Saturday, December 24, 2011

12.24.2011 ~ she is sensitive to the cold

 elle est sensible ~ au froid
— mixed media on panel  ~  16 x 8 inches
~ copyright dawn chandler 2011
from my New Year card...

Winter 2011/12

On this cold and snowy winter’s night, I find myself thinking of my father....
He had an insatiable passion for knowledge. His whole life he devoted to, among other things, the pursuit of intellectual enrichment. My uncle — my father’s brother-in-law — said of my father, “he was the most interesting person I ever knew. He knew something about everything.” Indeed, rather than a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ my father seemed to be a master of just about everything he had an interest in — and that was a lot. One need only peruse the vast libraries of books lining the walls of our home for evidence of my father’s rich and varied interests.
    Coupled with his passionate intellectual rigor, my father possessed an unequaled joi de vivre, embracing life with all the energy and enthusiasm he could muster. Walking quickly, muttering to himself snippets of something or another that he was trying to memorize, not a moment could be wasted in his pursuit of knowledge. His “golden years” he welcomed as an opportunity to learn and do yet more. Little wonder then that upon his retirement from pathology at the age of 70, he dedicated much of his attention to learning French. Not a room in his apartment was without identification labels taped to everything: un tire-bouchon
(a cork-screw), les ciseaux (the scissors), la lampe (the lamp). He insisted on wearing shirts with two breast pockets, so that throughout the day as he went through his latest French flashcards, he could easily divide the cards between the two pockets: on his right, the words and phrases he got correct; on the left, those yet to learn.
    My father died this year, and the ache in my heart left by his death echoes with an emptiness and longing that I can hardly describe.

    In early February, when I went to clean out my father’s apartment, despite the staggering sadness of the work, I made many happy discoveries. Among them his hundreds of French flash cards, his unique handwriting scrawled bilingually on either side. Invariably written with a very fine tipped blue ballpoint pen, what these small notes reveal is not just a passion for his favorite of the Romance languages, but little gems of his personality, including his signature delightful naughtiness and good humor:

Il m’est pénible d’avoir à vous dire que le vin est fini.   ~   It is painful to me to have to tell you that the wine is finished.

Les chiens de Paris font leaurs ordures sur le trottoir.
   ~   The dogs of Paris leave [make] turds on the sidewalk.

Sa beauté ainsi que sa candeur m’a frappé.   ~   Her beauty as well as her innocense struck me.

J’ai un engoutment pour le chocolat.   ~   I have an infatuation for chocolate.

Je me suis ému parce poème.   ~   I was very moved by that poem.

C’était amusant de marcher dans les flaques d’eau.   ~   It was fun to walk in the puddles.

La femme est bien jambée.   ~   The woman has nice legs.

Le pet malodorant était un action malotru.  ~   The malodorous fart was a vulgar action.

Quoiqu’il soit vieux, il a agilité d’un jeune homme.   ~   Although he is old, he has the agility of a young man.

My father’s flashcards now sit in an open box in my studio.
When I created the recent painting pictured here on my New Year card, the painting seemed to evolve on its own. But once finished, I couldn’t think of a title for it. I debated several, but they were unsatisfactory. For weeks I sought a name. 

Then one day, I chanced to pick up one of my father’s flashcards: 

elle est sensible au froid  ~  she is sensitive to the cold.

Eh, Voilà! I found my title!

If you look very carefully, you’ll find these very words written in my father’s handwriting near the top of the painting.

Thus begins a new artistic collaboration between my father and me.
I’m delighted by the concept!
I hope he would be, too.

If you’re curious to see more of our collaborations, you’re welcome to
keep tabs here on my blog   or here, on my website. 

There’s just three of our collaborations completed just yet.
But there will be more.
Many more.

Oh, and my sainted mother? Her spirit’s joining in on the collaboration, too:
That star in the painting is a pendant of hers.

Joy to you in the New Year! May we all live life as fully and with as much joi de vivre as did my Dad.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

12.01.2011 ~ miranda autumn 01

miranda autumn ~ 2011 daily painting 09 ~  6" x 6"  oil on panel ~ copyright dawn chandler 2011

The scene: Based on a photo taken after a cold and windy autumn ascent of Baldy c. 2009. Here we're skirting the south edge of the meadow, walking down, away from the cabin.


The first day of December and I'm thrilled to be back at work again in my studio. Hard to believe it but I haven't actually painted in a couple of months (!!!) 
And having spent most of this year's studio time focused on mixed media painting, I'm eager to focus on landscape again, at least for a few weeks. I have some ideas brewing for a new series that will combine mixed media with landscape elements, but while I'm working out some of those ideas in my head and sketchbook, I want to use my painting time to bone up on "traditional" landscapes in oil. If nothing else, I want to use up some of the already stretched canvases laying about in my studio.

So the other day I assessed my inventory of oil paint and brushes, found large gaps in my stock, made a list of all that I need (how the heck could I be out of Cobalt Blue? ....Or Veridian....Or Burnt Umber?...Or Pthalo Blue? ....Or...or...6-inch square panels for that matter?!), and set about painting anyway, despite the gaping holes in my supplies.

The sigh of delight in painting again was audible (I think my neighbors all looked up as   my whole being exclaimed "HOORAY!!")

Things were off to a great start and this little painting (on the last 6 x 6 panel I could find kicking around my studio) was coming along just fine, but then after a few minutes I noticed I was starting to get too caught up in details. ARGH! I've written about this before, so you long-timers here know how I hate that. When I get caught up in details, the painting starts to look over-wrought and too uptight. What I love is when I can loosen up and let the paint do its thing without over-working it; when the paint suggests something accurately — maybe even with a little bit of ambiguity or abstraction — rather than spelling out every last detail, THAT'S what I love!

A painter who does this beautifully is S.P. Goodman. His paintings simply dazzle me. His sense of color and light combined with is handling of the paint is masterful. There's an economy to his use of paint and a confidence to his brushwork that I envy. Check out his work on his blog: And look at that painting "The Causeway" from November 16th. Is that stunning or what? He provides just enough information to give you the perfect sense of time and space, but no more.
Absolutely breathtaking.

So with my painting above, when I found myself with a very small brush in hand trying to carve out details and the painting already looking over-worked, I took a look at Mr. Goodman's paintings. "Ah, YES!" I grabbed a rag and a much larger brush and smeared and smudged and some paint around. 

Voila! Much, much better!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

11.19.2011 ~ o'keeffe's haunting

Whether I want her to or not, Georgia keeps following me. Or maybe she's being sneaky and is secretly leading me. But she keeps cropping up.

Of course, it's kind of hard to live in Santa Fe and *not* be reminded of the woman from time to time — this *is* referred to as "O'Keeffe Country" after all. But still. You'd think I'd be able to escape her reign when traveling overseas, at least.  Wouldn't you know it but one of the big art exhibits going on at the Museo della Fondazione Roma this autumn is that of Georgia O'Keeffe — her first major retrospective in Italy; the show opened while I was there.


Years ago I went to a colossal retrospective of O'Keeffe's work back in New York. Room after room after room of her work.
Later, I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum here in Santa Fe shortly after it opened. With a dismissive east coast I-grew-up-in-the-Met sniff, I deemed the museum unimpressive, so paltry was its collection compared to the grand and sophisticated display I'd seen on 5th Avenue.

Around that time O'Keeffe's poppies adorned a US postage stamp. And of course for a long time her paintings were featured on posters, especially those for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which seemed to be everywhere in New Mexico.

Some time in there I read a biography on O'Keeffe and came away with the nagging feeling that she was...... kind of.....a bitch. Ouch. Disappointing.

All this jaded me on O'Keeffe. I had O'keeffe overload -- like she was someone whom I'd admired, and then we became FaceBook friends, and now I was getting too much information about her.

So when I arrived in Rome only to learn that Georgia was there, too, I felt a little bit miffed. "Jeez..REALLY? Of ALL the artists who could possibly be having a show in Rome while I'm here, does it have to be Georgia O'Keeffe?! Can' it be an artist who isn't from Santa Fe?!"

When my friend with whom I was staying expressed an interest in going to the show, I was less than enthusiastic about accompanying her.

But then...two weeks in and a couple of days before I was to leave Rome, I warmed up to the idea of seeing the O'Keeffe show. Hell, after two weeks of studying art spanning just about every century except the last one, I was ready to view something a little more contemporary. And I was starting, too, to look forward to returning home to the Southwest and getting busy in my studio. The idea of looking at paintings from my part of the New World in an old museum in the heart of the Old World was having increasing appeal.

Still, little did I imagine what a treat I was in for.

If there's one thing the Italians do right (and actually I can think of quite a few things they do right...), it's put on an art exhibition.

Through stage props, signage, photos and music, the Museum attempted — rather charmingly — to conjure a sense of the feel of New York City, the Adirondacks, and New Mexico — three of the most significant environments of O'Keeffe's long life. And they did a pretty good job of theatrically transporting you from the heart of Rome to America. (Indeed, were it not for the consistently beautiful, model-like gallery attendants dressed in black Gucci and Prada and their sensual Italian accents, I might very well have been convinced that I WAS in the US.)

Photographs of O'Keeffe — always in black and white — perennially cause me to pause. So elegant and beautiful was she through all the stages of her life.... Even more than that though, when studying the photos of this exhibit and the look in her eyes and contours of her hands, I sensed a connection; a recognition: "we are similar in a lot of ways, you and I."

But it was the artwork itself, of course, which charmed the most. I was tickled to rediscover some real gems — her quick sketch of looking out a tent door (graphite), and simple but weighty nude studies of herself (watercolor)...her portraits of fruit (especially the 'alligator pear," otherwise known as an avocado).

I especially appreciated being reminded of the fact that O'Keeffe danced back and forth throughout her career between painting representationally and painting abstractly — something I also do (in my case the dance is between traditional oil landscape painting and more abstracted mixed media paintings).

Her abstractions based on Lake George, with their deep damp greens and blues swirling and curling within each other, particularly dazzled. One in particular had almost whimsical pops of color, like sparks. Back at the apartment later that evening, I attempted to capture a sense of it in my sketchbook (though I was limited to black and white):

untitled sketch, copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

The last few rooms of the exhibit were, like her life, dedicated to New Mexico. The museum had attempted to recreate adobe walls and a feel for the desert, and I'd say they did a fair job of it. I was tickled to see a recreation of her studio — envious of the long white tables and vast wall space of her sanctuary — and fascinated to see some of her actual belongings.

O'Keeffe's paintings of bones floating over landscapes never did much for me, nor did they now. But I was charmed to discover her paintings of cottonwood trees; I hadn't remembered seeing these before. Trees are a potent theme of mine, and I'd had another experience in Rome (will write about later) that had me musing about trees with renewed interest. O'keeffe's trees with their wispy feather-like branches of gold pulled me in and made me want to get home to Santa Fe and walk under the cottonwood trees myself.

I have now done so — returned home to Santa Fe to walk under the cottonwoods.

And O'Keeffe is back here, too, beguiling me. I started thinking about this post on Tuesday — the 15th of November, which, as it turns out, is O'Keeffe's birthday.

A couple days later I learned that I have been invited to participate in "Odes and Offerings" — an art exhibit at the Santa Fe Community gallery opening in March, 2012. The show is to feature collaborations between visual artists and poets. I have been sent two poems by Barbara Rockman, and will "select lines, phrases, stanzas, or even the an entire poem to use as text integral to [my] work."

The name of one of the poems?

"Letter from Georgia O'Keeffe To Alfred Steiglitz Upon Seeing His Photograph of Her Hands."

Monday, November 14, 2011

11.14.2011 ~ all roads lead to Rome...and back again.

Photo by Dawn Chandler copyright 2011

Back from a trip to Italy, and I am revived, invigorated and inspired.
Photo by Dawn Chandler copyright 20
Thanks to the graciousness of a dear friend, I was able to stay for a full two weeks in five-star accommodations in the heart of historic Rome. A block from Piazza Navonna, just a few blocks further from the Pantheon, and a 20-minute stroll from Michaelangelo's Pieta, Sistine Chapel and all the glory and wealth of the Vatican museums, I had some of the most stunning artistic achievements of all humanity at my figure tips.

Daily I strode the stone and storied labyrinth of the Eternal City, delighting in the passageways and towering archways of those ancient, narrow streets. Cappuccini and cobblestones and Chianti defined my days.

Photo by Dawn Chandler copyright 2011

Primary among my goals this trip was to photograph the vast offerings of sculpture and architectural details — a visual oasis free to anyone who merely opens their eyes along the streets of Rome. And photograph sculpture and architectural details I did. Eleven-hundred photographs later, I've a stock pile of fodder for future mixed media paintings and collages. I am brimming with imagination and anticipation of the ways these photographs and explorations will translate into my artwork in the coming months.

Readers, have you been to Rome? Where are your favorite places?

Photo by Dawn Chandler copyright 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

10.24.2011 ~ mazes & labyrinths

The labyrinth pattern of Chartres Cathedral, c. 1200 A.D.

Recently I had an extraordinary experience: I was invited by a friend to help her build a labyrinth.

If you're like me you think you know what a labyrinth is. Chances are though you're mistaken — as I was.
A labyrinth is not a maze.
A maze is designed to confound and confuse. There are many wrong turns and dead-ends, and you may not ever find your way to the sweet spot at the end. There's a certain urgency and anxiety and threat of doom associated with mazes.

The goal of a labyrinth, on the other-hand, is contemplation. Peacefulness. There is only one pathway — the long and circuitous path to the center. There are stops and turns, but if you stay on the path you will find your way to the sweet center.

My friend Karen (of Artful Tea fame, who has quite an interesting personal story) is constructing a labyrinth in her backyard. The pathway is a mosaic of shards — broken bits of porcelain, stoneware, crockery, china, blown glass, mirror — many of which have storied histories all their own. These shards are pressed more or less randomly into a base of cement. It's a long process creating a pathway of cement and glass, so Karen is inviting friends to help her along in the journey. I'm honored to have been invited to participate.

The first step of a new labyrinth mosaic artist is, of course, to walk the labyrinth design as is — partially completed, the rest sketched out in the earth — and get a feel for the journey.
It's an intriguing adventure following this path of earth and glass, contemplating the colored fragments catching the afternoon sun, and the story of those who selected and placed these certain jewels.

The second step is to get to work: Karen mixed the cement, while I, on hands and knees in the pebbled dirt, selected my palette of shards. When the cement was ready and poured, I set about swiftly placing my shards in the soft (but quickly firming) cement. 

Each batch of cement was enough for a swath of path a little over a foot long; in the course of a couple hours we completed five or six swaths of pathway.

Since that sunny Saturday afternoon some weeks ago, I have found myself thinking about labyrinths....The beautiful symmetry of pattern, and the journey of the path therein.

I've been thinking too, about my own life's journey, and the path I'm on.

Lately Life has seemed more like a maze than a labyrinth — a maze of meaningless clutter. I'm not talking about the clutter of brick-a-brac that needs dusting in the house (I cleared out much of that a while ago), but rather the clutter of constant visual, mental and emotional stimulation. Of being "plugged in" 24/7, bombarded with never-ending updates and soundbites of cleverness, inanity, gags, information, "news".....everything.
My mind and soul just seem to be pleading for down time. For quietness. For contemplation. For thoughtful, meaningful, slow-time interaction with friends and, just as importantly, my own Self.

I'll be departing on a journey soon. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a particularly unusual or grand adventure. But it's one that promises much time for contemplation and inspiration of the creative mind and spirit.

The Maze, I'm hoping to leave behind me
and step instead onto the path of my life's Labyrinth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10.11.2011 ~ returning to spring

 returning to spring
oil on panel   12 x 12 inches
copyright dawn chandler 2011

I love this painting. It feels peaceful and juicy in the jewel-like intensity of the colors.

Here again, the foundation of this piece is a traditional landscape — though you'd be hard pressed to find any hint of Baldy Mountain from Wilson Mesa hidden under these abstract passages of brilliant color. About the only trace of its former life lies revealed in the bit of turquoise (sky) in the upper left. 

There's a richness to the colors and texture of the paint surface here that could only be possible through the building up and scraping down of layers of paint. This is really the main reason I like to "recycle" old paintings and give them a new life: Because the surfaces and depth of color achievable from layering paint add depth, brilliance and visual interest, and these aspects really excite me.

Familiar elements — my visual language — appear here: suggested archways or passageways....soaring birds (which of late usually appear as a pair — my parents)....mysterious thoughts scratched into the surface of the paint...those three red punctuation points....

All in all, in my view a quietly joyful, forward-looking piece. 

Returning to Sring is on view through October 21, 2011 at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10.10.11 ~ cutting a path through autumn

cutting a path through autumn
oil on canvas  10 x 8 inches
copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

Sometimes I just crave color — big, bold, juicy color. 

And sometimes I guess I just crave a little bit of rebellion.

This painting started as a traditional landscape painting — a scene of horses grazing in a meadow in the Valle Vidal, with a line of voluminous cottonwoods behind them. You can see the cool greens of the original scene — fragments of the foliage and meadow — emerging throughout. A lone horse remains, grazing near the bottom of the picture.

Obviously I wasn't too satisfied with the original landscape; the paint handling in the landscape felt cumbersome. The canvas kicked around my studio for a long while when finally it called to me in want of metamorphosis. 

There's nothing quite so liberating and joyfully defiant as taking a loaded palette knife and making the decision to attack a painting that I've been laboring over. But there's also always a little bit of fear involved. The internal conversation in my head usually goes something like this:

"This painting sucks. I should just attack it."

"Wait — it doesn't suck *that* badly. Look at those nice passages through there."

"No, it sucks. I'd rather start the whole thing all over again. This one isn't going to get any better; it's already too labored."

"But if you attack it, you may really ruin it."

"Yeah well, I think that's a risk I'm willing to take. And more than likely It's going to transform into something I can't yet imagine, but that in the end I'm going to love." 

"Or not." 

"Yeah....maybe so....But so what? It's just paint!"

"You sure you want to do this? It really isn't that bad." 

"It's too late: I've already thought to do it; now I have to. [heart beating a little faster] I need to let this one go!"

"You may be sorry."

"I don't care! I HAVE to do this! I'm going for it!"

And it's always the right decision.

Cutting a Path Through Autumn is on view through October 21, 2011 at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

10.09.2011 ~ thank you

Grateful to everyone who ventured out on a dark and stormy night Friday to come to my art show opening at the Downey Gallery. You are brave souls! I regret not keeping my camera handy during the party, but did get at least one pic of the gallery before the arrival of the water-logged masses.

Lovely to see my so many of my paintings displayed together on walls other than those of my studio.  Even lovelier to see so many friends. Thank you all!

Recent Paintings by Dawn Chandler will be on display at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe until 10/21/11.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

09.22.2011 ~ elle a le coeur sensible

elle a le coeur sensible
8 x 8 inches  mixed media on panel
copyright dawn chandler 2011

Scrawled at the bottom of this — in my father's handwriting — are the words, "Elle a le coeur sensible." She has a sensitive heart.

Elle a le coeur sensible will be part of my show "Dawn Chandler — Recent Paintings" opening on October 7th at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

09.14.2011 ~ september clouds — a painter's clouds

Tonight the sky was filled with a painter's clouds. I could just imagine Mother Nature taking a fat bristle brush loaded with oil paint and dragging it across the canvas of the sky. Not the most dramatic of skies I've seen lately, but  the subtlety of color and the scumbled texture of the clouds were of the sort that makes a fellow painter catch her breath.

The sky lately, and the slant of early evening light across the red earth has caused me to reflect on the fact that most of this year the work I've been doing in my studio has NOT been landscapes. Rather, it's been mixed media — my "abstract" work, my "inner landscapes". It's been good, therapeutic work, and has helped me to work through some of the emotional struggles I've had to deal with this year (my father's death in February being one of them). And it's been necessary work as I gear up for my show next month at my new gallery. But my focus on this work has resulted in no time spent on my landscape paintings, nor working in oils for that matter. Not only is that because I've felt compelled to focus all of my energy on the gallery show paintings, but also with the extreme fire danger, I was relcutant to work with oils and solvents and have flammable paint rags around. (Indeed, a nearby neighbor's house was tragically destroyed by fire in early June, thanks to properly disposed of staining rags spontaneously combusting in an outdoor trash can).

But I'm getting ready. I've been carrying my camera with me on my walks, and recording this stunningly beautiful late summer/early autumn we're having so that I can paint this breezy season come winter. Honestly, I don't recall a more lush or brilliant late summer. Frequent rains have drawn out from sleep all sorts of drought-hibernating wildflowers and greenery. I never knew these dry hillsides could be so verdant and colorful. The contrast to the death-white pallor of June is staggering.

Once my gallery show is behind me, I'll be taking some time to plan my winter studio projects — landscape paintings key among them.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

09.08.2011 ~ page 1, rule 6

"Scramble. Be flexible." That's Page 1, Rule 6 of the Philmont Ranger Handbook, c. 1983, and is perhaps the best lesson I ever learned those summers working on staff as a Ranger at Philmont.

That lesson has come into play in my art career recently: My art show toward which I've been working the past many months and which was to open on September 2nd had to be postposed at the last minute. That's a great disappointment, but it was for a good — if profoundly sad — reason: the lovely owners of my gallery suffered a tragic loss in their family just days before Labor Day weekend.  

My show is now scheduled for October 7th — the Friday of Columbus Day weekend.

So, a shift of gears as I scramble and flex to go with the flow. Hurry up and.....pause.

My dear friend "Flora" — my first childhood friend who has known me perhaps better than anyone these past 45 years (!) — was here last week visiting me. Her plan was to be here for my art show. But with that event suddenly postponed and my paintings still hanging on the walls of my studio, we now had a chance to review the work in the quiet intimacy of my home.

Flora is a gifted artist herself, her talents manifested especially in home arts and decor. She has a keen eye for color and design.

Though I trust my own instinct when it comes to my art, sometimes after looking at, contemplating and being surrounded by my paintings for months and months, it's hard to step back and view the work with clear eyes. Inevitably there are unresolved issues that I can't quite settle. Getting a trusted opinion can make all the difference in resolution. Flora is one of the very few people whose opinion regarding my art I seek and trust. So having time to pause and reflect on these paintings with her was invaluable. Our conversations — and time together in general — was akin to pressing the "release" valve on a pressure tank; I feel a sense of clarity and satisfaction with this work that I hadn't wholly felt prior to sharing it in trusted counsel.

What's more is we now got to experience the "First Friday" art openings as revelers rather than hosts, and that was a real treat. I'm ashamed to admit that though I've been living in Santa Fe for a year and a half, I had yet to get down town to any art openings —— !!!. Criminal, I know. But I live just far enough outside of town that the effort of getting into town on a late Friday afternoon can seem near Herculean.  

Well, never again will that excuse pass muster. The experience of being among a joyful crowd viewing new art is just too much fun and invigorating to pass up again — not to mention it makes me feel much more connected to the larger "Art World". And that's a reassuring feeling, especially after the isolation of working in one's studio for months.

Now, with renewed insight and enthusiasm, time to return to the studio to make a few adjustments to this body of paintings......and prepare them for October 7th.

Monday, August 22, 2011

08.22.2011 ~ hoping they'll find me

hoping they'll find me
— 8 x 8 inches — mixed media
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

In the grey days following my father's death this past February, when I was tending to the trying chore of going through his things and cleaning out his apartment, I'd find myself each evening, mentally and emotionally exhausted, sitting in his easy chair beside the open porch door. Though winter, I had the door ajar, to cool things off after a long day of hauling boxes and books and furniture.

The colors of those days were the wan palette of winter. But the sunsets there in central New Jersey were glorious shades of brilliant pink and orange. Each evening, just as the last colors of sunset were about to fade, a flock of geese would fly low overhead. All other sounds seemed to evaporate, save the call of those honking geese. They were such a comfort to me during those difficult days. I couldn't help but sense my parents' spirit in the passage of those geese.

Those wetland birds have continued to visit me in the high desert of New Mexico, if only in the realm of my paintings. . . .

Below, a few details of "Hoping They'll Find Me" ~

"Hoping They'll Find Me" will be on display with many other of my recent works at the Downey Gallery in Santa Fe during my September show. The opening reception is Friday, September 2nd, 5:00 - 7:00pm

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

08.16.2011 ~ releasing my fears

releasing my fears — 10 x 10 inches — mixed media
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

releasing my fears
to the storm; like kites, some caught
in leafless branches

I wrote that haiku — or rather, it wrote itself — as I worked on this painting. I started this sometime in the spring of 2010, when I was visiting my friend and fellow artist Joan Fullerton. We were having a great time in her studio, experimenting with mixed media techniques whilst sipping vino and listening to good music.

That tree image is hers — a photo that I xeroxed onto tissue paper, and then glued down over printed text. I then applied paint in shades of grey, pulling in the atmosphere around the tree. Later, I added bits of gold-tinged paper, and thought of kites.....I wrote across the painting's surface with my dip pen, lines of the above haiku.

Over the ensuing months, occasionally when I'd consider this piece, I'd be tempted to add more color. But ultimately I decided it stands best as a monochromatic statement.

This painting will be on display with many other of my recent works at the Downey Gallery in Santa Fe during my September show. The opening reception is Friday, September 2nd, 5:00 - 7:00pm

Below, some details of "releasing my fears":

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

08.10.2011 ~ nambe' & stowe

A collector who's become a good friend visited with his young daughter on Sunday evening. My studio was a stop on their 2-week road trip. Whether intentionally or not, he and his wife are cultivating in their five-year old quite an eye for art. Of the two paintings they purchased, she picked out the Nambe trees; he, the abstracted landscape, both pictured above. They also purchased a good quantity of my handcrafted soap, which is sure to scent their car — if not their bodies — for the remainder of their trip!

I recall that those Nambe trees were quite a challenge — how to get the feeling of soon-to-bud springtime growth without getting caught up in rendering every last twig and branch. How I resolved it is described here:

The abstracted landscape is based on a scene in Vermont. Back when I was doing the weekend Santa Fe art markets last spring, I had a woman hemming and hawing about buying this piece. She clearly loved it , returned several times, and even studied it on my web site. I was sorry that she never came back to buy it, for it clearly spoke to her. In the end it's just as well, for I'm even more pleased to have it be added to the growing collection of a good friend. I recognize that these abstracted landscapes and mixed media pieces don't speak to everyone, so I'm always particularly excited when the do resonate for someone.

Here my original blog post about this piece:

Friday, August 05, 2011

08.05.2011 ~ Fire and Rain

fire and rain
— 24 x 24 inches — mixed media
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

This has been the lost summer — one of smokey, smouldering anxiety.

The evening before my previous post, a downed aspen fell upon an electrical wire over near the town of Los Alamos, setting off an inferno that blazed like a cancer across the Jemez mountains, decimating over 150,000** acres of beautiful forests, arroyos, mesas and meadows. For a month our skies were filled with smoke, as we sat helpless watching our beautiful wildlands go up in flames.

The first significant rain in many months arrived at my house on the last day of June, though it did little to dissipate the fires the next county over. Still, when the clouds opened up with rain overhead, I wept. And in the morning, the birds and earth seemed to sing with abandon.

A couple more showers came and went after that, but July (at least at my house) wasn't nearly as wet as it might have been. August though seems to be making up for that, and my little world here among the pinon foothills is rejoicing. The fires of Los Alamos and Santa Fe are now out, thanks to the incredible efforts of armies of fire fighters. May the healing begin.

**For my Philmont friends, try to imagine: That's an area larger than all of Phiilmont.

Below, some details of Fire and Rain.

Monday, June 27, 2011

06.27.2011 ~ dreaming of rain

wrapping myself in rain to protect myself from the fire
— 12 x 12 inches — mixed media
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

The only bloom that's growing around here these days is the bloom of smoke rising from our land. It's been a terribly tense spring and summer here in the Southwest, as the sun beats down and the wind sucks dry any semblance of moisture. Seems that if you trod too heavily or stare at a piece of parched grass or wood too hard, it will burst into flames. Dirt roads and river beds have turned to fine powder. What vegetation there is beside the roads is the brown death color of deepest winter, now turned pale with a fine layer of gritty dust. The plains are white with dead grass.

Neighbors two houses up from mine lost their home a few weeks ago to flames — a paint rag ignited in a garbage can beside the house, despite their handling and disposing of the rags properly. The foothills below my house ignited last month due to overheated car brakes. As I write this, ash is sifting from the sky. 10,000 acres of our beautiful Santa Fe National Forest near the Santa Fe Ski basin has been engulfed in flames. A new fire near Los Alamos started yesterday afternoon and has already consumed over 4,000 acres of forest. The colossal, erupting plume of smoke last evening was nothing short of biblical.

With the threat of fire so close to home, my thoughts are consumed by the parched land, my time spent working in trying to reduce the fuel load around the house: trimming branches, pulling dry weeds, moving firewood away. Doing what I can to create a "defensible space."

Last week I drove up to Cimarron as I like to do each June, to spend a few days photographing the land in and around Philmont, the Ranch where I worked years ago, and which is the subject of so many of my traditional landscape paintings. But the land was so withered and dry, and the sky so barren of clouds, that I hardly brought out my camera at all.

The anxiety of fire seems to be everywhere.
Worry presses, as it has now for weeks.
I released some of that worry early this morning, as I dreamed of wrapping myself in cooling, quenching rain.

Below, a few details:

Thursday, June 09, 2011

06.09.2011 ~ you're invited!

Thrilled and honored to have my painting "I Return to the River Where Once..." chosen to grace front and center the announcement for the Mining the Unconscious: And Exhibit of Art Inspired by Cark Jung's Red Book. The show opens next Friday, June 17th, at the Santa Fe Community Art Gallery, with a reception from 5:00 - 7:00. The show will be on display through August 21, 2011. Hope to see you there!