Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gratefully Filling the Bucket

Well, as most of you probably know by now the cancer came back.  Boo Hiss!!! But this isn't really a post about that.  It's a post about what I am doing to be happy, live in the moment, and be grateful for art and good friends.

In November I had another (thankfully) successful surgery, but I also knew that I would be facing chemo again.  With the motivation of a small window, I needed to work some fun into the time.  The open-ended questions of "What do you want?" and "What would make you truly happy?" are surprisingly tough to answer with a whirlwind going on in your mind.  But finally...duh!  What never fails to make me squee with joy?  A photo shoot!  

I set about devising a monster photo shoot and dubbed it Shoot-A-Palooza!  The location was set first.  I rented Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's wonderful 1880s Victorian home via airBNB for four days.  It served both as housing and as a shooting location. How perfect is that? I have to give Trish a massive shout out for allowing us to invade her home like an army on a siege. About half of the contents of my studio ended up there. Trish as an artist herself "gets it" and I have to personally thank her for being such a warm, welcoming, and motivating person in my life.

Seriously, check this out amazing house!

Check out her art too!

Two of my best buddies dropped everything and flew up from Florida to model, work as set assistants, have an awesome slumber party, eat, drink, and be packed like rented mules!  Local buddies loaned me props, created a costume I'd dreamed up, and patiently listened to my coalescing ideas.  I can't overstate how grateful and humbled I am to all of my weird, crazy, amazing, generous, and talented friends that made this possible.

Below are some peeks from Shoot-A-Palooza.  The post processing on the finished pieces is in work right now.

I mentioned there were some crazy props right?
So many dresses, so little time!
Light's too harsh?  Suzanne's a genius with tea towels!

 These two photos need a little explanation...  My first of 18 chemo appointments ended up falling right in the middle of Shoot-A-Palooza.  Suzanne is a commercial photographer, so we just extended the photography to the new location!  Teresa brought this cool attachment to her phone and projected a movie for us to watch on the wall.  I must tell you that as far as chemo appointments go this one was epic and will never be topped!  We confused interns and amused nurses with all the laughter coming out of my room.

 Teresa is a fiber artist and I always tell people she can do anything and everything, but I had no idea she would actually be able to spin wig hair!  Holy cow!

It's so very rare that I allow myself to be caught on the other side of a camera lens...

As a final note, I want to acknowledge all of my friends, not just those involved in Shoot-A-Palooza. They say you find out who your real friends are when times get tough and I'm grateful to say I found mine crawling out of the woodwork! 

I must thank my funny, crazy, loving, inspiring, generous friends for entertaining me with dirty bitmojis, bedazzling a barf bucket for me (I couldn't make this up), keeping me busy and engaged on the art front, offering a willing ear at all hours, making me lovely hand knitted hats, hanging an entire frigging show for me, and laughing and crying with me.  I love you all.

Friday, April 1, 2016

How Melissa's Getting Her Groove Back

I can still do this!  (Followed by moderately energetic jumping up and down.) By "this" I mean, set up a photo shoot and produce something that I've seen only in my head. Photo shoots take a lot more energy than I ever realized. Thank you Amanda, Jennifer, Parker, and Emily for making the experience last weekend a breeze! 

This is the first piece to come from the chaos of the last year.
A Prisoner (To All My Mother Held So Dear)
Model: Emily
This Spring is time for a "come to Jesus" meeting with myself.  I have purposefully set it up so that I have no art show deadlines on the horizon. The cancer experience has lead me to ask some big questions and take a look at what I want from the rest of my life.  How can I get out of cruise mode into a more active, present existence?  Am I making work because it is meaningful to me?  How do I take better care of my physical self?

I have completed treatment.  Of course it will take some time to heal and get my energy back, but I'm finally seeing the potential for the rebirth of my physical and art self.  One of my nebulous goals is to get back in touch with my mediums.  Now is the time to break out the paint, paper, and wax and spend hours playing in the studio. While I'm getting stronger, there are new tools and old canvases to cover.  Also as a reward, I have signed up for 2 workshops. Nothing usually gets the juices flowing like a workshop - especially in an area where I have little or no experience.

It is time to see what work will come out of my studio when there are no deadlines involved.  Which projects will become important once the back burner list is fair game again?  

Love to you all!  XXXOOO

Friday, December 18, 2015

Getting This Out of My Head

I've never been that person who could just sit down and write.  However, To-Do lists spring out of me daily and clutter my desk at a depth of several inches, but not artistic prose meant for journals.

I know this is going to seem so obvious to some of you, but a light bulb hit me today. I can make creative lists!  

I've been reaching back into an older project where I applied textures to nudes. This year has shown me just how fragile a body can be.  

So here's the list that came flowing out of me when I sat down to think about ideas I wanted to explore:

  • My body the betrayer
  • I’m trying to hold it all together
  • Unraveling
  • This needs to be protected
  • Damaged and patched
  • Slashed, burned, and poisoned
  • This is missing
  • I feel like Frankenstein
  • I’m still here
Whoa!  Heady stuff for a list, but I think I've found my own personal way of writing to get ideas out of my head a little more easily.

I don't remember why I made this image or what the original inspiration was. But I now consider it the start of this new series. When it came together it just made my whole self hum. I couldn't stop looking at it. You know when something is right. This is A Few Small Repairs:

Once I've gotten the shoes out of my system for a little bit, I think this is the type of work that I'm going to take a few steps back to explore once again.

On a side note - my nude models (you know who you are), thank you so much for your generosity.  You allow yourself to become my canvas and are the base for all of these ideas.

Here's a peek of what's coming out of the idea of trying to hold it all together when it's only going to unravel anyway.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Feeling the Void

What a difference a year makes!

For those of you who don't know, this is not a crazy photoshopped image of me. I have the dreaded C word.  This past Spring, my Mother passed away. A week after her funeral I discovered that I have the same cancer she did.  The month of May 2015 is going to be a hard one to top.

Out shopping
Mother and Louie napping
So far I've had two surgeries and 3 chemo treatments.  I'm not quite halfway through yet but I'm hopeful this will end at some point.  It's the unknown that keeps me awake at night and gets my mind racing at random periods.  The strangest triggers can either bring me intense happiness or launch me into a fresh set of maddening tears.

I'm trying very hard not to let the unknown rob me of my joy.  They tell you to keep living your life like you always have - yeah right!  But I have been able to do a couple photo shoots and have the occasional moments of normalcy thank goodness. I'm extremely appreciative of my family and friends who have been so kind and generous with their time and love.  Dad's been an inspiration in strength and my wonderful husband, William, has been amazing through all this.  Even after 21 years, he continues to surprise me.  I still feel guilty that anytime I cry, it makes him cry, and then we are both a blubbering mess.  :)

As I was driving back and forth from KY and WV while my Mother was ill, the art ideas started coming.  I've been using my iPhone to write them all down.  My Mother was my sounding board when it came to my ideas.  A few of these current possibilities I even had a chance to discuss with her before she was gone.  I'm really hoping when I've finished the chemo and radiation, I can get into the studio and let this jumble of craziness work it's way out of me as she would have expected me to.  

Some of the ideas have been circling around the idea of the void - the feeling and experiences based upon this enormous absence in my life.  I'm a pretty good mix of both my father and my mother, but mother always got me.  She knew what to say to prop me right back up when life had thrown me a curve. At random times one of us would call the other to find we were both in the exact same mood for absolutely no reason.  Once I mused that maybe we were two people that were sharing the contents of one soul.  She liked how that explained the uncanny link we had.  That thought is really sparking some ideas now...

In this moment I will be trying to ride the roller coaster of my treatments with as much patience and grace as I can summon and keep writing down the ideas as they present themselves.  

Tell your special people that you love them and go out and create something wonderful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Florida Whirlwind Week

Saturday February 28th, I drove 13.5 hours down to Florida to deliver work, hang a show, visit friends, work out details for a collaborative art project, attend my show's opening, give a demo, and do 2 photo shoots.  Whew - just listing that out makes me want to take a nap!  

I want to thank Lois and Mark Mittleman for hosting me early in the week and for inviting me to do the show at the Fifth Avenue Art Gallery.  It was such a neat experience to return to the place where I'd had my very first solo show almost a decade ago.  

Hanging the show was definitely a group effort.
It's good to have precise friends!  Here's Teresa keeping me on even keel.
Nancy and Lois seeing to the details.
Less talking more working!  Love those socks Suzanne.

The best thing about hanging a show is definitely the lunch afterwards!
Notice the multiple drinks with umbrellas...
After hanging the show, I was able to spend some quality time with Teresa working out the details of a project we will be doing together.  Getting to bounce ideas back and forth for a few days made me feel like I was 5 again and someone had just handed me a bag full of Tootsie-Rolls!

Why yes - that is Teresa making lasagna!  This was my real reason for driving almost 14 hours...

The trip had it's challenging moments.  It was one of those weeks where Mother Nature decided to mess with me.  On a shoot where I could have used some clouds, it was 91 degrees and blindingly sunny.  For the underwater shoot it was dismally grey and the pool turned out to be a dark color.  What are you going to do?  Shoot, pray, and roll with it...  

A huge thanks to Suzanne and Jill for being so patient with this scatterbrained photographer!

My show "Sirens & Muses" will be up at the Fifth Avenue Art Gallery until March 28th for those of you who happen to be in the Melbourne, FL area.  

Luckily, as my trips usually do, this one paid off a week or so after I got back home with a tidal wave of ideas that started flowing faster than I could write them down.

Back to work!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday/Cyanotypes Rule

Not too long ago, someone asked me what I got for Christmas. When I rattled off hammers to texturize metal, an R2D2 measuring spoon set, and cyanotype chemicals I got the quizzical, confused, cocked puppy head look back. No really - that made me quite happy I assured them!

Flash forward a month, my photography buddy Tad Barney came to my studio for a visit and some playtime. He was very kind to come hold my hand.  It's been about a decade since I played with creating cyanotypes and I was a bit nervous.

I lugged my printer, laptop, and Pictorico Inkjet Transparencies to the studio, but Tad gets the award for strangest contraption. He brought his homemade UV light source. It was a wonder to behold!
Tad's magic blacklight box
We painted the emulsion on all kinds of different papers, including book pages, watercolor paper, pastel paper, and even some antique paper I bought as a bundle but had never figured out how to use. The antique paper (shown below) has a wonderful circular mark on some of the pages that Tad put to good use to accentuate the composition of one of his images.

Tad showed me how he has been staining his cyanotypes with instant coffee.


I was particularly enchanted with Tad's dreamy image of his daughter Lily on the book page.

My main goal for the day was to see if cyanotypes would work with a super thin unryu combined with my encaustic work. While I don't have the exposure dialed in yet, this was definitely a successful proof of concept.
All Hail King Tad!