Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Tis the season to...?

When this season rolls around, we know it's time to be busy--I'm reminded of my third grade grammar lesson in superlatives: busy, busier, busiest.

All this hustle and bustle comes at just the time when the light and temperature (in the Northern hemisphere) beckon us to to slow down, bundle up, and brew pots of tea and tureens of soup.

Each year I'm challenged to find a way to keep my balance-not to get so busy that I neglect the beauty in gorgeous orange globes of pomegranates, the migrating birds, and the friendly faces of my family. This year, I noticed that if I just did what was in front of me, I was OK.

Of course that had me doing everything at the last minute: buying Hanukkah candles the final day the synagogue gift shop was open, wrapping my families' gifts the day I gave them, and waiting until the holidays were over to begin my cards.

I love getting holiday cards--the sense of that person's warmth from across state, elsewhere in the country, around the world, never ceases to move me. They take time to think about me and my family, to sustain our connection in spite of the urge to let go, because in these days of e-mail, facebook etc., it's all too much.

So I argue with myself--do I make the cards this year? Do I use Shutterfly to get one of those composite photographic documents of my family life? ( grown, still won't sit still.) I want to go be in the studio--so making the cards wins. I moan. Why can't I just keep it simple like most of the people I know who send cards? Then I realize that it's through their making that I feel  connected.

After a while, a rhythm and logic develop and a flotilla of delicate rice paper snowflakes emerges;  carefully glued on top of pieces of script.  I love pulling random pages from old books, foraged from library sales (an act which distresses my husband), and discovering some synchronistic pattern like Charles Dicken's ode to his Christmas tree from a 1920's book on elocution.

Snowflake flotilla, photo courtesy of Amelia McSweeny

I discover that in cutting and unfolding, the shape of a Jewish star emerges in the center of the flake, surrounded by a circle of tiny people reaching out towards each other.

The star reminds me of my Jewish grandmother's Christmas cards. These were cards that she sent out in the twenties and thirties to her non-Jewish friends and although they were sent as part of an attempt to assimilate into mainstream culture, I like to see them as a bridge between cultures, a way of creating and maintaining a connection.

My grandmother Caroline's Christmas card, circa 1925-1935

All of which takes me back the beginning; maintaining connection--and what better way to do this than through art?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Clear Sight

Bird of Paradise/Island studio
I’ve been doing some thinking on my vacation; going away is often a way of coming closer to myself, of discovering what’s been stored up inside me for lo these many months.

Landing in Kauai, I assumed I would magically relax into a state of being where one activity flowed into another--not the hurried hula I find myself performing on most working days.

While there were indeed many delicious activities; ocean walks, tropical flowers and rainbows, I was surprised to meet up with some of my oldest and most familiar demons; the ones that incessantly wish to compare myself to others who seem to be more, do more, achieve more.

Birds of Paradise in situ
A hold-over from childhood, these thought pests seemed more intense than usual, even creeping into my dreams. My sister, who had joined us, noted that sometimes in Hawaii, it seems that one’s stored up issues just seep out like lava--a kind of “detoxifying” if you will.

While the gremlins nibbled and morning doves cooed, I tried to set up a studio practice--sparer than my normal routine, but something to do in order to counter my inner detractors. I decided to sit down for an hour a day with watercolors and just paint something. I picked the simplest forms I could find; lemons and limes picked from trees  growing in the yard and tiny birds of paradise that grew by the outdoor shower.                                                                                                

Bird of Paradise
As I painted, I observed my initial antipathy to mixing the color green. It brought up memories of phthalocyanine blue and viridian green oil paint in undergraduate school and my messy complicated affair with oils. I persevered and, finally, loosened my association of mixing colors which matched my mood and began instead to evoke a feeling of relationship with the fruits I studied.

What I also observed, as the days peeled off, was that after painting I experienced a feeling of clairvoyance--clairvoyance in the French sense of the word, which literally means: “clear sight.” The fabulous leaf and flower forms that surrounded me seemed heightened, standing out as if I were staring at an intricate Indian miniature. I experienced an intensity of seeing similar to the high that practitioners of yoga describe. I felt loose and clear headed. I breathed effortlessly.

Lemon Thoughts
I’d like to claim, after this time away, that I’ve returned to normal life with no worries, sustained clear sight and a pack of good watercolors. But reality, like river water after a storm, is muddy. Spending time with transparent colors and resplendent foliage allowed me to see the landscape through the mist; there are always more layers--I understood again that we can never really remove ourselves from the complex relationships of people and situations, the endless rich entanglements of this world. However, like finding a blossom in the Hawaiian jungle, I can always locate something to focus on.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My 7 Links

Marriage Circa 2011, ©2011, H.Hunter, Collage: paper and acrylic paint
I recently accepted Donna Iona Drozda's invitation to participate in a project: My 7 Links Project. For this project, each blogger chooses 7 different posts to fit seven unique categories and then invites up to 5 more bloggers to do the same, and so on, as a way of uniting "bloggers from all sectors in an endeavor to share lessons learned create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts..."

A timely invitation and one that I thought about because it seemed to me a perfect chance to look over the year's post, to form in my mind a gestalt of what I'd written, a means of seeing the road I'd traveled and perhaps the road I might choose to take in the year ahead.

Like the doors on an advent calendar, I invite you to open up one or more of these links and see what you discover.

Most helpful: Young Adult Bereavement Art Group/Art Therapy in Action: This post proved to be helpful in two ways; one for me, because the post reflects how much I learned about the grief process of young adults, but also because this information is useful to those people who wish to start an art therapy based bereavement support group in their own community.

Where I Live, ©2000, H. Hunter, 15" x 18", Acrylic &Caran d'ache
Most popular: Finding Sanctuary: addresses our universal need to find a safe and sacred space. Nature + art = one of the most effective ways to find it.

Didn't quite get the attention it deserved: Timing is Everything: There's a lot packed into this little post with M.S. Merwin's poem. Spring opens our eyes with its fleeting beauty and we're reminded, once again, of the transience and beauty of life.

Most proud of: Art Therapy 101: No questions here. Art Therapy 101, about my daughter who was my first teacher in art therapy, wrote itself.

Peonies at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art
Most beautiful: Accidental Journey: Places of the soul--all of us have them and I accidentally traveled back to mine in this trip to Maine. Here I share images and thoughts of this magical journey, especially one gorgeous blush colored peony.

Surprising Success: A Different Kind of Summer: I had no idea when I wrote about spending the summer in the studio that it would elicit so many responses. At the hospital, when I'm asked what I did on the weekend, my answer is always the same: "I was in my studio." (And it's always a pleasure.)

Most controversial: New Beginnings: The controversy here is subjective within the quilting world--I suddenly felt confronted by an entirely different way of seeing the quilting process, one I hadn't considered and which challenged me to re-examine my approach to the aesthestics of art quilts.

And now some nominations--4 blogs with entirely different focuses--something to satisfy different parts of my personality.

From the Scattergood Farm: written by two teachers at Scattergood Friends School (my daughter's high school alma mater) where students both study and work a living farm. In this new blog, they present some radical new ideas for school lunch. Check this out!

Patricia Scarborough: I love Patty's posts--witty and wry and half a continent away, I love to read her observations and see her plein air plainscapes. 

Dwelling Here Now: One of the first blogs I discovered, Anthony Lawlor takes a spiritual approach to architecture and the architecture of thought. 

Blue Sky Dreaming: Blue Sky's open minded approach to her subject matter and materials intrigues and inspires lots of us in the mixed media world.