Thursday, January 27, 2011

Color: STAT!

Thinking in Stripes (before quilting) ©2011, Hannah K. Hunter
About this time of year, I begin to get a bit squirrelly, especially with the tule fog of January (and February and March).

This dense fog, named for the tule grass wetlands of the California Central Valley, makes me feel cozy at the beginning of the season, all tucked into whatever world I happen to be occupying. But like snow in colder climes, the pleasure soon begins to gray.

I long for big splashes of color, wide skies of brilliant blue and the glowing yellow sunflowers of summer. Looking out the window this morning, I knew it would be awhile.

Of course, there is a cure for this: the studio. I go in and I want to inhale great gulps of color: carmine, fuchsia, tangerine, chartreuse, coral, jade and emerald green.

I've been working on a full size quilt for an upcoming exhibit. As I tried to work out the pattern for it, I began a smaller piece that could capture my color hunger and satiate it at the same time. I wanted the quilt to be irregular, with large "bites" of color, color that could explode inside me when I look at it; the same sensation that a child might have when she pops a Starbursts into her mouth and savors the eruption of harmonic sweetness that follows.

How are you coping with winter in your domain?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Allies in January

Let Us Eat Art, ©2010, Hannah Hunter
I am a worrier. It's true. And when I found out that my SoulCollage®
workshop for the UC Davis Cancer Center had 35 people enrolled, I panicked. I thought that 15 people would be a great success. But then, I'm also a risk taker.

In offering the workshop, I was taking on a new population, cancer patients and their navigators (cancer survivors who have gone through treatment and volunteer to help patients with the same cancer navigate the labyrinth of treatment).

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll remember that I taught a similar class for the Cancer Center last spring, only that time, none of the cancer patients signed up. This time, it was different.

I had agreed to provide art supplies at no cost for participants and so, as I flew back from vacation, I tried to calculate what my out-of-pocket costs would be as the plane flew over the Pacific. Most of the turbulence of that flight was internal.

Amma Mama, © 2008, Hannah Hunter
Back on land again, I took matters in hand. I counted up my x-acto knives and cutting boards. I raided the supplies at UC Davis Hospice, and I still came up short. My friend Sara offered me her collection of boards and x-acto knives, I collected scrap matte board and in the end, spent nothing on supplies, a testament to the generosity of my community.       

But what about the workshop? The women came in, one after another. The Cancer Center provided excellent spreads and my worries melted as the day unfolded. These women, and one man, were some of the most receptive people (in the adult population) with whom I've had the good fortune to work.

There is something about this illness, cancer, that makes one willing to dig deeper, a feeling that there is nothing to lose, and often pride over outer appearances takes a back seat to the need for authenticity. Our focus for the day was allies: those people or beings who act as guides, challengers, mentors and friends as we move through illness, or simply through life.

Whatever the case, this group of souls opened themselves to the process of searching through images, looking for the ones that conjured up the supporters, guides and all around lovers who are in their lives.

Group Member working on her card.
As they shared their cards, I felt I was seeing the nuggets of gold in each of their lives. I saw constellations of flowers, dogs, cats, children, mothers, fathers, husbands and even the Golden Gate Bridge.

At the end, my friend Terri, an oncology nurse, noted that programs like this one are as important to healing cancer as the the clinical interventions of medication, chemotherapy and radiation.

While she may have overstated the case a little, I do believe that this need to relate, to come together and to make something tangible and visible out of our challenges is what, in part, makes us human.

I met this morning with the director of the education and outreach program at the center and we are planing to offer 4 of these programs throughout the year. I'm looking forward to seeing how as a university community, we can create a climate of healing, nurturance and deep self-discovery in our lives.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year Unfolding--Straw into Gold

Straw Into Gold, ©Hannah K. Hunter, 2011
The other day my sister Amelia and I spent our last morning of vacation exploring a small store in Kauai, which sold beautifully crafted jewelry and sarongs. Brilliant colors and patterns wafted in the temperate air, rivaling the nearby hibiscus. The store was called "Live a Little," ever a good motto for me.

We spoke with the owner, an enthusiastic and friendly man slightly younger than I. We exchanged first impressions of our home states and he told us a story of his first trip to the mainland in 1992.

He'd landed in L.A. during the Rodney King riots of 1992 and he described for us the empty freeways, the closed shopping plazas and the unsettling quiet.

I was both surprised by his candidness and embarrassed, hearing about this disturbing welcome to California. 
Later on that day we were wandering through a small town when we suddenly heard a man's voice yodeling and looked up to see the same store owner waving to us with the shaka sign, a common greeting gesture in surfer culture. Surf boards were strapped to the top of his car, which was headed for the beach.

When I looked up this greeting, I learned that in Hawai'i, it expresses a spirit of friendship and understanding between the many cultures living in proximity there--in other words, the spirit of aloha.
Hawaiian Highway sign
I did some more looking and found that "aloha" not only means hello and goodbye--but also refers to a means of  solving a problem, accomplishing a goal, or finding a meeting between mind and heart

This seems like a gentle and ease-filled way to go about meeting my goals; bringing together my mind and heart, finding my way to my Source.

That's what I'm striving for this year. All too often, 'Mind' heads off in the direction of her choosing and 'Heart' sticks around wondering "What just happened here?!?" Or, vice versa.

Surfboard Memorial for Andy Irons, 2010
The collage at the top of this post was made during my time away. I was thinking of the coming year and wanted to express my deep wish to spend as many hours as I can in the studio; making. I chose the hands of this older woman to signify the power that aging brings, the skillfulness brought to bear on materials and the absorption that is possible when you've given yourself over to your heart and mind's desire.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good Things Come in Threes

Thank you everyone who sent their thoughts and concerns about my dad. Your comments touched my heart and brought ease. I wrote it while waiting with my family for a flight to Kauai, a place that my father had introduced us to seven years ago and to which, paradoxically, we were returning shortly after his diagnosis.

Buddha's Dream, ©2010, Hannah Hunter, Collage
Since I've been here absorbing sun, waves, and floral abundance, I've had time to think about my own art work. Often, when I'm thinking about a post, I'll pick an event or a thought that is clamoring for first place in the forefront of my mind. Pathos, pain, and or redemption claim my attention. Taking a break helps me to focus on quieter voices.

I finished this piece several weeks ago. Originally it was three separate 12" x 24" panels. After studying them out of the corner of my eye (best way so they don't know I'm watching), I decided to connect them. A risk.

For many years I've wanted to create tryptchs, having become enamored of them when I first discovered Jan Van Eyck's "Dresden Tryptych" in an art history class many years ago.

Periodically, I'd give it a try and find that I couldn't extend my attention sequentially over a series of surfaces. Perhaps it was because I was giving most of my attention to my children. Or, perhaps it was because I simply wasn't ready.

Whatever the case, I've discovered that in the last year I've been able to create and sustain a flow of attention across several surfaces. Is it because my children are grown and launched into their own lives? Or is it because I've grown? One of those proverbial chicken and egg questions.

No matter what the reason, I'm delighted and all the more so because this opens up a whole new suite of possibilities which I look forward to exploring in this new year of ours.