Seems all I'm doing these days is documenting winter. Lake Ontario was roiled up the other day. What ice there had been was now melted—almost 40° F here—and all there was now was this: gray sky, brownish-gray water, and a lighthouse for non-existent boats. I very much like the horizon line and its echo in the sky.
After yesterday's dreariness, this is what I woke up to today. The upper clouds predict the darkness for the rest of the day, but the bright yellow rays shone into the bedroom with an intensity that is rare here in winter. . . and also difficult to display.
The sky has always been a strong inspiration for artists. It speaks to the immensity of the world and the constant changes all around and the difficulty of holding on to anything without altering it somehow. These few minutes after photographing this sky, it now lacks its earlier drama; colorlessness masks its potential excitement.
It is raining today and about 39 degrees F: classic definition of a dreary day in Upstate New York. I see this hill often when I drive to do errands. Today, its greenness is a good contrast to the grey of the sky and the road and the messy snow left from last week. A friend showed me this hill; he uses it as a measure of changing seasons and of the mystery of the earth. What is it, really? A bit of a drumlin? A mound hiding burials? Probably nothing more than what we see: a pile of earth. Just earth.
There was a time when the Chicago River did what all rivers do when confronted with a downhill run and a large body of water at the end of that run: it flowed east into Lake Michigan. Then, as the city grew with people, railroads, more people, more freight—both rail and ship—more people, manufacturing, retail, people, the river became the premier sewer of the region, moving all its waste into Lake MIchigan. Oh, my! Polluting the lake! What do we do?!?! Reverse the flow of the river, of course, to move the stuff somewhere else. Here is a concise history of the river from the Encyclopedia of Chicago. And here is a USGS map of the river system today.
Ah, what we do to clean up our messes, eh?
The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was first built in 1893 at the mouth of the Chicago River. In 1917, after the Navy Pier was built, it was moved out here at the end of the breakwater in the harbor.
One that I particularly liked is The Hollywood Angel, from a cemetery in Hollywood, CA, (um, yeah):
She looks very stern, eh? Like, "You think you're going WHERE?!"
Anyway, look at the feathers on her wing:
Glass layered to look like fabric. And then there's the "embroidered" edge; lead and glass that our eye knows is really a ribbon of some sort sewn on.
Then came the sewing together of the long scarf-like thing. Putting this together involved labeling the sides of the squares, folding two of them on their diagonals, then sewing them together. Notice how LARGE this is.
And then comes the Magic Machine. I washed the slippers for 26 minutes in hot water, rinsed, spun, and air-dried the things. Now look at their size. They fit my feet perfectly.
Winter in upstate New York is bleak. Yes, occasionally there are sunny, bright, delightful days. But more often are days like this one: a "White-Sky Day." Say that to anyone who has lived up here, and they understand completely what this means. There is no precipitation, the ceiling is low, the clouds continuous and grey. Dreary.
That said, on days like this, when there are no shadows, the details of the landscape are stark. As a friend noted, the trees on the hillside across the lake in this image look like hairs on a thinning scalp. I saw it as thread painting: black and rust on white. Makes one wonder, eh? If two good friends can't see the same thing right away, then how are hostile nations ever even going to take the opportunity to tell each other what they see, compare notes, and then exclaim "Oh! I never thought of it that way! Wow!" Sheesh.
The other day, I went out to the lakeshore to eat lunch. It was cold, so I sat in the car, as several other people were doing in theirs. The seagulls have gotten so smart that they know when we are eating IN our cars and so they sit on the hood and look in through the windshield, screeching when we don't pay attention to them. When it becomes obvious that we are not going to feed them, they fly away to harass some newcomer to the parking lot.
I manipulated the photo I had taken of my personal harassing gull, and this is one result. I now have Photoshop Elements, which has many cool tools to play with. Some of the most simple stuff I haven't yet figured out (like how to put a simple black border around the picture), but turning an image into a negative with some interesting background color, I have been able to do. This would make a nice template for a linoleum block print someday, I'm thinking.
. . . is calling. Itchy feet. "Nogi na dorogi," [legs on the road] in Russian (where's that Cyrillic font when I really want it?!) Doesn't this look inviting? It's in the Finger Lakes, between Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes, in Milo, I think, a few weeks ago. I've taken photos like this in Nevada. And Kansas, Wyoming, California. We've built roads everywhere, and all of them appeal to me. I want to see them all, to drive them, to walk them, to be there. Ah.
Jennifer Marsh in Syracuse, NY, is in charge of the International Fiber Collaborative, the point of which is to think about our dependence on oil. The project consists of collecting 3-foot-squares, made of some sort of fibers, that will be joined together to cover an abandoned gas station in DeWitt, NY. The installation will start in April 2008.
She had been a school librarian with an adventurous streak. The rail fence quilt block forms the way she hoped the world would see her, but the tumbling blocks at the bottom are how she really interacted with those she loved: passionate, active, and just a little bit wacky.
Meanwhile, Lumpy had found the warm spot on the library floor, next to the couch skirt that was closest to the hot air register. I have since moved the furniture for the winter so that he doesn't have to smush himself to get warm.
I have received some feedback on my concern about copyright and fair use of images for collage and been given to understand that it is expected that collagists will use published images to make their artworks and that I shouldn't worry about it. I guess. Ok.
Meanwhile, here is a collage postcard that I made about 20 or so years ago, called "Want to Play with Me?" All of the pieces here are from public domain images provided by Dover Publications specifically for this kind of use.
The other day, I took a collage class (paper) with Candy Lucas in Auburn, NY. It was an interesting day of cutting pictures out of magazine and catalog pages and putting them together to create some sort of image. This is my result, called "Warning." It was fun, but I think I will stick with fabric. I am uncomfortable with using published images to make my own. It's too close to copyright infringement in my mind. If I know that the pictures are in the public domain and I've acquired them from the public domain—any government publication, for example—then that's one thing. But using things that are covered by an existing copyright, even a small part, makes me wriggle. It's analogous to sampling music. Just how much is "fair use?"
Here's an image of a pool of water onto which several different types of leaves had fallen. Below the surface is a seagrass of some sort, too, waving in the water's flow. I think an interesting project would be to have any number of people take this image and produce their own piece inspired by it: fabric, paint, clay, whatever works. What do you think? Want to try it? Send me an email and we'll go from there.
Somewhere on my travels in the last few weeks, I noticed this Tin Man attached to the front of a middle-sized truck—not a semi, but the size down with the box attached to the cab, not hinged. And then I saw the driver; he looked EXACTLY like the doll. He was walking across the parking lot too fast to get a photo, and how would I explain wanting to post his photo on my blog, eh? I would probably have to have him fill out a permissions form and all that. Whew! And then I realized that I didn't need to take a picture of the guy. The doll looked EXACTLY like him. Well, except that the doll looks much wackier than the guy did. He looked pretty normal. The doll looks like the guy most likely feels when in traffic with cars cutting in front of him and getting in his way.
Come to think of it, the Tin Man looks the way I feel when in traffic.
The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative auctions off art quilts every month to help support research into the disease. This little piece, "I Want To Be An Elephant" will be available through this website sometime in the near future. My artist's statement, written with the help of a good writer, reads:
When I was a young child, I heard a joke that went, “Why do elephants paint their toenails red?” The punch line was, “So that they can hide in cherry trees.” The joke was then followed by the question, “Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree?” Since I hadn't, I was assured that it was because of those red toenails. My whole life since then, every time I see a cherry tree I look carefully, trying to find an elephant.
Sometimes I paint my toenails red. And when I am alone, with just my toes and me, I wonder if my family and friends know where I am. I wonder if they are searching in the cherry trees.
At a recent quilting retreat with a group of the most delightful people, I made these two fellows: Watson on the left; Campbell on the right. They are based on John Murphy's book, Stupid Sock Creatures. If ever one is stuck creatively, these are great for getting into that flow of no-thinking-just-making. Now, not everything is always perfect in that river of non-thought. There is a third creature, Matilda, who I just couldn't get right, no matter what I did. Or so I thought. The rest of the group thought that she was just fine, so she has gone home with one of them and has a support group through them. I was ready to dismantle her, but she was saved. Here she is with one of my handknitted sock monkeys. (I like the sock monkey better, even though he looks demented, I admit. Sigh.)
"How NOT to Mend a Broken Heart" was given 2nd honors in the Breaking Traditions exhibit at the American Sewing Expo in Michigan at the end of September. It was an experiment on the theme of "Connections," and I felt good when I finished it.
17"W x 24"H
commercial fabrics and findings; machine quilted; hand embellished.
Statement: Chocolate is buttons, flowers are safety pins, jewelry is a zipper, a trip to new places tries to lace the pieces. More gifts provide snaps and clips, the connections mechanical and uncertain. What can truly restore the fabric of a heart pierced and broken by another heart, disconnected from what it loves?
These ducks on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York, did their familiar quacking when I was watching them, but then they all started whistling and chirping. That's what the one duck with his raised beak is doing. I don't speak Duck, so I don't know what they were telling me or each other. Interesting how we are able to understand our own species's different languages but haven't figured out how to learn those in the animal world. Just what is my cat telling me when he stares and stares at me and gets impatient when I don't get it?!
It ended with this just a few minutes later:
And, of course I'm thinking, How do I re-create that with fabric and thread?
From the top of the tallest of the Etowah Indian Mounds in Georgia is this view: The top of the mound, which was built about 1000 years ago out of the soil in the area; Central Pivot Irrigation system to provide water to the crops currently grown below the mound; Plant Bowen (largest coal-fired power plant in the southeast), off on the horizon. Each of these elements is an example of how humans have been doing things to their environment for as long as they have lived on this world. Manipulations not readily seen in this image include houses, visitor center, roads, fences, plantings, parking lots, electric/phone lines. . .use your imagination for the rest.
Union Station in Montgomery, Alabama, is now the visitor center for the city. It had been the major train station there, built in 1897 in the Romanesque style. Many of the original features still exist (go see the marble bathrooms!), including this tile floor in the center of the main hall. Difficult to photograph straight on without a very tall ladder. I sort of like this oblique view, though. The photo is indeed a rectangle, but, wow! the illusion of distortion is strong, eh? Good colors, too.
The original SockMunky is on the left; my creation, who now lives in Auburn, Alabama, and is named Tybee, is on the right; and a new old aquisition is in the middle, named Montgomery for where he was found. They are sitting companiably together here, knowing that it isn't often that they have the opportunity to be together. SockMunky and Tybee lived together for a little while until Tybee moved south. And now Montgomery and SockMunky will be sharing the car for more travels in the South in the next couple of weeks. Montgomery needs a bath, but I have to figure out how to do that without having him fall apart in the process. Suggestions are welcome. He doesn't smell, but he isn't clean, either. And yes, he is missing his right ear.
This turtle was just waiting to be mushed by the next vehicle on the boat ramp to the Kentucky River at Fort Boonesborough. I moved it to the edge into the grasses, but took photos before that. What kind of turtle is this? It's shell looked as though it had some strange growths on it and it's right hind leg wasn't retracting all the way anymore. Mostly, it just looked bewildered.
Two for one: travel and quilts! I knew that Ohio had a project for putting quilts, of a sort, on barns, but hadn't realized that Kentucky also is doing it. Here is a tobacco barn, on US68, between Blue Licks and Paris. I saw another one in the distance somewhere the other day, too.
Tobacco plants are quite beautiful when hanging to dry, like in this barn in Willow, Kentucky. I passed many small barns with harvests drying in them. This area of Kentucky—just south of the Ohio River, east of Cincinnati—is lovely; when I got out of the car to take photographs, there were no human sounds until a pickup truck could be heard coming up the road, passing me, and going out of sight in the other direction. And then it was back to the birds and rustling leaves and one flag flapping on its pole in a small cemetery.
I have one of those little Canon digital cameras with a window on the back that shows whatever I'm taking a picture of. And, after I take a picture, I find that I lower the camera to a horizontal position in order to see the latest image. That image lasts for only a few seconds before the camera goes back to seeing through the lens, and that's when photos like this one get taken. I have a record of places where I have stood, simply because the image in the screen looked really good.
This sockmunky, as he prefers to have his kind spelled, is from North Carolina, here seen in the Adirondacks overlooking Wolf Pond. He enjoys travel and lives in the car because he is afraid of missing out on going anyplace, new or otherwise.
The Mohawk River joins the Hudson here at the old village of Waterford, NY (whose name is the whole story of its past). At no other confluence of rivers that I've been to have I seen a sign THIS LARGE (or any signs at all, for that matter) showing boaters the way. It's quite impressive. An interesting feature of this sign, however, is that it says nothing of the rivers, but points to the cities, the canals, oh and the one natural feature, Lake Champlain. The rivers might as well not be there. Meanwhile, the area is quite pretty and looks to be a good place to paddle sometime. The Mohawk has several slow-moving branches around some islands. The Hudson is large, but controlled by the dam at Troy, so it's pretty steady. Nice place.
These pictures show the end result. Only some of the colors transfered from the silk to the eggshell. But it is a pleasant coloring and I just may have to try again with other pieces of fabric.
Willsboro Bay on the New York state side of Lake Champlain is a pretty spot for paddling. In the mornings, the breeze is offshore, from the south. During the day, it blows from the northwest. It changes in the evening, quietly, slowly, at about 6:30. The ducks don't seem to mind. The scoters were here, doing their diving acts. And the hummingbirds are all around, noisy little helicopters. Oh, and the pesky millefoile is sticking its heads out of the water.
Here is the whole thing:
And this is another detail: