Cast Your Vote

Election day advice from my grumble of pugs...

 Waffles is voting for Hillary this election.

Waffles is voting for Hillary this election.

 Alfie prefers Trump.

Alfie prefers Trump.

 Amore is writing in Bernie.

Amore is writing in Bernie.

Voting is a serious business, but please remember, no matter who you are voting for this year, lighten up, have some fun, and be kind to those who may disagree with you. In the end, we are all part of the same pack!

New Beginnings

FullSizeRender As some of you know, today my first email newsletter went out, keeping you apprised of latest news, classes, art shows etc. If you haven't already subscribed, you will notice there is now a place to do so on the home page of the blog. I hope this is one of many new changes over the course of the next year to make the web site more user friendly.

This newsletter was made possible by an artist development grant through the Vermont Arts Council. This past February a friend told me about the Breaking into Business Program, also sponsored by the Vermont Arts Council. My sister-in-law and I attended and the results, including the grant, have been fantastic. The program offered crucial information and advice on how to establish and further your art business as well as awesome networking opportunities. I am really excited about the newsletter, which I will publish monthly to start, that will give you further glimpses into what is going on with my writing, art, and teaching. And, of course, you'll get a fair share of pug news as well.

Which brings me to the latest update—a new litter of pug puppies at my friend Joan's home. Five blacks, all different in shape, size and personality. I'll be introducing them to you in the days ahead. They are three weeks old, have opened their eyes and are learning to stand. The biggest barely fits in two hands, while the little one can curl up in the palm of one.  They are magical and I have been visiting them daily.

Unfortunately, I have to take a break as I am  headed to Philadelphia to volunteer for an open air religious crusade in Nicetown. For those of you who come to the pages of this blog as writing students or art lovers, please don't be dismayed as I share these other details of my life. We are people of story, which is what art and writing and living and memory and memoir is all about. So just as I encourage you to share yours on the page, I am learning to share mine. I will be writing more soon and sharing lots of news, pics and some latest art projects, too. It has been a busy summer, which means there are many stories to tell.

Let Me Get You Up to Speed...

Let me get you up to speed… Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this blog from Day 1 through the middle of last year was Season 1 of our ongoing saga—the pugs, my art, my writing, my friend Joan, her life, and mine. Then let’s say we went on hiatus—a long one. We’ve done a lot in that time, but how do you capture it all on the blog? You can’t go backwards and who wants to inundate everyone with a year’s worth of material, right? But, how do we jump right back in? I’m going to do my best to bring the story forward.

We’ve had our share of romance…

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No, not me unfortunately, but my pug Alfie. She turned five in January and it was a do or die moment—time to breed her or forgo the idea once and for all. Alfie is my show pug and the plan from the beginning was to breed her and pass on all her wonderful traits. Unfortunately, her heats were uncertain and it took awhile to figure her cycle out. I decided to take a big leap of faith and go for it this year, so toward the end of January, Alfie and I began daily pilgrimages to visit her “boyfriend” at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house. Challenge no. 1, while Alfie and the Old Man hit it off, he just couldn’t seem to get the job done, so we had to bring in reinforcements—his son, Gryffindor. Gryff was nowhere near as refined in the courting department, but what he lacked in charm, he made up for in finesse and I was fairly certain after thee successful matings that Alfie was pregnant.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Alfie began vomiting and panting and not acting at all right. I ended up taking her to the Emergency Vet only to learn she had pyometrea, a dangerous uterine infection and had to be spayed. No puppies for us. It seemed unfair on a lot of levels, my idea was if I can’t have children of my own right now, at least I’m gonna have puppies, but that didn’t seem to materialize. Our new grand adventure was cut short, but Alfie is okay, in fact, she seems downright happy and the plan for the future is to find another show dog, since after her spaying, Alfie can no longer be shown.

We’ve had our share of religion…

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I spent two weeks in Hawaii last July on the Missions Trip I go on ever year. It was the start of a life-giving time, a creative time, when I returned home I began taking courses to become a certified minister, became a full-fledged member of my church and recently even taught one of our weekly bible studies. I didn’t discover God—I’ve known him all along—I simply got excited about connecting with Him in a while new way and so much has changed.

We’ve had our share of work…

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This fall the college where I worked for the past 12 years closed, so I’ve been finding new opportunities to teach at assisted living facilities, arts centers, writing centers etc. and expanding my repertoire. This summer I am supposed to teach at a teen art camp in Lebanon, N.H. I am presently teaching a course on the relationship between animals and memoir writing called “Pet Projects” at an assisted-living facility also in Lebanon. My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are also putting together a joint workshop called Journal Jam.

The art projects are going well. I’ve been in several shows, sold more work than ever, and introduced new techniques such as encaustic to my collages. I joined an artists’ collective in Burlington that not only carries my work in their gift shop, but networks with area businesses to showcase the work of their members. The xposure has been great. In November, I had a solo show of my digital collages called Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood at Radio Bean in Burlington.

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I’m currently in another juried show at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center called “Healing with Arts.” The idea behind the show is to hang works of art in the cancer treatment center with the belief that art contributes to and reinforces the healing process for patients with caner. It is an important show for me to be apart of as more and more close friends face the disease.

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Also, this fall, a friend made financially possible for me to attend a wonderful and productive writers workshop, Dartbrook Writers Retreat, in the Adirondacks. I worked on pulling some of my blog posts together and creating new writing for a memoir of some of my experiences with my friend Joan. I’m starting to see the themes that underlie the work and why getting to be a part of her life and that of her pugs has been so important to me. The plan is to work more on that over the next year and get that book actually written.

Writer Abigail Thomas and Me at Dartbrook Writers Retreat

So here we are…now that you’re caught up let’s call this Season 2. Stay tune for our next adventure.

 

 

 

Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood

Next month, November 7th through December 3rd, my digital collages will be hung in my first-ever solo show at Radio Bean in Burlington, Vt. The opening reception will be on November 13th from 5 to 7 p.m. Curated by ONE Arts Collective, the show will feature 12 of my digital collages in a show entitled Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood. For those of you familiar with this blog and my work, the following explanation is probably not needed as much of it is offered in past posts and in the gallery section of this site, but for those of you who are new here's an explanation of the show and some background on my work: When you watch girls at play you can often catch glimpses of the people they will become. Like fairies and other magical creatures, the inner world of children seems to evaporate if it comes in direct contact with that of an adult. Still, with a camera lens there are ways to capture it, if you stay on the periphery and observe. With little boys who are typically all action and mugging for the camera, this is more challenging. Girls? They frequently have moments of stillness that offer you this chance. The quickness of the lens lets you capture what is so fleeting—images that hint at the future, of the women these girls will become. In these moments, when their secret world becomes visible, there is a maturity, a strength, and yet, also a vulnerability that can make adults uncomfortable. Simultaneously, we see in them both their innocence and the approaching loss of it. We know they stand on the cusp of transformation. To become a woman means to leave the little girl behind. While children long for the future, we look at them and long for what was. We see in them “once and future things.”

My digital collages have been describe as” hand-worked stories” and as a writer and photographer, I couldn’t be more pleased with this. They combine photography with hand drawing in pastel, crayon and colored pencil as well as digital drawing with Adobe Photoshop and embellishments such as embroidery and glitter. I create my collages in Adobe Photoshop using “recycled images’ that maybe weren’t picture-perfect as standalone shots, but work together to create a new vision of the inner word of children and also animals. Most of my digital collages frequently have fantasy or spiritual undertones. I use Photoshop to draw, paint and manipulate the image and then print it out to hand draw, paint and perhaps embroider or add other embellishments before rescanning the image into Photoshop. The finished work is a digital print on photograph paper.

My work has appeared in venues throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. I also work as a freelance writer and writing instructor helping others find their own unique way to tell their stories.

A few months ago, I connected with ONE Arts Collective, when I took part in one of their shows called Spirit Animalz at Burlington Beer Company and am happy to now be a member of their group. I am excited to have the chance to share my work with a new audience and hope all of you will spread the word and stop by to check out the show if you can!

Childhood Moments

Dancers at The Artist's Childhood Exhibit, Rose Street Gallery The three dancers skipped over the hardwood floor of the gallery, pretending to catch fireflies. They reenacted childhood, creating through their choreography moments of joy and wonder. I was there showing two of my collages as part of the show The Artist’s Childhood. Each of the exhibiting artist showed work that represented a window into their past. I showed my pieces Blueberry Queen complete with princesses, witches and toads and Recipe for a Fairytale with wolf and moon and dreaming child.

Me and my photos

My two-year-old niece Ellie was there representing childhood first hand. She was mesmerized by the dancers and sat quietly throughout their dance. After, however, she was happy to grab my hands and flit around the dance floor. “See my tutu,” she said grabbing on to her tulle skirt.

Ellie and her tulle skirt

The dance brought me back to the days my grandfather would walk us down the dirt roads by his schoolhouse, jars with punched lids in hand, and allow us to catch the lightening bugs with glowing rumps. It was like catching enchantment in a jar. But these were only memories of childhood, hidden but close to the surface, easy to recall. The next evening I spent a moment in childhood, touring the realms of imagination with Ellie.

After dinner she insisted on visiting Best Buy, entering the store with the declaration “Let’s check out what I want for my birthday.” She then ran down the car stereo aisle, pressing every button and turning every dial. She stopped at every camera instructing me to “say cheese” as she lifted one eye toward the lens. She made me say “cheese” at each and every one.

"Say cheese!"

Then we hit the painted circle in the middle of the store. “This is my swimming pool,” she declared, getting down on the floor in her pretty green dress, hiking it up and exposing her pull-up.

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“I think it’s a store, Ellie,” I said, “you should get up,” feeling like I at least owed her parents an attempt at keeping her off the germ-ridden floor.

“Nope, it’s a swimming pool,” she declared. “Wiggle, wiggle,” as she kicked her legs and moved her arms, swimming on the dirty floor.

“Let’s do yoga,” she said next, reaching her hands to the sky. Soon she was leading customers and staff in downward dog. “It’s a swimming pool,” she said again, dropping to the floor. And, it didn’t end, not quickly anyway. And, in those moments she stole me from the adult world, away from the realm of responsibility and memory in which we remember childhood from afar. Better than any magician or any choreographed moment, better than any picture or recipe I could concoct, she whisked me into her world of spontaneity and freedom where there were no stores, no dirty floors, just endless depths of possibility waiting to explore.

Catching the Moon

 

 

Postcard

IMG_6618 A couple of months ago I received an email from one of the workers at the St. Augustine Humane Society in Florida. It seemed she owned a pug named Lucky and had stumbled across one of my greeting cards featuring Waffles while cruising the Internet. The Humane Society was looking for an image for the postcards they send out to their grooming clients and they wanted to know if they could use my image of Waffles stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. I have been looking for ways to help humane societies and rescues and found this a wonderful way to do so. I granted them rights to produce a card. Last week I finally got to see the result when the postcard arrived in the mailbox. I hope to get it framed and hang it in my office.

A Day at Mass MoCA

Two visitors to Mass MoCA interact with a piece from the Jason Middlebrook exhibit. A few years ago I asked two friends to accompany me to view an exhibit of Leonard Nimoy's photography. He called it Secret Selves and it was on exhibit at a place called Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. We had no idea what Mass MoCA was like, but gamely set out on an adventure. It was well worth the trip. We enjoyed the Nimoy exhibit, but we fell in love with Mass MoCA—an old industrial complex turned into a modern museum of contemporary art. The exhibits are fresh, unique, energetic. The building? A treasure trove of geometry, light and shadow. Pieces interesting on their own, take on a whole new life when viewed in the context of this building.

Today, my friends and I returned. We've been trying to go once or twice a year ever since our first time, but it's been a year since we were last there. It was no less wonderful. It may have been more so. One of my friends was not a big fan of contemporary art when we first went. Today, she had a hard time choosing a favorite piece. My other friend aptly declared that something about the place made her feel simultaneously stimulated and tired, a happy tired. Something about it makes me feel that happy quiet like after a yoga class. It's not just the beautifully building, the intriguing art, it's sharing it all with my friends. We haven't spent much time together lately, but today it was as if we had never been apart.

Here's some images from the day:

Making my own art. Fire hydrant on a Mass MoCA wall.

 

A snapshot of a portion of one of Dike Blair's shipping crates.

A view of the galleries.

My shadow becomes one with the art inside Mark Dion's The Octagon Room exhibit.

A Mass MoCa window.

 

A view from the same window.

A view from another window.

Here a statue from the Izhar Patkin exhibit. You can see the way the art and the building dance!

Wall and Windows.

A child in one of the exhibits in the Kidspace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pug Salad

Blog Waffles as Salad It was one of those weeks when the earth beneath you crumbles just enough to start an avalanche, when it's hard in the end to recognize the ground on which you stand. Rather than give in to it, I've been trying to remain rooted. I found two things help me do so -- creating and playing. I did both today when creating this shot of Waffles. There seems to be a campaign on Facebook to counteract some of the tragic images of abused and homeless dogs with happy images of our beloved canines. Not in protest, but instead to remember why we love them in the first place. A fellow blogger offered this challenge on Facebook, assigning words to those who accepted to take a picture of their dog that somehow represented this word. The first word "Smooch" seemed easy enough so I signed up. So did many others. They received easy dog words such as "sit" and "stay." I received "salad!"

I have to admit at first I was dismayed, but no more than Waffles when I tried to stuff her in the salad bowl, yet, the word was the perfect challenge in taking my mind off the worry around me and transforming this energy into something creative and good. I drove to the next town over and visited the local craft store where I purchased this pink presentation board and markers to create my bistro background, stopped at the grocery store last night for some lettuce, and raided the fridge for the salad dressing. The wine? Pug wine, of course. And, yes, there is such a thing.

I have a few outtakes from the shoot -- Waffles, bored between shots, and our assistant, Alfie, surveying the scene for the best camera angle and to make sure the light was right. Actually, I think she may have just wanted a taste of that wine.

In the end, the pugs once again seemed perplexed by my actions, but happy that I was spending time with them and I was happy to disappear into their world and turn my troubles into pug salad! Thank you Garth Riley for your assignment after all.

Outtakes:

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Beautiful, Beautiful Boy

Blog2 Avery I've written before that it's more challenging for me to get those special shots of little boys than it is of little girls. I've speculated that its because boys move to much, are too rough and tumble to allow the lens to capture their inner selves. Every once in awhile, however, you get lucky. I did with this shot during our last big snowstorm. My nephew Avery was over at the house while his Dad plowed the driveway. I was out back taking pictures of the pugs when I looked over the gate and saw Avery peeking out above the snowbanks. I was glad I had my telephoto lens.

This beautiful, beautiful boy celebrated his 9th birthday. He received a telephone and he's been texting me ever since. His brother, 12, texts his girlfriend. This nine-year-old texts his aunt. I am lucky to be that special lady for a little while longer.