Sunday, January 30, 2011

Working Spirit

Sunrise in my backyard in Woolwich, January 24th, 2011. My Mom died at 4am.
I packed my bags and headed to RI. It was bitter cold and the sky was very blue. I felt glad that my Mom had passed on such a day. It seemed the perfect sort of day for spirits. When I shared this thought with my daughter Kaitlyn on the phone earlier, she agreed, and remarked that on a such a day the veil between this world and the next is very thin...

Wisps of angels travelling alongside of me...

A woman papoose bird angel...

I saw my mother...
The next morning, this little bird showed up at my brother Ken and sister-in-law Bernice's house outside the kitchen window - they said that it was the first time they'd seen her at the feeder. It was a Caroline Wren, my sister Debby's favorite bird. I said, "I believe that's Mom..."
My sister Sue took pictures of her, too...
The night before, I'd pulled this book off the shelf in the guest room to read before sleep. It looked comforting, and I was glad that it was written by an Edna, my mother's name. I showed it to my sisters and brothers, and we decided to name our little visitor after the author.

Edna Brown.
Edna's Six. (photo by Bernice Simmons)

Monday, January 24, 2011


Edna Godfrey Simmons
November 8th, 1921 ~ January 24th, 2011


Edna and Kaitlyn at Kaitlyn's wedding shower, May, 2008
Two amazing and beautiful women in my life - my mother, Edna, and my oldest daughter, Kaitlyn. My mother is leaving this world, and the day after tomorrow is Kaitlyn's birthday.
It's 3:45 am, and I've been awake for over an hour. I'm on my way to RI this morning. My mom has stopped eating and drinking, and is non-responsive. She's turning inward. She'll be going soon. My siblings and I are driving and flying in to all be by her side. Wednesday Kaitlyn will be 32, the age that my mom was when she had me.
Infinite circles...

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Heads Up

Sheep Walk
Sheep Walk

Bearden Dream Cap
Gimmee Cake!

More Mail Heads for the Mailart 365 project. I am in the process of moving out of my Portland studio, and have alot of collage material flapping around in my wake. The mailart project is a great way to utilize this stuff! It was a tough decision to make, to move my studio, but a space has opened up in my house, and the hour long drive was feeling harder and harder to do. Time, energy, and my carbon footprint and all...

I will miss my studio and the community of artists in the building. But change is good, and I have an exciting prospect that I dare not write about yet. Just a hint that something big and juicy may be right around the corner...

Keep your fingers crossed for me, say a prayer to The Art Gods, and I'll keep you posted!

Happy Friday, All!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early Influences

1954. Exploring my world.
Me and my father, 1954. (I've always been drawn to tall dark and handsome men... )
Me and my brother Steven with my Gramma and Grampa Howie. My Gram is most likely singing one of her ditties to me...."Martha Mariah, spit in the fire! The fire was too hot, so she spit on the pot! The pot was too round, so she spit on the ground! The ground was too flat so she spit on the cat, and the cat ran away with the spit on its back!" (Hmmmm, the root of my penchant for dark humor?)
Me on the left in the lap of my cousin Lorna, in the living room filled with siblings and cousins, 1955. A big family that is far bigger and wider today. Always surrounded by faces, faces, faces. My favorite subject.
Me with my older three siblings, transfixed by a cartoon on the TV, most likely. The wild mix of bold colors and patterns that was my home, has deeply influenced my art. What I'd give for that log cabin quilt now!!!
Me and my younger sister Susan, my partner in art making, down in the basement, wearing dresses sewn by our Mom. So much went on in that basement - with our big extended family, it was the only place we could all fit for holiday dinners. At all other times, that table was used for sewing and arts and crafts projects. We spent alot of time downstairs. We never thought to call it a studio, but that is what it was.
My first art exhibit, 1962. My parents recognized that I was artistic at a young age so they enrolled me in RISD's Saturday morning art classes when I was in 2nd grade, and I attended those classes until the 8th grade. Here I am showing off one of my paintings to my Mom and my big sister Debby, and my grandmother (on my mother's side) and my grandfather (on my father's side). I remember this painting: it is an underground scene (like our basement? :^) - tree roots and cavernous areas full of activity - bugs, worms, all kinds of goings on, painted with poster paints. For this class we were given muffin tins with just the primary colors, and a fat brush. We learned to mix our own colors, and we worked on the floor, on big pieces of paper, with only that one fat paint brush. I loved it.
And of course the man behind the camera, my father, lovingly documenting family and friends' faces. A bigger influence than I can say...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How Great Thou (Mail)Art

Mail Head #2: Breathe - It's Time for Tea, 2011
This one is heading out (get it?) to my Mom...

Mail Head #3: Summer Hat, 2011
This one's heading out to my sister Susan (spoiled the surprise, sorry, Sue!)

I've made the commitment to make a piece of mailart a day for 365 days and to post it over at Mailart 365! Yikes. And FUN! If you'd like to be a recipient, e-mail me your address at! I forgot to take pics of Mail Head #1 - the recipient, who lives in London, is going to do that for me, and I'll share it then!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Family Line

When I visit my mother in the nursing home, I tell her stories. I say, "Mom, you raised six children! Two boys and four girls. You sewed the girls so many beautiful dresses. You would stay up half the night sewing, down in the basement. This was your time to be alone, creating. And you loved to hang the wash on the clothesline in the wind and bright sunshine." Then my mother looks surprised, and says to me, "Really? How do you know these things?"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kindling Memory

An Ivory Memory, 2011
kitchen matches, blackberry brambles, flames, tears, and snow, with digital collage.