Wetland Paintings

 The other morning was uncharacteristically bright for November and the little wetland that I pass on my walk dazzled in the bright sun.  Mist rising from the water had frozen on some of the tangled dead vegetation giving the place an aura of magic.

Another magical time at the wetland  also comes late in the year, when most color and life has drained from the wetland plants, and the vegetation dies back.  Sometimes the setting sun slips out from under leaden clouds and washes the wetland with an intense amber light.giving new vitality to all that seemed dead.  This new vitality fills the heart.

Currently I’m framing up a series of paintings about this transformation.   These paintings are made with acrylic ink on Yupo paper.  Yupo is not actually paper, but a plastic sheet designed for watercolors.  Paints slide around on the surface, obeying the rules of fluids and offering some delicious results.  Painting on Yupo is a dance between brush and surface.  It’s a jazz improvisation .The trick is to notice when you’ve been given a gift and then stop.

Amber Time 3 by Johanne Renbeck

Amber Time 5 by Johanne Renbeck


I’ve been writing about the Amber Time for an artist book I’m making and it has occurred to me that my practice of writing and painting is similar.  For both I begin with a moment of wonder, with many phrases and observations in mind, but in the process of composition I scrub out the superfluous, the extraneous, all the while keeping watch for the truest evocation of the subject to emerge.

Late sun floods the
darkened stems,
the once lithe sedges
bleached and broken.

Amber sun fixes
in resinous memory
these tracings of the past
this calligraphy of release

Amber Time 3 by Johanne Renbeck

I count myself very fortunate to live near this patch of wildness.  Regardless of the season, the time of day, the tenor of the weather, when I stand on its verge, I am re-calibrated.  I am opened to transforming beauty and wonder.

Some pieces from the Amber Time series will be on exhibit at Gallery 66 NY in Cold Spring New York during December 2012.

Werner Pfeiffer Artist Books and Book Objects

Lately I’ve been significantly word averse, no doubt the result of the frenetic barrage of commentary, speculation and speeches surrounding the elections.  I have not been able to bear the news or e-mail, and certainly not Facebook.  Alarmingly even novels have been loosing their charm.

As palliative I decided to revisit Werner Pfeiffer’s exhibit at the Art Center and Art Library at Vassar College in nearby Poughkeepsie NY.  His spare and evocative Artist Books and Book Objects draw the viewer into a stillness that centers and enriches.  This definitely helped.

In particular I wanted to experience Pfeiffer’s artist book of Out of the Sky once again.  I like the way this tribute to the lives lost on 9-11 engages with an eloquence beyond the scope of text.  The structure draws on Pfeiffer’s sensibilities as typographer, graphic artist and sculptor.

"Out of the Sky" (detail), artist book by Werner Pfeiffer


"Out of the Sky" artist book by Werner Pfeiffer

























Each tower is constructed of segments that are stacked over an internal  structure.  It is not possible for viewers to actually construct and deconstruct the towers, or to lay the folded components to rest in the box structure that houses the book, but even imagining the process stirred in me a deep physical sense of  tenderness and compassion.

Part of the exhibit includes videos showing the construction/ deconstruction process, along with interviews with Pfeiffer about how he developed this piece. (You can also find interviews with the artist on You Tube)

It  is interesting to me that as we move into new technologies that change our idea of what a book is, more and more artists have taken to making artist books.  Perhaps this denotes nostalgia for what is passing.   But it may be that as books lose primacy as containers of textual content, we are all being freed to explore the poetic in the physicality of book.  What are the messages in the texture of paper under our fingers, the play of color, the subtle influences of typography, the responsiveness of structure as we manipulate and explore?  In what ways can a book communicate in languages beyond traditional text?   Possibilities abound at  ReexaminingBooksArtist Books and Book Objects by Werner Pfeiffer at the Art Center and the Art Library at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie NY, continuing through December 15, 2012.



Mimi Czajka Graminski at The Museum of the Imagination

I’ve known Mimi Graminski for many years and I’m always excited to see what she will create next.  For me her work always generates space and light both in my field of vision and within my self.  It’s as if every little crunching particle of busy being eases up and makes room for breath and spirit.

Her piece at the Museum of the Imagination in Hudson NY consists of an assemblage of suspended cut paper and fabric.  Because the materials are translucent, the piece builds up colors and shapes like a painting. But because the elements are suspended at various angles and varying degrees of spacing, the piece operates like sculpture.  Viewed from different point of view, the shapes, shadows and superimposed elements present an ever changing composition that invites exploration and delivers unforeseen visual gifts.

Mimi Czajka Graminski - suspended cut papers

This is definitely a piece that is best appreciated in real time and space.

Graminski’s work is part of the engaging exhibit, Second Cut _Disturbed Images in Art curated by Mihail Chemiakin and Gregory Kepinski. on view at the Museum of the Imagination, 217 Warren Street, Hudson NY, open Saturday and Sunday 1-5 pm.

See more work by Graminski at www.mimigraminski.blogspot.com


Farewell August – sigh

I love August.  No major holidays to divert me.  Just a long stretch of warmth and ease.

Ah, August.

Tomatoes luxuriate

beneath your ferocious eye.

Cucumbers and butternut

swell subtly each hour.

I hang out a dress to dry

every motion a slow ripening

of intent, then pause to

pay you homage.

I am a hot tomato embraced by

August’s fire, entranced and willing.

Well, August didn’t exactly work out like that this summer.  No languorous, no lazy, no slow ripening for me.  It’s been all go-go-go.  And all good.  Here are two highlights.

My friend Lorraine and I scooted up to Salem on an art adventure: a printmaking workshop with Nadia Korths (http://nadiakorths.com/), at the North Main Gallery.  She shared her lively, vibrant printmaking practice using non-toxic Akua etching inks. We were totally fired up and cannot wait to play some more with all that Nadia taught us!





And then there was SHIFT, a path, a Pilgrmage & a Lot of Strange Transformations Along the Way.  Every now and again, a group of friends, all of us coming from our own creative paths as writers, artists, singers, counselors, teachers, story tellers, poets,shamans, musicians get together under the vision and directorship of Cait Johnson to create a site specific theater experience.   I love the energy that builds when so many playful people create together.  It’s better than the best party ever. This time around I got to put in appearances as three distinct characters – Joan of Arc, a life coach from hell, and bear woman, quite the contrast to the solitude of the studio.

photo credit Douglas Baz

It’s been great fun, but I’m  ready for the studio solitude again and maybe a little August ease spilled over into September, if possible.  Mmmm..


My friend Josette and I knew that all the mist clinging in the hollows and stream beds promised a scorcher of a day, but we embraced the vivid beauty cast by the rising sun as we made our early start up the Taconic Parkway on Saturday morning to go to Paula’s workshop in Salem.

Paula Beardell Krieg is one of my fellow exhibitors at Book Arts Summer in Salem.  She is also a teaching artist extraordinaire.  She has been designing and presenting book arts projects that enrich and enhance classroom learning for years.  Her exhibit includes colorful samples of her classroom projects.

Book Arts Projects designed by Paula Beardell Krieg

You can learn much more about Paula’s work as a teaching artist at her delightful and generous blog.


To say that Paula taught us how to make V pocket books is a pretty bare bones description of a morning rich with insight into her philosophy of art-making and abundant with her incitements to spirited playfulness and absorbed creativity



Paula Beardell Krieg with her suspended books at North Main Gallery, Salem


Paula has adapted the v-pocket book cover to a variety of projects and ventures.  You can read more on her blog.

The v-pocket fold makes elegant covers for a blank book. For our workshop, however, Paula involved us in designing our cover papers before we began constructing.  The folding shuffled bits of our design work and by the end of the morning, we each had a book full of unforeseen surprises.  It was magic and so much fun!  I’m eager to make more. Thank you Paula!


After lunch at Central House down the street from the gallery, Josette and I stopped off at Salem Art Works (SAW), an artist residency near the heart of Salem.  Wow it was beastly hot by then!  We enjoyed our visit for as long as we could bear the heat, then hopped in the car, gratefully cranked up the AC and headed happily for home.  More about SAW another time.  And more later about the third part of the exhibit at the North Main Gallery, tunnel books!





Book Arts Summer in Salem – ART PARTY WEEKEND

I had a wonderful Saturday in Salem NY at the North Main Gallery.  Director Ruth Sauer and curator Ed Hutchins hosted an ART PARTY and the gallery filled with waves of lovely people who came with such kindliness and curiosity to see the work of the exhibitors.  It was a pleasure to meet them, to talk about the wearable books and to learn about their art interests.

After two weeks of separation, I found the wearable books quite content in the light filled North Main Gallery Annex.  Ed reported that they have had many visitors since the exhibit opened July 11 and I had the sense that the books have happily taken stage with the interest directed their way.  Certainly, there was absolutely no hint of homesickness.  (It’s always good to know that your children are thriving at summer camp!)




I was pretty excited when the afternoon sun hit the windows and played with Tales of Mist and Ice, casting shadows from the pop-up forms -  just what I had hoped for when I made the piece especially for this window.





Some of my smaller books are part of the show as well.  I love the form that Ed built to display the skull book When Rains Come, just one of the many wonderful touches that contributed to making this such a polished show.

I was happy to be on hand to show people through the Egyptian collar book pictured here, Sun Rising for the Moment, which is actually a wearable book too. You can look inside here at my website.




Saturday morning I had the fun of offering a Book Arts workshop.  Here’s one of the participants showing us her book.  (See more at about the workshop at www.ArtistBooksforthefunofit.blogspot.com)

Paula Beadell Krieg is on the left with part of her exhibit in the background.  Soon, I’ll travel to Salem to take Paula’s workshop.  I can’t wait!  More about Paula’s work when I return. ( For more info about workshops, please call the gallery at  518 854 3406.)

Meanwhile, thanks to Ruth Sauer, to Ed Hutchins and to the lovely people of Salem for a joyous art adventure!





Book Arts Summer in Salem – Installing the Show

The wearable books were all very excited about driving to Salem NY for installation at the North Main Gallery because this is the first time they will all be exhibited together.

I was very excited  too!

And I was all anticipation about  seeing the work of another exhibitor in this summer celebration of book arts, Paula Beardell Krieg.

Alas for me, her work was to be installed the day after mine, so now I must be patient until the


July 21st, 3-5 pm

North Main Gallery

196 North Main Street, Salem NY



This peek at Paula’s lively work.pictured in the exhibit catalog will just have to hold me over until then.  Sigh.


I hope Paula’s installation went as well as mine.   Curator, Ed Hutchins and I started in early on Monday morning and devised a super collaboration for suspending the wearable books.  We also had a good time.

Note the WEARABLE BOOK STICK HANGERS  arranged on the floor below the spot where each piece was to hang from the ceiling.

Note the REALLY TALL LADDER.  Not only does Ed Hutchins feel comfortable on ladders, he can stand near the top no handed and screw in hooks over head!  I, the acrophobic artist, was extremely impressed and more than a little grateful.




Note the PLUMB LINE, our secret of success!

Ed, up on the ladder, suspended the plumb line near a stick.  I’d kneel, steady the plumb bob and give directions, “2 inches north, 3 inches toward the street,” and when the position was right, Ed would mark the ceiling.  Graciously he’d say how much he appreciated that I didn’t mind doing the close to the floor work.



By mid-afternoon, all the books floated above the floor, each in just the right place.

The wearable books were so happy.

We were so happy.


we were exhausted.

We did the only thing possible.  We walked three doors down the street to the delightful Battenkill Valley Creamery Ice Cream Parlor for a celebratory treat!  Mmmmm.



Book Arts Summer in Salem – designing the installation

I hear them, over in the corner of the studio where they hang clustered together.  I hear their hushed whispers and the anxious rustling of pages.


The wearable books are nervous.  It doesn’t help that some of them have traveled  for days by UPS  in dark airless boxes immobilized by bubble wrap on their way to far away exhibits. They are only too willing to share their travel tribulations.  “But,” ask the innocents, ” we’re going by car to Salem so she won’t really cram us in boxes will she?  She’ll let us all hang up in the back seat, don’t you think?”



“Ah the open road!” exclaims the Kerouac fan in the bunch a little too loudly. “I get the front seat and I’m rolling down the window.  Can’t wait to feel the wind in my …um…pages!”  Others moan with worries about motion sickness.


I ignore them for now.  I have my own anxieties, most especially concerning how I will actually install the wearable books once we get to the North Front Gallery in Salem NY.  I’ll be suspending the wearable books from a 13 foot ceiling.  I can’t exactly try out dozens of alternative arrangements on the fly. (And forget motion sickness.  Acrophobia looms.)

I need a plan!  So I make a scale model of the gallery.

A great feature of this gallery is the wide tall window facing Salem’s tree lined village center.  I take a photo of my tree lined rural street and prop it up behind the model to give a sense of a world outside.  It’s in this window that I’ll be hanging the new piece I just made called Tales of Ice and Mist



I run thread back and forth across the ceiling of the gallery.  Now I’ll be able to suspend little pictures of the wearable books anywhere in the scale model.









How amazing.  I almost feel as if I’m really in the space. Now I know I’ll be able to figure out the installation plan.

I’d better go reassure the wearable books and show them the luxurious, spacious travel boxes I’ve got for them.  No bubble wrap.  No crowding.  No motion sickness.


We’re going to have a lovely adventure together!



Book Arts Summer in Salem – the gallery window piece

I love it when materials offer surprising gifts that enrich the piece I’m creating.  Here’s a case in point.

The sketch to the left was inspired by the way the dark stalks of old growth stick up and show through the winter ice in a nearby wetland.  It is made with translucent drafting film, silk yarn and a stick chewed by beavers.



I brought it with me when I met up with Ed Hutchins recently at The North Front Gallery in Salem NY where I will be installing my wearable books in July.  I suggested that I might develop a larger version for the front window of the gallery.

We agreed that the piece read well through the glass.  Ed liked the book-ness of the accordion structure.  I thought there was great fun ahead in making a much larger version with lots of pop-up features.

I was right. Fun set in right away.   I suspended a long beaver stick up high horizontally and then reaching up over my head I tied really long strands of yarn from the stick. Silk yarn is lovely, so supple, pliant and expressive. After I’d finished, I glance down at my feet and saw this:

It was as if the silk had written stories on the floor, and it gave me the name of the piece. Tales of Ice and Mist, (Winter’s Cape). 




Here is how the silk writing looks with just  the bottom part of the cape in view.  A sneak preview.


The silk tethers the cape which sways, almost breathes, in any ambient air flow in the room.  That was another gift from the materials.  Mmmm.



And here are two of the pop-up structures I played with for the piece.If you want to make some yourself, I highly recommend Carol Barton’s book The Pocket Paper Engineer.

I predict pleasure!





Astrid Fitzgerald at the Erica Price Gallery

Astrid Fitzgerald invited me see her work included in the current exhibit at the Erica Price Gallery of Contemporary Art in Saugerties NY.  My visit to the gallery turned out to be a double art adventure

First there was the enormous pleasure of seeing Astrid Fitzgerald’s work.










Astrid (left) and guests

Her pieces all flow from the “Golden Mean,” a mathematical and philosophical concept of harmony from the ancients that continues to influence thinkers and artists.

She explains the place of the Golden Mean in her work this way:

It has provided me with a harmonious structure  – a way to begin the process of experimentation, creation and play.  The structure often yields to an image arising in the mind’s eye, obliterating lines and arcs in the intuitive outpouring of color and gesture.

Learn more about the Golden Mean and the artists who incorporate it in their work at  Fitzgerald’s  new web site, The Museum of the Golden Ratio. www.museumofthegoldenratio.org

Learn more about the impressive range of work by this internationally known artist at  www.AstridFitzgerald.com

And be sure to come see Astrid’s work in reality, because stunning as art looks on a website, the colors, textures and structures are most fully alive on real gallery walls.

Which brings me to the second adventure of my trip to Saugerties, NY, and that was entering the stunning Erica Price Gallery itself.





The gallery is part of the new Saugerties Performing Arts Factory aka SPAF located at 192 Ulster Ave, Saugerties NY,  Gallery hours are Wed – Fri 11-3 & Sat-Sun,, 2-7.  845-246-7723.

This exhibit of work by sixteen contemporary artists will continue through mid-July.

Thanks, Astrid, for a wonderful art adventure!