Saturday, December 29, 2012

Postcards, Treasures, and Art from the Heart


I've been doing artwork.  I had the opportunity this month to participate in several gallery shows here in Truth or Consequences.  

One was an annual Postcard Show at the Happy Belly Deli.  Last year, I just missed this one because I decided to go spend the winter in Arizona, and I was busy packing and getting ready to leave when the artwork was needed.  So I was really pleased to participate this year.  All of the work had to be 4 x 6 inches, in any media just so long as it could be attached to a wall fairly easily. I did the four doodly mandalas shown above.  

I got interesting feedback from several friends--one asked me if I used to be one of those nerdy artsy girls in high school who doodled on all of her notebooks.  "Why, yes, I was."  

Another friend, Brian Many Wheels, suggested maybe I'd done too much peyote in my youth.  "Well, no, I never tried that, perhaps I would've devoted more of my life to art sooner if I had?"  Then I reminded him of his earlier observation:  "I really like your art, Sue, but I wouldn't want to be inside your head."  Ha!  Brian bought the green postcard and has it in his Chinooky van for his current travels.

About the same time the postcards were due at the Deli, the "Treasures of Truth or Consequences" show was hung at Grapes, a nice big gallery on Main Street.  I played around with several different media for that show.  
 

This is a dry collage and acrylic paint representation of the Black Cat Books and Coffee logo.  Black Cat is a wonderful little used bookstore, one of the first places I experienced here last year that made me realize that TorC was "home."  I visited the store on my way through town when I was heading all the way to the East Coast, checking out various places I might want to live.  When I got back here a few months later, one of the customers overheard me tell Rhonda, the store owner, that I had just moved here, and she invited me to come sit with her and her friends.  That's the kind of place the Black Cat is, and that's why it was my first choice of subjects for the "Treasures of Truth or Consequences" art show.

 

Here's another dry collage and acrylics mixed media piece I did for the same show, called "We are the Water."  The mineral hot springs here in TorC are one of our country's secret treasures.  If people realized how inexpensively they could vacation or live here, while frequently "taking the waters," this town would be growing like Phoenix.  Fortunately, just a few of us find it and move here each year.  

Dry collage is an easy technique for successful mixed media pieces.  When I've done traditional collage using various types of glue, I've sometimes had paper bubble or become transparent or even regress to pulpiness.  (That is, the paper does these things...I usually don't.)  Dry collage preserves the integrity of all of the elements and the final work.  

Whatcha do is coat all of the pieces you want to put in your collage with acrylic medium (I bought a thick liquid type rather than the gel), let them dry, and repeat on the other side.  You also coat your canvas (or wood or paper, whatever you choose as a background) with acrylic medium. Then, using release paper (the slick paper that's on the back of labels or Contac paper), you can iron all of your pieces into place. If you've coated everything well, there are no bubbles and no corners or edges that pop up.  I totally love this technique and will be using it a lot in the future. 

One of the things I love about collage is the subtle or not so subtle use of subtext.  People looking at my Black Cat or Water pictures from a bit of a distance won't notice, but those looking closer will see that the backgrounds are all words.  The Black Cat collage has scores of poems about coffee in the background, which I stained with strong coffee and coffee rings.  The Water picture has wall tiles as a background, and the tiles are made of articles from scientific journals or newspapers.  Some of the words are about local controversies on who has the rights to the water.   


Another new-to-me technique that I used for the "Treasures" show is drywall mud carving.  I learned about this when I was on vacation up in Jemez Springs this summer.  I saw some work by an artist named Kristin Mendenhall that just knocked my socks off.  She coated pieces of wood with joint compound, also known as drywall mud.  Then after the mud had almost completely dried, she would re-wet some areas with a sponge or spray bottle and carve designs into the mud.  Later she thinned down some acrylic paints and used them to lightly color different areas of the picture.  

Kristin mostly does pictures of pottery, fruit, and flowers.  I could tell from her work that she was a former potter.  We talked and she said, yes, she no longer wanted to be tied down by a wheel, kiln, and all that shelving.  Dry wall mud carving was a great find for her, and she's developed the technique way beyond anything you'll find in print or online about it.  How lucky for me to happen to walk into the co-op gallery on the day Kristin happened to be working the desk!

The picture above is my drywall mud carving of El Cortez, our local movie theater.  I called it "Enjoy the Movie!", because that's what the theater owners' kids always say right before the show begins.


This picture is another drywall mud carving.  I call it "All Who Broke Down Here and Stayed," because the people of Truth or Consequences are its greatest treasure, and many people arrived here exactly that way.  
  
After getting these pieces to Grapes Gallery in early December, I took a little breather from creating artwork and worked hard at the retail biz at January's art and antiques gallery while also enjoying a long visit from Steve, who stayed through Christmas.  We had some interesting items come in at January's from consignors, including one person's lifelong collection of pigs which I spent about three weeks pricing.  Pig Christmas tree ornaments, piggy banks, pig shaped cutting boards, you name it, she had it.  We had one entire 9-foot Christmas tree that had only pig ornaments, and it was packed!  People loved it, and bought a lot of pigs.  Steve and Sonja did not work retail:


Then it was time to start gearing up for the next gallery show, which will start early next month at January's gallery.  The theme is "Art from the Heart," and the work can be about any aspect of love, romance, or related symbols.  I've done four pieces for the show and may do more.  Briefly the completed works are:  


An untitled "love the Earth" mandala--mixed media


Another mixed media, called "Warm Hands, Chile Heart"


"Black Heart Mandala," framed colored pencil on cardstock, above; and "Heart Mandala," also framed colored pencil on cardstock, below.



    
The latest development in my life here in TorC is my recent decision to forego having a part-time job.  After about three months of working for January, which I enjoyed immensely, I realized that I was feeling a constant and growing sense of financial worry.  It's hard to make ends meet working at a hair over minimum wage, and I couldn't ask January for more money, because she's recently expanded her store and has a lot of new expenses to deal with.  So I decided to put all of my energy and efforts into my other streams of income:  Selling on eBay; continuing to consign antiques and vintage clothing at January's store; and making art.  Fortunately, January is a good friend in addition to having been my employer, and she sees the wisdom in my decision and supports it.  

I loved bringing my skills to work at January's, but now I'm putting all that time and energy into my own business.  So, since Christmas, I've been listing auctions on eBay like crazy, and it's already paying off.  Who knew that a little metal wastebasket that I paid a buck for at the thrift store would sell for over $20?!  To me, selling on eBay and doing consignment at January's is great fun--I get the thrill of the chase, I get to shop even though I don't need anything myself, and then it's like gambling to wait and see how much return I get on my investment, except I don't lose money like I do when I actually go to a casino to gamble. 

Next episode?  My son Sly is coming to visit me, just about exactly a year after his last visit, and a very changed guy. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

A Working Artist Again

 Here is a mannequin I made for Passion Pie Cafe.  They are using it to display their logo T-shirts that are for sale.  When the mannequin is dressed, you can't see her sparkly lacy red lingerie or her tattoo, but I wanted her to have these features, anyway.  You can't tell what most women are wearing under their T-shirts, but it can make a difference in attitude!  I made the mannequin almost completely out of recycled materials.  In return for this work, I've been drinking coffee at no charge for a while. 

Several years ago, I started being a "professional artist" in Edmonds, Washington.  What I mean by that is, I would make mosaic artwork and galleries would show it and people would buy it.  It was a good gig.  I'd have fun gluing stuff to other stuff, and then people gave me money for it.  What could be better than that? 

Then I took a hiatus because of getting divorced.  I moved to a different community where there were artists in every house and only one for-profit gallery.  After a year there, not getting a foothold anywhere, I got rid of everything, moved into a 22-foot motorhome, and went exploring.  After some months of looking around, I chose to live in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  

"T or C," as we call it locally, is a really great place to get your start, or to restart, working as an artist.  There are lots of little galleries.  There are also lots of artists, but there are enough opportunities to go around.  It's taken me a little while to get going, but in December I'll have work in two galleries and two local businesses.   

 Here is the mannequin's tattoo and a glimpse of her lingerie.  She's a really happy gal and, if weren't for that chrome stand, I'm sure she would be doing the mamba.

I'm getting a lot of guidance and support from other artists in the community.  Most of them don't seem to have a competitive bone in their bodies.  They are a big help to me and to others.  We have a monthly Artists Salon where we talk about a topic of interest, such as "the role of the viewer," or "spirituality and art," or "where do you get your inspiration."  Some local artists are nationally and internationally known, and their insights at these meetings are really helpful to me.  I'm learning to relax and not worry about who likes my art, who doesn't like my art, whether my art sells, etc.  They tell me to just do my artwork and keep having the courage to put it where people can see it.  I'm really grateful to have kind, accomplished artists share their perspective with me. 

 Here is the finished mosaic wicker desk that is currently at Grapes Gallery for the Trash Bash Recycled Art Show, which is a benefit for a local organization called The Bountiful Alliance. 

That said, I have to get to work!  I was just allotted 10 feet of wall space at Grapes Gallery for their upcoming "Treasures of Truth or Consequences" show, and I only have sketches so far of local landmarks, scenes and people.  I have two weeks to move from sketches to finished works of art.  I also plan to complete a couple of 4 x 6 inch pieces for the December Postcard show at Happy Belly Deli.  I'll try to take a few photos as I do my work to share on the blog, or at least pictures of the finished pieces.  

 My kitchen window.  I know I am really settled here now, because I have two houseplants.

The rest of my life is going really well, too.  I started out working four days a week at January's, but have cut down to three so I have more time to do artwork and to sell on eBay.  This is working out really well all around--there are two other people working for January now, too, so everyone has some time on the schedule every week.  This means that there will be coverage whenever anyone is sick or on vacation, too.  That's great, because I'm planning to be in Florida for February and possibly ranch-sitting up in northern New Mexico for part of next summer.  Maybe January will even take a vacation!  I hope so--she works really hard and deserves a break.  

I'm experiencing my first cold weather here in TorC.  It's not bad at all so far--temps sometimes hovering around freezing overnight, but it warms up to the 60s on sunny afternoons.  The mornings and evenings can be cool enough to wear sweaters, drink hot chocolate, turn on the heat, etc.  I bought myself a used bread machine at the thrift store this morning, and I just returned from the grocery store, where I bought ingredients to make several soups this week.  I also bought a big thermos, which came in the mail today, for taking hot lunches to work for January and me to share.  

Steve was here recently for a week-and-a-half visit.  It was great.  I miss him, but if he was here right now, I'd have to mostly ignore him and work, work, work on my art.  When he comes back to visit me sometime in December, I'll have all that work done and on exhibit here and there, and I can relax and enjoy Steve's company.  

Life is good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting Into My New Routine

 Large cabinets currently for sale at January's,
with fabulous cactus paintings by "Spiny Lady" Stacey Jo Harms
in the background

Since I last wrote, I've started my new job working at my friend January's art and antiques gallery.   January's shop was full to the gills with high quality stuff, and she expanded to the storefront next-door, where I work.  We sell the larger pieces of furniture in my shop, plus we've moved the vintage clothing over to my side, because the new store already had dressing rooms built into it.  


 Paintings by Gretchen Barto, our featured artist for the October Art Hop

I'm working about 20 to 25 hours a week, and it's really enjoyable.  I'm constantly meeting new people, some of them local and some of them just passing through, and they all love the store.  The surroundings are very pleasant--January had the place painted with luscious colors chosen using feng shui, and there is art on the walls by local artists who are friends of mine.  Being a shopkeeper in such a lovely environment and dealing with (mostly!) pleasant people hardly seems like work at all.


Some beautiful Persian rugs also for sale at our store
 
Even though I'm only working part-time, it's the most I've worked outside of my home for many years.  Most of my work for the past several years has been selling on eBay, which I can do at any time of the day or night, in my jammies in front of TV if I choose.  

Getting a little dressed up and going to a workplace means having to be a little better organized about meals, errands, housekeeping, etc.  I'm adjustingAt first I found it hard to fit my eBay selling and art-making around my new job, but now in my third week, I'm getting better at balancing everything. 

A few small canvases on which I'm experimenting with pattern and color
   
Also since my last blog post, I've had some art work in a local artists show at Grapes, a very nice gallery here in Truth or Consequences.  My work has been well-received and I've gotten my first commission as a result, which I'll begin working on today.  

It's starting to get a little chilly here.  I haven't yet experienced a winter in T or C, but I understand there can be a couple of months of below-freezing weather.  So I'm beginning to stock up on sweaters and other warm clothes from the really great thrift shop that's on my block.  I used to own all that stuff, but got rid of most of it when I was traveling.

Steve is spending the winter, or at least some of it, in Arizona and will be coming back here to visit from time to time.  We're also starting to plan an RV trip to Florida in February.  My mom, sister and niece all moved to Sarasota recently.  It will be really fun to get out in the Guppy again for a long roadtrip, especially after experiencing a few months of work and colder weather here in New Mexico.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mixed Media and Chicken Soup


When I posted a blog last week, I mentioned my concern about getting enough artwork produced for an upcoming local artists show at my landlord's gallery for the October Second Saturday Art Hop.  I don't think I need to be concerned about coming up with enough work.  I still have almost three weeks to go, and I'm really enjoying being very productive, both at making artwork and in other arenas of my life.

The diptych above is called "Freak Flag," and I made it on two discarded shelves that I found at the thrift store.  I used scarves that hadn't sold on eBay to make the blue field and the stripes with their paisley overlay, and then I did a bunch of painting using acrylics.  A final touch which is difficult to see in the photo is that there are red glass gems that really draw the eye to the non-stripe elements.  It is a fun piece--not my best work, but someone is going to love it and take it home.  I will probably wait to show this one in November at the Trash Bash show that will feature recycled artwork.  


 For the October show, I'm mostly creating works on canvas that combine fabric and acrylic painting.  The one shown here is called "Swirl," and it's an extension of all of the mandalas I've been drawing by hand for the past six months or so.  Basically I'm just taking the mandala drawing into another medium.  This one was fun to paint, but a little more precise work than I usually enjoy.  I like the sense of being able to slap paint on something, without having to be too exacting about it.  


This one, called "Wild Thing," is a little more my style.  Yes, it's a painted mandala with fabric elements, but it's more haphazard.  This one was really, really fun to make, and I think the end result shows that.



Here's another mixed media picture that I completed yesterday.  This one has some floral scarf pieces overlaid with those leaf-type shapes from a vintage Vera Neumann scarf.  I call it "Viva Vera," and I hope it will be the first of many tributes to my favorite textiles designer.  


In this picture, I wanted to echo the flowers from the Vera scarf, but there was so much going on already that I was hesitant to paint a lot of flowers.  So I simplified it by making some potato prints of flowers instead of painting individual flowers.  The prints make the flowers more uniform in size and color than they would be if I'd freehand painted them.  

The main challenge I had with this piece was that it was too, too much!  Each fabric had a lot of color and texture, and some of the colors were really bright.  For a while, this work was so wildly colored that it looked the Easter Bunny had exploded while breaking through a stained glass window.  But I was able to tone it down and bring more unity to the picture by doing a lavender watercolor wash over some of it.

In addition to creating artwork, I've been getting a lot of scarves listed on eBay.  I also worked three partial days in a row in the new store, where we sold quite a bit of my landlord's old furniture.  Now I have some time off from working while the store is being painted and readied for being officially opened in October.  

I am thrilled by some of the developments as they have occurred.  It looks like I'll not only be selling the larger furniture that comes into January's, but also the clothing!  That will be really fun.  There are two dressing rooms already built into the new store space.  I'm looking forward to dressing up a little myself, after several years of wearing mostly T-shirts and jeans or shorts.  

Also, we're going to use a gallery picture-hanging system in the new store, so it will be easy to change out artwork.  January is open to my ideas about doing some calls for artists to put together some theme shows.  I can hardly wait!  I am going to learn so much from doing the PR and curating duties. 

My pace of producing artwork has slowed down a little the past couple of days.  I have a cold and I'm spending a few days taking really good care of myself.  Back when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, my colds often used to escalate into sinus infections or bronchitis, but that hasn't happened since I moved to the Southwest.  The hotter, dryer weather helps, and so does the fact that I use a Neti pot and give myself the time I need to rest.  Earlier this week, I made a big pot of chili with lots of garlic in it, and that seemed to help.  Today I have a big pot of homemade chicken soup on the stove.  I hope I'm back to my higher level of energy soon!        








Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Materials of Life


 Sonja checking out my new dresser

Last week I wrote about wanting surfaces to paint and buying some artist boards in order to have some.  Since then, many surfaces have come into my life.  Don't tell me the Law of Attraction doesn't work!  Of course, it helps that I live practically next-door to a thrift store and make a practice of keeping an eye on the loading dock.  

I am feathering my nest.  I bought a dresser from another antique dealer, Don Hallock, who lives a fascinating life.  He's a civil aviation collector who will be starting a museum here in TorC, and his wife, Priscilla Spitler, is a nationally known bookbinder.  You should see their respective workshops!  Wow!  I wish I'd had my camera with me when I visited their home. I could write numerous blog entries just about them and their work.

But I'll stick to my own.  While Don and Priscilla are painstakingly meticulous in how they execute their work, I'm more of a play-in-the-mud splasher.  I got the dresser home from Don's, thought about making it pristine white or neatly adding a few Southwest motifs, and then got out my acrylics and just started painting haphazard stripes in some of my favorite colors.  I like how it turned out.  It's a really happy dresser to wake up to in the morning.  I particularly like how the colors flow into one another.  

I needed the dresser because I had my winter clothes packed away in bags, and it's about time to start wearing long-sleeved garments again, at least some of the time.  We've had quite a bit of rain lately and occasional temps as low as the 60s.  

 Bulletin board above my drawing desk

In addition to finding and receiving furniture for my own home, I've also been acquiring some great stuff to make into art pieces.  And thank goodness for that!  When I went to the Art Hop on Saturday night, I stopped in at Grapes, a gallery owned by my landlord.  I mentioned to him that I was looking forward to showing some work in his gallery for the November Trash Bash (a recycled art show that I mentioned in my last blog entry), and he said they could also use my work for their October local artists show.  Each artist will have about 10 or 12 feet of wall space, and so far they only had about four people signed up and needed another half dozen or more.  So I said, "Sure, that would be great."  


Then I went home and couldn't sleep that night, wondering how the heck I was going to fill up all that space!  But it's okay.  Stuff is coming to me.  I'm working on an old rococo shelf that needs rehabbing, using papier-mache to make it into a Freakishly Ornate Rococo Shelf, or a Ro-Cuckoo Shelf, if you will.

It followed me home, Mom, I swear.
 
Then I ran across a banjo case that is so beat up, it's no longer functional for its original purpose.  I'm not sure what I will make of it yet, but the idea of a Steve Martin tribute is attractive to me.
 
  The inspector at work
 
Finding the banjo case reminded me that I have a couple of inexpensive ukeleles amongst my art supplies, and they make great canvases for mosaic, collage and painting, as well.  And I ran across some old shelving at the thrift store that is quickly becoming a multimedia diptych that I'll photograph and share in my next blog post.  
 
Being in such an acquisitional frame of mind, today I am buying a vehicle that is NOT an RV.  Well, it actually could be an RV if I chose to use it as one, but it's a 1998 Ford Windstar mini-van that I'm going to use as a small cargo van.
 
I'll be able to deliver furniture for customers at January's (for an extra fee--the store doesn't offer delivery) and I'll also be able to drive down to Las Cruces or up to Albuquerque to buy furniture that I'd like to resell here in TorC.  I've used my small Class C Toyota Dolphin to do a lot of eBay fodder shopping across the country, but a major limitation to the kind of stuff I'm into lately is that the Guppy has only a person-sized door.  My van will be great for larger items.
 
And it will be another canvas.  It's got some cosmetic damage--no accidents, just peeling away of some of the paint layers as a result of the beating it's gotten from the sun here in the Southwest.  I've always wanted to have an art car!   


 

  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hooked on Painting

 Collective Dream
Multimedia, 2012

So I have a new obsession (Geesh!  Like I needed any more!)   I love to paint.  In the past, I took some painting classes, but I've mostly just painted as a part of a larger project.  Furniture that I'm going to mosaic, for instance, often needs to be painted first.  But now, all of a sudden, I can't get enough of painting just for the sake of painting.  

The painting above is actually a multimedia piece.  I did it for an upcoming event here in Truth or Consequences that will happen in November.  An organization called Bountiful Alliance does all sorts of healthy things in our community, including heading up the local farmers market and providing a community kitchen where bakers and chefs can produce salable products without having to get their own kitchens certified by local health inspectors.  

In November, Bountiful Alliance is holding a month-long event focusing on Recycling called the T or C Trash Bash.  It will open with a fundraising exhibit of artwork at Grapes, a gallery on Main Street, with artwork made from recycled, repurposed or salvaged materials.

I'll definitely be bringing some of my mosaic works to the show, but I wanted to try some other media, too.  I literally rescued the stretched canvas for the above painting out of a dumpster.  It was an acrylic painting by an amateur artist who was giving up and throwing away his work (I also managed to wangle his left-over gesso and unstretched canvas from him).  To add to the recycled character of this piece, I also used three of my scarves that did not sell on eBay as part of the work, cutting them into pieces and gluing them to the canvas.  Then I added acrylic painting that echoed the motifs in the scarves.  Not surprisingly, in a mandala shape. 

I like the end result, and I named the work Collective Dream.  It reminds me of my dreams, which are usually never just about one thing.  My dreams are both enlightening and mysterious, uplifting and brooding.  Contrasts that somehow manage to coalesce into one entity, like this multimedia work.  

I can't wait to paint some more.  I mean it, I can't wait.  Today I need to sell stuff on eBay so I can afford to keep doing artwork, but first thing this morning I went out and bought artist board and talked with Ruanna at Hot Springs Frame Shop about board vs. canvas so I can decide which to buy next.  But, for now, I simply needed surfaces on which to paint, so I bought a couple of canvas-covered artist boards. 

I will try to abstain from painting today until I at least get a few scarves photographed and listed on eBay.  This craving to paint is a lot like how I used to feel when I still drank, and I would have to try to wait until 5 p.m. in order to be somewhat civilized.   
   
  
Sunrise photo taken from just outside my apartment door

Look at the sunrise!  How could anybody NOT want to paint?  

And then there is my cat.  Every day, she makes herself the subject of artwork yet to be executed.  

 Sonja in the big chair that Barbara gave me

My apartment is coming together.  I've become a lot more invested in it recently, now that I know I'm going to stay here in Truth or Consequences for a while.  I had borrowed some furniture from my landlord and my employer.  Almost all of this has now been returned, and I've replaced it with pieces I've either purchased or been given.  

My friends Barbara and Kathleen are moving away to Maine, to a smaller home, and they have generously given me a nice big living room chair and ottoman and some shelving.  Then I bought a futon last week to use as a couch in the living room and as a spare bed for when my son Sly comes to visit.  I bought a big work table for photographing my eBay stuff and working on big pieces of art.  I have a smaller table/desk for drawing and a computer desk.  My dining room is, in fact, an office and art studio, and I usually eat in the living room while reading or watching TV.  I've gotten a bookcase from my new employer, January, and I'll also be buying a dresser from her out of my first paycheck.  I am invested.

I have even bought a couple of really snazzy fresh design items online at Fab.com, including a wall clock and a pendant lamp.  If you haven't tried it, Fab has really juicy daily offerings of modern and vintage design, at all price points, for everyone.  If you decide to go check out Fab, please go through this link so I can get some points towards future purchases.  Thank you, and you will also thank me.  Fab is irresistible.  Like painting. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Change


I have changed the name of my blog.  

I started a "Soaring Sun Studio" blog in 2009, back when I still lived in Washington State and was first starting to have some success as a professional artist.  Later, my personal life was unsettled and I had difficulty doing artwork and writing about it in a blog.  

In 2011, after getting a divorce, I hit the road in my motorhome.  As I was getting ready to leave, I started my second blog, "The eBay/RV Life."  Throughout my travels, I gathered readers and friends.

Now, well into 2012, I am back to being settled in one place, at least for a while, and I'm doing a lot of creative things.  It's time to focus on my artwork again, hence the name change for the blog.  

I may lose some readers who were primarily interested in the travel aspect of my life.  That's okay.  I will probably eventually gain some readers who are interested in my art journey.

Current mosaic projects

And a journey it is!  A few years ago, if you'd asked me to define myself as an artist, I would have said simply that I'm a mosaic artist.  Now my media and interests have broadened.  I still like to glue things to other things, but I've also been drawing nearly every day for many months, and I paint frequently, too.  Collage, papier-mache, and sculpture have all been calling me.  Seriously, calling me.  I have dreams about doing artwork and then I get up and do it.  Sometimes I don't wait until morning.  
 
I still sell vintage designer scarves and funky Western wear on eBay, and I still use my RV to travel.  But now I also have an apartment and job in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

In fact, I am in the process of changing jobs.  I've worked at a lovely hot springs motel for the past two summers, but I've just been offered work by my friend January who is expanding her art and antiques gallery.  I'll have the freedom to do artwork and sell on eBay during the down times between customers.  Yay!   

I also sell antiques, vintage clothing, and my own artwork at January's.  Recently I framed and hung 10 colored pencil pictures there, mostly mandalas.

Here are some shots of a sculpture called "Better Living" that I recently completed.  It's in response to a Call for Artists that my friend James Gasowski made for his Gallery Niche.  There will be a show at Niche during the September Second Saturday Art Hop that is dedicated to National Literacy Month.  All of the works must be related to books in some way.

 
For my sculpture, I started with an interesting hardcover book called "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Processes and Trade Secrets."  This book is packed with about 10,000 recipes for how to make everything from absinthe to zinc plates.  Whatever the problem...chemistry to the rescue!  


The book is fascinating.  I had thought perhaps I could use it to make some "natural" products at home such as cosmetics or cleaning products, but I found myself rather appalled by the ingredients used in the early part of the 20th Century.  A cough syrup recipe calls for heroin, and other formulas call for chemicals I wouldn't put in or on my body.  


The base of "Better Living" is recycled wood with paintings and fabric motifs related to natural earth elements and species...water, dirt, fish, birds, plants.  The book cover is flattened on top of these pictures, and the bust arises up out of the book.  Her face, head, and horn-like appendages are covered with formulas and swirly fabric designs, as if her head is spinning with too much information and is under even more pressure from the carriage bolts driven into the ends of the horns.  Poor gal!  Yet the bright colors, the unexpectedness of the horns and the sculpture's name indicate that it's not all that serious.  

My next project is going to be a table top for Passion Pie Cafe, where they have local artists paint tables that are used and sold, creating a constant flow of new artwork nearly as tantalizing as the fabulous pastries made on site.  

So...this is my new blog, and I hope you like it.

Many things change, but some stay the same.  Sonja loves boxes.

 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vacationing Along the Jemez Mountain Trail






Ahhh, it feels good to be on the road again.  Steve and I are on a vacation in northern New Mexico.  As one of my friends observed, I really NEED a break from the stress of working one day a week at a spa.  Yeah, whatever.  I know I need to get out of town sometimes or I get a bit cranky and maybe even boring.

This trip has been anything but boring.  We hardly planned it.  We're going with the flow, taking things as they come, playing it by ear.  

On Wednesday, our first day out, we thought we'd get north of Albuquerque, but the brakes on the Guppy were mushy, so we added brake fluid.  When that didn't help very much, we overnighted at Kiva RV Park and Horse Motel, where I'd spent several nights last year before I first went to Truth or Consequences, and then had the brake lines bled in Belen by a mechanic whom we've gotten to know all too well on trips between TorC and Albuquerque.  Fifty dollars and a great breakfast later, we were back on the road.  If YOU ever break down south of Albuquerque, check out Mike's Auto Detailing (he's actually full-service) and Frances' Restaurant (menudo every day, but, no thanks, I'll pass on the tripe).  They're on Main Street, you can't miss 'em.



We still had plenty of time on Thursday after the brake repair to head up to Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo.  This is one of the pueblos that was probably visited in the mid-1500s by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado on his famous trek to find the Seven Cities of Gold.  All he found were Indians, but they were living an abundant, usually peaceful life.  Unfortunately, Coronado and his 1000+ followers stuck around long enough to change this pretty drastically.  (They wiped out at least two pueblos that got tired of feeding the entourage, and many more people died of illnesses to which they had no immunity.)  


The Coronado State Monument was established after WPA workers accidentally dug into a beautiful, rare, painted kiva in the 1930s.  Painted kivas were not so unusual a few hundred years ago, but they're rare today because they are so difficult to preserve.  

The paintings are done in a kind of fresco with natural dyes, and they are painted over and over many times.  It's thought that the process of painting pictures in a kiva was a sort of meditation or prayer.  So, in the one we saw, there were probably six inches of paintings that had been done over several hundred years.  Most of the preservation was done by an anthropology graduate student, who tried to isolate some of the most complete drawings and preserve a single layer.  

The paintings we saw inside the kiva were reproductions done by an Indian in the 1930s who got thrown out of his tribe for being willing to share something so sacred with the rest of the world.  You can still see some of the original paintings, dating from the 14th to 16th centuries, in another building where they are preserved.  

All very cool.  But the Coronado Campground just outside the Memorial was not so cool--they wanted $18 for us to park on a bit of gravel right next to a really big rig.  So we took a chance on what we'd find up the road, and it paid off!


We headed north up to Highway 4, a winding road through the Jemez Mountains that offers lots to see and do.   We got to see people still living in the old Jemez Pueblo, and we stopped at their visitor center, where they also provided information on National Forest Service campgrounds in the area.  So we ended up at a really nice little campground that cost us only $5 (Steve has the Golden Age pass).  We were surrounded by red rock mesas and we were close enough to Jemez Creek to hear a little waterfall.


After spending most of this summer in southern New Mexico, the cool evenings in the north are very welcome, as are the sights and scents of different vegetation.   We slept among the junipers on Thursday night, and then among pines last night (Friday).


Yesterday morning, we headed into the town of Jemez Springs.  It is a spa town, sort of like TorC, but smaller and up in the mountains.  It has some great little collectively-run art galleries, where I bought a couple fun things and learned lots about a top secret newly-invented media that I'll try working with once I get home.  We stopped for coffee at Hwy4 Coffee, which had free wifi.  That was great, because I hadn't had phone or Internet access for a while. 

 
We did not go sit in the mineral springs--we can go for free when we're home, and also the ones up here have a distinct sulfur odor, which we don't have in TorC.  In fact, when we were driving by that stretch of Jemez Creek, I sniffed and looked askance at Steve, because I was pretty sure the odor was his fault; but then we stopped to look at a natural dam that is the result of many years of mineral deposits caking up in one place, and that's when I realized, "Oh, it's the creek that smells."


We drove up mountains on scary roads yesterday to see about staying at Fenton Lake State Park, but the campground was full, so we just ate lunch and headed back to Highway 4.  Then we found another nice NFS campground where we slept last night.  Steve heard wild turkeys and had brought along his turkey call, so he tried to attract them closer, but there were too many people in the campground for these skittish birds to come visit us.  We did see a few other smaller critters, though, and we heard lots of barking dogs. 







I was ready for a different sort of campsite tonight, after being woken by the dogs this morning, and we have found it.  We spent part of today at Bandelier National Monument (which was, disappointingly, mostly closed due to rocks on the road), and the rest of the day at the science museum in Los Alamos (owned and run by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, just so you know what to expect if you go there yourself--very informative, but don't expect to hear ANY criticism of nuclear weaponry or energy).  Even though we weren't really thrilled by the attractions in this area, the drive itself was amazing.  Lots of switchbacks and scary mountain roads.  I love that sort of thing!  

When it came time to find a campground, we were near Espanola, and the only "RV park" in town is one of those places where people tend to live full-time.  Really run down and right in town.  So, after driving around north of town and asking some questions, we found ourselves at a fishing lake at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.  We don't have hook-ups or showers, and it is way overpriced, but we are also the only ones staying here overnight (so far), I'm writing this about 10 feet from the lake, and there are no dogs.  There's a nice breeze and the evening promises to be pleasantly quiet and cool.  


We left Sonja at home in this little tiny basket (and arranged for daily visits by our friend Kelly, who is a great pet sitter!):




We plan to continue our vacation for another five or six days, so I think there will be another blog post about this trip.  We're thinking of heading east next, through some of the mountains south of Taos,  catching up with our friend Bridget at her ranch or somewhere nearby, and then circling back to Santa Fe where we know a few nice folks.