Monday, July 28, 2008

"...being without intent...."

Last October I spent 2 weeks at Ragdale for an artists residency. My home was the Beach Room in the Barn. Next to my bed was a notebook in which previous artists shared some thoughts about their time spent at Ragdale. There was an essay on the word "squander" written by Johanna Keller on July 15, 1999. I was so taken with it that I photocopied it and have had it on my bulletin board for the past 9 months. I just unearthed it and with Johanna's permission, would like to share it...

v., to spend wastefully or extravagantly (according to the Webster's New Dictionary on the desk in the Beach Room)

In art, as in nature, nothing is wasted.

Cherish the hour lost to the shimmer of cottonwoods rimming the prairie, the afternoon swimming in the lake, the croquet game at dusk. Let yourself be a child bedazzled by the town fireworks on the Fourth. Write of love-making on the creaky bed. Search for dusty treasures in the attic. Rock on the screened porch reading a book that serendipitously came to hand, a book you didn't bring with you, one that wasn't on the planned list.

Plan?List?----those are words left behind, words for the architects of the busy world, for the makers of cities and maps, for the times when it is necessary to know the destination and estimated time of arrival (and there are those times in the creative life).

But, in this long month of summer, I don't know where I'm going. I confess to allowing myself to drown in a sweet delirium of sensory experience. The result has been new and strange poems, daring essays, and odd drawings whose purpose and place in my manuscript are unclear to me as yet.

I don't know my path, but I'm traveling extravagantly.

Art spends us extravagantly, demands we lavish our lives on it. And in return, at the times when the deepest impulse is gathering force, we experience a blessed state of being without intent.

We enter a space previouly unimaginable, surprising, dangerous, uncharted on any map. This place of impressions is very like the tangled and subtle prairie with its unplanned glories of wildflowers, tall grasses, cattails, dragonflies, birds, sky. And at the center of it, we find the source. Encircled by stones laid by other hands many years ago, brimming with liquid light, the wellspring is a small eruption, a rupture in the earth, the location of correspondence. It is here where what lies underneath comes to the surface, where the invisible is transmitted into the world of the senses. It is here the unseen becomes known to us."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Just Suppose

Just suppose you opted to have a vanity license plate with the word suppose on it...(inspired by a license plate hanging in the garage of Dick Olderman). Then just suppose you had to leave it on the street because of a house guest was using your garage space. Then just suppose you return home one day to an envelope


I opened the letter and this is what I found...

Dear Prius Owner:

I am a fan of good vanity plates-and I want to thank you for yours. In fact, it made a difference to me yesterday.

In my opinion, a vanity plate should have the following qualities:
It should use all seven spaces.
It should not only make sense, it should be interesting and contribute something to the public square.
Abbreviations, misspellings, and other contrortions should be avoided.
Imperatives are good, as they make a moral claim and invite engagement.

If I were a judge of a national vanity plate competition, yours would definitely place in the finalist' category, if it didn't win the grand prize.

"Suppose is a word with such wonderful possibilites, It has a musical sound. It invites an adult game of "let's pretend" - imaginative without being irresponsible. It suggests that we open ourselves to possibilities without losing our moorings. It would be the first word in the brilliant closing argument of an attorney defending an innocent man. It would be a fine word to begin a poem. It is a quality of thought that our world, full of certainties and judgments, sadly lacks - thus its moral contribution.

Yesterday....I had been journaling and had managed to write myself into a blue funk. On my walk back I was feeling pretty sad, when I was reminded of your vanity plate and decided to take you up on your suggestion. "Suppose," I thought...and let the idea hang in the air like a prayer, inviting the Spirit to complete the sentence. life is not so hopeless. Suppose things will get better. Suppose the world is not such a bad place. Suppose there is, maybe even, a God who desires my happiness and will answer my prayers. This exercise brought a smile to my face, and made a difference to me.

So thank you for that. I just wanted you to know that your choice of words made a difference to someone. I suppose you know this: that's not a small thing."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not to be Missed!

I just returned from an extraordinary exhibit at the DePaul University Art Museum. There are 3 installations by 80 year old Gerda Meyer Bernstein.Exercise In Futility
Domestic Surveilance

I struggle between making images that are grounded in beauty and images that speak to my indignation with the state of the world. I was awe inspired by Gerda Meyer Bernstein's ability to address the difficult question of how individuals could respond to violence, disaster, and injustice. Her work is truly amazing....Please, if you are in the vicinity, visit the exhibit before it closes on August 29th. Listen to a segment by National Public Radio reviewing Gerda Meyer Bernstein's work here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Back from San Miguel de Allende

Just returned from a FABULOUS annual staff trip to Mexico with Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill. It was four days filled with incredible beauty, exquisite food and laughter to last a life time! The early morning light over the mountains surrounding Mexico City was breathtaking.

We stayed at a wonderful hotel called Casa Luna in San Miguel de Allende and then went out to the Quinta Casa Luna property with 3 kitchens!The staff was challenged with going to the local markets and cooking a dinner extraordinaire. Watching it all unfold was one of those peak life experiences...right out of Babette's Feast (if you haven't seen the movie, it is a must).

I find myself coming up short in describing the incredible allure of the region. We also spent a day at the Hacienda Las Trancas in Dolores Hidalgo going horseback riding and having another wonderful meal.

A few other food highlights of the region are El Comal de Dona Meche, Conservas Santa Rosa, and the zocalo in Dolores Hidalgo for "nieves" or ices.
The Conservas Santa Rosa is a woman's cooperative where they make jams, candies, liquors and the like. We also learned of another woman's cooperative while dining at Nicos in Gueretaro where they are raising rabbit in a very arid region.
It seems likes woman's cooperatives are popping up all over. I went to a Care conference in Washington DC last month and most of their efforts are geared toward woman and children...and successfully.

Just a reminder about the photographic workshop, "Refining Your Creative Vision," that I will be teaching in January in a small village called
Zacoalco de Torres, just an hour from Guadalajara. You can learn more about it here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Gum Tree

This neighborhood tree began accumulating gum a couple years ago. Whomever began this tradition must have become worried that the tree might not be able to support the weight of all that gum because nearby trees are now bearing the load as well. People do the strangest things!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


These pictures were taken on a small lake in Northern Wisconsin with a lens extender that did not belong on the camera.
I was experimenting. Wouldn't you know it...I loved what was captured in the camera. That is the good news...the bad is that when I tried to replicate the feel of the images again with the lens extender, I couldn't. So it goes.

This work will be exhibited at the Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa, Canada this coming month. More details to follow on my website.
I am off to San Miguel Allende in Mexico with the annual Frontera Grill staff trip. Looking forward to shooting my heart out!
More on that when I return.
Happy Fourth of July!