For the sunny days during winter.
For the sunny days during winter.
Recently, I was invited to contribute to Superstition Review’s podcast, which I was pleased to be featured on! I read, only slightly nervously, about my work. I talked about the starting point behind the drawing series based on snow crystals, what I read, and my thinking process.
Hyphae and Blue Spots and Hyphae and Dark Spots are now available at Kenise Barnes Fine Art Gallery (kbfa.com).
These drawings were inspired by the branching growth of mushroom roots (hyphae), buds of flowers and decay. The drawings were started while I was an artist-in-residence at Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station.
Art making is strange experience, but not as sexy as it is perceived to be. Recently I was talking with another artist about the embarrassment of having work purchased and receiving over the top blush worthy praise. “It’s not that I think it’s bad or something, it just…I made that in my PJ’s while sick on a bus.”
I spend hours by myself drawing (in my bedroom), wandering, reading, and then worrying if any of it matters to anyone in the world, at all. By that point of ridiculous worry I realize the laundry has been sitting in the washer for an hour or two, and so I go and hang it up.
Ursula Le Guin’s anecdote about housework is comforting:
“An artist can go off into the private world they create, and maybe not be so good at finding the way out again.” Le Guin commented on how housework buoys her through her creative process in a New Yorker 2016 interview, adding that, “This could be one reason I’ve always been grateful for having a family and doing housework, and the stupid ordinary stuff that has to be done that you cannot let go.”
That aside, a few notes from my notebook:
07/08/18 -Be more careful -6AM wake-up -SLOW DOWN
08/06/18 -Pink in-between shapes -Finished the feeling of melting in summer, Thunder-Orange-Thing.
I’m trying to get it all to work. (I’m disregarding my hubs, who tells me that I get TONS of things done and that I work A LOT.)
I think my residency from May at Lacawac spoiled me. The abundance of time to draw and think, the slow meandering long walks I would take in the forest spotting different plants, getting squawked at by falcons while trying to befriend shy turtles, has surely spoiled me.
Now it’s back to the harder marathon challenge of trying to get as much studio time squeezed out of my every day. My day’s trajectory is mainly getting to work as soon as I can and then jetting from work to home to my small corner studio. I manage to incorporate exercise into my commute (and actually get to work quicker) biking to and from work, 12 miles a day. I do it mostly in spite. Traffic jams are excruciating.
During the residency I questioningly prodded how I make a drawing. How do you know if you’re getting something right? Or wrong? When is a drawing slipping into other boundaries that you haven’t fully realized? My experience in art and in life is whether or not I’m missing something. I’m starting to understand that there is a line, slippery and thin, between being critical with your work and self doubt, which is better to move on from. Self doubt isn’t the jelly I want butter a beautiful slice of bread with.
All of my questioning and gentle prodding during the residency has left me with many odds-and-ends type of drawings. I’m only hoping they provide some threads back to different mazes of thought, without too much difficulty.
Excitingly, a few months ago (although I’m writing about it now, ha!) a selection of my drawings were featured in Issue 21 of Superstition Review along with many other awesome artists and writers.
Most of the drawings featured were made earlier this year as commissioned pieces. I was happy to send them off to a home, but miss them. Especially this wonderfully turbulent drawing, Freezing Pine Spike.
Last year I began a body of work that used the snow crystal’s growth and form as a jumping off point. I wanted to write and post a bit about snow and its shapes since they are so intriguing. How they are depicted has led me down different rabbit holes of history and nature. But not anticipating all that would happen last year, (see the previous post) it got pushed to the side. (To make a long story short I’m better and feeling great!)
These images I found in Micrographia (1665) by Robert Hooke. They are drawings of snow crystals observed under a microscope. Many famous drawings abound in this book and also Hooke’s famous first use of the word “cell” as a biological term. I was happily surprised to find, while scrolling though the Project Gutenburg’s version of Micrographica, studies of snow crystals. The crystals he draws from were formed on the surface of freezing urine within a vessel, (Hooke even gives instructions on how to recreate this). Even more odd he gives tasting notes, eating one of the crystals formed on the urine commenting that it tasted much like water. Thanks for that tidbit Hooke.
What is enthralling about the drawings were how the details of the snow crystals were rendered. To me there is an intentional, yet unsure way how Hooke has drawn the snow flakes. Maybe my eyes have become too used to incredibly detailed images taken with cameras and Electron Microscopes. Hooke’s drawings are heavily fine lined, one illustration is like a leaf with a shadow, some are small stars. Reading more of what he says about his observations of snow crystals, he thinks they imitate fern leaves, molds, and mushroom growth. The bottom image is so interesting in that the snow flake looks like to be morphing into something other than a snow flake. I think of a flake of detergent beginning to suds, or fungi with ribs. On the bottom right of that last image there is a sort of boulder of black lines folding into one another. I do not know how that related to ice or snow, and I can’t think how. I wish I could ask him.
This year became very sick. My Grave’s disease, that had always been kept in check via medicine, was now throwing punches at the rest of me. Anaphylaxis, asthma, and angioedema became norms for me without much warning, as well as the ER, handfuls of benedryl, various inhalers, and the use of epipens. I have never been sick, never like this. There were weeks and weeks where it was all I could do to stave off my throat swelling up, and keep my body from being burning hot and itchy. I have always been an energetic-never-a-bad-day-hard-charging-happy person. I would average 40 miles of biking a week via commuting to work and back. Not only was this bad, but also terrifying to have happen so suddenly and seemingly not letting up.
I want to point out this story has a happy ending, I’m fine now. After 8 months of trying to understand what was happening, realizing that it was my thyroid, and taking the steps to get rid of it I am on the road to better. ( I DID have to give up my love of skinny jeans, tomatoes, and wine— what a horrible fate!)
During this turbulent time in my life drawing became a help, an escape. I was able escape reality and help myself re-shape how to think about it. This isn’t a new concept for the wider world, but I became pointed for me personally. Art making became this sharp spear that I could thrust back at everything. It allowed me to gouge out a place for my heart and mind from the war in my body.
The drawings I made during this time were much more driven by my emotions then ever before. Keeping things cool and tightly under control was how I approached making drawings earlier. Once I got sick things started to flow apart, everything was given more room to breathe. The tightness of the drawings I once made, I couldn’t focus on anymore.
Usually small and made in bed, my drawings began to take over the entire piece of paper. The dotted lines demarcated space in ink on the paper, making polygon-like shapes, and triangles that became a strange new characters. There was a rounded softness that still existed in the shapes. Each drawing began at the center, intuitively I built systems of polygons out from other systems of polygons, until a particular enticing space was made.
Flattened and layered a different sort of spacial quality developed. At times thick black pencil lines almost obliterated the initial parts of the drawing. Colored pencil started to exist vibrantly between the dotted lines and to wash the paper with color. It seemed that frustration and hope could exist in the same space together.
I thought about my anxiety, body, frustration and the impending-doom-feeling (which, I can say now, is an interesting side-effect of anaphylaxis) when making these drawings. I also thought about W.A. Bentley’s earnestness in photographing snow crystals. With the bitter cold and numb fingers he would stand out in a storm, but also the utter excitement he must of experienced at finding one that was truly unique. The symmetry that Bentley sought was of six fold symmetry at its finest, and yet rare. Every snowflake being unique is a true statement, but finding such perfect symmetry as his did was even more unique.
As I started making these drawings I knew I needed to draw something earnestly less then perfect. I needed to make drawings that were earnestly sideways, imperfect, lopsided; having vibrant colors and erasures, having different forces falling into them, splitting them open, and torn paper. I thought about how different kinds life could grow within them. Spider webs, mushroom spores, city dirt and grime.
I think of them now as small poems of hope and resistance of the unknown, drawing to make it familiar. That these could be a way of getting away and back again. That life was, at times, challenging and hard and depressing, but in the end I will be somewhere new and that might be good.
Found this image a few weeks ago (here) from the Electron Microscopy Unit of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland…this is very much not your “typical” image of a snow crystal. They aren’t this wildly messy, imperfect with other arms of other snow crystal piled on or whole other snow crystals piled on!
(They also look like playdoh because it’s an electron microscopic image)
But this is perfectly normal ACUTALLY. This is most snow crystals. Snow crystals are thought of (and this is totally true of my experience, until I started researching and drawing these things) as 6-armed-symmetrical-perfection. However those images are just model snow crystals that humans have tirelessly sought out and taken pictures of…