Saturday, October 31, 2009

This will put a smile on your face...

You will need to turn my music off at the bottom of this page before playing the video - enjoy!

Menucha: In the Company of Friends

Two weeks ago, I returned to Menucha, a retreat in the Columbia River Gorge to enjoy a weekend of art, friendship and long healing walks through the abounding beauty of the Gorge. We arrived on Friday afternoon and settled in to our rooms and spread our art materials across the tables in Creevey complex, eager to begin our incredible weekend. This is our fall retreat, where we welcome not only the members of the Portland Art Collective, but the talented friends of our members who agreed to share our weekend with us.

Tory's wild hat.

Carrie's crown

But first we don our hats and speed to dinner. After being treated to the acapella rendition of grace by a choir group that sent shivers over your skin with the beauty of the vocals, we sat down to enjoy a turkey dinner. Delicious. Complete with homemade bread and jam. And of course, the shared stories and laughter as we all caught up with each others lives or enjoyed getting to know those guests who had not attended before.

After dinner, we took a tour of Wright's Hall, that used to serve as the main house when this was a private estate owned by one of the founders of Meiers and Frank. As with all old houses, there are oddities. A one way mirror in the master bathroom medicine cabinet that looked out on the great room dance floor. A full wet bar concealed behind a wall in the basement that hosted a party or two during the Prohibition. And a hallway that hosted our rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat with perfect acoustics.

We returned to Creevey and sat down to work on our projects. And more talk. And more laughter. And mutual admiration of the art we created. But the night grew late and one by one we trailed off to our bedrooms.

We woke to a beautiful, sunny day full of promise. I could not wait to get outside after breakfast and take a walk through the grounds. The day was full of colors - leaves, berries, water, and sky filled my camera with the eye candy of fall.
I finished my walk by completing a meditative journey through the labyrinth, seeking peace with all that has happened at work over the past few months and looking for direction in a world suddenly chaotic and unfamiliar.

Tory's beautiful hat.

The rest of the day was filled with art, laughter and the company of friends, both old and new. Tory Brokenshire taught me how to solder one of her fabulous wire and polymer clay sculptures that took most of the day and her excellent skills as an instructor. I have dubbed her the Old School Marm. Severall of the members also taught mini classes and gladly shared their art expertise with everyone and we learned how to make felted soap, crocheted wire and bead necklaces and Zentangle doodles.

Too soon Sunday came and it was time to return home. After our goodbyes, we took one last walk around the grounds before heading down into the valley. I was sorry to lose the company of my fellow artists and friends. I feel so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Chance Encounter

I felt her presence stooped next to me at, of all places, the toothpaste display. As my head bobbed up and down to check the brands and prices, her head moved with mine. As I rose, she rose, and her eyes met mine. Eyes so clear and blue that they penetrated my soul and explored my puzzled expression. She said, "Who are you?" and I asked her the same. She said in a whisper, "My name is a secret and no one can know." A diminuitive women, well into her eighties, dressed primly in pink Sunday best. But there was strength in that stare....and mystery. I asked her where her people were. She said she had not found them yet, but she was searching, looking in odd nooks and crannies. I was mesmerized by her stare and at a loss for words, although she looked at me expectantly waiting for a reply. But before I could speak, her daughter came, took her arm and said, "Come along, mum. It's time to go". As she walked away, her eyes never left mine. She stole a bit of my soul that day. Clever woman. Gathering up a family one soul at a time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small - Apifera Farm

Just a short distance from urban Portland is one of the most beautiful rural areas I know. Yamhill county. A wine lover's dream full of scenic winding roads through rolling hills, and small hidden pockets of forest hiding burbling brooks and small rivers. Vineyards, lavender fields, woollies, horses, cows and chickens share this country with their lucky humans. Heaven on earth. And in a small corner, hidden just around a bend in the road, is Apifera Farm, where artist Katherine, and her husband, Martyn Dunn share their world with three small, but very wise donkeys.

Katherine is a well known artist of primitive and whimsical art which she creates from vignettes of her life at Apifera. An amazing life filled with creatures great and small - a one-eyed pug and a wild eyed chocolate lab. Naughty goats that flaunt their ability to escape through electrified fence, but who run for their pen when caught where they don't belong. Shy cats who run for the hills when they sight a human and old crusty cats that ignore you completely. Chickens chasing each other across the barnyard, as the horse waits patiently for a hug and a treat.

But best of all are Pino, Lucia and Paco whose sad eyes and patient demeanor make them look wise beyond their years. You can't help but reach to hug them as they nibble animal crackers from your fingertips. They're magical , those donkeys, and will teach you a thing or two about life if you listen carefully while you scratch behind their ears.

The garden is winding down for fall as the leaves yellow and fall. You can breath fall in the crisp air ripe with the smell of fallen leaves and wood smoke. The vegetables are in except for a lonely few tomatoes still nestled in the vines. The sunflower heads ready themselves to feed the birds this winter, sagging with the weight of their seeds. And the pumpkins glow orange in the gray misty air, lighting the nooks and crannies with the glow of an autumn sun.
The barn and outbuildings all bear the patina of time and service and have somehow set down roots and become part of the land. The colors of the patina rival that of paintings that artist do purposefully - the hand of nature on a timeworn palette.

Each time I visit this farm, I am reminded of the musical, Brigadoon, where once in a hundred years, a mortal could find and visit a magical town in the Scottish moors. When the day ended, the town disappeared again, but the memory of its beauty and charm were burned on your soul forever. As the day drew to a close, we said our goodbyes and exchanged promises of keeping in touch. The memories of my visit to Apifera will warm my heart through the winter and give me solace in my urban home that these magical places do truly exist.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art and Soul

How do I do credit in words the experience that is Art and Soul. A week of art shared with friends, both old and new, is beyond the ability of words to describe. There is an incredible atmosphere of creativity and peace. A complete separation from the world outside and for the moment, there is only art amidst the company of your own kind. It's a bit like breathing rarified air and feeling the energy of shared experience bring your body back to life.
The retreat began with guest speaker, Danny Gregory, whose words inspired me so much, that I later journaled on his thoughts on art. Some of his quotes that struck me were, "Drawing is a record of a journey my eyes take. A record of an observation. A slow deliberate journey with a pen". He stated that art is spelled with a small "a", but it can rewire the brain and change a life. Drawing is "in the moment but out of time - a meditation" It causes you to see life for "what it is" and focuses on what is real and not the "demons of fantasy" He said to appreciate beauty and the conciousness of the task at hand. He ended by saying "be good to you". He is an amazing man who began journaling to understand the why of his wife's injury in a freak subway accident that left her partially paralyzed and has a huge following on his Yahoo group, Everyday Matters.

My focus this year was to take classes to improve my painting skills. I began my week with a class from Katie Kendrick, Tales from the Land of Odd. She is such a talented artist and teacher and led us in creating three canvases using the works of known artists to inspire us to create our own works of art. As a watercolor artist, it is very difficult to switch from my medium to acylic, painting from dark to light instead of light to dark. But Katie pushed each of us to experiment and the paintings produced in class by the students were amazing.

The face I completed in Misty Mawn's class. I was happy with it as a first attempt.

Misty's journal cover

My next class was a two day class with Misty Mawn, another talented instructor in which we learned to paint a face and put together a luscious painted journal 7" wide and 20" tall. We learned a wealth of background techniques in the class and she was very generous in the supplies and ephermera she provided. Unfortunately, my asthma kept me from attending the second day of class, and I was disappointed to have missed even a moment of this class.

DJ during class demo.

My journal cover partially finished.

My third class was a two day class with DJ Pettitt and she led us in creating a journal out of fabric and modeling past that was amazing. I felt like I had hit a grand slam with these instructors. They were incredible.
Glenda with her completed copper repousse box.

On Sunday, I was blessed with five wonderful women who joined me in my Copper Repousse class. They were all amazing artists and we laughed and chatted through the class as we created the repousse to mount on our display boxes. As you can see, their work was amazing.

Marie Kennedy with her completed box

All too soon, it was over and I had to return to my "ordinary" life. But the memories made during this week will last a lifetime. Next post: Apifera Farm