Tuesday-Thursday, March 24-26:
In the past few days we have seen the news become worse and worse, with the NYC metro area suffering huge numbers of infected and new infections mounting exponentially. The issue of New Yorkers fanning across the country to flee—or just wait out— the problem is finally much in the news, with some states requiring quarantine.
This has been on my mind here in the Catskills, where every second or third home is a weekend place and many others are AirBnB investment properties, currently rented. I would do the same if I lived in nyc and had a place up here, but I would have come up weeks ago and then stayed, like my sister and brother-in-law did. It’s the recent arrivals that pose a risk to us all.
However, we are all supposed to be behaving as if we and every other person has it. I would say that, for those coming from the global epicenter, this should extend to face masks while shopping. And, since recently trailhead parking lots in the Skills are full when the weather is nice, remembering to keep your six feet from other hikers—it’s easy to forget while out in the fresh air. Gloves and speed at the post office, as many of us in this rural area have to pick up our mail.
On the whole, it seems that folks are good and buttoned up in their homes, as they should be, wherever they come from. Since we have a lovely series of hiking trails just up my dead-end road, our road is always the choice for neighborhood dog walkers and hikers, and it is so nice to stop for chats, as in the past, but with more distance between us. I haven’t seen many of the new arrivals in this mix, but we are all good as long as we maintain our six feet.
Cases are mounting in Ulster County, though we have had only one in Shandaken for quite a while now (maybe a week, in our new telescoped time). Otsego County, where my Dad lives in Oneonta, went from zero to five in the past few days. My dear friend Di (known locally as “Dr. Di” and also my Dad and his partner’s yoga teacher) is now City Health Officer for preparedness for Covid-19. When we chatted the other night she described their local efforts, but there had yet to be a known case in the county. I am sure that they are now on higher alert to avoid community spread.
In other Covid-19 news, the NY Times published an article yesterday by a woman in NYC whose husband has a pretty bad case—just teetering on hospitalization—and how she and her 16-year-old daughter are coping with nursing him and trying not to get it themselves. It is clear that at his level of misery, there is no way he could take even the most basic care of himself.
This brought it home in a very concrete way, since with this illness all previous protocols are out the window. Family is not supposed to step in, no one is supposed to get near—the only help can come from folks dropping off needed supplies, whether medical or food. Each household, no matter how small, is on it’s own, with a bit of doctor’s advice and the worst case solution of being hospitalized.
I am glad that we have worked so hard within our household to stay safe, though we could still, of course, be unlucky.
Daughter Tessa called yesterday, just a check in before she goes back into the Minnesota woods to continue maple sugaring until her original target date of April 13 or 14th. It was so great to hear her voice.
I had left her a voicemail with a little bit of info on what’s going on in this country, and she seemed unable to let go of the idea that Jack and I are reacting with outsized anxiety. It is such an unprecedented situation that if you are not living it, of course it would seem like that…
She is now with only six others of the original crew, all having ben there for over a month, safe and happily out of contact with the world. How she will get back here to pick up her car, and then onto her Vermont home has yet to be determined. I am dead set against using her plane ticket to Newark.
In the studio I finished the sand flats painting, Soft Glow over Tidal Flats, 30″x60″:
I wonder when I will see the sea again? Almost surely not the first of May, as originally planned, for my seasonal drop-off at Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.
Work is also progressing on the watershed Site Map; here, a detail of the most developed sections:
I have started painting the planned small oil-on-board pieces.
I am so focused on these projects that the studio constantly calls to me…I would happily spend even more time there every day, but there are both necessary and lovely other things to do—yoga, hike, cook, yard work, read, paperwork and phone calls (Jack’s job is shut down for the duration and mine—who knows?—so we are applying for all of the things), and all of the email and phone connecting with friends and family.
And I am all caught up to date!
Let me know if there is anything you would like me to address: creative, ethical, time-management, etc.
Sunday, March 22: Another sunny day, though I didn’t get out in it until mid-afternoon. Took a walk with Tony and Carla, after driving to her place so that he could get some of the willow shoots that he likes to root and plant in favorite spots. We stayed six feet from Carla.
Otherwise, a nicely focused yoga practice—I am loving rock star these days—and blog and some paperwork. Emailing in regard to an amazingly still alive prospect for a large commissioned piece, probably a triptych.
I started collaging the Catskill Park section of the Site Map just to see how I am going to go about handling that while marking every single stream in the Catskill Park watershed. This has a long way to go, but provides me with a path to follow.
My palette is mixed to start right in tomorrow morning and do the second layer on the sand flats painting.
Some good news is that I feel that I feel myself coming out of my winter flatness, a lingering malaise that followed death of my mom in early December. I miss her sharply still, but have regained creative traction in the studio that makes it a a sweet pleasure to be alive, puzzling out and making manifest my ideas.
Monday, March 23: Spitting mad about that jerk Rand Paul tracking the virus all over the senate —including pool and gym—instead of self-isolating while awaiting test results. I guess I’d better get in line.
I am worried that Fauci was not at the press conference tonight, after he got a little too honest about Trump in a recent interview.
Some more work on the Site Map in the studio and I have only a few tweaks to go on the sand flats 30″x60″.
Snow today, first not amounting to much and then beginning to accumulate on roadways. Jack and I decided that he should go try to do a food shop in his truck on a day when most folks wouldn’t want to go out, and it was a very successful excursion.
Tony came in from a walk in the snow and brought me outside to see how stunning his solar jar lamp looks tonight, sitting on the stump remnants our old maple tree.
Excerpts from blog, almost caught up to date.
Thursday, March 19, 11am: A very bad piece of information came in last night from the CDC, that 40% of hospitalizations in the US have been adults 20-65 years old. This is a very scary game changer, and will likely change some folk’s game, though it is a little late. Of course, they could only come up with this bit of data after observing patients coming through the system, but it is really too bad that we didn’t have this from elsewhere earlier.
I am increasingly concerned about Tess, still in the deep woods in Northern Minnesota. She last checked in on March 6th from Minneapolis, and was headed back into the woods to finish maple sugaring with her friends. Even then, it was clear that she would not want to use her plane ticket back. Now things have progressed to where she may also not want to come back (somehow) by car. It’s really unfortunate because in her barely populated Vermont community, she could have hunkered down and perhaps even gone to work as part of a her-and-boss only crew for a fellow who grows and sells fruit trees.
She also has health care in VT, and a shoulder injury, though that will not get any medical attention anywhere now.
I am torn between being happy for her that she is where she loves and not thinking about this mess at all, and wishing that she would come out and figure out her plan before things get worse.
Tony’s current printmaking assignment is a 3-color reduction linoprint, and I am going to join him in doing one. Thinking about imagery today, I am not sure if I want to go for a landscape (this process feels a little stiff for that) or a map image (the latter could involve climate change).
I picked at the watershed Site Map and finished this 24″x24″ for the upcoming season for Louisa Gould. Also had a nice phone chat with her about survival and strategies.
Louisa pointed out to her whole artists troupe that she stayed open after the 2008 stock market rout and following recession, and that she intends to do the same now. So very nice to hear.
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Friday March 20, evening: Very little studio today, a late sleep-in after a bad night’s sleep. Our internet went out just before I had a virtual class scheduled with Lulu, so that is on for tomorrow now—more on this amazing young artist tomorrow. It was sharply stressful having no internet or extender for phone when we are doubly relying on it for every form of connection, and you never know actually how long that will go on. But back on in about an hour.
As the afternoon presented, we had an amazingly warm day. It went from wind and rain to sun and calm, a day for some yard work and seed planting, while sunny, and back porch sitting when the rain blew up. I got my beloved screened in porch all cleared out of scattered groceries (left to clear of germs before putting them away) and straightened and swept it out. And then, a lovely yoga practice in my favorite spot, with sound of stream, birds, and wind in the trees.
Looking forward to more of this, eating, working on my laptop and doing yoga on my porch as the weather slowly warms. I savor this transition into from spring into summer every year, and with NYS and other states now in lockdown as of Sunday, this will be essential.
Niece’s boyfriend’s fever cleared and so far the rest of them are feeling fine.
I assume that the lockdowns, which include Illinois, will mean that Tessa cannot travel through to get to Vermont. And that we will not see her for the duration.
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March 21: So Jack thinks that Tessa would be allowed to come home, even traveling through lockdown states, because she is going home.
But we still haven’t heard from her.
In the studio I did a bit more work on the Site Map, coming up with a design solution for this particular map and beginning to see the shape it will take. I want the Watershed map to be different from the Atlas/Hudson River Valley version even though I am discussing the same turf. Different emphasis.
I also came up with my idea for the 3-color reduction print. I’ll do an interpretation of a topo map, final lines in black and the three colors intensifying in value as you climb in altitude. It will be either mounted on the site map or a stand-along piece in that show.
Speaking of which, is this a good time or a crazy time to apply for the regional museum shows that I have in mind for this and the Atlas/Cape and Islands exhibitions? If curators are picking up their emails–and why wouldn’t they be?—these upcoming weeks and months could be ideal for making my pitch, when the physical on-site work is halted.
This is a close-up of a free-hand, stretched out topo interpretation of the escarpment that bends around Woodstock and then runs parallel to the Hudson River, from the Atlas/Forms of Water Site Map.
Beneath it are linocut and mixed-media maps of Hurricane Irene, which devastated our upstate and Vermont communities with stream flooding in 2011; and projected sea level rise on Nantucket.
Sun today, a walk with Tony. Thinking about spring and how usually in May I do a few big, luxurious shops for annuals at my favorite nurseries, which likely will not happen this year. So I am taking cuttings and rooting various plants that I have in the house to combine with leafy perennials from the yard to fill my many pots, when the time is right. These are the kinds of creative problem-solving endeavors that sooth my mind…
Excerpts from my blog diary from March 16-18.
Monday March 16th:
We made the trip to a parking lot in Newburgh to hand off this painting to Janet Schwarz, JSO Art Associates.
It is impossible to know if the two interested parties are really going to follow through with a viewing, mostly because of the stock market and fears of a long recession. But at least she has it and that bit of business is taken care of. Also, a large painting leaving the studio feels safer for all of the rest. (No, this is not social distancing, just the moving-things-around risks!)
On our way back we had planned a “last” shop at Hannaford in West Hurley not so much because we need anything for ourselves but because Tony is coming back tonight from college and to shop for my MiL, who has not yet focused on stocking up.
Hannaford was brutal. There was one parking space left in the lot when we rolled in at about 2pm, and the place was mobbed, a number of shelves bare. They had just restocked, but the cashier—who was whipping the items through, knowing that everyone wanted to get the hell out of there—said that the parking lot was almost full when they all arrived before 6am. Some folks were wearing masks.
Everyone was polite, though. So far, still Woodstock.
Back in the car, I observed to Jack, what would it be like if this were a really deadly plague, like Ebola? He came back with the opinion that armed folks, gun nuts, like someone we know from the old Marvel days, would have their machine guns at the ready in the toilet paper isle.
We are still good for a laugh.
Niece has been self-quarantining in the the Berkley area since a colleague in her Phd program tested positive a few days ago. Her boyfriend had been visiting during his spring break from Duke, so he was also in the net, and today has a fever. She has three housemates..also caught. She is trying to figure out how to get him tested. (There is so much wrong with that sentence.)
A few hours later we heard that the Bay Area is under a new “shelter in place” order.
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Tuesday March 17th:
No test for my neice’s boyfriend. Bad sign. Now all five of them are just going to have to wait it out, and will it ever be known if they have it? It does not bode well, this continued lack of testing, since we have no idea of the scope of the epidemic without.
Numbers are ratcheting up day by day, and known cases getting closer. Saugerties has one now, and there are more in Kingston and Rhinebeck. Westchester declared a state of emergency. They declared a 8pm curfew in NYS for all restaurants, which can now only offer take-out.
Sara, who owns the yoga studio where I practice and teach, wants me to zoom a basics class a week, and I will start to think about that in a few days. She also proposed having me and/or the other teacher at CTH be her student in the studio while she zooms her classes. I love that idea, but realized that if I stayed away from the studio last weekend to avoid students and she taught, I should probably stay away from her for another few weeks. Otherwise, what was the point of that?
But, we could stay far apart, so I am tempted.
Note: Sara is a lovely teacher and is zooming her classes with online sign-up. You can check it out at:
Some nice painting studio time today, getting a layer in on on the sand flats piece. I got a late start because Tony got in and stayed up late and I found myself sleepless at about 5am.
We are setting up a small studio for him for silverpoint, cutting lino, and his remote classes in Tessa’s room, adjoining his own, and he can use my studio for messier work, like painting.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2pm: I am thinking this morning, and last night while falling asleep, about what other studio endeavors I might want to begin just now. I am working on the grouping for Louisa Gould Gallry on MV and will be for a bit, to be ready with new work whenever the time is right. Also, a few more paintings for my online show with Butters Gallery, scheduled for mid-May. I also promised Judi at Gallery Jupiter that I would do some oil-on-board 8″x8″s or her (for whenever, no hurry!) that have the depth to stand on a table or shelf, like the 6″x6″s that she has; but for these the images goes all of the way out to the edge. Here are an examples of each version.
Below are five of these 6″x6″s from my end-of-residency show at the Artists Association of Nantucket in November of 2018, sitting below three hand-colored linocut maps of the island.
This is the new version, 4″x12″, on the shallower board meant for hanging.
My students and other artists and a number of collectors have loved the top version, with dark float, but several galleries are reporting that it makes the image even smaller—for the price point—and so I am experimenting with the second version, which also involves adjusting the color of the gesso on the sides to fit the image. So far, I like it.
It’a an instance of how innovation can happen based on market considerations, if taken as a creative challenge. If you are flexible and can get excited about the idea, this can work—if you are resentful of the suggestion, it’s unlikely that any good will come of it.
Here are some other ideas.
Ongoing or occasional pursuits:
~Dye more rice and mulberry paper for collaging.
~Circle back to printmaking, maybe joining Tony with a 3-color (hand) printing of a lino.
~Figure out how to make collages with failed monotypes, probably using my dyed rice papers along with. Looking at them today, I realized that some would be appropriate to use as the basis for a pastel, since the print papers are the same as what I have for years used for pasteling. I have found that trying to tweak a print with pastel doesn’t work well, since the paper really needs to have a density of pastel applied to be able to move it around, and this means pastel over the whole thing.
~Maps using walnut ink, mixed media, some found/vintage objects, using more natural materials.
~Other in-studio printmaking projects, maybe finding new ways to use maps.
~Work on watershed Site Map.
The watershed Site Map has been confusing me because I am thinking about either this Atlas theme or a Cape Cod (or Cape and Islands) version for next, and these environmentally themed projects are an enormous amount of work.
That’s what indecision does—stalls the brain, and stalls progress. I got a nice start on prepping the Watershed map on its 48″x36″ board last year, but got side-tracked with various painting projects, from my November show at Jupiter Gallery in NJ to the commissions this past winter, and more.
I have just talked myself through the dilemma (decision fatigue making even the low-pressure ones stressful), hooray. It makes sense to carry forward with the one that I have started. When the studio gets crowded I spend too much time moving things around.
This is the Site Map for Atlas/Forms of Water, finished last summer and the guide to the show I had of that name at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck. The new one will have a similar format. For more about this show see my blog post:
First painting of the year to get to dry in the yard! With this accelerated drying time, I can work on the second layer tomorrow and likely finish it.
And now, for a walk in that sunshine.
8pm: Terrible news all around, numbers and economics. I have gone from reading every little thing back in early January to tolerating just measured doses of news. Despite the dread that I felt when I was first reading the reports from Wuhan, putting it all together required an attention to detail and cross-referencing with other material that engaged the grey matter . This is now onslaught after onslaught of of news that is worse by the hour, punches in the gut. It will only get worse, so let’s gear up the intestinal fortitude…
More excerpts from my blog diary “Art, Yoga, and Life at the Time of Coronavirus”:
Saturday, March 14: The news is not good as regards new cases, but at least the feds and the states seem to finally be getting some traction in regard to testing (or at least real planning for upped testing). It may actually even be in time to prevent what has happened in Italy from happening here. Maybe.
Of course, this all could/should have been done two months ago.
Trump was his usual lying, narcissistic, ill-informed self at the press conference yesterday afternoon. And yet, the markets closed higher just after the start of the conference because of the declaration of a national state of emergency.
People are over-the-top anxious, with just too much coming at us all at once. The daily planning and replanning takes a toll on the nervous system, bandwidth being overwhelmed sometimes early in the day.
In the studio I am having a hard time choosing the image for the 40″x48″ canvas that I recently prepped, part of the grouping that I always do this time of year for my Martha’s Vineyard gallery, Louisa Gould Gallery. So, I am passing on to a smaller 24″x24″ canvas that will be a sea view from Menemsha, with the Elizabeth Islands on the horizon, of a thunderstorm with blue/grey twisty clouds.
Meanwhile, I am so glad that the pick-up of two commissioned pieces happened last Sunday, instead of the original plan for tomorrow, March 15, as they may not be moving around so much now as they were last weekend. These folks have a weekend place in in Berkshire County—where they discovered my work several years ago during my first environmentally-themed Atlas Project show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham.
They commissioned these paintings for their newly renovated apartment in Manhattan on the 38th floor overlooking the East River.
This was the first of the two pieces to be completed, 18″x52″.
Their thinking was to have lots of sky—not a literal representation of their view, but capturing the feel of their space.
He is a well known interior architect and eventually pictures of their apartment that include these pieces will make their way to a book and/or publications such as Architectural Digest.
The second piece, a triptych, will hang with a little bit of float between between the panels:
The couple has been buying my work for several years, and now has a selection of monotypes, paintings, collages, a pastel, and the Site Map to my first Atlas Project show, which is where they first became acquainted with my work. I was happy to sell them this complicated piece at very good value, since this one was only attached to foam core and would have started to show some wear and tear if left in my studio. They are having it mounted and framed, their framer taking out all of the map tacks carefully so they can flatten it onto a board, and then reinserting them.
I’ll show some more of the work that they have collected in an upcoming entry, and also installation pics once they have them and share with me.
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Sunday Match 15: I almost cried this morning when I read the latest from the NT Times, especially two items.
One, that as Americans are flying back to designated airports from newly travel-banned countries, the bottle-neck at O’ Hare had hundreds jammed in together for many hours while they awaited a health screening. And then later, I heard that they had not even been instructed to self-quarantine if they had no temperature. Coming from Iran and Northern Italy, really??!!
And item number two, a pic of a bar in Manhattan last night with a line of young people, standing close outside, waiting to get in for a St. Patrick’s Day party. The article went on to say that twenty-somethings aren’t concerned because it will not make them very sick, and/or it does not seem real yet (which is true for many).
No concern for their parents and grandparents and what large groups do, in fact, for community spread? Hospitals will be overwhelmed…and what if they get in a car accident and need care or surgery and the hospital has no masks, or available beds, no available doctors? Again, really??!!
So I am not feeling at all optimistic that we will not end up like Italy. Bungling continues at a national, state, and personal level. This has probably been true throughout human history with plagues, but that does not make me feel any better.
I was painting this morning by 8am, and in fact my crappy mood did lift. I have a good start on the 24″x24″ and prepped a 30″x60″ for a stunning image I found in my files a few days ago of the Brewster sandflats at low tide and early sunset.
The pic below is my inventory of studio printing supplies in prep for a lino project with Tony.
Yoga, breathing, woods walks, studio…and now blog. These days are extremely rubber-bandy, from high stress to hard-won but sweet focus.
Adapted from my diary-in-progress, “Art, Yoga, and Life in the Time of Coronavirus”. These are the first three entries. Once I am caught up, I will post daily.
Tuesday, March 11th, 2020
I do not feel equal to this task, but have been thinking for weeks about keeping a diary on my experience of our world gone crazy/scary. So, to begin.
I have been reading everything the NY Times has written about this pandemic (finally named as such by the WHO today) from early January, though lately I cannot keep up with all of the articles. As soon as any reliable info began to come out of China in mid-January, it became clear to me that this thing was going to come at us like a freight train—one only had to read carefully to see that.
I have made myself unpopular for several months by voicing my opinion. I understand the need to stay calm— in fact, it was only by staying calm that I was able to absorb new information and put things together. But human avoidance behavior has left us unprepared, worldwide. Panic can affect our health and the stock market, but trying to minimize the situation is what has allowed the virus to spread quickly.
As always, my antidotes are making art and doing yoga. I am incredibly lucky that I will still be able to do these things even when/if I land in quarantine. I am also fortunate to live with my husband, and in a rural community where I can take long walks; work in my yard, sit on my screened-in back porch; and move freely to and from my timberframe studio, a few steps away from our back steps—all without endangering or risking infection from other people. Further, Jack and I have always worked at home, so the adjustment will be easier than for many.
Today I am playing catch-up in my studio, tweaking prints from our session at the Woodstock School of Art on Monday; and wiring and labeling a large canvas to be delivered this Monday to a private art consultant who is determinately getting business done…while the getting is still possible. Fingers crossed that she manages to show the piece before the corporation that is interested in it for their boardroom closes down.
On Monday, we said goodbye in Woodstock to our artist friends from Nantucket who visited the area as part of a continuing exchange. Hugs all around, even after much conversation about social distancing on all weekend. (On Friday evening I showed them the Ebola Elbow Bump, which none of them were familiar with. This illustrates how fast things are moving—by Sunday or Monday, the whole nation seemed to have that down.) These are probably my last friendly hugs until this thing has come and gone.
Yesterday, Tuesday, when we visited our Dad in Oneonta, my sister and I did not meet him at his retirement community, opting instead for a restaurant—in an area with no known cases–and no hugs. This was probably my last meal out for a while.
In our area in the Catskills, so many folks—including my sister—are back and forth to the metro area all of the time. I assume that the virus is here, but has not yet been identified.
This morning on the phone with my friend Jenny, I observed that weekenders from the NYC area were all soon going to be holing up in their country homes. A few hours later, I saw my New Rochelle —a hot spot for the virus in NYS—neighbor’s car in her driveway, and an hour after that my Brooklyn neighbor walked by with his dog.
That is surely what I would do in their shoes.
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Thursday, March 13th.
We have no known cases of Covid-19 yet in our immediate area, but all assume that it is just a question of days, or hours. Events are being cancelled right and left and I decided yesterday that I will not be going out to eat or to any large group events. I was supposed to have a bite with a friend last night, but decided that, even with social distancing, eating out at a place frequented by travelers with someone who came back from Indonesia a week ago Sunday with a four-hour layover in Tokyo just no longer feels sensible.
We are all in that teetering spot of deciding to pull the plug on our plans…or not yet.
I will go to yoga tonight here in Chichester, and taught yesterday both at the Zen Mountain Monastery and at Catskills Yoga House, taking lots of care. I have discussed protocol at CYH again with Sara today and she is disinfecting like mad and encouraging students and teachers to bring their own props, which I have been doing at the ZMM but only partially doing at CYH. Our groups tend to be smallish and the space is ample, and classes are going to be smaller now, as well, no doubt. No kapalabhati breathing (vigorously expelling air through the nostrils) or hands-on assists, which I had already implemented myself recently.
It seems not yet the time to pull the plug on this incredibly lovely and healing practice. But that, too, is looming. I have encouraged Sara, who supports herself and her six-year-old son with her teaching, to think about how she could offer at least a few classes a week remotely.
I am not worried at present about the Zen Mountain Monastery group that I am teaching at 7am two days a week, since they have been in retreat as a group for over two weeks now and it will be the same cohort tomorrow and next week. And then a week off, and we will see what happens after that. And if next week doesn’t look good, I will cancel that, too.
The virus isn’t even here yet and we are all so stressed out.
In the studio, I tweaked and finished a few of my collages and am preparing canvases with my dark gesso blend. I have not been able to concentrate well with all of the phone calls and texting with sisters and Sara, and also my good friend Jenny.
These collages are small, 5″x5″ or 7″x5″, but a bit larger than I was doing last fall. They rely on my own dyed rice and mulberry papers which I arrange and manipulate during their drying time to create interesting textures. This has been a new exploration within my collage groupings, allowing me to create open and simple arrangements on the boards. A few other types of papers and bit of paint here and there helps.
I might have to leave my phone in the house tomorrow and turn off NPR so I can focus on painting, which I need to do both for my deadlines (should they still apply) and for my sanity.
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Friday, March 13th
8:30am: Yoga last night was lovely, and Sara had worked hard to shift to safe prop use and also be reassuring. It might be the last class that I take for a while, and we will see about teaching on Sunday.
The Woodstock yoga studios closed down yesterday. There is one confirmed case in Kingston and four further south in Ulster Co. In light of the lack of a cogent federal response, especially in regard to testing for Covid-19, organizations are proactively closing down or canceling events. We should be following the Korean model of widespread testing, but there is no leadership at the top. Incredible that we can’t get this done. Hoping that NY State will manage.
At my 7am gig at the ZMM I left a note at the door asking people to bring their own props in from the other room (whereas, just Wednesday, I brought them all in ahead of time). This is to protect them as much as me. I wonder, in the silence of their Ango, do they even know what is going on? I don’t know what the guidelines are about digital media use.
This was my forth class there. I had initially been finding the inward nature and silence of their yoga practice within the retreat to be a little disquieting in a hard-for-me-to-read sort of way, compared to my classes at Catskills Yoga House.
Today, I found it calming.
I gassed up today on my way back from teaching, deciding to pay more at the Phoenicia place rather then later in Boiceville, a potentially more crowded stop. I am now calculating that the lower the per-capita usage is, the better the odds are of not encountering the virus.
Such thoughts seem like those of a paranoid crazy person. Despite the relatively early warning that I had with my tracking of the virus, at moments I cannot believe that this is our new reality. And it is going to get much, much worse—these decisions now are almost like a dress rehearsal.
5:15: I think I finished this 24″x36″, will know for sure when I give it a fresh look in the morning. In a way that is quite timely, I painted this piece to add to new works for my May online show with Butters Gallery in Portland.
Butters Gallery went to a digital and by appointment modality about a year and a half ago, but still have 10 or so pieces of mine on the website and in storage. We decided to combine these with work from my studio, which I will set aside for the duration of the show, shipping sold work from here.
It feels most appropriate to work this way at this point in time. We will see if anyone has any money to spend in mid-May and June, but at least the personal contact/social distancing piece has already been taken care of.
This time of the year always brings of thoughts of change and transition, loss and renewal. As 2019 has rolled over into 2020, these reflections are much more intense, intricate, and prolonged for me, as I recently lost my mother…a major life event; a huge transition.
My father-in-law, not a religious man nor particularly self-reflective, used to have a timely observation in times of trouble. It went something like this: “The chapters of the good book begin with ‘And it came to pass…’ They don’t begin with ‘And it came to stay…”
The things/people/practices that we love don’t always come to stay, any more than the difficult or painful situations. It is one of the things that is interesting about mindfulness practice, that as we focus on the moment, the moment is gone. And then the next, and the next, and the next…
My understanding of mindfulness is more like riding a wave, the mind following each moment along the way with focused attention. I discussed this form of happiness as it applies to a creative practice in an earlier blog post, “Creativity and Happiness”.
And this brings us to the winter studio. As life is quieter and the colors less vivid outside of it than during the warmer months, the potency of the creative life inside intensifies.
Snow cover bounces light into the studio and makes a perfect neutral foil for open color exploration within. Instead of open windows and doors inviting in the sound of the stream and birds, I often play the radio or listen to podcasts or music. The summer feel of expansiveness is replaced by a distillation of energy as focus narrows and intensifies.
My winter work often feels sunlit. Without the canopy of leaves covering our hamlet in the central Catskills, the sun streams at a dramatic slant into my house, my studio, and the yoga studio where I practice and teach…and then is gone, as day moves quickly into evening. We count the minutes of returning daylight…
In December I ordered an enticing assortment of custom-stretched linen for my winter work, and now have, at the ready, this stack of canvases in an array of sizes and formats:
I started work immediately on the largest one, a 44″x66″, almost finished:
I am also generating ideas for my next Atlas Project installation, this one focusing on rivers and streams, exploring the ecology of my local watershed. In my Atlas/Forms of Water show I solved several problems that I saw carry over from the previous Atlas Project installation. At issue now are verbal/written components more than visual ones: how to get my “Mapping Memory” stories in a more accessible form; and how to bring more natural history and climate change discussion into the installation.
I am seeing stream-like formations wherever I go…including places I have been many (for this image, thousands!) of times. Can you tell what we are looking at?
And the other day I saw this gorgeous Motherwell painting in a catalogue that I have in my studio. Viewed vertically rather than as the horizontal that it is…another stream…
A few paint-mixing sessions with my good friend Jenny Nelson in her winter studio have yielded new teaching tools. My color-mixing workshop (next held at the WSA, June 22-23) brings the student back to primaries and how all color evolves from there, which is a very complex undertaking.
Our intention with this collaboration was to pretty much do the opposite of that detailed breaking down of color, instead creating simple, limited palette exercises—using mixtures or primaries from the tube— for new students or those who feel color-blocked.
I will use some of these prompts in my next workshop at the WSA. Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape (April 17-19) focuses on compositional strength, so a few structured color shortcuts to augment this emphasis are a welcome tool.
These were the palettes that evolved as we brainstormed and mixed, discarding some earlier versions. Now we will each re-do these on paper in our studios with better placement and clear labeling for sharing with our students.
Our ongoing conversations about our classes and workshops always include the abstract/landscape discussion, since Jenny teaches abstraction. Mixing color is one thing when you are using a reference of any sort, including working from life, even if you will likely want to tweak and adjust. It is quite another when you have not even a suggestion of a road map and mixing your palette is the first step in figuring out your abstract painting on the easel.
The collage exploration continues to fascinate me. I went from earlier just-barely-landscape versions (about 8-10 years ago) with altered papers, book bits, pattern paper, a bit of paint:
To the collaged maps, made with many bits of hand-dyed rice papers and other things (wasp wing, samara, dried leaves, pattern paper, old books, a bit of paint):
To a simplified version of the above, where I am working more with effects created while dying the papers, and then using larger swaths of them. Here are some of my latest:
I am very pleased with this beautifully produced recording of my December interview with audience Q&A at Albert Shahinian Fine Art, by Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio. The discussion ranges from my decades of contemporary landscape painting to the environmental themes of my Atlas/Forms of Water show to the gallery-artist relationship. You can listen here:
I am doing final updates on the blog post about this Atlas Project show, which was the highlight of my exhibition season for 2019. Here is the link:
On this day of pouring snow, everything else I had planned has been canceled. And so, I get to be in here:
And soon enough, it will look like this: