Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Sun

The Sun came up in my Tarot reading this morning as my "challenge in what lies ahead." With the days getting shorter and the dark nights getting longer it certainly is a challenge to get enough light at this time of year. I try to get outside for a good walk every day and soak up what sun there is. I also enjoy staring at the fire in the wood stove and light candles at breakfast and dinner time. Eating warm colored vegetables seems to help as well - somehow ingesting cooked squash, carrots and pumpkin all work to produce that warm feeling of the sun internally. I also pay particularly close attention to the moon and the stars at this time of diminishing daylight. They are a powerful reminder that there can be light in the darkest of dark times. 
Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Some pics of my daughter Kaitlyn's Thanksgiving table last year...
Enjoy the holiday!


drawing room has issued its latest call for art, and there's still time to submit if you would like to be in this small works show! All works are accepted (as long as they fit specified theme and size requirements) and out-of-staters are invited! You can pop your work in the mail. The theme this time is "Gathering." Check the website for details. The show will take place on First Friday, December 5th, at Jameson Gallery on Commercial Street in Portland.

These are the 2 pieces I am working on for the show. Gatherings of nakeds and nudes. Collage and mixed media with stitching...

December Open Studio

The Mother of the Bride Wears Beige/Self, 2008

Self-portrait Door

The Artist Studio building will be open for First Friday Artwalk, December 5th, from 5-9pm! We usually do 2 First Fridays a year, but did not do one in this past spring. So if you want to see what goes on behind that mysterious (and on any other day locked) door, now's your chance! Everyone is busy cleaning their studios and new work is being hung in the halls. Exciting!

I found a way to exhibit some of the various outer elements that I struggled with while making my the The Mother of The Bride Wears Beige/Self piece - it fits together rather nicely on this wall in the studio hallway...

And this is my self-portrait door, always a work in progress! (You can see that my collage/self found it's way onto the door...)

If you're in the area, plan to stop by! Our open studio's are a blast!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gail Spaien's Mediated Landscape

Martha Miller
Gail Spaien and Her Story of Sisters, 2006
mixed media on Rives BFK, 29" x 41"

Flowers as medium. Beautious. MECA Professor Gail Spaien's installation currently on view at the ICA Gallery on Congress Street in downtown Portland. I took this picture through the front window after teaching last week. What a welcome sight on a cold, dark November night!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting a Collage Education

Romare Bearden: Return of the Prodigal Son, 1967

Martha Miller: Collage Self

Students creating collage self-portraits

Images from last week's Mixed Media Self-Portrait class at MECA. I went to the library and took out several books about Romare Bearden's collages for inspiration and then we all set to work making collage self-portraits. Lots of fun!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Not To Watch

Louise Nevelson in many guises...

I typically take Sundays off from posting here, but this topic has nudged me to type this morning (plus, it's in the teens here in Maine and warm by the pellet stove...I'll let the sun get a bit higher in the sky before venturing outdoors...)

I think that I speak for many women in that I have a love/hate relationship with fashion magazines. I rarely look at them because ultimately they make me feel cranky and then crummy about myself. I don't enjoy clothes shopping. I really have to be in the mood, and even then, I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Maybe this is because we didn't have alot of money when I was growing up. I learned to make my own clothes and I shared with my sisters. Even now, I wear the same few things for a long while and then get a few new things and wear those. I own three drawers plus a half closet full of clothes, and about 8 pairs of shoes and 2 pairs of boots. Don't get me wrong - I care about how I look - but I'm not a slave to fashion. Some might describe my style as eccentric at times.

Anyhow. Friday night I was vegging on the couch and watched part of What Not To Wear. I've seen parts of this show a few times - maybe watched it all the way through twice. It's sort of interesting but mostly annoying: a woman is chosen to get a complete makeover, but first she must endure being degraded and derided about her "disgusting" wardrobe and fashion choices by a snide but "appropriately stylish" couple. She is then forced to watch as all her clothes are thrown dramatically into the trash with a good riddance to THAT piece of shit flourish. I'm amazed that someone would be willing to go through this on TV for all the world to see. The result is always the same - the chosen one is altered to look like alot like the person at the end of last week's show. New make-up and hairdo, some sort of fitted jacket, slim dark jeans, those awful pointy toed boots. And now she is congratulated on her transformation - there's the mini therapy session, the fake hugs, the tears and thanks - the now I know how I'm supposed to look and promise to keep this up, etc.


But Friday's show was just plain obnoxious and wrong. The woman who was chosen (and yes, agreed to do this!!) had a wardrobe that was so very personal. Every article of clothing had a story to go with it - much of it was handmade, or she'd found it while travelling, or it was made with yarn spun by women in the Andes...everything was special and a part of her!

None of this mattered. The snide duo tossed it all in the trash and told the woman that people would shun her at parties if she wore such things. The woman of course knew that her clothes were going to hit the deep six, so she took pictures of every piece of clothing before they ditched it. (WHY was she willing to go through this?) I couldn't bear to watch it to the end and see her coming out of the machine wearing the inevitable jeans, fitted jacket, and pointy toed boots ensemble.

OK. I know that at times we could all use some feedback on how to look our best. I know that it's OK to buy ourselves new things and to feel special. And I know that if this show was done with sensitivity it probably wouldn't be something that people would want to watch.

But in this time of economic hardship, and environmental crisis, what are they doing throwing all those clothes away? Hopefully they send them to the Salvation Army or Goodwill (where ironically they will be snatched up as vintage items...)

All of this reminds me of something that I read years ago in an article in Yankee magazine by Maine writer Carolyn Chute . (Ha! Now that's a thought - from what I gather about Chute, you can bet that she would chase the What Not To Wear team out of her yard with a shot gun!)
In the Yankee article, Chute defended tacky Christmas lawn ornaments saying something like,
What a bore it would be if we all had tasteful white lights.
Amen to that!

So back to fashion.
Imagine if the What Not To Wear team got their paws on Louise Nevelson's wardrobe, for instance? Well, first off, they would never have gotten near her. She would've batted her 6 pairs of false eyelashes, puffed cigar smoke in their faces and told them to go take a high dive off a low board.
Happily there are people in the world who have their own strong sense of style and could give a damn about what anyone thinks!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mirror Mirror

Be still and smell the roses!

One last post before I head back to the woods. I've been checking in on the images for Still:Body this week. It's an interesting idea - a still life with a portion of one's self in the picture. I took these pictures in my studio last month - kind of fun. They are portraits, though, so they do not fit the bill for the Still:Body invitation - they specified no portraits, please. Oh, well!
Once again, have a great weekend!

A Classic

My parents, circa late 50's. This must have been taken at one of my father's barbershop concerts, because this was the only time he'd wear a tuxedo. My father sang in a barbershop chorus and a barbershop quartet.

I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad!

My mother's dress contains a hint of what's in store for us today here in Maine weather-wise. White polka dots...hmmm, what could this mean?
Have a good weekend, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost and Found

These self-portraits are all part of an etching series that I created in the first semester of my senior year at MECA. I was inspired by Jim Dine's series titled Nancy Outside in July; etching portraits of his wife. I thought I had lost this body of work and was very glad to find the portfolio where I stashed it away 2 years ago when I cleaned my studio this fall.

Orlan accomplishes extreme transformation of her image by going under the knife. I prefer to throw my copper etched image into an acid bath and set the timer! Either way, we both come up with wild variations on the self-portrait. Orlan's political self-portraits speak about culturally prescribed beauty and the lengths that women will go to fit into those dictated formulas. My self-portraits are about more personal experience.

This particular series has quite a bit of dream imagery involved. When I first exhibited these etchings, I showed 17 of them. I also showed a small journal with many of my dreams along with the etchings. I put this little handmade journal on a table - I even sewed a small table cloth and embroidered a hummingbird and some flowers on the border. I was attempting to make a sort of shrine - something to lead into the prints and show my gratefulness to my dreams, because I believe that they are a connection to spirit.

I know that conceptually this was not very cohesive. The table had a vase of flowers from my garden as well, and really looked more like a table in a gallery where people can sign the guest book and write comments, rather than a shrine, or an extension of the exhibit. OK, I got that feedback in my crit, and I understand that now. But one comment from a professor at my crit really confused and upset me. This teacher said about my work, "There's a nauseating generosity to it."

I still don't know what this means, but at the time I felt alot of shame and anger. Did it mean that there were too many? Was the journal and table over the top? Was my work too personal? In my work, especially my self-portraits, I do share at a very personal level. This is how I connect to spirit - internally and externally. I believe that in sharing my stories, I encourage others to open and do the same. I believe that our stories are important, and in telling them, we get a bit of healthy distance from ourselves - we can see that we are all part of a great network, with common experiences.
Bottom Line: Art is a powerful vehicle for fostering community and spiritual connection .