Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memories and Recollections: Autobiographical Imagery



How would you tell the story of your life visually?? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself as this excavation of personal memories as visual imagery continues. Memory is a quirky thing – full of random bits and pieces, some crystal clear and others a bit muddied or vague.  All fuel for artistic inspiration.

My Pittsburgh childhood in the 1950’s holds both urban and suburban recollections. One vivid memory is the streetcar or trolley car. We would dress up and take the trolley downtown to shop at the downtown department stores like Joseph Horne’s, where uniformed elevator operators with white gloves would call out each floor and its products – “Fourth Floor,Ladies dresses, Lingerie”, until we reached our desired destination.




My grandparents ran a lunch counter and soda fountain much like the one shown in this early Pittsburgh historical photograph, called the H & H Dairy Bar. The two H’s stood for Herman & Helen Haupt. Men wore hats, suits and white shirts with ties and women wore stockings with a seam up the back, dresses and high heels every day.

As a young girl, when I visited my grandparents, I slept in the front bedroom of their apartment above their store. The wires for the trolley cars ran level with the second story window ledge. As I lay in bed I could see the sparks fly from the wires as the trolleys sped by and hear the clattering of their wheels on the tracks. The trolleys lulled me to sleep.

I’ve been mining this rich vein of recollections from my personal history and contemplating how they might fit into my work.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Living Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”


Twyla Tharp writes in this “practical guide” to living a creatively engaged life about a “blank space” that every creative person faces: “the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying.”

I’m beginning a new cycle of creative exploration. I know I am because I feel like an infant again rather than someone who has been working with creative process for close to two decades. In this beginning place, where I’m heading is a mystery, spurred only by the raw material of an idea, an image, a phrase or thought.


So I do the only thing I know how to do. Begin somewhere. Make samples. Let the ideas simmer and expand. I don’t start with a completed vision of a masterful work of art, only a crumb of an idea that teases and tugs at my consciousness.


Growing from this scrap of a beginning takes work. Lots of it. Not the straight line, numerically-ordered, step-by-step, “man she knows what’s she doing” type of work. More like the “crawling on one’s knees in the dark feeling with one’s hands to find a way forward” work. But I do have an inner compass that guides this, one that trusts both the process and my skills enough to make me believe that I will indeed find a sure footing, an engagement with an idea that will lead to more focused action and work.

Twyla Tharp starts a new dance piece with what she calls “scratching”. “A dance doesn’t hit me whole and complete. Inspiration comes in molecules of movements, sometimes in nanoseconds…You can’t imagine the work, you can only generate ideas when you put pencil to paper, brush to canvas…when you actually do something physical.”


I’ve learned this. So I improvise. I create small studies. I listen to the thoughts that pop into my head just as I am waking. They whisper golden suggestions. “Create a thread map of the neighborhood you lived in as a child” was yesterday morning’s.

Today’s was “write your blog about this beginning place and how you don’t know whether you will fail or succeed, but you know you are committed to keep creating because this is who you are and this is what you do.”


Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Friday Open Studio: Behind the Scenes, Before the Crowds Arrive


Since not everyone can come to Hungerford for one of our First Friday Open Studio nights (just had this one Friday, May 4), here’s a virtual tour of my studio waiting for the fun to begin:.


First stop, the door to my corner studio on the third floor of the building. Just freshly painted green, with blue panels on either side. Of course it will be open wide to welcome everyone as soon as I’m done shooting this picture. By next month, a sign – and possibly some bright Mexican tiles along the green trim – will be added to welcome you!


Once you open the door, there’s a small entryway. My husband just painted it too so now it serves as an additional small gallery space. On the right, a quick view of my new “Big, Bold Life” painting.


Look to the left, and you see “Fall Equinox” and two 12” x 12” pieces from the “Notations” series.


Just inside the entryway, the wall on the right has another painting, “Spring Equinox”, plus one of my Book of the Ancients pieces and three small framed works.


Facing you is the dark charcoal accent wall with another “Book of the Ancients” piece.


Most everyone who comes in loves the space and comments on how wonderful the natural light is.  I love it too, but on First Friday open studio nights I wish I could wave a magic wand and create more wallspace!


Close up of the pieces in front of the east wall bank of windows.


If you stand in front of that east wall bank of windows and face the west end of my studio, you’ll see the entryway on the left again and my design wall, which gets commandeered as another display space on First Fridays.

So there you go – in just an hour or so after I shot these pictures, the halls began to fill and interesting, delightful people got to visit the many unique studios and meet the artists who work in them. What a great way to spend a Friday evening.

Do come join us if you’re ever in the Rochester area!