This is a woodcut print logo for our Art Prize project we are in the midst of developing this summer. Our wagon is being constructed in our driveway. We are meeting every Sunday night at 5:30 for a potluck dinner. After dinner we talk about what needs to be done and develop ideas together. It has been a lot of fun learning to work together as a team and becoming better friends in the process. Every one is very talented and comes with a unique point of view which makes the project that much richer.
One of the things I am working on now is lining up musicians for the two weeks that our encampment will be in place between the Grand River and Kinkos/FedEx. These performances will be in the evenings between 6 and 8. Nobody's Darling, Dave Molinari, The Brothers of Folk, Daniel Holland and Karisa Wilson are among some of the performers already committed.
We are really excited about the momentum we feel building and look forward to were this journey will take us.
I think about nests this morning. I think about creating places where people feel safe to be them selves and let their personalities unfurl. I want to live at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street in NY,NY but I can't because I live here in Grand Rapids, MI on Fuller Street. I love the Chelsea because it has been a home and refuge for so many creative people and projects over the years. When you step into the lobby the history is palpable. I would like our home to be a place like that where people of all kinds are welcome to come and a place to reach more deeply into what their capable of, a place where mistakes and miss deeds are gracefully absorbed in a sponge of love, a place where the membrane that separates heaven from earth is dangerously thin and permeable. This is the nest I want to help weave and this is the nest I want to live out of.
Last Sunday night we were at work on our Wonder Wagon design using paper, card board, tape and hot glue. Rachel brought a fantastic blueberry desert right in season. Grace did some visionary crayon drawings as her contribution. Pearl was present with her camera catching images. Rose had lots of good input as usual. Matt had us cracking up. Brenda quietly created a beautiful design. Cameron patiently explained what we needed to consider in order to create a full size working wagon that could be pulled by either bicycles or a horse. Cameron has several years of experience with building strong light weight wooden structures which was evident last night in his explanations. We plan to begin building this Tuesday. We are now very close to finalizing our venue location. Please get in contact with us if you are interested in performing under the tent at our site during Art Prize. Also we will need as many people possible for our processional on September 23 from our house to our downtown venue.
The chickens are making there way around the garden this morning looking for things to eat. They keep scratching around through the straw with little kicks of their feet. Always moving, always searching, always looking for the next little morsel. They are constantly vigilant except latter in the day when they are resting on their roost or nestled in a snug little nest made in the litter of the coop. These wonderful birds have brought so much life, color and movement to our back yard and they inspire us to be also searching and scratching the surface of our environment for the little morsels that we need to feed on, the little chunks of inspiration, morsels of learning and new insights. Who might be a new friend? Where will this thought take us? How will we make use of this new idea? Could this be the beginning of a new song? Where is my sketch book 'cause I want to capture this cluster of flowers in the vase on the table before their color and shape goes away.
I sang a song the other day with the line "5 years old, magic in the air, running around in just a t shirt and under ware" This was a song written about daughter Dove a few years ago. Rain was reflecting on these lyrics the other day out loud and said; "I wouldn't run around in just a t shirt and my underwear." Pearl then said, "Well Rain you wouldn't because you are more modest." A few minutes later Rain said, "Yeah, but why am I modest?" and then not waiting for more of Pearl's wisdom she went on to this piercing insight, 'I think it is because I am christian and Dove is more Italian." This seem to make sense to her. For the rest of us it meant a whole lot of fun.
This summer has Art Prize for a back drop. We are developing a team of people to help us develop the vision for our project. We still have a long way to go. Cameron will begin to build the wagon in the next week or so. We are beginning to get offers from various venues and this is exciting and also difficult to consider and choose which would make the best sight for our encampment. We are very excited about the activities we will be able to build around the Beerhorst Wonder Wagon to provide a creative context for it to exist within. We are interested in performers and volunteers if you are reading this and thinking you would like to get involved. We are also needing to either make tents our rent them and we know we want them big enough for activities to go on underneath them incase it rains. The opening day is Wednesday September 23. We will begin with a processional (Think mini mardi gras) from our house to our out door venue. Come along for the adventure!
Our daughters Rose and Pearl are pictured here at a local antique and craft show that happened in our neighborhood. We had a pretty humble presentation with a card table, an old trunk and a few other improvised displays. We have also gone down to the farmers market on Futon street several times already this year. When we go to the farmers market we walk pulling wagons and pushing carts like we walked right out of the 19th Century. We are not pulling in much money as we do these events but there are other things happening. We are learning how to share our art with people, all kinds of people. We need to be polite and respectful. We make every effort to explain how we do things and why when people ask. The environment we create with all of our hand made goods is very enchanting and causes people to stop and look and as they do they can't help but drop down into that place of wonder and imagination.
While we practice bringing our art to the street we also meet the other venders who are also doing what they can to share there handicrafts and farm produce. These people are a rugged bunch with a taste for adventure and risk. They come to the markets with great optimism hoping to make some money as a return on the many hours spent creating their products and it seems that almost every time the return on their investment is very nominal. So why do we continue? Perhaps there is something else going on here even more important than making money. Perhaps we are slowly and clumsily making our way back to a world made by hand. Perhaps the farmers and crafters and artists are leading the american culture back to a place were we new how to work with our hands and create the things we needed for every day life. Do you remember the Fox Fire book series that was made in the 70s the wrote down the stories of the old people of the Ozark mountains that still new how to heal with wild herbs and make bent wood rockers out of the hickory that grew on their side of the mountain. They new how to make and use a root cellar and make wine out of elder berries. In these days we are living through the collapse of a culture that had become just too ridicules, too unreal. The unreality of our way of living in America is reflected in the bizarre characters of the entertainment like Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson, and Andy Warhol who seemed to float around in queer world of their own making at others expense. It is also like the chickens created by the poultry industry that reach the butchering stage so quickly in their little cubicles but if allowed to live past their peek stage of plumpness would tumble over unable to support their own weight like the heavy heads of the peony flower that lay on the ground as soon as they open their blooms in June.
My heart actually goes out to some of the eccentric entertainment personalities because we are of the same tribe. But perhaps what were are learning while we sweat under the hot Michigan sun at these open air markets with our lovingly handcrafted items spread out for all to see and few to buy is how to be artists simply woven into the fabric of every day life walking on pavement instead of air. While we set up our booth of art in between kettle corn and petunias venders we are learning what it means to make art that is some how magical and practical at the same time.
After all what are artists if not pioneers? We are out front cutting a trail and eating what ever we can find to chew and swallow. Jesus asked the people what they had expected to see when they hiked out to here a John the Baptist sermon, "a man dressed in fine clothes?" Of course not. The profits did worry over what they were wearing or were their next meal was coming from. They had bigger fish to fry.
This painting is the first portrait I have done of Rain Song Beerhorst who is the youngest of the clan. She does a great job holding still for a 5 year old. The painting is shown here on the easel surrounded with the inspiration and drawing resources that typically accompany the paintings on the easel. I seem to need all this stuff crowded around the painting to help me feel cozy and creative. Some times I think I would like to exhibit the paintings this way giving the viewer a better sense of the context that the paintings arrive out of. Besides I just think they look kind of cool this way.
I also wrote a song inspired by Rain when she was just two years old and getting into a lot of mischief around the apartment when the family was living in Brooklyn. The song is called "Natural Disaster". The hurricane Katrina had just happened and living with a powerful two year old and six other females in a two bedroom, one bath apartment all came together in that song. The final line in the song is;
"It feels like the end of the world, in a storm with the name of a girl"
If you are interested in hearing it I can send you the five song EP for ten dollars which is a foretaste of the new record due to come out the end of September in time for Art Prize and the Beerhorst Wonder Wagon.
I began this painting last year and just finished. It measures 3 1/2 feet by 4 1/2 feet which is a big picture for me since most of my portraits are in the 8 by 10 inches realm. This image is one of a series of paintings that are about living by faith. They are about developing a new way of seeing.
The back ground is based on the Grand Rapids sky line as seen from the Wealthy Street over pass. The third hand? well that just sort of appeared one day as the painting progressed. The frame is made out of hundred + year old pine interior house trim that was chopped joined and then stripped/sanded and lastly gold leafed.
I would like this to be included in the Beerhorst Gypsy Art Wagon but I think it may be too large, perhaps it can go in one of the tents.....
"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." The Apostle Paul giving advice in a letter written to the church in Galatia.
I love this little piece of advice because it helps me continue living a life that is different from most every one I know. Some time I feel overwhelmed by our families peculiarities and uncertain future. We don't have a car. We don't have any medical insurance. We have little to no savings. The children have never gone to school. We make art hoping that eventually the right person will come by and purchase and take it home with them. We live in a city but our yard looks like a farm. Living by faith has taken us down a little zig zag path in a dark wood that occasionally opens up into beautiful sunny clearing were we can rest and get our bearings again.
We recently found one of those sunny spots in the form of a house show in NYC's West Village at the home of Danny and Patty Gregory. They were kind enough to open up there home and invite their friends to meet a portion of our family and our art. The beautiful cake pictured above was part of a very plentiful offering of food from the Gregorys. When this cake came out I was truly overwhelmed by their gracious hospitality. We met a several very interesting people and sent off a number of hand crafted studiobeerhorst items to new homes. Together with our friends we created an event to bring people together for an afternoon filled with art, good food and interesting conversation. It required around thirty hours of travel in a van both ways. (We did the journey with our neighbor Dave Shaw and his two oldest children Nick and Rose along with my Rose, Pearl, and myself.) We stayed a few extra days in order to take in the city and reconnect with old friends there. I am so thankful for this particular adventure and the opportunities it opened up for us there.
The painting on this cake which is titled Braided Vision has something to do with living a life of faith. The girl has a book in her hands yet her braids are covering her eyes to block her vision. Her task is now an impossible one because she needs her vision to read.
When we follow the unique path God has created for us we will regularly be faced with what seems to be impossible situations which in turn force us to realize that we will need an intervention from God in order to continue. Remember Moses at the Red Sea with his stick. So living this way means an intimate walk with God and what could be more precious?
We are deep in the work of creating our Art Prize project. Cameron and Rachel VanDyke have come alongside our family to be our artistic collaborators in this venture. Our plan is to make a sort of mobile art studio modeled after a gypsy wagon which will be filled with our artwork. When completed we hope to pull it to an out door venue with either a horse, bicycles or people. We also plan to pitch at least one tent that we can use for hospitality and art work shops during the first week of the Art Prize event. Also we hope to have performances of music and poetry at our encampment.
The picture here is of the Amish buggy we purchased last week. We have since removed the riding cab portion and our designing an enclosed wagon that will be built up on the chassis of the buggy. We have a long way to go until we are ready to pull it down town and we would love your thoughts and help as we tug this crazy idea out of our collective heads and into some kind of physical reality with in the time of the Art Prize deadlines.
The flowers and the colors of spring have bloomed and now summer makes its advance. We came back from New York enriched by our travels and visits with friends. Our computer was stolen while I was away. We bought a new machine today so I can write this post. It hurts when we are robbed and God always uses these experiences to tug us into a deeper place of freedom.
The kids have dug a very deep whole in the back yard maybe eight feet deep. Sand on their cloths, sand on the floors, sand on the couch. Real life is messy and dangerous. Real life explodes with color and sometimes all the color is drained off for a while.
I have been reading about Gypsy culture lately. One of the things I have learned is Gypsies are seldom alone. For them a lot of people and a lot of noise is a good thing. Our life is often a lot of noisy people. A lot of life going on all around us all the time. However there are two quiet places for me; upstairs in the carriage house after lunch for a nap and early morning at the dinning room table between 5-7 to write morning pages, read and think.
Tomorrow morning I am leaving for NYC with Rose, Pearl, my neighbor Dave and his two oldest. We are taking the Beerhorst Family Art Show to Manhattan. Our friends the Gregory's are hosting us at their lovely apartment in the West Village Sunday afternoon (from 12-4 if your in the neighborhood) This is an experiment and an adventure. We are looking for ways to extend our territory and this is one way we thought of besides Etsy and Flickr. If you live in a different city and would like us to come and share our art with your friends let us know and maybe we can come with our little gypsy caravan.
We are inviting you to come to our house this week end to experience the Beerhorst Family Spring Art Show. We created a special edition four color wood cut print to give away to the first 50 people who come through the door. After I finished printing the edition I threw the blocks into the wood stove so it would never be printed again. Each print is signed and numbered and valued at $50.
We love the people who come to our shows and invest in our vision because it makes our life possible. You inspire us with your presence, with your questions and with the light in your eyes. We are all struggling through difficult times. We are living through challenges that are unlike anything we have faced before. We need to find away to work together. We need to find ways to share our lives beyond what we have done before. Our art openhouse is one small way to toss the salad of our ever more vibrant local culture. So come by and bring your fork and wallet.
Rainy cold days in spring can be tough to slug through. It helps me to remember that the rain is just what the seeds need to get them going, and the green sprouts pushing up through the loose soil. Our back yard garden is full of signs of renewal. It is just getting going but is has started.
I have a image here of an old phonograph. When the CD player came on the market it seemed like the days of vinyl where over. It was time to pitch out the record players because they had been replaced with something better. Nearly all those old machines dropped out of sight into the trash, the junk stores or dark forgotten corners of the attic or the basement. What is interesting now is how those machines are coming back out of the dark places. The phonograph and vinyl records are being rediscovered by a whole new generation of kids that didn't grow up with them. Is being forgotten for a time like being planted? Are there times when we feel forgotten and displaced. Do we feel like we have been replaced by the next new thing ? I know I feel that way from time to time as I get older. I think that God appoints times of hiddeness from time to time which feels uncomfortable like a cold rainy day. Uncomfortable but important because we are being prepared for something, prepared for a time and a place in which to bloom anew.
This phonograph print is made from bits and pieces of old ephemera that was thrown away and forgotten. I plucked these pieces out of the trash and made something new and mysteriously beautiful by artfully knitting them together in a way that makes sense.
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of humankind as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer than out right exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all." Helen Keller said this and she ought to know.
I think we work hard to make our selves feel safe, secure, and protected. We lock up our bike so it is not stolen while we visit the library. We put extra money away in a savings account for a rainy day. We pay for insurance in case we might have an expensive stay at the hospital. These are the sorts of things we do all the time with out question because it seems like common sense. I wonder what wonderful experiences we are cutting out of our life by the walls we erect around us.
Our family of eight, living in a modest size city in the midwest, has been with out a car for 5 years now. In not owning our own car we are forced to cooperate with our friends and neighbors for the times we just need a car to get some where or haul some thing back and forth. This helps cultivate our community. Not having a car, we are forced back to a human scale. We don't shop at the big box store where they have the "big savings" because it is too far away. We shop at our neighborhood grocery store because we can walk there. Last summer when it was time for a family vacation we went to a camp ground that was close enough to ride our bikes to. We borrowed an extra bike trailer for our gear.
There was a time we were frightened if our car broke down and we couldn't afford the repair. We didn't have the imagination into a life with out a car for a few weeks. Now we have created a life that doesn't need a car in the driveway all the time, just once in a while and it feels so much more human and free. What were we afraid of?
I have a hunch that if we could find a way to live past our fears of life falling apart around us, if we could just really begin to trust God to take care of us like He/She has promised, then maybe our lives would begin to take on the brilliant color of saints and poets. What are we waiting for?
"In one creative thought a thousand forgotten nights of love revive, filling it with sublimity and exaltation. And those who come together in the night and are entwined in rocking delight do an earnest work and gather sweetnesses, gather depth and strength for the song of some coming poet, who will arise to speak of ecstasies beyond telling."
Rainer Mariia Rilke from Letters To A Young Poet
I live from one creative thought to another like a string of uncultured pearls. This string keeps threatening to break and spill my loveliness all over the ground which would be OK because then they would sink into the soil and sprout more poems and creative ideas.
This Thursday evening, the 16th of April, begins a great journey. It will be the first of four consecutive Thursday night Wood Cut Workshop sessions in my studio with six people from the community who will be more than students. They will be travelers join together for a great adventure. They will be poet gardeners who will plant with in themselves the seeds of fresh creative ideas. As they enter into the ancient medium of wood cut printing they will uncover new things within themselves. It will be like discovering a room in the house you have lived in for years that you somehow never even new was there. In fact this room is not empty but full of forgotten and long unused l treasures tarnished and covered with dust that only need a good shine and shaking out to come back into use.
Spring is the time for planting, new growth, stretching out and beginning new things. Come and join us!
This painting was done off of the Wealthy Street over pass downtown Grand Rapids. I have added collage elements into the painting as a way to break it up and look at a city scape painting in a different way. I like creating images that I don't understand because it helps me to loosen up some of the controls I tend to keep on my life out of fear. I think much of the time God is truly leading us we are finding ourselves way over our head in situations we don't understand. What makes sense about Moses at the edge of the Red sea with a stick in his hand?
When you are making a painting you are launching off into the unknown and at the same time you are on the path to deeper understanding. When you are truly looking at a painting, or better yet, living with a painting, you are also on the path to living a deeper life.
This picture was from a fun day we took our oldest two daughters and a couple friends out to an island in the river that you have to risk your life climbing down from an old train tressel to get on to. The old camera was pulled out of a dumpster in our neighborhood and has since been sold off for much needed cash. Our girls love fashion magazines and enjoy creating good out fits. I feel blessed to be constantly surrounded by so much beauty. Here I share a little of it with you. This island is currently deep under the icy river swollen from the spring thaw.
I am doing a series of woodcut class over four consecutive Thursdays beginning April 16th and ending May 6th. There is a $65 deposit which I will use to buy your materials. A class is $40. Each class will build on the other but you may take one class or all four or any combination.
When you finnish you will leave with your own tools, ink and know how that will enable you to continue making prints in your own home. Why not take the time to open up your life to deeper creativity and insight?
The classes will be taught in my studio at 106 Fuller SE Grand Rapids MI. For questions call 616-356-5586 or 616-666-4503
It is my birthday tomorrow. I will be 49 years old. I have discovered that I like to wear ties and sport coats. I like rustic spaces and unfinished projects.
My favorite Picasso painting is his portrait of his first wife Olga which was left unfinished. Her face, figure and arm chair are completely rendered but the rest of the painting was never done. There is raw canvas where he wiped off his brush as an afterthought. My life is this unfinished canvas, a work in progress. Who knows what is around that next corner.