building the studios
I am Lost - Looking for Crystals
I have been lost for some time now, but it’s only now that I’ll admit it.
I went to look for crystals. It’s not a secret place by any means. It's listed on maps, on line, and in all the rock hound and local geology books. Usually there are other cars at the trail head, but this day, I was alone.
The rocks here are very special. theses appeared by my feet - often separated from the rock by erosion (or by digging) - then floated up through the soil by water. It takes a lot of looking - staring at the ground - which, I found, can be disorientating.
The planet is alive! There are some amazing outcrops of exfoliating granite - the pressure is off the pluton and layers of rock are simply peeling away like dead skin cells.
You walk on the side of a mountain. The trail is uphill and open for the first half mile, and for the second half is more like a tunnel through the woods with a steep cliff on the down hill side that opens occasionaly for views of mountains - currently dusted with snow - on the other side of the valley. The ribbon of I-90 growls far below. At the end the path just stops - a landscape opens before you – actually the woods more or less close around you - as you move into a very dark and barren looking area - the trees and the steep angle of the slope create constant shadow.
I noticed there has been a lot more digging since I’ve been here in the spring. A lot of people have been at work. I met some of the young self-styled miners at a recent gem and mineral show. A few come here but, the ones hosting tables have claims in other places in this valley. They post photos of crystal formations freshly dug and for sale as well as photos showing them with gas powered jack hammers on Instagram. Their finds are impressive.
Some crystals I found lose - and a crystal bearing rock left behind by someone with ambition to dig and break rocks.
It was around eleven o’clock when I turned off the path and headed up the slope – it looked like an area with some new digging and the earth was the yellow ocher color that I knew hosted crystals.
crystals in a rock - lots of big rocks filled with crystals - I wanted to take home some big ones, but could not carry them.
I am watching the ground, focused on the specific details of each patch of earth - like fishing, or birding, I am looking for the anomaly in the chaotic pattern, that which shines.
Hey, I have cell service!My phone works!
Friday, the next day, I see a pal in the grocery store. I tell her I was lost in the woods.
Some of what if found after being washed up. I think the one in front has a tiny bit of purple -which would make it a tiny bit of an amethyst. These are not worth anything - but so cool to wonder about the crystals growing inside the rocks. It's an amazing planet!
As always, I think about anomalies in a chaotic pattern - in the river as well as patterns of my behavior as well as that of the fish. (from a fishing blog)
Some years ago, I learned from my guide,(*) that the way to find fish in the Everglades was to look for the anomaly in the chaotic pattern – to do this I had to look through the surface pattern of the shallow water, complete with reflection, to the pattern of the wave-brushed sand and underwater plants on the bottom, just a few feet below, to see if I could spot something that didn’t belong. That would often be the redfish. Now cast to it, but cast to its head because if you cast to its tail you’ll spook it, which I did, although not always, at which time you get to see a cloud of mud billowing out in its own dynamic pattern, the pattern of turbulence in a fluid.
I’ve taken this advice to the rivers around here, from the small blue lines to the larger ones. Although, I can’t see the same things one can see in the transparent Floridian waters, I use the general principal. I am still looking for the areas of change in the dynamic hydraulic pattern, looking for variation, a slow spot beside fast water - a seam – because that indicates a place of slower water that the fish can hold in while the food passes by.
There is hydraulic geometry in the rivers, and any body of water, and one can develop an eye for finding the spots where things change – for that anomaly in the strange un-patterned pattern of the flow. (Misconfiguration of the configuration – it’s a fascinating ambiguity that is so very tangible – like the wake of a boat, always changing but seemingly always consistent and all but solid thought constantly changing to remain consistent over distance and through time - yeow - hold that thought.)
When you can see the river and the system in this way it becomes easier to understand where you should be casting to and how you want the fly to drift. Funny if you think of the other definition of current it makes an odd kind of sense – it’s where things are right now.
When I began to look for birds – and I am a very amateur birder – I also found that the key was to look into the fractal pattern of the trees in the terrain and find the inconsistency, that shape in the chaotic pattern that did not fit in, and that glitch in the flow was often a bird, although sometimes it was a bunch of leaves or debris in a bush - but it was some thing different.
I thinking now of calculus, where begin to isolate the concept of change as a quantity we can make concrete with a number. As when we consider acceleration as a function of speed, we can only see change as somehow solid if we take movement with speed as a given state. In calculus, Acceleration is the first derivative of the equation, its instantaneous change. So is finding the anomaly in the turbulence. So are, I find, many ideas that hold my attention.
Often when we listen to music, we find the greatest insight where the musician or composer sets up an expectation by repetition and then takes our imagination elsewhere, somewhere just slightly beyond where we expected to go. When Billie Holiday, for instance, sings just slightly against the beat or when someone rearranges a familiar tune – what we are hearing is that derivative – that instantaneous change from our expectations.
When we hear this derivative we hold the original in our imagination as a comparison so what we savor in the hearing of the is the difference – we hear the change.
And much as the derivative is instantaneous, it is removed from time, thus when we experience this – do we, in fact, gain some kind of new perspective – do we get, at least for a moment, unstuck in time? Because we hold the experience so much in the layers of remembered, imagined and instantons experience do we unlock ourselves from the regular beat of the clock?
Of course, this looking for what moves against the pattern is a good way to analyze anything visual – which is my business when it comes to painting – as an artist, we set up a chaotic pattern, one with dynamics but not regularity per see, and then mess with the viewer expectations.
In my images you see what you expect to see, the landscape or the flowers, however there are many other things going on that you need to both see and see beyond in order to recognize the image and that is what I, as the artist, am so very interested in.
There is the time represented in the image, the snap shot of a view, as well as the time you get to look at the frozen moment, as well as the time the is embedded in the image that it took to make it.
A lot of visual art is about the experience of seeing - perceiving the world though our senses and then the processing - our brains are not so different from photoshop - but it's the program, the unique and personal program of the artist that we share. In this way art shapes the way culture looks at the world.
And I am putting in my personal angle in the images I make - Sentience is amazing.
*Let me credit Ned Small @ Sightfish.com, is the guide with the advice on how to see fish as the anomaly in the chaotic pattern. Thank you so much for so many ideas.
Beginning to get at the older oils
I had a small pond in Brooklyn - here is a series of paintings done in one day standing out side noticing the light and colors changing.. They are 8"x10" and on canvas board. Very fun. It is exciting to see this work again. Much more coming out of storage, into the light, on to raw files, into photo shop and on to the web page. I will have to think about how to organize them so it makes sense. I think these were done in 1992 - no doubt on a Saturday or Holiday from teaching.
When I was at Yale, one of the grad students at her critique was asked what she was doing -- "I'm going for God!" She cried out, almost choking on the words - meaning she wanted it all - the whole deal - the meaning of life the universe and everything. I want that, too. But just as she was flustered and emotional when she blurted that statement out, it is hard for me to say, too. Difficult to believe in oneself with the drumbeats pounding in our psyche saying- You are not better than anyone else –who put those ideas in your head? - What makes you think you’re special? – And honestly for a woman of my generation – the message is very mixed with ‘besides, you’re just a girl.’
None the less – I can paint. I simply do it. It’s in me. In essence, I need to work – and part of that work is to get the images ‘out there’ In order to do this I need to also face the fact that the project is daunting and I am fearful. But keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror can help us move forward.
It is time to believe in the work and see where it can go. It’s time to dream crazy. It’s time for the audacity of aspiration. It’s about trying as hard as you can to do what you love and believe in. It’s not a hobby, it’s not relaxing, it’s not just expressing your self - it’s a vision of quality.
It is the pursuit of that vision that makes my work worthy of being seen.
Eventually – when my son was about three – I decided I wanted to paint again. I dropped out of the PhD program – which had me taking an hour subway ride home on weeknights so I got home at 11 on a school night… I had joined a loosely knit group of artists who knew someone who knew someone and so forth that met every month in someone’s studio. We called it The Art Club for lack of something better. It was formatted after what we had experienced in graduate school as a ‘Crit’ - short for Critique. The host often served snacks and drinks – and sometimes people brought beer to make sure there was enough to go around. They were lively affairs.
I also learned to fly fish and took up shot gun sports. Both of these pursuits taught me to look and see. I also learned to think about myself as three people, the person who is doing (shooting, fishing or painting) the observer and critic who actually just describes what is going on, and also as the coach who makes suggestions for improvement. (I realized later this had a lot to do with what I taught in high school – that we have essentially three parts of the brain and three ways to process – we can react, feel or think. )
Mostly, in real life, I was teaching math in New York City secondary school, trying to get by, dealing with an unfortunate marriage and raising my son. So I didn’t have a lot of time to paint. Still I managed to make some. A lot of the paintings were done on holidays – we went to a freind's house in upstate New York fairly often. So there are a lot of paintings of Gulf Summit - the name of the place this house was. It has a name – I suppose it was related to a train stop -but there was no town there. The nearest town was Deposit. The house was large and magical but had no running water or central heat. There were wood stoves and we got water out of a spring with buckets. Very bohemian and arty – and being young it seemed fun.
As a teacher I also had some time in the summer or on weekends – my son had some interesting child care situations. So there are many paintings of my yard. I began to garden in earnest and built three very small ponds with aquatic plants – some of them liberated from ponds upstate - goldfish from the pet store, and some mail order frogs I got as tadpoles. I very much loved my yard and garden and spending hours outside painting was wonderful.
I left NYC and got divorced. My son and I moved to Seattle in 1995 and stayed with my mom for the first year. The next school year I got a job in Snoqualmie teaching art and math in the high school. I stayed there for 22 years, mostly teaching art. My son grew up eventually getting married and going to graduate school in History of Science.
In the mean time I painted here and there – but not a lot. I did continue to shoot skeet – but only for the first few years - it became far too costly and time consuming. I did have the satisfaction of showing up at a small town gun club and beating all the local men at one time. I learned to fly fish in my own way in the Snoqualmie River – and how to find my way around taking my small Ford up logging roads and wondering where I could get access. Most summers I was on my own since my son went to visit with his father in Michigan.
But I spent most of my time teaching school and making a home for my son and spending time with my mom and old friends. This whole process of creating a home takes a lot of time and effort – I don’t know if we give ourselves enough credit for the work we do in order to keep ourselves sheltered, clothed and fed.
At school, I was surprised that my teaching assignment turned out to be mostly ceramics – I knew very little about it when I began teaching it – but over time I learned a lot and got to very much love working with clay. Since I could work that into my work schedule I began to focus on making forms to paint on. Still, a number of paintings continued to slowly get made.
Around the time Sean graduated from high school I got the idea to paint pictures of the river – since I’d been staring at it for quite some time. I did a number of big paintings in anticipation for a show – which turned out to be at the University Unitarian Church and later the Snoqualmie City Hall in 2010. I had hoped for more, but this was as much as I could work for. I didn’t have the strength of mind to shop my work around to commercial galleries. And I naively thought someone would notice the work and it might lead somewhere…
And so it went. I spent some time flying planes and some other years riding a bicycle and doing Nia and Zumba. And I kept eking out small paintings. And I kept fishing – mostly around my home.
I did become involved with the local art folks and did some paintings outside at local events – I was in paint-outs – and got a few prizes. I was on the side walk for art walks. I joined the local co-op gallery because some women wanted me to – but quickly realized that the six feet of space I had in the gallery/visitors center was not what I wanted – and recently I have pulled out of that. But I will say some of their activities did get me going again.
SO – now, I find six months after I bolted out of the school building I am trying to make some kind of sense of it all and figure out where to go next. Ahead is the task to catalogue what I’ve got, where I’ve been and decide where I want to go.
I might add, that looking back is weird. In some ways I am so disappointed that I haven't done more, but in other ways I suppose I've done a lot.
this section is devoted to what's on my mind - and reflections of the process of being an artist and blogging about it. - Ann Heideman