“What Did You Fall In Love With?”

Every once in a while, I nourish my Self by taking what  Julia Cameron calls “Art Dates” in her book, The Artist’s Way.  Typically, these are special dates with one’s self to seek inspiration and nurture the artist within.

I explored this in my post Art Date with Myself.  Funny, I broke the rules in that post, too!

I take plenty of Art Dates by myself but this time, I chose to spend it with my boyfriend.  It was a lovely February day so we decided to explore the newly renovated National Gallery of Art East Wing  in Washington DC.

At the end of our artsy adventure, he asks me a provocative question that I love for its directness and the ease with which I can answer it.  “What did you fall in love with today?”  While I deeply adore viewing all of the pieces in general, there are three works that I am, indeed, in love with.

Henri Matisse – Decorative Composition with Masks (1953)

Large Decorative Cutout with Masks

Henri Matisse, Large Composition with Masks (1953)

I’ve been in love with this piece for decades and every time I see it, these feelings grow stronger.  Every single time without exception, my heart swells and tears fill my eyes the moment I come around the corner and view this enormous cutout in all its colorful, simplistic glory.  It is, by far, my favorite work of all time.  Those of you who have fallen in love with art know what I mean and how impossible it is to explain why a piece captures your heart, soul, and imagination.

Pierre Bonnard – Nude in an Interior (1935)

pierrebonnardnudeinaninterior

I’m also in love with Pierre Bonnard’s Nude in an Interior (1935).  His use of bold blocks of color and pattern, patches of sunlight, his color palette, and contrast of the straight lines of the interior against the feminine curves of the nude captivate me.

Lately, my color palette has been rather dark and often subdued.  The joyful, sunny colors of this painting inspire me to play with similar colors.

Francesca Woodman – Caryatid, New York (1980)

francescawoodman-caryatid-new-york

Francesca Woodman – Caryatid, New York (1980)

This mysterious, otherworldly image by Francesca Woodman captivates me and leaves me with many unanswered questions.  Who is this?  Where is she?  What is she thinking?  The tragic and divinely talented Woodhouse died at age 22, leaving behind a great many self-portraits and other beautiful and unsettling images.  I love how this piques my curiousity.  I want to know more about her art and the creative yet tortured woman who created it.

What art are you in love with?

Please share.

Advertisements

What’s It Like in the Red Tent?

I found last Saturday’s Red Tent event rich in conversation & deeply moving.  I chose the topic “Mothering and Being Mothered” for Mother’s Day weekend… it seemed appropriate.  I’ll never divulge the details for “what happens in the Tent stays in the Tent” but consider how you’d answer these three questions and imagine what the conversation was like among women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s.

1)  How does your relationship with your mother impact your ability to mother others?

2)  Who (what) do you mother and what forms does your mothering take?

3)  As you give generously in so many ways, how do you nurture your Self?

These amazing women brought their authentic selves to the tent, speaking their truth courageously because somehow each sensed that the tent is a safe, sacred, private place where women can speak without judgement, shame, criticism, or guilt.

For this Red Tent event, I established an altar in the center of the carpet to honor “mother” images from various religious traditions, our own mothers & grandmothers, as well as the ways we mother in our own unique ways.  Each woman brought an object or photo that symbolized motherhood for her and we shared their importance.  This initial introduction of ourselves- women who gave birth, adopted, chose not to have children, & were contemplating having a child for the first time- cast a magical circle of protection around us in some ways, allowing each of us to share deeply and honestly.  I call this circle the Sacred Wisdom Circle because each & every one of us brought the wisdom of our experience to the group for all to possibly learn from.  Each of us was student & teacher in turn.

When I create a Red Tent event, it’s not merely a “gimmick” to create a space that resembles a Middle Eastern tent with red curtains, rugs, and exotic accessories.  I deliberately design it with the intention that I’m creating a space set apart from our everyday concerns so women can rest, rejuvenate, connect with other women, and reconnect with their highest selves.  I want it to look different, feel different, and be different.  I want the women to feel different and be different from how they feel they have to be for husbands, parents, employers, and children.

The Red Tent is a womb– a protective place that nurtures and nourishes.  All who identify themselves as women are welcome here regardless of age, race, or spiritual beliefs.  Every tent is charged with the energy of the participants, be they contemplative, humorous, emotional, lively, or a blend of one or more of these qualities.

Our time together ended far too soon, after meaningful discussion and a reflective labyrinth walk nestled between the memorial wall and the majestic weeping beech at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York’s campus.  I trust all the women felt refreshed in some way be it physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.  I know I did.

So what’s next?  My next Red Tent event will be an all-day retreat that focuses on Beauty- Inside and Out.  And this time, it will be open to women AND GIRLS ages 8 and up.  Mothers can share this experience with their daughters or come alone for the topic is relevant to all of us.  We’ll explore what it means to grow up in a society that still places too much emphasis on being skinny & young.  Most importantly, we’ll explore ways to be strong, empowered, & full of the knowledge that we are each beautiful in our own way.  It’s time to tell our girls that they are valued just the way they are.

Stay tuned….

 

Little Joys- Part 1

There are so many little joys to be grateful for in life, treasured not for their grandness or “importance” but for the happiness they bring to each moment if we heighten our awareness of the present.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in obligations, multitasking to fit it all in.  But if we can stop and take time to notice, these little joys gift us with peace, a smile, and connection to all that is positive.

I’ve been recording some of the many little joys in my life via Instagram and Facebook but want to share them with my blog friends as well.  What Little Joys bring light to your life?

Art Supplies

My art supplies… always beckoning me, inspiring me, and encouraging me to play.

Birdhouses

My backyard bird haven… plenty of shelter, water, and food. Seeing them flit about happily brings me joy.

Coffee in the Morning

That first cup of coffee in the morning, made even more special by being in a favorite mug.

Crocuses

Purple crocuses bring the message that spring will soon be here!

Daffodils

Sunshine yellow daffodils soon follow crocuses.

Evening Walk with Pups

Evening walks with the dogs. My way to release the stress of the day , transition into my personal life, and take time to notice the little joys in nature with my pups.

Freyjas Soulful Eyes

Freyja’s soulful eyes. This gorgeous girl was once someone’s helpless puppy mill breeding dog but luckily for both of us, she’s been my little girl for 3 years, bringing me joy with every soulful expression on her face. I think we rescued each other!

Rag Rugs

Rag rugs are a great way to salvage scraps of material and give them new life. Each piece has a story. I made this rug over 20 years ago and enjoy the vibrancy and cheerfulness of every color.

Sily Socks

Silly socks… just because.

Warm Cinnamon Rolls

Warm cinnamon rolls with icing drizzled on the top. Comfort food at its best.

Making the Old New Again

Occasionally, I find amazing little treasures at flea markets or antique stores– tired, chipped, battered pieces that call out to be restored to their former glory or given a new makeover.  No one wants to be stuck in a corner of a shop, collecting dust… everyone longs to be in a home with someone who appreciates their value.

Medieval Table 2

The beautiful little table inspired by illuminated manuscripts.

As I decorated this table, I imagined it supporting a cup of tea for a woman reading tales of queens, knights, & trusty white steeds.  I imagined it in a very bohemian house where someone meditates serenely, incense floating on the air.  I imagined it in a little girl’s room, holding a small lamp & collection of treasured objects.  I imagined it being useful & enjoyed once again.

Medieval Table 1

Fabric & metallic paint decorate the top of the table.

Inspired by illuminated manuscripts, I refurbished this table with jewel tones– amethyst, emerald, & gold.  All the papers, fabric, & paints combine to put the FUN back into function.

Until it gets its forever home, this table is the perfect height for my coffee mug, journal, & fountain pen.  Treasured once again.

The Divine Within collage

Every artist finds certain materials inspiring– a piece of wood with remarkable grain for a carver, a shimmering stone for a jeweler, a beautiful new glaze for a potter, or a fountain pen that feels like it was made for the writer’s hand.  I’ve experienced this many times in my career, finding inspiration in copper wire, pieces of slate, metallic inks, patterned fabrics, & most recently, an exotic sheet of handmade paper.

I fell in love when I walked into a small stationery store that displayed large sheets of handmade & printed papers by draping them over wooden dowels, cascading down the wall like a multicolored waterfall.  That’s when I saw it.  A gorgeous fuschia, red, orange, & gold piece spoke to me from among the polka dots, paisleys, stripes, & florals.  I didn’t know what I would do with it but I knew it had to come home with me.

In my studio, I ceremoniously unrolled the butcher paper that wrapped my sheet protectively.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I found myself talking to the paper as I revealed it.  “Why hello, there.  What would you like to be?  A painting?  A collage?”  My eager questions were met with silence.  This wasn’t going to be easy but most things worth doing and worth having aren’t.  This paper was exotic & mysterious, and would remain so for weeks.

Each day, sometimes twice a day, I’d gaze at the brightly colored sheet & listen.  Nothing.  Artists know that they can’t force creativity.  I would wait as long as I had to wait.  Then, one day, I said, “You are such a beautiful sheet of paper.  I don’t want to hide you under thick paint.  What about a collage that lets your beauty shine through?”

I heard it, “Yes, a collage… something divinely beautiful.”  That’s it.  Divine.  The Divine Within.  Once I had the title, I remembered a sketch I had drawn months ago & ran to find it among the many notebooks, journals, & sketchpads I have stacked around my home.  I found the small thumbnail sketch & knew for sure; that image belonged on this paper.  And so, The Divine Within was born.

Divine Within

The Divine Within: a collage on paper

I used a variety of papers with textures tempting to touch, metallic gold ink, & creamy smooth oil pastel.  The beauty of the paper is able to shine through, just like we are able to let our light shine when we choose.  The Divine Within is within each of us.

Boho Table

Thanks to two wonderfully liberating snow days, I have completed this Boho table, inspired by my Eastern European heritage.  I repurposed an old flea market find using bold colors & a whimsical floral design.  I’m putting the FUN back into FUNCTIONAL.  

Visit my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan to see this & other pieces.

boho table

boho before image

Before

boho table view 3

Detail

boho table view 4

Another view

Boho Tabletop

View of the tabletop

Autumn Feeds My Soul

Perhaps it’s because I’m an October baby.

Perhaps it’s the sight of skinny scarecrows in their denim & flannel, standing watch over dried cornfields.

Perhaps it’s the growing darkness & thinning of the veil that lets us receive messages more clearly from those who have passed.

For all those reasons, and more, October feeds my soul.  I feel a greater connection to all that is across time & space, a humble sense of awe for the beauty around me, & a quieting of my spirit.

My sister called with a very simple wish to fulfill… “We need a traditional fall experience.  Fi and I will be there Friday night.”  She need not say any more.  I knew exactly the kind of experience they would love– a crisp, cool day on a farm.

Farm 6

The next morning, we parked near the farmhouse surrounded by orchards dotted with bright red apples & fields dotted with bold orange pumpkins of all sizes.  A John Deere tractor, pulling a wagon, stopped so we could climb aboard & sit on hay bales as the driver took us up to the orchard.

Farm 2

Armed with empty bags, we jumped down & wandered among the trees, looking for apples to pick.  Not all of them made it into our bags… one apple the size of a grapefruit tempted us too much.  Like three Eves, we took enormous bites, letting the juice run down our wrists & soak our sleeves.

We munched leisurely & made our way to the pumpkin patch.  Men & women of my generation will understand the reason why I immediately pictured Linus hugging a blue blanket, waiting patiently for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.  (Secretly, I want to see him, too.)  Choosing a pumpkin was difficult, for how do you choose the perfect pumpkin when they are all perfect?  A young man with pruning sheers clipped the stems of our chosen pumpkins & we rolled the orbs into our arms, trying hard not to spill the bags of apples.  Now we were both sticky & a bit dirty but isn’t that what it’s all about?… enjoying the moment to the fullest?

Farm 4

By now, our cheeks & noses were as red as our apples & it was time to go but not before my sister & niece posed for one last photo.

Farm 5

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  LM Montgomery

Holy Now

I have to share these song lyrics with you.  They touch me on the deepest and the highest levels…

Holy Now

by Peter Mayer

When I was a boy, each week

On Sunday, we would go to church

And pay attention to the priest

He would read the holy word

And consecrate the holy bread

And everyone would kneel and bow

Today the only difference is

Everything is holy now

Everything everything

Everything is holy now.

When I was in Sunday school

We would learn about the time

Moses split the sea in two

Jesus made the water wine

And I remember feeling sad

That miracles don’t happen still

But now I can’t keep track

‘Cause everything’s a miracle

Everything, everything

Everything’s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small

But an even better magic trick

Is that anything is here at all

So the challenging thing becomes

Not to look for miracles

But finding where there isn’t one

When holy water was rare at best

It barely wet my fingertips

But now I have to hold my breath

Like I’m swimming in a sea of it

It used to be a world half there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

‘Cause everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face

And say it’s not a testament

That’d be very hard to say

See another morning come

And say it’s not a sacrament

I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning outside I stood

And saw a little red-winged bird

Shining like a burning bush

Singing like a scripture verse

It made me want to bow my head

I remember when church let out

How things have changed since then

Everything is holy now

It used to be a world half-there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

‘Cause everything is holy now.

The Four Agreements

Just a quick, rainy day, mixed-media piece based on Don Miguel Ruiz’ book, The Four Agreements.  While the book is short enough to read on a gray afternoon, its message will resonate with you & gain meaning the more you ponder it.

Four Agreements

Ribbon, paint pen, ink, & gold leafing on papyrus.

Mini Landscape Collages- Part 2

Photos of local farms & rolling countryside inspired me to complete the last 3 mini collages in my series of 6.  While the photos act as reminders of the idyllic rural places I’ve been, these 4-inch square collages express how much I treasure the world around me.  Some of these honor Mother Nature & others honor the farmers who work continuously to provide for the rest of us.  We can no more do without them than we can the earth Herself.

mini landscape 4

mini photo 4

mini landscape 5

mini photo 4

mini landscape 6

mini photo 6

When I see a stately sycamore  or majestic maple solidly rooted with limbs uplifted, like congregants in Nature’s great cathedral, I stop to ground myself & raise my arms in humble gratitude as well.  When I see rolling hills & broad patches of plowed farmland stretching out under the sun, I feel my spirit stretch across the earth connected to the earth below, the canopy of sky above, & the vast mystery beyond what I know or can possibly understand.  I’m just glad it’s part of me & I’m part of it.

Take a look at my Art Gallery page to see all my recent work. 

                                        Check out the pieces for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan