“Physically, the creature endowed with a sense of refuge, huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed. If we were to look among the wealth of our vocabulary for verbs that express the dynamics of retreat, we should find images based on animal movements of withdrawal, movements that are engraved in our muscles.” ~Gaston Bachelard (from The Poetics of Space)
I am home. Settling in to my most favorite season of the year after a most rich and rewarding time of travel and discovery punctuated with in depth visits to some of my most favorite places and people. Recently I shared with you my artistic adventures along the wrack line of Islesford Island, Maine. Perhaps that should have been ‘enough’ adventure for the time being, but I had more wanderings to endeavor.
Ginger Small and I drove to Cleveland, Ohio for a conference about the industry that peddles the stories and pictures by people much like me. After the heart-swelling inspirational time I’d had in Maine, I’ll admit to feeling lonesome and adrift at these lectures in a hotel ballroom. In the end, I took more away about making books for children from the hours I spent in the seaside tutelage of Ashley Bryan than I did at this particular conference. It seems I am more comfortable in a classroom that has a bit of fresh air available. While I continue to try and find my path in this bookmaking business, I’ll also admit to some frustration as the ‘No, Thank You’ letters continue to arrive in the in-box. It is all part of the process, I suppose. But I digress, yes? Despite the confusion I felt at the conference, I had one more big trip to take before needing to come home and distill it all into a plan for the coming months…
It is such a gift to return to Taos, New Mexico when I am not in teaching mode. My dear friend Tina, an amazing artist, and I have been talking for years now about getting her out there for her first visit. Every artist with an eye for the beautiful and a head and heart full of magic must make the pilgrimage to northern New Mexico.
And so, with a theme of ‘Treat Yo Self’ and the reignitement of our inner magic running strong, we took the plunge and scheduled a girl’s trip for the end of September.
I always struggle a bit to put together a proper blog post after a trip to Taos. There is just so much to ponder and potentially share. One can experience a life time in just one short week. We felt like we were gone months, not just a mere 7 days! Often, I didn’t even have my camera with me. New Mexico is the sort of place that makes one want to detach from technology, which for me is part of the draw. And yet, I did chronicle some our time there in my sketchbook and with a few snapshots. I’ll share just a bit of the journey here…
We started in Santa Fe, where I have not spent much time as I am so keen to get out of town and up into the mountains a bit more. But I knew there was some good art to be seen there, and so there was. I was especially captivated by the work of Rebecca Haines and Jason John whose works combine realism with whimsy, narration and fantasy. I love Rebecca’s treatment of animals in her work. I felt like not only was I looking at a painting of a deer, or a raven or a coyote, but a particular animal, in a particular moment in time. Someone with a story and something in common with myself perhaps. This is something I try to convey to my sketching students in my workshop. You aren’t drawing ‘a tree’ or ‘a bird’, you are drawing ‘THIS tree’ or ‘THIS bird’ in this particular moment of time. And that approach to capturing an image can completely change the way we see the world and ourselves. (For more on this particular philosophy of drawing, check out the work of Frederick Franck).
As for Jason’s work, I am not often drawn toward the hyperrealistic style of painting. But while he might be described as such, he also plays with scale and perspective in a way that pulls away from reality. And I love this. His paintings have a narrative quality punctuated with the use of props such as cardboard hats and swords and such. Some of the hats reminded me of Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I think we can all recognize ourselves in paper hats, can’t we?
While in Santa Fe, we not only took in the work of current, professional artists, we also took a tour of the International Museum of Folk Art. If you ever go to Santa Fe, this place is not to be missed. Note the little hat on this doll below.
We hadn’t been in town yet for 24 hours, and already, so much to take in. We artists are often slow cookers. The trip could have ended here and both Tina and I had enough to think upon for months on end. Already I had Ginger Small in mind with a cardboard hat! And yet, there was so much more.
We journeyed up the mountain into Taos only to discover we had arrived just in time for The Paseo.
The works we encountered in this show over the coming days truly defy description. Here is a taste…
There were also hand fashioned cocoons where sound, light and embroidery might shift your sensory perspective on things. There was a bicycle powered pterodactyl. It was all completely overwhelming. And absolutely wonderful.
Although our heads were near to exploding with all of the lovely art work we had taken in, we opted to take in a couple of local museums on top of it all. My favorite is the Fechin House which houses the Taos Museum of Art.
Even without all of the art work, this is a place of great beauty with interesting hand made touches around every turn and in every nook and corner.
On the ground floor could be seen the work of one of my favorite Taos artists from back in the day, Ralph Meyers.
He was a prolific painter, a collector of artifacts and memorabilia, a trusted trader to the Native population with whom he always dealt fairly. I always make a point to go back and visit his work, as I learn something every time.
But of course, Tina and I didn’t go to New Mexico merely to take in art and museums. (although, frankly, that would be one great way to solely spend one’s time there.) I wanted to reacquaint myself with the vistas and mountainous skyline so unavailable in Ohio. To sit within and below and as a part of this landscape and just take it all in. Perhaps in my sketchbook. Perhaps with some paint. but really, just in my soul.
My painting trip to Maine taught me a lot about translating one’s experiences in the field into work from the imagination. And this is one thing I will delve into in the coming months in my painting.
We spent a fair amount of time in the desert. And also a fair amount of time nestled in at Mabel’s where we were warmly welcomed by friends old and new. I took a number of good soaks in the iconic bathroom where the windows were painted by DH Lawrence.
From our veranda, those same windows lit up like stained glass at night.
During one evening of art and merry-making, we were joined by a party of moths who seemed to simply want to be a part of things. They were like flying labradors.
We invited them to stay as long as they wished.
There is so very much more I could tell you. About how we played with shadows which seemed more prominent this time of year than others.
About how we watched the moon be chased and overtaken by shadow and reappear once more having been washed clean by it’s own darkness, brought to bear by another celestial body.
I could tell you about foot races at dawn and tricksters emerging from buildings made of earth who might then climb to the heavens to retrieve earthly needs.
But I won’t. For these things are still coming alive in my dreams.
I will tell you it’s good to be home.
In spite of it’s overwhelming ‘normality’ and ‘real world-ness’.
Our girl is settled in beautifully at school and so we are wearing in a nice path between here and Columbus just north of us. I am grateful for this season of well filling.
And if you are interested in coming to Taos with me next summer, registration is OPEN!!!!
Join me in the magic.