Sunday, March 29, 2015


Birditudes has been jury selected to be exhibited at ¡Encantada! 2016.  The show is being held at the FINE ARTS BUILDING, EXPO New Mexico, 300 San Pedro NE Albuquerque, NM 87108, from July 6th thru July 27th 2016.  Opening Reception is 5 - 8 PM—July 6th (Awards at 6:30).  Reception is free to the public so please invite your friends.

Birditudes Oil on Canvas 36" X 36" $5,000

My latest completion, Birditudes is likely the most evolved piece I've created to date. This is not meant to be a statement of its deep meaning, although there is a narrative within, and it certainly doesn't mean that I have reached some higher level.

What I mean is that this piece went through more change during its creation than any other of mine.

A couple of months prior to starting this, and the day after Christmas my elderly Mom had been diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer and all the subsequent doctor's visits, tests and chemo treatments had begun. I'd helped my parents find and secure help with their daily life, got home health nurses and physical therapy lined up for Mom as well as Meals on Wheels delivery. I'd been cooking, shopping, scheduling appointments, attending doctor's appointments, and visiting to help almost daily for weeks, and all the activity plus the stress of the unknown were taking a toll on my health. Given my own chronic disease this was sure to lead me to a relapse, and I knew I needed to be healthy and available for my parents.

Ten years after my diagnosis I had finally reached a point where I'd successfully learned to implement "pacing", a strategy used to cope with my symptoms and practiced with the intent to avoid relapses, but the added responsibilities (activities) caused me to enter back into the harmful realm of "boom and bust".

For those of you who don't know what this means, let me try to explain. With Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) the signature symptom is post exertional malaise (PEM), a return of or worsening of symptoms which can last hours, days, weeks, months, or longer, following physical or mental activity of any type or intensity. This can be very minor activity like grocery shopping, or for some severely affected patients simply going to the bathroom or brushing one's teeth.

Pacing is a proactive strategy where all activities, physical and mental, as well as proactive periods of rest are carefully measured, scheduled and executed in hopes of avoiding PEM, or the relapse of viral, cognitive and pain symptoms that usually follow consecutive activities or behaviors requiring energy demands outside one's body's current supply.

In contrast, boom/bust is when one simply does activity without consideration of how it may result, and proactive rest is not regularly practice. This "boom" is usually followed by the "bust" or a crash of hours, days, weeks or more. Next comes rest, sometimes forced because the activity leaves one incapacitated. Then hopefully next is recovery, then resumed activity, or sometimes activity comes before recovery because life activities that can lead to PEM, like cooking, showering, running errands, doctor's appointments, and grocery shopping, housework or childcare are not always easy to schedule. For some there is no recovery, but years of relapse leaving them completely home or bed bound.

As part of pacing, I already live a very reduced life from my pre-sickness level. In order to manage this disease and its symptoms one typically reaches a point where it becomes necessary to take stock of and prioritize all regular activities, omitting all but what is required. For some months before my diagnosis my body had already failed to manage the physical and mental demands of getting through a day of work, and I'd been forced to resign from my job weeks before before the diagnosis. Then for some years  my husband Lenny took on the responsibility of many household chores, and fortunately we have had weekly housekeepers and yard maintenance crews, so although I did some laundry, and cooked I focused on my  health and I didn't do much more. Gradually as my health improved a little I took on some chores, but with the cyclic nature of the disease I am not always able to do them all. Because of this great reduction in activity and Lenny's help I have been able to continue to do some physical activity and paint. I am fortunate in that regard.

With the added activities for Mom and Dad I decided the only unnecessary activity that I could temporarily stop would be attending my weekly painting sessions, so I didn't do any artwork for a few weeks. Once there was help on board, including recruiting a friend of Mom's who would take her to chemo sometimes, and we had established a weekly routine and knew what to expect to some degree, I went back to art sessions when Mom had a friend who could take her to chemo. That first time back after being gone for weeks was compounded by the fact that I was at the point where I had completed a piece just before Christmas so needed to have a new idea to start painting. My mind was not in a creative place, so I just relied on the faith that being at Oro Fine Art Gallery, in the room where I paint, and talking it over with my mentor, Ricardo, my mind would find its way to the creative space once again. I told him I thought I needed to just throw paint around on a canvas, so he had me pick a color. I chose red, took a large 36"X 36" canvas and painted a giant spiral in red. The space between became the complimentary green, and all of it was created in a hurry with generous amounts of paint swirled in textures with various visible brush strokes. It felt like an emotional dump.

The next couple of sessions were spent studying the work in progress. Embedded in the strokes were human figures, lots of bodies appearing to be doing things, like swimming, running, etc. So over those next couple of sessions I began outlining them wondering why they had presented themselves in this piece. Given that this disease has limited my activity level and altered my former physical nature I can understand why I'd paint active human figures engaged in athletic or physical activities, but I felt like I was struggling with how to form this into a joyful narrative piece. Eventually as my mind cleared, and through discussion with Ricardo, I was reminded that although a portion of my life circumstances may be somewhat uncontrollable, I can steer the direction of my art.

So, I began to look for other hints in the piece; something to which I could relate, fall in love with, and manage moving forward. Birds. There were obvious beaks, so the three birds you now see came to life. They had presented themselves out of the other chaos, each with its own individual attitude. I have an affinity for birds and flora; in the past I have had recurring dreams of flying, so birds make sense.

The two main birds in this composition, male and female, have had a disagreement of some kind. The rooster-ish male struts off arrogant and angry, but suddenly, and with some self reflection he begins to see that he may be partially at fault so looks questioningly to the viewer for input. The female, with her dignity intact has emotionally separated herself from him, patiently waiting for the time when they can calmly reconcile their differences. The small bird in the foreground sits somewhat protected under a leaf looking on throughout the entire episode, uninvolved, and wondering, "what the heck was all that noise about"?


Sunday, March 15, 2015

11 Minutes After Midnight

11 Minutes After Midnight Oil on Canvas 16" X 40" SOLD

This piece was inspired by a drawing I did while in art school some years ago.  We were instructed to draw the inside of a room, and although I was at the time very much a realist, and into photorealistic art, somehow a drawing of these crazy, imagined characters came to mind. The idea was that during the night the instruments stored in a music room came to life and played the music on themselves without anyone ever knowing.

I decided to dig out the pencil drawing and paint from it. I made some changes, but maintained the integrity of the idea and some of the original characters.

Shortly before I started this painting I began seeing the number 11 more often than before when I look at my phone or anything with a digital readout. I researched the number and in chinese belief it signifies a balance between masculine and feminine, and is considered to be a good number. I don't know what the significance is for me, but it is still happening, usually a few times a day, and believe me I don't watch the clock. It's more like I pick up my phone to check email and it is 2:11, or 9:11, or 3:11, well you get it.

So I decided to put elevens into this piece. If you look long enough you'll find many elevens, and the time on the clock face of the accordian player is eleven after midnight. The music on the rug is a section of the score for the song, "After Midnight" written by J.J. Cale and recorded by Eric Clapton. The upright bass player was inspired by female cellist Esperanza Spalding. I play the ukulele so naturally had to include that instrument, and the others as well as the scene itself were meant to impart an island vibe.


Wonder Oil on Canvas 18" X 24" $1200

I began formulating the idea for this painting several years ago at the local botanic garden, where spring means wind and cottonwood. At the threshold of the large grassy section a huge gust of wind blew past and cottonwood filled the landscape, turning the scene into what looked like a snow globe. I immediately grabbed the camera and began to shoot pictures. Later when I looked at the pictures I was surprised to see that I had also captured a little girl wearing a pink dress and hat standing in the middle of the grassy park, who was looking up at the cottonwood in wonder.

The subjects and composition of this piece developed on their own, presenting as they do with art. Most interesting was the raven in the foreground, which I photographed a few weeks prior to starting the painting, but years after the photo of the girl in the grass. I was waiting at a nearby park for my Mom to finish an appointment, and there was a large raven walking in the parking lot eating a cube of cheese and occasionally drinking from a rain puddle. I sat right next to it for some time, taking many pictures, which I later deleted. When painting this piece I decided I wanted to place a crow or raven on the rock so I went to my phone to find the pictures I'd taken, only to realize I'd deleted them, well, all except one. That is where this black bird originated.

The trees developed on their own, as did the idea that the girl is on her life path, having chosen her path. The raven holds out the invitation of love (the red heart locket), the tree bends to convey a right of passage filled with goodness, and the limb holds the promise of peace, while time spills out in front of her. At the same time, she carries a flower. The yellow daisy signifies innocence, purity and cheerfulness, and like a magic wand her daisy seems to be another source of the same sands of time falling from the hour glass in her future.

It is a statement about time and space, but also about free will versus determinism, and is the first of a new series of pieces with recurrent themes about life phases and experiences with forest scenes and a magical or mystical feel.

The original digital photograph is included below the painting.