Cutting, cutting, cutting!

cutting, cutting, cutting!, originally uploaded by pejnolan.
So many wonderful things have been happening that I, yet again, barely have a chance to keep up! (and that's a good thing.)

I'm going to save my biggest news for last, so have patience, grasshopper, and wait to read the entire post.


The end of September was the annual Art of the Land at the Starline Gallery in Harvard, Illinois. Proceeds are used to purchase lands in McHenry County by The Land Conservancy (TLC). It was a wonderful evening and I was able to share it with my brother and his wife.

The show was on Saturday evening, but we decided to go early and walk about Woodstock, IL. It is a nice little town whose name to fame is that the movie "Groundhog's Day" was filmed there. It has a quaint town square that was having a local farmer's market when we arrived. We walked through gallery at the Old Courthouse Arts Center and chose to eat next door at Le Petite Creperie.
Elinor enjoying her coffee at Le Creperie
I had mussels and squash soup with warm tea. It was cold, but we ate outside because there was a fire pit by the table we chose. Along came a wasp while I was enjoying my tea. It flew into the teabox and I closed the lid saying that I was going to give it back to the waitstaff that way so the next person that opened it would have a surprise. Then I laughed and released the little guy. Sometimes just thinking these silly little things makes me laugh.  Seeing the surprise on people's faces when I say these things is hilarious. They know as well as I that I would never want to hurt the wasp or another person.

My boys had to stay home because the flu had finally caught up to them. Here are some of my favorites from the show:
Lynda Wallis, Acryics
Nancy Sieder, Cherry Bark Figure

Artist - I'll have to get you back on this one.
Then, as last year, I was enamored by the history of the Starline. A new friend, Rog and her husband had lots of stories to tell. Like this litter carrier attached to the side of the building along with a period poster for the same item:

Al did really well with sales this year. He was selling his woodblocks side by side with his prints. On one piece he framed the block within a shadowbox and added some of the wood shavings that were scrap after carving the block. It was interesting to hear people's comments when they didn't know who I was.



The beginning of October started off with a wonderful weekend away with "the girls" to Mineral Point Wisconsin.  None of us had ever been there and we didn't really know what to expect except that they are known as one of the top 10 artist communities in the nation.
Mineral Point, Wisconsin, USA
 What we found when we arrived was a small town similar to the one I grew up in where everyone is kind and polite - at least to your face - and everyone knows one another. There are turn of the century buildings that house gallery after gallery interspersed with home cooked type restaurants and gourmet restaurants and wonderful specialty antique shops.

The air was cool and there was nothing to do but shop, eat, and relax. No rush, no pretense, just living la dolce vita.

The landscape was breathtaking: rolling hills with farmer's fields, made up of straight rows, creating patchwork quilts of warm autumn color. The weathered limestone buildings glowed in the foreground of a cobalt blue sky while the birds circled overhead -literally circled. (They were turkey buzzards. lol) In the evening there were so many stars.

Like the old commercial: Cost of the hotel, $70. Cost of meals $30. Sharing time with friends and being comfortable in my own skin... priceless.
Shake Rag Alley School for Arts & Crafts
Some special moments on this trip included visiting the art school on Shake Rag Alley.  There were very few people there because it was the off season and no classes were being taught on the weekend that we visited. It is a mini village made of log cabins and limestone homes that have been transformed into artist studios and work areas.
Blacksmith barn at Shake Rag Alley School of Art & Crafts
 There was a couple of people working in the blacksmith barn. We could hear the clanking of hammers against red-hot metal and smell the coal as it heated the metal rods.

The name Shake Rag Alley comes from the history of the location. It was settled by Cornish miners who discovered lead and zinc. They would go out and mine, in the evenings their wives would come outside with a large white rag and shake it to let their husbands know dinner was ready and waiting at home. A traditional meal was a pasty (rhymes with nasty) and figgyhobben or bread pudding.

While we were there, a beautiful monarch butterfly floated past and stopped for a moment to warm himself on a flower. I wondered if it would make it to Mexico in time. Soon after this photo was taken, Maria and I lobbed the largest horse chestnuts I have ever seen at one another next to the gnome in the garden.
Mr. Wasp went shopping with us.
In town we shopped at quite a few places. My favorite was the Mineral Point Architectural Salvage shop but the galleries were awesome, too. Wherever we went there were gargantuan wasps. They never bothered us, but they were our constant companions. I took this one's photo while safe behind a pane of glass.
Prairie Oak Artisans - Closed
The Prairie Oak Artisans gallery was closed, but I imagined that it was my home and gallery. I loved all the old wooden signs and limestone frontage.
Doll inside the Salvage shop
The Architectural Salvage shop was a plethora of yarns and vintage photos, dresses and kitchen supplies, you name it... they had it. Outside was decorated with seasonal potted plants, gourds and pumpkins.
Right now you might be asking yourself, "Hey I thought this was a blog about art, not a travel blog." My answer is that this blog is about the process of my art. I garner inspiration from my surroundings. When I travel like this and see new things, it allows a sense of wonderment to return. I notice the details like the wrinkles in that gourd (above). Aren't they wonderful?
Wise owl standing guard at the Book Trading Post.

 All the good-vibes came to a head when I walked into the Longbranch Gallery. I walked in and there were bent wood chairs, metalwork jewelry (not beads), woodblock prints, and a book by my old illustration instructor, Mark Nelson. Everything seemed very "me."
Longbranch Gallery window display
 The owner was talking with a patron about her upcoming trip to Door County, Wisconsin. When their conversation was over I walked up, handed her my card and said they she should stop by Plum Bottom Gallery to view my work when she was up north. She liked the card and immediately looked at my work online. She encouraged me to send in some work. I wrote her an email once I was home and asked if she wouldn't mind me dropping off some pieces the following weekend so she could review them. She ended up inviting me to be part of her artist base and logged in half of the prints I had brought!


Fallen leaf at Afton
 I haven't had a car since the beginning of May this year. One of the side effects is that I don't really get out of town much. Since my artwork is about the natural world, it has been difficult to find inspiration in the confines of DeKalb, Illinois. One weekend I used our dog Grace as a ruse. She needs to run around, she is miserable staying in the house with no exercise and fresh air. It worked! Out Paul and I went to Afton. We found a gartner snake. So, of course, I had to pick it up.
"I bet none of your other girlfriends would pick up a snake"
I said to Paul, "I bet none of your old girlfriends would pick up a snake." Without hesitation he said, "No, they would not!" Then I thought to myself, "Is that a good thing?" and felt awkward. Funny after knowing one another's most intimate details for 26 years, I still can feel awkward.
Oh, if you can tell me what these red-orange bugs are on the milkweed, I would greatly appreciate it! They have little black parts that could be wings, but they are too small. My guess was juvenille box elder bugs.

What kind of bugs are these?


The Norris Cultural Art Center's Vicinity Show was the next stop. Al won an honorable mention for his woodblock print. In our family, if we win a prize we frown-smile. Here is Al accepting his certificate:

I enjoyed many of the pieces, but I would have to say that these two are my favorites:
Judith G. Leppert, "Stalking Heron"  Woodblock Print
The cuts are so free and loose. There is a nice contrast between foreground and background, but the heron is still weighted to the earth by the feet and grass mingling. The cutwork of the heron are suggestive of detail, but do not create the detail in a realistic manner. You, the viewer, are allowed to fill in the details through your imagination.

The shape of the heron's neck winds around until the beak points your eye to the grasses which circle the path of your eye to the bottom of the piece. The grass in the upper right corner are just enough to loop the eye up making the circular path complete. It is so delicate and yet I know the strength that is involved when carving the woodblock. Really an excellent piece.

H. Dean Willis, "Blue" Egg Tempra
The colors of the piece are subtle, yet rich created though the layering of color. Egg tempera is a 50/50 mixture of ground pigment and water mixed with the fluid from an egg yolk. The pure pigment is what makes the painting glow in person. 

Because of the traditional technique used, the coarseness of the gessoed wood board shows through and adds a textured element. For me, there is a mystery. Where is this? Why is the door closed? Why is a wooden pully attached to the wall? Why is the shovel shiny? Is that a water mark on the wall made of stucco... or is it adobe... or is it clay? My mind wanders to fill in the gray areas. That is one of the things I like about this piece.
As usual I didn't agree 100% with the judges... but then again, no one asked me! lol. Wouldn't it be nice to hear the judge(s) speak on the pieces they chose and why? It was be an interesting lecture to hear.


Michael Bennett, left; Jerry Bleem, center. Two lovely people right.  ; ^ )
 I was urged to attend a lecture by my college art instructor, Michael Bennett. You might remember that he had just curated an art exhibit at Northern Illinois University's Art Museum entitled "In the House: Sculpture for the Home."  Like I told my husband, if Mr. Bennett tells me to go, I go!

The speaker was Jerry Bleem, one of the artists featured in his show. Before attending I did a bit of research online.  Mr. Bleem, or should I say Father Bleem(?), is a Franciscan monk, a Catholic Priest, an instructor at the Art Intitute of Chicago and a professional artist. Wow! I thought to myself. How on earth could anyone fill all these roles without neglecting one or another. Any one of those roles would take the majority of a person's time and heart.

He summed up that question by saying that all the roles he has chosen to play are based in caring and nurturing. I found him to be loud, abrupt, comical, spirited, intellectual, nontraditional and, at the very core, a beautiful, caring, nurturing person.

He said that he grew up on a farm in southern Illinois. He had six brothers and sisters.  As soon as he mentioned this, I felt a kindred spirit. There is a connectedness that surrounds people from small towns that other people just don't understand. 

Plants were his first sculpture teachers. He feels the same way about plants as I do about trees. They are perfect just the way they are, yet humans manipulate them to look very unnatural - very ordered and constructed. In a way this is the basis of his artwork only in reverse. He takes something manmade - trash, discarded items, unwanted detritus - and reshapes it, reorganizes it from an organized man-made material back to a natural, biomorphic object through tearing, cutting and stapling.

My understanding of what he said was that the process IS the artwork and that the final product is simply a record that he was at a certain place at a precise time while meditating or pondering a subject. When drawing, the marks that he creates are symbolic of the same precess. The lines themselves are not what is important, they are just a record that show a specific point in time. 

This interested me because in my printmaking, I can get very intricate. The hours that it takes me to carve and print a block are used for mediation. My mind is quieted. It isn't necessarily that I don't worry, it just allows me to slow down and actually think things through instead of racing. It is a productive time for finding solutions. 

Many of the things that Jerry said captured my attention because of the similarities between his way of thinking and my own. 

Isn't it strange that he knows absolutely nothing about me and yet he has shared his inner most artistic thoughts with me in the audience. His "lecture" was very human and personal in nature. 

At one point he said something rather sarcasticly. It was similar to, "Oh, and then President Obama will be re-elected and we'll all to out for ice-cream!" "YAY!" I said quietly. Unfortunately for me I was in one of the front rows and he heard me.  It stopped him in his tracks and he laughed.

His speaking style is engaging. His voice ranges from shouting to very soft. It keeps the listener on their toes. Again, unfortunately for me, I am rather jumpy. I've always been that way. So, each time he would shout I would unconsciously jump in my seat. Well, at one point he was right in front of me and yelled out a point. I jumped! He yelled to the museum personnel, "Where is the counselor! I need a counselor! I have TRAUMATIZED this woman!"  My face began to burn and I could feel the heat as it turned red. I was so embarrassed.



I will be attending Northern Illinois University School of Art after a hiatus of 22 years to finish my BFA. Afterwards, my plan is to continue in the graduate program in printmaking. The sale of my artwork will be used to pay for my educational expenses. I am so very excited to have a life plan in place.

1 comment:

becky said...

Erin, I read the whole thing- I didn't skip to the news at the bottom! :) But I wanted to say congratulations! Perhaps you have dreamed of this for a long time... and the pursuance of that dream is a magnificent thing!
and ps.... happy belated birthday... I remember from a long ago post it was somewhere around mine.
Mid 40's... if we don't pursue our dreams now, then when will we?