keep your peepers open!

keep your peepers open!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

take five

On my morning walk I became fixated with taking pictures of dome topped buildings against the dawn sky. While my I Phone is good, it cannot record things at a distance with the clarity or exact frame I’m after; my results were less than stellar so I decided to abandon this project and get back to steppin’. Passing by the Hirshhorn Museum, my gaze at eye level rather than in the clouds, a glow of light in one of the many alcoves that make up the base of this structure made me slow my gait, take a look at orange blush ensconced in sand colored wall. I picked up my stride, turned around to go back -- aim, click, point right, click, over, click, angle up, click, higher, click, done. The five pictures exposed abstracts painted without oils or acrylics that needed no canvas. When I manipulated them in Photoshop, the textures transformed into deep tactile surfaces. Darkening them brought forth hidden shadows, sharper silhouettes. Simply flipping an unchanged image changed it completely. Five that took about one minute to capture captured my undivided attention for over an hour of exploration painting with keystrokes, a neat means of creating without making a mess.

I gravitate to abstract paintings. What appears before me is simple, disjointed, chaotic, carelessness that is meticulous, ordered, connected, complex. If I stand close, every bumpy blemish (even the tiny ones made with watercolor) is a stroke to be reckoned with. Back up several yards, the protrusions flatten as the entire vision comes into focus. What is the artist saying as I comprehend the exact meaning most of the time. Even if I don’t get it, emotions still surface for me. Many adults I encounter stray away from abstracts opting for works that have easily identifiable objects, many children I know do not. Grown ups have a tendency to prefer things neater, kids don’t mind if stuff is messy. Big people over think what’s in front of them analyzing so much that they no longer see. Little folks just accept without judgment allowing a world of possibility to come alive before them. In less than 60 seconds, they captivate me with the most outlandish adventures as they dive into the artist’s view creating one that suits their youthful fancy. And actually, the pictures they paint make a whole lot of sense.

Listening to the mind of a child reminds me to take five, let my head air out then take another look at everything my senses encounter. What they envision should encourage you to…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Nine years ago, I walked into a position that prior to accepting I never knew existed. My intent when I first contacted the hospital was to volunteer; good deeds are not always punished. Though I had no formal training in arts in medicine, my journey thus far had carefully groomed me to be successful in this new endeavor. Unexpected talents and opportunities have been the rewards of taking a risk, a huge cut in salary, and essentially starting over with the career thing or rather than starting over I should say standing at the cusp of an arena that would make perfect sense of my entire past.

Among other things, working with the cultural arts in a medical institution has reinforced my belief that the arts need to be more accessible, less intimidating to anyone who has the desire to be creative. In grammar school, I questioned why my picture of a round house was graded poorly because it was not the shape the art teacher thought it should be. Heaven forbid you drew a triangle and it wasn’t the lesson on tee-pees -- branded across the top of your page would be the shameful scarlet “F”. As an adjunct professor teaching creative writing to adults, I remember seeing rows of windows opening when I removed that red mark from assignments past and told them there had always been more than one way to draw a home. Watching my students pop the tops of boxes that contained their stifled imaginations and begin to think outside for the first time was such a thrill. The use of visual art (I drew houses on the board to take them back in time) helped the class visualize their imprisoned mind as a metaphor for the word no. Seems like it was the first word we pronounced correctly the first time we spoke it as a toddler; each time we heard it, it took away something. I’m not suggesting that no doesn’t have its place in raising a child and that in many, many instances it definitely needs to be adhered to as we grow older. But let’s stay on point and direct our focus back to the arts shall we...

No can convince you that your norm is not normal, can put a stop to creative development. No made mine almost come to a screeching halt in junior high, suppressed my public voice driving it underground. I did not share my poetry and short stories with anyone anymore but continued to write secretly at night. In school, I conformed in an effort to please the art teacher and avoid a bad grade. I was tremendously disappointed each time I did not make first chair in band, felt pressure to keep it when I did. If I had been honest with myself I would have openly admitted that I really had no interest in playing the flute at that level. Blowing to explore various sounds that I found pleasurable satisfied me plenty. So I got in a box and partially shut the lid, slipping and peering out on occasion. Somewhere in my psyche I knew I was a nonconformist at heart and needed time to find my drum (if you listen, you’ll hear it banging long, hard, loud and often!).

One of the reasons I love to collage is that it really is an art form that anyone can do if they don’t try to mimic someone else. When I introduce it as part of a workshop I facilitate, I have participants select a picture from a magazine, tear it up, shuffle the pieces, then reconstruct it to design a different image. Each person has the freedom to show off their piece only if they want to. Judgment is not welcome in my classrooms, any way you do anything is right. Much like when I taught writing, I get a kick as do they when they see how cool their torn paper collages are, looks of satisfaction crowd the space. But the biggest treat is watching them watch themselves climb out of that box they’ve been residing in, free once again to freely express themselves after so many years. As they depart, many of them leave behind the carton they stepped from opting to discard it where trash is left. Others take it with them, torn like the strips they pieced together knowing that nothing will ever be quite the same.

Consider this…your morning routine is a dance that only you know and do, when you hum without thought it’s a song from inside of you, thoughts scribbled mindlessly in the margins may be telling you a story worth hearing…what I’m saying is we’re all creative beings so go tear up some paper and while you're at it...

keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

great expectations

…lights flicker in the lobby…people scurry to their seats…lights dim then go dark at the exact second that the orchestra strikes its first note…the smile on my face is about to burst through my pounding heart…I have waited for this moment, anticipated it from the first time I saw the movie with Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., and Pearl Bailey and every time I listened to the soundtrack with Leontyne Price’s incredible voice delivering a personal front row broadcast from my turntable, tape or CD player. I know the score, want to belt out summertime and the livin’ is easy…as the opera Porgy and Bess begins I can barely contain myself! At intermission, I rose from my center of the aisle orchestra seat, absorbed the surroundings, had intermezzo chats with other enthusiasts, settled down in wait for Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess my absolute favorite. Each time I have heard it I am overwhelmed by his passionate anguish over the thought of losing the woman he loves but have never been able to discern the libretto of the two females singing with Porgy. Though the opera is in English, I glanced at the subtitles to now understand the concern for and attempt to comfort a friend in despair wrapping their voices around his pain as the three reach crescendo with Bess as the last note.

Each time this show has been performed on stage I have been unable to see it for some reason or the other; it has been ions since I happened on the movie which seems to have vanished from circulation. However, I have played the music in every form available for many years, know it sans the recitative like the back of my hands that shoot craps on the dock of Catfish Row, place money in the saucer to bury Serena's husband, thrust towards heaven ‘cause I can’t sit down at the picnic on Kittiwah Island, clutch the orphaned child of Jake and Clara after they drown in the storm, protect the face of the strumpet Bess from Crown’s brut, snatch that happy dust from Sportin’ Life and bring Porgy his crutch so he can go on his way.

But as the house lights came up to subsiding applause and the shuffling of feet leaving the hall, I asked myself if the dramatic work I had taken in for the past two and one half hours should have remained as one of my unfulfilled desires. It seems that after almost a lifetime of visualizing the performance as I listened to its accompaniment, no cast no matter how great could have held a candle to what I had imagined in my head.

There is something to be said for keeping some things at the bar not above, our expectations reasonable not farfetched, what we imagine as images, dreams and fantasies that never play out right before our very eyes. And to think, I was just about to have a friend translate the lyrics of a ballad that makes me swoon. The music and emotion in the voice of the songstress carry me to places I wouldn't find if I knew what the words meant so on second thought, I'm going to pass... can you? I say take it case by case. Only you will be able to determine whether or not you should…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, March 21, 2010

random musings

Spring officially ushered herself in on Saturday afternoon. As I emerged from my front door the smell of grilling food and warm fresh air let my nose know that the seasonal transition is in full swing. I paused on the stoop for a moment finding it hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, I stood in that very spot, snow up to my knees. Fireplaces from all over the neighborhood emitted their distinct aroma into crisp winds provoking a feeling of warmth and comfort; those same emotions wafted over me as I took a deep breath of what I imagined would be tasty. Two very distinctive scents from different seasons associated with the same element stirring up similar sentiments…

One minute we’re hunkered down forced into captivity by the weather, the next practically every inch of space is inhabited by a mass of bodies soaking up a shift in the outdoor condition. Twenty four hours ago many woke in a strange bed hundreds maybe thousands of miles from the familiar one they slept in last night and tonight; a plane ride forth then back made that connection. Was it just yesterday that I couldn’t wait for school to end for summer break; the years now pass so fast that I don’t remember blinking...

When I started to compose my thoughts for today’s post, I had it in my head that I was going to write something about scents but my musings are a bit random for some reason, fleeting thoughts about how fleeting things, people, occurrences in life can be so I need to flow for a minute or three without too much editing…During a recent visit to the doctor, the resident asked me routine questions that I asked her knowing she was young enough to be my daughter yet not feeling or looking much older than she. Regardless of how long I’ve been out of school and working, my body is still programmed for unobligated July and August freedom -- see you in September. To be a student again is not on my slate but if I got another degree, would time slow down again? Next month, I will travel across the country and think how wonderfully odd it is to wake up somewhere else then be back home in my own bedroom snuggled down almost as quickly as I settled into the room of a hotel. I will meet people on that same trip moving in and out of spaces that we both occupy that may become permanent fixtures on my landscape while I wonder where in the world are those who were occupants of my soul yet somehow fell off the reservation…

Background music is singing in a language that moves me because it just does without the necessity of understanding a single word, it had the same affect on a friend who knows the translation. Two very distinctive individuals on different paths that effortlessly crossed associating with the same song that stirred similar sentiments; we both wept when we first heard the piece. The door to my balcony is open ushering in the flavor of a Sunday breakfast being prepared by a neighbor, aromas reminiscent of any meal that includes bacon past, present and future. Is that a universal smell even if you don’t eat swine?

keep your peepers open! ®

ps – the little bird in the picture seemed as random as my thoughts are today...he was clearly in DC by accident with that very long beak wondering how on earth he got here, could he flap his wings and go back?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

oui oui

It’s been several months since I completed a metal casting class where I made twelve goddesses (see post: 11/11/09 casting wild women). I recall a discussion about solutions used to create that turquoise patina finish found on bronze, one in particular made me take note -- urine. I had an ew moment as I shook my noggin in mild disgust and tucked the info into a file I mentally marked “really? The day I pulled out the camera to photograph my creations, I was not able to stop myself from rummaging through that dossier. The more I peered at the gals through the lens, the more I wondered what they would look like with a hint of tarnish. I was not about to go to the store to buy anything ‘cause I was ready to try this right now. Could something we produce naturally truly do the trick? The answer… oui, oui!

I sequestered one of my girls in a box, painted on a little liquid, closed the top and left her for a 24 hour stint in isolation. Upon release, there was a noticeable change. I took a picture that came out too dark so I played around with it in Photoshop my only intention was to lighten it. To my delight, my bronze beauty morphed even more right before my eyes. Not only did I have a one-of-a-kind cast metal goddess but also had the ability to reproduce her in a series of prints with color combinations that could never be achieved with a little swab of tee tee.

I’ve actually used Photoshop to change the coloration of leaves, plants and flowers with stunning results. I am not one to fool with the natural order of things, however I think Mother Nature will give me a pass since no harm has come to real life flora or fauna. Will post some of those photographs in the future so…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, March 14, 2010

covering me

One of my closest friends has a gift for listening, ruminating, making a fair assessment then gently sharing her view of whatever I have called to discuss. Over the years, I have repeatedly suggested that she quit her job, hang up a shingle and become a psychologist with me as the first of many clients (I’m not the only one who rings her to recline on her couch). I was preparing some notes for a workshop on journaling as it relates to the healing process and found myself typing that I sometimes use the journal as my personal shrink.

It’s true. Since the mid 90’s, blank pages in spiral bound notebooks have listened to my victory and defeat, sorrow and exhilaration, random and constructive thoughts. There have been quiet periods; no written record of what was going on in my life found its way to the archives. When I was exposed to imagistic journaling, I switched from just scribing to a combination of words and visual images, which is one of the things I also like about a blog. One of my students asked me about electronic journaling. The one thing I can say about typography is I can always make out what was rambling around in my head. Trying to keep a pen in sync with the fascinating rhythms singing in my brain has on many occasions left me staring at scribble that takes hours to decipher if ever. Deciding on a picture(s) to coalesce with my stream of consciousness presents me with a challenge that satiates my creative being...I relish posting each Sunday and Wednesday. That said I prefer the tactile feel of each tool used to document intimacies that frankly I don’t wish for the voyeuristic among us to read, cut, paste and forward. A clean white page with no horizontal intrusions to confine me gives my thoughts permission to roam, fall off the perimeters, cross the borders; before me is a chance to have a personal dialogue with my heart, soul and spirit, a deeply rooted conversation of language and vision that covers me.

My friend hinted that she just may consider a career shift. She has really helped so many find their way back to sanity, why not get paid for it I say. However, if I have learned anything from her it's that people move in their own space and time, you have to be patient and…

keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

we iz here

“Spring has sprung, the grass has riz,
wonder where the flowers iz?”

I think that’s how it goes. Don’t remember who I first heard say it or when I heard it for the first time but this itty bitty ditty has been dancing around in my head all the live long day. Maybe it’s because the temperature is in the 60’s for the third day in a row and my body soaked up some warm when I walked for the first time in…well I’m just too embarrassed to tell on myself. Anyway, it’s not spring quite yet. The grass is a hot mess from the weight and melt down saturation of all that snow that beat it down and turned it brown. But no need to wonder, the flowers iz here. Some just buds, others in full regalia, all yelling out for attention against the drabness around them. And they want you to listen, so…
keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, March 7, 2010


fall ©

at the symposium
the speaker began her talk
something about a quilt
gee’s bend…I’d seen that exhibit.
the message came
just as the speaker began
about gee’s bend about a quilt
made for a loved one by loved ones
for a love no longer here
from his clothing this quilt
from a wife a daughter of gee’s bend.
the text from one j’adore appeared
just as the speaker began
her talk on the peace of piecing pieces of a love
passed on
reading words of more pain another loss
while I heard of a quilt made for a loved one
from cloth that clothed him in gee’s bend.
did my adored one have a quilt
to wrap him in the comfort the speaker spoke of
to absorb the grief warm him?
the speaker said something about
a sad soft spot to fall in to begin grieving
as she talked about that quilt from gee’s bend
an exhibit I’d seen
had I seen that quilt up there on the screen at the exhibit?
just as the speaker began
a message flashed on the silent screen in my hand.

no quilt have I am soft.


keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

images dans l'eau

I have become preoccupied with taking reflections of nature in small pools of water. One bitingly cold gray morning, I took off my gloves, left them, keys and mail in the middle of the parking lot and set forth to inspect half dozen miniature ponds. My goddess it was damned frigid out there, was it about to snow again? But I was not the least bit dissuaded finding a host of pictures that exposed an entirely different outlook on the weather -- nestled behind the dreary clouds was a gloriously blue sky waiting to make its grand debut later in the day. Looking at the ground I also saw rainbows in the damp concrete where water had recently receded, a single green magnolia leaf gliding like a small boat in the clouds just below the trace of oil on the surface.

Taking these pictures has become an intriguing process of painting with my eyes. Water creates its own multi-layered canvases. The reflection on top of the liquid is one dimensional, a natural mirror for what is directly above. Anything floating on the surface adds a variety of textures, some that pop out like pop ups. When the water is shallow, its transparency allows whatever rests beneath to fill in other spaces, broaden the spectrum of the design. The final impression is intricately simplistic, no human touch necessary. And without a brush stroke the watercolor alters itself or evaporates completely so the eye has to become adept at watching aqua…it’s captivating!

(I'm pleased to say that the directly one below was selected for a news site during the DC snow storms.)

One of the spiritual email messages I receive contained a passage from the book Journeys on Mind Mountain that read in part, “If you want to see differently, you’ll have to look differently.” Spot on when it comes to expressing how I feel about my fascination with capturing images in water and the infinite collection of artwork nature presents from moment to moment that I will continue to share if you...

keep your peepers open! ®