“Hit the ground runnin'” is how the old expression goes and that has pretty much been my experience upon returning home from residency at Mammoth Cave.  The pace of city life is somewhat hectic compared to that of ‘the middle o’ nowhere’ where I had been for a solid month.  Factor in the activities of a busy family and, yes, I have hit the ground runnin’.  It’s been wonderful to be back home, with family and among friends.  It is amazing what a month away will do for a sense of appreciation for my harried life style.

In spite of my healthiest ‘re-entry’ efforts I have managed to catch a cold which has had me laying pretty low for a couple of weeks, yet I have been steadily getting some work together for a little show in December at Pleasant Perk Coffee Shop in Pleasant Ridge.  I opted for some simple collage work.  I often tell students in my sketchbook classes that collage is a great ‘get in through the back door’ art activity.  If your ego or hyper-active conscious self has the doors barred to art making, settling down to make a collage, or 2… or more, can seem like a safe thing to do.  And often what lies beneath is brought to light.

It was not my intent to make collages that had any cavey sense about them and yet as I look at them as a group, there is a sense of my experience at Mammoth Cave that seems to skim on the surface of them.  These works and more like them will be available for $25 (unframed, but mounted on fabric backing) during the month of December at Pleasant Perk Coffee Shop.  Since it is the holiday season, they are available to purchase and take that day, off the wall, and I will re-place them with new work while the show is on display.  Keep these collages and other hand made art in mind this holiday buying season as you do your gift shopping.

Meanwhile, there is the Big Work that I am to be making at some point soon that will be donated to Mammoth Cave.  I am overwhelmed by this notion due to the simple fact that I took so much in while I was there.  It’s daunting to say the least.  What I keep coming back to at Mammoth is the notion of story.  It has it’s long term history as a naturally formed geological phenomenon and that is a fascinating component of the cave.  But what really makes Mammoth Cave what it is, is its setting in Kentucky and the relationship the people of the area have always had with it.  There are more stories in and around the cave than can ever be conveyed and I am sifting through these to attempt to create a nice work of art worthy of donating.

So yeah, I am a little overwhelmed.  I am just sitting with that, glue on my fingers and making collages; working a bit everyday in my sketchbook.  And ideas are formulating…

I was listening to NPR one day a week or so ago and heard a great interview with cartoonist, writer, teacher, Lynda Barry whose new book Picture This was featured on Talk of the Nation.  In one part of the interview, Ms. Barry talks about the difficult time period following 9/11.  She describes a time in her art making that she only wanted to draw ‘cute little animals’.  And so she did.  In so doing she was able to handle and tackle the more difficult realities facing our world at the time.  I was really inspired by this idea of following the most basic artistic impulses even at a time of great gravity.  There is a side of myself that has always wanted to ‘draw cute little animals’ as well.  I’d like to follow that notion a bit in the coming months.  Drawing during Riley School Board meetings is a start…

There is much to look forward to as I formulate my Mammoth Cave work, prepare for an amazing travel sketch experience in Taos, NM (yes, it’s a go!!!), and continue to sing the praises of multi-disciplinary creativity at the Arts Enterprise Conference in February, 2011.  Amongst all of this art work is the important work of throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner, getting my daughter to Chicago for the Oireachtas, and continuing to teach an amazing group of students what I know about keeping a sketchbook.

For all of this I am truly grateful.  Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday.