Peru Rocks

Stone age

Peter is my catholic confirmation name, or en francais, Pierre.  While my female classmates chose more traditional saint names like Mary or Theresa, I had to add a dash of creativity to the catechism mix.  If Jesus built his church on the rock of Saint Peter, I argued, it was certainly a name strong enough for me. 

Pierre also means ‘stone’ in French.  Maybe that is why I picked it.  Could I have known then that I simply wanted my spiritual name to reflect the deep connection I have with rocks

The rocks in my pocket from Moonstone Beach in California, July 2019.

The rocks in my pocket from Moonstone Beach in California, July 2019.

At about the same age, my daughter, Zsofi, had an equally creative wish, not focused on a spiritual graduation, but the much more secular version of high school commencement. Zsofi requested a trip to Peru as her graduation gift.  Nothing could have made this wanderlust mama prouder!

Zsofi, Devon and Brianna defying gravity above Playa Roja in Paracas, Peru, June 2019.

Zsofi, Devon and Brianna defying gravity above Playa Roja in Paracas, Peru, June 2019.

What I did not realize at the time was that Peru would unearth my love of stone in the most remarkable ways.

 

Minerality mentality

Massive tectonic shifts and a healthy dose of volcanic rumbling creates some of the most amazing landscapes for this artist.  Welcome to the Andes!

Sabancaya belching her volcanic mist near Patapampa Pass in southern Peru, June 2019.

Sabancaya belching her volcanic mist near Patapampa Pass in southern Peru, June 2019.

With over 50 hours of Peruvian bus time logged, my nose spent most of it pressed against the window.  Every mountain pass brought a new and wildly fresh vista for my eyes to feast.

While I’ve always been an avid road trip gazer (will not sleep in a car!), I traveled through the Altiplano with a newly acquired knowledge and pure fascination of earth pigments.

Mineral pigments I foraged and ground near the ancient sea bed of Paracas, Peru, June 2019.

Mineral pigments I foraged and ground near the ancient sea bed of Paracas, Peru, June 2019.

One year ago, I bumped into an incredible creative philosopher and professed mineral pigment worker, or whisperer as I prefer to think of her.  Heidi Gustafson has dedicated her practice to honor the sacred mineral of iron oxide and her earth pigment sister of ochre.  I became increasingly intrigued by her work and thrilled to learn that she lived less than 2 hours away in the great PNW.  When Heidi offered a mineral foraging workshop on Whidbey Island, I jumped at the chance to walk the beach with her to learn how to extract color from yet another one of earth’s natural resources.

Pigments I foraged and ground from Whidbey Island thanks to the mineral genius of Heidi Gustafson, June 2019.

Pigments I foraged and ground from Whidbey Island thanks to the mineral genius of Heidi Gustafson, June 2019.

What I learned that day would be exactly what I needed  to begin my first solo quest for earth pigments in Peru.

 

Pack it out

Installation has become an integral part of my global travel.  Weeks prior to launch, I am feverishly gathering, testing and building materials to create installation while on the road.  With only a backpack and my daughters by my side for our time in Peru, I chose to re-imagine how I would express my creativity on this treasured trip.

All loaded up in Cusco, Peru, with everything I could carry on my back (and front!), July 2019.

All loaded up in Cusco, Peru, with everything I could carry on my back (and front!), July 2019.

As if by magic, a new conceptual plan emerged in the right side of my braininstallation vs. extraction.  I would explore Peru’s landscape with an open heart, seeking balance of giving and receiving - installing and extracting - the earth as my guide.

 

In my veins

Pigments on my mind, I chose to install predominantly paper pulp pieces painted in minerals sourced from other regions north of the equator.  With a newly opened eye to identify minerals that had the potential of sharing color, I discovered many places where I could make an installation ‘offering’ as gratitude for the rocks the earth presented to me.

First earth pigment offering at Playa la Mina in the Paracas National Reserve, Peru, June 2019.

First earth pigment offering at Playa la Mina in the Paracas National Reserve, Peru, June 2019.

What I didn’t expect was the obsession with which I would seek out color in the rocks of Peru.  In many ways, I suppose traveling by bus was a perfect way to curb my enthusiasm, or at least keep me from stopping at every curve in the road to hunt pigment.  Perhaps it gave me the reflective time I needed to practice simply sensing the rifts where color might be ready to mingle with an artist.

Easy to see the earth pigments in the Mountain of 7 Colors, aka Rainbow Mountain, Peru, July 2019.

Easy to see the earth pigments in the Mountain of 7 Colors, aka Rainbow Mountain, Peru, July 2019.

From the ancient seabed of Paracas to the pinnacle of Vinicunca, the rocky soil gave me yet another incredible palette to sprinkle into my artwork.  The handful of stones I will lovingly grind in the following months will be cherished not only for the subtle colors they will reveal, but also the memories I was lucky enough to forge with my daughters in Peru.

Stones collected along the route to Cusco, itching to have their pigments ground.

Stones collected along the route to Cusco, itching to have their pigments ground.

Rock ‘n roll

So, yes, I love all things stone, and I have for a very long time.  My grandfather had an incredible rock collection that mesmerized me with their crystalized innards or smoothly polished surfaces.  My best friend, Maggie, recently reminded me of a garnet hunting expedition we took as kids.  Time at the beach often involves taking close up photographs of the pebbles beneath my feet as opposed to the crashing waves.  I even named my son in honor of stone:  Mason.

However, if I’m being totally honest, my catechism name was only coincidentally connected to rocks.  Admitting my name inspiration may have come from a crush I had on the guitarist Pete Townsend of The Who, I’m fairly certain the clergy would not have approved.  Still, it is fun to think I may have a higher calling to be grounded in the world of stone.

Tell me: Do stones rock your world?

Mama Me

Storm a’brewing

Two years ago, I brewed some organic dyes, froze some ice and picked up my camera again after many years of creative quietude.  What caused this sudden surge of the artist within?  That’s an easy one to answer:

 My mom, aka Maia, Mama, and even sometimes George (weird teenage phase for me!).

My mom’s last big road trip to see the solar eclipse in Sun Valley, Idaho, with my daughter and brother, Devon and Tony, August 21, 2017.

My mom’s last big road trip to see the solar eclipse in Sun Valley, Idaho, with my daughter and brother, Devon and Tony, August 21, 2017.

As I sat by her bedside watching her peaceful final breaths last week, I reflected on my mom’s legacy – the gifts she gave me.  The list is remarkably long, and no surprise that it includes two hugely important parts of my essence…

 Travel and art.

 

The art of travel

To say I have a travel addiction is an understatement.  Just this year, six months in, flights have zipped me to New York City, Amsterdam, Iceland, Mexico, most major cities in California and the tropical paradise of Maui.  Next week, Peru will be the first new country added to the list in many years.  Topping out close to 70 countries now, that seat in the Traveler’s Century Club might very well welcome this traveling artist one day.

Traveling artists in their element: Jan and Byrdie on a plane to Ketchikan, Alaska, April 2015.

Traveling artists in their element: Jan and Byrdie on a plane to Ketchikan, Alaska, April 2015.

The thing is, I’ve been traveling my whole life.  I was the weird kid in grade school that spent her summers 3000 miles away exploring the high desert plateau of central Idaho while most just headed to the local pool.  Two cross country trips before I could drive seemed like a right instead of a badge.  At 15, I helped plan our first European tour, and left my mom and brother as they headed home so I could soak up the sun with a French family on the Riviera.  How about three weeks driving around Alaska as a high school graduation trip? Yes please!

What is the common denominator in all of this?  My mom, of course.  It may have been my job to hold the map and find our way, but she was always willing to get us lost.

Got our gear in case we get lost in the Misty Fjords in Alaska, April 2015.

Got our gear in case we get lost in the Misty Fjords in Alaska, April 2015.

 

Rain buckets

Bucket lists that involve travel seem to light a spark in me.  An invitation by my mom to join her on a life-long wish to sail the Inside Passage of Alaska was easy to accept.  So, in April of 2015, we boarded a small vessel in search of wild solitude together.

Sea kayaking with my mom and Uncruise - best way to see the Inside Passage!

Sea kayaking with my mom and Uncruise - best way to see the Inside Passage!

At a young 78, my mom was my adventure partner in sea kayaking, boulder hiking and glacier exploring. The weather may have been nasty, but the laughs we had along the way were the memories of a lifetime.

Waking up deep in Tracy Arm Fjord and watching ice calve at North Sawyer Glacier was a visual explosion.

Waking up deep in Tracy Arm Fjord and watching ice calve at North Sawyer Glacier was a visual explosion.

She was also my bunk mate in our 100 square foot cabin for one week at sea.  There, in small quarter living, I discovered the illness that would eventually take my mom on her own wild journey:

 Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

 

Alz & Crafts

Research suggests that creativity is not impacted by dementia in the ways it devastates so many other aspects of the mind.  Luckily, beyond her scientific intellect, my mom had an artistic side.  Trust me…she was crafty in every sense of the word, and she did it all:

  • quilting

  • sewing

  • weaving

  • knitting

  • baking

  • painting

As her care partner, and creative crazy in my own right, I sought out opportunity where we could continue artistic expression after her diagnosis.  Where certain crafts became exceedingly difficult because of measured calculations, painting traveled unscathed through the dementia vortex.

One wonderful dementia friendly program we were lucky enough to experience was the here:now creative engagement class at the Frye Museum in Seattle.  For six weeks, we were treated to interactive gallery conversations and studio time to stretch our minds and fingers.

One of many paintings my mom created while fighting dementia, Frye Art Museum, 2016.

One of many paintings my mom created while fighting dementia, Frye Art Museum, 2016.

When I look at the work we produced together, I am equally envious and proud of my mom’s obviously superior skill of representational painting. Even fun quick portraits of each other captured the ease with which she used the brush.

Blind contour paintings we made of each other at the Frye Museum in 2016. Guess which one is me?

Blind contour paintings we made of each other at the Frye Museum in 2016. Guess which one is me?

Having said that, I suppose I can see why 3D might be more up my alley.

My attempt at channeling the inner byrd in my creativity, Frye Museum, 2016.

My attempt at channeling the inner byrd in my creativity, Frye Museum, 2016.

My mom’s attempt…

My mom’s attempt…

However, one could say my mom’s creativity of building a duck-billed platypus as an interpretation of Alexander Max Koester’s Moulting Ducks was genius beyond compare.

Needless to say, each piece now holds a very special place in my own art gallery - the one right next to my heart.

 

Mamma Mia

Growing up as a traveling artist, I can thank my mom for paving the way, providing encouragement, opportunity and a blue-print for following one’s passion.  These same two slices of our shared soul provided much needed therapy for both of us while we walked the path of dementia.  Cruel as this disease is, it will never touch the creative experiences, on the road and in the studio, that have become the foundation of who we became as artists.

The last mixed media collaboration I created with my mom, Jan Willms, 2016. Love it!

The last mixed media collaboration I created with my mom, Jan Willms, 2016. Love it!

As I create my next installation, with colors I extract from Mother Earth, it will be dedicated in loving memory of Jan Willms, my mom, the woman who showed me a world of wonder.

I love you, Mama...

 

 

 

 

3's company

Three me please

Three is a magic number.  From the micro (protons, neutrons and electrons) to the cosmic (planets, stars and galaxies), nature bundles it’s wonders in three.  I suppose it is no surprise, then, that humans do exactly the same within their world:

  • Storytelling and the trilogy

  • Religion and the trinity

  • Art and the tryptych

Our brains are hard-wired to seek out patterns and relationships, and we are drawn to clusters of three as the simplest way to connect thoughts.  We see it used in speech-writing, classroom learning and comedy skits.  Simply put: three rules.

So, perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that I too have a trifecta of sorts, at least as it relates to my creative world.  Today, it seems these three elements are intertwined more than I had imagined:

  •  My job

  • My travel

  • My installation

Mung bean installation on Maui will melt with the rising tide, Kaanapali Beach, April 2019.

Mung bean installation on Maui will melt with the rising tide, Kaanapali Beach, April 2019.

Triangulation

To be a full-time working artist is a dream of mine.  My guess is it’s the dream of most creatives, and unlike popular myth, it is completely attainable.  However, most of us have had other jobs to support ourselves at one point or another, and sadly, many feel ashamed of this.

Not me.  The work that has sustained me and my family for decades is not art-related, but it is the foundation that I stand on, and it has taken me around the globe.  Through this travel, I became so deeply inspired by the landscapes I roamed, my installation practice was reignited.  Now, my installation is sprouting new opportunity for work, but this time in the art world.

The perfect art world, high above the clouds on Haleakalā, deserves an abaca swirl installation, April 2019.

The perfect art world, high above the clouds on Haleakalā, deserves an abaca swirl installation, April 2019.

See how that rolls?  Job—>travel—>installation—>job - and the power of three is born.

 

USD 3.3M

I had an exceptionally good sales year in 2018, as did many of my colleagues.  As a gift to our team, my company hosted our annual sales meeting in Maui this year.  As a bonus, a few extra days to explore the island and an invitation for our loved ones to join was extended.

My guy, Chris, and yours truly, finding amazing new vistas in West Maui.

My guy, Chris, and yours truly, finding amazing new vistas in West Maui.

Mahalo, Opticon, bon voyage, and aloha installation!

Funny enough, this trip was my third visit to Maui, and it’s said, the 3rd time’s the charm.

 

No small trifle

One very delightful piece of this voyage was a treasure hunt I hosted for all the creative travel enthusiasts I had to leave behind.  The beauty of our digital world allowed me to stay engaged while installing almost 3000 miles from home.  Working remotely never felt so connected.

In the midst of meetings and Power Point presentations, I managed to sneak away for six installations over six days.   With a virtual family of travelers in tow, I shared a map of Maui and posted visual clues on social media about each piece.  Nothing like playing a game at work!

Vertical stack of paper pulp bricks painted with earth pigments and installed in drift wood.

Vertical stack of paper pulp bricks painted with earth pigments and installed in drift wood.

So, what was the real treasure in this hunt?   The amazing community I’m so lucky to have found along the way!

 

Triple threat

As rewarding as this trip was, installation always has it’s difficulties.  Add work and children to the mix, plus a healthy dose of wind, and new challenges were bound to bubble up:

Challenge 1:  Business meetings always spill into the evening, and the sun sets relatively quickly the closer you are to the equator.  How do you photograph an installation in the dark?

Threaded orbs installed on a banyan tree with the glow of darkness, Lahaina, April 2019.

Threaded orbs installed on a banyan tree with the glow of darkness, Lahaina, April 2019.

Same orbs but with a flash of delight! Which one do you prefer?

Same orbs but with a flash of delight! Which one do you prefer?

Challenge 2:  Teenagers have slightly less patience when it comes to tagging along on an installation trek.  How quickly can you find a site before your child gets bored?

My son, Mason, chillin’ at 10,000 feet, while I was a few hundred feet higher installing. Thanks for waiting!

My son, Mason, chillin’ at 10,000 feet, while I was a few hundred feet higher installing. Thanks for waiting!

Challenge 3:  Maui is in the middle of the ocean, so it is very windyHow do you keep paper pulp from blowing away?

Wind whipping is one of the many dangers of installation at 10000 feet.

Wind whipping is one of the many dangers of installation at 10000 feet.

3, 2, 1…

Three has been a lucky number in my life (just look at those amazing three people I call my kids!).  So, I won’t dismiss the power of 3 and the critical part my job plays in today’s creative triangle.  Without it, I would not have traveled to Maui’s paradise to create yet another set of installations, trying fresh materials and finding new beaches of inspiration.

Wheat pasted paper rolls embedded in a rocky beach in West Maui, April 2019.

Wheat pasted paper rolls embedded in a rocky beach in West Maui, April 2019.

So, as a typical human being, I suppose I also look for patterns and relationships in the world around me.  While pondering the impact of my day job on my creative practice, a few more connections popped up, which I leave for you to chew on:

  •  Without the 3 primary colors, we would have no rainbow

  • Without the 3 legs of a tripod, a camera would struggle to capture the aurora borealis,

    and perhaps most importantly…

  • Without AAA’s TripTik, we would all be lost.

Don’t worry -  I got you covered on the last one.  If you’d like your own copy of the Maui treasure map, click, click, clickLet me know what treasures you find in the comments below…

Kisses - Margaret

2D or not 2D - that is the question?

To flip is to flop

One pair of flip flops is all this artist needs.  If I didn’t love the polar north so much, my toes would always be exposed in the only shoes in my closet.  One pair, no choice, no problem.

Flip flops were made for installation! Placing a few colorful sticks on a dock in Union, Washington.

Flip flops were made for installation! Placing a few colorful sticks on a dock in Union, Washington.

Asked to choose between chocolate or vanilla, the bean made of cocoa would win, even though chocolate chip ice cream would be the obvious solution.  One flavor, no choice, no worries.

Canine or feline?  That’s easy – woof.  One pet, dirty house, ugh.

Meet Callie - resident studio dog, lover of eggs and cheese, and one giant fur ball!

Meet Callie - resident studio dog, lover of eggs and cheese, and one giant fur ball!

Having choice is one thing, but having to choose is quite another.  As much as I like to believe in the power of choice, I also recognize that I prefer fewer options, thus making the selection process quick and easy.

So, in a world where there are endless possibilities, why are we asked to pick a favorite, to choose one instead of the other?

I ask this because in the world of art specifically, I can’t choose, and quite frankly, I don’t want to.  It’s the one area where I want to try everything (ok – maybe not realistic figure drawing!), and for once, the more options I have, the more my creativity can thrive.

Stack Shack in all of it’s macro glory! A rainbow of organic dye in Þingeyri, Iceland, February 2019.

Stack Shack in all of it’s macro glory! A rainbow of organic dye in Þingeyri, Iceland, February 2019.

2D+3D=5D. Now that is math I can get behind!

 

Tik Tok

Wait…there is one more area where I long for a ‘sky’s the limit’ kind of choice:  Travel!

No surprises there.  When Chris asked where he could take me for my 50th birthday, the list of options, places high on my bucket list, was lengthy.  In the end, the choice, Lofoten, Norway, wasn’t difficult because I still have so many amazing landscapes to discover.  There is time and it will never be too late.

Chris and yours truly leaning into the wind on our way to Lofoten, October 2018.

Chris and yours truly leaning into the wind on our way to Lofoten, October 2018.

And these words perfectly describe how I feel about my creative journey.  Yes, it appears my passion has led me to installation, filled with all kinds of delicious sculptural material to build, but the photographer in my DNA is itching to compose a still life of my creations.  Not sure what the painter in me thinks about all this craziness, but she’s okay to fling some color around in the meantime.  There is time.


Resident artist

Even with the wanderlust and countless corners of the globe to explore, I seem to choose Iceland again and again, just like those worn out Havaianas.  This time (February 2019 to be exact), however, I decided to return to that enchanting island near the Arctic Circle to explore my love of the fifth dimension.

Shot Glass installation on the beach of Þingeyri, Westfjords, Iceland, February 2019.

Shot Glass installation on the beach of Þingeyri, Westfjords, Iceland, February 2019.

For my first artist residency, I proposed to dive deep into extracting organic dye from the land and sea of Þingeyri, Iceland in the Westfjords.  With these colors from nature, I would experiment across mediums, and one might even accuse me of stepping into the craft side of the arts’ universe:  Dyeing fabrics, installing the frozen liquid across the village and pouring it on paper to see how seaweed, lichen, cabbage and kale would soak into washi.  Is she a cook or a seamstress?  A forager or a printmaker?  What is this artist crafting now?!?

My warehouse studio at the Westfjords Residency. Cold, but oh so spacious!

My warehouse studio at the Westfjords Residency. Cold, but oh so spacious!

Passion…

 

Palette perfection

Ten days in a remote fjord in the middle of winter was the perfect setting for limited choices.  It was exactly the wildly windy silence I sought to focus exclusively on creative expansion.  Choosing only four organic substances for extraction also felt comfortably restricted.  My reward in the sparseness was a beautifully abundant color palette only Mother Nature could create.

Seaweed, lichen, cabbage and kale - oh my! Organic dye in all it’s natural wonder.

Seaweed, lichen, cabbage and kale - oh my! Organic dye in all it’s natural wonder.

From simplicity came the complexity I seek in my art practice, a choice I may never have made on my own.

Any doubt lingering in my mind about a need to choose just one discipline continues to dissipate.  What my Icelandic residency gave me was not only a deeper understanding of organic dye, but a sharpened curiosity of how I might use it’s subtle beauty across varied platforms.  Iceland also gave me some amazing artwork!

Building a body of mixed media work from the   Iceland   series. Organically dyed fabric on canvas, 12x12 inches.

Building a body of mixed media work from the Iceland series. Organically dyed fabric on canvas, 12x12 inches.

Letting it slide

One pair of snow boots is all it takes to keep this artist’s toes toasty in the Arctic chill.  Four times over eight years, no change, all good.

One pair of boots and a bucket of ice. What more does an artist need?

One pair of boots and a bucket of ice. What more does an artist need?

In February, I also brought a pair of slides to Iceland, my winter version of flip flops.  As we made our quick exit to beat the blizzard winds threatening to strand us another day in the Westfjords, I accidentally left my slides behind.

Note to self:  I only need one pair of shoes wherever this journey takes me.

Kisses - Byrdie

It's a jungle out there

Fizzy pop

I got bubbles on the brain.  Maybe it’s the sound of a cork popping at the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Could be the bubble bread Zsofi lovingly baked for our family at Christmas last week (it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore!).  Or perhaps it’s the thought of soaking in a steaming hot bubble bath to shake off the holiday blitz and quietly wind down on the last day of the year.

Bubbles can make you fly!

Bubbles can make you fly!

Whatever the reason, the amazing creative bubble I’ve floated in this year has bounced me across the globe experiencing a perfect balance of art and nature.  From eucalyptus to ponderosa, boreal to rain, the forests I’ve smelled have been as varied as the installations I’ve placed.  And this month, I was lucky enough to add a vegetation variation to the tropical climate category – the jungle.

Deep in the jungle of Haramara Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

Deep in the jungle of Haramara Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

Rustic roots

Signing up for a week long Art2Life painting workshop at Haramara Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico was a treat I gifted myself to continue my pursuit of all things acrylic.

The open air studio of Haramara. A perfect place to paint for a week!

The open air studio of Haramara. A perfect place to paint for a week!

Described as eco-rustic, the property has kept its promise to provide a quiet sanctuary among the wildly pristine terrain of the dry forest entrenched in the coastal mountain range.  Open-air cabanas tucked away in the groves of coconut palms and paper bark trees have no electricity, only candlelight to flicker as the sun sets over the Pacific.

Living among the tropical elements in Moldavite cabana.

Living among the tropical elements in Moldavite cabana.

Not exactly roughing it with the personalized service, fresh organic food and spa amenities, but the jungle’s heart beats steadily in the tangled thicket all around.

And over one week of creating in this lush environment, the jungle showed me just how strong of a pulse it has.


Bio-diversity

Although painting brought me to Haramara, I could not ignore the pull of installation, particularly in such a wild terrain.  Kindly requested by the owner of the property to place only 100% organic material, I spent weeks experimenting with new substrates in my studio/kitchen that could absorb home-brewed organic dyes.

Homemade organic dye cooked up from hibiscus, paprika, turmeric, parsley, blue pea and red cabbage.

Homemade organic dye cooked up from hibiscus, paprika, turmeric, parsley, blue pea and red cabbage.

Mung bean and rice paper met the challenge as I found a way to recreate bio-degradable forms that kept the translucency I adore.

Mung bean infused with organic dyes hanging in the Mexican sun.

Mung bean infused with organic dyes hanging in the Mexican sun.

Dough was an obvious choice, but I also dreamed of making paper pulp bricks to stack or embed in the forest floor.  How to keep those blocks colorfully eco-friendly?  Earth pigments, naturally!

Nothing better than color from the earth!

Nothing better than color from the earth!

Even in the tropical heat, my love affair with ice was on the planning list, so new mold shapes were discovered and a bond with the Haramara kitchen staff (and freezer!) was cultivated.

Freezing and melting tubes of ice wedged between young palms.

Freezing and melting tubes of ice wedged between young palms.

I could not have been better prepared, but as I soon found out, the law of the jungle has its own set of rules, and I was far from its queen.

Jungle fever

Born from the Hindi word jangal, to call this place a wasteland seems a tad severe.  However, in the metaphorical sense, I truly experienced the uncontrollable nature and isolation of the jungle every time I tried to install.

A jungle tree opening up for organic dough. One of the few installations I placed with limited difficulty.

A jungle tree opening up for organic dough. One of the few installations I placed with limited difficulty.

Granted, every installation journey is filled with challenges, but I felt each one of the emotions often associated with the word jungle:  confusion, powerlessness, disorientation and immobilization.

Perhaps it was the heat playing tricks on me, but you cannot ignore the signs of the wild for long.  Every day, the organic artwork would fight its placement in some way:

1.     The terrain would swallow it whole – pieces plunged to their fate through thorned bushes and tumbled down rocky ravines.

2.     The canopy played with the light, diffusing it across the artwork so it disappeared against a back drop of the most comprehensive palette of green known to the human eye.

3.     Sand and dirt refused to play second fiddle to the vibrant flower petals I had collected to embed in ice, so the crushed earth clung to every single piece I touched.

4.     Ants ate everything else.

Dough Ant.jpg

Lesson plans

As with any good struggle, a lesson is always intertwined in its fiber.  Perhaps the easiest explanation was a gentle reminder from the universe that my Haramara trip was meant to expand my painting practice.  Noted.

Finding my abstract language in acrylic paint. Getting closer to quiet simplicity.

Finding my abstract language in acrylic paint. Getting closer to quiet simplicity.

Or maybe, my ephemeral darling, ice, should be kept for polar excursions where the pressure to place lasts longer than 318 seconds.  Hmmm.

Ice infused with organic dye and installed on the beach at Haramara for mere seconds. Ephemeral work at its finest.

Ice infused with organic dye and installed on the beach at Haramara for mere seconds. Ephemeral work at its finest.

Valid thoughts for sure, but neither one rang true in my heart, and certainly would not keep me from such creative exploration in the future.

 No, it was much simpler than that, and yet, so much more profound:

 

The jungle is abundance personified.  Bursting with life, it creates beautiful harmony all on its own.  It has exactly what it needs – nothing more, nothing less.

The essence of things to come

A bumpy trek in the jungle could have burst my creative bubble, but I’ve returned from the wild side of installation a tiny bit wiser…once again.  Each journey brings its own surprises, all of which provide just enough sparkling effervescence to fuel the next adventure.

Ice infused with organic dyes installed on a dried coconut palm piece found along the beach. Guess how many times it tumbled into the sand?

Ice infused with organic dyes installed on a dried coconut palm piece found along the beach. Guess how many times it tumbled into the sand?

Cheers to 2018, and let’s clink our glasses to 2019!  I’m so honored and grateful to share this journey with you, no matter how bumpy the creative road may be…

Kisses - Margaret

Not too frail to fail

On the rise

Bubble bread is a buttery ball of doughy goodness that bakes in our oven every holiday season.  Although I don’t recall when or where it melted its way into our family’s feast, my children have gobbled it up every Thanksgiving since they could rip it from the loaf.

The famous Bubble Bread in all of it’s risen glory!

The famous Bubble Bread in all of it’s risen glory!


As much as this seasonal treat brings smiles and happy tummies, bubble bread has a history of being an epic failure in my kitchen.

Rise yeast, rise!  This mantra screams in my head as I hold my breath waiting for the single-celled fungi to wake up and eat the sugar I’ve lovingly fed it.  I’ve learned to have several packets of yeast in the wings after too many holiday attempts left me scrambling to find a grocery store that was miraculously open on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  No longer a problem in today’s commercial world, I still feel a tiny nervous pang every time the yeast hits the tepid milk.

Baking is truly an artform, and frankly, I have struggled with it my whole life.  Here’s the thing, though:  without every failed attempt, and the push to try, try again, there would be no tradition of bubble bread in our family.  Honestly, it is the process of kneading the dough, watching it rise, punching it down and rolling tiny morsels of yum that keeps me coming back, even when the yeast decides to take its own holiday.

Dough of the installation kind, organic and placed on a beach in Maui, June 2018. No yeast required.

Dough of the installation kind, organic and placed on a beach in Maui, June 2018. No yeast required.

Basically, bubble bread is exactly how my art practice tastes.  It is the product of failed attempts that has allowed me the humility to stumble, the courage to get back up and the sweet reward at the end of a winding road of discovery.

 I think it’s time I share some of my failed ingredients.  Move over yeast!

There is an egg in bubble bread, but frankly, there should be no eggs in installation! Maui, June 2018.

There is an egg in bubble bread, but frankly, there should be no eggs in installation! Maui, June 2018.

Mounds of trouble

Reflecting on the past year, I am not only grateful for some incredible creative opportunities that have bubbled up, but also thankful for all of the bumps along the way.  And, let me tell you, there have been more than a few.

Torturing a Bird of Paradise for the sake of art….if you can call it that! San Diego, CA, April 2018.

Torturing a Bird of Paradise for the sake of art….if you can call it that! San Diego, CA, April 2018.

To read the definition of failure, you often see it referred to as the ‘opposite of success’.  But, if you dig a bit further, failure can be described as simply a condition of not meeting an intended objective (thanks, Wikipedia!).  Sounds pretty benign to me, and it is predicated on the assumption that there is a goal, which in my book means you got your ‘stuff’ together.

As an artist, each one of us knows the complexity of translating vision to action, from mind to hand to paper (or substrate of your choice).  Most of my creative musings are never realized in a final piece, and what I’ve discovered is what I see in my head and heart is only a tiny sliver of the artistic puzzle.  I have to try every piece out, move them around, see if something links together, and use every ‘failure’ as guidance for the next step.

 

Note to self

One year ago, I decided to throw a few of those puzzle pieces around.  To be exact, I chucked a bunch of ice across the elfin land of Iceland.  My intended objective was somewhat fuzzy, but I knew it was time to see what that gnawing creative vision was all about.  Let’s just say the first pitch was a curve ball.

The very first documented installation attempt, rough at best, Blue Lagoon, Iceland, Nov 2017.

The very first documented installation attempt, rough at best, Blue Lagoon, Iceland, Nov 2017.

But what specifically did I learn from that icy first day?

  • It’s cold, wet and windy so pack the right clothes, and don’t forget to wear them.

  • Not all installation locations are equal, so be prepared to lie face down in snow, dirt, mud, and sand, or better yet, look for placement at eye level!

  • It’s okay to feel scared, stupid and foolish because you are stumbling (and most likely slipping and falling) into the unknown.


First attempt saved by trial and error, contemplation, experimentation and the incredible arctic light of the autumn sun in Iceland, Nov 2017. Lava rocks and lichen certainly didn’t hurt.

First attempt saved by trial and error, contemplation, experimentation and the incredible arctic light of the autumn sun in Iceland, Nov 2017. Lava rocks and lichen certainly didn’t hurt.

 

The perfect storm

One of the warped puzzle pieces of social media is that I can choose to create a façade of perfection.  No need to show the 17 attempts to capture one decent photograph of an installation gone sideways or the stack of rejection letters from galleries, grants and publications.

Trust me, the heap is huge on this artist’s studio table.  However, without crawling through each one of those failures, I would not have pushed through to secure my first international gallery installation in Mexico next year. If at first you don’t succeed

Cactus garden at Fabrica la Aurora in San Miguel de Allende where I will have a large scale installation in March, 2019. Hope to see you there!

Cactus garden at Fabrica la Aurora in San Miguel de Allende where I will have a large scale installation in March, 2019. Hope to see you there!

We should celebrate it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, and wear each one proudly like a badge of honor for all to see.

 

Tangled webs

In the spring of 2018, I applied to an artist residency on a local farm in a big leap of faith to honor a newly revealed intention so proudly displayed on my first vision board.  My proposal was to gather natural materials from the farm and create woven installations throughout the property.

A tree on the Mary Olson Farm as a potential installation site, Auburn, WA. Little did I know that lichen would play a starring role in my next residency attempt.

A tree on the Mary Olson Farm as a potential installation site, Auburn, WA. Little did I know that lichen would play a starring role in my next residency attempt.

Although I landed in the Top 10, I was not selected for the next round of interviews because there was no history of weaving in my background.  The ‘rejection’ did not keep me from requesting feedback which I would not have otherwise received.

Nope, it was this critique that allowed me to strengthen my next residency proposal:  forage natural materials from the wild land of Iceland to make natural dyes for installation. 

Testing pigment extraction from  Evernia prunastri , a lichen foraged from a fallen tree in my neighborhood. If successful, might have deep purple dye in 2 months.

Testing pigment extraction from Evernia prunastri, a lichen foraged from a fallen tree in my neighborhood. If successful, might have deep purple dye in 2 months.

Guess where I will be in February?  Hello Westfjords, Iceland….

The long and wild drive to the Westfjords, Iceland, Nov 2017. It ain’t a road for the faint of heart!

The long and wild drive to the Westfjords, Iceland, Nov 2017. It ain’t a road for the faint of heart!

 

Over-cooked

Two weeks ago, my daughter Zsofi made bubble bread twice for the holiday, and only once, did I mess around with the yeast.  Maybe I stirred it too vigorously or it was that ‘back-up’ pack from last year, but it just didn’t rise to its doughy potential.

Reaching into my bag of tricks, lessons learned from every botched job of yore, I placed it into the microwave above the toasty-warm oven working overtime to cook our Thanksgiving feast.  No…I did not turn the microwave on…but left the dough, knowing maybe, just maybe, the ambient heat would give the yeast the gentle nudge it needed to rise.

Guess what?  Success.

Tell me about your recipe for success?  The box below needs a new trick or two!

About face

Masking Taped

Wedged between Halloween and the Day of the Dead, most ghouls ringing my doorbell this past week were hiding behind a mask.  Some scary, a few goofy and others just plain sweet. My front porch has always welcomed the masquerade parade with an equal mixture of carved expressions.

We take our jack-o’-lanterns very seriously at my house on Halloween.

We take our jack-o’-lanterns very seriously at my house on Halloween.

Masks have a rich history of varied cultural significance, used to protect, disguise or transform those they adorn.  Mask-making is a highly revered art form in many societies, practiced by the artisan and passed to the apprentice.  In classrooms across the globe, our children learn tradition, ritual and myth as they create masks with their own hands.

But, in the season of costume, I wonder more about the mask so many artists feel compelled to wear.  Why do we hide?  I say it’s time to take off the mask and reveal the ugly truth.

Oh so serious at a stick installation in San Antonio, March 2018.

Oh so serious at a stick installation in San Antonio, March 2018.

 Yes, this is the face of an artist.

 

Dead calm

When in the midst of creating an installation, I am lost in the moment.  Concentration and problem-solving are core to the creative process, but I believe it is the hand-mind connection that brings me the most satisfaction.  The world’s problems disappear and I find a quiet peace that I wish could be sustained forever.

So tell me, why such a sour face?

Watching out for that sneaker wave on Pacific Beach, Washington, July 2018.

Watching out for that sneaker wave on Pacific Beach, Washington, July 2018.

It was shocking to see myself as others would if they stumbled upon me during an installation.  My heart is singing, my fingers are dancing and my mind is in a calming meditative state.  The mask I’m wearing does not reflect the sheer joy I’m experiencing as a working artist.

Moss, moss everywhere and not a spot to place, Lodingen, Norway, October 2018.

Moss, moss everywhere and not a spot to place, Lodingen, Norway, October 2018.

Who is this imposter?

 

Wafer thin

The psychology of imposter syndrome is a very real affliction for many and seems to be rampant among the artist community.  Reflecting back over my 50 years, there is no doubt I am an artist and have been traveling a creative path, no matter how winding.  Technical sales in the auto-id and telecommunications world may be the mask I wear in my ‘day job’, but it’s the creative spirit beneath that defines me.

So, stand tall, fellow creative, hiding behind a veil of self-doubt, afraid to utter these words:  I am an artist.  We can see you through the transparent material because an artistic soul is impossible to shroud.

And, while you rise up, I will be routing for all things creative from down below.

Getting a dose of hot lava rock during an ice installation on the black sands of Maui, June 2018.

Getting a dose of hot lava rock during an ice installation on the black sands of Maui, June 2018.

Truth or dare

As I bumble my way through the landscape of social media, I’ve seen just how much the world wants to see the face of the artist behind the creations.  The overwhelming positive response when posting an image of myself in my element, particularly lying face down in the sand, has been touching and extremely encouraging.

The balancing act of a blue pea ice stack on Vikten Beach, Lofoten, Norway, October 2018

The balancing act of a blue pea ice stack on Vikten Beach, Lofoten, Norway, October 2018

It is the real, raw authenticity of the journey that we can all relate to.  We feel connected by the passion to do exactly what we are meant to, no matter how ridiculous we may feel.  Truth be told, as soon as we reveal our heart, absurdity vanishes into thin air.

Likin’ the lichen during a heart-red ice installation on Sør Arnøy, Norway, October 2018

Likin’ the lichen during a heart-red ice installation on Sør Arnøy, Norway, October 2018

But, I didn’t see this on my own. Deep in creative thought and high on installation wanderlust, I was completely oblivious to the face I wore or the lengths I might go for my art.   It took the love of another to show me how others might see me when I’m being true to myself.  The gift of this mirror has helped me see my face behind the mask.

The man in the mirror, Chris, getting a piece of the installation action in San Antonio, March 2018.

The man in the mirror, Chris, getting a piece of the installation action in San Antonio, March 2018.

Eye scream

As scary as a Scream mask might appear on your doorstep this time of year, let it be a reminder that we as artists need to shout out loud.  The world is waiting to hear our voices and see the sparkle in our eyes and the smile on our faces.

Why not take off your mask and let me hear your voice in the comments below?

 

 

 

 






Fifty is nifty

Hash taggin’

Slinging slang in 1860, thespians may have created a clever way to shorten the word magnificent.  Leave it to artists to mix things up even back in the olden days.  The fact that this artist is using the word nifty in 2018, however, might be an indicator of age as opposed to creativity.  My kids will certainly attest to that.

However, nifty is a perfect word to consider as I approach a half century of living and loving on this amazing earth of ours.  The magical number of 50 has been swirling in my mind lately, and I have to say, I’ve lived a pretty magnificent life:

·      More than 50 countries have been stamped in my passport

·      50 new creative ideas have popped up in my head this year alone

·      I just traveled 50 hours to secure my 1st gallery-hosted international installation!

Pretty nifty stuff.

Traveling the globe is where inspiration is cultivated.

Traveling the globe is where inspiration is cultivated.

So, why not write about 50 things that happened in those 50 hours as a memorable way to welcome in 50?  Sounds excessive maybe, but when you stop and truly reflect, you can find magnificence in as little as 50 seconds of time.


High Five

It is said that we can only remember about five things in our short-term memory.  As a tactile learner, the five fingers of one hand becomes a useful tool to help remember those things.  Therefore, instead of taxing the brain with a long list of 50, let’s break it down into 5 bite-sized chunks of 10:

1.     Planes, trains and automobiles

2.     Techno Logic

3.     Color therapy at 6000 feet

4.     The factory of dawn

5.     Words of wisdom

 

Should we start with the thumb or the pinkie

Planes, trains and automobiles

Having 50 years of wanderlust tugging me around, I’m no stranger to the bumps of travel.  During this whirlwind trip, however, I easily had 10 sweet moments (two hands are better than one!) in the land of transportation:

1.     Caught six flights to/from Mexico and was on time to each of my meetings

2.     Enjoyed a free upgrade to first class on AeroMexico’s flight to Guadalajara

AeroMexico Chicken.jpg

3.     Sipped tortilla soup thanks to TAR’s 150 peso food voucher for a 4 hour flight delay

4.     Found Ignacio, my taxi driver, even though the sign he held said ‘Ana’

5.     Listened to Mexican love songs for 3 hours by Ignacio’s side

6.     Treated like royalty in the Priority Pass lounge in Queretaro

7.     Marveled at a lightning bolt display from my plane window

No, this is not my photo, but I swear this is exactly what the storm looked like!

No, this is not my photo, but I swear this is exactly what the storm looked like!

8.     Spent 185 pesos for a 2 minute cab ride to eat 3 tacos for 45 pesos

9.     Zipped through immigration for the first time with my Global Entry card

10.   Grabbed my bag as it tumbled FIRST from the luggage carousel belt

 

Techno Logic

Switching off your airplane mode as the wheels touch down means you know that travel technology is a blessing and a curse.  One week shy of 50, I still remember the days with nothing but a coin for a payphone while on the road.  No coins needed this past week with these 10 minor miracles of telecommunications:

 1.    Connected to free wifi at four out of five international airports (wake up LAX!)

2.     Gazed at Thor fighting to protect the Infinity Stones on not one, but two flights

3.     Received the good news of my free upgrade to first class on my Delta app

4.     Wrote and designed my very first opt-in at 36,000 feet

5.     Finished uploading photo images in my website shop to launch on my birthday

One of many installation photos that will be available to buy on my website shop October 1st.

One of many installation photos that will be available to buy on my website shop October 1st.

6.     Located Ignacio using my Airbnb app, not the sign he held in his hand

7.     Saw every wrong turn Ignacio took on Google Maps before he did

8.     Gratefully accepted both of Ignacio’s USB slots to charge my phones on the road

9.     Recorded a live announcement on Instagram in the halls of Fabrica la Aurora

Live and kicking my announcement at Fabrica la Aurora, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Live and kicking my announcement at Fabrica la Aurora, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

10.  Created a hot spot with my Blackberry when there was no wifi (LAX…sigh)

Color theory at 6000 feet

If my thumb and pointer finger are all about travel within 50 hours, the last three fingers on my hand celebrate the artistic side of the journey.  To realize my dream of a large scale international installation in my 50th year is a thrill.  To have this event in San Miguel de Allende in the heart of the Mexican plateau is a visual treat that can be summed up in 10 colors:

 

1.     Coral spires of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

2.     Adobe tiles of weathered cantera stones

3.     Burnt orange of the stucco facades

My next door neighbor in San Miguel de Allende.

My next door neighbor in San Miguel de Allende.

4.     Mahogany carved doors of courtyard entrances

5.     Ochre washes of high garden walls

6.     Fuchsia blooms of the bougainvillea vines

Glitter infused adhesive domes installed in a bougainvillea in San Miguel de Allende.

Glitter infused adhesive domes installed in a bougainvillea in San Miguel de Allende.

7.     Amethyst flowers of the jacaranda trees

8.     Taupe cobblestone of the winding streets

9.     Parakeet green of the spiny cacti

10.  Azure blue of the clear skies above

50 shades of color around every corner in San Miguel de Allende.

50 shades of color around every corner in San Miguel de Allende.

The factory of dawn

To travel 2600 miles across the continent to an altitude of 6200 feet, one should expect to be dazzled by more than just the vivid colors of San Miguel de Allende.  Known as a creative haven, it is an incredible honor to have my first show at Manuk Galeria and on the grounds of Fabrica la Aurora.  I would travel this distance 50 times over to have 10 glorious moments like these:

 

1.     Met for two hours with the owner of Manuk Galeria to discuss details of my show

2.     Presented physical and printed samples of creative ideas for the space

3.     Admired the work of 5 other wonderful artists represented by the galle62

The artist/owner of Manuk, Lourdes Rivera, is a lovely woman with an open heart.

The artist/owner of Manuk, Lourdes Rivera, is a lovely woman with an open heart.

4.     Shared stories of our creative lives as two female artists on opposite sides of 50

5.     Walked the grounds of Fabrica la Aurora to select outdoor areas for installation

One of many cactus gardens that will house my installation work in March 2019.

One of many cactus gardens that will house my installation work in March 2019.

6.     Introduced to the director and exchanged ideas for the outdoor space

7.     Discussed logistics and strategies for shipping artwork internationally

8.    Chatted with several artists who have working studios in the area

An old textile factory turned design center for creatives of all types.

An old textile factory turned design center for creatives of all types.

9.     Watched an artist working on a piece he anticipates will take him a year to complete

10.  Stumbled into Ana Thiel’s open studio and unlocked a window to my glass future

In February 2018, I discovered the Manuk Galeria and the work of Ana Thiel, a Mexican glass artist whose work holds the aesthetic of my heart. I met Ana in her studio last week - lucky stars!

In February 2018, I discovered the Manuk Galeria and the work of Ana Thiel, a Mexican glass artist whose work holds the aesthetic of my heart. I met Ana in her studio last week - lucky stars!

Words of wisdom

Seamless travel, technology triumphs, a kaleidoscope of colors and an artist’s dream all wrapped up in 50 short hours is something to cherish.  In those quiet moments in between, I found myself thinking about 10 simple words that will usher me gracefully into my next half century. I am:

 

1.     Grateful

2.     Aligned

3.     Creative

4.     Excited

5.     Inspired

6.     Lucky

7.     Focused

8.     Balanced

9.     Alive

10.  Young

 

Hello 50.  Damn glad to meet you…


How about meeting me in the comments below? It would be a birthday wish come true!

 

Take charge of living large

The stuff of dreams

Nestled in the sand among sea-weathered driftwood in La Push, Washington, my daughter, Zsofi, dazzles us with tales of the universe.  As the stars above begin to twinkle, wild statistics of relativity bounce around our banter like the sparks of our campfire:

  • All of the planets from our solar system can fit between the Earth and the Moon.
  • Jupiter is approximately 318 times as massive as Earth.
  • 1.3 million Earths can fit inside our Sun, but 9.3 billion Suns would be needed to fill VY Canis Majoris, the largest known star in the universe.
How many grains of sand can you hold in your hand?  Only the La Push jellyfish really knows...

How many grains of sand can you hold in your hand?  Only the La Push jellyfish really knows...

And to bring us right back to the very beach we are huddled on, famed astrophysicist, Carl Sagan’s timeless quote drifts by:

  • The total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”

So, as we sit in awe of the cosmic vastness around us, a very simple truth emerges:

We are small.

Zsofi sizing up the largest piece of driftwood I've ever seen.  The magic of La Push, July 2015.

Zsofi sizing up the largest piece of driftwood I've ever seen.  The magic of La Push, July 2015.

 

Major Minor

The notion of small, and it’s more expressive cousins of compact, tiny, petite and wee, are often celebrated in our culture.  All things technological are shrinking while becoming more robust and efficient.  Micro-living and tiny houses are infiltrating both our consciousness and our neighborhoods.  Even our planet, in its itsy-bitsy place in the Milky Way, is dwindling as globalization becomes the norm.

In the creative world, miniature art has been thriving for centuries with dozens of active societies across the continents.  Who isn’t intrigued by the artist who has the patience, focus and unparalleled fine-motor skills to create the minute?

That artist is not me….or so I thought.

Teeny tiny Ice embedded with pea and berry atop a lichen covered lava rock near Stykkishólmur, Iceland, December 2017.

Teeny tiny Ice embedded with pea and berry atop a lichen covered lava rock near Stykkishólmur, Iceland, December 2017.

 

Under the microscope

Building a sculptural piece for my installation practice has been dictated by the space it is created in - studio, kitchen, freezer, silicone mold – all relatively small.  However, the proximity I have to the work in vision, creation and documentation magnifies its size in my mind’s eye.  Nevertheless, like moving from sketchbook to canvas, I can see that my installation’s substrate is actually massive...

Welcome to Planet Earth!

I spy with my little eye a teeny tiny ice installation.  Can you find it?

I spy with my little eye a teeny tiny ice installation.  Can you find it?

 

Lights, Camera, Action

The Hawaiian Islands are a tiny ripple in the Pacific Ocean.  Iceland is an elf in the shadow of Greenland.  The expansive beach of the rugged Olympic Peninsula is a milli-fraction of North America’s coastline.  Yet, each of these wonderlands have elicited vastness in contrast to the tiny installations I have placed. 

Ice embedded with leaves at the base of Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland, frozen above at 330 feet tall, November 2017.

Ice embedded with leaves at the base of Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland, frozen above at 330 feet tall, November 2017.

Through the lens of a camera, I’m pulled magnetically towards the details of the artwork starring in my play, but the setting is an integral part of the plot.  The locations have been carefully selected by a visceral energy, their draw magically nipping at my wanderlust.

Simply put, I travel to these sites because of their immense beauty.

Blue butterfly pea infused ice installation melting fast on the black sand beach at Waianapanapa in Maui, June 2018.

Blue butterfly pea infused ice installation melting fast on the black sand beach at Waianapanapa in Maui, June 2018.

Placing an installation within a sweeping environment does not make me feel small, but rather fills me with limitless creativity.

You see, it’s all relative.

Acres of ranunculus blooming in Carlsbad, California, made a perfect site for an installation, March 2018.

Acres of ranunculus blooming in Carlsbad, California, made a perfect site for an installation, March 2018.

 

Blink of an eye

Beyond the miniscule nature of being alive and kicking in this teeny twirling orb called Earth, our time here is nothing more than a blip.  How about that for making you feel small?

In my artwork, people often wonder why I make ethereal pieces that will be gobbled up by the world around them.  All of the time and effort, heart and soul, to be snatched away in a matter of moments?

Organically dyed dough (or Fruity Pebbles!) installed between lava and coral in Maui, June 2018.

Organically dyed dough (or Fruity Pebbles!) installed between lava and coral in Maui, June 2018.

Placing tenuous work allows me to experience the now.  It is the nano-second of time that I can create my own unique mark and marvel at its micro-impact.

Standing in the massive lava flow on the MacKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades, a spectacle that belched its way across the landscape close to 3000 years ago, I see a few scattered trees.  They have no business being there, but it is their wee mark in time and space that captures my heart and my artist's eye.

So, get out there and plant your creative sapling now.

Glitter infused resin cubes installed in a Lodgepole pine setting up shop in a lava field on MacKenzie Pass in Oregon, August 2018.

Glitter infused resin cubes installed in a Lodgepole pine setting up shop in a lava field on MacKenzie Pass in Oregon, August 2018.

 

Bigsy Small

For many of us, the idea of being small is cripplingComparing ourselves to those around us can foster fear and produce feelings of inadequacy.  Artists have this affliction in spades, all wrapped up in limiting beliefs that keep us from making our mark, even though the world is anxiously waiting for it.

Installation of acrylic painted paper sticks installed along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, March 2018.  I had more people stop to talk to me about the installation than ever before, all curious about what kind of mark I was making.

Installation of acrylic painted paper sticks installed along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, March 2018.  I had more people stop to talk to me about the installation than ever before, all curious about what kind of mark I was making.

Funny enough, the best way to move beyond this fear is by taking the tiniest of steps.  Just one unique speck today creates a growing momentum and informs the splotch of tomorrow.  We’ve been graced with space, so fill it up, buttercup!

 

The granular level

The next time you are laying in the sand, imagining the grains you hold in your hand are only a snippet of the stars you see in the sky above, remember this:

Living large and making a mark on Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Living large and making a mark on Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Guess that means we truly are larger than life!

How about leaving your mark in the comments below?

The square root of pie

Creative Blocks

A bat, a moth and a butterfly flit into a bar…

Might seem like a strange visual, but these are the most common images (sans bar!) that people see when they examine the first of Rorschach’s ink blots.  Known as Klecks at University, the Swiss artist-turned-psychiatrist developed his love of Klecksography into one of the most widely known psychoanalytical evaluations of our time.

Two Peas  , 2018 , my first attempt at painting with the organic blue dye of butterfly pea blossoms.

Two Peas, 2018, my first attempt at painting with the organic blue dye of butterfly pea blossoms.

So, here is my question:  what is the fascination of finding the reality in abstract art?

As humans, we have an inherent need to understand what we see and connect it to the world around us.  The figure, the landscape, the dogs playing poker - we get that and it makes sense.  It's exactly why puffy cumulus clouds have a tendency to channel Mickey Mouse.

Seems Mickey Mouse was absent this day.  What do you see?

Seems Mickey Mouse was absent this day.  What do you see?

But, when someone says your work reminds her of dried fish swim bladder, what does that say about you, or more importantly, your art?

 

Mawther Nature's candy

Building and installing abaca sculpture, a fiber made from a native Philippine plant in the banana tree family, has garnered lots of ink blot banter.  The swirls have been lovingly compared to Dr. Suess’ fantasy world, Chihuly’s glass work and unicorn horns.

Abaca swirls installed on Black Butte Ranch in Oregon, August 2018.

Abaca swirls installed on Black Butte Ranch in Oregon, August 2018.

However, when Cherry, my Thai sister-in-law, feverishly helped me slather adhesive on the abaca to prepare for a festival installation this month, she saw fish maw.

How does a fish float and sink in water?  Swim bladder of course!

How does a fish float and sink in water?  Swim bladder of course!

And you know what?  I get it.

Not because the dried seafood delicacy Cherry was forced to eat as a child actually does resemble my abaca swirls.  Nope.  It’s because, for some reason, the number one recurring connection people make to my artwork is food.

 

Fish out of water

Merging my love of global travel with art installation, I never imagined I would learn about the foods of distant lands by sticking art in the ground.

Hibiscus infused ice installed on quicksand in Seabrook, Washington, July 2018.  Beach ice pops!

Hibiscus infused ice installed on quicksand in Seabrook, Washington, July 2018.  Beach ice pops!

Although my sculptures have seen international waters, none of these tasty treats have influenced my work.  In fact, some of these morsels and their homelands I’ve never even experienced.

Let’s make a shopping list:

  • Borrachitos – the little drunk filled with sweet jelly
  • Lokum - the Turkish delight meant for royalty
  • Khanom Chan - the nine layer dessert of Thai prosperity

Who says you can’t have dessert first?

 

Punch Drunk Love

I love everything about Mexican food, but I must admit, I’m not one for the sweets of this scrumptious country.  While on Desha Peacock's Sweet Spot Style creative retreat in San Miguel de Allende in January this year, an artist friend, Melissa Partridge surprised me with a gift of borrachitos.

Not a shabby place to create some adhesive domes while on retreat in Mexico.  Don't eat the art!

Not a shabby place to create some adhesive domes while on retreat in Mexico.  Don't eat the art!

Melissa was not appealing to my sweet tooth. She saw the crystallized jelly cubes and immediately thought of the resin work I was installing in San Miguel. 

You might get a little drunk munching on these sweeties in Mexico.

You might get a little drunk munching on these sweeties in Mexico.

These sugary squares were originally created by nuns to give to their patrons in appreciation for support.  Eventually, the sisters found their entrepreneurial spirit and began selling the delicacy to the public.

Glitter infused resin cubes stacked and good enough to eat in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, January 2018.

Glitter infused resin cubes stacked and good enough to eat in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, January 2018.

Love it!  Artisans realizing the value of their work – something we all need to embrace!

 

The turkey trot

Unlike damar resin, an organic substance drained from trees in East Asia, the resin in my current work is 100% man-made polymer.  Nothing you want to gobble down with a tall glass of milk.  I would venture to guess eating tape, paper and glue would also not sit well on an empty stomach.

Don't pop this cube in your mouth please!

Don't pop this cube in your mouth please!

Not so apparently.  The Pop Cubes I’ve created have recently been compared to the wildly sweet Turkish Delight of the spice markets in Istanbul.

Lokum love to share with family and friends.

Lokum love to share with family and friends.

Although I would not recommend munching on my adhesive treats, the process of making lokum reminds me of the delicate nature of working with resin.  The ingredients are simple, but you have to make sure you follow the directions and have everything at your fingertips before you start cooking.

As you can see, I follow the directions perfectly, including the precise measurements and appropriate equipment for handling resin polymer.

As you can see, I follow the directions perfectly, including the precise measurements and appropriate equipment for handling resin polymer.

 

Thai spice drops

The kitchen is the heart of the home.  It is where we create food to nurture ourselves, body and beyond.  We gather around the table to connect, celebrate and commune.  Therefore, having my resin cubes compared to khanom chan in Thailand is an honor, and apparently quite lucky.

Glitter infused resin cube at Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Glitter infused resin cube at Pacific Beach in Seabrook, Washington, April 2018.

Butterfly pea jelly dessert Thai style.

Butterfly pea jelly dessert Thai style.

Making the jump from my sculptures to fodder was not an obvious leap for me.  However, if I reflect on the past year of installation, much of my work incorporates organic material and requires the kitchen as my studio.

I mean, isn't the artist's apron borrowed from a chef?

 

Dough nuts

Organic dyes first entered my practice when I built frozen pieces to install in Iceland.  I spent weeks in the kitchen researching dyes derived from plants.  Even the elusive blue was found in a magical tea brewed from the blossoms of the butterfly pea.

Nothing more beautiful than a gradient study of blue thanks to butterfly pea blossoms.

Nothing more beautiful than a gradient study of blue thanks to butterfly pea blossoms.

Planning my installation trip to Maui in June, the stove-top became my drafting table once again.  In a stretch to move from cubes to a spherical form, I opted for an easy solution – dough.  Funny enough, it was actually edible art!

Organic dough is more salty than sweet - beware.

Organic dough is more salty than sweet - beware.

Placing organic dough on the beaches of Hawaii elicited a kid-in-a-candy-store list from spectators:

A little sand never hurt.  Organic dough on Hamoa Beach, Maui, June 2018.

A little sand never hurt.  Organic dough on Hamoa Beach, Maui, June 2018.

Connecting my art to the confections of Mexico, Turkey and Thailand fits my Bohemian soul.  That said, I love that my organic work has crossed into the mass-media influenced candy industry of the United States.

Andy Warhol was definitely on to something.

 

Pop psychology

I’d like to think that Rorschach would be proud to know he had reached cultural iconic fame with his ink blot artwork.  Being immortalized by Andy Warhol in the art world is no small honor.  

Rorschach  by Andy Warhol, 1984.

Rorschach by Andy Warhol, 1984.

Interestingly, the ink blot was eventually used to test for creative thinking.

When I look, I don’t see a butterfly or a delicious dessert.  My ink blot always looks like an island I need to visit one day.

So, tell me, Artist, what do you see in your life's ink blot?  I promise not to analyze anything you might say in the comments below...

 

 

 

 

 

Barefoot in a Sneaker Wave

Better get your trench coat

From 16,000 feet deep in an under-water ravine to the crest of an 8-story thundering wave, the coast of Nazaré, Portugal has a magnetic pull.  In the churning Atlantic water of Praia do Norte, hard-core surfers, and spectators alike, plunge into the wild world of big wave surfing.  In fact, in November 2017, Brazilian surfer, Rodrigo Koxa, broke the world’s record by flawlessly riding this massive 80 foot wave, honoring a life-long passion.

First and last time on a surfboard in 8 inch surf at Praia do Madeiro, Brazil, 2010.

First and last time on a surfboard in 8 inch surf at Praia do Madeiro, Brazil, 2010.

 

Northern exposure

Later that same month, 25 degrees north of this famous breaker, lying face down on a rocky beach along the Strandir coastline, I encountered my own booming breaker.  Fingers numb in the gusting wind, I howled, “never turn your back on the ocean” -  a saying my kids have heard me utter many times.  Placing my second ice installation within feet of crashing waves, my travel mate, Chris, kept eye for any monster swell that could sweep us away.

Dried leaves embedded in ice installed on the Strandir coast in the Westfjords, Iceland.  The tiny black thread near the top left side of the ice is my glove, sticking relentlessly to the frozen piece. Thus, bare hands were required to install!

Dried leaves embedded in ice installed on the Strandir coast in the Westfjords, Iceland.  The tiny black thread near the top left side of the ice is my glove, sticking relentlessly to the frozen piece. Thus, bare hands were required to install!

In absolutely no way were we facing the danger of Nazaré, but chasing my creative dream pulls me back to the ocean time and time again.  What power do these wild waves have over my journey, and how do I make sure I’m not turning my back on the surf in front of me?

Facing the churning sea in Djúpalónssandur, Iceland to install blue pea infused ice.

Facing the churning sea in Djúpalónssandur, Iceland to install blue pea infused ice.

 

The Big Kahuna

Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, is credited with coining the famous phrase that keeps us facing seaward.  Both practical and philosophical, this saying teaches us two important life lessons about the power of the ocean:

1.     There are significant physical dangers of being hit by a wave.

2.     Mankind needs to show deep respect for the sea.

Humbly, I’d like to offer one additional lesson to be learned:

3.     The wave coming could be the ride of your life!

Rising temperatures and rising tide at Kirkjufell, Iceland means melting ice...fast!

Rising temperatures and rising tide at Kirkjufell, Iceland means melting ice...fast!

 

v = f x λ

Waves as a metaphor for artistic creativity is perfectly suited.  Many of us have had times brimming with unbridled imagination and surging productivity.  For each crest, however, there is a trough, a quiet time…the lull.  Without one, we can’t have the other, so I’ve gingerly embraced both, experiencing the drought before the flood.

Silk thread orb installed at the driest place on Maui:  Haleakala Crater.

Silk thread orb installed at the driest place on Maui:  Haleakala Crater.

 

Roll with it

Today, facing an expressive tsunami, however, I am feverishly grabbing at each medium that pokes out of the rushing water.  Ice, resin, paper, fiber, adhesive, wax, paint and canvas are all bobbing about my studio.  While I could be drowning, each one plays an integral part in this wild ride, one supporting the other in ways I can’t begin to understand.  But, that is okay – I trust the process.

Glitter infused adhesive domes melting in the Hawaiian heat.

Glitter infused adhesive domes melting in the Hawaiian heat.

I have to - these are my life-saving floaties.

 

Making waves

So, if today's story is about ‘The Big One’, let’s dive more deeply into some of the ways we choose to describe a tidal wave, creative or otherwise:

  • Sneaker Wave:  Well, as we already determined in my last blog, sneaking has its perks.  With creativity, it can pop up at any time, without warning, and pinch us hard.  I say it's better to laugh than cry.
Abaca installation turned upside-down in San Antonio, Texas.

Abaca installation turned upside-down in San Antonio, Texas.

  • Killer Wave:  Yet another negative description, but how many times have you used it to describe something extraordinary?  If you get out there, showing up every day, I guarantee you will be killing it.
  • Rogue Wave:  When creativity hits, I urge you to ‘go rogue’ in the full Urban Dictionary sense.  Don’t follow the rules.  Let your heart lead and do what feeds your soul.
Nobody gave me permission to do this installation.  The only formal invitation I received was from Mother Nature.

Nobody gave me permission to do this installation.  The only formal invitation I received was from Mother Nature.

  • Freak Wave:  So, Rogue, go listen to the lyrics of Come from the Heart and dance like nobody is watching!  As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Nicholas Wilton, would coach:  create art in exactly the same way.  Flying your freak flag is what makes your art uniquely yours.
  • Extreme Wave:  Not for the faint at heart, when creativity comes calling, push yourself as far as you can, all the way to the edges of your comfort zone.  I promise, you won’t fall off.  That’s where the good stuff hides.
Blue pea and red cabbage infused ice installed near the outer edge of Ögur, Iceland.

Blue pea and red cabbage infused ice installed near the outer edge of Ögur, Iceland.

 

I met a Cyclops in Ghost Trees

If the names for waves weren't scary enough, what about swells being creatively called Jaws, Dungeons and Mavericks?  What do these mega-wave meccas have in common with Praia do Norte, or the crazy 'artist' who chooses to play in the 'surf'?  At these beaches, to ride the Big One, tow-in surfing is not a luxury, but a technological necessity.

Yes, it means having a partner in crime, someone who understands the fierce power of the ocean and pull of passion, and is there to help propel you safely through the choppy waters.

Guess we should add one more life lesson to The Big Kahuna list above:

4.  Never swim alone.

Chris, partner in crime, soaking seaside after a long day of ice installation in Drangsnes, Iceland.

Chris, partner in crime, soaking seaside after a long day of ice installation in Drangsnes, Iceland.

On the very same island as Jaws, Chris stood watch with the surf pounding against the lava field at La Perouse Bay while I swiftly placed the last of my Maui installations.  Mouthing the words that have become my mantra, my partner in crime faced the waves by my side, keeping me safe while I dove in.

Feeling the ocean spray in my face while installing organically dyed dough at La Perouse Bay in Maui.

Feeling the ocean spray in my face while installing organically dyed dough at La Perouse Bay in Maui.

 

Passion Fish

My sleep is often filled with dreams of crystal clear tidal surges that I manage to negotiate perfectly with a surfer’s ease.  The trick I've learned is this:

Dive straight into the face of the wave before the crest crashes.  Passion is on the other side.

Tell me, what do you dream about?  Jump into the comments below - the water is perfect!

 

Why I put the ice in Iceland

it's cold out there!

In the deep darkness of December, thirteen impish little guys cause all kinds of ruckus across the frosty heaves of Iceland.  These pranksters, the Yule Lads, spend the holidays swiping and gobbling their way through the night, sneaking treasures into the shoes of children, both naughty and nice.

Welcome sign to the Dark Fortress, home of the Yule Lads

Welcome sign to the Dark Fortress, home of the Yule Lads

Warming his stiff legs by an open fire, I was lucky enough to meet my first Yule Lad in 2013, Stekkjarstaur in Dimmuborgir among the snowy lava spires.  Something magical was in that flame, sparking my inner elf and awakening the mischief in my creativity.

Meet Stekkjarstaur, a.k.a. Gimpy, and my travel buddy, Chris.  What an incredible surprise to stumble into a Yule Lad hiking in a lava field in the north of Iceland!

Meet Stekkjarstaur, a.k.a. Gimpy, and my travel buddy, Chris.  What an incredible surprise to stumble into a Yule Lad hiking in a lava field in the north of Iceland!

What tiny gems can I leave behind for the wide-eyed and young at heart to stumble upon unexpectedly?  A sparkling surprise for just a tiny moment before lacing up their boots and moving on?

Ice...obviously.

Gold leaf embedded in ice, installed in a snow drift in Suðureyri, Westfjords, Dec 2017

Gold leaf embedded in ice, installed in a snow drift in Suðureyri, Westfjords, Dec 2017

 

Medium rare anyone?

My love of ice as an artistic medium is longstanding, maybe born from:

  • Holiday seasons growing up when my mom would freeze pine needles and holly berries in an ice ring for the spiked punch bowl?
  •  Watching icicles form through a frosty window, one tiny drip of water at a time, only to melt in exactly the same way?
  •  Climbing snowbanks to pluck them from the roof’s edge and enjoying nature’s homemade popsicle?
Icicles falling from a rooftop in Bolungarvík, Westfjords

Icicles falling from a rooftop in Bolungarvík, Westfjords

If childhood memories primed the pump, discovering the ephemeral beauty of Andy Goldsworthy’s site-specific land art sealed the deal.  His creation of exquisite artwork made exclusively of organic materials, only to be exposed and lovingly manipulated by nature’s fingertips, is at the core of my artistic inspiration.

I was hooked…ice hook(ed) to be exact.

 

Installation is my insulation

In my second year of art school, in the frigid climate of Montana, I placed my first ice installation.  Studying photography, I opted to embed Polaroid transfers from a trip to Russia, in hopes they would blow away when thawed, perhaps found or lost forever.  But, it was the deep carmine flower petals frozen in the ice blocks and the crimson pigment outlines acting as their pedestals that felt pure to me.

 

Hitherto, ice installation by Margaret Byrd at the University of Montana, Nov 1994

Hitherto, ice installation by Margaret Byrd at the University of Montana, Nov 1994

Exactly 23 years later, my second ice installation was created, placed and thawed in the most enchanting polar landscape I’ve been lucky enough to explore:  Iceland.  More than twenty icy art bundles were scattered across the Westfjords and Snæfellsnes Peninsula, left behind to let Mother Nature collaborate in any way she felt fit.

Who am I to argue?

Ice embedded with berry, installed in situ at The Blue Lagoon, Nov 2017

Ice embedded with berry, installed in situ at The Blue Lagoon, Nov 2017

 

Out of control

As artists, we may never have full control over our medium.  If we hang on too tightly, we can squash creativity, wonder and the excitement of discovery.  Perhaps I hide behind the delicate property of ice, allowing its inconsistency to be the twinkling star of my work?

As solid as ice in my hand

As solid as ice in my hand

Regardless, the breathtaking moment I open the freezer, seeing how the water has transformed and the crackling magic of the unexpected is revealed - this is why I come back again and again.  My heart skips a tiny beat to see how the infused material dances with the water on their icy date.  It's not unlike peeking into your shoe to see what morsel was left behind by a roguish Christmas troll.

Great balls of fire...no wait, ice!

Great balls of fire...no wait, ice!

 

Sneaky Pete

So, that brings us back to the mischief in this tale.  If my desire to leave small marks of visual candy has an altruistic tinge, the devilish side of this artist is also smirking ear to ear.  I mean…I run around (sometimes stumbling), uninvited (typically), probably on private land (some of the time), defacing nature (sort of) and littering creativity all over the place.

Sounds like graffiti to me!

Peter was my confirmation name.  Why?  Because it means 'stone'.  I knew even then!

Peter was my confirmation name.  Why?  Because it means 'stone'.  I knew even then!

If you look up ‘sneaky’ out there in the virtual world, there isn’t much with a positive twist.  Seems in general, sneaking around is kind of frowned upon.

 

But, I’d like to reframe it for you:

  • Sneaking treats from the cookie jar is absolutely expected, no matter what age you are.
  • Sneaking around your neighborhood on a sweltering night playing flashlight tag is how every kid should spend the summer.
  • Sneaking out to meet your lover is downright romantic.
Chris and I on the last day Súðavík saw the sun for six weeks, Dec 2017

Chris and I on the last day Súðavík saw the sun for six weeks, Dec 2017

 

Sugar and spice and everything nice

You see, sneaking any kind of ‘sugar’ is kinda sweet.  Just ask any of the Yule Lads!  They are sneaking into my comment box every night...