Monday, April 21, 2014

Bucking Bronco 2006

I will sometimes watch, on TV, professional bareback bronc riding(as opposed to saddle bronc riding).  The riders are all young, male, and seem to be named "Cody" or "Jarrod".  They flop around on the backs of  horses with names like "Chuckolater" and "Smack Down" who do their best to dislodge these young men.  If the cowboys are lucky and stay on for the required eight seconds, they will be eligible to win large pots of money depending on how well they ride their broncs.  One cowboy, when asked what it was like to ride a bareback bronc said, "It's like putting your hand in a vice, attaching it to a train, and then driving it off a cliff".

My “Bucking Bronco” is about risk and the (often) disastrous results of that risk.  The cowboy’s rock constructed body means that when he does go off, he will be guaranteed a hard and brittle landing(on the rather large boulder immediately behind him).  The  horse, with the back half of his body portraying a missile range, gives us clues as to just how dangerous he really is.  A time lapse view lets us see our cowboy’s head snap back, with the last head, open mouthed, showing us just how frightened he really is as he realizes he is most probably going off.   And of course, the wheelchair symbol making up the front half of the horse clues us in as to where this rider will eventually end up.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gluing 2014

Counter clockwise from left to right:
1.  Image, which is finished, and has been adjusted and changed and fine tuned until it is as close to perfect as I can get.  It's all temporarily adhered onto the painted surface with yellow sticky stuff so that I can look at it for a long long time before I glue it.   This is part seeing how it wears over time and part procrastination.

2.  Scissors:  Good ones, in this case Dahle  (shouldn't I be getting a kickback from Dahle on this?).  I have about twenty pair of scissors.  The Dahles are pretty much the only ones I use, and I've had them for at least 25 years.  I use my other scissors if I'm doing coarse cutting of plastic or paper that I don't care about.  The scissors, at this stage, are to trim and refine as I glue.  I always keep the bits and pieces of what I cut off in case I've cut off too much and need to correct.

3.  A fine brush to paint in problem areas in the painted surface or the photo that I see after I've glued everything down.

4.  A white pencil to mark the areas of the image that need to be trimmed.

5.  A magnifying glass to make sure my glue edges are good.  Older eyes(even with glasses) aren't serving me as well as they used to.

6.  Foam brushes to coat the backs of the paper that I will be adhering.  Different sizes brushes for the different sizes of paper that will lay down.  I always want to make sure I go over the edges of the paper I'm about to glue, but I also don't want to waste the adhesive.  Bowl of water so that I can drop the not being used foam brushes in so that the adhesive won't dry.

7.  Spray bottle of water to spray the front surface of thinner papers like dictionary pages, tissue, or newsprint so that they won't curl into a nasty ball when I put the adhesive on the back.

8.  Little ball of yellow sticky stuff that I use to adhere the paper onto the panel temporarily and which I also use to register where the paper will go on the panel just before I drop it down.

9.  Polymer medium, in this case Dick Blick, but all the brands work pretty well.  I buy it by the gallon and it lasts about two years.

What I'm not showing is the back knobber which I use to try and push out the large, uncomfortable  knots  that I get in my back from standing and maneuvering badly behaved pieces of paper.  I'm also not showing the EKG display which records the wild and erratic rhythms of my heart as I realize that I have glued something at the wrong angle, backwards or upside down, or when, as I smooth the paper down with a discarded credit card(not shown), all of the ink pulls up, so that I'm left with a blobbed smear of paper.  And lastly, I'm not showing xrays of my locked jaw and frozen neck, concretized from my standing rigidly for hours at a time trying to force all those big and little pieces of paper to bend to my will.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Studio 2014

Looking to North wall:  stacked images with blank paintings below
Looking to East Wall:  work table with piled photos and papers

Looking to South Wall: stacked paintings and work table covered with piled photos and papers

Looking to West Wall:  stacked paintings on both walls and end, tables covered with photos and papers
I have been working fairly steadily since September of last year(2013)in preparation for two upcoming shows; one in June in Santa Fe at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art  and the other in September in Santa Monica at Craig Krull Gallery . It's been an interesting ride.  I feel that I'm making some of the best work I've ever made, but it's time to get off the horse and clean up.

My studio has become waist deep in bits of paper, photographs, paint, books, and painted panels.  Unfinished images are stacked two and three deep on my walls(The unfinished pieces consist of  collaged images on top of painted panels, but only adhered with little bits of sticky stuff).    The layers of paper/photographs on my work tables have become quite dense as the months have rolled by.  It seems chaotic, but it's not.  As I work, I can remember where a certain animal head or a scrap of a photo with a particular value is, no matter how many layers down I have to go, no matter how long ago I cut up a particular photograph.  Even better, while looking to find something, I might happen on a scrap of paper that leads me to start a new collage.  It's a rich and fertile room if you happen to be collage artist.

When I first started out as a young artist in graduate school, I would have small bits of time when I would be able to really concentrate on what I was doing, maybe ten or fifteen minutes once or, if I was lucky, twice in a work session.  Now I can go for several hours with that same concentration(my limit now is fatigue--I can't go for more than about four hours).*  I've also changed--hugely--in that I don't get as attached to an image, and when it doesn't work, no matter the time invested, I'm able to let go fairly easily.  Younger Holly would have stumbled into the house in a sad comma shape, or have cried,  or despaired, or most probably, done all three.  Now,  I'm just deeply happy to be in my studio every afternoon, following my hands and my intuition, painting, cutting and sticking, truly pleased to be able to make images that I love.

*However, I often have a difficult time remembering why I've gone from one room to the next. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two Friends 1981

It was a tough week. Two weeks ago,  my 85 year old mother tripped over her dog and fell in the night, landing on her left shoulder.  All seemed to be going well, and then Tuesday of this week she experienced terrible shooting pains in the shoulder she had fallen on.  I'm in Corrales, she's in Santa Fe, about 65 miles away.  Not exactly an emergency, but close to it.  All ended well, but it was frightening, made even more so because of the distance.  Your mother's voice, thin and weak, her words not quite making sense and you, more than an hour away.

This morning I went for my every Sunday Morning for the Last 23 Years walk with my friends Jeanne and Cinda.* Most of the walk was spent with me telling them about the events of the week,  then I listened as they advised me on ways to deal with the on-going  and newer problems around my mother's care and safety.  All of their advice was spot on:  thoughtful, kind, and perfect in keeping me from rushing in to try and solve everything in my usual blunt way.  It was great to be heard, but best of all, was how wonderful it was to be surrounded by their genuine care and concern as we walked along the dusty road.

*Cinda is newer to the weekly walk

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Aunt Beth 1983

My mother's older sister by ten years and a twin, Aunt Beth lived in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters.  When my mother was a teenager, she would spend summers with Aunt Beth and her family and I know those visits were islands of happiness for her. Aunt Beth continued to be in my life throughout my childhood and adult years.  Once her husband died, with her daughters grown, she would often stop to visit while escaping the Colorado winters on her yearly trips to and from Arizona . She was a chain smoker and loved to talk.  I took this photograph of her while she was visiting me at my  home in Phoenix.  I wouldn't let her smoke inside, so she would go out on the porch when she needed to light up, which was often.  With the eternal cigarette dangling from her mouth, she would talk to me though the screen door, the screen inches from her face, never missing a beat.

The best thing I inherited from my Aunt Beth was her writing style.  She would write my mother long letters, terribly spelled, no punctuation to speak of, always typed and my mother would read them aloud to us as soon as they arrived.  I loved the letters.  They were streams of consciousness that let us see inside her mind--the mind of a lively and curious woman with lots to say.  Her letters taught me that it was important to say what mattered,  without fear of judgement, censorship, punctuation, or spelling.

She died of emphysema, claiming with her last breathe that it was the depletion of the ozone layer that caused her not to be able to breath--nothing to do with her multiple pack a day habit.  About 8 months later her twin followed, falling down the basement stairs while visiting her niece.  The only explanation we had for why she would have gotten up in the middle of the night and tried to go down those particular stairs was that Beth, missing her beloved sister, had finally lost patience and just beamed her up.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quiet Horse 2008

A few nights ago I stayed up late looking though old albums of my mothers.  One of my favorite photographs was an early image of her in cowgirl regalia on a small paint pony being led by her older brother, Grant.  Other, later photos showed her with different horses, and then, as an older teen with her own horse, a bay mare called Daisey. Another favorite:  my mother leading Daisey with a small, proud figure on her bareback--my cousin Sue at  the age of  4.  The last photos of Daisey are with a newborn filly by her side, Pretty Penny. *

I can only guess at how important horses were to my mother as she was growing up, the last of five children in a dysfunctional midwestern family.  Horses gave her strength and unconditional love, and, later, they also gave her a connection to her sister's middle daughter, her young niece Sue.  Sue also turned to horses for probably many of the same reasons my mother did, and it was a bond the two shared for many years.  Now, as my mother struggles with memory loss, and as her world closes in, it is Sue who drives from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe once every two months to spend a week to ten days with her.  Sue helps her stay organized, cleans out cupboards and closets, takes her to doctor and dentist appointments, bakes her pies and loves her.  I don't know if  their love of horses started the bond between them, or if, both being horse girls, they were just naturally drawn to each other.  Whatever the reason, now some sixty years later, as Mom once helped Sue stay on top of Daisey, Sue is now the one leading the horse and helping Mom to stay on until the ride is over.

*Not long after those photos were taken Daisey and her baby were sold for next to nothing because Mom  couldn't afford their upkeep.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Red Riding Hood 2001

As with most children, I was familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood from an early age. Re-reading the story now--or rather Wikipedia's synopsis of the many versions that have existed over the centuries--some 13 years after I did the painting, I have to wonder what version I had heard or read as a child. Was it the more sanitized version, where Little Red Riding Hood is saved by the Huntsman and Granny released from the closet after the wolf is killed, or the tougher version, where both Granny and LRRH are eaten, only to be pulled out of the wolf's belly(alive) by the huntsman after slaying the evil canine?  Whichever version it was, I know that the underlying theme, for me, in this painting,  is about being fooled, and not in a good way.  In this painted photograph,  the figure of the wolf is a photograph of a man I know who is a devout fundamentalist Christian, of course, transformed by my paintbrush into the Big Bad Wolf.  The model for Little Red Riding Hood is a young teenage girl, who, to my way of thinking, is being taken in by the wolf.  He wants to consume her with his proselytizing, lecturing, and preaching, wanting to convince her that she is a bad bad girl who can only find redemption by believing and accepting the strange rules of a vindictive and spiteful God.