Capturing MAgic, a series of 70 woodblock prints, 6″ x 6″, 2018

I have long been inspired by Japanese prints, looking at them in books and when having the opportunity, seeing the real thing in exhibitions.  It wasn’t until 2015 that I had the opportunity to go to Japan and experience the culture, aesthetics and realize the role Japanese design plays in my own thoughts and work.  I returned to Tokyo in April 2017 to photographically capture the magic I witnessed in 2015, searching for the void between forms, capturing the magical space between unalike objects that so elegantly and innately is found in Japanese aesthetics.

My interest in Japanese art and culture has led me to years of researching the history of fine and applied arts in Japan, but not until my visits did I become aware of how all of these elements fit together.  I selected specific objects and how they were made prior to my journeys: my 2015 trip focused on the use of Katagami stencils in kimono dying and how the paper stencils related to contemporary printmaking ; I examined the transitions between sections of emaki scrolls  focusing on the spatial changes and introduction of new imagery in a format seen as a precursor to cinema. I was able to view an exhibition at the Suntory Museum exclusively dedicated to emaki scrolls.

Although following through on my predetermined goals, I was literally bombarded with so much else to visually process, that my end results were quite different than my initial intentions.

What became most apparent, and indeed what I was really searching for was Ma, the concept of open space of time.  Ma is negative space, a void, a space that can be vibrant and dynamic, as it is not conveying empty space.  It is a space where time is required, making the participant aware of all that surrounds this coveted area. It is a space to pause, consider and exist. “Ma” is a central component of Japanese culture which directs and influences Japanese arts, architecture, religion, and theatre. For the Japanese Ma constitutes a “gap” or “interval” that represents a collapse of time and space which differs from the Western notion of time and space as linear and teleological.

I spent my second visit to Tokyo searching for Ma. During that week, I photographed buildings, the geometric forms that comprised the buildings, spaces between forms, manhole covers, electrical lines and pretty much everything I saw. I’m sure I looked lost and misguided, as I continually took three steps forward and five back, just to capture the magic I was looking for, all the while talking out loud to myself.  Thank goodness for cell phone ear pieces, so I could appear as if I was just having a regular conversation, rather than expressing my glee for the magic I captured with my camera.

 

Eno State Park, Durham, NC

My dad would sit in his favorite chair, eyes closed and say he was thinking, while my mother nagged him that he was asleep.  He certainly was thinking, as we all do this critical activity in very different ways.  I do my best thinking first thing in the morning, just upon waking, looking out my long vertical bedroom windows at the trees in the Eno State park, as they become a canvas to my new creations. I come up solutions to my work, almost as if they are epiphanies.

My next body of work is starting to conceptually solidify, a process I let intuitively grow, unconsciously letting my ideas coalesce at their own pace.  Our recent predicted snowfall of 1-3”, that ended up being 11”, truly accelerated the process.

Please realize, these are ideas/visuals in progress.

On the cusp of my retirement, I am trying understand the links between the bodies of work I have created over the years, connecting its sources and attempting to realize how it may all tie together. By working full time in my tree surrounded studio,  I am returning to the inspiration for the written forms I have developed over the years. I am drawing from the calligraphic forms made by flowing branches, branching patterns creating details, and angled shapes made from overlapping limbs, all woven into an indecipherable mass of lines.  I am also now seeing this vista through a second set of eyes, those of my Vizsla puppy (soon to be two-years old) Gus, as he scans the sky-bound branches tracking his sought squirrels’ routes on their aerial highways.  Now, my artistic responsibilities include mapping these paths (for Gus of course), sharing this experiential place that emphasizes time/space intervals (ma) and the spiritual gracefulness of my surrounding space.

So, what does snow have to do with this.  Those eleven inches made a solid white background, separating the overlapping branches that comprise the layers of my compositions, clarifying details  through contrast and emphasizing the undulating limbs, now accented by thick white lines. I was able to take some amazing photos, and now, as I continue to process my ideas, can’t wait to get started.

I have started to accumulate materials from my printing process.  No, this does not include the finished print, as I keep those too, but what is needed to make the print, the printed stencils on both paper and Mylar, my masking sheets and even the cut-out shapes left from laser cutting.  Obsessive, definitely.  Needed, I can finally say YES! Recycling, you bet, and for an artistic purpose!

At the time, I have no idea why I need these papers and cut out sheets of plastic, but like my artwork, I subconsciously let my ideas come together know their purpose will just come to me when needed.

Right now, I’m only going to write about my masking sheets, these beautiful printed papers, that I use to block out major areas of my prints.  These papers, mainly used as backing sheets for printing my Urbanized images, have multiple colors on them, that are spontaneously printed on top of each other.  There are often divisions on each sheet formed by where my blocks may have ended or where a stencil was overlaid on the sheet.  They are really cool, so I keep them.

I am not ready to part with many of the photographs I took as source material for Reflections within the Grid, so I am making an artist book of woodcut prints using these images. Of course, like most things I do, there are multiple formats involved in each print project, so in addition to a book, I am making a print installation that includes all seventy-five prints.  The prints are 6” x 6”, so it is not as grand as it sounds. The book is organized by shape, with sections on circles, rectangles, squares, triangles, diamonds grids, lines and abstract shapes. All of the images are printed in black and white, and…… on my masking sheets!  Now I have a lot of masking sheets, with some being complete images that were used to cover the centrally placed images in Rw/iG, so that the background image could be printed around it.  With so many new images to print, I clearly will be making a dent in my abundant leftover masking sheets.

My Mylar stencils are a totally different story, which I will share in a later post, so stay tuned…. And No, I am not a pack rat.

Following in the footsteps of my dad, an amateur Pointillist painter.

Having not had the chance to really know what it is like to work full time as an artist for at least forty years, I often have to remind myself that this is real, and it really isn’t going to end.  I have thrived during my academic career, gaining friendships, experiences and knowledge that has made me really appreciate my next step, retiring to become a full- time artist.  I have learned so much about life, myself, and with age, wisdom really comes, and now I get to put all of this into my own artistic practice.

I am so thankful to have time and my health. I enter my studio everyday realizing how lucky I am to have this space, surrounded by nature, lit by sunlight, where I have the privilege to make art, take risks, think and for now tackle my long list of ideas/projects that have patiently waited so long to become real.  I constantly battle with myself, should I just be starting something new or let my new ideas brew, so they have the time needed to develop and become what they should be.  Let them use my current work as a catalyst, stretching their options even further.  And then, as an epiphany, I realize, what’s the rush, I am no longer working on a semester schedule, I can do this every day. And I do.

My studio is a place of refuge and solace.  It is here that I find peace, quiet and do the thing that keep me mentally, physically, intellectually and spiritually going each day. I only share the space with my dogs, who I believe go there for the same reasons that I do, to bask in the sun and enjoy their lives in my sacred space.