Thursday, December 6, 2007

Swinging Back Home

8 weeks have finally counted themselves down and at last I am on my way back to the Western winter. Just in time too, as my final day at MacDowell was filled with a flurry of snow. Enough to haul out the x-c skis and 'sledges' (as our resident Brit called them) for a final fling in the white stuff. For me, the snow storm was the exclamation mark of my full season inside my private art world. I leave with new direction and focus for the work ahead. For no artist can stay isolated from the world forever or art will lose its purpose. It must be pushed out and set lose in the daily life to truly begin to live.

As my dear friend Robert explains:

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Indeed, one would do worse. Farewell MacDowell, until we meet again!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Early this morning I watched the first few whispers of snow fall outside my window. Soon they had multiplied into a soft, misty flow of small flakes that balanced on bare branches and curled up in cups of shriveling brown leaves.

These days the first snow never seems to last. In fact, rain is forecast for the next few days and the muted, monochromatic world will become sticky with mud over Thanksgiving. But for now, perfection holds its breath.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shared Isolation

Colony life is enigmatic. I came across a section of Wallace Stevens' poem, Auroras of Autumn, which hints at the effects of colliding creativity in a contained environment. As artists, our mode of thinking resonates together and the more time we spend, the more eccentric we become, tuning ourselves to each other’s energy. Smoke and explosions tread on the heels of quiet contemplation. What will happen to us, when we leave this place? We seemed to exist quite happily before here, so surely we shall be able to do so upon return, but perhaps restructured into slightly different people.

And of each other thought – in the idiom
Of the work, in the idiom of an innocent earth,
Not of the enigma of the guilty dream.

We were as Danes in Denmark all day long
And knew each other well, hale-hearted landsmen,
For whom the outlandish was another day

Of the week, queerer than Sunday. We thought alike
An that made brothers of us in a home
In which we fed on being brothers, fed

And fattened as on decorous honeycomb.
This drama that we live – We lay sticky with sleep.
This sense of the activity of fate-

The rendezvous, when she came alone,
By her coming became a freedom of the two,
An isolation which only the two could share.

Shall we be found hanging in the trees next spring?
Of what disaster in this the imminence:
Bare limbs, bare trees and a wind as sharp as salt?

The stars are putting on their glittering belts.
They throw around their shoulders cloaks that flash
Like a great shadow’s last embellishment.

It may come tomorrow in the simplest word,
Almost as part of innocence, almost,
Almost as the tenderest and the truest part.

Auroras of Autumn, IX

Monday, November 12, 2007

It’s all downhill from here

“Since time was created, had a beginning and will have an end, it is a creature with whom we can have understandings and misunderstandings.” – Madeline, L’Engle

Time is not an old man with a long beard and sleepy eyes. It is a creature: volatile, temperamental, full of energy, bursting into sprints and then curling up next to the fire and ignoring all attempts to prod it forward. The coming and going of various people in the past few weeks has motivated the time-creature to stretch itself up from the cozy fire and venture outside of a sniff of the late fall air. And now, with only 3 weeks left before I return to real life, Time has suddenly decided to bound forward, dragging me behind. I have so many creative adventures I want to try, people I would like to get to know better that I fear negotiations must begin.

In the meantime, I'm still working.

p.s. See the results of this endeavor.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ghosts in the Night

Halloween and the Colony Hall was full of ghostly movement. I was struck with inspiration in the midst of the festivities and did some ghostly photography. The bar was quite active as well as you can see in this little timelapse.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Work

The leaves have shifted from reds and oranges to the late season brown and gold palette. Most trees are now bare, their spindly branches casting spidery patterns on the forest floor.

I have managed to be very productive and last night gave a short presentation of old and new works. Everyone seemed enthralled by the plein air experiments I have been doing. Last Monday, on a brilliant warm afternoon I spent 4 hours moving red leaves around a wall. Leaves and rocks are not the best of friends, I discovered, so it was a somewhat frustrating experience. But the results were better than I expected. I combined it with some other footage I’ve collected over the past 2 weeks to make what could be the first draft of a visual poem. We shall see if this leads anywhere. It’s starting to get cold these days, so my warm studio with it’s large window looking over the disrobed forest is becoming more appealing. It's very cozy.

Here's a link to the new work. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting Around

A typical mode of transport for Colony residents. I've christened mine the Grean Bean.

I've added more artwork inspired by recent walks in the wood to my website. See them here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It’s been a week and I’m feeling very settled and productive in my studio tucked into the woods. My time has been divided among several projects so far, but today I pulled out my rusty stop-motion skills and decided to do some old-fashioned animation, just for fun. I was rather pleased with the result and with the fact that the only computer involvement was occasionally hitting a key to capture a frame. It reminded me how much I like the tactile aspects of animation. I might pursue this a little further in the coming days.

On Monday, five of us decided to take a day off and add our numbers to the summit of ‘the most climbed mountain in the world” Mt. Monadnock. Please don’t ask me how to pronounce that! Mt. Fuji might debate the record, but we certainly saw enough people to convince us this was a popular hike. Luckily, the 200 7th graders were heading down by the time we made it to the summit so we had the panoramic view of the Green Mountains, White Mountains and off in the far distance, the Boston skyline, in relative peace.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Culinary Inspiration

My new home: Mixter Studio

Can I just rave about the food here for a moment? A picnic basket with my lunch is delivered to my doorstep every day. It usually includes a thermos of the soup of the day, some sort of delicious sandwich and some fruit or cookies.

I’m at the beginning of the delivery loop so today my spinach-feta calzone was still warm when I took my first bite. I requested the cook not pack me any cookies at lunchtime since the pumpkin cheesecake at lunch and the apple cobbler at dinner yesterday clued me into their secret plan to fatten me up before they throw me back into the real world in December. But I might break down eventually. I love food, both making it and eating it. But I don’t think I will miss being in the kitchen too much if things continue in this vein. There is this philosophy that an artist must suffer to produce great works and the ‘starving artist’ holds a badge of honor. Clearly MacDowell thinks this theory is crazy. Good food will inspire the artist to good works.

I hear the dinner bell ringing…

CLOSED for a season

My first full day at MacDowell started at 7:40am (pacific time) when I woke up to the sound of soft rain on leaves. I spent the day collecting thoughts and getting myself oriented in my new creative environment. This included a walk to town to pick up a few supplies and poke around the quintessential New England town of Peterborough: red brick, white columns, well-tended gardens and small shops. I stopped at the library to pick up a volume of Frost, since I firmly believe in finding thematic threads for the distinct segments of life. I skimmed through a number of familiar poems searching for the one that would rightly capture my feelings towards the next two months, until I read one of my favorite opening lines:

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like a graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,

The poem is “Directive” and that’s what this place is about. Escape, however briefly, from the complexity of life, so that one can find the direction to head in.

And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home.

The place gives me the feeling of being away from peering eyes that dissect and assess my work. No one is watching me, no one has any expectations of me, they simply want to feed me and make sure I have enough space to spread my creative wings in any direction. Which leaves me free to take risks, make mistakes, waste time with experiments. Making myself at home didn’t take long. Yesterday I walked around the grounds with my camera and was already inspired to try something new, just for fun. Already I feel the compass orienting.

Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Auf Weidersehen to Tahoe

We had our first snow on Sept. 20th. The treetops above 6400ft were dusted white and Mt. Tallac wrapped itself into misty clouds. Warm sun melted everything quickly, but four days later we woke up to an inch in our front yard. The aspens are turning and the evenings are darker and everyone is pulling out their woolie caps. But I'll be heading east for 2 months to catch some real turning of the seasons.

I'll be at the MacDowell Colony for the fall, which seems to be a wonderful little corner of the world where everyone just wants you to be the artist you've always wanted to be. They make it pretty easy - give you your own studio off in the New Hampshire woods with no email or phone connections; they surround you with other inspiring artists at meal times, they even bring your lunch to your studio in a picnic basket! Sounds too good to be true. I guess I'll find out soon enough! Right now the last few bits of equipment and warm clothes are going into the suitcase. More from the deep woods soon!