Sharing the Love. Still.

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted on this blog and I have to admit feeling somewhat remorseful about that. I love this project, this book, and the good that I’ve seen it do! (So far we’ve donated $3,000 to pay for preventative breast cancer screening for non-insured and under-insured women.) We believe in the power of spreading the love!

My personal battle with breast cancer began in 2010 and sparked the creation of our book,
26 Love Letters for Mama.  Inspired by a poem written as a gift to me from my daughter, Ema B Greenspan, and nurtured by the encouragement of two dear friends who offered to assist with illustrations, we made the decision to share with women everywhere the comfort, heart-lifting joy, and beauty that I had experienced. Those two friends, along with 20 other female artists, came together with no expectations except to make something wonderful. The journey toward the creation of our book was, for me, as much joy as the poem itself. In it, I found the unforeseen gifts of immersion in creativity and the community of extraordinary women.

Ema and me, 2007

When I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in September 2012, I was totally freaked out but also blessed- not only to have a creative focus at that time but also to have the wonderful support of the artists from the book, many of whom by then, were fast friends. I’m not saying it was a picnic. But I still felt like a lucky girl- as I do today!

love

Me with my girl, 2010

26 Love Letters for Mama was originally released in April 2014. Now, two years later, our book is still vital- and I’m happy to report- so am I! Although I find that cancer has worn out both its welcome (and its hostess on some days), here I am! Back to say that I’m still on the planet and still excited about sharing the love. One of the things that I have learned over these years is that love and support never go out of fashion. Mamas always want to hear they are adored and women’s art has an exquisite timeless quality that touches the heart.

Ema and I want you to know that we will still be donating $10.00 for every book sold to support breast cancer research and awareness.

Now that my own diagnosis has become Stage 4, Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC), I’ve learned a lot about funding. Because Stage 4 breast cancer is currently classified as a terminal disease that takes the lives of 40,000 men and women every year and is also the least funded, we have decided to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  BCRF is recognized as one of the most financially efficient nonprofits in the country. They are the only breast cancer organization with an “A+” from CharityWatch and have a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. Both Ema and I feel very good about them. We hope you will too.

Please consider purchasing 26 Love letters for Mama to give to the mamas in your life, or to keep for yourself on those days when you need a lift. I promise you, it’s the sweetest Mother’s Day gift ever and one that you’ll you’ll always enjoy. Just click here to order.

Thank you for your past, and continuing support!
With love, hope and blessings to you all –

Susan

In April of 2014, we released a book that was a labor of love. My daughter,
Ema B Greenspan,  wrote the poem, she and I collaborated on one of the illustrations. The two of us, along with 22 other talented female artists from the Northwest, created a compilation of beauty that honors mother’s in particular, but also women everywhere.

Ema B Greenspan

Ema B Greenspan

That book was 26 Love Letters for Mama,
an alliterative ABC.

Today, I am so proud to say that the book has done well. Not blockbuster well. Not New York Times Bestseller well. But so well that this year, we have been able to donate $3,000.00 to the Women’s Cancer Coalition,  giving low-income, uninsured and underserved women a real chance to catch breast and cervical cancers before they have a chance to grow or spread.

Your generous support of our book has helped 100’s of women to have free screenings where otherwise they may have ignored potentially life-threatening.symptoms. Thank you for helping to make this possible!

I hope that if you already have one of our books, that it brings you as much joy and comfort as it has brought me to help create it. If you would like to order a book for yourself, or would like to have one sent to a loved one, please follow this link. Your Mother will be delighted!

You’ll also be pleased to know that $10.00 from every purchase will continue to go to the Women’s Cancer Coalition.  A double blessing.

All the best,
Susan

What an Honor!

Recently  a friend called and suggested that I might want to have my book, 26 Love Letters for Mama, at the Corvallis Lunafest, which was January 31, 2015  at 7pm at the LaSelles Stewart Center.  lunalogoI was thrilled! They also asked me to be the GUEST SPEAKER!! So naturally, I was thrilled and petrified. :>)

Here is a link to the video in case you missed it: Lunatalk Susan Chung 2015  and some information about Lunafest. It’s really an amazing celebration of creativity and women’s art. I hope you’ll look for it next year!

“LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women. This season, their program of nine films – filled with stories of reflection, hope and humor – will travel to over 150 cities and screen in front of 25,000 people. Each year, various organizations bring LUNAFESTs to their communities and raise funds for their local non-profits as well as our main beneficiary – Breast Cancer Fund.”

Here is a short trailer about Lunafest. Watch!

Lunafest is an 11 year old tradition in our community and this year it was hosted by the  Women’s Cancer Coalition. I am so honored to be able to contribute to this wonderful and worthy cause.

Proceeds from this event will be used to help non-insured and under-insured women in our community receive mammograms early on, to help stop the spread of breast cancer. Thank you for all you do!

-Susan

Another Beautiful Day

Foehn Wind

Foehn Wind by Lisa Kaser

 

 


April 27, 2014-
When I woke up today, still slightly battered from the intensity of standing for hours and smiling from the tips my toes to the top of my head at the river of loved ones who came to the Art Sale and Benefit on the 26th, I was thinking…. I need to change my blog entry so that I don’t confuse people….

I like to try to concentrate on what each day brings, what is unique and wonderful to enjoy, and today I have the gift of only-a-handful-of-deadlines, and all of them pretty easy. This wealth of free time has blessed me with the luxury of remembering the interactions of Saturday -with so many good friends, those newly met, and the outpouring of love from my family. What a beautiful day.  With luck, that trend is continuing.

Many of you came to my table on Saturday expecting your book to be there and I so apologize that I was not able to carry all of them with me at that time. Today, I will try to deliver as many as possible and for those close in, they may even arrive by post today.
Thank you, so much for all of your love and support for this project. My heart is full and content and  yet already peeking around the corner for the next spark of inspiration!

One of the most delightful parts of the last two years has been interviewing these talented artists and writing about their lives and work. That, I think, may be one of the waves of my future as I continue to design my life. I hope so.

Thank you for reading and for loving art as I do. Like Lisa Kaser’s “Foehn Wind” above, art has a way  of capturing exactly what we’d otherwise struggle to put into words, reminding us that others do know our hearts nearly as well as we do. Confirmation and resonance to help us on our way. It always thrills me!

I’ll be in touch soon, but for now, coffee….all the while catching the breeze of desire and inspiration. Hearing the small excited voice asking, “what’s next…”?

-Susan

 

 

So Much to Be Thankful For

So much has happened and so much amazing energy is coming together!!

As many of you know, our Kickstarter Campaign was wildly successful and the books are home from the printer! I can tell you that they are simply gorgeous and that all of the artists that I have spoken with are delighted at the way their art has been portrayed by the photographer and the printer.  This picture is smaller than the books actually are but the truth is, they look as fresh as Spring and are just full of light!
sniped cover

And Now it’s Celebration Time!

Everyone is invited to attend the Riverside Art Sale and Benefit which will take place at the Wheelhouse Event Center in Albany Oregon. The street address is 421 NE Water Avenue and we will be there  from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, April 26th with books to sell, art from 15 of the 22 artists which is also for sale, live music, great food and a beautiful venue. We hope that you will come out to see us, Pick up your Kickstarter books, buy more for the rest of your loved ones and treat yourself to owning an original piece of art from any of these beautiful and talented women from the Northwest. I’m sure that the effect of all this beauty in one place will be a treat not to be missed!!

Here is your personal invitation and map: We hope to see you all there!

Invitation for YOU!

Invitation for YOU!

 

The Depth and Design Of Laura G. Berman

Nuno felted fabric with ruched silk negative space

Nuno felted fabric with ruched chiffon negative space

In the hills outside Philomath, Oregon, in her light-filled studio, Laura G. Berman is taking fiber art to new heights. By seeking answers to complex design questions she confounds, perfects and celebrates her medium-of-choice: felted wool.

Laura has worked in fiber arts for many years. She began by studying clothing and textile design at Oregon State University where she learned the art of clothing construction, pattern-making, tailoring and finishing. She has enjoyed success in garment design and has a portfolio of beautifully designed and executed garments, made mostly of natural fibers. Today, although fine art rather than clothing design is her focus, she often employs these early skills in her work. Her attention to detail is flawless.

The term “fiber art” evokes images of quilting, knitting, weaving and spinning- and the many types of fibers: linen, cotton, silk and wool. These techniques and materials are comfortably familiar and associated specifically with what has traditionally been women’s purview- the design and creation of clothing and goods for use in a home. However, several years ago I was introduced to fiber arts through another artist, Carol Moore, of Toronto. From her I first learned about the art of felting, beading and embroidery and I began to be introduced to wool in its many forms beginning with a fleece: carded, combed, spun, dyed, naturally light and dark- as varied as the sheep who wore them. So when I met Laura last year, I was familiar enough with the art form to be prepared to appreciate her mastery of the medium.

Nuno felted scarf

Nuno felted scarf

Within the fiber art medium there are hundreds of different wools and fibers to choose from, each with its own unique properties and handling abilities. Manipulated in different ways, these fibers create unique textures, ruching and drapery. Laura’s natural curiosity drives her to learn just how far each material can go toward creating the look and feel that she loves while still retaining its inherent properties.
Her goal is to create beauty that can be seen and appreciated from any angle- either worn on the body or as sculpture- with the purest of fibers and techniques. She achieves this through concentration on depth and design- with the delicate and controlled painterly aspect of her treatment of wool, in particular. This desire for purity within her medium requires discipline and planning- if not engineering. Wool fibers are laid down with extreme care and with an eye to how they will appear when felted- recognizing that the last layer may obscure those that lie beneath and yet requiring enough depth to create the structure or fabric that she intends. This discipline, in concert with her challenging subject matter and well-schooled sense of design, distinguishes Laura’s work and elevates it to “art” from what has often been seen as “craft”.

Waltzing Daffodils- felted vessel

Waltzing Daffodils –  felted vessel

Laura and her husband, Lee Kitzman, a celebrated ceramic artist, have studios side-by-side in the meadow beside their home. Surrounded by the beauty of nature and wildlife, Laura has spent years creating amazing and colorful works of art, all made from various fibers- mostly of natural origin. Her workspace is warm and inviting and literally bursting with beautiful things, abundant textures and colors.
There are felted images of dancing women in frames on the wall that she has created with felted wool, handmade silk paper and ribbon and then embroidered with threads of various hue and texture. Across the room, exotic floral designs made from brightly dyed hand-felted wool seem to lean out in welcome. One wall of her studio is lined with a rack filled with raw materials: boxes of fabric in silk, linen, gauze, wool and cotton plus assorted ribbons, roving, dyed “top” wool and yarns. Nearby are boxes of nuno-felted scarves in a delicious array of designs.
Nuno-felting is a fabric felting technique revived and championed by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, whom Laura took workshops from several years ago when Ms. Stirling visited Oregon. It was Ms. Stirlings’ belief that wool and a fabric (such as silk) could be felted together to create a new fabric that is both light and sheer- unusual qualities in traditionally felted wool.

Peony. Hand felted vessel

Peony –  felted vessel

This process completely fascinated Laura who then studied nuno and other felting techniques to create amazing fabrics. This study has culminated in what have become her signature pieces: beautiful felted vessels and scarves. A quick look around Laura’s studio reveals a wealth of these exquisite designs that are as expressive and vibrant as Laura herself.
“I ask myself, how can I make something that looks real? How can I create something organic without sewing or painting or going back in to add embellishments with a fiber needle? How can I represent a flower or a piece of fruit or an idea using wool alone or wool and silk, or wool and cotton or…”

Nuno with Ikat motif

Nuno with Ikat motif

“ In this medium you can call on so many historical traditions to find different techniques that have been created over the generations. “I have been attracted to the textile art of many cultures, especially Ikat, and yet find that my most important influences are much more contemporary and immediate. I love the designer Issey Miyake for his innovative lines, Georgia O’Keefe for her simplicity and her palette and of course, Jori Johnson, an internationally renowned felt artist guru, whom I met in Kyoto.”
Fiber art is a contact sport, so to speak, and Laura is a diminutive person so to see her in action in her studio is quite impressive. Extremely hands-on and deliberate, she has pushed the boundaries of her medium tirelessly. Laura’s spirit of hard work and curiosity is in evidence everywhere. She has spent years developing fabric-making techniques and has employed that fabric in many ways but it was predominantly two dimensional in the form of wall art, rugs, scarves and fabric-making. The advent of vessel-making answered a different challenge.

Let's Samba! - felted vessel

Let’s Samba!  – felted vessel

“About 6 years ago I had abdominal surgery and found that I was unable to work in the ways that I had done previously. Nuno-felting, in particular, requires a lot of standing and rolling and smacking fibers together to get them to connect. Sitting, and working smaller by making vessels was the answer to my continuing to make art. I began by felting around bases and seeing what was possible. I added embellishments and tweaked final pieces but then decided that the true test of this art form would be to felt the entire vessel, along with its top and base and decorative work all at the same time. That is the way that I still work now and it pleases me not to add anything to the final piece. When the felting is done, I am done too.”
If we were to apply the technique above to a simple design with a few different colors it would already be remarkable but Laura’s detailed and whimsical vessels are exquisite works of art and micro-engineering as well. As you look at the photos, imagine the planning and the delicacy of the technique that allowed each vessel not only to survive the felting process, but to bloom because of it! The intricacy of her design and the attention paid to each aspect of the pieces is truly remarkable.

Fruit Salad- Nuno felted vessels and sculpture

Fruit Salad- Nuno felted vessels and sculpture

Laura is expanding her repertoire daily. She has begun to work much larger and to work with “found objects” that are now incorporated into her pieces. She is a force to reckon with in the fiber world and who knows what amazing creations she will challenge herself with next?

 

 

 

Laura G. Berman teaches classes occasionally and shows frequently.
Her most immediate venues are:
Philomath Open Studios
Oct.26th, 27th, Nov. 2nd, 3rd

Sitka Art Invitational
Nov. 1-3rd

Hallie Ford Museum of Art (HFMA)
Museum store (on-going)

 

Diane Culhane, on Creating

 

Believe, 24"x24" , Acrylic on Canvas

Believe, 24″x24″ , Acrylic on Canvas

Diane Culhane is an internationally acclaimed professional artist and art educator who lives in West Seattle. She was recently featured as one of the “hottest artists in Ballard” in the Delta Sky Magazine’s May-June 2013 issue that focused on Seattle as a destination. (Note:  The article is written in Japanese.) http://www.deltasky.jp/travel/201305_1.html

One glorious afternoon last year, I found Diane online and immediately phoned to see if she would be interested in doing a piece for the book, 26 Love Letters. She was very interested and I made a point to see where she would be showing her work so I could meet her in person. I found her at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem, Oregon where she is a featured artist, at the 2012 Salem Art Festival and most recently at her studio in Building C in the thriving Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

I drove past the old storefront in Ballard at least three times before I realized that yes, this well-worn building was the one. I phoned and Diane said she would be right down to get me. Not wanting to miss her, I walked to a place where I could simultaneously see two of the entryways and waited for her to open one of the doors. During our interview I would be watching closely for another kind of door to open- one that would lead to a pathway so I could follow Diane into her world.

Table Top I Orange Meets Blue

One of 4 paintings commissioned for Bham Cancer Center in Bellingham, Table Top I Orange Meets Blue, 20″x16″ , Acrylics on Canvas

When I first saw Diane’s effervescent paintings I felt that I was seeing a synthesis of Paul Klee meets Marc Chagall. In addition to the playful and often bright palette, there are symbols that emerge and re-emerge throughout her work including flying people, villages on clouds, forests of flowers, a menagerie of mythical and lively animals, bicycles and wagons, full moons and lovers. The dialogues are intimate and precious, deeply personal and yet primal in the way that they touch the viewer deeply. I was drawn to know more about how Diane sees the world and what drives her to create.

As we walked up the stairs to her studio, she introduced me to the work of the various artists who share the loft where she paints.  The old building is divided into 28 separate private areas.  Having seen the panoramic video of her studio on her website, I was expecting a large sun-filled space. When we walked through a door and turned right to go to a smaller area, I was a bit surprised. This, I learned, was a portion of the once “ building-length” studio- now truncated out of necessity but still vibrant- filled with paintings as large as doors and as small as cocktail napkins- in various stages from just begun to sold;  clippings, drawings and color palettes. Two tables, a sofa, and three beautifully hand-painted chairs beckoned to us.  From this vantage point, Diane’s studio looks both loved and worked in and is filled with the energy that is uniquely her own.  For Diane this place is sanctuary and sacred space. Having a place of one’s own to create and to stop time- that is the priority.

Three Boats
Three Boats, 14 x14″, Acrylics on Canvas

“Time”, Diane explained, “is a precious commodity and can be perceived in many ways.  Einstein’s Dreams,  by Alan Lightman, is a small book about time I used to read to my students. In it, he describes different kinds of time. For example, there’s Studio Time which is when you are working.  Then there’s Clock Time that everybody uses as a coordinating thing so you know you have a deadline. Clock Time is external because creativity comes from inside, not from external forces. Even though in the world you gather information and synthesize it, when you are in the studio you set that information aside and instead of having to focus on that one thing you need to get done, you allow yourself to work in a series- to go where your joy leads you.  This is how I work.”

“I like to work in silence without music, because that’s how I find space. Songs have a beginning and an ending and can define time but I find when I work in the quiet I can begin early in the day and suddenly it’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I haven’t even finished my morning coffee!”

Diane Culhane Quote 1As I watch and listen to her I come to realize that Diane is one of the most enigmatic and unique people I have ever met. She actually lives and breathes art. It’s as though she is her creations- and they are her. My sense is that she simply could not live without spending hours per week in her studio, creating, and thereby manipulating, her day-to-day reality. As if by painting, she molds her universe to reflect her personal vision of the world and she is perfectly happy to live there- rather than here, with ordinary people. Deeply spiritual, her paintings are devotional- many of them prayers on canvas. It’s impossible not to be moved by her work.

“Art comes from a quiet place within yourself.  In your studio you are alone and you are communicating with yourself- dialoguing between that place of speech and silence. It comes from emotion, I think. You are doing and you are watching at the same time and as long as you don’t tell yourself that you ‘like it or you don’t like it’- you don’t set that standard for yourself-  you delight in watching the colors go on the page and see what comes from that conversation that you are having with yourself.”

Small Plates III

Small Plates III, 7 x 7″, Acrylics on Canvas

“If you can just flip that switch and follow your heart, really, that’s the thing. Then later go in and evaluate what you’ve created- not in the benchmark of like or dislike but using the elements of good design to constructively see what you’ve done. And I try not to judge too harshly. Judgment can be influenced by so many things- Maybe you’re tired.  I always joke around that maybe I need to go get a donut or some honey water so that I can ‘see’ better what I’ve done. But a little sugar can sometimes just put you in a better place because then you’re ‘filled; filling comes too in the delight in seeing what you are doing. That’s the sweet spot.”
Diane Culhane Quote 2

“I don’t always find that at the beginning. It usually happens toward the end of the painting when everything starts to come together. When I first start a painting, everything goes really fast because it’s not permanent- everything’s layers and as they build, things start to happen. As I get closer to finished it’s like it all comes into focus and I go over the trees, over the bumps and whoosh! It’s done!”

“And that’s the whole thing: Trust it. Trust it. Trust it. Creativity is not something that goes away. It’s not something you lose. It’s not something you gain by merit because you have a measure of success in your head. It’s the gift of delight.”

 As we walk around the room I ask Diane about the symbolism in her work and I ask her if there is a story for each painting. “ I started writing poetry for a while because it all comes from this group of stuff.  It’s almost as though you could put it in a basket.  For me it just has to do with living everyday life.  I want it to be familiar yet somehow I want to present it with a freshness that on our grey days we miss- but we know it’s still there. I think it’s the artists’ job to present something that hasn’t been seen in a general mode.” 

From the painting "Believe II, 36"x48" Acrylic on Canvas

From the painting, Believe II, 36″x48″ Acrylic on Canvas

“The human figure creates a dialogue and that dialogue creates the narrative for each painting. To do a painting without a figure is really hard for me.   But what’s really fun is getting to manipulate reality on a flat surface and create something that is uplifting and life-giving with bright colors that pushes away the greyness.

I can’t imagine running out of images or ever being bored with this work”.

 

 

 

For more information about Diane, her classes and where to see her work:

Kelsey Creek Art School

Go Go with Van Gogh Class

 

 Go Go Van Gogh at Kelsey Creek Farm
It’s not too late to register your 6-11 year old for the best summer camp ever!  Diane has been teaching at Kelsey Creek Farm since 1984. Originally she was the ceramics studio director and teacher. That work morphed into Art Camp in 1992. Says Diane, “I do it because I have kids from 9:30-3:00 every day and there is enough time for studio time plus there’s farm time too and that outdoor connection! When I taught in the school district it was only 1 hour and every hour on the hour, which is just not enough time for kids to be creative. But now I do Art Camp and I love it!”

 

ArtEast Workshop
For students aged 16 years and up. June 8th or June 9th  10-3:00 in Issaquah, Washington

One on One Classes with Diane
For more information please contact her directly at diane@dianeculhaneart.com

The Art of Silliness
http://www.carlasonheim.com/
This is the website of friend and fellow artist and educator, Carla Sondheim. Watch for Diane’s class sometime in July. Classes will be under ArtCamp 2013.

Open Studio: Building C
Meet Diane in her studio during Open Studio: Building C, http://www.buildingc.com/
Every second Saturday 6-9pm , 1418 14th Ave NW, Ballard, WA
Coming this week!  Ballard Art Walk and Open Studio: Saturday, June 8th — 6 to 9 PM

Diane Culhane at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery
Coming in October 2013, a Gallery Show at Mary Lou Zeek in Salem, Oregon http://www.zeekgallery.com/

Read more about Diane and her work online at her website:http://www.dianeculhaneart.com/  and visit her etsy site to own a piece of magic yourself:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/DianeCulhaneArt?ref=ss_profile

Tell Me a Story…

When you enter the Waterstone Gallery on 12th in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon, one of the first sensations you may have is sheer delight.  The colorful and orderly space is filled with wonderful treats that beckon the viewer to get closer and see more.

Double Vision Confusion

Double Vision Confusion

The second sensation is more subtle. As you move through the room it’s as though you have just stepped off of a dock into a small boat that is bobbing on the water. Your mind may be slightly tickled and you may not know why until you realize that you’ve just stepped into hundreds of stories all being told at the same time.

Call & Response

Call & Response

Lisa Kaser and Shu-Ju Wang are masterful storytellers. Their new show at Waterstone Gallery is not just beautiful, but a wealth of information and narrative with each artist rendering those stories in ways that can best be described as polar opposites.

Shu-Ju  Wang’s work is profoundly personal;  her narrative is derived largely from her experience of the world as an immigrant. Through her diptych paintings, she tells the stories of “before” and “after” her immigration to the US, which took place when she was 15. Many of those stories have to do with food and our relationship to it in the world.

Shu-Ju is a self-taught artist, with a degree in Engineering
and a deep love of geometry. Her disciplined mind is
everywhere apparent in her richly embellished art.
She has described her work style as “still.” Shu-Ju will design a painting in advance, do a mock-up of it and then sit down to paint, sometimes for 7 hours at a time. Her patience is boundless and her attention to detail makes each viewing of her works a fresh experience as new layers reward the persistent viewer.

Bamboo Mountain, Potato Hill

Bamboo Mountain, Potato Hill

Shu-Ju’s paintings in the show are a collection of works done in 2012 and center around foods she missed from her home in Taiwan and those that she has come to love in her new home.  Each of her diptych paintings represents the story of foods longed for and new foods celebrated with the center, the geometric mandala piece, being both the divider and the unifier. If you were to ask Shu-Ju where she exists in the paintings she would say that she “lives in the crack between the two canvases. I belong to both places, and yet at the same time, to neither place. And thus I exist in that little crack between the two. That is the immigrant experience”.

By Air, By Land, or By Sea

By Air, By Land, or By Sea

In addition to her paintings she has three books in the show which are also largely about food but with a greater emphasis on health and the environment.  In the books, as in her paintings, Shu-Ju dives into her topic with a roadmap she has created outlining what she wants most to bring to light. “For every piece I begin with written bullet points about what I want to say and then I develop the images, but when I sit down to paint, the process itself brings new information to me…Some things can be changed. Some not so easily but the painting is an interactive process.”

Caught Howling in This Space

Caught Howling in This Space

Where Shu-Ju’s art is geometric , highly stylized, intensely colorful  and embellished with minute details, Lisa Kaser’s work could be described as organic, fluid or transitional.  Everywhere there is evidence of her hand.  In this show, Lisa has two wall hangings that are made from handmade wool felt, which she dyes, ages , and then cuts up, hand sews and embroiders. To look at her art is to see her energy unleashed and then reigned in to create subtle and heart-wrenching details.

Her illustrations combine watercolor, pencil and collage from older drawings or bits of cut-out paintings that may, (or may not),  come together as a story later on. Lisa has been drawing all her life. She is rarely without a sketchpad and fills her pages mostly with drawings of characters that she says have always been with her.   Her father was an artist, her mother a quilter, and she says, “there was always paper around so I drew all the time and I sewed as much as I drew.  Those two activities formed my narrative and my skill.  I draw today very much the way I drew then.  I avoid necks.”

No, really.

She Went as a Pumpkin Who Went as a Tree (detail)

She Went as a Pumpkin Who Went as a Tree (detail)

It takes but an instant to realize that humor is a cornerstone of Lisa Kaser’s work.  While delightful on its own, often a title such as “Purely By Accident Did The Elephant Caress The Bystanders Ear” or “Sharing Rice Pudding Recipe with Perfect Stranger” will bring an illustration into poignant focus that will produce a grin or a tear. Sometimes the titles come first, sometimes the illustrations. In any case, they were meant for one another and together create a springboard from which we can launch our fantasies about what happens next.

Purely By Accident Did The Elephant Caress The Bystanders Ear

Purely By Accident Did The Elephant Caress The Bystanders Ear

The majority of her work is made up of drawn and painted illustrations and three-dimensional sculptures of her signature characters. Lisa’s world is populated by enchanting creatures of all shapes and sizes. When she sculpts she says she is “up and down-completely distracted!”  For these creatures, the creative process is as intuitive as it is ruthless. Heads, feet and arms are tried on different bodies, found perfect or wanting and then yanked off and re-used elsewhere.  They are made from various media, mostly recycled or re-purposed natural materials such as avocado skins, twigs, bee’s wax, burlap from old chairs, or, in Lisa’s words, “things people gave me and things that couldn’t be thrown away.”

Foehn Wind

Foehn Wind

And what makes it all worthwhile, one might ask.  Lisa would tell you, “To me, the world is just madness. The human-made world is just crazyville! And even though I love it, I just don’t understand how we function and go at these paces. So this work delves into that. My characters do what my inner self would like to do. They sit in the tree. They remind me that a breeze feels good.  They slow life’s pace down and give me that opportunity to experience that through them. They help me make sense of the world.”

 

Shu-Ju  Wang and Lisa Kaser’s work will be on display at the Waterstone Gallery through April 28th. If you find you are needing an extra dose of magic, a story or a smile, I strongly urge you to step into the boat and catch the show.

Marylou Falstreau_the_letter_a

It’s for You! The Universe is Calling…

It was as if it had been scripted. I walked into a local women’s clothing store and there, displayed on a table, were Marylou Falstreau’s Women and the Hourglass®  cards. They were amazing! Colorful and beautiful, they were exactly what I had been looking for. I wrote to her and immediately, as if the Universe had planned this all along, she agreed to work with me. Our relationship was fledged.

Marylou Falstreau is one of the women who created artwork for the book, “26 Love Letters for Mama”. She generously agreed to provide artwork for two letters- the “a” and the “N”. She is an intuitive artist, spiritualist and businesswoman whose mindfulness, honesty and spiritual practice inform the creation of her unique designs. Thousands of women have been touched by the truth they find in her books, prints, greeting cards and original paintings. It has been my good fortune to work with her on this project and I’m excited to share some of her insights in this first in a series of artist interviews.

Susan: Tell me about your Women and the Hourglass® Series… Since I’ve gotten to know you I see how revealing they are of who YOU are and that makes each piece that much more wonderful to me. Tell me how they evolved and where they came from?

Marylou Falstreau_WingsMarylou: Well they were magic! And I take a little bit of credit for them but mostly it was a process where I began to paint and show my work and then eventually my work evolved toward images of women. Eventually personal stories of my own began to integrate into the paintings and a waking up idea of spirituality emerging and shifting. But I had no plan to create a series of prints and cards that I would wholesale.
It all began with a dream.  I actually woke up from a dream where I had been in conversation with maybe three or four other women and we were close together at a table talking quietly and I remember when I woke up I just had the feeling of the dream and the two words “women” and “hourglass” but I had no idea what that meant. I just began working obsessively without knowing what I was doing, and I created three images within that week. The first was, “One day she woke up and discovered she’d grown wings”. The second one was “One day she woke up and decided to love herself more than she ever thought possible” and the third one was “One day she decided to open her hands and receive”.Marylou Falstreau_ She Loved Herself

These were all messages I needed to say to myself. I was at a place in my life of transition where I understood that what I had been doing all along hadn’t been working and hadn’t been serving anybody and most certainly hadn’t been serving me, and so I started with the three images. Now I think I  have 37 and three poems so that’s now 40. Each one of them has to do with me so you can tell what’s been going on with me and what I’ve been learning and what’s fascinating  to me is that we’re all the same- and other women resonate with what I’m doing too.

Marylou Falstreau_Open Hands


The idea of the “hourglass” was there from the beginning but I have been exploring the hourglass idea by talking with other people, by sitting with it myself in meditation and really it means that now is the time.  
Now is the time. Time is passing. Now is the time to wake up. Now is the time to love yourself, forgive yourself, celebrate yourself.  So that’s where they came from… Not all of them start with “One day she woke up”. Some are “One day she decided” or “One day she knew”….I wanted the words to flow and I didn’t want to be restricted in that way…


Susan: I am sensing a theme of non-restrictiveness in you anyway. My sense is that when you are inspired by the universe you are just ready to go with it!

Marylou: That’s interesting that you should mention that because I have felt very restricted and limited as far as needing to paint a certain number of paintings, to create work for shows because once you sell paintings those painting need to be replaced and of course there is that expectation of what those new paintings are going to be like- the themes and colors. There can be a lot of restriction if you let there be, about what is expected of you.  But recently we MOVED to the desert where nobody knows me and I love it!  I have been buying these canvasses and colors and I have been pouring and splattering and there are no images yet.  Just spirit.
The desert and the mountains are so big and beautiful and you can see them in ways that we don’t see mountains when they are covered with trees.  The colors are amazing- the purples and the pinks- whereas at the ocean,where we lived for years, it could be very much one note because there is always the greyness with the water and sky and the evergreen foliage is always greenish grey, damp, cool and foggy… It’s challenging to keep your energy high there if you are not fed by the ocean but in the desert, when I first put my feet down, I felt at once that I was really here in a way that I never felt at the ocean!

Susan: You have had so many positive responses to your work and I can see a trend where
you are giving back. Tell me about the Trilogy Poem Paintings and about your donation to
the Betty Ford Center .

She Understood her HeartMarylou: I had been meeting women at art shows for years that were part of 12-step programs and you could tell that they were really moved. They would stand in the corner of the booth where the paintings were and talk and cry. For myself- having a vast experience with alcoholism in my family for generations and also having been beautifully codependent in the dance, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to donate these paintings.

She Opened her ArmsEach painting in the Trilogy is about 30 x 40 inches and I did them really quickly. I wanted a narrative to go along with the Women and the Hourglass®  pieces so I very quickly took some color and blocked in some shapes of women and then went back into my room, sat on my bed and said- “OK, I need a poem” and literally within 20 minutes, I wrote that whole poem and- I don’t feel that I wrote it at all. I feel that it was given to me to share. But what’s fascinating was that I had no idea that they were a trilogy until long after when I was putting the words on paper to make cards and my husband noticed that I’d created a trilogy- the three steps to an awakening heart:
She understood her heart, She opened her arms and
Her heart began to sing.

And Her Heart Began to SingThey are now hanging on the wall in the Spiritual Counseling Center there (at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California) and I got to deliver them and help hang them. I learned later that it can be really difficult to have your work accepted there and it can take a lot of effort and this just happened so freely- it felt just right- especially to donate them and not to sell them.

The cards and books have been for sale in the gift shop there for a year and a half or so, and I sometimes hear from women who have gone through the program telling me how they have purchased the cards and that they keep them  on their notebooks and how helpful they were to them. It feels- really good. It’s one of those things that I could never have made happen on my own but those little series of events that lead to it made it happen perfectly and easily without too much effort on my part.

Susan: I know we talked before about the responsibility of the artist. My sense is that what we say, do and put into the world matters and that we have a responsibility about what we create and, at the same time, a responsibility  to tell the truth even if sometimes the truth is ugly.
Marylou Falstreau_ One note_revisedMarylou: I think we as spiritual beings sometimes get lost in the notion that everything needs to be one note and life is about contrast- just look at the seasons. In the winter, things die and look, frankly, ugly and dark. Think of what happens in the wild when animals have to kill to live. I think it’s OK to get those images out because they may spark a conversation that may need to happen.  I think it’s OK to express it and I think it’s OK if you want to burn them, too. I personally have ripped up and burned many paintings- had rituals- but I can look back at them and see where I was at that moment and why I was there.

We had been talking about Quentin Tarentino and his new movie and I happened to talk with my son about that today. One of the things that I find true when I am in my most authentic space and I am creating- is that in that moment, I am expressing spirit within me. Very clearly, Quentin  Tarentino is filled with spirit and is in this creative vortex, not unlike J.K. Rowling. And some people think her stuff is satanic because of the witchcraft aspect and Quentin Tatentino’s work is being criticized for being violent.  But who knows where these images come from? Is it cellular memory from previous lives? Is it OK to resist or edit those away?

That said- I do think that we have to edit if, and when, we see that our work is causing harm or if the right kind of discussion is not taking place. We have to be continuously aware of what we are doing. Creation is creation and as long as you are completely in a heart space when creating….I think it’s OK. It’s about your intention. If you are creating artwork that is going to cause debate- it’s OK. If you are creating a painting to go above a couch- it’s OK. It’s just a story of judgment.  And art is so subjective.

Susan: I know that you have a special heart for women and that you have recently made a donation of cards and prints to Sister Somalia. Tell me about that.

Marylou: Sister Somalia  is a rape crisis center in Mogadishu where they provide many services to women.  Among them there are a team of people who write cards to empower and support these women who have been victims of sexual assault. These women have so little beauty in their lives that they actually pin the card to the inside of their blouses or their skirts so that they are up against their skin- so they can be reminded of hope. I love to think of the cards being used in this way and I hope that the possibilities for support will expand.  There’s lot’s to be done. There always will be.

 Marylou Falstreau continues to create beauty and inspiration along with her partner and husband, Alan. They live in a sunny desert in southern California but her work can be found in stores from Alaska to Florida, from California to Vermont.  Visit her website for more information: http://www.mfalstreau.com

 

Marble in the Mountain by Peggy Collins

Starting Fresh

The Veritable Quandary, a local watering hole in Portland, Oregon seemed like the perfect
place to meet with my friend, Peggy. It was a bleak day in November of 2011, and I had asked
 Peggy Collins, an energetic and amazing painter, to meet with me to discuss my latest passion- illustrating a book with the help of other local artists.

The grand project that I had penciled out was the creation of a beautiful book that would be simultaneously about art and love. An idea I hoped would capture the imagination of the artists I would choose. My loosely-defined plan involved locating artists in various places- shows, festivals, web, galleries- and ask them to illustrate a line from a poem that my daughter, Ema B Greenspan, had written for me some years earlier.

The poem, a love poem, was written as an alliterative ABC and as such demanded 26 illustrations to do it justice. The imagery that it called to mind was simple, clean and required the inclusion of only one letter form. To me, it sounded so simple and, after a glass of wine and a bit of lunch, of course Peggy and I were totally on board! Now all I had to do was find 24 other artists to share this vision- along with their excitement, time and talent- and for free– (did I forget to mention?) because compensation for all of this work was predicated on the idea that once we had everyone together, the result would be nothing less than mind blowing and certainly there would be publishers lined up to make us an offer!! (Right? Of course!…)

So….over the next few months I became an art stalker- searching for beauty and “that certain something” that would work with the poem, work with the “look” of the other artists, thrill me, and also hopefully thrill the audience I had planned to reach. I had no specific parameters for what would be “just right”. I listened to the fluttering of my heart instead.

I became a master of self introduction. “Hello, you don’t know me but I love your work”, became my opening line in person, on the phone and in email. Quite generously, these women stuck around long enough to talk or write with me, meet with me and eventually to create some of the most lovely works of art that I’ve seen in years- all for a complete stranger who had a vision.

So why this blog? This blog is about these women and about their work. One of the biggest benefits I have enjoyed over the past year has been in learning that these women are not only talented and delightful, their lives and choices and what motivates and challenges them are fascinating! Every week or so I will feature one of the artists whom I stalked and with whom I am now friends, to highlight the work that she creates and to ask her about art and creativity. As you meet them, if my internal “beauty meter” is as spot on as I think it is, your heart will flutter as well.

The gorgeous painting above is called “Marble in the Mountain” and is one of many beautiful paintings by Peggy Collins. The original work is 4′ x 4′ so this little photo does not do it justice but I loved it so much when I saw it that I begged Peg to do a trade with me so that I could see it everyday and bless her, she agreed! Although Peg’s work did not end up in the book, (she works large and the format for the book art was 10″ x 10″- literally, not a good fit) she has remained a consistent cheerleader who encouraged me to to boldly address people I did not know and to beg them for art. It was exhilarating then and still is today. I can’t wait for you to see what we’ve done!