Friday, August 29, 2008

A Room with a View

I've taken my knitting up to the East End a couple of afternoons this week. It's easier to sit and knit with a view like this! No, I'm not knitting with my feet, but I had to try it. Impossible! Amazing that some people can use their feet like hands...
Have a fun holiday weekend! I'll be back next week!

Even More Early Influences...

We didn't have a ton of art materials to choose from in the 50's and 60's. My parents used to buy art supplies for me and my sister Sue for Christmas every year from a store called Carson & Ellis in Warwick, RI. The first time that we received Cray-Pas, I was probably around 8 years old. I had no clue how to use them. My Uncle Stuart, in a rare display of generosity (he was typically unattentive and ornery) actually sat down with me on Christmas Day, and gave me a tutorial in oil pastels. He drew a bowl of fruit, and I remember especially how he made the bananas yellow, but then added a few brownish spots and carefully blended them into the peel with his finger to show a bit of bruising... Magic...
Around this time I also received a special edition box of 100 crayola crayons. More magic. I spent hours coloring in coloring books, experimenting with layering color upon color.
And what about the unmistakable aroma of a freshly cracked open can of Play-Doh? Aaaah...
I see that they marketed the scent! Funny...

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Our little friend Raquel has been visiting frequently. She is obviously nursing babies which is making her very hungry! Way too cute...

Norwood Tales, Part One

Posting about childhood influences recently inspired me to pull this piece of writing out, dust it off, and post it. This was my full length essay on the topic of lost love written for Claude Caswell's Memoir class at MECA in 2005.
Lost Love
The Gallogly's lived behind us - their house was on Sargent Street, ours was on Maple. They had six kids, same as us, same many of households in Norwood. Families back then had six, seven, even eight kids - this was the 50's after all, and the peak of the Baby Boom. Norwood was a lower middle class section of Warwick, a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, where I grew up, and its streets were teeming with kids - kids walking to and from school or hanging out together jumping rope, playing Kick the Can, or Red Rover. There was always someone to play with - all you had to do was go to a friend's back door and yell. I learned to do this by following my older sister.
My sister Debby was friends with Barbara Gallogly, the oldest of the Gallogly clan. Debby stood at the Gallogly's back door and yelled, "Hey, Bar-braaaaa!" dragging out the second syllable in the sing song manner reserved for this greeting. When kids got older, they dropped the "Hey" and simply called aloud their friend's name. This was a more casual and grown-up call, and the unspoken rule was that you could only do it this way if you were a teenager.

Barbara's little brother Michael was my age, and he was my best friend. The dirt path that was beaten between our houses led from my back door to his - it ran past the lilac bushes, past the giant cherry tree, and past Mr. Gallogly's dilapidated garage which housed an ancient jalopy. I ran down this path every day and stood at the base of the Gallogly's worn wooden steps and yelled, "Hey, Michael!" like I'd learned from my sister. Mrs. Gallogly would appear at the door, tell me to wait one minute, and after a few seconds Michael would come scrambling down the steps to me.
Michael Gallogly had elfish eyes set in a round face constellated with dark freckles. I attribute my lack of squeamishness about bugs and worms to my friendship with him. Our favorite thing to do was to dig holes in his back yard with kitchen spoons that Mrs. Gallogly handed out to us. We dug through layers of dirt to find purply pink earthworms to use as the drivers for Michael's team of Tonka trucks. We didn't have dolls this small, so we placed the dusty worms on the front seats of the cabs behind the tiny steering wheels. Mrs. Gallogly poked her head out the kitchen window and yelled to us, "Are you digging a hole to China?" then laughed. I never knew what this meant. Some days she'd bring Kool-Aid out to us in those tall shiny aluminum drinking glasses that came in all the colors of an oil spill rainbow.
Michael and I were best friends from the time I could walk, up until first grade. We climbed to the top branches of his cherry tree in the summer to stuff our mouths full of the sweet, red fruit. Sometimes we couldn't wait for the cherries to ripen and we'd eat them crunchy and green, even though his mother would yell at us that we'd get a belly ache. We sat in his father's old jalopy side by side on the cracked leather seats and pretended we were married and going for a drive. We scavanged dirty tin cans out of the trash, and using sticks we mixed together remnants of bacon grease, marshmallow Fluff, grape jelly and ketchup, then poured this "poison" over ants and watched them squirm. One time when I was swinging on his swing, Michael came over and kissed me.
In my parents' photo albums there are black and white pictures of Michael and me. In summer we went barefoot and naked except for our white cotton underpants, and ran through fountains made by the donut shaped sprinkler hooked up to the thick black hose in my back yard. Afterwards, we'd lay down on towels spread out on the grass, our underpants sagging heavily with water, panting and smiling as we faced each other, enjoying the hot sun on our wet backs.

When we started school we were both assigned to Mrs. Jaquolenzer's first grade classroom. We were not seated next to each other: Michael's seat was in the row in front of mine, but I felt glad and comforted to see the back of his head with his fuzzy crew cut and stick out ears. There was a girl seated next to Michael named Janet Tremblay. Each morning we would sing the Good Morning Song: Good morning, good morning, good morning to you! Good morning, good morning, and how do you do? and turn to the person next to us and shake their hand. Every day I watched Michael turn and smile at Janet Tremblay and shake her hand. Then one day in the school yard, just before the bell, a boy in my class ran up and told me that Michael had given Janet a necklace, and that he'd seen him kiss her on the mouth behind the school.

That morning as we sang the Good Morning Song, I studied Janet Tremblay. I looked at her hair and her dress. Then I looked down at her shoes: they were the same style as mine, a Mary Jane with a thick strap and a big buckle, only mine were brown, and hers were red. Suddenly I felt plain and inadequate. I was sure that this was why Michael now loved Janet better than me. It was those shoes. This was the first time that I recall feeling jealous, and it was the beginning of self-consciousness and comparing myself to others and coming up feeling deficient and unlovable.

Michael stopped calling at my door. I made new friends - Patty Gardiner, Susan Bertrum, Janet Mclaughlin - and the year went by. After school let out that summer, I sat looking out my screen window one night, and in the streetlamp light I saw Michael running up Maple Street to catch the ice cream truck. As I watched him, I felt a deep yearning. I knew that I was having a grown up feeling and it confused me. I didn't know what I was yearning for, I was only seven, but I felt old and sad, as if I knew already that this yearning would become familiar, and that it would follow me my whole life the way my eyes followed Michael now, as he ran through the pool of golden lamplight, then disappeared into the dark summer night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Early Influences

When I was a kid I loved the pastel portraits of Ralph William Williams for Breck Shampoo advertisements and would stare at these for hours. The Breck Girls, oh yeah. Sometimes I attempted to copy them in pencil. That shiny hair! I thought that it was magic how he could make that happen with pastels!

Early Influences

One of my favorite stamps.

Assorted and sundry family and friends gathered outside of our beach cottage at Point Judith, RI, summer of 1965. That's Sue wrapped in a towel on the left, next to my mom in the red sweatshirt, and that's me on the other side of my mother, sporting the long bangs and sailor hat. We were still into collecting stamps at this time!

I must have thought that these two stamps were particularly special to warrent their own little frames! :^)

Two summers ago my siblings and I had the bittersweet task of emptying our childhood home in RI to get it ready for sale after moving our mother Edna, who has Alzheimer's, to an assisted living facility. We spent days going through reams of stuff. My sister Sue was out East from CA helping, and I'd come down from Maine. She and I spent the better part of a week there together, sorting through the boxes, the closets, the cupboards, the shelves...
I was busy looking through a box of old Christmas ornaments one morning when Sue came up beside me with her hands behind her back. She said, "Hey, Mart - look here," then she whipped out a book and placed it under my nose. I gasped and grabbed it. My old stamp collection! I hadn't seen it in over 30 years! I opened it to look at the yellowed pages - the stamps still had good color, and the smell of the pages took me back to summer days spent outdoors, sitting on blankets in the shade with my sister and neighborhood girlfriends, sorting through bags of cancelled stamps that we'd bought for a dollar through ads in the backs of comic books. We would dicker and trade, and stick the stamps in the books with glue and scotch tape. "I found this, too," said Sue, interrupting my reverie as she brandished a plastic magnifying glass and leaned over to solemnly examine a stamp on the opened page of my album. We both cracked up. Oh, we had taken this seriously! Sue had found her album, too, and we laughed remembering how my friend Patty Gardiner always had the coolest stamps, and that she would not divulge her source. As we drooled with envy over her exotic triangular and diamond shaped stamps, Patty smiled a little self satisfied smile and told us that she'd bought them at a "secret place," and that although she was very sorry, she could not tell us where. (Later while shopping with my parents at Ann & Hope, a 60's precursor to the the major "marts," as in K, and Wal, I saw a package of the coveted stamps hanging on a rack with dozens of others like it...
"secret place," my ass...)

I don't recall why I wanted a stamp album, but that is what I asked for on my 10th birthday - that along with a "man tailored" white shirt and a pair of dungaree shorts. (Dungaree! I don't even recognize that word any longer! God, I sound like the old lady that lived across the street from us when we were kids who would caution us to "Watch out for the machines!" as we crossed the road...)

So, I got my album (and my shirt and shorts) for my 10th birthday and so began my brief love affair with stamps. Eventually I think I ended up using a bunch of them in collages - I never had any of great value. But I look at this album now and see all those wonderful tiny portraits and think how my penchant for portraiture and printmaking was showing up even when I was a young girl. I stated in an earlier post how I'm a sucker for images in multiples. Guess I've always been!

What were some of your early passions and influences?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Mother of the Bride

This might well be my only fashion post (my Leo Moon is coming out today, and Leo's love clothes...)

My daughter Kaitlyn is getting married in less than a month and the mother of the bride is wearing beige, a very pale beige. I found this dress at The Black Parrot on Middle Street in Portland back in the spring. The little girl in me loves it. It reminds me of dresses that I wore to Sunday school in the 50's and of dresses that my mother wore as well. It's a real party dress with a petticoat and everything! I found a beautiful fair trade ceramic bead necklace at Tavecchia on Exchange Street - it's handmade by women in Africa in the colors of the wedding (see the sweet, elegant wedding invitation that Kaitlyn designed and hand printed using a Gocco machine...)

And being that Kait is a ceramic artist herself, I thought that this necklace was perfect.

OK, so I had the dress, the I needed some sort of sweater or wrap (the wedding will be outdoors on Little Cranberry Island - it could be verry brisk and breezy in late September!) I looked everywhere for what I wanted, to no avail, and finally decided 2 weeks ago that I'd better knit something myself.

So I found this simple bolero sweater pattern and some beautiful hand dyed yarn in a shade of sea foam green at Tess' Designer Yarns on Spring Street, quickly looked at the directions which called for a size 7 and a size 4 needle, and said to myself, "Cool! Size 7! That'll work up quickly!" Got home and upon close examination of the directions realized that only a small portion of the border on the sweater uses the size 7 needles and the bulk of the sweater is worked with the size 4! Argh!

So right now I am at risk of getting carpel tunnel, madly knitting this sweater to go with my dress. You can see my zany little doodle of my dress over the model's photo on the pattern. I think it will work!

I still have to find shoes. I'm feeling a teensy bit stressed, because I have some major foot problems so can't just wear anything on my feet, and contrary to the tendencies of my Leo moon, I don't love to shop!!

The Creation of Eve

The first pic is of a watercolor that I own by Maine Artist Alan Crichton. We did a trade many moons ago. The Creation of Eve (early 90's). Isn't it wonderful? Wish I'd painted it! I adore Eve's moss green pubic hair and I love the amorphous quality of the figures with certain body parts rendered specifically, like Adam's penis, and Eve's breast...

And look at God! A sort of see through rainbow spirit figure appearing for a moment in that boat, unleashing Eve like he's simply blown a bubble out of his staff...
Adam and Eve are so happy to meet each other! They look so vulnerable...

Boy, what they are in for.

And staying on topic, I just found this recent piece by Crichton on-line, called
Eve's Moon, 2005, charcoal and pastel on paper. Beautiful. Love the tangled jungle of figures.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Late August

Some scenes from the waning summer as viewed from our porch and the backyard in Woolwich. I always feel a particular melancholy in late August as the sun shifts from Leo into Virgo. Something somber is happening. But then the crisp air of autumn arrives and quickens everyone's energy and lifts our spirits...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Night Window

Blackwork Lovers in the black of night. Where has the summer gone? I installed these prints on July 1st knowing that they would be up for 2 full months. It seemed like a long time then! But not now - they will be up for only one more week. My studio neighbor, Portland artist Tim Clorius will be exhibiting next in the Walker Terrace Window.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Facing Freud

Lucien Freud
Man in a Blue Scarf, 2004
On the subject of portraiture, I read a terrific article in an old Modern Painters magazine titled, Face Off: Seeing yourself through the eyes of Lucien Freud, by the art writer Martin Gayford.
A few excerpts:
...the picture always comes first. Ultimately, indeed, it is the painting not the sitter that survives.
Great portraits do not need to look much like their subjects, and sometimes, one suspects, they don't.
An old quote by Lucien Freud:
The artist who tries to serve nature is only an executive artist. And since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model.
So much for the notion of Freud the meticulous realist.

Commissioned Portraiture (and why it scares me...)

Cheslye Ventimiglia, 2006
pastel, oil, charcoal and pencil on Rives BFK, 29" x 41"

collection Cheslye and John Ventimiglia

King of Swords (John Ventimiglia), 2007
pastel, oil, charcoal, pencil, watercolor and collage on Rives BFK, 29" x 41"

collection Cheslye and John Ventimiglia

King of Swords, detail

King of Swords, detail

A colorful couple...

John V with his sculpture at the faculty show at MECA early this year.

...and why I need to do it anyway...)

In the fall of 06 I was commissioned to do portraits of the four women who were working in the Continuing Studies department at MECA for their catalog. The top pic is my portrait of Cheslye Ventimiglia, the director of CS. Cheslye then asked me to do a portrait of her husband, John Ventimiglia, a sculpture professor at MECA (not the famous actor!). John was my teacher for a year when I was a sophomore at MECA. Having a former teacher sit for me was more than a bit daunting - I felt even more pressured than usual. I typically offer the opportunity for people to bring with them to their sitting some objects that they would like to have incorporated into the portrait somehow. I don't always use everything - and how I use it varies from piece to piece. John brought in so many things for me to add to his portrait - an old photo of the Colosseum, a Napoleonic costume, a sword with a gorgeous handle sculpted by John, a sculpture armature, etc., and he really wanted them all in the piece, right down to the anchors on the buttons of his coat. He didn't want to wear the coat, and wore a faded pink work shirt instead. I decided to make him half wearing and half not wearing the coat. John entertained me the whole time that he sat with his conversation - he's a wonderful storyteller - and I zoomed in on his mouth. I realized that in doing this I was not flattering John, but he and Cheslye purchased the portrait anyway. They said that the portraits now hang side by side in their home, and that they enjoy them very much. But I think, do they really?? Argh. Plagued with doubt.

What scares me is I don't always flatter people. God knows that I rarely flatter myself in my self-portraits. (Once, someone met me after only seeing my self-portraits in a couple of exhibits. He said, "Jeez! You look nothing like your self-portraits! You really do a number on yourself!" And one of my former gallery owners called my self-portraits "relentless.")

Not flattering the sitter in itself doesn't scare me, it's when a piece is commissioned that this gets problematic. Argh! My stomach hurts just thinking about it. But I want to get back to doing portraits, for hire and not for hire. I'm itching to draw people again. I want to set up a salon in my small studio and start a new series of portraits of people in the Portland art scene. I won't do these at the rate that I did my thesis series - I was doing one, sometimes two a day, and I fried myself. Maybe one a week. I can't start this until mid October, after my daughter's wedding, but I'm gearing up, psyching myself, getting ready in my head...