One of the things I love about collage is the cutting up of papers. You get a lot of interesting pieces. And then you sit down and try to figure out how they can all fit together in a pleasing, or at least uniquely interesting way. Unlike real life, that is, where the pieces don’t always fit together or get lost in the process. With collage you can say “OK, I’m finished with this now.” and then wonder what it means. There’s never just one answer, so you pick one!
When I look at this earth
I see pieces of me
When I look at myself
I see pieces of earth
I’ve been sticking my hands in the dirt every time I go outside lately, pulling weeds mostly, but also finding buds and bugs to examine closely. I believe the creatures in my garden, down to the microscopic ones are my relations, otherwise why would I seek the feel of soil on my hands, and feel my heart slow down and breath deepen?
The nature sanctuary outside my dining room window has been evolving. I got dizzy watching the squirrel swing on the suet feeder up side down while eating, and I set up a proper picnic table for squirrels and bunnies, with corn and sunflower seeds. Now I can have lunch with them sometimes. Their manners are not always so fine, with the exception of this cottontail.
I’m getting back to the mixed media expressive play I’ve practiced for the past 15-16 years, my Muse work. Sometimes if feels a bit like I’m Dumbledore, touching a wand to my head and drawing out images I didn’t know were there, and dropping them into the mist of the paper surface where I can begin to have an inkling of how I feel about “things” in my life.
More often what comes out is not “personal” so much as what I feel going on in the world at the time. Small wonder that cutting and pasting and painting of images accesses some preverbal level, and most recently brought me the war in Ukraine. But the personal image pops in as well. Here it’s the found blueprint of our beloved dining table with the view in Sebastopol! Putting them together as in a dream is an act of conjure.
Looking for a soft landing?
On the way down through danger lands
Flying fragments of previously ordered lives
Better to stay airborne (if possible)
Search for that dining table with the view
Bundle up that and other memories
To share when the storm dies down
If . . .
Spread arms like wings like blankets over the flames
The postscript on the week in California – the piece I painted that day with the Muse Group. And as I harvested these words during our 5-minute free write, I was surprised by the timer going off just as I wrote the words “thank you Muses!” Indeed!
Now the paints are unpacked in the studio; today was a birdwatching day; and the charms of the north country are beguiling me once again.
In my “old home” I used to spend a great deal of my time in my studio, a modest detached building next to the house surrounded by garden. The deal about moving was that the studio would hopefully have some degree of separation from the house, the washer/dryer and every other manner of house chore interruption. In the “new home”, that separation will be a wall built inside the garage. . .eventually. Apparently there’s a shortage of contractors for that kind of work here.
So I packed up my “old studio” with that delay in mind, and built a sort of wall partition of those boxes here. Then I pulled out just the supplies for mixed media play, otherwise sometimes known as my Conversations With the Muse.
As you can see there are windows to let in light and even the fluorescents for nighttime and overcast days, and the water is a quick walk across the garage. Who needs more that this?! A fan sometimes, but otherwise I’m good.
The start here was to tear up an old painting, always a great way to start when you have nothing in mind. A bunny kept hopping through my mind, so I knew to put bunnies in. They wanted to hide, but you know they’re not very good at it. The bunnies in my yard are different shades of brown and buff and easily seen on the green grass which they love to munch. In the bunny world you learn to freeze if a possible predator, like one of those towering humans, gets close. Bunny lore has it that you cannot be seen if you stay still enough. Haha! But when the big bumbling human reaches for the cell phone to get that coveted picture, the next thing the human sees is the white of the cottontail and startled, drops the phone! So I had to paint some bunnies since I couldn’t get a good enough picture to share with you here! Maybe there’s a hidden teaching here, but I didn’t find it. The bunnies are enough.
It felt good to tear paper and paste and draw and all that. I miss my Muse Group but I can sit at my table among the boxes in the garage and be happy to be at play again. Time to do another now!
Most of the mixed media paints and tools are packed away now, not to be opened until some time after “the move”. (The big truck comes next Tuesday and doesn’t arrive at our new home until the 21st.) But I’ve reserved lots of pieces of old paintings/demos/goofs to be mined for these new Muse works.
Years ago I painted moody ocean scenes in watercolor, then switched to fluid acrylics, throwing out the “rules” I’d learned. This one is a combination of both. I’ve come to rely on the words that come as I work on the “construction” of these works, which come together seemingly randomly. It’s all very personal of course, but at this stage of life, there’s nothing to hide. Wouldn’t you agree? Except for the social security number of course. Haha!
A crow arrived in my meditation, a big black bird body, up close and personal with his back to me – demanding attention like all his cohorts in the skies, on branches and wires, beak open and loudly proclaiming, or was it complaining? I wondered if I could ask for a smattering of blessings from the crow proclaimer, blessings for us earthbound mortals.
Each day lately I learn more about what it means to have black skin in this world. It seems more important than ever to have eyes and ears open, and to take an honest look at what is reflected back in the mirror.
As I was finishing this piece I ran across a cache of small mirrors I had bought many years ago when teaching a workshop where we sketched parts of ourself seen in the mirror. I realized that I needed to put myself into the picture, but also to invite us all in to see ourselves reflected back in the truth of the images.
The trick was to get my reflection as I was taking the picture with my cell phone! It took a good ten minutes of gyrations to pull it off. Finally I was able to at least get a corner of me.
Credit here to my husband Bob who is always wowing me with his printmaking. I was in his studio lately, and was looking with such greedy eyes at his gelli prints, that he let me walk away with some unfinished ones, with his blessing to do with them what I wished. Lucky lady! The rest here is collage, stick dipped in inks and the mirror.
We tried a new idea in Muse Group this week. I called it “Use What You Get Collage”. Everyone came with a folder/file of at least 10 collage items that they’d picked because they fit together in some way- color, theme, designs.
In class we passed our folders to a person on the left, so we all had a “surprise” collection of collage pieces. It felt like a present and initially exciting!
From the folder we were “gifted” we each picked at least five collage items to which we could add whatever we wanted to make a finished piece. It turned out to be more of a challenge, for me at least, than I’d figured on! It took a lot of design-mind problem solving to make it work. And that’s exactly why it was so fruitful.
Mirror mirror whatdoyasay?
the world may be ending soon
but I’m still here in this mess
refusing to ignore the beauty
I’ll wear it in my hair
wrap it round my body
extol it, consume it, remember it
paint it and write it down
till the end of my time
and all without a whine.
A bit of clarification here. My collage gift pieces were all lovely greens and blues: National Geographic pages showing debris in the ocean, jewelry, woven textiles, rubber gloves . .. To have a focus I added the picture of a woman and some mylar for the mirror (which photographed as black).
I also added the following quote from a little book Women’s Wit and Wisdom, which you’re probably not able to read:
“While others may argue about whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, I just want to make sure mine doesn’t end with a whine.”
Still no rain here in the north San Francisco BAY area, but we’ve just weathered another apocalyptic fire. Everyone’s talking about it – how to prepare for the next one. . .we all believe there will be the next. . .or how to get out of Dodge and go somewhere there will be no environmental disasters. And where is that elusive Shangri La?
It seemed like a good time to pull out the old zany self portrait lesson in Muse Group. To avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror and trying to draw ourselves, we just clowned in front of the computer to capture our very own comic strip character and went about painting and collaging the marvelous emotional entanglement that is our lives at the moment. Just that. Nothing deep and analytic or prophetic. Just one in an infinitude of selves we carry around all the time.
Here’s what popped out on my paper this time.
Collage on acrylic painted background with a Photo Booth Comic Strip-filtered selfie.
Post Apocalypse Self Portrait
Aargh! What a place to call home.
So beautiful it makes your heart ache
so treacherous…… it makes your heart ache.
I want to move and I can’t bear to.
I want to stay and grow old – er, but can I bear it?
the fires the floods and heaven forbid the earthquakes
But the bees and butterflies, they stay
as do the birds
and our cats
and the flowers and trees bloom and fruit each year