--no weekly pick-up here. I was so glad to get back to our cabin and finish a painting that had been weighing on me. I'm addicted to the unlimited painting time here.

Jun 2, 2019

More New Work from Alaska



We are now halfway through our residency. I was able to join the North Words Writers’ Symposium for their Friday night barbeque here at Alderworks. Mostly from Alaska and the Yukon, the participants were very warm and friendly with a wacky humor; at moments of high enthusiasm, they would erupt into hoots and howls. Many of them came to the cabin to see what I had been painting. After two weeks of solitude, I was back in gallery-mode, talking about my art and doing my elevator speech.


On Saturday I joined the group on a historic train that dropped us off at the Laughlin Glacier trailhead. We hiked 8 miles through mossy forest and into a moonscape left by the rapidly receding Laughlin Glacier, scrambling over ice studded with rocks and gravel. Our return train was delayed by a stalled engine on the tracks, so we waited 40 minutes in the rain on a remote mountain hillside. I jumped with excitement when I saw the single headlight appear around the curve.

This morning Ed and I visited the Skagway Presbyterian Church. I felt like we really got the pulse of the congregation as we heard the prayer requests during the service and talked about wild rhubard and wild moose as we ate biscuits and gravy in the fellowship hall.

Now it’s back to work. I sold one painting this morning (my first to go to the Yukon!), and I am putting most of the rest away in the closet so I can start fresh. I have two weeks left to go.


May 29, 2019

Day 11 in Alaska



We are now in our 11th day of a 27 day residency, and we have definitely settled into a routine. We hike up a steep road to a blue bridge that overlooks the West Creek Glacier every morning, accompanied by three or four Alderworks dogs and a can of bear spray. We return to the cabin and work most of the day and then hike to the flats of the Taiya River after dinner. It’s very simple, and one day merges into the next.

Mixing it up some is the North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway this week. Ed is participating. Nancy Lord of “Early Warming” joined us for breakfast this morning, and Susan Orlean of “The Orchid Thief” will be speaking later.

Also adding a new twist to the mix, Allison Nichols, a photographer from New York, arrived at the residency yesterday. She is a delightful hiking companion and an insightful artist, with a gifted swing for throwing sticks to the dogs in the river.



May 28, 2019

New Work




Here's one of Ed's recent poems:

Declaration of Ambrosius de Tortilla
(Discovered in a 16th Century tomb in southern Spain and translated by Ed Aust)

I, Ambrosius de Tortilla, the bonafide Conquistador of Quesadilla,
do hereby declare on my honor
that the sunburnt sleepers of park benches and stairwells
throughout this sacrosanct kingdom
are from this day exonerated of all debts to society,
forgiven of trespasses and pardoned of imperfections
as surely as my name is noble, my motives sincere,
and my reputation without blemish,
and let it hereby be established
throughout this wide and disordered empire of the forgotten,
downtrodden, misperceived and ill-humored,
that as certain as the black beetle treads unnoticed over
the sleeping chinchilla,
so shall you be recognized as beautiful and glorious in your way,
and let the malignantly unmotivated, discouraged, and jacks of no trades,
the uninsulated nomads of uncertain origins,
be hereby known as legal inheritors of all things remarkable and numinous.
May your names be recorded in the Book of the Distinguished,
your stories recited around campfires,
and your ballads sung by street-corner buskers
throughout this modest realm.

--Ambrosius de Tortilla, 1575





May 27, 2019

Midnight Sun

Greetings from the land of the midnight sun.
It's odd to go to bed in twilight and to wake up at 3:00 am to the first light of dawn...






May 26, 2019

New Work








One of Ed's recent poems:

After Graduating from College with a Degree in Creative Arts

I was angry at a woman in San Jose
and sick of apartment cockroaches
so I tossed my stuff into the back of a pickup
and left town,
moved in with my parents
and searched for work.

Sometimes you take
what you can get,
like a job at a roller disco
cruising the floor on polyurethane wheels
in a ridiculous orange vest and white slacks,
blowing a whistle at speeding teens
while skating backward
beneath the mirror ball
in a warehouse of clamor.

Some nights I succumbed
to the beat and crowd current,
the sheer illusion of weightlessness,
a dancing fool
drifting like dandelion down
on the concussive wind
of the Commodores
thinking, "I'm too old for this."

Slippery floor, tangled bodies,
ice on swollen wrists.
Fall and rise. Float and crash.
Feet gasping for breath.

After closing, locking up,                                 
crowds and staff gone home,
I would leave that darkened parking lot
and hit the empty highway,
sky black as loneliness
and just as absolute.