Our Road Trip to Nowhere

I spent a lot of time thinking up names for our business blog.  In the end I settled on A Paradox:  Art-Life-Business.  Perhaps poorly stated, it was meant to show that for an artist, there really is no separation of our art making, our personal life and the inevitable struggle to make a living from our art, so we can keep making more art.  It’s difficult to be creative when you’re bogged down in worries.  This past week is a perfect example of how wrapped up our personal lives are with our business.

Wednesday morning we left home for Reston, VA to participate in the Northern Virginia Art Fair, one of the A-list shows in America.  We’ve been juried into it a number of times, most recently the past two years.  Sales are usually solid at this high quality show, and last year was very good.  Just after passing Louisville, Kentucky our van broke down. As we approached a weigh station (we have a box van to transport our sculpture and therefore are regulated by the federal department of transportation) we suspected trouble—at first it was only a slight noise coming from under the hood.  Robin parked, went inside and the officer gave him a printout of local tow truck operators, and he recommended the nearest one.  It was a quick diagnosis,  the vacuum pump seized up, shredding the serpentine belt, causing the loss of our power brakes and power steering.  The driver recommended two shops in the area that could possibly work on it right away.  One declined but the other said they could get to it the following morning.  After a night in a hotel, the van wasn’t ready to go until 2PM on Thursday.  Had we not run into trouble, we would be nearly finished setting up our booth at the show.  What to do?

Had it been a dozen or so years earlier, we would have driven on east to arrive by 1 AM, get a few short hours of sleep, be on the street by 6 AM setting up in a rush before the show opened at 10 AM.  But we’ve learned that we don’t have that kind of stamina anymore.  Heck, anymore we can’t even entertain or go out two nights in a row!  I know I wouldn’t have had the energy or presence of mind to smile at potential buyers and carry on a sensible discussion about our work.  That’s difficult enough for me under the best of circumstances.  Having grown up nearly always alone, my verbal communication skills are extremely poor.

So we made the decision to cancel our participation in the show.  We sacrificed our $750 corner booth fee.  The Hyatt at the show charged us for the first night ($120) as their policy is a three-day cancellation period before this show.  The tow was $228  and the repair bill was $891.  Losing potential for sales, is a real hardship.  The only good that came of it is that we got home to spend a few more days with our beloved Bull Mastiff, Harley.  Read about that gut-wrencher on my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com

Loyal Patrons

With the sad news of the flooding in Houston, I’m reminded of the wonderful Texas patrons we have.  Though we’ve never done a show in Houston, we’ve done several shows in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area several times with my work, Robin’s and our collaborative work.  Some of my most loyal patrons are from Austin, Richardson and the Fort Worth area.

Just this spring at the Northern VA Fine Art Festival in Reston, a couple  walked into our booth and with a surprised look on their faces, inquired if we’d done the Fort Worth Art Fair 15 years ago.  They recognized my surfaces, and coincidentally we have now returned to the boat shape, something we worked on many years ago.  They told us how much they’ve enjoyed the sculpture they purchased then and informed us of their “canoes” voyage from Texas to St. Louis, Mo and then on to Reston, VA.


Ark installationThis is the sculpture they purchased in Texas, and much to our joy, they purchased a little gondola with calla lilies and a copper base on that spring day this year in Reston.Gondola w callas

Studio Progress

If you’ve followed our pursuits in the past year,  you know about the fast transition we made to the making of boats and books this year.  We have a working process of experimenting with materials and techniques on our art for the wall, and then these new ideas are incorporated into the boats.  With Robin  taking time once again to experiment on hammering, embossing and patina work lately, I can see already such grand statement pieces utilizing the approach in this new 12″ square.  These are hot!

Embossed & hammered copper w/chemical patina

Embossed & hammered copper w/chemical patina


Embossed and hammered copper w/chemical patina

Jewlery for the Wall and its Cosmic Connection

Back in the late 90’s I returned to my fascination with the circular format.  I had visited it before in a series of landscapes.  They were largely a romantic homage to Mother Earth,  usually with a surreal feeling.  These two I still own.  The first is “Cactus, Crystals & Cries” and the purple one is an “Homage to Mother Earth”.Cactus, Crystals & Cries e Homage to Mother Earth e But by the late 90’s the round paintings had morphed into round relief sculpture,  devoid of objects, but not devoid of subject matter.  Not for me anyway.  They looked like large brooches and thus the name Jewelry for the Wall was catchy for a web-site, despite the fact that in art world terms, jewelry is ordinarily purely ornamental (code for not fine art) and thus personally political.  Political in that it is a personal statement of who the wearer is.  It can reveal rank, personality, mood, identity, etc.

For myself, I saw these sculptures as symbolic designs and meditative icons. They spoke of cosmic awareness,  cosmic connection, sacred space, sacred ground.  All of this was revealed in the shapes and movements, and titles.  The circle inspires the concept of one.  We are one.  We are not separate, not really.  We are connected to each to each other and to everything else in the universe.  That is the basis for life and until that is understood and accepted, we continue to destroy everyone and everything.  So I started these pieces on a round format and then intersected it with lines and shapes and textures.  It was in my mind connecting the ideas of sacred space, sacred geometry and myth and science into a beautiful mandala of sorts.

Cosmic Lullaby

This piece, shown here on my kitchen wall before it was shipped to the patron, is a sculpture from my Cosmic Lullaby series.  The 4 pieces cartwheeling down the ladder are shapes that I repeated on many pieces and I called them nebula’s, a term describing an interstellar cloud of gas and dust.  The long straight bars form a ladder, another motif I’ve used often.  The crackle on the round backplate has a spiraling pattern like the galaxies in our universe.




Another motif I’ve returned to often is the horizon, which plays major importance in our vision of landscape,seascape and in our understanding of the theoretical boundary of a black hole in space.  It separates light and darkness.  Here it is on a piece called “Distance”


The circular orbit is another cosmic motif I’ve returned to time and again.  Here it is shown in a piece called “Lunar Orbit”.Lunar OrbitsI’ve also used the motif of the wave often.  The wave refers to the movement of energy whether it is sound, light, water or particles.  Here it can be seen on “Jazz Nights”.  On this piece and others as well, I combined symbols that evoke messages of rhythm, the cosmic round, the ladder to heaven and the cubes are a symbol of Earth.  Jazz Nights

I introduced a variety of cultural influences in this body of work also.  I refer to these loosely as the East Meets West series because they invariably have subtle shapes that evoke cross-cultural ideas such as eastern architecture with latin rhythms.  Examples shown below are “Window to the World” from the Samurai sub-series,  and “Flamenco” which combines an eastern roof-line feel with the nebulas and a hot Latin painting.

window to the worldFlamenco e

I was never good at communicating face to face with people about my work in anything other than how it was made, the materials and tools used, or the color.  Anything else and I always reverted to that childhood mindset that  I couldn’t make myself understood to those around me, or that they would disapprove.  The closest I came to explaining my relief sculpture was in the WSIU Expressions with Najar in which I told that The Queen of the Night was inspired by the book of photographs taken by Cosmonauts and Astronauts and that was true, but it was just a small part of the story.  Queen has those classic elements that I use to convey the spirit of the Universe.  That’s her meaning.  We are one with the Earth and the Earth is one with the Cosmos.  It’s our sacred duty to respect that.  Queen of the Night

The Life

It’s easy to get caught up in writing about art making, the process, the inspiration or even the trials of marketing.  But we titled this blog Art Life Business: A Paradox so that means our private as well as public life.  You may be familiar with my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com  in which case you are aware of my telegraphing the family secrets and not only that, but also verbally bashing my “sister”.  Many I’m sure have wondered why I haven’t just walked away from it all by now.  In truth I was devastated by the family crisis and subsequent betrayal.   She crossed a moral line that I can not ignore so in order to  hold her accountable  it is necessary to tell the story.  I bring it up in this venue to talk of how it has effected our art making and the business of marketing our art.

My family went into crisis in the fall of 2000, so this has been a 14 year nightmare for me and subsequently for Robin because ultimately one’s spouse always gets dragged into your drama one way or another.  Robin and I are very close and we’re both rather reclusive.  We feel loved, appreciated, respected, happy, understood and safe with each other.  The outer world intrudes from time to time to test that haven and nevermore than with the rupture and death of my family.  It drew me away from my center, preoccupied my physical and intellectual health and distorted reality to the extent that it ultimately had an extreme impact on my creativity and production of work.  That said, look to what I’ve said about my sculpture “Lady Liberty” (the Expressions interview on WSIL-TV) to understand the battle I’ve fought and how I’ve kept getting back up after each blow.  I’m ready to walk away from it all but for now I have to share my story.

Incredible Window

We’ve long recognized how much influence nature has on our work.  The textures and colors of the woodlands, meadows and skies are so inspiring.  Robin and I have lived in the woods together for 23 years now.  It is a constant source of inspiration, solace, meditation and connection to the great beyond.  We spend as much time as possible immersed in the outdoors, but when we’re inside the views from all of our windows are outstanding.  One window in particular is magical.  Each hour of each day, through all the seasons, the view from this window is amazing.  Processions of flowers just outside the panes, attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  In the evenings you can watch the bats flying over the gardens devouring mosquitos.  Native shrubs and ornamental trees edge the space that is defined by the Gothic Cathedral of the tall hardwood trees.  Winter sunsets are spectacular through the forest lace.  Each time you step up to the view it lifts your heart and mind.  Much of that experience gets woven into the surfaces of our work.

window view

How Twitch Began

The last 2 years of my mom’s life were bizarre.  After her death in 2006, I was so distracted with the events that lead up to it that it became increasingly difficult to concentrate in the studio or to think of anything other than her and the family. Along with that sudden inability to focus on my creative life, I was finding it increasingly difficult to get juried into the most profitable art fairs.   We had never been into networking and we found out late in the game just how the politics of art fairs work. Robin was still able to get into many of those coveted shows, but the sales suddenly became sparse.  For example, 5 of Robin’s 8 shows in 2009 were zeroes.  Concurrently, I had a series of mishaps, involving a sprained ankle, then shoulder surgery, then a broken elbow and sprained wrist, followed by 2 dislocated fingers.  In the middle of this the stock market collapsed and then by the summer of 2009  Robin’s work was even more difficult to sell.  Our stocks had lost much of their value so I didn’t want to cash in our retirement funds to live on until the economy recovered which we were certain would happen shortly.   Without income we had to do something. We had zero debt of any kind so we didn’t have difficulty getting a mortgage on our home.  Under all of these circumstances it’s no wonder we made several poor decisions.

We decided to forego the unpredictability of getting in juried art fairs and instead opt for making garden sculpture to show in other venues where we wouldn’t have to deal with the politics.  We hired a studio assistant, invested in lots of new tools and began designing new work in a new material for us–concrete.  The designs were very Asian inspired, with a contemporary twist.  Not a single piece ever got finished……yet.

I ended up panicking and selling our stocks for fear the market would go even lower, so we took a considerable loss.  Then we wasted $9000 hiring an art rep from California.  We made it very clear on the phone and in writing what we wanted her to do for us, but she ignored that and cashed our checks each month.  We were forced to give up that venture and let our studio assistant go.

While sitting in the heat at the Ann Arbor Original show in 2011 showing Robin’s metal work to a non-existent audience, I suggested to him that we collaborate on a whole new body of work and I showed him some sketches.  He liked the idea I suggested, which was to use his minimal designs, my lush color and textures on wood. The idea was to create a body of work that we could sell at the art fairs that was lighter weight and so easier for us to exhibit and that would be in a more affordable price range. We decided to name this new collaboration TWITCH! –definition, a rapid movement.  Robin took a workshop and then began experimenting with enameling which he added to our designs.  The red orb on this piece is the enamel on copper.  red spirals 2

These designs are all about meditation, balance and tranquility, which we need in our life and nevermore than at that time.

What became problematic was that the expenses for doing the shows continued to increase, attendance went way down at virtually all shows, the public purchased a whole lot less because of their fears of the economy and in order to compete we had to keep our prices so low that we needed to do production work to be viable.  And therein lies a big problem, because Robin and I have never really had the temperament for large-scale production work, preferring to work in one-of-a-kind originals.  If we were staying at home to market our work we could lower our prices. Having always depended on the art fairs for sales, it’s hard to make that switch.

We are in the process of finding the right professionals to advise us on branding and marketing.  In reality this has come about just as it should have.  We were both late bloomers and we’re primed to make the best work of our lives.