Imagination Forts : our childhood trees

 

Last week I shared Frances Mayes’ writing from Garden and Gun that eloquently the delight of the Magnolia flower. In it she recounts the delicious longing for our natural springtime perfumes. The reverberating emotional quality of scents from childhood started me thinking about MY trees growing up. It seems most people have ‘a tree’ from childhood. I was lucky enough to have a Magnolia and an Elm. And I'll love them forever. Those memories and scents touch the sweetest spot of nostalgia and pure childhood bliss, that often lies dormant as we grow up, shifting attention to chores that occupy obscene amounts of indoor time- like navigating health insurance, for one

sketchbook close-up

sketchbook close-up

On fragrant neighborhood walks with the dog every day I've been paying closer attention to the long, perfectly green waxy leaves. 

On fragrant neighborhood walks with the dog every day I've been paying closer attention to the long, perfectly green waxy leaves. 

As we begin remembering rough bark on fingertips, wide dappled canopy of leaves, and sturdy climbing limbs, our outside spirits reawaken. My gentle Magnolia tree was ever-ready to become a fortress, a pirate ship, a hideout from cousins, and even a massive leafy hug.

I’m always on the lookout for good climbing trees now. There’s nothing quite like the calm of sitting among large branches to still the mind, and awaken the inspiration and recall those early days of complete, unapologetic imaginative play. Do you have a tree that made you into who you are? A tree that touched the sweetest parts of yourself?

Go find a tree and have a happy Friday y’all!

Bayou Paradise

Ever been to bayou paradise?

Amidst monsoon rains, thunder booms, Zeus inspired lightning bolts, and undaunted swooping White Ibis birds, I spent the weekend at my personal version of paradise: Bayou Pigeon. I absorbed the rainy wonderment from a screened porch outfitted with rocking chairs and the most gracious hosts this side of the Mississippi. After munching vacation snacks and rocking lazy bones, the clouds dissipated for a twilight interlude of fishing.

Fish were caught, but that's not even the most exciting part. Wait for it...

In case you're wondering - No, I did not catch a single fish.

In case you're wondering - No, I did not catch a single fish.

Every artist brings paint to the bayou. It's a given. So we toweled off these bad boys, and squirted India Ink all over them. Then we rubbed them down real good. FYI it's a good idea to have a 2-4 year old to help you with this part. Or several. But it's up to you.

An inked up fish ready to go!

An inked up fish ready to go!

Next, we pressed our paper on top, rubbing the fish's body, paying extra attention to those sexy gill lines and tails.

Hopping from fish to fish between ink, small children, and wine glasses, we unleashed the spirited personalities of each catch to paper.

And voila ! Our own Gyotaku Prints right out in bayou lands!

The Bass assume an otherwordly demeanor as their graphic textures vibrate on the paper. The immediate results satisfied the giddy kid inside of me, and the fish filets for supper were doubly satiable. I highly recommend trying it for yourself. Or better yet, call me up next time you go fishing.

 

 

ps. I wasn't kidding about that fishing trip.

I'm back baby! I'm back!

I'm back at the studio today! During the past few months away from my paintbrushes, a few thoughts persistently bubbled as I negotiated the new horizons of motherhood and creativity. I realized much of my life was spent in pursuit of tranquility. Hoping to "hurry up" and finish the life agenda at hand, in order to get to the "next part." Or the relaxing part. After awhile I realized the relaxing part rarely comes in long stretches, but in small cherished moments. And the next plan happens (or doesn't) in good time. Life builds, grows, ebbs, restricts, expands, collapses, et cetera; it takes an acquired patience to gently embrace all the moments. Instead of seizing the future so desperately, the days come and go with laughter, some tears, endless fatigue, and bucketfuls of joy.

My hands are happily busy painting, sewing, making suppers, holding the dog leash, oh and babies!  I hope these busy days of the holidays, Mardi Gras, and the ups and downs of life in general have been good to you. And I thank you all for your support and kindness as my family added one more to our number, on the loveliest ride of creation. Back to work, with a baby strapped on my hip, I look forward to getting back to projects and seeing your faces. Drop me a line, I'd love to catch up!

Doubled up with textiles. Many of the fabrics in the front piece I made weaving on a loom and knitting on a machine.

Doubled up with textiles. Many of the fabrics in the front piece I made weaving on a loom and knitting on a machine.

Timeline of my life through sketchbooks (while I wear fuzzy slippers). The far left one, my first New Orleans' book, marks the start of the past decade and stands out with a Krewe de Vieux sticker. The disbelief of that first Carnival season still rushes through me as I flip through the pages.

Timeline of my life through sketchbooks (while I wear fuzzy slippers). The far left one, my first New Orleans' book, marks the start of the past decade and stands out with a Krewe de Vieux sticker. The disbelief of that first Carnival season still rushes through me as I flip through the pages.

Rainbow trout, such a happy fish.

Rainbow trout, such a happy fish.

Summer's Finale + Fall's Approach

Summer’s finish line approaches as the New Orleans dog days exhale their final breaths of sticky humidity. Hot and pregnant most of the summer, I found solace in the water. A couple of vacations afforded ample hammock time, boat rides, and plenty of inner-tube floating. These time outs allowed me to slow my thoughts down and focus, rather than wishing the summer away for the cool breezes of fall.

Silky sand between the toes and wide open stretches of water and sky.

Silky sand between the toes and wide open stretches of water and sky.

This October I’ll unveil my latest body of work, “Creatures of the Waterline.” Although every piece is a new creation (made in the past few months), the textures, themes and voice of the art has been building over about ten years; since my body first recognized it feels ‘at home’ floating in the muddy waters of an Alabama lake. Cloud reflections on a rippling surface, opening my eyes under water and looking up at the falling raindrops, and rough sandbags that always pill the bottom of my swimsuit in the most delightful way. The sense of it relaxes me even as I type this. Animals that congregate at the water’s edge also bring a unique sense of peace, that became the primary focus of my art making this summer.

One of my favorite views of this big ol' world. Preferably with Creedence Clearwater Revival blasting on the stereo.

One of my favorite views of this big ol' world. Preferably with Creedence Clearwater Revival blasting on the stereo.

These calming associations of water were also combated this summer with the 10 year Hurricane Katrina anniversary, and the physical sensations of relived trauma. Our region has a peculiar relationship with water, to say the least. As these ideas flowed through the air, and my body winds down during pregnancy, I’ve been allowing these pieces to develop wherever they lead, allowing the simplicity of a moment speak for itself. Sometimes I’ll cover the piece, then uncover, take a glance, let it speak. And I just absolutely cannot wait to see the waterline come together in October, and have others ‘float’ through the experience with me!

The first few "Creatures of the Waterline." These bird prayer flags have steadily multiplied. photo by Rush Jagoe

The first few "Creatures of the Waterline." These bird prayer flags have steadily multiplied.

photo by Rush Jagoe

Show details:
Art for Art’s Sake!  /   Saturday, October 3/  5-9pm
Steve Martin Gallery
    624 Julia St, New Orleans, LA 70130
 

Failure! Quel Horreur!

Nobody likes to fail. Ammm I right?

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that after finishing a four year degree in art, I more or less stopped making it for years. Physical and emotional burnout had a lot to do with it, but there was something more stewing around inside me. Now that I've had several years of distance, I've realized it was a basic fear of failure.

When my cousin Cammie graduated from high school, my Uncle Inge spoke at the commencement. I remember the evening vividly. Smartly sporting a white daisy dress (high 90s fashion), my third grade self even wore a matching blue sailor hat. More importantly, my uncle fervently repeated, “Follow your bliss. Follow your bliss.” That stuck with me.

I recently watched THIS youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University. Steve spoke beautifully of the immense, sometimes overpowering despair inherent in following a passion. There’s just so much on the line when pursuing something you really care about! However, he also spoke of the powerful joy and discovery that following your bliss may induce. Each soul on this earth has a calling, and by looking mortality in the face, our priorities realign with our truth.

For me, staring at the miracle of my child’s sheer existence puts these thoughts into perspective. Both Eric and I hope to live by example for Eva; realizing that our passions may require extra work, heartache, frustration, and ten times more grind and hustle. But no other feeling matches the euphoric moments of following a passion. Our sacred lives are too short, and full of possibility to squander with mediocrity and status quo!

Our concrete jungle made beautiful

Our concrete jungle made beautiful

Now, switching trains entirely, I have a bit of news to share with you! I'm so happy to announce that this evening I'm featured on Steve Martin's TV show, Made In New Orleans. The show airs weekly at 8pm on PBS / WLAE, and features two artist interviews and studio tours. I had a great time filming, and it's probably the closest I'll ever come to TV stardom. (Not that I really want that, but maybe my secret five year old self gets a bit giddy over it.) But seriously, the affirmation of the experience made me smile all week.

Happy Monday to you all!

Take care,

Frances

Carnival Time Notes

January blew in as a breath of fresh air this year. And with it, a distinct urge to cloister myself in the studio, churning out pieces that have been stewing in my mind for months. And now! February is upon us, along with the merriment of Carnival. Delicate notes of music and a steady drum line waft through the air as the high school bands prepare for parades. And the contagious energy of New Orleans explodes right about now!

Mardi Gras formerly held a bit of an endurance race for me. These days, life is different. I kick back and ride the unpredictable waves in a milder fashion. This year, part of that involves a significant amount of time staying warm, cozy, and well fed at Mosquito Supper Club's latest takeover. They're in Cleaver and Co. (3917 Baronne St), for breakfast, lunch, and weekend suppers (Feb. 6-9). It's right by the parade route, and my studio is immediately above! A couple of textile creations by yours truly are warming up the walls, that typically hold raw meat. Major transformations. Now go eat.

In addition to making sure I get every last purple/yellow/green King Cake sprinkle that comes my way, I'm creating a spring collection that will be unveiled in May. Consisting of enormous textile collages, the collection speaks the joy found in the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of our lives. Constantly, these moments afford us the opportunity to feel frustration, boredom, really the entire gambit of emotions. Rarely, but hopefully, a wild joy arises in recognizing life is being lived. And these collages stem from that pocket of experience.I can't wait to show you!

Whether you live in New Orleans or beyond, have a safe and deliriously happy Carnival Time!

Take care, 

Frances

Fat Tuesday 2013

Fat Tuesday 2013

Giddy Moments

Much of our life is spent figuring out “what doesn’t work” or “what we don’t want to do” in order to get to where we want to be.  I have spent YEARS making mistakes that are now valuable bites of information as I march forward. Do you remember reading Dr. Seuss’s “OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!” ?  One of my favorite books, the wise Dr. Seuss captivatingly reminds me

“that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.”

Brilliant words Dr Seuss, brilliant words. We’re not entitled to have an easy life. But that makes the highlights so much sweeter.

All those multiple hang ups- sloppy, tearful critiques, disturbingly bad paintings, and those years where I was just generally struggling to figure out the nuts and bolts of life (still an ongoing process, of course), all brought me to now! Making art every single day!

Giddiness overtakes me daily; life’s moments of goodness crystallizing at a catching point.  I think that my ear-to-ear grin must make strangers wonder what I’m up to, or what I’m on.

Although this time of year feels a bit crazy, that’s something to stop and cherish. I am doing        e x a c t l y what I love, and am meant to be doing on Earth. I am so grateful for this moment in time, even if it all blows away tomorrow. No doubt that wheelbarrows full of future hang-ups and bang-ups will eventually tumble out. But for now, I am happy to share the fruits of my work, and the Earth is peaceful for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Electric green metal frame at Alltmonts Frame shop.     

Electric green metal frame at Alltmonts Frame shop. 

 

 

Joyful, whimsical New Orleans Christmas Cards! Also, those yellow flowers- those were literally growing out of the building next door to my studio. Excellent find.

Joyful, whimsical New Orleans Christmas Cards! Also, those yellow flowers- those were literally growing out of the building next door to my studio. Excellent find.

Clipping threads from a recent commission. The pieces' theme: The Birds meet the Yellow Brick Road.

Clipping threads from a recent commission. The pieces' theme: The Birds meet the Yellow Brick Road.

 

 

 

Why does this Frances lady make art?

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I went to a fancy pants art school. To be honest, I had a pretty hard time there. RISD is a wonderful school, with amazing teachers, students, and courses. My fellow students were and are oozing with creativity and inspiration. And I'm constantly proud and amazed to see what they are up to these days. Despite having a difficult four years, I'm grateful for the experience, and in no way take it for granted. Reflecting back, the unhappiness the sometimes shadows my memories stemmed from my own emotional confusion. Those four years claimed my inspiration, and the joy of making.

After school it took me YEARS to start creating art again, apart from a few sporadic paintings. About a week after my daughter was born, I nestled her in the crook of my leg during her nap, dug out my watercolors, and painted the shotgun houses I’d seen on our walks. We spent hours like this; taking breaks to play and eat, and go on more walks. My musician husband bounces ideas around with me, making some pieces collaborations with his own creative perspective.

We haven’t stopped since. Our very existence here on earth causes a daily sense of enveloping wonder, and stirs my creative juices. As she grows, she experiences joy and enthrallment in details that I rushed by before, or just didn’t even choose to care about. A single blade of grass becomes a precious gift as her warm fingers press it into my hand. Our Tupperware, that I can never match with the correct lid, transforms into a patterned circle as she helps me ‘cook’ in the kitchen. Colors are brighter, animals more sacred. Whimsy and miracles are found throughout our days. This is where my art is nourished- in the sweet spot of love, joy, and thankfulness.