Hans Holbein, The Miser, The Dance of Death, Woodblock, 1523-5
Underneath all of our anxiety, our food and gun hoarding, is The Grim Reaper, his insistent trod, scythe in hand, plucking souls as he goes. It’s what none of us say aloud: you or I could be next. We have always known it was in our future, vague, general, but way, way out there in the future. Now our reckoning may be around the corner. We aren’t worried about getting sick any more than we are about getting a cold. We’re afraid we might die! Dead. Over. Gone.
One of my favorite little books I studied endlessly as an art student was Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death, a series of woodblock prints. It is a marvel of drawing and composition illustrating Death’s harvest at every level of the social order. No one is exempt.
I was so inspired I started my own series, the studies are lost somewhere in a pile of old sketchbooks. Then I forgot about it until now. Like all art, Holbein’s work remains timeless, waiting for us when we’re ready and scared to death.
February Fog, 2020, Archival Digital Print
It’s been a good week of work and a nodding to the power of place.
Feeder with Icicles, 2020, Archival Digital Print
I repeat myself: Drawing is the basis of it all.
The first impulse of the mind, it is where it begins. That very first spark of an idea. Not only does it show what one sees but it orders the experience. This photograph taken this morning, doesn’t exist without my experience as an artist who draws. I frame the image in the camera; it is rarely changed in the processing. That is drawing. The division of space within the bounds of the edge.
Linocut #10, proof on newsprint, 2020
The studio is hot with ideas. I am painting and printing, photographing and drawing. This is a perfect time of complete isolation and generation. Away from everything I have time during my sabbatical to not only focus but have the thread of my ideas uninterrupted.
From the Archive, Found Poem #14, 2014
I’m sorting through things in order to make more space. My little house has no closets nor bookshelves, so I am in what feels like a perpetual state of reorganizing and sorting. This is from a series of 20 Found Poems I completed the last winter I was in New York. My cobbled together film camera, a Hassie, took some marvelous shots and I just used the contact prints.
Zach, Zip and Ruthie, 2020, Archival Digital Print
My geese are not even a year old but full of personality and distinctive traits. Like all living beings, DNA is far more powerful than we can reckon with or understand. For anyone who has spit into the tube or agreed to a mouth swab, the marvel we discover is how firmly our ancestry has stamped us. I wonder at all those philanders of the past and how innocently they spread their seed never thinking that the chickens would come home to roost.
The Pond, 2020, Archival Digital Print
I’m always relieved when the media’s looking back at the last year is finished and the year actually begins. 2019 was so productive, so full of new things and new experiences, that I’m looking forward to it continuing. Just adjusting my point of view changes things. I rarely think to walk to the other side of my pond. Usually I think about it in the summer when it is a lush tangle of plants and thick undergrowth. So I don’t bother. But, yesterday I took advantage of the frozen growth and the felled dried plants and decided to walk around the pond to look across at my homestead. Just seeing it from a few yards away at a new angle was so pleasant. How beautifully sited it is!
The pond is no longer frozen for this interlude before the deep cold returns. The Solstice has been crossed and now the days will start to get longer. Of course I dream for spring.
Begonia Edge, 2019, Archival Digital Print
An accidental find, the edge between the Begonia leaf and the window shutter makes me shiver. I’m in my first week of my sabbatical and relishing the months of uninterrupted studio time ahead of me. Being able to sleep late is such pleasure. Having my mind de-cluttered of everything but my work and my life on the homestead. Almost too good to be real. I imagined painting the house pale pink yesterday with cream shutters and trim. My fancies are tickling me now even in close to the darkest day of the year.
The Cornfield, 2019, Archival Digital Print
It was a long slog through last week.
Deep snow, unable to get out of the driveway to get to the train
I missed school on Monday,
I was supposed to chair a panel for Senior Survey, and
My reliable plowman didn’t get my messages
On it went, one thing after another.
But what there was
Was my favorite cornfield
Its orderly geometry penciled in the snow.
Three Girls Ready for Dreaming, 2019, Archival Digital Print
Night comes early now and the hens go to roost sooner now as the days are shortening and the cold is here. I added a fresh bale of straw to the coop floor the other day for extra warmth. The girls started singing to themselves.
The light is so tender in November, the values very close. I’m thinking of Morandi’s strange landscapes, overcast light, and the shades of grey-blue, dun, dull ochre and greyed green.