Posts

Thinking on Topography

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Thinking on Topography - 24”x36” Carved Gypsum, Tempera, Alloy Ink  

Devil’s Morning

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Devil’s Morning - Pastel, Tempera, Ink on Acrylic Paper  

Big Dominguez Study

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Big Dominguez Study (charcoal on paper) I see nothing until I sketch it.  I might be able to call a thing by name, speculate on its relationship to its own kind or kinds divergent, poke around at its origin story or native/invasive status, but all those acts are not “seeing” acts. Light, shadow, line, texture, shape. These are seeing words. Namelessness, singularity, surprise; these are seeing words. Seeing a thing, at least faithfully enough to draw it, is a discipline that always beckons, frequently chastens, and occasionally (very occasionally), delights the artist. I wondered for a long time how to paint or draw the feelings I have when I behold the natural world. What are they? They have names like reverence, belonging. I want to write an anthem. I want to dissolve into the wildness or I already have. I feel like I am home. But these exaltations have no light, shadow, line, texture, shape. No negative space, no anatomy at all. How to paint them? How to sculpt? I’ve sat here for mo

The Joy of Loss

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“Open Space” - colored pencil on paper I walk the dry riverbeds and stand under the pinyon pines and sit in the fields because of the profound loss these wonders grant me.  I often praise what can be gained after having spent time in nature: quietude, respite, joy, and frequent astonishment. But I realized today that what these open spaces relieve me of, utterly strip me of, is at least as noteworthy. I go to these places because each vista, birdsong, gust of wind erases a little more of what ails me in the first place: ego and the grief thereof. I disappear into the great vastness of these places as a weary stone-carrier, sometimes, heavy with concerns, troubled by, oh anything… but as I ramble through the cloudshadows and light, those stones invariably fall into nothingness behind me. And I can feel it, I don’t know how. Somewhere in the soul? The exhalation, the relief. Is it after all, beauty that nurses us back to bliss? Or is it the bodily exercise? That, too. The discovery of an

Safe Enough

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“Safe Enough” - colored pencil Artful work is a lot like going into the canyons. Or the woods. Or the tundra, or wherever it is where you feel safe enough to get a little lost. Yes, safe enough.  Where would safe enough put you, if you ventured just outside your advantage? What experience could you have from there? Often, if someone is struggling to make art of some kind, their shy, honest, and totally justified apprehension is bulldozed by the implication they’re too fussy, too left-brained, repressed, or just not cut out for creative work. Gurus vigorously advise folks to take the leap, dive right in, go for it! (You big baby.) But we don’t often hear that advice about venturing into wild, natural places. Usually the advice sounds more like, “Be prepared, be aware, know where you are, if you get lost, just stay put. Stay safe. Have fun. Come back again!” In other words, be safe… enough to do it again some other time. You don’t have to hike the entire canyon. You don’t have to free c

The Sculptors of Big Dominguez

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Swallow’s Nest Study (gypsum pottery) I have discovered the original potters of Dominguez-Escalante, I think: the swallow. (Is it the Northern rough-winged swallow?) They make these cliff-hugging clay houses out of spit and mud, and— besides the rather mysterious correlation to Jesus’ sixth miracle, which I cannot explain— their mud architecture is so strong that they can live in it. They can and their one to two annual clutches can as well.  Did I mention these nests are affixed to monoliths? It’s impressive. I watched them for a while after sunrise way up on a rock face in Big Dominguez Canyon, back and forth steadily, their blurry brown bodies bringing insects and berries to their young. I had to use my telephoto lens to observe them because they were quite high up. I noticed that they will often take a moment to lean back from their entryways and scope the view, but within seconds they’ve launched themselves off the rockside again, swooping down toward the earth below in search of

Sensing the Solstice

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Sky Study (oil on paper) At precisely 3:13 this morning, summer arrived, at least astronomically. I celebrated alone in a hushed pocket of McInnis Canyons, and in the cool blue moonlight tried to perceive, really feel, the moment when the earth’s North topped out toward the sun. I couldn’t. I could sense the breeze, easily. I could observe the sky’s gradient from horizon to zenith and back again; could interpret muted shapes against the light and recognize sagebrush here, boulder there, dirt trail ahead; could hear the occasional rustling of a rabbit and breedle of a bat.  I was using my body, my being to perceive all this. Pretty amazing really, but I wondered if someone could get so good at sensing that they’d eventually “feel” an event as significant as a solstice with as much fluency as they can feel a storm coming on. There were five sparkling planet pendants dangling in order from a magnificent invisible string this morning, too. These plus the luminous waning crescent moon capti