Friday, September 25, 2009

A quick connection from the dunes

Just a quick post. I'm waiting in the San Luis Valley regional airport for John to get his rental car to return to Denver tomorrow. The rental car guy is off doing something, and this tiny airport is deserted except for the TSA guy. But, they have WIFI! Other than that I've been cut off, my cell phone doesn't even work when I go into the big town of Alamosa. But enough about the advantages of being out here, it's also incredibly beautiful.

We've spent the week hiking in the mountains and the dunes, despite the fact that I acquired a sinus infection and a touch of altitude sickness, and we've had snow and hail most afternoons so far. But today was the first day I didn't feel like my head was made of concrete and it's also getting warmer. So now that I've done some exploring, it's time to get out in the dunes and do some serious drawing.

And these are serious dunes. Up to 750 feet high, that's bigger than Providences skyscrapers. It can be a challenge climbing, especially starting in the thin atmosphere of 8200 feet.

Well, the rental car guy is signing off for now!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back to the dunes

This is a little gouache piece I did a few weeks ago while waiting on the first big dune in Provincetown for my friends who were walking in from Route 6. The next painting I do will be from Great Sand Dunes National Park, which, at about 700 feet high, will be a bit harder to climb, especially as the elevation of the park itself ranges from 8,000 to 13,000 feet. (The elevation I'm used to? Maybe 14 feet, a few inches more if I'm wearing heels). I just checked the weather and it will be a nippy 29 degrees at night, which makes me glad that this particular residency apartment has heat! I had to break into my stored winter clothes to find gloves, a scarf and long johns. Soon enough I'll need them in R.I. too.

I'll try to check in from Alamosa a few times in the next 2 weeks and will post my work when I get back and shake the sand from my shoes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sleeping in the dunes

This is a little watercolor I did in the dune shack Thalassa by the light of my oil lamps. Although my next accommodations will have electricity it won't be nearly as charming. But I'm looking forward to sleeping in the dunes in a week. I decided not to post my Cape Cod journal since I already wrote one in '97, instead I hope to post one from the Great Sand Dunes journal whenever I encounter internet access. I hear there's a nice little cafe in Alamosa with free wifi. It's called the Milagros Coffeehouse and gives its profits to charity. I'm looking forward to stopping in.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Boxing Day for the Great Dunes

This morning I shipped a box of art supplies off to Great Sand Dunes National Park for my artist residency that hopefully will reach the park before I do. Once again I waited a little too long to head to the UPS office, so as a result had to use airmail and pay twice as much as ground mail. I hate wasting money like that, but I seem to end up doing that all the time lately.

So now it's beginning to seem real and I'm getting excited about heading out there, the park has incredible diversity. The dunes look really cool but there is also forest, mountains, alpine tundra and grasslands. I just hope I haven't lost my "dune-legs" from my week in the dunes of Cape Cod. There are some great hikes in the mountains as well, but they involve a lot of elevation gain, and not as much oxygen as I'm used to here at sea level.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kirsten Hassenfeld's paper whites at Bell Gallery

I saw a great exhibit last week by artist Kirsten Hassenfeld at the Bell Gallery at Brown University last week. These pristine and monumental constructions were made entirely of paper and foamboard, with surface textures like bleached white sheets, fresh set plaster, eggshells, or a piece of fine drawing paper. The curves and lighting were elegant and simple, but the pieces were full of surprises. The longer I looked, the more I saw. Intricate little paper figures, impossibly tiny paper chains, cameos beautifully drawn in layered paper and a little paper spider. And as I looked at them in the quiet gallery, they slowly turned on their suspended wires, which made the floor seem to shift under my feet. But so subtly that it was relaxing, rather than disorienting.

In a way, they reminded me of seeing Lee Bontecou's mobiles at her 2004 MOMA retrospective. Hassenfelds's work though, while capturing some of the weightless presence of Bontecou, is so meticulously crafted that the wonder of how it was created almost distracts from the overall work, while Bontecou's pieces have a quality of always having existed. But then I'm so biased towards Bontecou that a comparison is almost unfair.

I then distanced myself from the aesthetic quality of the work in order to see if it were true, as a reviewer stated, that she used
"many of the same materials you might find in a grade-school art class: heavy-duty construction paper, translucent vellum (also a kind of paper) and lightweight poster-board, along with a bit of tape and glue to hold it all together. Add up the cost of everything in the Bell show and you’d barely have enough to pay for a typical opening-night party at a New York gallery."
Reading this before I saw the show, I found it hard to believe that Hassenfeld would put the effort into these pieces using such impermanent materials. On inspecting the work, I could tell she used archival material throughout, not a trace of construction paper, poster board or tape. In reading the catalog, she stated that she was only able to fabricate the massive pieces of thick archival foamboard by using a computer-guided laser paid for by a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. In other words, this installation costs significantly more than an opening night party. Good to know that though she may be a bit obsessive to make those tiny little chains, she wasn't crazy enough to make them out of paper that was bound to fall apart. We want these lovely objects to stay around for awhile.

The exhibit is up until November 1.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trying to hang on...

I'm having my first cup of coffee at The Coffee Exchange, while typing up my dune shack journal before heading to work, but I wish I were having it here.

I posted some of my photos in a slideshow at right, or you can link to it on Picasa here.
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