Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yaz, The Daily Planet, and a Cleaner Home

I'm cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, in prep for Phil's mom's visit, which starts tonight. She's flying in from San Diego. She's an original hot ticket. 83, living single, retired psychologist, mother of 5 boys. Lived in Africa (with her husband and 5 boys!), and all over the U.S. She's super smart, a straight-shooter, and absolutely beautiful inside and out. The least I can do for her is remove the 5 pounds of dust and spider webs from the room she'll sleep in for the next 2 weeks.

While I'm doing it, I'm listening to Yaz, Upstairs at Eric's. This was the first CD I ever bought, back in, what? 1988? 87? I was living in an apartment in Reading, PA, a big flat with tall ceilings, hardwood floors, views of the city... $275 a month, a little less than what I made per week as a waitress. Times have changed, eh? But hey, I had a CD player that I probably paid way too much money for, but it was so frikkin' cool. I remember having co-workers over for some classic late 1980's late evening refreshments... and putting on this CD, telling everyone to shut the hell up, and sitting there with them just blown away by the sound. I haven't listened to this since the CD was stolen from my George St. apartment here in Burlington back in '92, so it's fun to do a little time-travel, especially today with all of the unsettledness that's going on around me.

I have a few upcoming shows:
November 24 - December 8th: Starbucks in Williston
December 1 - January 1: Daily Planet (main dining room)
Opening: Sunday, December 7th, 3:30-4:30pm

Starbucks will be a few pieces that were in the Art Hop, and the Planet show will feature new works.

In the meantime.... sing along....
Dragons, the policman knew,
were supposed to breathe, to breath fire, fire, to breathe fire
and occasionally get themseleves, get themseleves
slaughtered, slaughtered, slaughtered

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sunny Day


I love this time of year --- how you can smell the sweetness of the leaves as they start to fall and break down, the coolness of the air that comes down from Canada, the sound of the geese as they honk goodbye.

Yesterday was my 41st birthday.

Yesterday I fished a Lego man out of the toilet with my hands. Finished 2 paintings. Explained the economy, the Iraq invasion, Afghanistan, and the disparity of wealth to my kids again. I ate 2 cheeseburgers with jalapenos, fries, a pink lemonade, and a dish of Lake Champlain Chocolates chocolate hazelnut ice cream. I didn't clean my house (again). I took a big nap. I ached from a 9 mile bike ride from the day before. Looked to the 72 names for answers. Found one in Annie Lamott. Made my family laugh hysterically by doing a cheer I used to do when I was a cheerleader (yes.) in 4th grade. Was amazed that it's still done (here!)

Right now, I have an adorable 9 year old here in his boxers, eating toast, all sleepy headed, telling me a story about the Lego turtle and the Lego robot. Nothing is more important than that, nothing at all!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I forget why I was supposed to hate Starbucks.

I had a very nice outing with my old friend Barb the other night. We went to Ken's on Church St., which has become my new favorite bar, where we drank 2 pomegranate cosmos each and ate Caesar salads with anchovies. mmmm. We hadn't seen each other in awhile, so we caught up on each other's lives and, in the great spirit of friendship, left having lifted each other up just enough to be able to start a new week with new perspectives and a little more wind beneath our tired old wings.

Barb encouraged me to do more of my cartoonie - social - political art (still haven't figured out what to call it.) Her timing was great, because in the past week I've felt my eggshell facade of emotions crumbling as I've tried to work on abstract paintings here in the house. It's been a personal disaster, because the abstract work is simply so frikkin' hard hard hard to do --- I often give Phil the analogy of trying to write poetry at the dinner table. Or on a school bus. My abstract work is very personal and trying, and for the life of me I just can't do it while the rest of the family is here buzzing about. So, back to Barb, yes, I can sit at the dinner table with Caleb by my side yapping away about Lego men and I can sit there and draw personal funny pictures --- my little commentaries on my life and the world. So, taking her inspiration, I did one for her on a greeting card:


In the meantime, I'm still working on a series of abstracts, just not at a pace that I thought I'd have. I'm looking long and hard for studio space, and am sure the right thing will come up.
In the meantime, I'm going to bend like the willow and make art that I can make here in the swirling pile of love that is my household.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Equinox


Achhh... I just don't have much to say today. That's how it goes. The season changes, I do too.

I just spent some time updating my website to include paintings that I haven't put out in shows. I really love them a lot, and really need to do more of them. They're my diary, a window into my little heart and soul.

I also do a sketch diary that's quite fun too. One of my goals for the next few weeks will be to scan them in and put them up.

But today I'm going to make some carrot soup, eat it, and let the September sun shine on my face.
That's how it goes....

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm getting ready to sit down and watch the rest of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with the kids. It's such a screwed up movie, but I love it dearly. Clearly a work of art --- god, how do you start with a blank canvas and put out something so incredibly bizarre, yet timelessly marketable like this film? I guess that's the big question these days, one I sometimes grapple with as an artist.

There are a lot of different reasons to make art, and my intentions are mixed. One, to communicate with the people in my city and state. When I first sold paintings earlier this year, I posted online on etsy. It's a cool site, and a great way for artists and craftspeople to get the word out and sell pieces, but it takes a lot of dedication to keep your store up and your items relisted. I quickly realized that I didn't want to spend so much of my time behind the screen -- there's enough of that with email, blogging, facebook, etc --- I wanted to literally knock on doors, meet gallery owners, talk to my customers, even if it meant a possible reduction, overall, in the number of people who see my art. It's so important to me to share the physical experience of my art with people, and to have them enjoy the pieces up close, appreciating the layers and textures. I want to be there when someone says they love it, or even when they say, "ehhh. I don't get it!"

I also want to sell art. I want to get it out there, all over the city, in coffee shops and bakeries and banks and libraries. It won't sell if it's sitting in my dining room, I often think. So I'm knocking on those doors, meeting great people in the process, and setting up shows for the coming months.

So back to Chitty. I think what makes this film watchable, despite it's quirkiness, is the fact that every scene, every song, every expression, is full of detail and intention and energy. Look at the costumes, the sets, listen Dick VanDyke -- look at his face. There weren't any short cuts taken, and every scene delivered with confidence. I think that's a huge part of what makes art art, and where I feel I am, or am going, as an artist.

When I work on something, I am in it, about it, and often obsessive about the detail and outcome. I don't hang it unless I love it and can stand in front of it and confidently tell the story of its inception. It's a great motivator and grounder for me -- to remember, as I'm making art, the whack jobs, god bless them, who put together this film, to know that at one point, someone had the confidence to say, "Hey, I'm going to make this movie about these kids and this car and there will be this scene that hints of S&M and another one with this child napper and it will be a musical!!..." What balls! I love it. So yeah, I'm going to do just that. Make my art, love it, and hang it.


Monday, September 15, 2008

say the word... susstudio

Ahhh a bit of unwinding over the past few days. A weekend with my sugars in Hancock, VT, now back home and in search of a studio space. It was fun to paint on the back porch all summer, but the chill is coming in from the north, so it's time to find a new nest. One avenue of thought has been to find a large space and sublet the rest. Another is to settle into an existing space and get to know some other artists. That sounds best to me at this point.

It's Monday night, the kiddos are reading quietly, Phil's catching up with Molly. It's dark outside, we're shopping for a wood stove, and I think today may have been the last day for flip-flops.

I started a new series of paintings that will be my view of Vermont. My Church St., Camel's Hump, Lake Champlain. I think I have a viewpoint that's quite unique. Hopefully it will all translate well. The pieces are larger than others that I've done, but still on wood. Lots of color, layers, black on top, scratched and burnt off to reveal the colors. Playful, screwy, not even very understandable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Seasons


Phil and the kids are snuggled on the sofa, reading Winnie the Pooh. Not a single one of us thought that the old book, which belonged to Phil's aunt (now in her 80's), would be of interest to any of us. Thought it was for little kids. Funny, it's been the highlight of the reading hour this week. It's great to look over, see Liv's head on Phil's shoulder, Caleb squealing in delight at the silliness of the stories, adoring the simple bumbling characters. Phil pointed out how sweet it is to read stories of friendship, and how it seems those stories aren't as popular these days.

I don't have anything new to say about art today. I spent my day cleaning my car so we can sell it, and printing pictures of family so I can update the mantle. I had a touching conversation with a dear friend who is going through immeasurable challenges, with such admirable strength. I wore a sweater and could have used a jacket on top of it. I joined 2 more networking sites, LinkedIn and Upworld, at the suggestion of the folks at the VT Arts Council, where I applied to be an artist in a great project called the Art of Action (http://www.artofaction.org). It was a hodge-podge of a day, and it's quickly come to a close. Time to close the cover of the laptop, squeeze onto the sofa with the crew, and laugh along....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the self-taught artist.

For the first time in my life my lack of a formal education is somehow impressive.

Quite mind blowing for me right now.

My story has always been one that I have been somewhat ashamed to tell in certain circles, especially when work or career is involved. I grew up in an uneducated, low income family. I dropped out of college. I couldn't afford it. I was completely on my own and just couldn't front it. I also had a ridiculously wonderful job at the time which is a great story of it's own. Since it's a cold rainy day, I'll tell it that one first.

I moved to VT in 1991 on a big whim. I had been waitressing in PA, where I grew up, sometimes taking classes at the community college, but basically making a ton (a TON) of cash and having a lot of fun. In VT, I went to Trinity College, where I majored in Elementary Education. I thought that I wanted to be a teacher, but eventually realized that I just wanted summers off, but stayed in it anyway. While going to school, I waitressed at Carbur's, but needed and wanted something else. I was a typical Burlington chick circa 1992 -- groovin' to Blues Traveler, riding my mountain bike, living for those wings at the restaurant that is now Bueno Y Santo... jeez what was the name of that place... anyway, add to that brewing my own beer. Cooking up coffee porter on the stove, fermenting in big glass carboys. It was a grand old age. So, I needed a job, saw one in the paper, "Part time sales rep needed for Vermont Specialty Foods Company." I thought, cheese. Maybe syrup? I sent my app, and got a call one day from Phil Gentile. I remember him telling me he was calling from Catamount, and I felt like Ed McMahon was knocking at my door with the big ass check. "OH MY GOD I LOVE BEER I BREW MY OWN BEER I LOVE CATAMOUNT!!" Got the job, sold beer in Burlington part time at a time when the only brown beer on tap was Harp.

So in time it was clear that I could work statewide, selling hooch, giving out free tshirts at ski lodges. I was making a ton of money because they brilliantly decided to offer me a full-time 100% commission position, at $5 for every keg and $.50 for every case sold in the state. Yeehaw! I weighed it out, dropped out of school, and the rest became my life, my story, and at times, my bane.

Despite the great experience that I got at Catamount and the trajectory it put me on for the years following, I wore a badge that I hated. I didn't have a college degree. I wouldn't come up often, but when it did I could actually feel the shame cooking in my cells as the conversation at the dinner party eventually worked it's way toward, "So when did you graduate?" "What's your degree in?" I doubt that there was much judgment swirling behind it or after it, really, but in my little soul I cringed and collapsed in a squirming heap, like the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz when I had to give my answer, "I didn't." "I don't have a degree." Their response that would follow would always be something like this: "oh." What else can you say?

The lack of a degree hurt at times during the job search, of course, but for the most part I was able to learn everything I needed by myself or through well-thought positioning over the years. If I didn't know how to do something well, I'd do it for free for someone until I got better at it. I got my hands on a bootleg copy of Illustrator and basically 'figured it out.' In order to get freelance graphic design clients, I donated services to non-profits and social causes in order to build my resume'. It all fell into place. Still, the shame, oh lordy, the shame of not having a degreeeeee!

Friday night, Art Hop. The question came up again and again, "So where did you study?" "Where did you go to art school?" And the answer.... "I didn't. I'm self-taught." And for the very first time in my life, people were actually impressed with my lack of education. Interesting! (and wonderful, I may add). What a shift in my life. I'm still scratching my head a bit. It's funny how, when I was receiving a national award for my work with people with disabilities, the fact that I could do so much without a formal education wasn't impressive. I could organize, implement, and deliver stunning services, but couldn't shout, "And I'm self-taught!" (( silence from the audience)). But hey, no complaints here at all, not a single single one. This is lovely. For the first time in my life, I feel that I can tell my story, where I'm from (very coal-miner's daughter, I tell ya), and know that it's ok, I'm here, I have my place, and I finally fit in. I'm and artist. I'm self-taught.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Post Art Hop Sunday Morning with Coffee and Garrison

It was a wonderful weekend with tons of activity and lots of new inspiration coming out of the annual Art Hop. I spent a few hours in the halls of the Maltex Building with my paintings, and was so happy to see so many friends come out.

It felt good to see all of the work hanging, and to talk with people about my process. If I learned one thing, its that my frustrations are a big part of the work I create. Its not angst or a frustration that comes out of past experiences, it's a soft struggle with my impatience for the finished piece to emerge. As I told stories of my process with people I met that night at the Art Hop, I found myself smiling a lot, laughing at all of the different paintings that were under the final works. Amused by my struggles, and by this past summer filled with the family groaning about me covering up paintings that they thought were great. So my challenge, I think, will be to somehow remain....frustrated! And to understand that this uncomfortable feeling that comes from not being sure is part of the beauty of art.

One of my favorite quotes:
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
-Agnes DeMille

So today, I'm going to drink another cup of coffee, finish listening to Garrison Keillor's show from VT, attack the crossword, and make some sourdough bread with Phil. Tomorrow... time to tap into some new, lovely stories tell with paint and wax.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Art Hop! Art Gop!

It's a sunny Friday morning. I'm eating some homemade granola with tons of almonds in it, reading up on business topics at artrepreneur.com. The Art Hop starts tonight, so I have a few things to wrangle up to take along to my showing. Got a peek at the juried show yesterday --- there's a lot of great stuff, a lot of mediocre stuff too. But it's so cool to see so many people creating and putting it out there.

It's been a fun week, kinda crazy too. Political confusion abounds --- I'm dumbfounded by what's happening with the GOP party, but even more with what so many Americans are believing. I can't say that I believe that we'll all suffer immeasurably if McCain gets into office (although I believe that Obama will put us on a fantastic track -- no doubts there), but I do think that the majority of Americans have been absolutely brainwashed by the GOP/FoxNews/Gannett, et. al. Seeing the arrests at the RNC, and hearing first hand someone actually say that they won't vote for Barack because "he doesn't wear a flag pin" is so frightening. What the hell? I'm all for discourse. Just give me a better reason than that. That's what's so frightening to me. People are voting (or not!) because of a piece of jewelry, a name, a distant relative's religion....


I've been 'on vacation' in a sense, for the past few weeks. The Art Hop pieces have a life of their own and have left the nest, so to speak. I'm taking a short break from painting so that the next body of work will be something else, something that goes along with this new season. I love autumn, putting on sweaters and jeans and my Frye boots. Waking up at 3am, scrambling for a blanket. Feeling Caleb's smooth, cool bare back when I give him a 'good morning' hug. I think that the seasonal change will reflect itself it what comes next, artistically.

But hey, back to work. Time to make a business plan and pick some places to show this winter. Time to think about the next paintings (they'll be big, that's the first thing I know). Time to think about a place to paint (know of an empty garage / barn in Burlington for rent on the cheap?).