the universe is recording itself

The sun glinted off of my ring the other day as I was nursing, and a little circle of sunlight danced around the wall in the exact rhythm of my baby’s breath and wiggly movements.  If I weren’t also feeling his movements with my arms, I’d never have guessed the source, but because I knew where they came from, the co-incidence was really pleasing.  Since then, I’ve been on a circular meditation about the nature of life-recorded.  All of creation echoes, mirrors, plays back, reverberates.  It’s another spin on a subject that I’ve been fascinated with my whole life; the title of this blog itself is a testament to this obsession with the way that things gather and disperse according to likeness and diversity, responding and communicating– many parts forming a whole– everything riding on parallel tracks and wave frequencies– colliding, refracting and dividing, before regaining new harmonies.  As a couple of artists, my husband and I are in the business of creating likenesses, of reflecting back something of what we see or experience.  It’s fun to think of it as a further specialization of the sun glint– a manipulation of properties always and ever at work as the universe records itself.

The radio and television broadcasts that our planet has created are now reaching out into space, as well as endless other forms of communication– cell phone conversations, wireless networks, etcetera etcetera (in the midst of life we are in death, etcetera)– and it has always been beyond incredible to me that those of us with eyesight are privy to a tiny slice of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Vision!  And don’t even get me started on music.  Music!

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update: DWG

Linda Hutchins  Study for Lineal Silver (Pool) (studio view)  /  2009

DWG: A look at Contemporary Mark Making (opens August 29th)

The title turns out to be both more and less brief than my previous post’s announcement… and there’s now a nice page of the artists showing in the upcoming drawing-based show on Ohge Ltd’s site.

influence tracking #2: visual vocabulary

image: Camilla Engman‘s studio wall

(this is the second installment of this look at what gets my artistic motor running… #1 is here)

One of the most memorable assignments I had in my undergrad art education was in an Introduction to Ceramics class with Linda Arndt at Ball State.  She presented us with stacks of magazines that contained a wide diversity of content and then asked us to flip through, cutting out any image where we naturally paused.  After a spell, she had us go back through our stacks and make them into categories.  This was a tool for discovering our visual vocabulary– the shapes, colors, symbols, styles, (etc) could be more objectively seen when gathered in larger quantities.  I took the concept of this through my life– picking up anything that caught my eye and slipping it into a sketchbook.  The floating images have served as inspiration and guidance.  Some tendencies in my attraction have held on through the years– animals, boats, off-beat comics, old books.  Diagrams, anatomy, botany, geometry.  Some stylistic things seem to pass over the years, like my shorts with cargo pockets that feel outdated this season. When the internet became like an indispensable informational organ in our collective lives, this gathering of images became a folder on my desktop labeled “inspiration.”  I drop things into it as I surf, and flip through it when I’m getting dry, idea-wise.

Here’s my latest, digital version of an inspiration/visual vocabulary bank:  Zack and I share a flickr account, but I’m primarily the one who marks favorites.  If you’re familiar with flickr, you know that it grids all of the images that you mark as favorites from other users, and you have the option of seeing them as a slideshow.  Here is mine… (click on any image to see more info or to go to the flickr page of that artist/photographer).  Just like the old slips of magazine-paper stuck between pages of my sketch book, they come from all directions– from a quick “ooh, I like that,” to specific visual research or the occasional snapshot of someone I know.  Somehow, looking at it all at once (or chunks of it) gives me an inkling of what I’m after.

that air

One of my sisters is arriving in Paris today.  Maybe it’s that, maybe it’s the strange slow Northwestern approach to Fall (as a Midwesterner by birth, I’m still disoriented by a Fall or Spring that stretches longer than three weeks or so).  But today, there’s a wistful nostalgia and a vague but strong wanderlust in the moments that are less chaotic.  We picked blackberries at Discovery Park today, and, under the pretense of getting the baby to sleep, I wandered down a path alone (the baby really was close to sleep, so I was as close to solitude as these days will allow).  An aroma met me– some mix of brown weeds drying in the sun after a few days of rain– the burgeoning blackberries–  flowers that had dried on the branch– again, I don’t know what it was, but it was transporting.  I nearly cried with the effect of this smell… a complex wood-dirt-perfume.  One of the strangest parts of this life on earth is that you can’t get these types of experience on demand.  You simply have to wait.  Times that promise a sort of return leave you wanting, and gracious moments like these (in the middle of a challenging parenting day, where I was wearily wishing I were better at the job) broadside you when you’re least expecting it.

I’ll never forget a moment in one of my too-few trips to New York City.  After navigating the city as a tourist for a couple days, poring over maps and squinting surreptitiously at street signs, walking miles over pavement, and receiving, spottily, the throbbing input of masses of people and human language in all its forms, we stumbled onto a little corner of a city block that had been made into a green space.  It was humble but powerful.  Small paths led around trees into little alcoves where people could sit.  It was dusk, and summer.  The plants sighed out that particular smell that they exude when the sun goes down and the moisture of the air settles a bit.  And it was such a surprise to greet it in that context that I, like today, found that I was on the edge of tears.  To complete the picture, we met a (homeless?) traveler that, perhaps under the same spell, had taken his shoes and socks off to step in a puddle left by the evening watering, and the aroma there was a mix of infection and rotten leather.

For further realism, I nursed today in a spot where there was clearly a rotting animal nearby.  The dry weeds scratched my back and my sweet boy was inexplicably fussy.  All of this to say… those beautiful wisps of something that take you out of yourself into some sort of ecstasy are SO often sandwiched by the baser notes of experience.  And that’s, of course, what makes them so enchanting.

back in the two-seat saddle

Video still from “We are Good Helpers”  Zack and Gala Bent, 2008

Zack (my husband) and I are collaborating again!  Our last joint effort (aside from the inevitable continual help that we each rely on to get our own work done) was at Crawlspace, where our family camped out like modern day pioneers.  Our first efforts to work together were back in Buffalo NY, around 1998, where we struggled through awful collaborative paintings and wrote awful collaborative poems on bar napkins before experimenting with photo and collage to describe the process of give and take.  We were rewarded for our persistence; the pieces we made were accepted into the annual Western New York show, held by the Albright Knox Art Gallery.  (Wish I had an image readily available, but that was back in the day of *gasp* film slides.)  Since then, we’ve worked together on everything from design to quilted wedding backdrops, and, you know… the raising of three kids.

This summer, we have several design jobs flowing, and also this.  I was perplexed by the title Madart, until I realized that it was Madison Park centralized.  The project (which kicks off on September 12th) is designed to bring art into unexpected locations surrounding businesses in the Madison Park village.  I’m so excited to see what the other artists are working on, too.  More to come!

DRWNG: OHGE Ltd.

Peter Foucault “Swarm No. 2.”  Ink on paper.  25 x 30 in. 2007 via

I’ll have work up at the end of the month in a show with a terrific group of artists who use drawing as a central part of the work they do.  Opening on August 29th, for those of you in the Seattle area.  More info below:

DRWNG: A Brief Look At Contemporary Mark Making

Timothy Cross

Linda Hutchins

Counsel Langley

Peter Foucault

Kevin Haas

Scott Kolbo

Gala Bent

OHGE Ltd.  831 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA (next to Lawrimore Project, Downtown)

August 29th through September 26th

Opening Reception Sat. Aug. 29th 6-9 pm.