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

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

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...