Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring Prayer

A study I did today in my studio, in honor of last night's robin dream. I'm starting to sketch out ideas for the piece I will be exhibiting in a gallery window in Portland for the month of May. I'm looking at my dream journals and at illuminated medieval manuscripts. This drawing is a little bit about that game we played with our hands as kids (here is the church, here is the steeple) and about prayer. It speaks about the hands literally being the church (body as temple) and my spiritual connection to nature through my body and my senses.
Spring Prayer, 2008
charcoal pencil, watercolor, colored pencil and gold metallic pen on Arches paper, 10" x 10"

Gumdrop-Gumball Exchange

Surreal photoshop experiment. A collage/collaboration/merging of one of my paintings and one of my sister's. Could be a study for a large painting! I love photoshop!
Gumdrop-Gumball Exchange
photoshop collage
Primary Gumball Exchange
Susan Beauchemin and Patience
Keeping an Eye on the Gumdrop Nest
(see Susan Beauchemin's blog in Links)


More portraits from my thesis series. The common denominator of this group is tattoos. Alottatattoos. One art history class that I took while at MECA was The Decorated Body, with Professor Aimee Bessire. What a fun and informative class! We studied permanent forms of decoration - tattoos, scarification, body modification - as well as clothing, hair styles, etc.
Here are a few decorated bodies:

Lex Golubow, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 29" x 41". For Sale.
Phoenix with Hold Fast, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 29" x 41". For Sale.
Eric with Charm of Hummingbirds, 2005
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 22" x 30". For Sale.
Zac Perkins, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal, watercolor and collage on Rives BFK, 29" x 41". For Sale.
Fire/Water Sarah, 2005
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 22" x 30". For Sale.


It's 4 degrees here in Portland this morning and we are expecting snow again. I dreamt last night of robins - dozens of them. In the dream, my husband Garry and I were standing together in our backyard in Woolwich when an enormous flock of robins landed on the ground. The snow had melted and they were ravenous. I hoped that there would be enough for them to eat.
Thoughts of spring, thoughts of Woolwich, and thoughts of Garry - he has been away most of this month and I miss him.
This is a photoshop collaged self-portrait that I made last winter, with robin's eggs hatching above my head. And this is a video I took last April one morning early when the robins had returned. Turn up the volume and you can hear them singing in the trees. This is a miraculous sound after the dead quiet of winter in the woods. I've been reading and rereading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now this winter. He speaks of his depression and coming through a dark night of the soul to awake and hear a bird singing. He writes: "I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like."
Hatching Self, 2007
digital photo collage

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ashley Bryan

Last summer my husband Garry and I took our grandsons Brey and Wyeth out to Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) for a couple of days to visit their Aunt Kaitlyn (our daughter) and her fiance, Cory. Kaitlyn and Cory live on Little Cranberry in the summer where Kait works as a potter and Cory as a carpenter. Kaitlyn and Cory are friends of Ashley Bryan, an artist, poet, children's book writer and COLLECTOR! I put this in caps, because we had the privilege of touring Ashley's Islesford home which is filled to the brim with toys, dolls, weavings, tapestries, sculptures, and folk art from around the world! It is a joyful, magical and inspiring place! The most amazing thing there was a gorgeous stained glass window showing the stations of the cross made by Mr. Bryan from found beach glass held together with a newspaper papier mache. Incredible.
The colors, textures and images from that house have stayed with me and continue to influnce my work.

Sachiyo Yoshida

Sachiyo Yoshida graduated from MECA with me in 2006, then went directly on to graduate school to keep her student status here in the States. She is from Japan. Sachiyo stayed in Portland until August before making the drive out to an MFA program in the midwest. Before leaving, she asked me if I would be willing to sit for a portrait bust explaining that it would take multiple sittings of three hours each. I said yes. I had just finished my senior thesis, Portraits from my Father's Chair, a series of eighty portraits of the MECA community, and I was fried. The program at MECA is rigorous. A couple of doctors I know who have returned to school to get an art degree at MECA told me that the BFA program there is more difficult than medical school! I don't know about that, but I do know that after the intensity of those three and a half years at MECA, when I graduated I felt as if I'd been on a wild ride and then then abruptly kicked out on the curb.
So, the prospect of just sitting for hours watching someone else work sounded good to me, and after so many people had agreed to sit for my project, it seemed the right thing to do. I sat for about 20 hours - we worked in my first studio at The Artist Studio building - it had no windows and no AC (I have a new studio now with wonderful big windows overlooking Congress Street). We'd plug in a fan and Sachiyo would get to work. She is a hard worker! It's difficult to sculpt a portrait out of clay! For me the whole experience was soothing and meditative. I was still involved in the creative process but all I had to do was sit and observe and be still. BE STILL. That was a great gift to me from Sachiyo. She helped me to get my skin back on after the tumult of my last semester. I look pretty worn out!
Here is Sachiyo and the completed portrait bust, and the portrait I did of her before she left Portland. Sachiyo exhibited both pieces together at her school in the midwest.
Martha Miller
Sachiyo, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal, watercolor, and collage on Rives BFK, 29" x 41"
collection of Sachiyo Yoshida
Sachiyo Yoshida
Martha Miller, 2006
plaster, acrylics

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Edvard Munch Trio

Three handcolored etchings - portraits of Edvard Munch as a young man, a middle aged man, and an old man. I had just finished reading a couple of Munch biographies when I made these prints. I used some old photographs of Munch and some imagery from a few of his paintings to tell a story about his issues with alcoholism, abandonment, women, and intimacy. Did you know that he shot one of his fingers off in a lovers quarrel? I never knew that. We all know about Van Gogh's ear...
Munch I, 2005
hand painted etching, 6" x 6"
Munch II, 2005
hand painted etching, 6" x 6"
Munch III, 2005
hand painted etching, 6" x 6"

The Dock at East End Beach

A boat tied to the dock at East End Beach in Portland, and a video from the day I took these boat photos last fall, of my feet walking on the dock. Doesn't the dock look like a backdrop on a roll that my feet are pulling down? This is another video that I want to cull stills from. I love the colors and the textures.

To Eat Cheese

The Director with the Cast of Smili








From September '06 to June '07 I taught at Oak Street Studios, a private children's art institute here in Portland. I taught 7 classes, with students aged 2 - 14. It was alot of fun, but exhausting! I am teaching just adults and teens now. I am glad that I had my year at Oak Street, though. The kids were wonderful and I do miss them! On Tuesday afternoons I worked with this group of very energetic, imaginative, smart and creative 10 - 12 year old students. Typically at Oak Street we worked in the visual arts - sculpture, painting, printmaking, etc. I started the semester telling these students to create a persona and a costume for themselves. I was planning to have them write and illustrate a book about each of their characters, but their characters soon began interacting and a play was born. The kids wrote the story with little influence from me - I really tried to just hang back and let them have at it. They chose Otrelle to be their director. The play, Smili, is loosely based on the Harry Potter books : there is a baby born with a mark on his forehead who has the power to destroy all evil. (The kids decided that the mark would be a smiley, that cracked me up!) Smili was never performed for an audience. We videotaped the whole thing - all the messy argumentative rehearsals - everything. I put together a rudementary CD for everyone, but it wouldn't play on everyone's computers. When I get Quick Time Pro I will be able to better edit the video.

Anyhow, here is one of my favorite rehearsal clips. Otrelle, the frustrated director, is very bright and has a vocabulary that goes over the other kids' heads at times, as you will see.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Blue Mary

So, if you can indeed see my videos on this blog, this is one I really want to share. I took this bit of footage in January on a very cold morning in Woolwich. This is my son Andy's boat, standing in our backyard for the winter. I am struck by the beauty of the blue tarp moving gracefully in the wind, and the shapes that are formed within the tarp opening as it moves back and forth. I see ghost figures, and even a veiled figure. I see Mary there. I am not Catholic, but I have a good friend who is. She mails me pictures of Mary. I do believe in the divine feminine, and that Mary is a part of that. I want to do a series of drawings from this video, and I need to figure out how to store some video stills on a CD to work from...
This hooded boat is so compelling - almost like a portrait.

Self with Ambulance Sirens

Ok, I have no idea if anyone else will be able to play this video, but here goes. I have several videos that I want to use somehow in an installation, but I need to get some technical help. This one is of me in my studio last spring. My studio is on Congress Street in downtown Portland where sirens abound. Here I sit in my little pink studio, and there's my portrait of Lisbeth in the background. This video speaks of interruption, and how things can happen so fast that are hard and unexpected.

(Anyone out there reading this and capable of comment, please let me know if you can actually play this video - I'm curious! And I know, I's sideways...)

Portraits from My Father's Chair

Two years ago I was in the middle of my last semester and working on my senior thesis project at Maine College of Art. I was a Printmaking major, but my love is drawing the figure - especially portraits. I had started to draw portraits of some fellow MECA students in my junior year, and decided to go for it full throttle for my thesis. For several weeks I had students and faculty sit for portraits - I was doing a portrait a day, sometimes two portraits a day. People came to my studio in the Print Department and sat in an old chair that had been my father's. At the end of the semester, I self published a book of the portraits (eighty in all) titled: Portraits from My Father's Chair: A Collective Portrait of the Maine College of Art Creative Community.
The portraits posted here today are from my thesis series and show three young women, also Print Majors, who graduated with me.
Elissa Stopyra with French Sweethearts, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 29" x 41". For Sale.
Devin and Mindy, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 29" x 41". For Sale.
Caitlin Riordan, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and watercolor on Rives BFK, 29" x 41"

Monday, February 25, 2008


My daughter Kaitlyn and I visited my sister Debby in Barrington, RI, last weekend. We went down to look for a wedding dress for Kaitlyn, and to see my mother who lives nearby in an assisted living apartment. We all had dinner together at Debby's, and after dinner Kaitlyn took these pictures of our hands. My mother, Edna, is 86 years old and has Alzheimer's. (I sometimes wonder if memory is overated, because my mother is truly living in the moment. Isn't this what the Zen masters seek?) My father died 10 years ago, and Mom's dearest companion now is her cat, Arabella. Mom is most content when Arabella sits purring in her lap.

Edna and Arabella, 2005
Pastel and charcoal on Rives BFK, 22" x 30"
Collection of Deborah Milman