Word

My word for 2016 is ‘Focus’.

Opera Glasses ;; Joseph Lorusso (b. 1966)

Opera Glasses  ::   Joseph Lorusso (b. 1966)

In 2015, it was ‘Brave‘.  For the past year, I’ve been open to lots of ideas and possibilities, and have begun some explorations.  I actually haven’t produced very much, which is OK.   Now I feel ready to narrow my vision and choose.

Already, a very exciting opportunity has come my way which I have grasped with both hands.  In February I start/develop my new role as an artist working with people living with dementia.  This is pretty much my dream job.  I’ll be sharing and developing the post with an artist friend who lives in my village and I think that she and I will complement eachother very well.   I have an academic background in Counseling Psychology  and a lot of personal experience of my own and in facilitating the deeply healing aspects of artmaking and creativity with others.  I am going to London tomorrow to a workshop on Early Stage Dementia Awareness Training for Arts Facilitators.  I’m really stoked, a little nervous and have the feeling that a new world of opportunities to combine my counseling skills and working creatively with people is opening up before my eyes.

I have also decided that in May,  I’ll submit some artwork to a juried show open to Native American artists on the theme of Spirituality & Borderlands.  Last year I got my Muscogee (Creek) Nation Citizenship ID card for this express purpose.   More on that later, but I have already begun working on a piece.

What is your word for 2016?

 

To the moon

As promised, here are a few more shots of the nearly completed paper moon.   I collaged  vintage sheet music covers from the 1920’s and ’30’s onto the back.

moon006

moon004

We attached the moon to one of our kitchen tables, which was the perfect height and very stable too.  We glued a piece of wood to the back, which we then screwed onto a supporting structure.  Our weighty tomes and Le Creuset cooking pots came in handy.

moon005

Et voila!  The paper moon.  We did some more work to make the midnight sky background, scattered with gold stars and a skirt to hide the table legs.

moon003

I can tell you that it looked fantastic!  We’ll have access to many photos that our photographer and many of our friends took on the day of our Fifth Anniversary Celebration over the next few days and weeks.

We gave each of our guests a crescent moon lino print and an admission ticket to the Paper Moon Gallery when it comes online.

moon001

Today, Steve and I are off to Austria for about 10 days, traveling by train and staying in some beautiful places.  And guess what?  The moon in the sky looks just like our paper moon!

moon002

Over the Moon

I recently learned a new skill!  I have a very inspiring artist friend in his early 80’s who offered to teach me lino cutting some time ago.  Alan is a world traveler and worked as an architect & interior designer all of his working life.   He continues to explore in various artistic media.

I found a crescent moon design and went to his very well organized studio for a few hours last Friday.  He explained the process, let me practice on a scrap of lino and left me to it.

Sometimes, when I learn something new, I hang back and wait until the moment to begin when I am absolutely certain that it will come out perfectly the first time.  Which means that sometimes, I don’t try anything new.

Alan knows me as a fibre artist and knows that I put a lot of time and care into my art work.  He was gently encouraging.  I felt confident to try this new thing and aware that he had made time in his busy schedule to meet with me.  So I picked up my lino cutter and went for it.  I am not going to give a tutorial on the process, but I did learn that the next time I will make sure I have a good light source and I will probably draw my design with a Sharpie pen (rather than pencil).  Oh yeah, and wear my reading glasses!

I found it a very cerebral and controlled process.  I liked the planning – I cut my design in ‘reverse’ so that the print will be the right way – and when I do others, I will think about different colours of ink and about breaking up my design into three or more different blocks and about which order I will print them.

I kept my first one very simple.   On just one block, so I’ll do my prints in one go in one colour of ink.

This print was done in water based ink.  A trial run to check it out.  I removed a bit more of the lino where necessary and identified a couple of places that I will ink in with a brush after the print is made.

over the moon001

I went out and bought a pack of different coloured card stock and am going back on  Monday to make a run of prints using oil based ink.

I’m also thinking about other, larger and more complex designs to do.  I love German Expressionist woodcuts and think that my Little Red Stick story would lend itself especially well to this medium.

grandmothers-1

Besides being over the moon about learning how to do printmaking, I am really stoked that my first response to what I made was, ‘Wow!  Look at what I made.’  Not feeling apologetic and pointing out the mistakes, but feeling very proud of myself.  That mindset is 180º from where I used to be in the not so distant past.

Transformational vessel

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling restless, on the cusp of a new horizon, like I am beside myself and don’t know quite who this new person is that I am becoming.  My experience of menopause is of a very deep and powerful transformation.  I’ve been feeling very alone in it too, but recently I have been having conversations with women in my life and on Facebook.  I’ve found some blogs and websites and have bought a few books.  I am coming to realise that each woman’s experience of menopause is as individual as her thumbprint, even though there are many commonalities.  I am also discovering that I, and many other women, view this transition as a deep journey and a time of coming into real power and profound Self-knowing.  I absolutely do not label menopause as an anomalous state to be ashamed of or as an illness to be medicated away.   Still, it isn’t an easy time for me.  My artwork is my medicine.

One of my friends and Steve said to me in the past week, ‘Draw how you’re feeling’.  My friend asked, What will you draw?  And with what?’  I answered, ‘This place I am in and maybe it will be a self-portrait.  I’ll use water-soluble pastels and maybe acrylic paints.  I have some canvasses!’  Steve said, ‘Maybe you should just make some artwork.  It will help you and maybe other people too.  It’ll be brilliant.  You’re brilliant’. :)

But I needed to feel into myself a bit more first.  It isn’t so much that I feel beside a duplicate of me.  More like there is a new empty space inside of me, new territory to explore and it’s scary.  I could talk about it with my friend and she knew what I was talking about.  I feel very grounded with Steve and it’s like he holds me and I’m holding this void.  There is this space for a new something.  A new something to emerge and a new place for me to inhabit and in the process, I am becoming someone new as I enter this new place.  It’s all of this.

I was peeling shallots on Sunday night.  You know how the bulb is wrapped in many layers of tissue-y skin, and then the flesh emerges?

watersnake

Sometimes there are two bulbs curved into each other, or the one bulb is split in two, but is still contained within the whole.  That’s how it is.

watersnake019

I woke up the next morning and brought my wax pastels to bed and drew this picture.  To my surprise, ue-cetto, water snake in Muscogee, came to hold the space around my becoming.  In our view of the cosmos, the water snake or water serpent or water panther inhabits the Lower World.  I have so many books and websites that I have been visiting.  I can’t lay my hands on the source right now, but I’ve read that the Lower World is associated with the feminine, with creativity, with chaos.

I wrote some words about the water snake wrapping herself around me into a transformational vessel.

watersnake002

the place I know where dwells the me I know . . . . .

I decided to paint it with dip pen & India ink and water-soluble crayons, pencils and pastels.  I used a piece of 250 gsm mixed media A3 size paper.

watersnake017

First, I drew the design in pencil.  My eyes are now closed and my hand reaches through the membrane separating me from the void.

watersnake003

ue-cetto encircles me.

watersnake004

I love drawing with a dip pen.  I love the fluidity of the nib over the paper and the dipping into the ink pot.   I erased the pencil lines once I had finished.

watersnake005

And then I put all of the colours in.

watersnake006

I wrote a poem, ue-cetto (water snake).

ue-cetto
(water snake)

She comes to me in the watery depths
and wraps herself around me.
A transformational vessel
This place I know
but I am beside myself
Where dwells the Me I know?
She holds my death and rebirth . . . . .
for a dark, deep time.
Deep we dive,
which way is up?
Up and down no longer matter
She holds me in the dark.
Dark, dark, dark and deep.
Deeper still.
My hands become my eyes
as I feel my way into a new place.
No longer beside myself
New horizons beckon.

-Melinda Schwakhofer, 2015

I wrote some of the lines of the poem onto the painting.

watersnake009

A powerful image from the Eastern Woodland ancestors of the Muscogee is the hand with the eye embedded in the palm.

watersnake010

watersnake011

She holds my death and rebirth . . . . . for a dark, deep time . . . . .

watersnake012

.  .  .  .  .  which way is up? Up and down no longer matter . . . . .

watersnake013

In order to place the complete poem well onto the margin, I first wrote it on a slip of paper.  Then I counted up the lines and penciled them onto the margin.

watersnake020

watersnake007

After writing the poem with grey ink, I erased the lines.

watersnake014

watersnake016

Here is the complete painting with the poem, which I may or may not keep intact.

 watersnake001

Here are both images together.

watersnake018

I have a square canvas and acrylic paints.  I will paint this again and see how it continues to transform.  My artwork carries my transformation/journey which inhabits my artwork.

Perro, Hvcce and Oi-kåtca

I’ve been feeling a bit lost recently.  I’m in a transition from one phase of life to another and traveling, traveling on my journey into my Muscogee identity and heritage.  Not quite sure where I am going.  Wanting to know my destination before I arrive, to be there and forgetting about the importance of the journey.   I remembered that my artwork carries me and helps me to make sense of where I am.

In last Monday’s art class, made a boat, perro in Muscogee, pronounced /pithlo/.

perro_hvcce006

perro_hvcce005

I made a river, hvcce /hachi/ to carry it.

perro_hvcce007

perro_hvcce004

Interestingly, a Water Panther, Oi-kåtca /we-katcha/ came to be in the river.  This water being was a major component of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of the Mississippian culture in the prehistoric American Southeast.  It is related to the Tie Snake, which is a figure in the mythos of the Southeastern tribes.

In Native American mythologies of the Great Lakes, underwater panthers are described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderers, masters of the powers of the air who live in the Upper World. Underwater Panthers, who inhabit the Lower World are seen as an opposing yet complementary force to the Thunderers, and they are engaged in eternal conflict.  In the Muscogee world view, people, animals, birds an all other creatures live in This World.  Harmony comes when the tensions and conflict of the Upper and Lower Worlds are held in balance.

perro_hvcce001

Underwater panther was an amalgam of features from many animals: the body of a wild feline, often a mountain lion or lynx; the horns of deer or bison; upright scales on its back; occasionally bird feathers; and parts from other animals as well, depending on the particular myth.

perro_hvcce003

Underwater panthers are represented with exceptionally long tails, occasionally with serpentine properties.  The creatures are thought to roar or hiss in the sounds of storms or rushing rapids.

perro_hvcce002

Some traditions believed the underwater panthers to be helpful, protective creatures, but more often they were viewed as malevolent beasts that brought death and misfortune. They often need to be placated for safe passage across a lake.  Whoever Oi-kåtca turns out to be, helpful and protective or malevolent, she is certainly a powerful companion to have on my river journey.

The Secret Flower of the Heart

flowering_heart_by_lucidcrimson-d6mcg1c

 

The Secret Flower of the Heart

Come, Friend,
leave your comings and goings,
abandon your business in the world
and bolt the gate.
Take to your solitude now,
for we must learn of our own
ebbs and flows,
tides and warm breezes.

This is called Returning to Yourself.
Come, drop below the surface
and seek your comfort in the depths.
Here is contentment that rests upon
no outer circumstance.

In watering a plant, moisture seeps down
and nourishes its unseen roots.
In solitude, we let our attentions seep down as well,
down to the roots of who we are.
Only then a flower may bud and bloom.
This is the secret flower of the heart,
a pure light kindled, a shining star.

And see!
The identity we have so long shaped
is all edges and postures now.
It is no longer you,
only a garment to be set aside in this hour.
You are transparency, a calm breath.

Emptiness is the harvest here,
an open space,
wherein the Great Fullness may enter,
where even words like these are cast aside.

-Michael Green

Artwork : Flowering Heart by LucidCrimson@DeviantArt