Thursday, March 24, 2011

Buffalo Tracings

Part Four of My Art Colony along US 68

    I could not have my art colony along US 68 without there being a US 68; and that highway would not exist if the Native Americans and Pioneers had not traveled along this route.  These paths used by humans would not have existed if the bison and mastodons before them had not worn a way from the Ohio River to the salt licks at Blue Licks and on to Lexington. At Blue Licks State Resort Park in Kentucky, you can walk along a buffalo trace and imagine what the world might have been like a thousand years ago. This is one of my favorite things to do and Blue Licks is one of my favorite places in the whole world. 

    Along the trail there is a sign with a map of buffalo traces that go from the Ohio River at Maysville and Covington/Cincinnati in toward the Inner Bluegrass/Lexington.  The trace from Maysville to Lexington is quite similar to the current highway today. Change is much more rapid these days with projects altering the route every few years.  I consider my art colony perimeters to be from roughly Maysville to Lexington, but US 68 actually goes all the way to the western tip of Kentucky and north up to Findlay, Ohio (which is where my father spent significant years.)

   This time of year is very beautiful at Blue Licks, the wildflowers are popping out.  I have seen White Trout Lily and Rue Anemone thus far.  Later in April, the wild phlox will appear, and they are stunning (I made the the painting on the left to celebrate this spring tide wonder.)

     I have walked at Blue Licks during every season of the year and in every month. A couple of springs ago we went to England to walk along some of our favorite paths and I was quite excited to come home and realize that I have this place of wonderful and subtle beauty that I can be part of whenever I like. This was a stunning discovery for me.  I even saw "twin scenes" with the Folly at Lyme Park matching up with the silos on the farm across the Licking River from Blue Licks. The main difference seems to be that the parks in England and filled up with people enjoying a day outside. I wish more people would indulge in this simple pleasure; particularly since some of our parks are vulnerable to the budget cuts.  Still, nothing lasts forever; for example, along one path you pass the site of a spring which provided a special tonic which launched a spa and hotel with 300 rooms!  I walked by this spot the other day and you could almost imagine the spring as water was trickling out of the ground.  But the hotel with 300 rooms was a bit harder to imagine. And, of course, there are no more mastodons or bison about either.

I hope you enjoy your special landscape this Spring; while it lasts!


Sunday, March 20, 2011


Part Three of My Art Colony along US 68
Every art colony needs a sound track, and I had a taste of mine this very afternoon at the Neal Building(108 W. Main Street) in beautiful downtown Carlisle, KY. David and Arwen (who are also our CSA farmers) have created a monthly jam session (on the third Sunday); and each quarter they bring in a special group to perform for half an hour before the jam session.  This month, the Lucy Becker Trio was featured.  Lucy is a wondrous 13-year old fiddler (and the rest of the trio is middle-aged, and pretty wondrous, too.) The trio is special on its own, but we were treated to an inaugural event in the Mozart Hall (yes! Mozart Hall) upstairs in the Neal building.  The acoustics are fantastic!  I hope there will be a lot of musical events in Mozart Hall.  In the late 19th century, this space was used for Vaudeville programming.  Today, it was warm and the sun was shining in the generous windows.  It was a total sensory delight.  I was a bit late arriving for the jam session because my husband was preparing for the Lexington Philharmonic Family Concert, so you can see that my sound track tracks the length of my art colony (more on the Lexington end later.)  

    Right next door to the Neal Building is the Kentucky Doll and Toy Museum, which our friend Jan directs.  When you enter the Doll and Toy Museum, you are instantly transported back to childhood--or maybe the childhood you wished you had, materially speaking. When the museum opened, there was a charming tea room in one corner.  One day, when Meg and I were having lunch in the museum/tea room, a lovely scene unfolded and I was handed a story, which I wrote down.  Now, all I have to do is make the illustrations. Come to Carlisle and visit the Doll and Toy Museum.

   And there is more!  Nicholas County is home to Artcroft--a beautiful creative residency situated on 400 acres.  Robert and Maureen are the creators of Artcroft and they draw some of their inspiration from William Morris, a personal hero of mine. The thoughtful inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement is integral to the work of Artcroft.  A new project is a cafe, and gallery in the works for Millersburg, KY, which just happens to be along US 68.
   So, don't you agree with me, that I have an incredible art colony along  a route that began as a buffalo trace?  And that is what I'll write about next time--the buffalo trace that started it all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beauty by Design

It is a beautiful St. Patrick's Day and my sister Jennie's birthday, so I have just gone outside to sit in the warm sun and take a break from my painting.  I'm thinking about the  Beauty by Design retreat that Mary-Louise and I were part of, a couple of weeks ago, at St. Mary's Sewanee in Tennessee.  We undertook an exercise where we selected an object of beauty to reflect upon for an hour.  I selected the lichen which was glowing brightly from the rain saturated late winter trees outside.  (And I was not the only one, at least three other participants also chose lichen.) It made me realize that what I am concerned with is mostly on the surface; there are layers and layers of beauty. I considered the mountain (the Cumberland Plateau) that we were all appreciating and how it must have been a very violent event when The Mountain formed. The earth is alive, and not just on the surface, but to its very core.  So, I was reminded of this once again last Friday, when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan and then the terrible tsunami washed away everything in its path, without regard for human feelings. It makes me feel very humble as a human being.  There is only so much we can control.
    But this retreat was, in part, about what we can control.  We can control the work of our hands.  We began by considering the theology of beauty.  This was very exciting for me.  What does God love?  This was a Christian-based retreat, which I appreciated because, frankly, it seems to me that the Christian faith is rather weak in its concern for the earth. So, it was good to hear an argument for Christian concern for our planet (the Psalms are filled with beautiful praise of the earth and universe). But you could also ask, what does nature love?  We considered  that God/nature loves: order, interdependence, harmony, unity and diversity. We are naturally attracted to the beauty of truth and goodness; and here it was pointed out that theologians and scientists are equally concerned with this beauty of truth.This certainly rang true for me, as I have often heard my mathematician husband speak of elegant proofs. Further, justice is beauty. Well, that struck me. On January 8th, when I wrote my "Seeing Beauty" blog, I was struggling to put words to how appreciating beauty prevented injustice; but here it was stated clearly: beauty is justice.  So we discussed these elements of beauty and how they were "made flesh" through structure, design, form, movement, music, poetry and matter. 
    In the afternoon, we considered how we can apply principles of beauty to what we make as human beings. Here are some of the design principles we talked about:
Design should reflect and incorporate:
  * love of diversity
  * interdependence and interconnectedness
  * love and respect for all members of the community
  * co-operation with the natural order
  * no waste
We can apply these elements to everything we create so that we can proclaim a gospel with the work of our hands that is in alignment with the world in which we live.  This can make a difference in how we live in the world. It was pointed out that we alter the world just by living in it; and perfection is not possible. Some things we can not affect, like the movement of tectonic plates. But humbly doing the work of compassionate human beings is sufficient.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Part Two -- An Artist's Way: My Art Colony along US 68

    It is a little tricky telling the story of my art colony because the connections are not linear.  They are very web-like.  So, what to tell next, that is the question...  I want to tell you about the Courthouse Square Arts Guild in Carlisle, KY; but I want to start by mentioning a lecture-discussion session that my friend Meg told me about and we attended together.  Native Nicholas Countian, Ann Kingsolver was presenting an analysis of several places in the world and their response to globalization. Nicholas County (Carlisle is the county seat) was one of those places.  Carlisle faces some serious challenges as tobacco weakens as a cash crop and the major local employer, Jockey International, left town ten years ago.  That is why I am so inspired by a hardy group of folks who wanted to create an arts guild and did just that! 
    I first learned about the Guild from Jo-Lynn, whose family owns the furniture store in Carlisle where we purchased the world's most comfortable couch. When I showed up, much of the heavy lifting had already taken place. Regina had dreamed of such an organization for a long time.  Brad (of fossil art fame) and Larry (who makes the most beautiful walking sticks) were interested in organizing to support their activities with local festivals. Cate wanted to make sure there were artistic opportunities in Carlisle. So the scene is one, where many folks were simultaneously dreaming the same dream. The result is an organization with a lot of "parents" which fulfills a broad spectrum of desires.
    A big breakthrough came when Dr. Tamaran generously offered a space for the Guild to call home.  Juanita came up with the name for our place: The Corner Studio. Which is perfect because it sits catty-cornered to the Courthouse Square which gives the Guild its name. Juanita started teaching Bob Ross classes and a whole slew of people started painting. They still are!  Every Tuesday, Juanita, Larry and Carol are at the Studio painting and all are welcome to join them.  Carol keeps us all informed about the guild and is the backbone of our organization (and many others in Carlisle!) In the summer, Louise teaches an art class for children, which is very popular.
    But here is what bedazzles me the most.  Larry, our president, single-handedly started a student art show--just because he thought it should exist! He built floor easels (lots!) and designed table easels to show rows of student art. He contacted all the schools in the region and picked up the art work.  Larry organized with Blue Licks State Resort Park to exhibit the work.  The result is an astounding art exhibit featuring the work of young people--work we would not know about or enjoy--if Larry had not created this opportunity for the students and the public.  Once again, this year the exhibit will be held in mid-April. 
    Like an art colony, the Courthouse Square Arts Guild is the result of many people dreaming for something to exist and then working hard to make it happen.  There is a bit of serendipity involved, too, which I am realizing more and more as I tell you about my art colony along US 68.

For more information about the Courthouse Square Arts Guild, please see the website (thank you, Derek):

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Artist's Way: My Art Colony Along US 68 Part I

It probably started with thinking about the Wyeths and their beautiful setting of Bucks County. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in an art colony!  At one point, art colonies abounded, particularly in New England.  I was reminded of this on a trip to Dartmouth, visiting the Hood Museum of Art, where there is an excellent collection of American art; a lot of it produced in those New England art colonies. One particular painting caught my eye (and continues to draw me in via the excellent catalogue).  That painting is entitled Below Mount Monadnock, painted by Abbott Handerson Thayer. Apparently Mount Monadnock was a favorite subject and situated close to the "burgeoning" art colony of Dublin in New Hampshire.  I have images of Thayer setting out on painting expeditions and stopping to speak with his fellow art colonists about their current projects.  If only I could work in such a setting!  Then one day, this happened--
      I was at my studio at Carnico and took a break to walk Carly, the dog.  It was a short walk, I just walked up the hill and down toward the point, and there were Jim and Ottis.  Ottis had brought a painting for Jim to look at.  Jim restores art as well as doing some framing and making his own original art.  The painting was one that Ottis had collected when he bought art to sell in his furniture store. Ottis is an amazing artist himself; the most experimental artist I know.  It is very liberating to be around him and his work!  Hmmm, I thought, maybe I do live in an art colony.  Jim's wife Katie is a first-rate needle artist and she has recently taken up weaving on an impressive loom. Between their home/studio and mine, is the home/studio of Derek, the mastermind designer of my website: I don't have to travel far to have paintings framed or to have a chat with my website guru! Then a couple of coves over is Brad, who worked hard with others to start the Courthouse Square Arts Guild in nearby Carlisle.  Brad is a fossil artist!  He finds a lot of fossils along US 68 and creates some solid compositions with his found treasures.  March lives down another point and she makes gourd art, using  Native American techniques. Across the lake is Kay, who exudes creativity in her dress and in her collage work.  Her husband Raymond, makes fine furniture in an amazing workshop with a view like you wouldn't believe. No doubt, I am leaving many people out--but I'll get to know them, as Brad is planning an Art of Carnico exhibit. This is just Part I. Finding our place on Lake Carnico has made possible my archipelago-like art colony. I want to tell the story of  all these islands of creativity that enrich my artist's life.