How I became BRANDED

How artist, Sher Fick, found the inspiration for her new series, BRANDED. The series delves into the history and the psychological/physical effects of the dropping of the atomic bombs by the Americans onto the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan.
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An Artist's Ode to a Turtle

Recently I have been thinking about how to get ahead.  Not "ahead" financially - but emotionally and in my art practice.  I frequently look to nature for inspiration . . . usually that would mean the trees, the ocean, the clouds and, always, earth's rocks. 

But today my inspiration is the lowly and 'slow-LY' TURTLE.

According to www.animaltotem.com, having a turtle totem has the following inclinations:  "Turtle teaches us to be careful in new situations and to be patient in reaching our goals. Turtle also teaches us to take things slow, for it gives us time to figure out if we need to protect our self or forge ahead. Turtle shows up in our lives when we need to go into [our] shell and wait until our thoughts & ideas are ready to be expressed. He also teaches us to be adaptable to our environment so we can find the harmony within it."

  

 I think the most important attribute I am working on right now is patience.  I want to run down the studio stairs and immerse myself in making art - I guess that art space is my shell in a sense.  I can truly block out the entire world while I am lost down there.  Yes, it is a true protection . . . but I also might miss something important or meaningful.

So we come full circle (woot, there is a turtle analogy), to audacity.  That turtle needs a whole hunk of it to stick his neck out (this is the most dangerous time for the turtle) to get anywhere.  Can you imagine not only having to risk your very LIFE if you headed out on a journey/goal, but that you had to drag your entire shell/house/studio/life WITH you!!!??????

Today TURTLE has taught me many things . . . the importance of patience, the need for risk taking, and the acceptance of life's baggage (home, children, extended families, work, etc).  I am so encouraged that if nature has given TURTLE such a divine purpose and way to accomplish against all odds - I, too, have received the same potential and ways of progress.

I hope to live long, just like the wise old TURTLE . . . learning to work with and within my environment and balance the risk-taking with the necessary time of self-protection.

If you are interested in more meanings of turtles, please check here .  One last item I found, which I am going to print out and use for inspiration:

Mother Earth

 

Turtle is the oldest symbol for the Earth.
It is the personification of goddess energy and the eternal Earth itself.

If you have a Turtle totem,
you must be mindful of returning to the Earth what she has given you.
Honor the creative source within you.
Use water and earth energies to create a harmonious flow in your life.
Ask the Earth for assistance and her riches will pour forth.

If a Turtle totem shows up in your life,
slow down the pace.
Bigger, stronger, faster are not always the best ways to reach your goals.

Turtle is a fine teacher of the art of grounding.
When you learn to ground yourself to Earth's power and strength,
you place focus on your thoughts and actions
and use the Earth's limitless energies rather than your own to accomplish your will.

 

(excerpt from LinsDomain 

 

 

 

One Week Until The Renaissance Center Opening!

 


n-cap.org and THE RENAISSANCE CENTER announces TAKE CARE: BIOMEDICAL ETHICS IN THE 21st CENTURY, a group exhibition.


Dickson, TN, January 7, 2011 – n-cap.org, along with The Renaissance Center, is proud to announce the opening of TAKE CARE, BIOMEDICAL ETHICS IN THE 21st CENTURY.  The artists of TAKE CARE began organizing the concept and exhibition in 2006-2007, and we are proud to bring the show near its birthplace, Nashville, TN.  Conceived by Nashville artist, Adrienne Outlaw, and organized with the assistance of fellow artist, Sher Fick, of Spring Hill, TN, the exhibition has traveled from Grand Rapids, MI, all the way to Miami, FL for the recent Pool Art Fair. 


Description: The TAKE CARE show highlights biomedical and ethical dilemmas, including: genetic engineering, pharmaceutical therapy, human reproduction/fertility therapies, mitochondrial DNA, familial connections, fetal annomalies, unregulated scientific testing, and the psychological/emotional impact of confronting these decisions, with the hope that viewers will take the opportunity to better appreciate the complexity of these personal decisions in a rapidly changing world.  Works include: ceramic sculpture, video art, mixed media, glass sculpture, embroidered paintings, and photography.


The Renaissance Center is located 35 minutes West of Downtown Nashville in Dickson, TN (855 Hwy 46 S).  The opening artist's reception will be Friday, January 14, 2011, from 6 -8 pm, and the exhibition will be viewable through Feb. 5, 2011.  Reception is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and is FREE.

To read more about TAKE CARE, visit www.n-cap.org/take_care.html
 
TAKE CARE is a group exhibition including the following artists: Annette Gates (GA), Kristina Arnold (Bowling Green, KY), Adrienne Outlaw (Nashville TN),  Sher Fick (Spring Hill, TN), Lindsay Obermeyer (Chicago, IL),  Monica Bock (NE USA), Sadie Ruben (Copenhagen, Denmark), Jeanette May (NYC), and Libby Rowe (TX, formerly a Photography Professor at Vanderbilt University).
 
Excerpts taken from Art Reviews by Internationally-known critics, include the following:
 
“[T]he nine artists participating in TAKE CARE reveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount.”

“Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue.”

“As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, ‘The best way to avoid slippery slopes . . . is to have . . . a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications.’ These artists are that voice.”

-          Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer

“The artists in this exhibition apply the unresolved implications of this phrase “TAKE CARE” to their personal experiences. Together they catalog a plethora of contemporary concerns.”
 
“The artists participating in “Take Care” confirm a distressing truth – today’s mothers do not appear to be bolstered by the collective wisdom of our species. Motherhood in the 21st century remains a lonely experiment racing to keep up with procreative advances at the outposts of human accomplishment.”
 
-          Excerpts from Linda Weintraub, International Contemporary Art Critic/Author/Lecturer

“TAKE CARE is an art show about the challenges of new life and especially those problems inherent in an increasingly technological world.”

“TAKE CARE addresses an issue which is at the heart of art practices, that is the nurturing and understanding of intentional and unintentional creation and it provides a range of aesthetic reactions to this crucial issue.”

“TAKE CARE is considered a “bioethical show” because it points at the departure from one era of motherhood and traces the outline of a new one.” 

-          Veronica Kavass, New York Based Artist/Art Critic

“The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of . . . connection and caring.” 

-          Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD - Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Full Reviews of TAKE CARE (or reviews of works included in the exhibition), may be found on Artist Sher Fick's blog: Linda Weintraub, Chen Tamir, Rachel Bubis, Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, and Tonya Vernooy.
 
For detailed directions, fill in a departure address at this link:
http://www.rcenter2.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20&Itemid=25

The opening Reception, to be held Friday, January 14, 2011, 6-8pm, is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and includes additional exhibitions (see invitation, above).

Contact Information:  Jason Driskill, Curator & Gallery Director, The Renaissance Center, 615-446-4450
or Sher Fick, representing TAKE CARE Artists, Cell 615-975-1025.  All artist can be made available for interviews, (please contact Sher Fick at sherfickart@gmail.com for high-res, print ready images of TAKE CARE.

Full Circle in 2010

So, it is happening!  Can you hear it?  Kind of a buzzing fly that you can't swat away, or perhaps a vibration you can feel in the floorboards?  Impending, non-stoppable, inevitable . . .

2011

It is a mystery to me how EXACTLY this happened, it seems as if it was only yesterday that I was lying prone on my back with slipped discs and a numb leg!  I am so happy that the June laminectomy and discography went so well - not so happy about the pain after the surgery, though!  Honestly, why don't humans just lose their minds from excruciating pain?  Regardless - I am now at 1/2 way recovery and just need to work on my strength so that I can begin  a fuller work schedule.

What I was able to accomplish (mostly from the couch) in 2010: 

a) continuation of handicapped mothering,

b) lots of Mario Cart tournaments

c) after-school chat fests with my crazy, individual children and their numerous friends,

d) teaching piano to the girls, playing from my childhood music books,

e) watching and rating Netflix movies,

f) re-designing my closet,

g) marketing some traveling exhibitions,

h) exhibiting new work in April, and

i) ending the year with a great show in Miami, simultaneously having a great vacation with my hubby.

When I begin to envision 2011 - these are my hopes and dreams:

I would love to make some type of money, I am truly worn out from the hand-to-mouth (really, empty art accounts and charging art supplies to credit cards); I am considering doing some legal transcription or some other type of work-from-home set up . . . but something that pays!  This would still enable me to be accessible to my children as they need me . . . help Dylan get settled into his 1st year of college (woot!) . . .

Artistically things appear to be building steadily, but it costs money to maintain that - thus, the money needs above . . . I am really excited about TAKE CARE's group show in January at The Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN . . . and later in the year at Vanderbilt University. 

I have been designing a new piece for the Custom House Museum's Women's History Month (March), again.  The idea has been brewing in my mind for years and it will be exciting to see it come into fruition.

Also in March I will be travelling with the hubby and newly graduated son, Dylan, to the Keys for his Graduation Trip, his Graduation in May . . . and the Fall will bring my 20th wedding anniversary (I hope I will be skinnier for that)!

I don't have any specific 'New Year's Goals', but I am aiming my focus on a better balance of spirit, work, and family.

2010 started with me being broken physically and I am happy to be feeling on the mend as another year has come FULL CIRCLE.

 

So, enough about me!

What are you planning to do with your life this year? 

Your 365 days?? 

What will you fill your hourglass with, before time runs out????

 

 

In The Meantime . . .

I had every intention of posting weekly . . . especially chapters from the <i>Coping Skills</i>book as a 'tester' - but, as usual, life happens when your busy making other plans. My estranged Grandfather died and it took him weeks to be interred in his self-aggrandized mausoleum; I spiralled into an emotional whirlpool (i.e., emotionally flushed down the toilet); I had an exciting 2 days of working in the studio for a whopping total of 3 hours; and, whammy . . . back to one year ago with pain and general malaise.  Perhaps the surgeon did know what he was talking about - 1 year until I am as recovered as I will ever be. In the meantime . . . I'll just keep stitching my percocet bottles and putting them on display . . . In theory - this is progress.  Right?  I mean, it is something.  Not much, but something. This means that in 1 year I have finished, maybe (if we stretch it) 10 pieces???  So much for my legendary productivity and self-discipline. In the MEAN time . . . I am working on my PATIENCE.  My LIGHT & LOVE. I am reading books, playing on a DS Light, playing Beatles on the digital piano, watching every documentary available on Netflix Instant Watch, compiling my Good Reads Library (I am near 900 hundred 'read' books), and being the best mother that I can be from my couch.  For example, I now know that: I can say a few things about the artmaking and parenthood . . .  taking care of your own needs - that is just putting the oxygen mask on yourself (as they instruct you in life and death situations in an airplane) before connecting the child . . . if you go out - then no one is there to save the kid.   I am working on some new series (slowly) about how the woman is the womb of the family - even for her husband.  All the umbilical cords go from her - and thus connect the man to the child, but through her.  She is the keystone, if her foundation isn't strong - it all goes to hell.  If she doesn't feed herself - all connected to her will suffer.   A child is born . . . and then we train them to crawl, stand, walk, run . .. away.   There are days I want to run away to a job . . . because the multi-tasking of parenting is crazy.  But even as disabled as I am right now - - - I know that me being here - on the couch - allows them to have a center - they revolve around me . . . they boomerang out and then come back home.  It feels good to give them what they really need - an ear to hear and an eye to SEE them . . . every second that I can give that undivided and exultant attention - it is more than most mothers give in a lifetime.  My kids probably think I am a terrible mother, but I hope - that in the future - as they look back, that they will realize that I SAW them and HEARD them.   This year has taught me so much about myself and life in general - I guess it was necessary, and it is still hanging with me.  I don't know if I will ever be back 100 percent physically.  But emotionally and spiritually, I feel like I have grown 'backbone' . . . and that, even from my couch "Yes I Can, Have My Cake & Eat It, Too". So, In the MEAN time - What I have learned is that: "Yes You Can - Have Your Cake & Eat It, Too" Sher Fick, 2010 1 -   I am more than just my title of 'artist' 2 -   I still define myself as an artist, even though I cannot artMAKE right now 3 -   There is something, somewhere in the near future, that I will find - that 'ah ha' moment when I fully understand the benefit from this STATIC physical state. Hello, peanut gallery, what PRAY TELL, could that be???
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I was born in a small town . . .

If you know me - you know this fact - I WAS BORN IN A SMALL TOWN!!! I believe there were less than 300 people in Olivet, IL when I arrived at the age of 4 with my Mom, a new Stepdad and various step and half siblings, with more to arrive . . . The Carter Clan: r & back)Mom; Lisa; Joe; Janetta; Janice; Daddy Jim; middle) Me; bottom row: Johnnie; Troy; Susan If I had to choose an anthem for my teen years - it would be this song.  So many of the lines screamed out from my soul . . . there were a few lines that I 'wished' were true . . .  here are some random thoughts and memories which bubble up every time I hear John crooning . . . Lyrics are copyrighted by Mellencamp   www.johnmellencamp.com "Small Town" Written by John Mellencamp Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town Probably die in a small town Oh those small communities
All my friends are so small town My parents live in the same small town
 
 
  My job is so small town          my first job was at Burger Chef, Danville, IL Provides little opportunity   perhaps one of the reasons I ran away at 18? Image of a similar Burger Chef from the '70's Educated in a small town     attended Pine Crest Elementary (Georgetown), First Baptist Christian School (Danville), Hope Christian School (Danville); but where I really learned the MOST and glimpsed the wider world was in the boundless walls and bookshelves of the Carnegie Library just down Route 1 in Ridge Farm, IL.  But I've seen it all in a small town
Had myself a ball in a small town   Married an L.A. doll this would be married a Jersey boy and brought him to this small town now my kids  are small town,  just like me  
Notre Dame de La Salette Boys Academy - across the highway from my Mom's house, Olivet/Georgetown, IL Used to daydream in that small town   reading about worlds far away Another boring romantic that's me       how many Barbara Cartland's can one girl read?? . . . then my brother's threw one of those paperbacks out the back window of the Olive Green/Panel Country Squire Station Wagon on vacation . . . "Bye, Bye Bawbwa Cawtlan!" No I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
 
 
 
I cannot forget the people who love me from the Sunday gatherings at Grandpa's farm . . . to the church families . . . and the immediate family of siblings and nieces and nephews . . .  
Yeah I can be myself here in this small town  well, I didn't feel I could be myself
And people let me be just what I want to be    and I always felt I was expected to conform to Fundamental Baptist rules - I couldn't be what I wanted to be - but I figured that out later on . . .
 
 
Got nothing against a big town  I feel just as comfortable in NYC, in fact! Still hayseed enough to say Look who's in the big town But my bed is in a small town Oh, and that's good enough for me
Well I was born in a small town And I can breathe in a small town Gonna die in this small town Oh that's probably where they'll bury me  well, I will be cremated and submerged in Copper Canyon, along the Colorado River, near Lake Havasu . . . but you get the idea.  I love to visit the graveyards where my Grandpa and step-dad lay . . . those graveyards are some of the places where my heart has been completely broken, and yet I felt close to those of us left behind.
 
Torpedo as Mailbox? - Olivet, IL 2009 My daughter Lauren, age 15, at Forest Glen Park, Georgetown IL, May 2009   Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town   what I loved were the people in the church and the hymn worship services.  My favorite hymn is "It Is Well With My Soul" . . . my Daddy Jim's funeral was in this very auditorium which occurred just before the interior was burned in a fire . . . from ages 4 to 18, I attended with my family and we filled an entire pew . . .
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Unconfined Perspective

Obviously I have been lost for a month or so - at least to my blog.  It is the never-ending struggle of balancing my 'daily' life with my 'art' life, which somehow doesn't seem to co-exist very well during certain times of my life.  As you know, I don't have a 'day' job or a salary.  So, what, EXACTLY, do I do with my time??? I've been trying to figure that out myself.  When I do get down into my beloved, treasured studio - I am extremely productive.  In fact, I am amazed sometimes at the amount of work I can get accomplished overnight.  It is the 'getting down there' that is the problem at hand. Studio Image from Fall 2009 Studio Image from Fall 2009 Unbeknownst to some, the work of an exhibiting artists entails caboodles of paperwork.  Some days it feels like I have made work (let's say 1 day that week), but the rest of the time is spent marketing, proposing, begging for grant money, all in an effort to have that work get out to the public.  I've been struggling with this, too.  Is my work created just for me?  Would it be enough to make it and keep it hiding here in my house?  If I do keep it here, what does that make it?  A hobby? Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf Finished Encaustic Assemblage Work - on studio shelf I think intent is so important here - my intent when I make objects or alter them is to make commentary on social issues.  Therefore, I have a calling to do social interpretation . . . which, therefore, requires a society to interact with them.  Would it not be so much easier if I just wanted to quilt something to keep myself and my loved ones warm?  Here is my stick - that isn't enough for me. So there.  It isn't enough for me.  So my calling is to make and my duty is to get it out there.   Towards that end I had the 2 trips to Grand Rapids for Artprize in Sept/October.  I still had my broken ankle and that made things more difficult - but the installations were great and it was seen by more than 10,000 viewers.  I found out during that trip there is still much gender-bias in the art world.  I am disappointed, but more determined than ever to move forward. Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Coping Skills, as lit at ARTPRIZE 2009 Also during October were 2 of my kids' birthday parties (Claire's 7th was a happening in and of itself) . . . more company and then in November I had the honor of being chosen as the first ever seed SPACE artist in Nashville, TN.  [NOTE: seed SPACE is a lab for site-specific installation, sculpture, and performance-based art that brings attention to the excellence, diversity, and interest in contemporary art in Tennessee.  seed SPACE brings in nationally recognized art critics to write exhibition essays.]  My art reviewer was Chen Tamir the Director of Flux Factory, Queens, NY.  seed SPACE is currently developing their website - I will provide their link when it becomes available. Having an interview with a critic is not an easy thing.  I am a very open person (obviously) - but I find that each time I have had a one-on-one with an art critic (including Linda Weintraub) the experience has cracked my art spirit wide open - even further than it was prior to the interview.  I have likened it to having a living autopsy performed on oneself.  I maintain that opinion.  The benefit of going through this process is that the critic/reviewer, from their UNCONFINED PERSPECTIVE, can see all the connections and scars and various conditions of your lifework.  Talk about insightful.  Revelatory.  Cathartic.  I could go on and on. Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC Thomas Eakins' THE GROSS CLINIC This all brings me to the following  responses about the experience:  the first draft review is incredibly astute and I appreciated the seriousness with which Chen viewed the work and our interview.  It  is invaluable to me, as a developing artist, to have such direct and unconfined perspective on my works to date.  Interestingly enough, these interviews always spur in me an even greater understanding of who I am becoming and my place in the world - let alone the deeper investigations with the works themselves. There are many other things which have occurred, including the beginnings of several new series, but November seemed to focus on investigating previous works as they are being exhibited.  Additionally, I have 3 years worth of blogs to re-load all the images for due to my Typepad/Wordpress transfer - total debacle! As I move into December, it begins another year of my life - my 43rd.  Although some have mistakenly dismissed me as a bored housewife, I can tell you - there is little that would be more difficult for me to attempt than to nurture my art at the same time I try to raise a family.  If I only needed to be entertained, i can think of much funner, cheaper, and immediately gratifying than being an artist.  It is not the easiest route.  Forging a new path never is.
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Dream in Color - in Honor of Shanna, Carrie, Maureen & Haven

In honor of Carrie’s Studio, Shanna's New Abode for Writing, Maureen's New Cottage for Writing, and after visiting Haven's Writing Barn, I am offering up this Dream I had: Background Information: I always loved art as a child and would study on my own, but I went to a tiny church school with no art class. At this time in my family/community no one mentioned even the possibility of college . . . I thought when you graduated and/or turned 18, you were on your own. So, after high School  I worked full-time, moved in with an aunt in Texas, and then ran off and got married at 19. I kept painting, mostly watercolor and some acrylic, but not really knowing what I was doing. Got into the New Age movement . . . began to believe in my ‘gift’ and that it was part of my tautology. After a divorce I enrolled in an Art Institute while still working full time. One week before classes started I was in an accident and badly injured my back. I met Donny (he was my physical therapist). We married and planned and started our family.  The deal was, I would have art as a hobby and go to school when the kids reached pre-school age.   Above, 30 second gesture drawings from Drawing 101. This dream (of returning to school) came true when I was 27/28. I started with a night drawing class . . . then before I started Painting 101 - I went shopping for art supplies. choosing every tube of Galleria acrylic paint and each paintbrush with exceeding care and love . . .     I then had this dream while being part of a dream interpretation group. FLOWER TRAIN.   I am on a swiftly moving SILVER BULLET train . . . we are flashing through landscapes and the train slows as we come around a bend. I peer out the window and see breathing, pulsing BRIGHT FLESH and CREAMY flowers of an unidentified species. They are singing and throbbing with color and life.   I reach down and pat the baby car seat which is sitting next to me on the train-bench. The 'baby' is wrapped in a beautiful crocheted (which I made) cobweb of rainbow beams . . . I lift the blanket to reveal -   the new glorious tubes of paint and carefully arranged paintbrushes. I cry in recognition. THE END   Above, "Unveiled Sorrow" created in Painting 101 with Professor D. Anne Waters. So - the point being that this dream is when I came to the realization that I needed to nurture and foster my ‘gift’ of creativity to the same extent that I nurtured and fostered my own children.   Our family, around the time of this dream . . . Art is a part of me. I cannot give it away or neglect it. I cannot tell you the all encompassing effect this realization/dream has had on my life. It was my license to be who I was born to be.  . . . and then came Claire.
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May Day - Happy Beltane, to Dylan

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but then . . . I put away childish things. One of the 'childish things' I put away was the making of, and delivering of. May Baskets.
  • May Day, holiday of ancient origin, observed on the first day of May, especially in Europe. It has traditionally been celebrated with merrymaking and festivities. May Day has been set aside to commemorate the labor movement in many countries around the world.
  • Beltane (a/k/a MayDay) http://www.mythinglinks.org/Beltane.html
 
...Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain ('opposite Samhain'), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church's name). This last came from Church Fathers who were hoping to shift the common people's allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham - symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross - Roman instrument of death)....
On the date itself:
...This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Bull, one of the 'tetramorph' figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft.  Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers.... In Ireland, the Fire-Eye organization hopes to light Beltane bonfires on the ancient hills to invoke larger protection and healing for all the animals.  They ask the rest of us, worldwide, to join in this vigil with candles:
...*Light a Bealtine Candle. From April 27 through May 1, place a light in your window to signify your solidarity with the animals and those who tend them. The soft flame of a candle is a tiny echo of those ancient blazes (for safety reasons you may wish to use an electric light).... In a recent interview cosmologist Brian Swimme gave a short version of the whole story of evolution: he said: “You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes, and humans.” If possible, celebrate Beltane in a forest or near a living tree. If this is impossible, bring a small tree within the circle, preferably potted; it can be of any type. Create a small token or charm in honour of the wedding of the Goddess and God to hang upon the tree.  You can make several if you desire. These tokens can be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings, flower garlands - whatever your talents an imagination can conjure....
If you were a child in the mid-70's in the Midwest, you, too, would have woven baskets out of pastel-colored construction paper.  You would have stapled on a construction paper handle and then filled the basket with flowers from your yard, or your neighbors yard ;), and then hung them on doors, knocked (or rung the doorbell), and then RAN REALLY FAST to hide in the bushes and watch the housewives exclaim in wonder as they buried their faces in their posies.   "A tisket, a tasket, a blue and yellow basket . . . " I'm hoping to have time later today (um, it is 1:30 a.m. and I have yet to go to bed) to make some May Baskets and enjoy this lost tradition with my son Dylan, who is turning 17, but this is one of the days he celebrates, and with my daughter, Claire, age 6. My wish to all my friends, near and far, the ones that have supported me in the rough spots and held me high to the spirit of love, to those far who have celebrated with me through the joys of life, career, and family.   I send you this day a virtual posie: may this feed your spirit and renew you in rebirth of energy and joy for the coming season of growth. My heart is always with you, even if my body is not. For Dylan, my son, who is struggling through the tempest of teenage angst and anxious for his real life to begin - please remember to smell the roses, to enjoy each day as it comes for what it is - I am so proud of you - your courage each day as you face life's challenges.  How you not only rise to the occasion, but surpass all I could ever dream for you to be and to become. You are my heart. Dylan, you and I, we share so many good and 'bad' qualities: 1. Curiosity 2. Strong Work Ethic 3. Inbred/inborn moral code. 4. Strength to stand and think on OUR OWN . . . if only this didn't get us in so much trouble. But I can promise you two things, my firstborn, my only son: 1.  You are a miracle and you will one day be able to choose your environment, friends, and family to nurture your soul and mind in the way you deserve. 2.  You are worthy and deserve goodness from life.  I believe in YOU and your soul and I am so looking forward to seeing you blossom into the wonderful, senstive man I know you will become.  As a husband you will be gentle and understanding.  As a father you will be nurturing and guide gently.  As a teacher/explorer - you will show the world things they have never conceived before. Just give it a few years - I promise, your life is unfolding, just as this spring does.  In Hope of Re-Birth, In Celebration of a Blooming World, For Art's Sake, Sher
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Post Pilgrimage - Haven Kimmel & Augusten Burroughs - Part 1

So, for those of you who didn't know - I have spent the last 9 months completely immersing myself in a writer's blog.  I first read A Girl Named Zippy many years ago, and have periodically looked up and read the author, Haven Kimmel's work.  Last August I did an on-line search to see if she had any new novels out and, low and behold, she not only had a NEW NOVEL (Iodine) but also hosted a blog on which she frequently posted and interacted.  I immediately jumped headfirst and have been trying to keep my head above water ever since. www.havenkimmel.com/blog Other illustrious writers frequent the blog, as well as general fans which are many English teachers, writers, and general AMAZING people.  By September, October of '08 we were officially referred to as "Blog Babies"  . . . in celebration of ourselves, Haven, and her best friend and fellow writer, Augusten Burroughs (www.augusten.com , author of: Running With Scissors, Sellivision, Dry, Magical Thinking, and the recent The Wolf At The Table) and their joint appearance in Haven's hometown of Durham, NC - we all decided to go on a pilgrimage to meet this denizen of peace. I know this sounds rather 'stalkerish', right?  But you would have to be on the blog to realize how close we have all become.  We know each others souls inside and out, we are our chosen families.  We have been through good and bad together . . . we NEEDED to meet each other and, hopefully, Haven. So - here is my Durham Journal: I've heard tell that you shouldn't build up an event too much because you might set yourself up for disappointment.  So it is with great THRILL that I can report the opposite - somethings and some people are so much better and greater and kinder and brighter than you imagined them to be. I am speaking, of course, of Haven Kimmel's LEGS   I will give you the benefit of a time line because I know that everyone is breathless for all the details, right? So, last weekend I spent 4 days creating 18 paintings based on Haven Kimmel's She Got Up Off The Couch memoir.  Here are a few peeks:   "George" for George Stuteville (http://georgestuteville.wordpress.com/2009/) Also, George didn't come to the Pilgrimage because he was wearing his orange crocs while gardening and did some heinous thing to his toe which involved xrays and crutches, but really he might have been scared off by the estrogen-laden atmosphere . . .   "It's Elementary" - Fellow blog baby Sarah ended up with this painting and it was delivered in person by Fellow Blogger Maureen and her sister Kathleen.   My actual journey began Tuesday night when I drove to North Nashville to pick up Kate Cake (fellow Kimmel Blog Baby from Evansville IN) and her almost 2 year old daughter, Alice.  They spent the night in my vintage bed complete with vintage Holly Hobbie Sheets and Claire (my six year-old daughter) really enjoyed having a 'little' around   Kate Cake (along with two huge Tupperware containers of sinful Oreo Bon-bons), Alice and I left our house around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday after some waffles and coffee (for Kate, not me - I was already loading up on DIET COKE).  We made it exactly .25 miles before we had our first stop (Walgreen's for anti-nausea medicine for Alice) . . . another stop for a 'maybe Alice is sick' and another 'oh yes, she is sick!"  This is all par-for-the-course in our family as both my older kids promptly vomited on ANY trip . . . Dylan's most famous was a green fruit roll-up projectile vomiting which hit the windshield and splashed both me and my sister, Susan, in the front seat.  He.  Has. Never.  Consumed. Another. Fruit.  Roll-up. But, I digress . . . we had a lovely lunch in Knoxville with my artist friend, Alicia Beach (see my posting, http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/beauty-by-produ.html to read about Alicia's art and for photos) - we ate at PF Chang's which was LOVELY and Alice was PERFECT, both Kate and Alicia had Sesame Chicken and I had Honey Chicken . . . yum! We then pressed on towards Durham . . . and we drove  . . . and drove . . . and drove.  At one point I had to potty (like a LLAMA, as my soon-to-be 15 year old daughter, Lauren, would say) so badly (I was trying not to stop . . . to save the 5 minutes).  By the time I finally found a rest area I was in such horrible pain that I couldn't stand up straight or RUN . . . I hobbled like an old lady, which greatly entertained Kate as she watched from the car. We finally blew into The Washington Duke Inn (www.washingtondukeinn.com) at 6:30 pm . . . many blog  babies greeted me in the lobby - the first was Maureen and Kathleen, followed by the most gorgeous and generous Caryl, with Amber, Molly, Kittery and Shanna close-behind. Kate and I did the quickest 'freshen up' and joined the gang in the lounge for casual fireside fare and beverages.  Here is a gathering of the gifts I received from Caryl, the greatest and most hospitable Blog Baby -   Caryl actually created a book out of our blog postings, titled: "Blog Babies, What We Read", she included an original painting by Cathy DeleRee (www.siestalane.com), and two books as well as purchasing a glass boot cup for me from ebay (this is a famous item I am constantly searching for). Haven and her GORGEOUS husband/potter/singer John Svara http://johnsvara.com/ joined us at 7:30 and as she rounded the corner into the lounge this was my thought: "she is my childhood hero grown up, she is Pippi Longstocking as an adult"   Here is, from the left: Shanna, Haven, Kittery and Molly - we are doing a blog baby pose - photos which capture our bottoms (or lack thereof).     another picture shows Kate Cake on the far left . . . This Pippi Longstocking reference is a great compliment as I thought she was the BEES-KNEES when I was a kid.  She had it ALL: a wonky-creative house all to herself, fabulous wardrobe, and all those talking animals (not to mention she knew how to clean - strapping brushes onto her feet and DANCING!).  As you will see, Haven embodies all these tributes.  A gracious, generous and unexpected invitation occurred when Haven invited the group to return to her home to meet the dogs and see her writing barn.  Of course we all agreed and piled into cars for this added adventure.  Haven was amused to watch the blog babies spill forth from my van - it was like a clown car, they just kept pouring out.    Here is a vision of Haven's inner sanctum - focusing on her writing desk.  It was a great honor for her to invite us over . . . I can barely share this image because it feels a lot intrusive (which is rather how I felt as well).  Due to my general 'bizarreness' I LOVED all the taxidermy, bones, spiritual items with which she surrounds herself as she creates her chamber . . . simply entering it gives one the feeling of intellect and wry humor, as well as a deep and pervasive spirituality.  I was honored that quite a few my pieces were displayed in this sanctuary:     Can you name which piece of art is a "Sher" original? Haven displays many miniatures and these broken ladies almost broke my heart, they were so vulnerable and precious. Wednesday evening closed with a nice lobby chat with Kittery and Caryl, both of whom I hope to know better and for a lifetime!  When Kittery needed to return a phone charger to Kathleen (in Maureen and Molly's room) I moo'd at the door for many minutes before a perplexed Molly opened it up . . . apparently I shouldn't moo after midnight . . . right, Mooooooreen (note: Maureen and her asperger husband, Andy, run a dairy farm in NY state, so this is an homage to her Laura Ingalls Wilder lifestyle)! Catch up with Maureen and her fabulous blog http://lovingthetasmaniandevil.wordpress.com/ . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Footnote~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Post feelings about Wednesday Night's Visit to the Writing Barn:  Thursday I started off feeling very awkward about visiting the barn the night before. We were invited, but it felt a little bizarre . . . about 12 of us sat in the dark on the deck in the back yard as Haven lured Cubby out . . . it was a gorgeous thing to see her kneeling with her arms around Iorek (her massive Italian Mastiff and Cubby (80 plus percent wolf cub) and Pupa (sp?, smaller dog) prancing around. Amazingly, I was not afraid . . . even less afraid of Cubby . . . to me dogs are terrifying because they have been domesticated/humanized and knowing the completely heinous heart of some humans who then train their dogs in this manner . . . it is the human influence I fear in the dogs . . . so Cubby, 86 percent wild wolf- I am not afraid at all. Any...
Any encounter in nature, rattlesnakes or whatever, those don’t frighten me nearly as much as a barking dog. go figure.
Entering the barn was amazing. Going through the double barn doors you walk through a storage area where Haven has extra taxidermy (including the chow-chow) . . . she has the most amazing bicycle . . . then into the inner sanctum. It actually reminded me of many of the convent/monastery chambers in Italy. It has been modernized with the exception of the preserved original window . . . drywalled and whitewashed it is a blank canvas . . . in which you can see the heart and soul of Haven Kimmel. Her beloved friends (her animals/taxidermy) are gathered to keep her company in her solitude. The pervasive feeling is of spirituality and self-determination. It is the epitome of “A Room of One’s Own” - what she has been able to create in this physically small space is monumental. Every item has been chosen for its imbued meaning and this evokes such a spirit of readiness to creativity - I am enthralled. We were in a tour figuration, but it still felt intimate. Unfortunately, I felt like the people that used to go view the Dion Quintuplets. We were invited . . . and i LOVE to share my space with people, but it still seemed a bit voyeuristic. Probably because we were in a group . . . that was Wednesday night. In this image to the left you see a full grown wolf and leaning in the corner behind him is an altered Tibetan style prayer flag I created for Haven last Fall during an illness. Seriously, knowing that IODINE was written there. I am speechless.
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Another Art Review for TAKE CARE!!!

Art Review by Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD

Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

 

Motherhood is about caring and connection. Recent developments present new challenges to this fundamental institution. Some of the developments are social. Women have always cared for other women’s children, especially since women until recently frequently died in childbirth.  Women historically confronted pregnancy, labor, and delivery with no small amount of fear.  Literature is full is stories about stepmothers, some of whom were wonderful, and a hopefully exaggerated proportion who were not. In today’s society, with divorce and remarriage, children often have two or more mothers at the same time, which can stress notions of the unitary family that characterize our society’s dominant discourse. Other developments are scientific. New technologies can enable pregnancies that otherwise would not occur.  Conception can be separated from carrying and birthing. The fetus can be visualized during pregnancy. Baby’s first picture is often a sonogram. And while blood ties have always had particular social salience, increased understanding of genetics has t ended to make them even more important. Not so long ago, efforts to establish paternity depended on whether the child looked like the father. Now the relationship can be established with certainty, using a blood sample or a simple swab of the inside of the cheek.

The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of motherhood, of connection and caring.  Sometimes, new knowledge of connection is beneficial. Take the case of mitochondrial DNA, the focus of Annette Gates’ work.  Unlike most of our DNA which comes from both parents, the DNA in mitochondria, the energy sources of our cells, comes entirely from our mothers. As a result, we are connected directly with our mothers, and their mothers, through generations. Maternal inheritance became important after hundreds of young professionals and dissidents were “disappeared” by the military regime in Argentina in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their children were confiscated and placed in new homes, seemingly without a trace. But the grandmothers, the abuelas, enlisted the aid of Mary-Claire King who used the mitochondrial DNA to identify and return their grandchildren.

But the supremacy of genetic connection is not always so benign. New reproductive technologies allow many to overcome infertility, but often at a steep price. Some women experience the process of hyper ovulation, egg retrieval, and pharmacologic support of gestation as alienating, as transforming them into the objects of the medical gaze.  Jeanette May’s at times almost comical images of eggs serve as a counterpoint to quotidian pictures of women and sonograms. And yet women pursue these procedures specifically to create a family with children to whom they are biologically connected. Notably, while some women use donated eggs so that they can have the experience of gestation, it is far more common for women to implant and carry to term embryos created with their own eggs, evidencing the importance of genetic connectedness.

 

Our laws often enact the primacy of genetic connections. A number of courts have ruled that gestational surrogates, women who carry embryos created using the egg of another woman, usually the woman in the couple who commissioned the surrogacy, are not “mothers” of the resulting children and so have no basis on which to seek custody or contact. In these cases, the experience of pregnancy, with its risks,

discomforts, and obviousness, simply disappears as a matter of law.  Monica Bock’s inclusion of bits of umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, and the amniotic sac into dustpans perhaps symbolizes gestation as waste, of women as fetal containers. In our legal system, children are permitted to have only two parents no matter how many adults play a role in their lives, and those two parents have supremacy over all the others. In blended families, where the genetic parents separate from each other and then form new relationships, the new adults – the stepparents – can struggle to define their roles as parents, particularly as against the genetic parents whose claims once cemented by a modicum of nurture persist unless severed by abandonment or abuse. It is rage against the iconification of the genetic link that Kristina Arnold explores in her work. In her Drip installation, red glass pieces encased in hastily stitched plastic covers, protrude from the wall.

 

While behavior is almost surely the product of complex gene environment interactions, much effort has been devoted recently to dissecting the genetic contributions. Several years ago, for example, Caspi and his collaborators demonstrated that children with a particular genetic variant who were seriously abused during childhood were more likely to have serious behavior problems as adults. Such findings can be used in a variety of ways – to identify children who need special protection (although all children deserve a safe home), to identify druggable targets for treatment, to undermine the inadequate mothering explanation for children’s problems. Each of these uses raises its own ethical and policy challenges. As light dancing on Obermeyer’s beadwork shifts one’s perception of the work, so might new findings shift our understanding of behavior.

 

For millennia, women have worried that their children would be born with something visibly wrong. The ability to visualize the fetus using techniques such as ultrasonography and MRI has transformed pregnancy, providing the potential to make these fears concrete. These technologies can and often do provide reassurance, which is one reason ultrasound has become routine. At times, however, they reveal variations, some of which resolve but many of which are serious problems, leaving women with decisions about whether to continue the pregnancy, whether to undergo fetal therapy where possible, or whether simply to prepare for what may lie ahead. These concerns are represented in very different ways by Sadie Ruben and Libby Rowe.  Ruben represents the fetus as alien, strange, frightening, floating in liquid evoking amniotic fluid within the womb, taking over the woman’s body. Rowe’s malformed sock monkeys, by contrast, suggest that we are meant to accept and love children no matter what their challenges.

 

Finally, some of the artists comment on the technology itself. Sher Fick celebrates pharmaceuticals, which allow her to live. Her pill bottles are covered with fabrics, many of which show story book characters from our childhood.

 

Adrienne Outlaw intersperses colorful scientific videos of the embryonic heart and blood flow using such techniques as confocal microscopy with pictures of the dailyness of mothering and taking care – breastfeeding, snuggling, nurturing. The science is spectacular, but which is the more wonderful?

 

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TAKE CARE? Take Care!

 
 
 

Take Care? Take Care!

 
 
by Linda Weintraub www.lindaweintraub.com
  Motherhood is on trial. It is being tested by a dedicated and well-meaning corps of inventors, engineers, scientists, and doctors. Their technological achievements are designed to create and prolong life, but they are weighing upon "mother love," challenging "mother wit," and surpassing "mother instincts." Mutually loving relationships between mother and child are relegated to the background of the works of art in this exhibition. The emotional tenor that occupies their foregrounds is trepidation, anxiety, effort, and frustration. The triple meaning of the phrase that serves as this exhibition?s title reveals the nature of today?s disputed definitions of motherhood. Spoken softly, "take care" is an affectionate parting expression that conveys the desire to protect a loved one from harm. Uttered sternly, "take care" conveys the foreboding of danger. To actually "take care" of something or someone can either be burdensome or gratifying. The nine female artists in this exhibition apply the unresolved implications of this phrase to their personal experiences. Together they catalog a plethora of contemporary concerns.    
 
Annette Gates, Adrienne Outlaw, Sadie Ruben, and Jeanette May acknowledge the medical breakthroughs that offer women unprecedented options for fertility, prenatal screening, diagnostic testing, and extend fetal and infant survival. But they concentrate on the inadvertent and inevitable opportunities for anguish these technological advancements introduce. The ethical dilemmas they express in their works of art were unknown to previous generations of mothers.
Annette Gates returns to the instant of conception that has been occurring since the first multi-celled organisms arose on planet Earth. But her installation is a riveting reminder that unleashing this generative force may not be an occasion for celebration. Such concerns can be products of sophisticated technologies that make improbable outcomes appear like looming certainties. The harmless crocheting and knitting techniques that Gates employs to form her porcelain molecular sculptures are jarring contrasts to the dangers of tampering with life on the microscopic scale. Each component in her wall relief suggests irregularities in cell differentiation and unchecked multiplication during fetal development.   Adrienne Outlaw?s "Fecund Videos" require that the viewer peer into breast-like conical forms arranged across the wall in order to discover what fecund processes are referred to by the title. Alternative answers are presented in the form of tiny videos installed within each form. Some videos capture intimate scenes of babies suckling, fetal kicking, fingers fluttering, and a nursing mother?s breast draining. Others apply the word „fecund? to state-of-the-art microscopic imaging that probes the miniscule realms where new life stirs and takes form. The videos convey the complexity of reconciling advanced technological discoveries with the traditional role of mother as incubator, feeder, and nurturer of infants.   Sadie Ruben?s "Alien Fetus Series" presents a line-up of specimen jars containing in-uteri forms that resist objective scrutiny despite their sterile laboratory appearance. These curiosities elicit the squeamish apprehension that might accompany a collection of extraterrestrial creatures, not the research of an Earth-bound scientist. None of the sculptured fetus forms appear normal. They are either humanoid, mammaloid, reptile-oid, fungoid, or some other bizarre deviation from norms of life on Earth. The work confronts views with the strange and unsettling frontier of contemporary genetic manipulations.   Jeanette May practices art, however she introduces an alternative meaning for the letters „a?, „r?, and „t?. In her work "Fertility in the Age of A.R.T.," these letters stand for Assisted Reproductive Technology. May explores this theme by creating complex assemblages of found images paired with borrowed texts. The visual world she constructs is shiny, colorful, but disturbingly engineered. While viewers observe a pregnant woman proudly displaying her protruding torso, a healthy cow, and infant toys, they also observe eggs that have been forced to assume the shapes of squares. The accompanying quotations track evidence of such intrusive procreative manipulations to health books, government reports, and advertisements. Kristina Arnold, Sher Fick, Lindsay Obermeyer, Monica Bock, and Libby Rowe present full disclosure of the emotional toll of high-tech, commercially-supported, media-sponsored motherhood. They articulate the dread of bearing a malformed or malfunctioning infant, the concern of adopting a child damaged by a harsh life experience, and the anxiety of being loved by a child that is not a biological offspring. They present these forms of adversity as opportunities to honor motherly courage, resolve and achievement.   Kristina Arnold?s "Fragile" series includes a relief comprised of individual dark red droplets of molten glass that appear to have cooled so abruptly that they congealed mid-way as they fell. Dozens of these hardened glass drips protrude precariously from the wall. Protection is feeble. It takes the form of clear plastic coverlets hastily stitched around their bases. The drips that cluster into units seem no less fragile. A brittle material presented in a threatened position is a poignant manifestation of motherhood at the breaking point. Arnold places her work within the context of the guilt associated with a mother?s yearning to reclaim her independence, the destructive effects of custody battles, the futility of providing protection, but also the persistent hope for resolution.   Sher Fick?s "Coping Skills" discloses the dismantling of her pre and post partum psyche. The focus, however, is not on mental unraveling. Fick?s work celebrates the success of her determined efforts to stitch the fractured parts of her personality into a coherent persona. This internal struggle is conveyed through the use of prescription drug bottles that are encased in soft flannel fabrics, the kind that are used for baby clothes. Idealized and sentimentalized images of childhood are printed on these tiny swatches of fabric. Hastily stitched together, they suggest the disorderly spontaneity of crazy quilts and the emergency suturing of emotional ruptures. One means of overcoming such mental anguish comes packaged in pill bottles. In this work, Fick defies the stigma against the use of prescription drugs to assist women in becoming responsible and loving mothers.   Lindsay Obermeyer chooses a sumptuous medium associated with wealth and celebration. She uses it to address the challenge of bonding with a child whose short life was devoid of opportunities to develop trust in others and confidence in self. Obermeyer portrays her daughter?s silhouette as an impenetrable barricade dividing flat empty fields of color from dense patterns that are meticulously stitched with beads, sequence, and embroidery. The care and patience required of mothers is embodied in the stitching process that formed this artwork. In "Blues," the surrounding swirls and stars appear to assault the figure. In "Red Hot," searing flames surge within the figure. Both works evoke the psychological blockade built of scars from a child?s damaging upbringing, and the adoptive mother?s determination to breach this divide.   Monica Bock removes procreation from the two contexts where it is usually situated. On the one hand she reclaims procreation from advanced technologies that probe the development of a fetus from its single-cell, microscopic origins. By preserving bits of the umbilical cord, the amniotic sac, and the amniotic fluid that her body created to give life to her daughter, she reaffirms the body?s primacy over technology. At the same time, she removes these relics of birth from the sacred context that shrouds them in mystery. By inserting these visceral remnants into the handles of dust pans, the birth of a child is joined to mundane tasks of cleaning. Bock cast the dust pans in glycerin, a sweet-tasting fat that conveys the twin sides of mothering: as an ointment it soothes; as a solvent it bonds.   Libby Rowe?s "Womb Worries" takes the form of stuffed monkeys that cannot be purchased. They are only available for adoption. In this manner Rowe teases out the difference between three forms of money exchange - purchasing a commodity, paying to induce fertility, and adopting a child. She then intensifies the emotional stress of deciding among these alternatives by rejecting the cherub-like perfection of Gerber and Gap babies. Rowe?s handmade dolls are afflicted with abnormal quantities of limbs, misaligned backbones, and distorted faces. Yet they are endearing, not grotesque. An official decree of adoption accompanies each adoptee. The temptation to sign a certificate is instructive. It reveals that opportunities to delight in mother love can be attained by caring for a mal-formed child.   The artists participating in "Take Care" confirm a distressing truth – today?s mothers do not appear to be bolstered by the collective wisdom of our species. Despite the fact that Homo sapiens have been bearing and raising children for over 100,000 years, motherhood in the 21st century remains a lonely experiment racing to keep up with procreative advances at the outposts of human accomplishment.    
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First Review of TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood

 

Written by Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer, 2009 for TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood Exhibition.

  

Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.                                                                                                     -- Madame de Stael, 1835[1]

 

 

As molecular medicine, genetic manipulation, cloning, and stem cell research their rapid progress so too must the morality and ethics that assist in governing their boundaries. Through an examination of the gray area between enhancement and therapy, necessity and desire, parent and child, the nine artists participating in Take Care: The Art, Science, and Bioethics of Motherhoodreveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount. The political philosopher Michael J. Sandel writes, "Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we may soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our new-found genetic knowledge may also enable us to manipulate our own nature...to make ourselves 'better than well.'"[2] Caught in the middle of this is the mother whose fundamental need to create, protect, and support her offspring to the best of her ability has to contend with biotechnology's possible repercussions While scientists are driven by the aspirations of discovery and improvement, the artists serve as the cultural conscience, helping to explicate the complex and question the ramifications of a science that will pervade social, political, cultural, and self beliefs.

  

 

Both Sher Fickand Lindsay Obermeyer examine normality and the question of enhancement versus therapy. But what is normal? In May 2008 USA Today reported that 51% of Americans were taking at least one prescription drug for a chronic condition, a 50% increase since 2001. In 7 years time, maintaining a certain standard of health by taking daily medication had become the norm.  In Coping SkillsSher Fick constructed a table to hold all of the medication she has consumed in her "pursuit of physical and mental health;"[3]prescriptions that enable Fick to become, and remain, an attentive, present mother. The structure exists as both an altar and a vanity. The mirrored shelf implies a dressing table that might hold cosmetic goods. Yet, the artist challenges this notion by carefully encasing each medication in a finely made quilt with suture seams. The preciousness or fragility implied by these colorful coverings can be attributed to either the medication itself or, more likely, the medicine taker. The coverings themselves contain varied images of skulls, religious imagery, monetary symbols, band-aids, plant life, 1950s children playing, and Frida Kahlo, who suffered a tragic miscarriage.  The vibrancy and symbolism along with the altar itself suggest Dia de Los Muertos, a celebration that honors lost loved ones. Could it be that the artist is commemorating her past self and simultaneously rejoicing in the person these pharmaceuticals have allowed her to become?

  

 

Lindsay Obermeyer also deals with the pain and stigma of someone who requires medical and pharmaceutical intervention. Her fastidious beadwork enables the viewer to visualize the complexities of emotional and mental health care. All three portraits show her daughter in profile. In Shadow – Blues the internal silhouette is made up of clear crystals while contrasting shades of blue fly and swirl around her. She is completely still, unable to move, amidst a sea of activity; she feels empty, cold and alone. In the other portrait, Shadow – Red Hot, the pattern and complex beadwork take place within her profile; as if her mind and body are on fire. The world around her seems to melt away, again she is alone. In Voidthere is only her faint profile leaving the viewer asking: will her daughter ever emerge? Obermeyer's work calls out to the audience for help. The artist desperately wants to know if mood and mind altering medications will help or hurt. Are the trials and side-effects worth the possible outcome? Currently, geneticists are working on  prescriptions tailored to a patient's genetics, eliminating most trials and tribulations while opening up the door to enhancement possibilities. Nicolas Agar suggests this may become a slippery slope. "Some think that we should pass different moral judgments on enhancement from those we pass on therapy. They say that while therapy is justifiable, enhancement is not. The problem is that it is difficult to make the therapy–enhancement distinction principled. It is hard to find definitions of disease suitable to serve as a moral guideline for genetic technologies."[4]

 

 

The idea that our genetics will one day define our medical treatment is at once promising and scary. Everyone wants to be seen as an individual yet that individuality should not be an uncontrollable deciding factor in receiving health care and insurance or in becoming someone's companion, lover, parent, or child. In Kristina Arnold's Drip installation, the artist seems to be questioning how blood defines a person. The "drips" are dark red projections in clear plastic pouches with sutured edges, each unique in size and form, like individuals in a family.  The plastic pouches resemble microscope slides while each blood drip casts a long shadow on the white wall. These silhouettes of bloodlines are altered by light changes in the room, implying the coming changes in how a person is perceived as genetics becomes interchangeable with the definition of self. The self then becomes a commodity as Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, predicted in 1998, "It’s likely that within less than ten years, all one hundred thousand or so genes that comprise the genetic legacy of our species will be patented, making them the exclusive intellectual property of global  pharmaceutical, chemical, agribusiness, and biotech companies."[5]While Rifkin's forecast proved over-eager, it certainly seems to be progressing. Stefan Lovgren of National Geographic wrote in October 2005, "A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities." If one-fifth of our genetic material is owned by companies and colleges what does that leave for the individual? 

 

 

 

Focusing on the definition of self, Annette Gates creates porcelain organisms that are casts of originals; they are the structures left behind once the fabric shells have been destroyed in a firing process. The end result is an archetype, similar yet distinct from its mother. Within current cloning practices, where one de-nucleated donor egg is injected with another donor's genetic material, the end result is a clone with replicated DNA but this does not mean an exact duplicate. First, the genetic material from the donor egg does become a part of the clone, and second, as the clone matures the environment that created the original can never be the exact same thus its gene expression will vary. Gates' organisms tell tales of a fragile future where they cannot meet the expectations of the original; they are new conglomerations of old material. As the British philosopher, Jonathan Glover, points out, "There is the objection that a child created as a replica is treated, not as an end in himself or herself, but merely as a means."[6]Those means, he goes on to explain, can be the wish of a parent to live on after death or the desire to recreate a passed loved one. In the end the clones, like Gates' organisms, will always be fragile reproductions.   

 

Libby Rowe's Womb Worries series addresses the anxieties all mothers-to-be have when they prepare for a new life. Currently, genetic testing is still in its early stages, generally for upwards of only 14 genetic abnormalities. However, a laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine has begun trials for genetic testing that looks for 200 different genetic diseases. Its chair of molecular and human genetics, Arthur Beaudet, believes that this screening process will become routine in five years time. The Houston Chronicle reported, in December 2008, the issues surrounding such a test include potential false positives, which could lead parents to abort a healthy fetus, the implication that a life with a disability is not worth living and disparity between those who can and cannot afford such a test (it is currently $1600).[7]  It is interesting then that Rowe has chosen to use the sock monkey to convey her worries. The sock monkey was historically a working class child’s toy, made from red-heeled knit socks used by factory and farm workers. The artist has taken this toy and remade it for adults as either a cautionary tale or to highlight the possible horrors that await us if we don’t get tested. Although each monkey is still smiling, unaware of their abnormalities, ready for love, how is a parent supposed to care for a child that has two heads, one genital, and no legs? Like Paul McCarthy's Tomato Heads of 1994, whose "novelty item appearance hints at the manic consumerism of our theme-park utopias," Rowe makes us aware of the capitalistic culture behind these natural maternal anxieties.[8]There is no right answer, it is an individual choice, but one that is made for a price. As Richard Hayes, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, states, "We support the use of that [genetic screening] to allow couples at risk to have healthy children. But for non-medical, cosmetic purposes, we believe this would undermine humanity and create a techno-eugenic rat race."[9]

 

Whether through cloning or genetic manipulation, Sadie Ruben's Alien Fetuses ask if the aberrations that originate from gene expression errors are worth potential desired results. Her creatures' destinies are unknown as they sit, brewing – growing – within glass jars that seem to resemble pasta containers used in the kitchen rather than scientific vessels of experimentation. Ruben's fetuses are commenting on the commoditization of lab created embryos. The gold flecks adhering to their opaque, amorphous bodies indicate their precious worth. But we are left to wonder what happens to them if Ruben is unable to care for them? They are helpless and completely dependent upon human ministering. These beings can be seen as a critique of trendy hobbyists trying to genetically engineer life in their garage. With visions of becoming the Steve Jobs of biotechnology, laypersons are beginning to experiment with new life forms at home. A group known as DIYbio has begun a community laboratory where amateurs can explore their scientific ideas. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell suggests that this type of unrestrained environment could lead to some very important discoveries. He added, "We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game."[10]But Ruben's fetuses tell a different story, one of a nebulous future where their lives are not entertaining rather they exist in a lonely laboratory.

 

This laboratory lifestyle could become a reality if Dr. Davor Solter, developmental biologist at the Institute of Medical Biology, is correct in his prediction of the future use of artificial wombs. He says, "In essence, it would eliminate all the limitations we have now: you could have as many or as few progeny as you want...I can visualize a fetus floating freely in fluid and the umbilical cord attached to a machine."[11]The work of Monica Bock questions the current and evolving value of the mother in our society as biotechnology advances. Bock's Afterbirth (Sac, Fluid, Cord) focuses on the importance of a mother's body in keeping her fetus alive and growing. Yet it is the placenta – whose sole function is to provide nutrients and oxygen from mother to child – that is so quickly discarded after the child is born. The three dustpans reference this quick disposal and hint at the possibility of life as a commodity. That they are three in number indicates birth, life, and death or mother, father, and child; all are easily swept away in the world of biotechnological progress if they do not meet decided standards.

 

 Embryo selection and enhancement is key to Jeanette May's investigation of a mother's role within these new biotechnological advancements. The artist's initial question seems to be: Is it not the mother's responsibility, nay, purpose, to want the absolute best for her children? The use of slick photography and poster-size imagery draw the viewer into a bright environment surrounded by happy, beautiful people, colorful plant life, and a consumer-happy lifestyle. Upon closer inspection, we realize that all is not right with this world. Eggs are forced into square molds, growing fetuses are compared to plants bred for certain characteristics and mommies-to-be are perusing magazines imagining their lives as Michael Kors advertisements. May's posters seem to ask: once society has screened for all possible defects, how long until we manipulate those genes to acquire certain traits under the auspices of having a "happier" life and the duress of "keeping up with Joneses"? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles will soon offer its clients the ability to pre-select their "choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases."[12]Is it the duty of the future mother to provide the best that technology has to offer for her children? Or is she turning her children into accoutrements?

 

Adrienne Outlaw continues this examination of maternal responsibility within the realm of advancing technology. The artist posits: How far should a mother go to protect her young? Does technology offer the best outcome for a child born today or tomorrow? In Outlaw's Fecund video series, electrified, metal breasts protrude militaristically from a white wall, each containing a unique video. The recorded imagery shows either the latest in biophysics research, such as green florescent proteins tracking tumor growth, or the natural tenderness that exists between a mother and her child, like a newborn baby breastfeeding.[13]As the viewer's get up close to the metal nipples to peer inside, similar to a breastfeeding infant, they become aware that the hard material of the bosom creates a distance between mother and offspring; technology seems to be getting in the way.    At the same time, however, the viewer is given a chance to see the amount of knowledge possible at the cellular level, thus parents may be given the opportunity to make sure their progeny's cell division is developmentally on target. The question then becomes one of what happens when a cell goes awry.  Is it a mother's duty to make sure that her embryos, her fetuses, have everything they will need to survive and succeed in the 21st century, even if that means genetic interference? Professor Ronald M. Green of Dartmouth College suggests that with gene manipulation we could live in a disease-free world, he asks, "Why not improve our genome?"[14]

 

While Sher Fick and Lindsey Obermeyer investigate the growing pharmaceutical role with advancing medicine, Annette Gates concentrates on the idea of the self within the world of cloning, Libby Rowe   and Sadie Ruben   examine the rights of the fetuses within genetic progress, and finally Monica Bock, Adrienne Outlaw, and Jeanette May explore the function of the mother within the biotechnological age. Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue. As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, "The best way to avoid slippery slopes to bad outcomes is to have an informed, democratic discussion that takes into account both expert opinions and social values. We need regulations because scientists and the general public need clarity about what they can and cannot do, a convincing rationale for permissions and restrictions, and a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications."[15]These artists are that voice.

[1]

De Stael-Holstein, Madame Influence of Literature Upon Society (
New York : William Pearson & Co., 1835)  

[2]   Sandel, Michael J. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. (

Cambridge , Mass: Harvard
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.

[3]See Sher Fick's artist statement

[4] Agar, Nicolas, "Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations," ActionBioscience.org, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2006.

[5]Rifkin, Jeremy. The Biotech Century (London: Phoenix, 1998), p.63.

[6]

Glover, Jonathan. Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design (
Oxford : Clarendon Press, 2006) p. 65.  

[7] "

Houston
Chronicle Examines Prenatal Genetic Test That Can Detect More Than 200 Conditions," The
Houston Chronicle, December 24, 2008.  

[8]Rugoff,  Ralph, "Deviations on a Theme – works by Paul McCarthy," Artforum, October 1994.

[9]Steere, Mike, "Designer babies: Creating the perfect child," Cnn.com/technology, October 30, 2008.

[10]Wohlsen, Marcus, ""Hobbyists try genetic engineering at home: Critics worry amateurs could unleash an environmental or medical disaster," MSNBC.com. December 26, 2008.

[11]Pearson, Helen, "Making Babies: The Next 30 Years," Nature, Vol. 454, July 17, 2008, p. 260.

[12] Gautam Naik, "A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles -- Hold the Colic:  Laboratory Techniques That Screen for Diseases in Embryos Are Now Being Offered to Create Designer Children," The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009, page A10

[13] Created in

collaboration with biophysicist Dr. David W. Piston of
Vanderbilt
University .
 

[14]Britt, Robert Roy, "Designer Babies: Ethical? Inevitable?" www.livescience.com, January 11, 2009.

[15]Shebaya, Sirine, PhD, "Are 'Designer Babies, on the Horizon?" www.scienceprogress.org, May 15, 2008.

 

 

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Why are we here?

We found ourselves here.  On this blog.  In this world.  Connected through a fragile web of - you know what, I don't even know what a web really is.  I don't know how they work, technologically speaking.  Someone figured out how to harness a binary code through the energy of light, friction, something and it all got mixed together and - poof - we now have the web, blogs, and what have you. So, we communicate.  We tell each other when we pee.  What we had for dinner.  It is the ultimate waste of energy, really.  I mean, come on - do I need to know that you pee?  Perhaps if you have had some medical problems and you are sitting on my red couch - that is when I need to know. So what do I want from my little spot in the 'web' - why do I want to 'lure' you into my world? Words cause so much pain.  They are just little marks, gathered together, and scratched somewhere.  But they remain.  You can never unspeak a word. Sorry doesn't cut it.  Not in my book. Words can heal.  But sorry is not one of those words.  It needs to be more than that. I want to have fun.  I am fun.  But ultimately, my goal with my art, with my blog, and anything else is in my life is to grow and assist.  To serve others.  How can I connect?  Mainly through images, because there is no language barrier there.  Yes, images can be misunderstood from my intentions, but I have much better chances of being felt through my work, than through mere words alone. There are so many bad things in life.  They happened.  We remember.  They are happening now.  We will remember them tomorrow.  Pain that is unhappened.  I don't want to ever remember.  I don't want a reason to remember. Let's decide together to "Imagine" a world where no one intentionally uses words to attack and belittle.  It is my wish for the world today. I make an oath that here, in my little corner of the web, that I will never condone or exhibit words of pain. You are too precious to me. I am mourning a sense of lost innocence - for the umpteenth time in my life.  I don't want to be the source of pain for anyone . . . we must put out more hope and empathy.  Have more patience.  Everybody has their own stories of pain.  Those that stab with words must carry so much pain, they are just releasing a little of it.  I am prayer walking in my soul tonight . . . all night.  Again.  Searching for peace.
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What Defines Art?

Question posed:  Is Margaret 's Oppenheim's Fur Cup (actually titled "Object", 1936, created in Paris by the Swiss Artist) art?   My response: Any type of expression is art. A fun game to play is “Is this Art?” on http://www.ovationtv.com link for Robert Rauschenberg http://www.ovationtv.com/programs/14 the documentary they just did on him is phenomenal (I am so sad he died, I’ve never met him, but I was in his presence in 2004 at the Whitney Biennial opening) and he actually tells the story (in this documentary) of finding the goat in a thrift store in NYC, he was supposed to pay $50 but the guy went out of business before he finished paying . . .   and, he did many versions before the tire was the “one” . . . titled "Monogram", and referred to as combines.  1958-1959, Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist. What is important about this type of art (altering ready-mades or found objects) is that the focal object is transformed - just as in Oppenheim’s “fur cup” (a Dada creation) the utility of the object is negated and the artist (manipulator), [think of Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel   , third version shown, circa 1951 and Man Ray's "La Cadeau" - (image provided by www.MOMO.orgimage of right, 1958 copy of 1921 original) these can also be referred to as ready mades] . . . creates a reincarnation. To me this is almost a bigger talent than creating something from thin air, because you have to KNOW the essence of the item, deconstruct its tautology and change it enough so that the alteration stands up equally to the original inference. There is a syndrome that is a strong, fervent reaction to art: Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. [wikipedia definition] So I have had 2 episodes of Stendhal - one was at the OLD (my preferred) MOMA in NYC, standing in the DADA room, I thought they would need to call an ambulance. After studying art for years, I expected (and thought they deserved) for each piece to be in an altar or alcove all its own. I was stunned that the pieces were just squished together and grouped in vitrines . . . happy to see them, but felt that they were diminished by their placement. Note: The new MOMA is a thousand times worse. It is beyond bad. The architecture itself is great, but the way it is dis-organized and crammed, paintings grouped behind vitrines and propped on shelves - I am desultory.  Although the statement is that they designers followed the 'meandering' path of contemporary/modern art - I personally feel it sucks as an art viewing experience.  Guess I will never get a job or show there, huh????  But Andy Warhol was rejected for years, so who knows?! 2nd episode - 2007 standing inside the Romanesque cathedral at Ravenna, Italy. Victorians would have said I got the vapors (but I think that means gas, and that was NOT the case) - Donny took a photo of me with my mouth hanging open and tears streaming down my face, I looked like that all day. I am getting chills just thinking about it. Note: there is no way to photograph the entire visual of standing within Ravenna, because it is as if you are INSIDE a snow globe and glittering glass and metallic mosaics are flickering in the filtered light - above, below, and on all sides.  It was truly a sacred, transforming, spiritual event for me. Post script: I have used fur in some art work - it is very effective.
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Biology vs. Biography - Epiphany 1 of 2009

It hasn't taken me long to experience my first epiphany of 2009. During a recent interview I was asked several questions which I answered separately and honestly.  Afterward I was re-thinking my answers and realized what I multiple-personality-disorder I must sound like.  My life, and therefore my past, has been so bifurcated! On one side I have the genealogy of being a descendant of James Cahill who was on the boat with George Washington - that family declined through the years but made a comeback in the 1900's with entrepreneurial spirit, that was my paternal grandfather's paternal side.  All of my birth father's half brothers went to college or an official trade school and had careers.  One of them is a multi-millionaire.  So I was the 2nd generation of college graduates on that particular branch of the family.   Above: Here is a photo of my father (Walter Hugh Creekbaum, born 1941) with his parents: Mabel (Wiatt) (Creekbaum) Barlow and Emery Wilson Creekbaum, born 1917.  Mabel and Emery divorced before Walter's 1st birthday.  They both married again and had many half-siblings for Walter.  He was shuttled back and forth his entire childhood.  This impacted his life to this day. Flip this to my maternal grandparents, my maternal aunts and uncles, and you have a completely different story.  Also, my own parents divorced before I was a year-old and I was only sporadically exposed to this educated branch (although I saw my paternal grandfather and his wife once in a while, my father's half-siblings on that side never went out of their way to maintain contact with my sister and me while we were children).  Anyway, on the maternal side I do not know of one of the previous generations' college education.  I have one uncle that was brave enough to leave Indiana and have a great career in the Navy and I am sure he received lots of training there.  However, to my knowledge it was the generation of children born in the '60's and 70's (my generation) who first attended, and graduated, college.  Many of us attended only as adults after starting our families.   Yet, I have this far reaching experience from my Unce Jimi Barlow and (the late) Aunt Karen Barlow Alexander, my birth father's half-siblings on his mother's side.  They were both educated right out of high school and showed my sister and I the greater world.  From an early age I can remember staying with them and reading great classics.  My birth father, though he did not attend college, is extremely intelligent and is a voracious reader.  I spent many Summers of my late youth and teenagers years living with them and experiencing the lives of educated, career-paced individuals. To the left is a photo of a typical Sunday afternoon at the farm of maternal GRANDFATHER, Stephen E. Abernathy.  Many cousins frolicked and wreaked havoc on the 52 acre farm in rural, west-central Indiana.  This is about half the Abernathy siblings and half the offspring.  Center is Grandpa, in his 'bibs' - a WWII hero how took custody of my mother and her three siblings when he returned from Germany.  As a toddler to early teen, my mother was raised by a stepmother who died when she was was a teen.  Soon after, her birth mother died and she had never been allowed a private visit.  After Grandpa's last marriage, adding in a few more siblings - the total was 13.  Mother moved out upon her 18th birthday.  Married at 19.  Had my sister at 20.  Since then she has worked non-stop.     I don't know exactly where this leads me, but recognizing the vastly opposing history of my familial branches really struck a chord with me.  I feel I may be a good example of the balance of the auto-didactic and the formally educated.  Each approach enhances the other.  While I deeply regret my adult $20,000 student loans, I would never trade that mere piece of paper for my mountain of knowledge that I learned through the curiosity of a creative mind. Above right, is the photograph taken in 1981 during my sister and my visit to Texas, where all of Mabel's family and offspring had relocated at that time.  From left to right: Uncle Jimi Barlow, an award winning journalist (Walter's half-brother), my sister Lisa (before her Sr. Year of High School), Aunt Karen (Barlow) Alexander, a speech therapist and author who died of breast cancer five years ago (Walter's half-sister), me at age 12 (I am hiding a cast and had 50 plus stitches in my head from a three wheeler accident that morning, I think I was high on Tylenol 3!), my birth father, Walter Hugh Creekbaum - he lived in TX for several years before relocating to Bradenton, FL.   I pay homage to both sides of my genealogy.  These ancestors and recent life mentors have made me who I am today.  I appreciate my education, possibly more than those who felt they were 'owed' it, because I longed for and sacrificed to receive it. And I humbly thank the relatives that took the time and money to expose me to the wider world.  Perhaps they saw in that child, some potential for a better life.  Who I am - is equal parts biology and biography.  I continue reaching for balance in both areas and to pass along the beneficial lessons, while hoping the inheritance of broken families will not adversely effect my children. On the right - a photo of my sister, Lisa and me, probably taken Feb/March of 1968.  Right before our father left. Although I had a brief marriage in in the late 90's (1987-1990), I was lucky enough to get out of that situation and have now been with my husband, Don, for 18 years.  We have three children who are almost alone in their status of being raised by both their biological parents.   To the left is a beautiful picture of my mother - the resemblance is uncanny.  Here smile is still just as wide and warm and her eyes still sparkle. After a long life of working endless days she will be retiring in just a few weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing her for more fun times - hoping to take her to see Loretta Lynn's Museum and also go on an antiquing/quilt viewing trip to Paducah, KY. ---- I feel that I am amazingly OK given the broken branches of my family.  I hope I am reastablishing some nurturing roots for my children - understanding our histories is one step along the way to evolving and preventing damage. As I continue to untangle my roots, I do know that IT IS WELL, WITH MY SOUL - EVEN SO, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
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Too Many Thoughts To Think

I have so many thoughts to think (which I feel I should write down) that I couldn't even relax in a Bubble Bath.  Bubble-baths used to be my refuge.  Friends would call anytime between 4 pm - 6 pm and I would inevitably be in the bath . . . it was my 'me' time. Now my 'me' time consists of activities:  blogging (either here or on various sites, see: Creative Friends link), making art, marketing art, reading (to study for making art)memoirs and poetry or really GREAT fiction, prayer walking, playing Wii Fit, cooking, playing with and/or talking to my children, sometimes spending time with my husband and family. In essence, my life has been so great lately that I don't even feel the need for 'refuge.'   I guess the key is that I now have learned to do activities which also refuel my spirit and that keeps my cup full - and it is, literally, running over in activities of creativity. Yippee for 2009!
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To Resolution, or Not To resolution?

  "The Call" by Remedios Varo To me the real question about whether or not to make New Year's Resolutions is simple:  No.  I don't do that. What I do is review the prior year and project what I wish to accomplish in the coming year. Many divergent areas of my life are considered.  Have I been the Mother I need to be in 2008 and what can I do better in 2009?  Not just say "I will be a better Mother" - but, specifically, what are the actions I can do to make that occur.  I can turn off the music in the car and actually have a conversation with the children while we are enduring the endless pick-up/drop-off phase of our lives.  I can instigate conversations and ask what their opinions are and why.  I can NOT turn every conversation into a lecture.  I can listen.  I can color more with my 6 year old.  In my marriage I could make dinner a few more times a week and I can turn off my computer and sit and hold his hand while he watches TV.  I can play some Wii golf WITH him instead of reading on the couch.  I could go work in the yard with him instead of holing up in the studio on the weekend.  We could start doing some of the things we both love to do: hiking, nature photography, playing cards, and Scrabble. As a sister I could call my siblings more frequently.  As a daughter I could take some time to mail my mom cards and hand-written notes as she does not do e-mail.  I can collect things I know she will love and always have a gift bag ready for any time I see her.   If 2009 is this cabinet - I get to fill it with all the dreams I have and hope to accomplish: 1.  Better actions as a mother and wife 2.  More completed artworks/applying for grants/fellowships and to VISIT real art again - a major trip for art viewing 3.  More shows to share my artwork 4.  I could finish posting my Etsy shop so people don't have to beg me to sell things. 5.  Start my series about my Italian experiences 6.  Get more active on my own blog ;) - pursue my writing with a more defined goal, write some of those memoir stories for myself and then decide if I want to share with others 7.  Nurture and maintain my new and old friendships 8.  Take time to reflect on my own life and the balance of my selfs: physical, spiritual, creative, and dreaming 9.  Become more fully who I am intended to be 10. Make sure I am following MY CALLING
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Book Thief - You Know Who You Are!

This story is real, it happened to me, or I happened to it, this is how important my 'books' are to me:

One time I was traveling 800 miles with 2 toddlers (mine) and I strategically stopped at a fast food restaurant (Burger King) where they had a playground for the monkeys (the toddlers) to wiggle on

. . . and brought in a book I was dying to keep reading (The Perfect Storm) . . . so first we take a potty break (diapers, pull-ups . . . hands . . .) you know that routine and I accidentally, not-on-purpose left the book somewhere in there (the ladies' room). . .  

____flash forward 5 minutes______

I am standing in line waiting to order when it hits me - my freaking book is missing!!! I holler, drag the babies back in the women’s room as two fat ladies exit . . . no book . . .I get behind them in line and I hear them whispering

. . . I am telling the kids, somebody stole my book! So I ask the fat ladies,

"Did you see anybody take a book in the ladies’ room"?

"Oh no, no" they say as they look nervously at each other.

I look over and fatty number two has a suspiciously rectangular solid form in the area where her belly should be!

#*%&&

So I look right at her, point at her tummy (my book) and say -

"IS THAT MY BOOK, IT IS CALLED 'THE PERFECT STORM'?”

She looks away, gets her food from the counter . . . and walks away.

I loudly discuss with my children that thieves will have judgment from God or Karma in their lives and that they will never be happy because they are carrying such black guilt for what they have done . . .

I see the fatty with the rectangular object (my book) hidden on her belly go into the ladies’ room . . . then they leave.

I run in there and

******what do you think was in the wastebasket?****

- my freaking book!!!!

I was so excited! I finished that book, which was great AND I made that fat idiot feel like crap enough that she gave something back (even if she couldn't face me to do it)!!!!

Note: I have been fat, some of my family is fat, so don’t make any “oh, you said FAT” comments. They were FAT/overweight/chunky/obese and that is a description.

They did not, however, have bunheads (which is related to a future posting).

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7 Before 7 Feature Artist - Sher Fick & Writing/Marking Workshop = ART

I was so lucky to be invited as a Feature Artist in Jules Sterp's 7 Before 7 Blog Review http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1461#comment-61390 It was quite an honor and the page turned out beautifully - thanks so much!  MY ART WEEK: This has been a busy "art" week with last Friday's opening at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN for their Regional Exhibition, plus electrician in the studio working on the new lighting and expanded outlets (encaustic work uses A LOT of electricity), and to cap off the week, I attended a great workshop with my art buddy, Aletha Carr (www.alethacarr.com) at the Nashville Public Library.  It was co-taught by Ellen Rust (a poet/educator www.awakeningthewriter.com ) and visual artist Sue Mulcahy (whose work/series "Open To The Night" is now on exhibit at the library gallery).  We began with responsive mark making using graphite.  We learned to express, through marks, the sound of music and the smell of ginger, lemon, banana.  It was enlightening to view the similarities of another artist's expression of the same sense.  At left is my exercise, directions were: beginning with graphite mark, create a lifeline without lifting the graphite from the surface.  I began in the lower right hand corner, dragging and twisting the graphite to create "blooms" which represent my children and other major relationships, as I near the end at the upper left, my line becomes stronger and more focused - a direct correlation to my life. Following a lovely lunch from the Provence Cafe, we began the writing responses, writing free-style about objects provided (roots/pine cone/antler, of which we chose one) and a word ticket drawn from an envelope (I used root and the word "good"). Here is my response to the visual image of the ROOT and my word ticket/GOOD: Roots can be good. Roots can be bad. Fed from the well where I am found. Layers upon layers, filtered through time. Good for cleansing or poisoning the vine. Good for growth - spreading wide, Infiltration, rooted in time. Knotted and twisted, grasping for air - held in the hands of earth's mellow fair. Tangled and battered, growing and spreading - tripping me up, trials above. Roots condescend and fed with bile, cutting them out can take quite a while. Pulling and digging, Cutting, then mending, Roots can be good, but mine are offending. Offending the nurture needed and expected, tainting the cord of mother to child. Uprooting the past to discard in time. Toxic.  Burning.  Poisonous vine. Uprooted now, seeking new earth, re-birthed and replanted - unrooted divine Free now to spread, to grow and to grasp. Now unencumbered of poisonous past. Growing inward and outward, Good has been summoned, sweetness of new water erasing the past. Antidote found. Time will allow, roots will hold onto good things that last. Roots will refine, no longer confine. After several responses we adjourned to the gallery and wrote responses to various of Sue Mulcahy's Exhibit http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080921/ENTERTAINMENT0507/809210326/1069/ENTERTAINMENT05 and then shared with one another. Here is my response to Sue Mulcahy's "Close Is Not Enough" drawing: Internal scapes Chasms divide Peering at memories Revealing and reveling Veering forward Pulled from the past Grasping transcendence Clasping remnants. Traversing Dissolving Signposts and markers misleading, benign. Sequence chaotic Silhouetted and open deluge divine Unbalanced, then broken Sutured and knifed Evoking wholeness bound by time. I attempted another response to "Open To The Night": Veiled in the darkness Formless and thick. Coating the earth Clinging and clawing. Queries are spoken Descending and dim Near far remembrance echo and utterance Filtering bright sky meets earth horizon enlighten breaking the dearth the spirits soaring and sighing Upward and outward absorbing moments cradling time unseen, unspoken protected from site needless emotions bound and unbroken +++++++++++++++++++++++++ It was an amazing day shared by all.
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