Tag Archives: red river gorge

nothing clever, just a quick update

The past few weeks defy description really.  I am busy beyond comparison, for a combination of reasons that span a spectrum unthinkable in what some might describe as a normal life.  I suppose I don’t lead a normal life really.

Since this blog is important to me and I want to at least give a hint to what I have been up to/ going through/ working on, I’ll post a few photos here, with probably less of the commentary any readers may have come to expect (do I even have any readers?  outside of my family? I don’t know.)

So here goes…

Shepard Fairey was in town for a few weeks to open his retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Center here in Cincinnati.  He pretty much rocks.  I’d love to have the time and energy to write intelligently about his work, but that will have to wait for another post.  Better yet, google him.  Read about what he does and how he does it (there is much out there about him, more well written than I could ever hope to be), and I’m sure you’ll be hooked.  He’s been wheat pasting a good bit of his work around town which has created quite a buzz.  Some lovely diversions:

Fairey’s arrival in town has everyone abuzz, especially the young folks.  I know this because I am currently working on a project with an amazing bunch of high school/ college age artists who adore Fairey’s work and are deeply inspired by his use of repeating patterns and politically charged imagery.  Our project, slated to be installed at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Downtown Cincinnati, is going well.  I am working through the ArtWorks organization and we are under the gun so to speak to get this thing ready and up by mid-April.  This relief mural will be 25 feet wide and 13 feet tall and will be a permanent installation at the convention center.  Needless to say, it’s huge and a lot of work.  Here are some photos of the work in progress:

the design…

ok, so in the left side of the design, just below the column, there is a small area of bricks….. here they are:

Here’s the column, with historically high flood years marked:

Below is the beginnings of a painting of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s head.  I am painting this. (!)  Normally I am not a painter.  It is not my usual choice as an artistic language, but I am learning.  Tina and I are using some of the techniques used by painter Maxfield Parrish who utilized glazing and layering to create his amazing colorscapes.  I am learning loads and am so thankful for this new skill.  It’s a bit like water coloring and my use of watercolors shows.  Even though the design is Tina’s, we can already tell which painting is mine.  I find this fascinating.  Like handwriting…..

more “bricks”…

Lots of mixed media on this project.  Below are city scape images and some contrasted images of the kids working with us on the project.  They will go into the “bubbles” in the design.  Success is in the details as they say….

One of the reasons Tina asked me to be the teaching artist on this project is my “textural sensibility”.  I like to work with textures and things that look like they grew there.  There is plenty of opportunity to create this and have it work in our favor on this project.  This piece has some “barnacle” like growths on it.  We are working with a ton of river themed material and the stuff that grows under a river boat might look a little like this…. at least the way we imagine it!

Here’s Tina, painting in the first blue value layers on abolitionist John Isom Gaines.

Below is Jennie Porter’s portrait also just getting started by Tina.  The blues will provide a lovely valued backdrop for all of the face paintings we plan to put into this design.  Again, I am learning loads about layering and color.  (can I just say here that Tina is genius personified?)

Here is a photo that may give you some sense of scale.  It’s overwhelming how big this thing is…. but then again, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time…..

That old elephant quote is a good one to keep on hand for life sometimes.

Art is not the only Big, Challenging, Overwhelming thing in my sphere lately.  Anyone who has read this blog or knows me in any small way really, knows that I am in the midst of some hard stuff lately.  This time last year we lost one of our own to a brutal tragedy.  13 year old Esme Kenney – friend, daughter, girlfriend and so much more, was killed while out on a jog, on a pretty day, March 7, 2009.   It was the first time she had ever gone beyond the end of her driveway on her own.  This past year has been one of the sort of grief that changes people in unexpected ways.  None of us could have, in a million years, ever imagined ourselves as part of this story, and yet, here we are.  In other posts I have chronicled some of what is happening to create a lasting artistic legacy to Esme, and I will continue to do so as we get Esme’s Sculpture built.

This week we marked the one year anniversary of Esme’s passing.  She is missed by so many and it’s hard to even wrap words around that sentiment.  Sadly, along with the anniversary, we have had to endure the trial of Esme’s killer.  One day after the first anniversary of Esme’s death, her mom, my dear friend Lisa, testified in court as to what happened the day she found her only child to be missing.

As a navy wife, years ago, I had the honor and privilege to witness some good friends give birth to their children.  Witnessing a mother giving birth is a wondrous and difficult thing.  There is really nothing you can do as a friend, coach or “cheerleader”.  It is a dance between mother and child.  One can only merely witness.  Surely you dads out there know how this is.  Watching Lisa testify on monday reminded me quite a bit of this birthing process.  I could only sit in the gallery of the court room and watch a mom do her thing.  The only way she knew how.  None of us could do it for her.  We could only merely witness, as Lisa did the most difficult thing a Mother is ever called upon to do.  She stood up and told her truth, Esme’s truth, as she knew it, on the day that she was killed.  She was strong and vulnerable… and so powerful, as all good mothers are.  I was in awe.

A week before the anniversary and just before the trial, a group of us headed down to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to prepare for the days and weeks ahead.  To fill our proverbial cups with that which feeds us.  Some quiet, some time in nature, some togetherness with close friends.  We created as close a circle of positive energy, song, love, art, music and sisterhood as we could. Just outside of the circle that we created as friends, was that of our families and network of more friends who made it possible for us to go away for a couple of days to be together at this difficult time.  In the midst of the pressure filled time that I have chronicled above, I am fortunate to be working with a project manager with such flexibility that I was able to get away for this weekend.  Same goes for my ever supportive spouse.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I think the same goes for all of us.  It just simply takes a village.  Period.  Below are some images from our time in the gorge…..

Lots of ice, with a hit of spring in the air….

even Buddha has boogers when it’s cold.

One afternoon I felt like a cat with the sun streaming in….

There were some wildly colored mushrooms in the woods.  These are looking pretty deadly!

such beauty…

We concentrated on beauty all weekend.  I have learned that fresh flowers are a necessity.

Sometimes this is what life feels like.  but if we are all feeling the squeeze together, perhaps there are moments when it’s not so bad.


The above quote has been on my fridge for years.  It’s one of my favorites and I like to think I personify it in my life, at least part of the time.  Lately I have been thinking a lot about the act of drawing and how it applies to being aware and awake and alive.  A former student of mine and I have been researching creativity, its application in the work place and how the simple act of drawing can enhance, channel and release innovative thinking.  It has been an exciting and overwhelming project which we hope will enable us to bring our ideas into the corporate sphere, teaching people to collect their thoughts and ideas visually, by drawing in a sketchbook.

I have been diligently working in my own sketchbook in recent weeks to practice what I preach in some sense.  As school winds down into summer for the kids, my ideas are brewing for both my new project out in the “Real World”, as well as for studio plans.  My family and I have spent a great deal of time outdoors recently and that has given me fuel for the sketchbook as well as for my more academic research pursuits.  I am not sure how it works, (though I am currently doing a ton of reading about it) but the simple act of drawing, combined with walking and being outdoors is a magic tool for productivity and creative thinking.  It is my hope that I can successfully convey this notion to folks who have never tried drawing.  Drawing is one small way to be joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.  So is hiking and simply being outside.  At least for me.

Here are some Daily Dog Drawings from recent weeks….

We took Iris to the Red River Gorge for a long hike on the Wildcat Trail to Dog Fork Creek.  It was a great time, especially with only one dog.  Caskie is a little old for such a rough hike on difficult terrain, and River is still prone to running off and making a general nuisance of himself.  So we took just Iris and it was wonderful to spend the day just with her.  It turns out she likes fishing.  She would stare into the creek at the small minnows and then pounce on them.  I think given some time, she might have caught herself one.

The day after our day trip to the Gorge, Tony and I went on a rainy kayak trip with some friends, partly so I could test drive a boat that’s my size and for sale.  Paddling in the rain was surreal and sensual and I hope to do it again.  The temperature was warm enough that it was not uncomfortable and we all had a great time.  I am hoping to sell a couple of paintings at an upcoming show at the Art Academy so I can buy this boat…

Heralding Summer

Once upon a time, what seems like a whole lifetime ago, my husband was in the Navy and I was a Navy Wife. It was a difficult time full of long separations and compromises for both of us. It is not lost on me, especially on the more poignant military holidays, that it is only a stroke of luck and timing that we happened to spend our military service at a time of Peace. We were especially thankful this past weekend for the opportunity to be together for Memorial Day while so many military families are separated or perhaps grieving for fallen loved ones.

Over Memorial Day Weekend my family did what so many Americans do during the gift of a long weekend; we got out of town. We decided to do some backpacking down at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, one of our favorite green places to go. The weather was stunningly perfect and basically, we had a blast. We had planned to go to a place called Dog Fork Creek but due to some apparent villainous sign turnage, we wound up in an unplanned spot that suited us just fine in the long run. We had the area to ourselves and were not even a mile away from the car, which works out well for kids with heavy packs and one aging dog. We took all three pups actually and miraculously, it was smooth sailing with them. Iris and River are new to camping and we weren’t sure how they would do. But after a day of romping in the woods they crashed in the tent with us and slept the night thru.


Caskie was a real trooper and kept up with the kids and the puppies pretty well for the majority of the trip. But it is strange to see him beginning to show signs of age. He’s a little slow after a woodsy romp and tended to settle into leafy soft spots around the campsite.

We like to eat well on our backpacking trips and consider the limited kitchen items a Chef’s challenge when on the trail. We baked potatoes in the fire and had a basil parmesan pasta for dinner, which hit the spot after hiking and exploring all day. In my opinion the best meal was breakfast which was a curried tofu scramble. Yum! Even River wanted some!



One of the best things about the gorge is all the hidden treasures you can find tucked away in the woods. Near our campsite was a recessed cave with a water fall. It was cool and mossy there and we all visited the spot a number of times during our stay.


Below are some weird moss formations (at least I think it’s moss) that had formed in a puddle in the cave.



Moss and mushrooms and ferns abound in the Red River Gorge. I sketched a little bit and took lots of photos that I hope to work off of this summer. I have always really admired the work of illustrator Jan Brett whose books such as “Town Mouse, Country Mouse” enchanted my children when they were little while captivating me with her lovely naturalistic yet magical drawings.


No trip the gorge is complete without a stop at Miguel’s Pizza shop (bear with me on the link, Miguel’s doesn’t seem to have a website but this dude seems to know what he is talking about!). This place not only serves up my favorite pizza in the world but provides a camping spot and gathering place for rock climbers who come to the area for the world famous rock climbing the Red River Gorge is famous for.


The very next day, although a little trail weary, I joined Maddie and some of her class mates for a field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. As usual the zoo provided beautiful animals and plants to observe…


while giving the kids a chance to spend some well deserved out of class time together.


Today was the last day of school for both of my kids. On the one hand it seems rather early, but on the other, the timing is perfect. We all need a break from structure and routine and are ready to greet what magic Summer has to offer.

I went for a run around the neighborhood this morning. I found a robin’s egg shell and saw a group of squirrels having what seemed like a squirrel convention. I also ran by a fellow runner. She was a woman running along in her bright red, long, flowing, beautiful sari… and a NY Yankees ball cap.

Bring on that summer magic!