What is Quartz Inversion?
No, it’s not a quart of milk standing on its head. It’s the point at which silica crystals in clay change their molecular structure during the rise and fall of temperatures in the kiln. Heat serves as a catalyst for permanent change. Very cool idea. I think of it as a metaphor for most things in life. The transformational power of art can change us at the very core. Our actions change the earth every day, for better or worse. The choices we make, the thoughts we have, and the words we say change us in every way at every moment--from the inside out. I like to think that I go through a quartz inversion on a regular basis....and once quartz inversion occurs, there is no going back.
Get more Quartz Inversion

Monday, November 1, 2010

Remain Alert....

As artists it's important to remember that what the eye sees, the mind remembers and becomes grist for the mill in the studio. That's why it's so crucial to remain alert to one's surroundings even when one is not in the midst of a creative moment. This was never more apparent to me than during the one year I spent in graduate school at Bennington College in Vermont. Living in such a bucolic setting might seem like a dream come true to a visual artist. And if graduate school gives us anything it gives us abundant, uninterrupted time to create. For me, a die-hard city dweller, I found the "eye candy" of country living looked more like "eye broccoli" which made it virtually impossible to find any visual stimulus on which my senses could feed. Surrounded by nothing but trees and mountains and more trees and mountains, whether they were lush with green or covered with snow or on fire with the colors of fall, it all looked the same and my eyes (and soul) starved. For some, those trees were a dream come true, but they left me hungry and yearning for something more.

Today, while wandering around the west side of Manhattan, amidst industrial buildings, car lots, and sleeping homeless people, I happened upon a window lined with miniature vintage cars just waiting for me to feed upon them. If I had not been alert to my surroundings, I might have missed these gems. But since I am always "eating with my eyes" I stopped to feed on this beautiful urban image and capture it with my phone.

A crack in a wall, a brick wall stained with pigeon droppings, a discarded cup of coffee, the randomness of several strangers in a subway car all wearing the same color....All of these things are happening right before our eyes every day, but if we are not vigilant in our awareness we might miss them. Re-think your idea of beauty and you will see that it is all around you......

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Something old / something blue....

I came home feeling somewhat blue and alone tonight. That's kind of putting it in the simplest of terms because if I really examine how I feel, I'll get all existential and bleak. So let's just leave it at feeling "blue". Whenever I experience these moments of isolation, I either put on some Joy Division music and wallow (which is always a bad idea), or sit in my studio and look around (much better idea). Just being in the presence of all the stuff in there gives me back my sense of self and purpose. Tonight I focused on all the old books and thought about the people who wrote them so long ago. None of those people are alive today, but this object, this book, this....piece of pulp and cardboard they created still exists.

In this short life we've all been given, the only real meaningful gesture of permanence we can make is to leave something behind after we're gone. For some, that thing may be children, or a legacy of wealth, or an idea or invention. But for other's it's simply a piece of art. And for me, that as important as anything else....

So this night will end and tomorrow I'll feel better, because we all know feelings are fleeting and changeable. I'll wait anxiously for the weekend when I will make an effort at turning that "old stuff" into something lasting and more permanent than myself.....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Threads of Memory"....

Just finished working on my first costume project for a piece entitled Threads of Memory choreographed by my friend, Nile Baker. After four weeks of sewing, un-sewing, and re-sewing at Elena Comendador's Treehouse Productions Studio, seeing the final project danced by 5 incredible young talents made it all worth it. My encaustic collage of the Grand Canal was also projected on a rear screen behind the dancers, pulling the whole piece together and creating a cohesive visual environment for Nile's vibrant and singularly individual choreography.

I documented the process of the sewing and choreography from start to finish. Except for the moments my nerves were torn to shreds and my one tearful breakdown when I thought my friendship with Nile was coming to a screeching halt, working with friends was a wonderful, learning experience. Elena patiently re-threaded the machine every time I missed a loop, and Nile calmed my nerves even though he was under the incredible stress of finishing the piece with one of the dancers missing an entire week of rehearsals.

The night before the performance, Nile and I nearly asphyxiated ourselves spraying shoe polish and enamel paint on the tulle skirts, but the final effect was absolutely perfect. Now I'm looking forward to getting back into my studio and painting again......

Monday, October 4, 2010

Beginner's Mind.....

I'm working with a beginner's mind these days. It seems I am also working with a beginner's hand. It always takes time for my hands and eyes to 're-learn' how to do what they do best between studio sessions, especially when they are a month apart from one another. As expected, frustration reigned supreme in the studio today. And now I am rewarding myself with a glass of wine, some Scott Walker on my iPod, low lights, and cozy PJ's while I gaze upon the fruits of today's labors.

I'm collaborating with friends on several dance projects, which I am thoroughly excited about. But, it has been both exhilarating and exasperating at the same time, as collaborating tends to be. Regardless, it has been an incredible learning experience, and I'm hoping it leads to further collaborations with dancers, writers, and musicians.
Ahhh, what a journey.......

Monday, September 6, 2010

Arithmos 6......and beyond........

I have finally come back to the studio, after several MONTHS of inactivity. The summer had a feeling of being on vacation, with my dear friend Dee staying with me for 8 glorious, but infernally hot weeks. I enjoyed playing around the city with her, doing lots of ashtanga yoga, eating, drinking, and laughing. All of that left very little time for working in the studio. But love and friendship feed the soul, and the soul is the seat of creativity. So now the fall is upon us and having been fed to the gills all summer long with pleasure, joy and friendship, I'm looking forward to getting back to work with a new series of works.

Arithmos 6

Several weeks ago, to top of the end of summer, I had a successful showing of my family history pieces. Myself and 5 other artists shared a one night event called "Arithmos 6". The turnout was spectacular and the response to my work was better than I could have ever asked for. It was all very reaffirming and exhilarating. So now I'm trying to hold on to the feeling of inspiration that comes after a positive response to ones work from both friends and total strangers. To get the ball rolling again, I revisited an unfinished piece that has been sitting around for ages and brought it to a simple conclusion. Best not to try too hard when you are teetering on the brink of productivity and inactivity.

Monday, July 5, 2010

110 degrees in the shade.....

work in progress

After many weeks of avoiding the studio because of the heat, I chose today, the hottest day of the year so far, to get back to work. It's been so hot in my apartment/studio that several of my pieces have started literally melting and peeling. But with the heat showing no signs of letting up I decided the time was either now or October to get some work done.

Strangely enough, I can tolerate the heat of the studio much better than I can the heat of the blazing New York streets, so once I got started I was on a roll with heat gun, hot plate, and sunshine baking my workspace. Unfortunately, I was stopped short by a self-inflicted gash on my left pointer finger. I narrowly avoided a trip to the emergency room with quick thinking and a brown paper bag to stop the gushing blood......I was able to at least get a start on a new piece, priming a hardboard and placing it in the freezer to avoid melting. Since this heat wave shows no signs of abating I guess I will working all summer long in the inferno that is my studio and home....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Au revoir, Louise....

She inspired me to the very core....


Traffic Light

After several weeks (!) of not working, I finally got some stuff done today in the blazing heat of my studio. Dealing with a broken heat gun and resorting to using my hair dryer (which works, by the way), I labored over three small panels. I tried scanning these with my new scanner, but not sure they look any better than when I shoot them with my Coolpix. Anyway, I'm glad I got some work done....

Carissimo Fratello

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tiny Treasures....

I just love these tiny little canvases I found at Dick Blick Art Supplies. They allow me to plow through little thumbnail sketches in wax and work out ideas for color, composition, and content. These are 4 'studies' for my Family History series and are only 2.5" X 4" in size.

"3 Siciliani"

"Sylvia ~ Diddie ~ Sunny"

"Felice ~ Felix ~ Phil"

"Destination Pozzallo"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010...

"Mother's Day"

Today is the second Mother's Day since my mom's passing in January 2009. There was a lot of activity on facebook with everyone wishing their moms, aunts, wives, friends, and sisters and Happy Mother's Day, and feeling a little envious of those who still have their mom, I decided to spend some time in the studio creating a tribute to my mother. Oddly enough, the piece did not just flow out of me ~ on the contrary, it was a day of struggle where nothing seemed to go right. I worked on this simple and very grey piece for around 3 hours until reaching point where I knew it was time to stop.

I never start out with the idea for a composition in my mind before starting a piece. I usually just place the objects on the page and juggle them around until the composition feels right. After contemplating this composition for some time, I noticed how I had placed the photo of my mother beside the empty frame, rather than inside it....
Happy Mother's Day mom. I miss you and I love you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pyromaniac at work....

Provincia di Ragusa

Note to self~ Next time you choose a new medium to work in, make sure it has nothing to do with HEAT.

It was almost 90 degrees today outside and around 190 degrees in my top floor, sun-drenched, low-ceilings, skylit, heat trap of a studio. On top of that, add the heat from my two hotplates and heat gun and you have one heck of a hot situation. Determined to make the best of it and get some work done I drew all the curtains, covered the skylights with paper, put the exhaust fan in the window, and propped the Vornado on the floor blowing in my direction. With a liter of ice cold seltzer within reach, finally, I am ready to begin.....

So without planning anything too ambitious, I finished a small "quartet" of 2" X 2" panels and started a new horizontal piece. Ironically, although I have little tolerance for the heat, I seem to always work in a medium that has to do with 'heating things up'. After spending years in boiling hot kiln rooms making ceramics, I am now hunched over a 250 degree hot plate with a heat gun in my hand. Now that summer is upon us, I'd better put my thinking cap on and come up with a good plan to keep my work space cool and well ventilated....or I might just be working on mono-prints all summer.....
Family Four

Monday, April 26, 2010

Swimming to Sicily....

I was recently invited to take part in 'art challenge' from the Appel Farm Arts and Music Center. I have no idea how they found me, but I received an e-mail from them inviting me to participate. The 'challenge' was to make a piece of art out of re-claimed and re-used materials, which included a map of New Jersey, fabric scraps, some beer bottle caps, a magazine, part of a Danielle Steele book, puzzle pieces, a Christmas card, a toy car, a wine glass, and some bubble wrap. Not exactly materials I use every day, but I gave it a shot and was miraculously able to transform all that junk into a somewhat auto-biographical piece called "Swimming to Sicily".

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday in Park Slope...

Anyone who lives anywhere near the Brooklyn Museum would be well advised to see the Kiki Smith installation, "Sojourn". As with everything Kiki does, this show does not disappoint. I just love this woman! I spent a few hours at the show with a friend after spending a productive day in the studio yesterday. Great way to round out a sunny, brisk Park Slope weekend.
The show gave me just the boost of energy I needed to get back into the studio and finish up some pieces I started yesterday. I've started incorporating some of my own photography with vintage family photos and my grandfathers writings. I'm quite happy with the results so far. I'm simplifying the compositions and using fewer elements. These are a few pieces that are still in progress.....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Branching out for spring......

Well the sun is finally shining, the cold weather seems to have left for good, so I thought I'd try some new things on for size in the studio in recognition of the new season. Although I don't think I've quite exhausted the subject of my family history just yet, I decided to experiment with some of my own photography for new subject matter and see where that leads. These pieces utilize some great shots I took of reflections on the Venice Grand Canal at night, and then altered using the iPhone app "CameraBag" (which I am totally addicted too). I'm calling these the "Venice at Night" series. Finally making use of the thousands of pics I took in October while I was in Italy. These are tiny pieces, almost vignettes or sketches for an idea still to be fleshed out. The small pieces are a joy to make because I can really just 'play' without fear and without thinking too much about the outcome.

"Venice @ Night"(2" X 2" each panel)

I've also veered off and used a few images of a good friend who makes a great subject. I've been shooting him a lot lately... again, on my iPhone and making use of CameraBag with every shot I take. (It's almost too easy to make great photos with this app! It can make even the most mediocre photo look great.) He appears in these new pieces even though he was no where near the Grand Canal when I shot these pics of him. I love the yummy raspberry color of the bottom piece....

"Perfect School Companion"

"Venice: Nile at Night"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday morning.....show and tell


My time in the studio has been limited over the last couple of weeks, hence my absence from this blog. However, I did manage to produce two small pieces that I am pleased with. Still working on the concept of "less is more" and learning something new with every piece. I'm finding that I am most comfortable with a smaller tableau, which keep me from going all over the place with unnecessary nonsense.

"8 Visits to the Blessed Sacrament"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Staying out of the middle of the road...

I'm working on staying "simply complicated". My brother came and gave me a studio critique and nearly had a cow when I said I wanted to find the middle ground between total simplicity and total complication. "Why would anyone want to be in the middle?!" he cried, "what a horrible place to be!" He's totally right. Being middle of the road is NOT where I want to be. He suggested working from either a completely minimalist perspective by keeping the compositions very simple and quiet, or to move even further into collage by adding more and more and more elements. The way to avoid overdoing it is by using a minimalists approach when creating a complicated composition and by employing the theory of "less is more" ~ even when there is more than less. It's not as easy to explain as it is to just 'feel', but I think these few pieces come close to what I am talking about.
"Jan 1960"

"Joe, Santa, Corradina"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hot Plate.....in the sun.....

There is no particular reason for posting these two great photos of my hot plate in the afternoon sun....I just felt compelled to share them because they look so darn cool. They were taken with two new iPhone applications which create all kinds of fun photo effects, such as heavy color saturation, vintage photo effects,

infrared, silver tone, and a whole bunch of other neat stuff. I recommend them to anyone who likes the instant satisfaction of snapping artful photos on their iPhone. They're called "CameraBag" and "Hipstamatic" and they're well worth the couple of bucks they cost to download. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gray day at the office.....VS....Gratitude

Another gray day at work....(at the office, that is). I haven't been in the studio since last weekend and this weekend is starting to look like a bust as well. BUT, I'm grateful to have a full-time gig that pays the rent, (even though some days I can't help but resent being here). I've sworn off complaining since January 1, 2010 because it's a waste of time and serves no purpose at all. Gotta keep reminding myself how lucky I am to~ A) have a studio at all; B) have the resources to support my (art-making) habit; and C) the earth I stand upon is stable and not shaking underneath me....

My quote for today is:
"Small minds are much distressed by little things. Great minds see them all but are not upset by them."
~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Repetition, Redundancy, Repertoire.....

66 Buick / Sunny Day

What's the difference between developing ones own artistic language and repeating oneself? Damned if I know. I've been working on this in the studio and some days, I just think I am singing one note over and over again. Other days I feel like I am creating a cohesive series of related melodies. It's absolutely imperative to repeat oneself in order to develop ones imagery and to move it to the next level, wherever or whatever that is. The trick is to take some detours every now and then. Risk taking, experimentation, and letting go are all so essential. Today was productive as far as quantity goes, but I'm still not sure if I sang that same old tune, or if I composed a new related melody. It will take me a couple of days to decide whether today was productive in terms of quality.
320 Court Street / Provincia di Ragusa

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Keep walking....

Each day I try to find a quote or saying that seems fitting to my current state of mind. Lately, I've been focusing on "perseverance" and that the most important thing is to keep working, without regard for the outcome and with no expectations. Approaching the studio from that place I am never (well...,almost never) dissatisfied with what comes out of a day's work because I know the most important thing is that I get to the studio as often as possible ~ every day would be ideal. So here is my quote for today:

"If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking." ~ Buddhist proverb

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sometimes a little means a lot....

Work in progress: "We Are Leaving Rome"

I haven't had much time in the studio this week so I'm really happy to have done a bit of work today. And I'm really loving these little 4X4 panels. They are very unintimidating even when I'm experiencing the dreaded "blank canvas" syndrome. I always seem to be able to pop something out and at least feel like I made some progress. I hate feeling unproductive, but with these small pieces I can keep myself working regularly and consistently because they don't take as much time as the bigger projects do. Making art is just like working out ~ if you stop exercising for a while, you lose your strength and muscle tone and can sometimes even experience a physical setback. Well, you can lose your "muscle tone" in the studio as well. The longer you stay away from work, the harder it is to build up those muscles again. Just like with exercise, even a little bit each day is better than nothing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The good, the bad, the snow, and everything in between....

I had a great day in the studio on Wednesday during that blizzard we got hit with. I'm getting to really love these "sick" days I am taking off from work and spending in the studio instead! It was a perfect day. The snow was falling steadily and I got to work some time in the late afternoon after spending most of the morning looking out the window watching the snow accumulate on the branches of the trees outside. Armed with a hefty supply of Oreos and white wine, I had no reason to leave the apartment. The conditions were just right for a productive day of work. And so I began a new series using color photos from the 1960's instead of my usual black and white ones which date from the first half of the 20th century. After three or four hours I stopped working, just about the time the snow started to abate. Although I wasn't quite sure if the panels were "done" at that point, I let them sit on the dining table for the next several days where I could consider and decide whether I needed to work on them any more. After rotating them in every direction and juggling them around in every combination, I decided they worked quite well together and came to that moment when you tell yourself to leave well enough alone. Every new piece teaches me something and shows me what I need to work harder on the next time around. With this triptych, the lesson learned was that I needed to stop playing it so safe with color. Maybe it was the reflected white light of the snow casting its muted glow on to my work table that caused me inadvertently to make these pieces so mid-range in their tone. Or perhaps, and more likely, it was my usual reluctance to take risks.