Wednesday, December 26, 2012

it's about the weather

Gaetano Pesce's America table at Design Miami
New year's resolution: post more.

I have curly hair. Here in Santa Fe, curly hair is not very common. For one thing, it's so dry that it's hard to keep the curls. On the other hand, if you labor to keep your hair straight, the southwest is the place to be. I mention this because last night a friend with curly hair was complaining about it. Much better to live back east where the humidity keeps curly hair just this side of frizz if you use the right product. She said, you really should choose where you live based on how your hair behaves.

Speaking of humidity and frizz, I went to Miami at the beginning of December for Art Basel Miami Beach and all the satellite fairs (that link takes you to a video tour.) So much has been written about them that I don't have much to add, but to say it was a mob scene, gridlock everywhere. Best to park not so close and walk. Friends who tried to get to some of the larger parties told me it was like trying to get into a rock concert, and not fun. But I'm sure if you were a collector or an important curator, or a blue chip gallerist, there was plenty of champagne and hobnobbing. The weather was beautiful, perfect Miami winter days of 75 degrees and soft breezes.

Since I've been writing for adobeairstream, a website dedicated to the arts in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona, my editor asked me to write about the design fair, Design Miami. Here is the link to that piece:

Wishing everyone happy holidays! And a new year of peace and hope.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

it's all such a big unknown

Today is the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke. So I wanted to post my favorite quote from his Letters to a Young Poet, the result of a ten year correspondance with a young man seeking his advice on his poetry. Here is an excerpt:
"You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

How hard it is to "live the questions!" It reminds me that even in dark moments, it's important to remember that the darkness will pass. But so will the good times! And that trying to force an answer is guaranteed to create anger and frustration. Maybe by the time you get to my age you start to recognize that everything goes in cycles and we have very little control over the outcome. Serenity prayer, anyone? 
For me it's comforting to think that staying in the moment, eventually the answers will come.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

morning in America

I'm old enough to remember the Ronald Reagan ads for his re-election back in the day, 1984. There was a very effective one called "Morning in America." It was a fuzzy, nostalgic, and patriotic piece, only 30 seconds, showing a cowboy, a wedding, people raising flags, with a voice-over about low inflation, high employment, all the things about what was Good. And of course he got re-elected and because of his trickle-down economics the country went on a downward swing that we haven't recovered from, despite some good years during the Clinton administration.

I wish we could have seen well-produced ads like that one this year. But no, every political ad was negative, horrible. Paid for by secret groups that were funded by who knows whom. Finally it's over and it's morning in America and Obama is still our President. He's far from perfect, but he and his family make me proud. At least for today, I can carry that around with me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

the force of water

Twenty years ago I lived in Rowayton, CT, a little shoreline town about 40 miles from NY, when a powerful Nor-easter rolled through. It was December, I was married but my husband went off to work that morning. I remember watching the tide come in- rolling down my street, carrying everything in sight along with it. It was terrifying. The basement filled immediately and I stood at the basement stairs watching the water creep higher and higher, ultimately stopping maybe an inch or two below the floorboards of the house. Electricity was shut off to the area to prevent fires from electrical panels, it was cold and we were newbies so we had no generator or pump. My husband waded down the street to get home and the water was chest high. Ultimately there was extensive damage to the basement but it was covered by insurance. It was uncomfortable and a pain, but we were lucky.

Of course all this came back to me this week, seeing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. No one expected the flooding that occurred. People had put things a few feet off the ground, but in many cases it wasn't enough. Photos that I saw were shocking, and I was glued to CNN and Facebook for hours. The loss of life is horrible, in many cases could have been prevented. But what to say about the entire neighborhood of Chelsea galleries, many of which suffered terrible damage, thousands of dollars of art lost, besides damage to their offices- and the artists whose studios were under water, in some cases from the miserable Newtown Creek between Greenpoint and Long Island City, work lost, toxic chemicals from the creek permeating everything. My heart goes out to all who will have many sad hours cleaning up and repairing, and getting used to the losses.

You can read about it here and see the shocking photos.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I remember the clear blue sky

Billy Collins was poet laureate in 2001. He wrote this poem for the one year anniversary of September 11th. 

The Names
Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ugh stuff

Today is Sunday and Sunday means: house cleaning and laundry.

Quandary: How to keep the house clean, the bills paid, the newspaper read, the meals cooked, the dog walked, and still make art. I wish I had a cleaning lady, a cook, and an assistant.

The assistant would clean up my computer files, put images into the right folders with the proper meta-data, so when I apply for things I have the information right there and I don't have to go look at my website to see the size of things, or wonder what the size of the file is. The other day I decided to begin the task of filing things properly in Adobe Bridge. This meant googling how to put the info in, which wasn't that obvious, but once I knew that and the keystroke shortcut, it didn't take long, at least for one group of images.

So I organized my NY Times pieces, and for each of them I have a large tiff, a large jpeg, and a medium jpeg. That should do it, I thought. But now the bad news: I lost one. Yes, somehow it has gone missing from my studio. I cleaned out every flat file drawer in case I had put it somewhere in haste, because the rest of them are where they are supposed to be, in a foam core folder in a drawer, carefully sandwiched with glassine. Could I have accidentally thrown it out? Preposterous. And yet- it's just not there.

I have work in a show right now in the Axle Contemporary Gallery, about which I posted a while back. I told Matthew about the missing art, and he said it's now in the collection of the Caja del Rio Landfill. Here it is, for posterity's sake:

Postscript: After all that angst, I checked my gallery's inventory sheet and to my surprise, this piece had been framed and sent to them. Confirming that I need an assistant, or at least, better filing. VERY happy to have located it, and at least my flat files are reorganized. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

more on the subject of age

Last Thursday the mother of a dear friend of mine died of lung cancer. She was two years older than me. I had only met her a few times and we hadn't exchanged more than a handful of words, but she was lovely and her death was peaceful. She didn't suffer with the disease for a long time.

Tonight the news was published that Nora Ephron had died at age 71. This actually brought tears to my eyes. Of course I didn't know Nora Ephron. Yes, I once perused the small kitchen gadget wall at Zabar's right next to her. I don't remember if I bought anything or if she did. This was years ago when we both lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But there was something about her that made it seem like she could have been a relative of mine. Someone, actually, whom I wish WAS a relative of mine. Someone funny and smart and well-connected, with a keen sense of what people were really thinking, especially Jewish women my age who had children, philandering husbands, insecurity about our looks, and an appreciation for shopping. I once read an interview with her in which she said she only had black clothing. Lots of clothes, all of them black. She said it made it so much easier to get dressed. This is only one reason I loved her. Another one was that she was slightly odd looking, with one eye a little droopy and a big toothy smile. So many times I'd read a piece of hers and marvel at how she "got it." The movies were a bonus. Yeah, the fake orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally." But there were so many great scenes, so many terrific essays. Thanks, Nora.

There are numerous links to her stories online. I notice the New Yorker posted this link, a fairly recent piece that any New Yorker will connect with. It makes me homesick, and it makes me happy I still own an apartment in New York and so I can live with the fantasy that I can always move back.

I don't know if the magazine site will allow full access to it, but I hope they will:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I have a friend on Facebook who posts quotes from famous writers on their birthday. Today is W. B. Yeats' birthday, and he is the author of my favorite poem. I like lots of poems (seems I've been posting a lot about poetry lately) but I have always loved this one:

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

from the many, one.

Axle Contemporary is a sort of rolling gallery in a truck. The two directors, using that term loosely, because they'd probably laugh, are Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman. Their program, again using the term loosely, involves a few group shows in the summer, with one of them, usually Jerry, manning the gallery and chatting up the visitors, and installations in the winter that are visible through glass, thus the truck can sit unattended.

There are a few sites where the parked truck is welcome, like the Farmer's Market, and SITE Santa Fe, but if they want to park it downtown, for instance, they have some serious issues. I'm not sure if they feed the meter all day or what. But that's where the bulk of the walking traffic is, especially in the summer.

Their latest project is called E Pluribus Unum which involved taking a photograph of anyone who walked in, and each person would hold something that was dear to them. At the end, after the portraits were displayed all over the truck, the photographs were combined into one portrait, a meta-being if you will. It's pretty clearly female, and I can't reproduce it so you'll have to check it out here.

I thought it was a brilliant idea and I bought the book that they published of all the photos. Some of them are people I knew, my students, colleagues, and friends; but most of them I don't. As I flip through the book I reflect on how the people in it are specific to Santa Fe in a way- I mean they certainly don't look like folks back east. I regret not taking part, and I can't explain why I didn't except I don't love having my photo taken and displayed on a truck. The project speaks to the specificity of place and time and having the book gives me a little piece of that.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


My continuing journey into the tangles of Santa Fe community:
Saturday I went to a brunch sponsored by the New Mexico Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of the latest Alcove 12.0 exhibit. This is a new series curated by Merry Scully, of small shows of work by contemporary New Mexican artists. It's a breath of fresh air for the museum. My good friends
Jane Lackey and Linda Swanson were in the first group, so I was on the guest list. This was for the second group, which included Harmony Hammond and Terri Roland.

It was crowded at the brunch and I saw lots of people from afar but I ended up having a really interesting conversation with a writer, Kay Hagan. We talked about developing friendships in Santa Fe. She's from back east as well and she described the community here as "atomized." It seemed like a perfect word to describe the way people know each other but are sort of floating in the air in their own worlds. Not like New York, where everyone is on top of each other and you're forced to be involved. There's something nice, and comforting, about never being alone; but the freedom of roominess appeals as well. It's probably one of the things people move here for. And yet there are only something like 73,000 residents of Santa Fe. This makes it a small town, with small town occurrences.

Being atomized means you have to make a little more effort to catch the personalities. It also means true friendships take a while to develop. One woman told me not long ago, that if someone asks me how long I've been here, to say "two years." Not less than that. So many people come and go- this is probably why people don't automatically add you to their social circle. It actually has been about two years that I've lived here and I can honestly say it's starting to feel different.

Kay pointed out that this area is one of the only ones in America where you can be in the midst of settlements that are 900 years old, like the Taos pueblo. I had never thought of it quite like that. It's so steeped in history, in diverse cultures. And as much as we artists like to scoff at much of the work we see that's meant for the tourists, northern New Mexico has a very long history as an art colony, and serious work was made here.

Here's a painting by Marsden Hartley.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


My book piece is featured in this article by the Iraqi novelist Lutfiya Al-Duleimi. I wish I could read Arabic, but even not knowing what it says, the calligraphy is so beautiful, I love the way it looks. Arabic readers, you're invited to translate!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

why taking the time to test is a good idea

An artist's cautionary tale:
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was invited to participate in an exhibition for which I would be paired with a local poet. The piece was to include the text of one of the poet's works. I was paired with Charles Trumbull, who is a well-respected and published haiku poet. He sent several to choose from, explaining that what he chose seemed to be related to Santa Fe and the landscape. Here are a few:

on the bronze pate
of Saint Francis of Assisi

snow-filled juniper:
a flock of mountain bluebirds …
such a commotion!

flashes of dark and light
through the piñon trunks:
a magpie

piñon smoke
the first snow lingers
on the wooden bridge

high plains dusk:
the blades of the windmill
churn through loneliness

The one I chose was this:
the aspens 
and the chamisa agree
on a shade of yellow

For a long time I pondered what to do with it, but I really loved the subject. Autumn here in New Mexico is the most beautiful time, and I've posted before about the exquisite aspens, so it felt like a good fit. At first I thought about using mylar, and cutting the letters out and having gold leaf show through. Then I saw something in a store in Williamsburg that was a ceramic tray, glazed with gold, and I thought about painting the letters on it and hanging it on the wall, or having it sit on a pedestal with a light above it. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone with one of those ideas. But then I got the idea of using old postcards of New Mexico in a large collage, and cutting the letters out from that. There is a woman here who sells all sorts of ephemera, old books, maps, tons of stuff. So I went to see her and sure enough she had some old postcards. Not that many, but I bought some more on ebay.

I certainly didn't want to ruin the precious postcards, which couldn't be replaced if I screwed up, and also wanted to repeat some. So I scanned them all in, and over a period of time taping them in different combinations onto heavy watercolor paper, I got a design that I liked. I used jade glue to glue them onto the paper, which worked fine. After creating the text in Photoshop and blowing it up large, I transferred it to the collage and very carefully cut the letters out of the top layer of the collage, so just the colored part was peeled off. It looked pretty good. But I wasn't quite happy with it and decided to use amber shellac in some places. More experimenting, more taping, more gluing. Now the whole thing was done, but I wanted it to be stiff enough to hang a bit away from the wall. And here is where things went awry.

Note to self: foam-core, no matter how thick, does not like water based glue. I found this out when I pasted the foam-core onto the back of my piece, cut so that the piece was still irregularly shaped, put heavy books on top, and waited till the morning to take the books off and view my masterpiece. And that's how I ended up with a buckled mess that resembled a wrinkled satellite dish.

Now, dear reader, you can only imagine what my state of mind was after all the work I had done. And quite frankly, I was not about to do it all over. I happened to have friends for dinner that night and showed it to them. Lots of ideas bandied about. Ultimately, I redid the arrangement in Photoshop and took it to a digital printer, who printed it and mounted it on Sintra. And though I feel somewhat removed from it, because it's not handmade, it's clean, it's crisp, it does the job. The printer put some furring strips on the back that he said I could attach wire to for hanging, so I did.

I hung it up in the studio. That night, a loud noise, which got the dog barking and me out of bed, but all seemed well. Next morning I discovered the piece on the floor with a bent corner and the furring strip torn off. Back to the printer, who attached more Sintra and the wire differently, and who said it would hold. And I hope it does. 

It will be on display at the Community Gallery, downtown Santa Fe, from March 23 to June 8.

Monday, February 6, 2012

a book with no words

I have mentioned before the book project I'm involved in and now my book is finished, so I'll describe it in more detail. Last February I signed on to be part of a project called An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street. This is the street of bookstores in Baghdad, a meeting place for writers and thinkers, a center for those who value the written word. A 2007 car bomb destroyed the street and killed at least 30 people. The project was organized by Beau Beausoleil, who owns  The Great Overland Book Company in San Francisco, and Sarah Bodman, a book artist in the UK (you can google Beau's store, but he doesn't have a website as far as I know.)  For this part of the project, over 200 book artists will each make an edition of three books- one will be sent to the National Library in Baghdad, and two will travel in group exhibitions. There is a comprehensive website here with images of the wonderful books that have been submitted so far. 

We were given one year from when we signed on to complete our books. It took me a while to figure out what I was going to do. I didn't want to offend anyone, since it's a delicate subject and I felt uncomfortable that I'm not more well-versed in Islamic beliefs. Ultimately I decided to make books that referred aesthetically to Islam and that honored those who died that day. I thought of the book as a memorial object but one that would provide a glimmer of hope for renewal. So the book is black, with silkscreened pattern on the covers, and handmade abaca paper inside. Each page is cut in repeating horizontal rectangles as if there was text removed. I had a list of the names of 26 of those who died and I was able to find someone to write them in Arabic; then I carefully painted them onto ribbons with a tiny brush. This took me three days, but I enjoyed the process. And so here is the final result. This shows two books, so I could show the bookcloth as well as the interior. I titled the book Rabii, which means "spring" in Arabic. The transliteration is somewhat different than the Arabic word because of the ending sound, which can't be spelled in English. 

Green is considered the traditional color of Islam. From Wikipedia: Green wrist bands, threads and bracelets containing Islamic calligraphy are worn by Muslims in order to identify themselves as Muslim. The green wrist bands and bracelets contain Islamic calligraphy or some are worn as plain green threads.

Interestingly, I didn't know about the wristbands, but am happy about the reference. I was thinking green and Islam, and the Arab spring. Today, news from Syria and Egypt continues to cast a pall over the exuberance of last spring, but one hopes for peace and harmony in the region.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I'm taking part in an exhibition that pairs artists with poets. More about that after I finish the work. For today I'm posting a lovely Wallace Stevens poem that a friend posted on Facebook. If I understand correctly, it has not been published.

"In a Cloudy Land"

In a cloudy land
There is a moving river
A deep and moving river
Sliding through gray sand

There is no sound there
Except of moving water
Of deep and sliding water
And of restless air

Two flamingoes pass
One then the other flying
Wearily, over-flying
That watery glass

The flamingoes make me think of my roots in Florida- such funny birds, so beautiful in masses. But of course it's not about that. I think the poem is about living, about being in the unknown, but living each day, staying in motion; and every once in a while, something happens, something colorful and fleeting, interrupting the silence and the gray.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mysticism of Islam

For years I've been interested in Islamic art forms. I've always thought the Muslim and Hebrew values and traditions to be closely related, and I've spent many hours looking at illuminated texts from both religions. The more I see Islamic art, the more I become aware of its richness, density, and systematic underpinnings that adhere to mystical narrative. For instance, consider this passage from Keith Critchlow's Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach:

Once the enclosing circle is completed, a unity is obtained; this reflects the unity of the original point. The circle is not only the perfect expression of justice—equality in all directions in a finite domain—but also the most beautiful “parent” of all the polygons, both containing and underlying them. Outside the concept of time, the circle has always been regarded as a symbol of eternity, without beginning and without end, just being. As a symbol within the limits of time, or rather subject to that condition of existence, it passes around just as the active compass point returns to its first position it necessarily passes over it and in principle establishes a helix—the expression in time of the circle. The circle expresses “threeness” in itself, i.e. center, domain, periphery; and “fourness” in a manifest context, i.e. center, domain included, boundary, domain excluded.

I've been working with circles within squares in various forms, most obviously in my series Aureola

I was thinking about crop circles, too. Flying back and forth from east to west, you can't help but be struck by the patterning of circles and squares that stretch across the landscape below. 

When I was in New York recently, I visited the Metropolitan Museum's fabulous new Islamic wing, now called Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Imagine that on a wall text! Artisans from Fez were brought in to do the carving in a recreation of a Moroccan portico:

The galleries are really exquisite and full of wondrous things. I took a few photos (not enough, I realize now.) I saw a lot of Islamic manuscripts while in New York. There was an exhibition of them at the Morgan Library as well.

This page is at the Met. It illustrates an episode in the mystical Sufi poem, "The Conference of the Birds." Here is the wikipedia synopsis: 

The Conference of the Birds (Persian: منطق الطیر, Mantiqu 't-Tayr, 1177) is a book of poems in Persian by Farid ud-Din Attar of approximately 4500 lines. The poem's plot is as follows: the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. It is an allegory of the quest for God (The Simorgh). The hoopoe respresents a sufi master and each of the other birds represents a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reach the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection.

I took that photo with my phone so it's not the best, but if you check that wikipedia entry there is a better one, though it's not the full page with the beautiful border. You can see the hoopoe on the rock towards the right side. He's not the biggest bird, but he apparently knew how to work a crowd. I never saw a hoopoe and wondered what they look like, so here is a photo of one:

Quite a snappy little fella! I love this story for many reasons, and have a wonderful book of it published in the UK last year. The Sufis believe that the deity is within each of us, and I think that's a great concept. Back in the day I used to go to Kripalu, the yoga retreat. After each yoga class the instructor would make a praying bow to each of us and say, Jai Baghwan. I bow to the light within you.

It's a new year. Let's acknowledge the light within ourselves.