Out early on a foggy morning with my canine companion, I looked up and caught sight of this small web in the branches of a dogwood tree. Sheer magic that literally took my breath away!! I could see other smaller webs and single strands all made visible by the moisture and angle of the light. I imagine they’ve been there, just hidden and unseen until that moment. I recognize how easily I could have passed by without seeing these gems.
There are SO MANY parallel universes! I’ve always loved to look up at the trees as I walk and have noticed leaf shapes, leaf colors, tree shapes, tree bark, and tree dances in the wind. Within each of those observations are layers unseen: the movements of elements, and molecules, and energy. Where my attention goes, so does my awareness.
I wish these words had entered my awareness sooner than 2020!
December 2017, I had just helped my father move for the fifth time in four years and admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. I wanted to return to studio practice for much-needed rest and rejuvenation. Then my aunt died suddenly mid-December, and I was awash with a grief that took me totally by surprise.
I had been my aunt’s power of attorney for five years, assisting her with legal affairs; shopping; numerous emergency room visits; hip surgery and rehab; and the sorting and dispersal of belongings for her move to an assisted living facility. For all of this, it was a ten-hour drive each way for me. After agreeing to move to assisted living only eight miles from me in North Carolina, she fell and fractured her pelvis the night before I was arriving to load her remaining belongings and begin our 2-day drive to NC. It was necessary to quickly find an acceptable rehab facility and convince the NC assisted living to hold her room.
And then… And then…
Sigh. Breathe in. Breathe out.
In addition to those more stressful lowlights, and more importantly, I usually enjoyed her company and spent pleasurable hours working on jigsaw puzzles, laughing, chatting, sitting together quietly, having lunch with card games at my house, or going to restaurants for lunch.
In addition, and to be honest, I was also the recipient of much of her anger and confusion during those five years. She could say the meanest and most-cutting things. An assisted-living staff tried to soothe my tears, saying it was common for the primary caregiver to receive the full assault. Hearing that on an intellectual level didn’t always reduce or eliminate my emotional responses though. It was challenging to NOT take those moments personally.
All this to say that I had a complicated relationship with a strong, independent woman who wanted “to live longer than Mama,” which she did when she breezed by 93. We planned her finances for longevity, and she bounced away from the precipice so many times I believed she’d live to 100 for sure! That’s why, during that final ER visit and return to her home, I thought she would rally. I really did. She was ‘only’ 96 years old, for goodness sake!
Grief is confusing, distracting, and paralyzing. It rises and falls, ebbs and flows.
I shifted into learning how to be an executor to settle my aunt’s estate. My art practice reduced to a small pilot light within.
ALL OF THIS was my path at the time. Not what I had imagined, or planned, or hoped for… but what LIFE presented. My path became how I chose to respond to life’s circumstances, an idea I’d been exposed to through meditation practice and sangha. No sense being frustrated and angry “waiting for my life to start when this is over.” Rather…
‘Start from where I am,
not where I wish to be.
The work I’m doing IS my path.’
P.S. My intention for this post was NOTHING close to what you’ve read!! I guess Aunt Pat wanted to visit again; she would have been 99 this month.
Charlotte Center City has an event where locally donated and artistically refurbished pianos are place in uptown public places. People living, working, and visiting Uptown Charlotte are encouraged to sit down and show-off their piano skills for the public’s enjoyment. This annual, experiential, performing art exhibition takes musical experiences to unexpected places for the enjoyment of everyone.
Just for fun, I took the opportunity to help paint one of the pianos for this year’s event! Usually, I work alone in my studio and had been wondering if I even knew HOW to collaborate with another artist!! It was an interesting experience, one where I relinquished my control instincts and went with the flow…
In a warehouse with no air conditioning, on a day when my car thermometer read 100 degrees when I left at 2:00, I painted alongside a delightful artist, Natalya Fedkiv and her son Peter. She and I are both members of Charlotte Art League.
They had arrived first, chosen the piano and the theme ‘classical,’ and Natalya had started on the front graphic while Peter began painting the keys. I immediately began decorating the back of the piano. The photo above shows the front of the piano when Natalya and Peter had to leave.
I still had some time and added details to the piano and painted the bench:
Honestly? It turned out beautifully, don’t you think??
I enjoyed the collaboration-on-a-time-schedule!!! I’m looking forward to seeing the pianos placed in Charlotte and will jump at the chance again next year…
I am so fortunate an artist friend (Thank you, Terry Whye!!) recently mentioned a book to me. As usual, my first recourse was to check my local libary system. With luck, they had Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert in book, large-print, e-book, CD audiobook, and downloadable audiobook forms! I chose the downloadable audiobook because it’s read by the author and I could listen to it in my studio.
I had heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak at Davidson College maybe four years ago and was thrilled to feel that same connection as I’ve listened to her read Big Magic. Her message of living with curiosity and the willingness to take chances is pushing all the right buttons. In fact, I believe it’s exactly the ‘big magic’ Elizabeth talks about that sat me alongside this book at the table of Life at this moment in time.
Seeing Creativity as the bearer of ideas that want to take shape encourages me to be open to her impulses and leanings. If she presents an idea that resonates, I’ll be courageous in gestating and birthing that idea. I’ve been reminded to have FUN and to experiment, to take a ‘channeling’ role instead of always being the know-it-all ‘director’. What freedom in creating! What freedom in life! To live to the fullest nourishing our souls by pursuing what calls us!
Gilbert wisely suggests not putting the burden of financial dependency on Creativity. She warns that Creativity is more likely to turn in another direction where she can flow more easily. She tells of people who keep Creativity at their sides by spending 15-30 minutes together each day which reminds me of the adage “To have a friend… Be a friend.” Just as my dog, Nell, needs a daily minimum of petting and attention to stay healthy, Creativity also needs to know that I’m there for her every day.
I want Creativity to be my lifelong friend! I want our friendship to deepen and become a more and more intimate one.
And what about the ‘fear’ mentioned in the title? Gilbert speaks of a personified Fear: the pesky, bad-influence-friend one can never get rid of. She wisely suggests we acknowledge Fear but that we give it very specific instructions about it’s role each time we start a new project. In fact, each day we enter our studio or approach our typewriter/computer, we should direct Fear to the backseat/observer role and never let it get in the driver’s seat.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear will be a resource I return to time and time again for the rest of my life. I heartily encourage all my friends be inspired to live fully through whatever pursuit calls and nourishes them. To live among other positive, inspired people is a dream, yes??
I was fortunate to be awarded a Regional Artists Project Grant* by the Arts & Science Council in January 2016. I had submitted a request to obtain a heated palette larger than the one I had been using. After waiting during a disappointing backordered period, my 22″x32″ HotBox finally arrived!
HotBox heated palette
I don’t know about you, but the acquisition of any new tool spurs my need for additional materials! I then assembled larger sheets of paper, various types of paper, newsprint, barrens, rollers, digital surface thermometers and a roll of heat-resistant Duralar, to name just some. And of course, more wax and resin and colors!!!
I’ve been experimenting with getting the temperature settings just right; how different types of paper absorb medium; the flexibility of various paper weights; how much medium to apply; monotype methods; mono print methods; and some collagraphic ideas.
Mixed media monotypes…
I will continue learning and having fun, occasionally posting some images on my Susan Andre Art Facebook page. I’ve also recently scheduled a solo exhibit at Mooresville Artist Guild for September 2017 which will have some larger encaustic prints as well as some encaustic sculptural pieces I have in mind…
*This project was made possible by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, the Blumenthal Endowment and the arts council of Mecklenburg County.
In May, I will have the Featured Artist Wall at Charlotte Art League and have been working on two, larger paintings (24″Wx46″T) for that show. Also a couple smaller ones (16″x24″) that may be ready in time. The themes of transformation, change, and metamorphosis are still driving much of my art probably because those are the issues that predominate in my thoughts and spiritual musings as I intentionally move through my life journey.
I’m again using the title “contemplation: cocoon” for this show because it’s a continuation of my solo exhibit at Mooresville Arts in September 2014. But I was moved to write this new description to hang near my paintings:
A constantflow of change characterizes all of Life.
Some of that change is out of our control. However…
We can influence some changes with conscious intention.
For me, cocoons have become symbols of
those opportunities for conscious, spiritual evolution
offered in each and every moment.
To ‘grow up,’ or ‘grow down.’
To close into the status quo, or open into possibility.
Cocoons offer respite and nourishment for emergence into
Increased personal awareness and growth, as well as
Greater intrapersonal uplifting and connection.
Soften. Open. Breathe.
Allow these cocoon images to remind you of the limitless
Well, I have found a new studio space!!! And it’s only because I mustered the courage to approach another artist and ASK how much she used her studio space and if she was willing to share!! I had to overcome my fear of rejection and recognize I had nothing to lose and only something to gain.
It’s an incredible improvement over my studio of the past year. This one has HEAT and AC, natural LIGHT, Wi-Fi, a clean bathroom and utility sink, clean tile floors, refrigerator, microwave, electric teakettle … and it’s walkable for me, in my own neighborhood, and my dog Nell is welcome there too.
it’s only been since april that i took the four sessions on how to build a wordpress website. guess i didn’t take the best notes because i am stumped today as i start to load images for the new show, contemplation: cocoon. please be patient and know that i WILL have them posted soon.