I love it when the art just happens in a natural way around here. This was a day Grace and I had a go a drawing little Rain Song who was rewarded with a sucker for her efforts. Rain was feeling pretty good in that polka dot dress and suggested we draw her. The little kitchen set was brought over by a friend who's daughter had long out grown it. Our children get a lot of their clothes and toys this way.
There is something very freeing about doing art in the company of children because they are so free from heavy expectations about how things should turn out looking. They just go for it and when you work along side them the innocence is just contagious.
I am currently experiencing a renewed enthusiasm for painting and drawing. I began painting in when I was a teenager copying pictures out of books and magazines. I turn fifty this month which means I have been making paintings for at least 35 years. When you do something that long you can look back over the ups and downs. The good thing about that back looking view is you can remind yourself if youare presently in a down mode you can rest assured that an "up" is on the way.
I am working on a couple of multifigure paintings these days. The photo accompanying this post is a set up photo I am using as a reference for one of my new paintings. I continue to use my children as models. Frida Khalo used her own face over and over again to create her visionary self portraits that some how were always surprisingly different one from the other. Morandi used the same dozen of humble bottles and jars over and over for years and years. There is something very powerful about returning to the same subject matter or the same figures or the same section of skyline over and over. So much of our experiences in this culture remain surface and unsubstantial. A deep commitment to a subject is a chance to go deeper into meaning. The wonderful thing about reaching a deep place in one particular area is the potential to extrapolate from there to other subjects through organic connections.
Looking through the pages of this life so filled with dirt and mystery. I can't help but often feel lost. As I get older I am convinced that the feeling of being lost is something like being out in deep water. I cling to the hope that I don't need to figure out everything that is going on in my life but simply trust that God is working his loom and I am simply one of the threads being woven into something lovely and useful.
As winter begins to show some signs of letting go and the sun makes another brave appearance I can feel a softening in the soil of my heart. I would love to have a spring of my own where some of what I though for sure was dead began to show signs of life. New songs, sold paintings, laughter, baby bunnies, a love poem, a bird nest that smells like hay and moist soil....
This photo is of Rain, the youngest of our five daughters. She was excited about her dress and suggested I do a portrait of her. Rain got her name because the the month before she was born it seemed to rain every day. It was in the spring and it seemed like everything was completely soaked with the spring rains. The fact that all children are so very different is great thing because it causes you as a parent to continually be in the process of pondering what may be appropriate for the particular child in question. It keeps everything unpredictable.
Rain is a great playmate for Grace since she is just a year younger. They spend a lot of time creating their own fun with dolls, stuffed animals, blankets for camps and pillows for comfort. There are few things in the world better than listening to little girls bringing dolls to life on a quiet wintery Saturday afternoon. Our oldest two girls Rose and Pearl have already crossed over into young womanhood and their days of whispery make believe voices are long past. Dove at ten years old sea saws back and forth between those two stages. Dove is taken up with cooking and baking these days.
Rain is the only member of the family with blue eyes.
Rain has said that she will become a famous actress and a rock star. We shall see.
Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. Your not in the drivers seat, I am. Dont run from suffering, embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. (from Matthew 16, The Message Bible)
My life is haunted by this verse. I don't like suffering and would prefer to never experience any and yet I know in my heart that it are these difficult experiences that I must go through that give my life its real potent color and my heart its tenderness.
Last friday Brenda and I were invited to go out to the movies with a couple of friends in the neighborhood. We were both excited by the prospect of a fun night out with friends. About 15 minutes before we were going to be picked up another neighbor stopped over asking to borrow some silver paint. I went downstairs to look for it and as I was looking through my supplies I slipped and bumped into a water pipe which cracked and began shooting water all over the basement floor. At this moment Brenda was upstairs getting herself beautiful for a rare night out. The crack happened between the main shut off valve and the pipes entrance out of the basement concrete floor. There was no way for me to shut it off and our friends were now at the door to take us to the movies. The whole situation felt really horrible as I watched water take over the basement floor.
We were able to tie off the pipe and slow the leak enough so that the basement drain kept the water from taking over the basement. We still went to the movies after a call to Goodwin Plumbing. We had a nice night out and the next morning we paid the plumber $394 after he had made everything dry, new and shiny again. The next night Saturday the Rick Beerhorst Band played a show at the DAAC with Seth and The Illogical Spoon and we had so many people come out we reached capacity and had to turn people away at the door. A wonderful young woman (also a neighbor) who heard me share our plumbing adventure from the stage felt lead to give my her food card which still had $240 for the month. She explained how she had all her groceries for the month and would like me to use up what was left on the card to buy groceries for our family. With the money value of that card together with the money off the door and CD sales we ended up making everything back we had to pay the plumber with in $2.
Our life together is often difficult but it is also an amazing adventure with God in the driver seat who by the way does not feel like a "safe" driver.
I have written over and over in this blog about our family's struggle with money. The struggle is usually about not having enough. We just get through paying all the bills and buying all the food each month with just inches to spare. Now and then there is a surplus in the savings account for a while but then it gets absorbed by the need for a new computer, meteorite damage, or a slow month of sales. We have lived inside of this wrestling match for ever. It has become our excepted way of life. A few weeks before Christmas I began praying/fasting for a break through in this area in a focused way. During this time I was forced out of my carriage house studio by the cold and relocated to the basement. I began reorganizing the basement and de cluttering. After I got the basement in shape I moved on to the kitchen doing the same. As I worked on the house I sensed that God was working on the inside of me at the same time- cleaning out, de cluttering, reorganizing. The fasting has ended. The praying continues and there is not a concrete "break through" I can point to like the sale of an expensive painting (which is usually how we think of our break through will come) but I really believe something is shifting inside of me and in our physical circumstances. If you are reading this and are the sort of person given to prayer please pray for us that we will have "ears tuned to wisdom" in this area of God's provision and what our part is in that mystical union. If you are not a person of prayer perhaps you could stumble through a little awkward prayer and try something new. Thank you for reading and praying.
I just love having this fence. We made a privacy fence that now gives us the option to let our chickens range free with out them ending up in the neighbor's yard. The fence was all made out of salvaged materials. The only thing I had to buy was four 60 pound bags of concrete for $14. I improvised a gate latch with wood, scrape metal and a little cow bell left over from the Wonder Wagon adventure. Every time someone goes through the gate there is the sound of a bell. "Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes, she shall have music where ever she goes." We have what we need. When we really need something it has a way of just showing up at the right time.
These eggs are a small triumph. The extra orange egg on the right has been laid by our back yard hens. The one on the left comes from a local farm with "range free" chickens selling through the local organic grocery store. This makes me want back yard goats all the more for the extra good milk they would provide to our family. What extra potency is coming into our bodies through this good food and what added vitality is entering into our lives through the experience of taking care of our own animals and garden. These simple life giving practices are ages old and only recently shorn off from the modern life style. I think it is time to look for all the babies that went out with the preverbal bath water and bring them back into our daily life rituals were they can reconnect us with meaning, reconnect us with God, reconnect us with ourselves and who we are becoming.
I love getting letters and I even like writing letters. I like the delay of putting a letter in the mail box and then two months latter getting a reply maybe. Every thing else seems so instant with the i phone and email and a telephone call... It feels healthy to be made to wait a long time for a reply. I also enjoy the physicality of opening a letter and the potential for little things to fall out on the table, like a dried flower or a Polaroid or maybe a little drawing. Some times a letter may even carry a scent from a smudge of oil. With this post I have decided to begin to send letters again. The winter season is good for letter writing and savory soups.
A lot of rainy days and the garden falling into late autumn ruins. Summer and all it's glory has passed us and the long wintery sleep of ice and grey skies is approaching. We do what we can to keep our spirits up and look for silver linings in the endless curtaincloudcover that has placed itself over our city. Besides the actual clouds over my head I think there is another cloud bank that has moved in that is inside of my head and writing this blog and posting this little skull collage is my tiny effort at poking a hole through that sheet of lea for a ray of sun shine to make its way through. The light tapping of these computer keys is my attempt to punch a hole in the darkness that has shrouded my soul this morning. I realize I can not let myself think that I am alone in here, I know there are others that share this same battle this morning in late rainy October.
We are on the other side of Art Prize now. We have been working through a deep sadness that feels something like what you feel when you are putting the christmas tree on the curb in January thinking maybe you spent a little too much on presents and trimmings. The Wonder Wagon project was a very rich experience for our family and we will treasure for years to come the people and the stories that wove their lives around us not only for the two weeks of the encampment along the Grand River but also during the long journey of preparation through out the summer. As a family we grew into the challenge that this experience brought us to. We have developed muscle in places we didn't even now existed. Both Brenda and daughter Pearl are by nature very private people most comfortable lost in a long novel curled up on the sofa for a rainy day. These finely tuned privet ladies were bombarded with clusters of new strangers every day for hours on end and they rose to the challenge that was nothing short of heroic.
For all of those who came along side of our family like Cameron and Rachael VanDyke and Matthew Fowler, Seth Thompson, Bob,Ellen and Tom, and many others, thank you so much for your love and gifts. We truly did create community through creativity.
We have spent a lot of time this summer at our local farmer's market on Fulton street here in Grand Rapids. We live just down the street which has made it easy to develop a connection there. We have been selling our art on Sundays for the Fulton Street Artist Market which has put us deeper in touch with the community of artists and craftspeople who make that place hum the day the farmers stay home. In a way our time spent at the market this summer has been a rehearsal for our Wonder Wagon Art
Prize project which will also involve us being out side and interacting with all kinds of people as we hang out with our wagon and lead art work shops and host musical performers. We have loved the processes of meeting new people and entering into dialogue about art making and living more simply and organically. "I want to simplify my life" seems to be the mantra for these days were are living in.
The clip here was shot on a Saturday morning when my friend DJ Vernies and I were busking at the market. That same day Dylan Gunnett, a former Grand Rapids resident who has now relocated to Chicago, was in town to create a music video for us. This footage was a detour from his original plan but he really liked it and posted this clip the next day on Vimeo and I decided to share it here. The Rick Beerhorst Band will be playing both Saturday nights at our Wonder Wagon encampment along the river 9/26 and 10/3. The second show includes Karisa Wilson and Seth. Music begins at 7:00.
What is it about sharing the table for a meal with friends that makes the friendships burn brighter? I have been working on a book cover illustration the last couple weeks that deals with that phenomena. I love it, I love the around the table intimacy that happens when we mix conversation with shared dishes, shared thoughts, and shared physical space.
Every Sunday night up to the first week of Art Prize we have a potluck dinner at our house (106 Fuller SE) beginning at 5:30. We eat and share the vision of the Beerhorst Wonder Wagon event which is all about creating community through creativity. We are really excited about Art Prize and what it is doing to rewrite the DNA of Grand Rapids. We are looking forward to the art, the music, and the friends that will come together at our encampment on the river between Kinkos and the River for those two weeks. If you are reading this and think you would like to join our Wonder Wagon team please consider this your invitation and bring a dish to pass!
I have been making wood block prints all summer and selling them at the Fulton Street Artist Market on sundays along with Pearl with her wonderful pot holders and Rose with all her sock monsters, stuffies and button bracelets. It has been a great experience meeting people and sharing our work and life with them. This is a true community experience because you are side by side with other artists when the clouds suddenly release a torrent of rain and everyone scrambles to get their products to safety, or the wind starts blowing and tarps snap in the wind and paper products go sailing or stained glass goes crashing on to the pavement. I had the thought yesterday when we were setting up our tarps over our temporary shops that this is a rehearsal for when our houses are all gone and we are all living in make shift tent cities surrounded by the rubble of what use to be our city. Then what ever lessons we learned over the course of all those outside artist markets will suddenly have great value. I continue to think that these out door markets are the fore front of a culture looking for a better way to buy sell and trade as the large corporate system we inherited falls to pieces around us.