Color(s) of the Year–so, well, yeah…..

So the Pantone colors of the year were announced–TWO of them.  Pink & Blue.  Or, to be more precise, Serenity and Rose Quartz.  Check ’em out:











The Pantone folks explained that in this year during which gender fluidity has become a significant consideration, it made sense to emphasize these hues.  Plenty of others have pointed out that stereotypical baby colors might not be the most avant-garde way of thinking about this blurring of the gender binary.  I’ll settle for saying woohoo!  Not because of the trenchent critique, but because my predictions were so in the range.  To be sure, I was not exactly right–but my theory was.  Serenity is more subdued than the Peacock Blue I anticipated, but resides in the same area of the color wheel.  And Rose Quartz has more magenta in it than the porpoise I predicted, but the saturation and value are spot on.



I think it’s great that Pantone is trying to enter the conversation about gender, even in this pastel way.  But equally fascinating is that when you apply *ahem* my theory, you can come up with a range on the color wheel from which you can draw tones that will likely fit whatever cultural conversation you’ve decided to enter.

Sitting the Press

Woo-hoo, it’s finally almost here!  After, well, a BUNCH of years working in fits and starts and then some serious stretches, barbara bosworth and I have at last finished our awesome collaboration in the meadow.  Called THE MEADOW:  A REVERIE, it’ll be out in October of this year from Radius Books.  If by chance you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve seen mentions of it before–nights of fireflies, days of foraging, etc.  We had a grand time delving into this small, seemingly simple place.  But nothing’s simple.  And that’s a lesson learned many times in that meadow and in making the book.

NOT that i am complaining.  To the contrary, a huge huge shout out is due to David Chickey, one of the principles at Radius Books.  David took our decidedly un-simple collection of materials and fashioned them into an absolutely gorgeous book.  Barbara and I had the chance to sit the press in Verona, Italy, with David and another Radius author, and see how our pieces plus David’s design got put to paper.  It was fascinating.

myfirstpageAnd as is required, we signed off on each page before they printed the big batch of them–even my pages, which was kind of cool, since they didn’t require any color matching.  And why yes, that is a dopamine molecule on my very first signed page.


Orion at Breadloaf

BreadloafLike Reese’s peanut butter cups, these two great things that are even better together!!

Let me just say wow.  Yep, wow.

ORION and Breadloaf teamed up this year to create a writing conference that filled my little enviro-art heart with joy.  Six instructors (Alison Hawthorne Deming, Jane Brox, Maurice Manning, Camille Dungy, Rick Bass, and Alan Weisman), lots of editors and agents and etc., and sixty or so aspiring writers spent the week in beautiful Vermont writing, listening, editing, learning, and just generally remembering what it is that pushes us to want to do this kind of writing, this kind of world-work.

All the instructors gave a craft talk and a reading, held workshops, offered one-on-one advice, and generally made themselves really available to the aspiring writers.  It was collegial, serious work with collegial, serious people.

Breadloaf sceneryStuff I loved:  Alison Deming’s reading from her forthcoming book ZOOLOGIES, Alan Weisman recounting some of the back story of his book COUNTDOWN, Rick Bass urging us all to get arrested–and the truly useful and complicated and sophisticated conversation that that provoked.  Jane Brox’s craft class, Camille Dungy’s revitalizing the role of definitions as a hugely useful element in non-fiction.  And Maurice’s poetry reading.  How did I not know of his work before?  Sad for me, but now a new discovery.

One of the remarkable things that emerged in reading after reading, conversation after conversation, were thoughtful explorations of the way(s)  beauty can mediate urgency, give it a shape we can face, help us think through it–maybe even beyond it.  The wisdom quotient was high, and the BS quotient low.  That hardly ever happens.  I don’t know how they orchestrated it, but they nailed it on the first try.


Art Opening!

Please come!  Michael and Elizabeth are the first ever artists-in-residence in a program that the K2 Family Foundation and the Georges River Land Trust have put together.  Here’s a documentation shot (made by Michael) of an installation (conceived by Elizabeth):

Blue Cloud at Trolley Marsh

Pretty sweet, no?  Rob and I went to see it in person on Christmas Day, and this is what it looked like then:

On Christmas Day

For details about the show and hours and such, check out this article in the Bangor Daily News:

High Line and Promenade Plantee

Right before Rob and I left for a “significant anniversary” celebration–a trip to PARIS!!–I got the latest issue of ORION.  As part of the Infrastructure series, they ran a photo series about the High Line in New York.  The High Line is mostly completed, and very cool.  An elevated train track has been converted into green space:











Seeing the images reminded me that there’s a similar park in Paris, which I learned about years ago thanks to the movie Before Sunrise, the first in what turned into Richard Linklater’s series of “before” films.  So, off we went, in search of a romantic day and the progenitor of the High Line.  (Yes, we found both.)

The Promenade Plantee is in the 12th, and we started at the beginning, at the Viaduc des Arts.  It’s about 20 years further along than the High Line, so the plantings are much more established.











ORION was giving the High Line folks serious props for the thoughtful way they engaged decaying infrastructure, and used it as an opportunity to not only redress a problem but also to solve other problems beautifully at the same time.  And they deserve it!  But a little credit to others who’ve done similar projects can help all of us remember that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, that there are lots and lots of sustainable solutions being deployed and refined.  ‘Cause there’s no shame in borrowing a beautiful idea and making it work in a new locale.

Judi Harvest

2013denatured6-300x225The Venice Biennale is the oldest biennial in the art world, and many regard it as a critical bellwether for contemporary art.  It’s absolutely monumental.  The main exhibition is split into two parts:  a curated show in the Arsenale, and dozens of buildings designated by country in the Giardini.  Each of those portions can be viewed in a long, intense day.  Then, in addition, there are satellite shows and happenings throughout the city.

The Biennale doesn’t tend to have an environmental focus.  But among the works that most caught my attention this year was a resolutely environmental exhibit by Judi Harvest.  The show was off-site, on Dorsoduro well up the canal from the main scene, near Campo San Stae.  As we  entered the church, the first thing we noticed was the smell of beeswax.  Absolutely overwhelming, but in a really good way.  The space was filled with Harvest’s 2-d work, and dozens of glass blown into biomorphic, hive-like vessels that Harvest made on Murano working with master glassblower Giorgio Giuman.  On the shelf by the check-in desk were tiny jars of honey.

2013denatured7-300x225The work is definitely visually engaging.  But I am as captivated by the back-story as by the objects.  Murano, the famous glass-blowers island in Venice is (like much of Venice) largely bereft of trees and other greenery.  It provides an inhospitable environment for bees.  But beside the studio where Harvest created the glass for this show, she created the other “part” of the show.  She turned an abandoned lot into a Honey Garden.  She brought in topsoil, sourced fruit trees and other plants from other islands in the Veneto, and created a beautiful and inviting place for bees.

And came they did.  The tiny jars of honey for sale at the show are the first harvested by Harvest.

Nevada Museum of Art (+Environment)

Talk about psychic whiplash!  I just spent a few days in Reno, mostly at the Museum of Art + Environment, which was extremely cool.  The Museum is so thoroughly grounded in sense of place, in assorted notions of what constitutes art that is specific in its engagement with environment.  The Director of the Center for Art + Environment, Bill Fox, shared his wisdom about the exhibits, the library, the archives they are collecting.  It was a rich and riveting few days.

But in the evenings, after dinner, I went “home” to my hotel room on an upper floor of a local casino.  Casinos are the antithesis of specific.  They mess with your sense of space and time.  The light is all artificial, so you can’t tell what time of day or night it is.  And you move among spaces that kind of blur into one another, with few markers to help you orient.  Plus, it could be any casino anywhere.  Casinos, I think, are the sort of place Michel Foucault was talking about when he coined the term “heterotopia.”  Places that are not really places, in a sense.

246-147x300All my to-ing and fro-ing between museum and casino might have been the thing that made me so captivated by the work in the “small works gallery,” a set of tiny photos by Jean-Pierre Bonfort that he made with his cellphone    camera during trips between Grenoble and Paris.  According to the squib on the wall,    the  images are “not a record of the journey so much as of the artist’s state of mind.”

A train is probably also a heterotopia, a place that isn’t a place–as it moves through the  landscape.  But Bonfort’s images are intriguingly specific, even though they rely on a visual vocabulary over which he has limited control.  The cellphone camera doesn’t allow for much image manipulation.  And it doesn’t look like he did much afterwards in photoshop.

Though both heterotopias, casino and train would seem to invite diametric responses.  The one asking you to lose yourself within its confines, the other to find yourself by looking beyond.

Christine Collins’ “The Keepers”

KEEPERS_NEW-20-300x240I love bees.  I’m allergic to them, which makes the relationship more vexed than it might otherwise be, but it does not diminish my fondness for them.

I’m also really interested in the way that bees are depicted in contemporary culture.  They are lauded for the work they do as pollinators, presented as the hapless victims of some human foolishness that causes colony collapse disorder, and function as a trope for a whole suite of concerns about how humans interact with the natural world.

KEEPERS_NEW-5-300x236And, in Christine’s photographs in THE KEEPERS series, they become very nearly sacramentalized.  In a really good way.  What I am often struck by in these images is that they resonate with religious imagery.  It’s as if the beekeepers, in their effort to simultaneously connect with and control “nature,” are reproducing the relationships to the world that we see in many religious rituals.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, since so many rituals are efforts to set aside our sense of alienation–either from one another or from the larger more-than-human world–and feel deeply connected.  Not connected, exactly, more like oceanic.

Looking at them, I cannot help but think of a high priest or priestess invoking something holy, of a Catholic priest swinging the thurible, of the labor of the keepers as a kind of offering.  Images from this project are on view right now at the Foster Gallery, at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, MA.  So, so worth a visit!

Chris McCaw

In NYC this week for work, and doing a little gallery visiting on the side.  I’ve just discovered Chris McCaw.  He’s been working in this particular style for a while, but I didn’t know about it.  Of course, I love it–he’s dealing with time, the nature of light, the particularities of what cameras and lenses can do, referencing the history of photography.  All at once.  And the pictures themselves are weirdly great.  What’s not to love?!


Here’s the backstory:  McCaw is interested in recording time, as marked by the movement of the sun, and rendering it with a sense of directness and immediacy.  So, he uses gelatin coated paper AS THE NEGATIVE.  The intensity of the sun literally burns the paper, leaving solarization effects, wacky color shifts, singe marks.


So so cool.


His work has got me thinking about Marco Breuer, on the one hand, and Sharon Harper, on the other.  And that’s pretty great, because I’d never before had a sense of connection between those two.  Now, I’m thinking about assorted ways to play six degrees of Kevin Bacon photographically.  Let’s say:  Thomas Joshua Cooper to Mario Testino, ready set go!  (okay, that one might be absurd, but isn’t that part of the fun??)

Collaborative Art-Making

The St. George peninsula is mid-coast Maine is an astonishingly artsy place.  Among the famous artists who’ve lived here or near are Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie (who still lives here), Kenneth Noland, Greg Mort, and William Thon. And in addition to those better known names are dozens and dozens of full-time and summer-time makers, working in media as diverse as watercolors and stone, encaustic and rusted metal, digital photography and hand-made paper.  It’s a great place to be a maker.

Every summer, through an open studio program organized by the late, great Don McClain (no, not that one.  The other one), between 20 and 40 artists have opened their spaces to visitors for one or two weekends each summer.

I love such projects, but I started to feel bad for the artists because they couldn’t visit each other.  This celebration of the area’s creative community precluded the participation of many of its members.  I tried to figure out something I could do to bring us all into community?

chapbook-230x300And from that, the “progressive poetry project” was born.  Here’s what we did:

1.  I left a box of blank cards with each of the artists who was interested in participating, and instructions to the folks who visited the studio to write something on the card that was inspired by the work.  Not “this is so pretty,” but maybe something like “blackberries tinged with sea spray.”  Or whatever.  I tried really hard to keep it open and not prescriptive.

2.  I collected all the boxes, spent some time looking at the art work, and then used as many of the words on the cards as I could to make a poem that was responsive to the work or the words or both, one poem per studio.

3.  Then, I turned those into a little chapbook, illustrated with images by several of the artists, and shared with everyone who participated.

What I hoped was that the artists and visitors would consider us as all in “it” together, a community of collective appreciate and creation, and that those often firm lines between makers and viewers would blur.  And that did happen, at least a little.  But what also happened, delightfully, was that many of the artists felt that the poems really suited their work–even though they couldn’t control what folks said about their art, or what I did with the things that they said.  And I have to think that that’s due to more than serendipity, that the poems were the distillation of community being manifest.