Friday, February 27, 2009
Lately I've been starting each project with a few moments of tidal breathing and visualization. I close my eyes, and take deep, slow breaths. I visualize the air, moving in and out of my body, my chest rising and falling, like waves flowing on and off the sand. All the excess thoughts rush away from me, the way the thin rivulets of water race away from the shore, chasing a retreating wave. With each breath, the distractions of the job hunt and schoolwork and all the other projects I am thinking about flow away from me. After a few moments, I can open my eyes to the one idea in front of me and give it my undivided attention. Like the tides, I know the chaos will be back again, but for those few moments, I am present...
About a year ago, I went to an exhibition of sculptures by Maine artist John Bisbee at the Portland Museum of Art. Bisbee uses metal, often 12 inch railroad spikes, to create delicate naturalistic forms. I love his works, particularly the ones that resemble bird nests. His work is gigantic in scope- I can only imagine how long it takes to dismantle and re-install some of these incredibly heavy pieces every time he moves to a new exhibit space. His figures seem to fly and crawl up the walls; it is never exactly clear, however, if the forms are birds, or if they are some unknown creature born from the metal itself. I look at some of his works and imagine that he is creating on a macro scale something that mimics the microscopic.
Plume, by John Bisbee
There's a great article on John Bisbee and his creative process in the Bowdoin Magazine.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Upon the land; the sea.
The wind in tristful cadence moans
A mournful threnody.
There flits no gleeful insect,
No blithesome bee nor bird;
0'er all the vast of Nature
No joyful sound is heard.
In garments sere and somber
Each, vine and tree is clad:
It's dreary-hearted winter,
And all the earth is sad."
- Hazel Dell Crandall, The Lilt o' the Year
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A few years ago, however, I found my way back. My father had started learning to play the bagpipe in his 50s, and watching his joy at learning a new instrument inspired me to follow something that had always been a dream of my own: Scottish and Cape Breton style fiddling. I bought a cheap fiddle, took a few lessons, practiced like crazy, and spent a lot of time listening to old fiddle tunes, trying to absorb the feel of the music into my spirit. Some days, it feels like the fiddle is an extension of my body. I play the music without thinking, and it just flows from me like I am an unconscious conduit. Some days, not so much. But every time I listen to a recording of some old-timer playing the tunes in a pub somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, I get chills.
So I can understand the drive the members of The Field Recorder Collective, a network of folk music collectors, many of whom have spent years combing the backwoods of America, looking for the hidden gems of traditional music, much of which is derived from the old Celtic tunes. I’m so glad there is a movement to save these recordings and bring this music back out into the public domain, before it is forgotten.
Check out their recording of ‘The Highlander’s Farewell’, from The Renegades here.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I keep painting versions of this wintry scene, some large, some small, and I even did one with spruce for our Xmas card this year. Sometimes I find that I just have to work through an idea before I can move on to bigger and better things. I've been in a mood to be monochromatic for a while...but lately I've been thinking about layers, and find myself drawn to artists who are producing collages, and layered journals and other multi-media pieces. If I wanted to get all deep and philosophical about it, I would say that this probably represents how my life has become so chaotic and multi-layered, and that naturally those life-characteristics would be reflected in my creative work. Who knows. It could just be that I'm yearning for colors and textures after the empty white pages of winter. I won't really have a big chunk of time to break things out until the weekend, but I'm thinking of doing some paper and fabric work, maybe layered with paints and wax...hmmm...and maybe some bookmaking...
Monday, February 23, 2009
One of the hard truths about living in New England is that Spring never comes in soft and steady. Just yesterday I was rejoicing at the sight of little snowdrops peeking through the soil; today, we are smothered in snow. But, I have a snow day from school, and some unexpected free time...so there is the silver (icy) lining.
Lately my creativity has taken interesting forms. We’ve been renovating the bathroom, and everything from bathroom (including the sink and toilet) has been mashed into my study. I couldn’t get to my paints right now if I tried. Instead, I’ve been rubbing grout into tiles, and smoothing the ragged edges of the old 1810 boards that form our walls. I’ve been approaching the monotony of renovation with an attitude of calm- grouting has turned out to be very meditative in that respect.
Today we finally put the toilet back in, and have reached a point where we can focus on other things besides finishing key stages of construction. PK went down to the beach and bought 50 pounds of native shrimp from a local fisherman. We just finished our last bag of shrimp last week, so the timing of the new harvest is impeccable. PK is cleaning and prepping them for the freezer, and I’m cooking the shells and heads into a shrimp stock that I’ll use for bouillabaisse and chowders over the next few weeks. I’m winging it with the recipe, and right now the air is thick with the smells of simmering shrimp, garlic and wine. Soon both broth and shrimp will be safely tucked into the freezer, and we’ll settle in to a quiet evening of listening to the frozen rain beat against the windows.
Photo by SFD
PK stopped by the beach with the pup before picking up the shrimp...he took these photos before the rain started...
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The wind was blowing hard and jostling my camera when I tried to take a picture of this abandoned light-keeper's house. Somehow, the blurred lines of the bushes and the edges of the building give it a ghostly feel, one that is compounded by the empty black holes where the windows should be. This building does have some vague ghost stories attached to it- footsteps heard in the upper stairway, ghostly drafts of cold air whistling down the hall, but nothing particularly well-defined in local legend. It's easy to imagine it, even on a warm, sunny springish day.
Friday, February 20, 2009
About ten years ago I was wandering around Japan when I saw some postcards of these driftwood figures in a shop down a narrow street in a suburb of Tokyo. I couldn't resist picking up a few, and since then I've tried to find more information about the artists, with little sucess. On the back of the postcard there is a poem in Japanese, and the object/poem are credited to Kamioka Manabu, with the photo credit given to Kamioka Kinue. From what little I've found, they are a husband and wife team, and also appear to have published a children's book.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I love stumbling across field recordings like this--I worry sometimes about how quickly cultures and traditions are disappearing from the world, and love spending time poking through the archives, making a performance live again for a few moments. This throat singing is providing a nice backdrop to my cold New England morning today...
The distant land beckoned to me, and I started dreaming of kayak trips, and waking up in the clear morning light of the islands. A few more months and I'll be able to dip paddle into surf, and push off into blue water. I do some of my best thinking both on and about the islands...this year I'm hoping to make more time for lazy days spent lying on the sand drawing pictures of shells and thinking about the big questions of the universe.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In certain parts of the woods, PK and I always find faces in the stones. Like when we watch clouds form shapes in the sky, we see boulder frogs, gnome-like rocks clustered beside mossy tree stumps, and cliff faces covered with natural murals. Whole scenes play out in the way the light hits the folds of rocks crumpled by glaciers many thousands of years ago. I'm really interested in why the human brain needs to create logical shapes from natural chaos-whole monuments, like the Old Man on the Mountain in NH, are revered because of a slight familiarity in form. When they crumble and lose that shape, we mourn. I wonder if this comes from some ancient evolutionary need to find predators in the bushes, to look for the lion hiding in the trees just beyond the ring of firelight.
However it came about, it's a wonderful thing to use that imaginative drive and turn it to story. Sometimes PK and I will stop and imagine the tale behind a certain rock-figure. We'll whisper the spell used to turn a troll to stone, or talk of the creatures coming alive as soon as we pass, following us on our journey, always changing back to rock as soon as we turn towards them. Or we'll wonder how long a giant has lain there, unable to move, waiting for the world to become magical again. Sometimes, we can almost hear him sighing in his sleep.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I stop every now and then and try to center myself, but my focus doesn't hold, and even my skin feels like it is vibrating with urgency. There has been no time for anything but work, and numerous deadlines that are approaching quickly. I know that things will calm down by the weekend, when I can take the time to relax and refocus, but in the meantime I am moving even when I am sitting still, and desperately trying to grasp onto a single moment of peace and clarity.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
I'm becoming more and more interested in the links between my yoga practice and my creative energies. I'm finding that taking the time to do a short meditation, or beginning my day with a series of sun salutations helps me achieve greater focus, which in turn helps me to clarify my thoughts about projects for both work and play. In a few weeks I'll begin working on a yoga teacher certification program that will allow me to teach yoga for children, and so far I'm excited at the emphasis that the class readings place on stimulating creative thought with kids.
I want to write some more about these links in the next few weeks, and have stumbled across a number of resources devoted to the bridges between mindfulness and creativity. For now, I want to draw attention to the stone sculptures of Shane Hart, a west coast artist who developed Upala Yoga from his combination of meditation and stone sculpture. He creates these ephemeral sculptures from the stones along the shores of Washington State, and often spends many hours meditating and building his works, only to dismantle them at the end of the process. The sculptures developed from his practice of spending as many as twelve hours at a time focused on the concept of balance, and meditating on the physical presence of the stones. That the art developed as a result of these meditations fascinates me, and though it might not fit the mainstream definition of art, I find his devotion to his craft incredibly appealing. More of his work can be found here.
Upala Yoga Balanced Stone Sculpture by Shane Hart
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I worked with Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, a quiet novel about life in WWII Norway. I didn't like the book at first. It is a very meditative and contemplative book, and I like a little more action to drive a storyline. However, as I explored the novel through free-associative art projects, I learned to recognize and understand the tensions caused by the secrecy and need that underlie the plot.
I started by creating a collage of things I associated with Norway. I was drawn to ancient Viking images, and felt compelled to contrast the war-like Vikings of old with the soldiers who fought the Nazis. I layered tissue-paper soaked with glue over the ancient images as a way of conveying how they were images from the past, seen through a veil.
I brought together Old Germanic epic poetry about fathers and sons, and linked it to the father-son relationships in the book. Disappointment, secrecy, lies-these were the patterns that emerged.
I played with quick watercolor reactions to the story. Everything was shrouded in mist, in secrecy. Even the mountains of Norway weren't able to emerge from the thickening fogs.
I made a soundtrack of haunting, lyrical music that was written in the concentration camps. In a presentation for the class, I blended it with images of travel posters for Norway--the country itself was trying to hide the tragedy of the war from the rest of the world. Secrets layered on secrets. As my reflection below states, I ended up in a very different place then when I started reading the book, and an appreciation for the quiet strength of a novel that I might earlier have placed back on the shelf without thinking about it again.
These are only a few pages from the work I did that semester; the rest are other side explorations. The experience of immersing myself in the investigation of a novel was powerful. This year, I am doing a group commonplace book with my students as we read The Crucible and study the way that drama is used to interpret historical events according to a certain bias. I'm curious to see what memories and connections they build as they participate in this kind of subtle and sometimes subconscious exploration.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
More of his work can be found here.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
What I'm doing now:
1) Full time teaching internship
2)Part-time tutoring job
3)2 graduate classes (w/ lots of homework!)
4)Working on research for my M.Ed. Thesis (library research and field interviews)
5)Trying to get certified to teach yoga to kids
6)Job hunting for teaching positions for summer and next school year
As you can imagine, there isn't a whole of free time in there. Some days I get up at 5am and leave the house, only to return at 10:30pm, and the only time I wasn't working was when I was driving from point A to point B. So I'm trying to figure out how to fit my creative aspirations into the little spare time that I have.
I am fortunate that many of the above activities are creative in themselves, and allow me the chance to appreciate the world around me. Example: when my students write in their journals, I join them. Some days I have 2 or three chances to give my brain a little break in the day and a chance to roam free for 15 or 20 minutes-fun!
A lot of my creative goals have a delayed start date of May, since at that point my workload will (hopefully) decrease a little and give me some wiggle room in my schedule. The rest of the work on my goals will be squeezed into stolen moments during weekends and breaks, or focus on transforming my activities 'within' my crazy days. Here's part one of my list, with more to follow in the next few days:
1) Keep blogging- I've had some really exciting conversations with folks as a result of some posts-please feel free to join in! I also have a re-design in mind, and hopefully will get a chance to work on it in the next few months.
2) Unplugged Art Night- Despite it's rocky beginnings, this is still on the plate. PK and I would like to take it outside when things thaw out and have some more evenings on the coast with our paints. We managed to do this with photos a few times last year, and it was a nicely productive exercise.
3)Submit some pieces to a local art show that benefits local conservation work (and is an appropriate venue for my stuff). Fortunately the deadline for the show I have in mind is in September, so I have some time to work on new pieces. I'm hoping PK joins in on this with some of his photos--I only post seconds of his work on this site since he has his own etsy shop, but his photos are coming along nicely and would be a great addition to the show.
More goals to come...
Monday, February 2, 2009
I still acknowledge milestones. Five years with P.K. Two years in the house. One year left of school. As I garden more, I find myself aligning my behaviors and my diet with the seasons, tapping in to the annual cycles around us. However, permanence means something different to me now. It’s not so much an unchanging expression, like a tattoo, but the idea that I now identify with beliefs that have room to grow along with me. A year is a measure of a different kind-not a static milepost, but something much more malleable. Winter returns each year, but every winter is changed from the one before.
And so I met one of my hopes for this blog—I managed to maintain (mostly) regular posting for a whole year. Hooray! And instead of slowing down and losing interest, I’ve begun to get excited about new ways to keep things going over here at aestheticflow. It's becoming something that grows with me, instead of a static conversation. I started blogging as a way to talk out loud to myself about my attempts to become a more creative, mindful person, and to start putting those thoughts out into the universe. But now the universe is starting to talk back, and I’m hoping to expand the conversation and see where it takes me…
In fairy tales the time of testing is always a year and a day. Today is that extra day, the 366th, in which the test is won, and the heroine revels in success, at least for the moment. Tomorrow I’m planning to post some creative goals for the next year; today, I’m just living it.