MoCA.  Museum of Contemporary Art.  They had their annual pin-up show on Thursday and somehow I was hoodwinked to participate.  Nonetheless, I  accepted the challenge and this drawing was my submission.  The show is really a clever way to get memberships.  Anyone…really anyone can walk in with one piece of artwork…no larger than 12×16 for the price of a $15. membership and tack it on the wall with four pins.  Hundreds of artists (emerging and collectable, crazy and not so crazy) flock to this event for a chance to hang art.  Hundreds more show up for the night’s festivities.  It is a museum for more conceptual art so I tried to step a little farther out of my box, although I think I always have the door open in my box.   At the drawing board, I wasn’t sure what would transpire on the canvas but surrealism/symbolism emerged.    Creation is a funny thing and for the most part…it just happens without a real plan…you start the process and voila, another idea, then you have a half human / half bird unfurling one wing behind a cat sleeping in the bird’s  lap….go figure but it’s for MoCA.  MoCA is all about making the viewer think a different way.  Not so much technique, style or skill but more about content and concept .

This process reminds me of a painting by Andrew Wyeth, ‘Christina’s World’.  Wyeth began the painting as desolate terrain with The Olsen farmhouse on a hill.  The painting was considered complete but a moment of inspiration; Wyeth decided to include Christina crawling through the grass.  From that afterthought, he created one of America’s most iconic Paintings.  Christina had a degenerative muscular disorder which worsened with age.  She refused to use a wheelchair and preferred to crawl.  One day Wyeth saw her crawling through a field and knew this was his chance to finally paint Christina.  Wyeth always thought of painting Christina in her pink dress and now knew it would be in the grass of the Olsen house painting.  Wyeth had a deep admiration for Christina’s determination.  The small details of Christina’s body would imply her solitary strength.

The Olsen House is located in Cushing, Maine and is now owned by the Farnsworth Museum and is open for public viewing for a small price. The painting itself remains as the most popular pieces in the MoMA collection.  It was this  after-thought to place Christina in the painting that sky-rocketed Wyeth to the highest placement as an artist.

'Christina's World'

‘Christina’s World’

While”unfurled” is not conservative realistic surrealism, it is a mysterious afterthought.

“Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” Jorge Luis Borges




“you are what you are. and that’s all that you are.”    Popeye


I did this painting for the opening of a new gallery.  The director was disappointed when I delivered it and informed that he was hoping for a drawing.  I thought this comment was shallow and he would see if he looked closely, how meaningful the painting was…but he didn’t.  I was rejected once from a competition years ago when I submitted a painting of my son.  The rejection letter expressed a disappointment that there were too few drawings submitted (a letter not directed to me specifically but left me dumbfounded no less.)  Drawing comes so easy for me that I consider painting to be the real achievement.  I like the delicate application of the pencil combined with the bold use of a paint brush obviously, however here in ‘You are what you are’ it is only about the paint.

In my narcissistic search for myself, I never realized that my grandmother had a life before me.   She was a quiet woman, reserved, frugal and dependable.  And yes, I was concerned when she would yell at the TV during a basketball game but that was my grand-fathers problem…not mine…at least until my daughter was born.  At 2, my daughter wanted a hoop-a-loop.  Not a hula-hoop.  Finally, I learned that a hoop-a-loop was a net and a basketball.  I signed her up on a team at 6 and soon had other parents in as much disbelief as me.  The ref suggested they take her out of the game because she kept taking the ball from the other team and going back to make a basket.  No one else had a chance to play.  It was my daughter’s innate understanding and drive for the game that made me realize my grandmother’s passion.  I understood why a woman who survived a great depression would go to college to coach what certainly had to be one of the few basketball teams for women.    I loved watching my daughter and my son play and slowly acquired my own appreciation for the game.   When there is a lonely ball on the pavement, I pick it up, spin it, dribble, and take a shot… something I’m sure my grandmother did and my daughter does.  So you see Mr. gallery director, there are three generations in my little painting with an awareness and acceptance of who we have been and who we are.

basketball for blog

  hoops before dinner.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.”   Thich Nhat Hanh



right now matters.

right now matters.

Blogger here, reporting for duty.
I always looked at getting older as a rite of passage with wisdom as my reward but it’s the physical attrition of age that has blindsided me and led to yoga. Is yoga a religion? Is photography a science? Do all dogs go to heaven? No, no and yes.
This drawing is of Cheryl. She has been practicing yoga for thirty years and attempting to teach me for 2. The philosophy of yoga is a union of mind, body and soul … but when you are standing like a tree or bending like an eagle, there is only the hope that you don’t fall over. Yoga is a way of life for many people but for most here in the states, it is a way to strengthen the cardiovascular, release endorphins and clear our minds through poses. There are many activities beyond yoga that offer this union … cycling, dancing, walking, etcetera… but yoga uses deep and systematic breathing techniques to inhale oxygen as strength to energize the body. With the stress of everyday work, family and monies, we tend to take breathing for granted. For the most part breathing is spontaneous and natural. With conscious breathing, we bring more oxygen into the body and increase the lung capacity. Oxygen is the most essential nutrient in our bodies; the brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. If the brain does not get a proper supply, it will cause degradation of all the vital organs of the body. In yoga, the breathing practices are called Pranayama. “Prana” means energy and “yama” means to control. If your prana is low or weak, your body is deprived of energy necessary to stay healthy and function effectively. Pranayama is the science of breathing and it consists of a series of exercise’s intended to bring more oxygen to the blood and brain. The most effective way to purify the blood stream is by taking in extra supplies of oxygen from the air we breathe. The control of “prana” means improved functioning of all our organs and systems–respiratory, circulatory, digestive, glandular and nervous. Calm breathing reduces pain, relaxes the body, calms the mind, massages abdominal organs and energizes the body.
There is nothing easy about focusing on the breath in Cheryl’s class but I’m getting there. As a dismissal after class, Cheryl will say,’ Namaste’, which means ‘go in peace’. Of course by the end of class there really is no other way to leave.
july 2013

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is ‘People that have come alive’.” Harold Thurman

taylor & her ukulele.



When I started the blog, I wasn’t sure where I was going…I only knew I had to get there.  So here I am… 2.5  years and 4 blog names later.  Change was not only the goal but inevitable.   Sometimes  I wonder why I continue to force the drawing and paint issue…”just paint or draw and and get on with it “… but there has to be a way to open this box with less resistance… to be brave and work with my mistakes and not be afraid to make them.

When it comes to figurative work, most appreciate the similitude of a portrait.  The subjects that I did last year were close and I always felt a need to make them look familiar and to write about their strength to make it all lyrical.   At this point in my quest for change, I want my drawings to become less defined with a few fresh qualities.  To be more Matisse.  “An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, etc.”  Henri Matisse


Musique by Matisse

Taylor has agreed to be my first experimental portrait for this new year.  She is majoring in Fine art and has focused her senior thesis on realism (she also has a strange obsession with the ukulele).  We have talked about the difficulty in letting go of classical skills to expose more of the process in our work and allow the flow of improvisation.  Most realist painters spend hours getting all shades and shadows correct.  It becomes a copy of source material.  When we copy the old masters, it’s an attempt to absorb the past but it is the responsibility of the artist to push farther and explore an emphasis of the subject.  Portions of figures and heads are often more expressive than their entirety.   As usual, in my drawing, I try to gauge the combination of pencil and paint.  I was hoping to achieve a little more ambiguity with this drawing…maybe next time.

So sad falcons…maybe next time you too.

“There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same; there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay



In the midst of presidential warfare is an american girl who fights to have a normal heartbeat and a couple of strong legs.  Lauren is not sure what is happening to her body, she just wants to get better.  Growing up an athlete, she was driven and instinctively pushed herself to succeed.  In 2001, she was at the top of her game, with honors, a State championship and a soccer scholarship to the University of Utah where her body began to change everything.   A brain tumor, numbness, convulsions, memory loss, migraines, sick and nauseous episodes, weight loss, seizures, heart attacks, a pacemaker, cardiac ablations, a spinal cord stoke, flat lines, both legs paralyzed and irregular heart rhythms (I’m worn out just type’n about it).   For now she works hard to make her legs work and is counting on another surgery to make her heart beat normally.

I arrived to the small town not only to photo Lauren and find out more about her recent visit to the Mayo Clinic but to work my regular job where she handles reception and administration for us twice a year.  She always has the greatest smile and a real hug to offer when we see her.  She adoringly refers to Larry (her walking stick) as family.  As we drive down Main street, there’s a billboard of Lauren!…promoting the hospital she visits regularly and turns out she has a life size cut-out that’s placed strategically around town.

lauren life-size cut-out

This drawing of Lauren is more like a celebrity posting.  And she has a commercial too…. she is so Hollywood now.

On each wrist is a tattoo that alerts paramedics to her pacemaker.  Tattoos have long served as fashion statements, but a small number of Americans are now relying on them for a more practical, potentially lifesaving purpose:  to warn first responders about important medical conditions.   Does a paramedic look for a tattoo if there is no bracelet?  Could a medical tattoo be dismissed as décor?  The American Medical Association does not specifically address medical tattoos in its guide-line’s, however, emergency professionals are always on the lookout for information about a patient’s condition and treatment preferences, and that includes looking for medical tags, bracelets and possibly tattoos.   Perhaps physicians, paramedics and tattoo artists should work together and establish uniform placement so responders will know where to look as part of training.  Lauren has the star of life on one wrist and her medical history on the other since keeping up with jewelry is just not as important as Larry.

During Market, Lauren crunches numbers, creates spreadsheets, takes calls, directs clientele, guards the candy jar and toward the end of day, breaks into song effortlessly …sometimes comedic and occasionally a tone that deserves a double take.  (Seriously Lauren…somewhere inside there’s a singer/songwriter waiting to come out… you should consider a few lessons to accompany that performance ability.)

She is a powerful girl and battles steadily with all that her body competes.  The meaning of life is a question I felt sure she pondered and her answer was quick and simple…….”to love as many people as you can“.

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.”  John Lennon


Brent on a cool day.

Brent was majoring in Architecture at Georgia Tech when his battle with a Bipolar disorder began.  I’ve never known Brent to be less than a gracious intellectual man.   At a reception for his senior thesis, he presented paintings that tell the story of his struggle with mental illness.   The painting’s navigate the compromised reality of schizophrenia and convey the shame and confusion he endured when he was most ill.   This body of work has been a cathartic review of that time for Brent. There is an understanding for him that comes from applying these ‘ceaseless connections’ to canvas and other found objects.

After incarceration and time in a mental hospital, the Rosalynn apartments offered Brent a foundation of Hope.  The Rosalynn Apartments are a place where they focus on the whole person and not just the illness.  The apartments were named for Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, a lioness for mental health.  It has been her goal for 40 years to reduce the stigma: * “Changing stigmas will change not only the willingness and acceptance to gain access to treatment by those affected by mental illness but also the quality and quantity of mental health treatment options.” 

Ms. Carter has become an advocate for the world with the development of The Carter Center.  The Carter Center is focusing on many projects, from improving agriculture to improving democracy to improving the lives of the mentally ill. One of the programs designed to jump the ‘stigma hurdle’ are Fellowships that provide stipends for journalists to stimulate discussion and inform the public about health care for the homeless, suicide, aging and mental health issues through newspapers, magazines, television, film and books.  Five writers, producers, or editors are selected each year to create projects and increase awareness about mental health issues.  * “There is tremendous potential for journalists to improve the public’s understanding of mental health issues and to play a critical role in reducing stigma and discriminating against people with mental illnesses.”    As one of the recipients of the Fellowship for Journalist’s, Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote about one of our greatest President’s who suffered from a lifelong battle of severe depression.  ‘Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness’, which was named one of the best books of 2005 by The New York Times.

Recently Brent spoke at a fundraiser for Project Connections; a program that enables the homeless to achieve dignity and self-sufficiency while living with and treating their mental illness.  Shown here, Brent shared his story and introduced Mrs.Carter.

“Habits of thought and behavior become blinders that must be removed to see that life is both half empty and half full and when it is either, we’ve decided so, because the level of life and water in our glass has never changed.” Jerome Lawrence

*quotes from Rosalynn Carter



Artist Workshops are a great way to immerse your-self into the exploration of methods and mediums.  The locations are endless…Taos, Cumberland Island, Tuscany, Vermont, and Barcelona to name a few.  For some, its first come, for others it is a selective process.  Yolanda was awarded a fellowship to a 4 month workshop in Peter’s Valley with a concentration on textile exploration, a 2 week  long work/study at  Arrowmont in Tennessee and a  couple of weeks in Vancouver for felt classes.  For this post, Yolanda agreed to meet in her studio at the goat farm as my next subject.

The Goat Farm, formerly known as The Murry Mill, is a complex full of mystery and history.  It was originally built as The E. Van Winkle Cotton Gin and Machine works in 1889. Walking the grounds is as the name refers.…a few goats here and there, a guinea hen who thinks she owns the place, chickens, roosters, a wild turkey guarding the studios and walls patiently waiting to speak.  There is humor in the irony that Yolanda has a bird phobia and the largest wild turkey on the planet sits on a ledge outside of the studio and the guinea hen will chase you down if she is so inclined only to squawk and flap.

guinea hen watching.

wild turkey glare

Robert Haywood purchased the site in the early 70’s.   He maintained the integrity of its architecture with little renovation as he began to develop studio spaces for sculptors, musicians, painters and photographers.  In 1979, the property and its buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.   Robert died in 2009 and commercialism was predicted for this prime location.  The property sold for 7 million to Anthony Harper and Chris Melhouse who used residential/commercial complex as a back-up plan for Visual and Performing Arts Center.  By 2010, it was confirmed that The Goat Farm would forgo any conventional real estate.  The grounds would remain dedicated to the arts.  The site would host classical and contemporary music concerts, traditional and experimental theatrical performances, film screenings, contemporary dance, an anchor non-profit organization, art exhibitions and artist in residency programs.  Harper is quoted to say “We hope to make a contribution to the human spirit as well as a profit.  Before the Goat Farm, I would have never made that statement.  I never understood what ‘supporting the arts’ or ‘contributing to the human spirit’ really meant.  I’ve had a crash course in that and the reward that comes with it.  I was never a fan of the arts outside of music.  I know its cliché, but art fills a hole in my soul – a hole I never knew I had.”

Going to visit the Goat Farm has an air of the past.  On the right day with no events scheduled, it’s like a ghost town with the tin roofs, crumbling bricks and old machinery.  Yolanda recently acquired this studio but I’ve known her about 16 years and remember the close friendship and laughter she shared with her mom.  During my visit to the studio, I took photos and we talked about our lives.  Yolanda has a beautiful smile that always makes you feel welcome.  Conversation led to the past and I asked how long it had been since her mom died.   While she answered “14 years”, her new countenance seemed to say “yesterday.”

“When I was a child, my mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general.  If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.  Instead, I became painter and wound up as Picasso.”  Pablo Picasso Ruiz