Flexagons. For the past few years I have been taking delight in playing with these geometric puzzles. You start with a flat piece of paper. Add a little fold, a little glue, and voila! — three or four pictures where you thought there were only 2. Well, actually, it’s a little deeper than that. First discovered/invented by mathematician Arthur Stone, these little mysteries have fascinated children and adults alike.
I showed them to fellow residents at Blue Mountain Center last summer, and guest artist Beth Thielen encouraged me to make a book of them. One of the best roads to creativity is curiosity, the other is play.
Here it is. Only it is interactive. It is art that is meant to be touched and played with. Easy to see that it’s difficult to show in 2D, static time.
So I took to working with beginning Video Production students at Berkeley City College. It was their first project. They came up with the story and shot the video. It was amazing to see them organized – by their teacher, Rachel Simpson – and swarming on the project. The Mysterious One made the music on his altered banjo; I provided lunch on the day of the shoot, and then edited everything down to 2.5 minutes. The pocket you see in the center of the book cover is for the DVD.
Getting close to finishing an Idea which hatched during my residency at Blue Mountain Center, and that is a box of visual bon-bons. In actuality they are geometric puzzles to which I added photographs, prints and drawings. You can find these puzzles on the internet by searching for “flexagons”.
One fairly simple puzzle with an impossible flap grew into a little book named “Membranes”.
Click on any image to see an enlargement.
“Membranes”, selected page
“Membranes”, selected page
“Membranes”, selected page
“Membranes”, selected pages
“Membranes”, selected page
“Membranes”, selected page
“Membranes” is finished off with some batik cotton and coptic binding.
Next project: finish the box of bon-bons of which this book is one piece — I think.
It has been a while since Oola and I traveled on any “plane”. That foolishness dealt with, I would like you to meet — if you haven’t already — one of my fellow travelers at Blue Mountain Center.
Paul Farinacci is an artist with whom I spent a few whiles in pleasant discussion of the kinds of stuff Artists talk about. Paul gave the suggestion — and the hand — to light one of my book installations by candles (big citronella buckets, if you are into details). But mostly he was bent on getting two pieces done for a show. He worked longer into the beautiful Adirondack nights than I ever did.
Paul’s work is the kind that you might pass by if you are not the kind to take close, slow looks. At first it reminded me of Grimm’s fairy tales. The more I looked, the more Daumier and Dorothea Lange and Mark Fiore came to mind. It even made me wonder how Goya would deal with the social issues we are facing in our place/time.
During our residency Paul was working on 2 paper maché sculptures in his series about testing school children on their academic progress. Each work is covered in NY State testing pages.
Click on any image to see its enlargement.
Scared Strait, by Paul Farinacci
Bound to Succeed, by Paul Farinacci
“Death by #2” is another of my favorites.
Paul makes sculptural buildings which are lighted inside, so that you can play the voyeur to see what is going on.
Houses of the Holy and Other Humble and Not So Humble Abodes
The idea to pay homage to the water and the land here in the Adirondacks lead me to a second installation (in addition to the Waterbook in the last post).
Here she is as installed in the woods outside my studio,, She is an artist book of 16 panels with the image sections of Earth woman on one side and text on the other.
Here is a view of the text, which consists of definitions of land related words from which I highlight chosen words to create a kind of “found” poem.
If you were walking by this section of woods at night with a flashlight, you might see this.
Paul, a fellow resident, suggested I try candle light. He helped me, and we got this.
Here is a small section from the poem on the back of this piece.
I held my
‘seat,’ by association
for the trees fail to grasp
overattention to details.
Plant a wooden structure
This book started as a photo of a small statue that watches over those of us who simply MUST read our email, (and write our blog). Through the miracle of Photoshop I took the Christian crosses off her dress and replaced them with the logos of some environmental organizations. Foremost on the list to my mind is the ban fracking movement. http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org. If you haven’t heard what Obama and the BLM are up to right now, get info and submit your comments here. act.350.org/letter/public-lands-fracking/
This book will fold down to about 6″ x 17″ x 2″. My next job is to create a book box for it.
Today was the day. When I came to Blue Mountain Center three weeks ago, I thought I would like to try to create two books, one that pays homage to the water here, and one that pays homage to the land. The water book has been finished for a while, but rain has kept me from presenting it to the Lake. This morning opened just a little cloudy, so I told Oola, Today is the Day.
All picts can be clicked on to get enlargements.
The photoshop file looks like this.
and it is divided into 28 panels, printed on clear film, and bound loosely into a folding book. I attached little floaties and prints of waterlily leaves. (The waterlilies here are beautiful and endangered from acid rain.) (I had a remote encounter with a river otter, and a mink.)
Right after breakfast Mike – another of the residents and a fine writer – and I took the Water book down to the shallow part of the lake and launched it. A little while later several other residents showed up. Jen and Danica took these great pictures.
I bet a few of you were wondering where Oola has been. Well, she’s been plenty busy, but she helped out with this art installation.
Soon it was time to take Waterbook out of the water, and start thinking about a suitable bound box for it.
Then it was time to start folding up Waterbook for the trip to the studio.
Here you can see some of the text. It consists of water related definitions from which I highlighted selected words to create an I Ching sounding poem. Here is part of it.
a house down by the lake
she swam on the surface.
he went for a swim
against) the tide.
The second book, an homage to the land, is nearing completion. Hopefully I can finish in the next 6 days.
The pleasures of Blue Mountain Center are many and some can be organized by water, land, the mind, and….drum roll….the kitchen.
All images can be clicked on for an enlargement.
The lake is the place for exercise after those hours working on the manuscript OR a place for working on the manuscript. Or it is just the place for cooling off.
A few hardy souls swim the third of a mile across the lake — accompanied by a canoeist so as to be protected from the occasional motorboats. A few days ago we held our collective breath for 3 of our aquabats when a speed-happy Mr. Toad of Toad Hall appeared at the far end of the lake. Ann was in the canoe and acting mother duck, but we think it was Henri’s fluorescent pink swim cap that saved him.
Toad of Toad Hall
There are plenty of opportunities to exert oneself on a path through the woods, or on a scramble up a mountain. But my favorite part of the land is the BMC garden.
the meditation spiral marked by ubiquitous purple thyme
Bee in the garden
The deer are not afraid of humans. Mike said he bumped a deer with the kitchen door this morning. The deer stayed in place and kept munching on a tasty tree.
FOOD! Not only food to remember, but food as an art of the highest order. Fresh, original, health-minded fare — each meal a surprise to the palette. Allen is the amazing full-time cook, but the love of one’s heart goes to Sis and Diane in the morning. They ease you into the day, always with good cheer and sometimes with motherly promptings.
Twice a week the dinner meal is prepared by the staff and volunteer residents. Last night we made pizza — six different kinds of pizza, some gluten free, some vegetarian, some with outstanding salami and not-your-run-of-the-mill olives. I counted 4 varieties of cheese on the chopping table — nary a Cheddar or a Jack in sight. Homemade pizza dough. I am getting so spoiled!
preparing the pizzas
fresh from the oven
Lettuce from the garden
Huzzah! For Colette and Hannah, the staff members who lead the team. And to Ben, BMC co-director, who skillfully scrubbed the kitchen dishes.
Delivered on time and (presumably) on budget, this meal impressed me because it was prepared by very competent amateurs for 26 people. BMC had extra guests last night, including writer Oliver Sacks, the author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat,Musicophelia, and more.
Dr. Sacks has been a resident at BMC many times over the years and said that he has done much of his writing here. After the meal he gave a reading of his recent essay about turning 80 and facing death. He was wearing a tee shirt displaying the emblem for Mercury, the number for which is 80 on the periodic table of the elements. His reading was spoken in a gentle, honest, direct, and uncomplicated voice. It is an essay for the ears as well as for the eyes. It was published recently in the NY Times. You can read it here. Such a joy and unexpected privilege to hear him!
BMC is a place filled to the brim and overflowing with the pleasures of Learning. The house is full of books and art. The residents volunteer to give readings or demonstrations about their work. (After each event I come away feeling both awe-struck and as though I have a new sibling.)
And Ashley just might teach you how to sail.
The problem is that there is so much to see and do here that one might never get any WORK done!
To make art you need time and a place. I have been given the gift of a month of unobstructed time by Blue Mountain Center. Staff here bends over backward to make my time here as productive as I want to make it.
As for a place, that could be a prison cell, a dining room table, a classroom, or as Virginia Woolf so famously phrased it, “A room of one’s own”. Well I thought you might like to see my studio at Blue Mountain for the month.
You can click on any image on this page to see an enlargement.
The only problem is that it is too pretty. I have not had enough time to really make it look like my space — messy.
I have finished an artist book I was working on before I came here.
The images were mostly recycled scraps of prints. I just didn’t know what they meant in their new context.
I was having a problem with discovering the text. So Oola and I went to the screened-in thinking room shown above and we mentally grunted,
The text came out like this:
And the Mother Said
Enter your studio
Someone is there waiting for you.
Someone is waiting to be born.
Tell your Father
I have saved a place for him.
Tell him in the language of the crows.
Tell him in the woodland crowned with crows.
Tell him in beauty; tell him in your grief.
Tell him by the waters; cover him with salt.
Weave for him a blanket of grasses.
Sew for him a cloak of night feathers,
your anger’s lullaby.
Fly with him through slipping winds.
Fly with him to me.
When we were sitting down to dinner that evening Oola blurted out, “I wrote a poem today. It was like squeezing a boil”.
If anything could teach one the cost of attachment to worldly goods, a backpack containing a 17” laptop, 2 professional cameras, plus all necessary peripherals will do it…or at least it will slow you down.
On the other hand, an artist needs her tools. Did Georgia have to pack her stuff around? Then again, I’m not Georgia!
It’s Thursday evening. Oola and I are on the red eye to Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks, upstate New York.
There had been a moment when over three hundred people wondered why we were not taking off. It seems that a lady had put her two dogs on the plane, and then she did not show up. There was a kerfuffle as to what to do about the dogs when finally she, the owner, materialized and was escorted – eyes lowered, cat in tow – down that long, narrow aisle, under the curious if not hostile gaze of 600 eyes, to the back of the airplane. Oola and I were divided as to whether we should curse or pity her. Maybe she enjoyed being the center of a drama. Let’s hope there was a worthy story to accompany the display.
There would be no sleep this night. I would watch a map of the United States unfurl below me.
Lifting off from San Francisco in the growing dark was an enchantment in itself. I saw a soft layer of fog illuminated from below by the multi-hued lights of the City. A large moon was climbing a ladder of protracted clouds.
Cities appeared like distant fireworks. Most amazing was to witness the emergences of quicksilver snakes in the blackscape below. These were, of course, rivers illuminated by that big moon which accompanied us through the night. Most stunning were the shimmering disks of lakes, especially in the Illinois area. As we passed over them, the moon would add a special phosphorescent glow to their borders.
My only regret was that the tiny iPhone camera couldn’t capture them.
At one point, to the south, Oola witnessed great flashes of lightening. She displayed a wisdom unusual to her nature by not shouting “Did you see THAT?!” All fellow travelers were at least trying to sleep.
Flying into the dawn we watched trails of clouds define the contours of hill country.
Much good art to see in the airports. For example, this spectacular piece by William Wiley.
At the Albany Airport we saw a small show – “Where the Boundaries Fade” – of exquisite collage/paintings by Robert Gullie. Somewhere between folk art and surrealism, his images brought to mind both renaissance tales and the spare perfection of a Japanese floral arrangement.
It is so easy to make a cluttered collage. Guillie’s compositions go straight to the visual point: Just enough to bring the narration together and no more.
These were digital reproductions of the originals, something I would normally question, but the quality of the prints were such that I was fooled into believing the tiny edges of glue around the assembled elements.
Apologies for the reflections in the glass. They were unavoidable in the circumstances.
Now I am at Blue Mountain having recovered some of my lost sleep. The air is warm and it is raining a beautiful soft rain. This is the view from my studio back window.
Once again Oola dons her celebratory prom dress. We have been awarded an artist residency at Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York this summer. Oola is practicing her imaginary canoe to get in shape. This time we won’t forget the swim suits!
I am planning to do something of an artist book/installation in the woods. Without Oola…..just me and the bears…..
We’ll keep you in the loop. Does an artist make books in the woods?!