A Troop Embedded with an Artist

Sharon Butler's recent post, Embedding Artists with the Troops, gave me much to think about. She refers to a recent article by Ruaridh Nicoll in the The Observer that examines the role of art and combat. Here's the last paragraph from the article:
"No one is ordering artists to the front. It is a choice, and they have a responsibility not to react like Howson. The authorities must be prepared to allow artists to risk their own lives, letting them see what our soldiers are living through. That way the work they produce can have the power to trouble our souls." - Ruaridh Nicoll
Right now, my soldier/son is home with me - on leave. He's been asking if I'm ever going to paint landscapes again. He likes the ones I do of water and reflections. I don't know how to answer him. I guess I'm on a leave of sorts too.

For the time being, it's making personal sense to focus on one object at a time - to consider carefully its relationship to all of the forces that surround it - to look at it from all possible angles.

Hanging in there - suspended - dangling - but still finding time to enjoy the simple everyday things that keep us grounded. It's so good to have him home.

Summertime by the Creek, 6 x 10 inches, oil on wood panel, 2006, in a private collection downrange


From 1981

In preparation for my rings series, I've been reminiscing and looking at old photos. This one is of my oldest son and me. We were tent camping at Rice Lake, MN - a place I revisited this spring:

Rice Lake Morning, 6 x 10 inches, oil on unstretched linen, 2007


From my Studio Window*


This morning, Robert got this photograph while outside and just beneath my studio window. So - while not technically "from my studio window" - it very nearly was.

After leafing through the bird books, we learned it was a Barred Owl whose favorite meal is mice. It's the time of year when rodents are storing up food in the woods and contemplating their next move. With Bard the Owl around this fall, hopefully we'll be dealing with fewer of these situations:
Late Mouse, 6 x 10 inches, oil on wood panel, 2006


On Spiders, Spinning and Elegance

It was a big deal for me when I figured out a way to keep my models from spinning. Actually, my youngest son did it for me when he designed a still-life teepee-of-sorts. From opposite legs of this "teepee," I can tie a horizontal thread at the level of the object and influence its rotation. I'm still planning to take a photograph of that and post it. Until I get around to doing that though, I thought I'd cut 'n' paste the following image and article from the National Center for Scientific Research in France - about spiders and their far more elegant solution to the spinning problem:

© Anthony Carré - CNRS 2006

"Fasten an object to the end of a vertically suspended thread. Give it a slight twist and let go. You will observe that the object rotates for a certain length of time and with a certain amplitude, depending on the material of the thread. Now observe a spider suspended from its thread: It is stable, doesn't move, spins its thread in a perfectly straight line and always recovers its balance after environmental disturbances.

By experimenting with a torsion pendulum to which they attached a mass equivalent to a spider's weight, researchers at the Laboratoire de physique des lasers(CNRS/University of Rennes) compared the dynamic reactions of different types of thread to a 90° rotation. The results are revealing: a KevlarTM filament (which is synthetic) behaves like an elastic, with reduced oscillations. A copper thread oscillates slightly but does not return to its original shape, and becomes more fragile as a result of these oscillations. Spider's thread, on the other hand, is very efficient at absorbing oscillations, regardless of air resistance, and retains its twisting properties during the experiments. It also returns to its exact original shape. Certain alloys, such as Nitinol, possess similar properties but must be heated to 90° to return to their original shape.

The amazing properties of spider's thread have been known for several years: its ductility, strength and hardness surpass those of the most complex synthetics fibers . It now also seems that through natural selection, spider's thread has evolved into a material with “self-shape memory effect” which allows it to return to its original configuration without outside stimulus. This complex dynamic process has recently been represented as a “stacked” model which the authors use to depict the relaxation of the different proteins in spider's thread." - from CNRS March, 2006


An Inspiring Event

The idea for my series of rings was inspired by a show I went to last winter by Minneapolis artist Mimi Holmes. 50 Self-Portraits for Turning 50 - it was the first time I had heard of, or thought about, an artist creating a number of pieces to commemorate a milestone event.

Held at Mosaic on a Stick in St Paul, the fifty distinct and inventive images of Holmes wound 'round the gallery in order of completion. The colorful descriptions of each piece were as much a part of the experience as the visual work itself.

The opening drew a very large crowd of former and current students, protegees, mentors, friends, family and newcomers. The final piece was an ephemeral one, Chalkboard Gingerbread Mimi, where viewers were encouraged to draw their own impressions of the artist. I think mine lasted less than 15 seconds before being erased and replaced. The many versions of Mimi seemed not to be limited by her age but rather by every life she's touched. And like I said before, there was a very large crowd.

In addition to her studio practice, Holmes is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and teaches the very popular course: Women's Images and Images of Women. She is also the Mentor Program Coordinator for the Women's Art Registry of Minnesota.


An Engagement

During the month of September I'll begin posting images of my work again. In fact, every day of that month I plan to make, and post, a small (10 x 8 inch) painting of a gold ring suspended by a thread. By October 1st, my wedding anniversary, I will have made 30 of these pieces - one for each year of my marriage.