Monday, June 30, 2008

Tree painting

The gallery is having a theme show about trees next week. I remembered having painted this scene at Gleason's Cove a few years ago. I did it in acrylic then, and this one is watercolor. I finally got a little bigger--16x20. I soaked some watercolor paper and stapled it to some stretcher strips left from the old paintings I rolled up the other day. It had to dry overnight because of the humidity, but it was really fun to paint on. For the most part I managed to keep it clean and simple.

I'm going to have to hang it in the show just as it is because I have no glass to put over it, much less a frame. It's a rather unconventional way to do watercolor anyway, so why not

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good Old Days

This is an etching I did in school about 10 years ago. I found it as I was trying to clean up my studio and was glad to see it because I thought I had lost it. The printmaking class was making a portfolio with one image from each student. We were supposed to come up with a modern icon. I chose the individual as an icon. I felt, and still do, that we had come to worship ourselves as individuals so much that we had lost track of the human race as a whole. I used the brass Buddha face that I had often used in paintings to symbolize myself because the thing reflects like a mirror. My own image as I look at it looks back at me, but the image is distorted. In the self-image I am putting my hand out to block what I see. It is also reflected in a number of ways, with emphasis on different features of myself.

If you didn't get the point, which I doubt if many did, I supported the idea with a Narcissus bloom. Narcissus' vanity is pretty widely known. Still, it didn't much matter if the point was lost on most of the viewers. The image is interesting on its own (or so I think in my narcissistic way).

I spent the afternoon going through all the old paintings I have dragged around for so long........huge canvases full of symbols and allegories. I cut the canvases off their stretchers, rolled them up, labeled them, and put them in a duffle bag. My history as a student came back to me and I felt melancholy about it. Never have I experienced approval and encouragement the way I did then. I was almost a celebrity in the art department because of my bold, irreverent paintings and my technical skills. Scholarships rolled in predictably every semester. I became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I hung my accumulation of ribbons on my wall until there were so many they became meaningless. Then I threw them away. Professors loved me, fellow students admired me. I was wonderful.

I was also detested more than ever before. I was going through a divorce, my mother was suing me for $130,000 (or thereabouts...I can't remember), I had no money, my car was repossessed and my house went to foreclosure. My husband and mother were both furious with me. I was being accused of elder abuse, medicare fraud, and God knows what else. My mother's friends hated me for what I had allegedly done to her (neglected her and stolen her money), as well as her caretakers and the legal system. I was despicable.

These two extremes kept me in a heightened state of anxiety, disbelief, and despair. My intensity produced that artwork. Without doubt, they are the best things I have ever done.

That story, in case you are curious, ended a little over a year later when I was exonerated. I ran up a 30,000 dollar tab with the legal office of Rudman-Winchell, LLC, I owe my life to my lawyer, a wonderful woman who was both my defender, my support, and my counselor. We were in touch almost every day. She supported me and smoothed my way through the experience. When it was over, it was she who talked the law firm's board into accepting my paintings as full payment.

It's hard to know how to think about that time.
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The Chick Report

All the chickens are growing fast. This picture doesn't really show how big the girls in the background are since the little ones are in the front. Their personalities are all different, and I'm beginning to identify individual characteristics in the newest ones now. I just have to remember which characteristics go consistently with which birds and I will be able to sort out the names. Right now I assign their names rather randomly. I certainly don't want to give them an identity crisis. Lily, Lupine, and Lilac are still distinguishable, even though Lilac is now just as big as the others and can't be identified by her size anymore. Raising them is fascinating, and I can see why people enjoy breeding animals. Somehow they are able to give the babies up, though. If I got caught up in raising baby chicks, it wouldn't be long before I'd need all the property on Water Street to accommodate them.
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Friday, June 27, 2008


As I was going through more of the memorabilia I unpacked, I came across this poem I wrote a few years ago:

Nature, you overstated metaphor,
You present your garrish self with such arrogance,
Smug and confident in your ability to please your audience.
Humanity gasps at your theatrics.

Your puffy clouds in a blue, blue sky,
Fog lifting off a river,
Ooh! Ahh!
Add a shaft of light and we think we see God.

Blurt out your gawdy Autumn statement.
Fill our vision with razzle-dazzle.
Show us red, orange, and yellow.
Watch us feel small and thrill to that smallness.

Throw your water on a beach, smash it agasinst your rocks.
Plant a flower in the desert, blow a breeze across the plains.
We are so easily delighted.
Terrorize us with your storms and watch us cringe in awe of you.

Spit on us with your snow and see us turn our faces upward.
Put sun on that same snow,
Cast your shadows, you blatant clown,
And watch us leap and cavort with pleasure.

Twinkle your stars, eclipse your moon.
See us dance to the sight of it.
Make us marvel at a colored bird,
Move us to tears with your sunsets.

We bite the apple every time we look at you,
Grabbing the nearest fig leaf to cover our shame.
We apologize for our own existence,
Scurry to cover our tracks, bury our waste.

Nature, you miserable, sadistic puppet-master,
You deny us the ignorance of self-consciousness.
You separate us from the rest, or so we believe,
And we provide the comic relief.

Wednesday's Painting

I intended to do this scene of the Lupine at Dog Island in pastel, but since I was going to Sydney's I decided to do watercolor. It's so much more portable. This is another little 8x10. At some point I need to start working bigger again. My work in the gallery looks pretty insignificant beside all those big oils. I think I am a little afraid, since my technique in watercolor is quite different from what it was in the past. The other factor is framing. It is so expensive and time-consuming to get a mat, glass, and frame, whereas oils can be hung just as they are.

Yesterday I put the sawdust down in the chicken house to ready it for Lilac, Lupine, and Lily. Today they endeared themselves to me further by eating lettuce from my hand. They are no longer afraid of me, whereas Petunia, Poppy, and Pansy still fear for their lives when I approach. Today one of them (I still can't tell them apart) escaped as I was changing their water. When I caught her she peeped and thrashed in panic. I feel sorry to scare them that way, but because of my experience with the others I know they will get over it.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June Garden, Chicken report

The garden is looking great as we progress into the summer. This pink Lily is from bulbs I bought in May and looks exactly like the picture on the bag. I planted three, and all have come up, but this is the only blossom so far.

The chickens are all healthy and happy (as long as I stay away from them). Lily, Lupine, and Lilac will be able to move outside soon. They are looking like adults now, only smaller. I fear puttng them out into the big world where they will not be so safe, and in many ways dread the day that it happens. I can't keep them inside forever, though, and will have to bite the bullet.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have been painting a little despite my obsession with the chicks. These are both watercolors, small ones. The top one is from a photograph I took of Carol and Emparo in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I've painted the same row of people before in a different acrylic that David has now. The other painting is of me as a little girl about three years old. There is a theme show this summer at the gallery called "When I Was Young" and I did this last week-end when I was painting with Diana. It's not a very imaginative treatment of the theme, but it will give me a piece of work to put in if I don't come up with something more exciting.

This one has a lot of undercurrent for me, but its symbolism is certainly not discernible by the viewer......pretend mother, pretend baby...........
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Growing Up

Lilac, Lili, and Lupine are beginning to look like small versions of adult chickens. They are still too young to move into the outdoor coop, but they are maturing nicely. I appreciate how polite they are now that I have three juvenile deliquents in the next brooder. Whenever I lift the wire to replace their food or water they run to the opening and try to fly out. It will be interesting to see how this difference carries into adulthood.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Precocious Chicks

Meet Pansy, Poppy, and Petunia. I had a quick lesson about how different chickens can be. These three are much more active than the others were when I first got them. Even now, the older girls just watched in amazement as the little ones flew out of the box as soon as I put them in it. They have separate accommodations, in the same box the others used up until a few days ago. They were not to be confined, though, and I had to put chicken wire over the top immediately. Even as I tacked the wire to the top of the box they were scrambling to get out of any hole they could find. I had a very hard time catching the tiny things and loud peeping was heard throughout the house as I chased them down. The excitement stirred up the dogs, who barked constantly from the first floor. So, welcome to Eastport, little girls.

They are very cute, I must say.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Dog Island

This is where I walk the dogs every day. The water is behind me as I take this picture. Every June I know to expect the Lupine to bloom ferociously and turn the fields purple. It's almost impossible to remember when this same area was covered with snow and the temperatures were in the single digits, yet is was less than three months ago. Now it's as if it has always been summer, warm and green and full of flowers. I would hate to live where the seasons are pretty much the same. There are subtle changes elsewhere, but there is no mistake about what time of year it is here. There is no doubt that the earth is twirling around, no doubt that we are moving in circles, fast and faster.

My favorite teacher at art school used to say how amazing it is to circle aroound, end up in the same place, and still find ourselves different.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Waterline Work

For the last several weeks the water lines have been being replaced all over town. This is what I see from my front door everyday........this or some other monstrous machine. It is amazing to watch them dig up the streets, replace the pipes, and fill in the hole again. These holes are tall enough so that men can stand in them without being seen from the roadside. They are as neat and rectangular as a grave. Mountains of earth are piled up as they dig out the earth, and when day is done, they put the dirt back. It's a little creepy to drive over the newly filled hole. It seems as if the road should be less solid somehow. The work goes on from seven in the morning until seven or eight at night. The sound of roaring engines and beeping trucks in reverse is particularly grating early in the morning, but everything has to be done before the big 4th of July celebration. We all take it good-naturedly.

Everybody talks about the difficulty of getting around the streets. Every day there are new "Road Closed" signs sprouting up. You never know where they will be. The town is full of cars in reverse or making U-turns. There are never any instructions for alternative routes, no detour arrows. You have to find your own way. People are always joking that "you can't get there from here."

Every day I think to be happy that I am here.
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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Flock is Back

The pink flamingoes have been hibernating in the closet in the shed. I decided that now that the garden was pretty much in place, it was time for them to get outside. They add a certain something to the garden that certainly sets it apart from any other in town.

AWOL Chicken

It had to happen.....sooner or later one of the chickens was going to escape. I went in to check on them yesterday afternoon and found only two in the brooder. In disbelief I kept staring, expecting the other one to magically appear. When that didn't happen, I looked down at the floor and saw Lupine(on right) exploring around under the table. So much for the internet instruction to "lay a piece of chicken wire over the top to prevent chicks from flying out." Well, now the chicken wire is tacked in place and so far it has kept them safely inside.
I placed the waterer on top of a mirror I had to raise it off the floor. They were kicking so much sawdust into it that their water was absorbed in no time. You would think I had put a hundred tarantulas in with them. They raced into the corner and hid their heads, peeping loudly. \Eventually, though, Lily broke out of the group and went to investigate. She circled around, stretching her head toward the new object. Gradually she circled nearer, never taking her eyes off the mirror. Finally Lupine joined her and after much more examination they both tentatively took a drop of water, backing away immediately. A few seconds later they approached it again, this time lingering for a long drink. Lilac, watching from the corner, decided it must be safe to approach and went to take a drink herself.
What an amazing thing to get to know how chickens live their little lives. I read on the internet that chickens are as intelligent as a three year old human baby..........smarter that dogs and cats.
We pick up these creatures thoughtlessly by their legs, throw them around like sacks of flour, twirl them around by their heads until their necks break. It makes me sick to think of it. True, this is the law of the jungle we all live in, kill in order to survive. But I so wish that we could be different, and have compassion. I believe we of all animals can understand what we are doing, yet we choose cruelty. Humanity is singularly killing by choice rather than necessity.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Garden and Chicken Updates

The garden is coming along well and has certainly changed the appearance of the house, and I dare say even the neighborhood. There is a lot more than is visible because I have Dahlia bulbs and seedlings that Lisa gave me that don't show up yet. Some of what is blooming now will disappear and be replaced with other kinds of flowers. I am proud of the way I have transformed the look of the yard.

The chickens continue to do well. They are slightly bigger every day and this morning I decided to give them a bigger home. I removed a drawer from the bureau in my studio and made it into a brooder. That still won't be enough room for all six of them when the others arrive. I may have to house them separately. Today in a desperate attempt to get away from me, Lily tried to fly out of the box. She almost made it, too, prompting me to take security measures. I had read that putting a piece of chicken wire over the top of the brooder will prevent escape. I found a small piece left over from the fence and put it in place. All three chicks were very interested in their new ceiling. I couldn't believe how curious they were, and how aware they are of what happens around them. If only I could have taken a picture of them all looking up at the wire. They checked it out from every corner of the brooder. It's too high for them to reach, but they seemed satisfied to just point their little beaks toward the heavens and take a good look. Then they began experimentally pecking the new, wooden walls. That held their attention only briefly before they thought to make sure their food and water was in place. I had left them a surprise of tiny shreds of lettuce. They appeared delighted and gobbled it up before settling in for a nap, apparently exhausted from the ordeal but satisfied that all was well.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Another Picture

This picture, taken at the same time as the one below, shows how their feathers are starting to come in already.........
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Chickens Four Days Later

Here are the baby chicks at seven days old. They all seem to be doing very well, including the smallest one. There lives are pretty happy and serene upstairs in the guest room until I show up. I cast a monstrous shadow over their world, make noise, and mess with their stuff. It scares them and they begin to run around and chirp in panic. Once I have cleaned the place and replaced the food and water they settle down. As long as I just watch them, they are OK. I moved them from the studio because I couldn't get the light adjusted right in there. It was too hot. Also decided shavings were better bedding than paper towels.

After some consideration I decided to give them their names. They are, from bottom left, Lilac, Lupine, and Lily. I don't know how long I will be able to tell them apart, but right now they each have some distinguishable characteristics I can isolate. With our untrained eye, we humans can't differentiate most animals of the same species very well. I'm sure they have no trouble.

I'm anxious to add the other three chickens to the household, though I imagine I'll always have a special place in my heart for these three.
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