At the Lighthouse

 

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The latex cast of a lighthouse from Borden-Carleton, Canada by Kim Morgan is now on display at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. If you find yourself in Sheboygan, WI before January 5, 2015, I would highly recommend seeing this installation. This work, created in 2010, has also been exhibited in Canada, the artist’s home province of Nova Scotia and at Mass MoCA.

Range Light Borden-Carleton, when first encountered, overwhelms with the sheer immensity of it taking over the room in which it is displayed. It is like a discarded reptilian skin perfectly replicating the peeling surface of its source. The lighthouse from which it was cast is no longer needed for the purpose for which it was designed and is now still standing, but slowing crumbling – an antiquated remnant from the past.

The dimly lit room allows for this piece, lit from within, to glow warmly like a candle at a vigil. There is so much beauty in this skeletal skin, evidence of peeling paint and cracking surface – the light which softly illuminates these flaws gives proof of the past life of this guiding post, now sagging a bit and tethered by rope and beam. The way it is hung speaks to the fragility in the passage of time. Range Light does not stand upright, but is suspended sideways by pulleys on the walls and ceiling. The insides of it have also been cast in latex and connect to the cast of the outside, so it becomes an inverted image of itself from end to end. This overwhelming structure is made accessible in the vulnerability of its posture.

photo credit Steve Farmer

photo credit Steve Farmer

I was moved viscerally upon the sight of it. It gave me pause, and made me take it in from a distance before approaching it to inspect it further. In this piece I found beauty and grace in deterioration and the slow erosion of time.

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Asana, (Heart)beats & Breath…

Monica suspension bridge

Enough.

Often we spend our time reaching for more or better, or thinking about the next moment or a past moment. Finding stillness in the moment, on or off the yoga mat, can be a challenge. One of my “on the mat insights” came today while teaching: finding that pause at the end of the breath – and really setting an intention to be mindful of “that moment” before moving to the next inhale.

Pause: A breath, a half a breath, a second. And in that moment:

Enough.

Realizing that wherever you are at the end of that exhale is indeed enough. There is really no place to get to. You are already HERE.

Realizing that what you are already doing is enough. Regardless of where you think you are on your journey to your best self, where you are right now is enough. Whatever lack you may imagine in your life, having faith that what you have right now is, yes, enough.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Repeat…

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RECENT WORK

Sisters, acrylic and mixed-media on wood, 6"X4", 2014

“Sisters” acrylic & mixed-media on wood, 6″X4″, 2014

 

Recent work has been added to my website: monicajbrown.net

Follow the link above. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

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SPRING (is coming)

It’s that time of year again — that time when faith in Spring’s arrival is called into action. Here in the midwest, there is fresh snow on the ground, and the temps are still below freezing, but please believe…

Spring is coming.

I posted several weeks ago (around the first polar vortex) about the tolls of  Winter and the fortitude needed to “keep it moving.” Now, after we’ve gone through about three of those mettle testing encounters, and evidence seems to be to the contrary…you’ve got to believe!

Spring IS coming.

Keep the faith. Think warm thoughts. Envision the unfurling, uncurling, stretching, and growing that is eminent.

“Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming…”

Chant this mantra once a day for the next 2½ weeks, and you will begin to see buds appear on trees, days growing longer, and flowers sprouting!

yogimoni Nataranja

You can join me for the unfurling, uncurling, stretching, and growing—on the yoga mat at Tula Yoga Studio, 2827 W. Belden: Mondays at 10:30am, Wednesdays at 7am, and Saturdays at 12:15pm.

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SUMMER (for Albert)

photo credit unknown

Albert Williams, photo credit unknown

This post is about a person, a place and a time. But mostly about a beautiful person. I will start with the place and time: summer at the Golden Dome. I spent more than summers in that dance studio on the 2nd floor of the Garfield Park Golden Dome. But the feeling that I get when I think about that place is summery: warmth, joy, heat, inspiration, love, laughter and movement.

Continue reading

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WINTER

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Resilientadjective

1.(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.

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You’ve got to be resilient to survive a winter in Chicago. Your mettle is tested physically and mentally: dark days, cold days, really really cold days, long nights… And firmness of spirit is needed to “keep it moving.” That polar vortex was no joke. It gets tiring trying to carry on… and yet, you can and you must.

On a ride up the boulevard on my way to teach a yoga class, I noticed an oak tree. I could identify it immediately because it still had its leaves. It still had its leaves AFTER the polar vortex!

Define resilience.

In exploring the lives of my maternal ancestors, I learned that my great-great-grandmother Ora, had lost 7 children during an influenza plague. One by one. Somehow this did not destroy her faith. She kept pushing on, kept giving thanks, kept it moving. She had two remaining children: a son and a daughter. And she would end up burying her daughter who lived to 59 years, before she made her transition two years later.

Define resilience.

In trying to metaphorically present what I had learned about my grandmothers and their personalities, I saw them each as a tree. Ora was an oak. The oak tree has long been a symbol of strength and endurance, and I see why. Those leaves cling. They hold on. Even a polar vortex cannot wrest them from their stronghold until they are ready to release. They endure the winter.

One day at a time, and spring will soon come…


 

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AUTUMN

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. Actually I appreciate each season, but autumn for the changing leaves. Maples are my favorite this time of year with their wide array of the orange/red spectrum: some moving toward pink, others almost crimson.

I caught the sunrise this past weekend on a sunny Sunday morning, and then went for an early morning walk. The Maples were showing off their vibrant colors with the brilliant morning sun dazzling off the tops of the trees against a backdrop of the autumn cobalt sky. Continue reading

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Lillian E. Smith Center

Robert, Bailey, Nancy

Robert, Bailey, Nancy

Last month, I enjoyed a visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains and a residency at the Lillian E. Smith Center for Creative Arts. Nancy and Robert Fichter are the gracious hosts of the Center. They have a way of making you feel like family.

The Lillian E. Smith Center is a place that I have been blessed to return to for many summers. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring artists on my visits here, and this year was no exception: Kamla, a writer and poet; Karl, a costume designer; and Christopher, a choreographer and stained glass artist. We enjoyed a wonderful exchange in presenting our work to each other over drinks in the Center’s Common Room.

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@Moccasin Creek State Park

It was wonderful to take a respite from the city and breathe in some fresh mountain air; to exchange for a while the city skyline for an endless expanse of mountains; to exchange the sound of sirens for the sound of cicadas; to hear how the hummingbird sings compared to the sound of the hummingbird’s wings; to be enveloped by the sound of moving water rushing over rocks… It was difficult to leave that space, but it’s always nice to return home.

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Paul Klein on Fine Art vs. Craft

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“An Uncommon Knowledge” by Bonny Leibowitz

Paul Klein spoke on Fine Art vs. Craft at ARC Gallery in Chicago during the opening for Encaustic U.S.A. He was a co-juror for this exhibition along with Shelley Gilchrist. Paul also talked about guidelines for success for artists. The event was well attended.

He spoke about artists finding their personal art village and employing a vision and strategy for success. He distinguished vision from strategy in that an artist’s vision is non-negotiable. Strategy includes such things as: size, color, price, dealer, other artists, etc… He says to find a strategy that works, and that every artist can find success on their own terms.

He discussed three things which need to be inherent in a body of work in order for an artist to achieve financial success:

  • Composition – which he feels relates to both craft and fine art.
  • Context (as conversation) – how you contribute to the dialogue (could also refer to both craft and fine art).
  • Content – which he defined as an expression (vs. a trend), and a vulnerability which comes from seeking inside oneself, a vulnerability which translates to the viewer.

Paul feels that fine art happens when you can see the soul of the artist, and that craft is an artistic expression and is concerned with the use of materials. He said this distinction might be determined as the soul of the materials (craft) vs. the soul of the artist (fine art).

He qualified his views by saying that defining high art is, of course, subjective. He also said that there are artists who have confused this line between craft and fine art, and he feels this began with the Abstract Expressionists including Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. He then opened the floor for discussion.

Many artists felt that this line between fine art and craft was mutable and illusory, that it had long been a discussion in work by ceramicists and encaustic artists.

The Island by Nikkole Huss

“The Island” by Nikkole Huss

One artist was concerned with using “soul” as a criteria which defines fine art, and felt that “soul” involved a philosophical conversation. She suggested that it is the artist’s voice and not the artist’s soul which comes forth. Paul felt that the “voice” could assume a posture while the “soul” reveals vulnerability: head/intellect vs. heart.

This turned into a discussion on the nature and/or existence of “soul.”

Some of the arguments presented included:

  • Voice vs. Soul (mentioned above)
  • Humanity vs. Soul
  • Concept/ual vs. Soul
  • Philosophy vs. Soul
  • Artist Intent vs. Soul

It was a lively discussion surrounded by a wonderful show. See Encaustic U.S.A. at ARC Gallery through July 20, 2013.

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Fairyland (A Book Review)

photo credit: Ginny Lloyd

photo credit: Ginny Lloyd


Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father is a new book by Alysia Abbot. It recounts the story of a young girl growing up in San Francisco with an openly gay father.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alysia while at residence at Ragdale last spring. During an informal salon, the residents shared some of their current work. Alysia read excerpts from a draft of her book. When this book was posted for pre-order on amazon.com, I placed my order and looked forward to reading it. From the excerpt that she read at the salon, and the stories that she told in various other conversations over dinner at Ragdale, I knew it would be an amazing story — one that I had never heard before. I received the book a few weeks ago and devoured it a few days. Let me tell you, Fairyland is an engrossing read!

Alysia Abbott relays an unusual story of love between a father and daughter. She was involved in a culture in which there were usually no other children and few other females. She makes unlikely friendships and is even rescued from possible danger by strangers. She paints a vivid picture of her surroundings and captures a moment in time through the thoughtful recount of seemingly mundane details. If you are of Abbott’s generation, these details catapult or softly lull you back in time.

Having lost her mother at the age of two and her father before she was 22, her bravery starts young. Alysia describes her younger self being grounded in the weight of her combat boots when all other foundational / familial structure in her life has been lost. Fairyland is also a coming of age story: a precocious teen becomes a young woman who is faced with caring for her dying father. Her honesty is at times both heartwarming and disarming. I ended the book with tears in my heart, and an overwhelming feeling of love.

See more reviews at Goodreads and Amazon.

 

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