New Work from the Studio - July 7, 2009

After weeks and weeks of very stressful paperwork, I spent Monday with my favorite art buddy, Aletha Carr (www.alethacarr.com).  We had a nostalgic lunch at Long John Silver's then spent about 2 hours roaming the aisles of Hobby Lobby.  We just love walking the rows and imagining different ways to use their products . . . and the sales are phenomenal. As usual, Aletha left with one bag and I left with my cart full and Aletha using her cart for the rest of my bounty . . . One of the great items we re-imagined was the use of these model acrylic displays:  First Comes Love First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Jane pushing a baby carriage . . .   "FIRST COMES LOVE", July 2009   (Note: top fabric includes one of my children's hospital, flannel receiving blankets).     "SOCKMONKEY LOVE",Sock Monkey Love July 2009   Overall these new pieces are extensions of "Coping Skills" and will be collector items of smaller size.                          "VANITY TABLE I - RUBBER DUCKY, YOU'RE THE ONE" July, 2009 (detail below) 72yourtheone   I have tons of encaustic paintings started, but am saving those for days when I won't be distracted by children, the phone, etc.  I definitely feel the embers heating up - ready for a major production of work to result. Yippee!
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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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The Best Birthday Present a Holly Hobbie Fanatic Could Ever Receive!

  So, if you have followed my obsessions at all you will know that I am LITERALLY OBSESSED with vintage Holly Hobbie items from the 70's. When my sister, Lisa, said she had gotten me the PERFECT birthday present and that she wanted to give it to me in person, I have to admit I was excited. We saw each other in October (2 months BEFORE my birthday), but we exchanged presents anyway. I was just flabbergasted and speechless (which does NOT happen often) - it literally was THE PERFECT PRESENT for me. She found these lovely Holly Hobbie and Heather dolls - and they are very reminiscent of Lisa and I, she had dark hair and I had an unfortunate shade of light brown as a tiny child.  I believe it was frequently referred to as "dirty dishwater".   So this shout out is for LISA!  Thanks, this meant the world to me! We are now on a joint mission to find this type of a rope bed for the girls, make Grannie nightgowns and mop-caps for them (with the gowns embroidered with "Lisa Ann" and "Sissy Kay") and to make a blue striped ticking mattress for the bed.   Here we are on our way to the Dixie Chicks concert in December of 2006 - neither of us knows what our real hair colors are now - we suspect some black and pepper gray with some faded gray brown. Your sis, Sissy Kay (k/n/a Sher) Query:  1 - Have you already received your "perfect" present?  If so, what was it?  or  If not, what would it be??
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