Friday, May 30, 2008

SPIRIT TAKING FORM

I've been reading Spirit Taking Form by Nancy Azara and at the moment I'm enjoying the chapter on Visual Diaries. Azara speaks of the workshops she used to run called Consciousness-Raising, Visual Diaries, Artmaking. A group of women gathered weekly to discuss topics relevant to women such as the essence of birth, life as a woman, the traditional ways of working, crafting and arting etc. During these sessions each person would draw and doodle in a personal diary while listening to the discussions, making visual conversations , using colours, signs, symbols, shapes, marks and "primitive" drawings. These drawings were personal diary entries to be shared only if one chose to share.
"It was thrilling to be part of their discovery" writes Azara "I watched women change their processes, many returning to art after years of being stuck. Others shifted gears and made more authentic images. We drew and made collages, built up pages in our books, and made substantial and powerful diaries." "In these books were new visions, ideas, ways of seeing - shadows from the past".

Hickory with hands - by Nancy Azara. Carved and painted wood with gold leaf and encaustic.


She goes on to suggest incorporating these diaries into daily life, keeping a blank notebook at hand and markers and crayons or whatever else takes ones fancy to record feelings and happenings by means of images.


Leaf Alter for Nunzia - by Nancy Azara. Carved and stained cedar plank with aluminum leaf.

Joan Arbeiter, one of the first participants in the workshops, writes that her visual diaries were made from the "stuff of my ordinary daily life. Mundane notions such as shopping lists, appointments, and phone numbers were used along with philisophical commentary, overheard bits of dialogue, and other sayings that came my way. These words were often grouped into shapes that 'read' as images along with doodles, designs , and sketches. It was in fact soon after the workshop that I began to integrate these ideas into my own large format paintings and drawings".

Although I don't belong to a discussion group I think I have been doing something similar whilst having long phone conversations or listening to audio books. While my mind is engaged with the discussion my hand creates intricate designs which are often intriguing. Abstract doodles, created without interference from my inner critic. These I tear out and glue in my journal where I sometimes develop them further. As Azara experienced, I am coming back to the same forms over and over again. I suppose it's a way of discovering one's own personal symbolism or art vocabulary.

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." - Georgia O'Keeffe

www.nancyazara.com/

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A PERFECT DAY

Another perfect Autumn day. All is quiet except for the rushing stream, a Wagtail calling for company and the rythmic sound of chisel slicing through wood.

"I have visited this quietude before but I often forget that it is a subtle fertile healing place that offers up new ideas and insights." - Shelley Klammer

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BEAUTIFUL BIRDS OF PREY

We spent an entertaining morning at the Bird of Prey Centre in Champagne Valley, KwaZulu Natal,  watching falconers demonstrate the power and speed of these beautiful birds.
Greg regaled us with interesting facts and the idiosyncrasies of each bird before setting them free on soaring flights above us. He was extremely knowledgeable and the personal stories he told made it all the more enjoyable.


Most of the birds arrive at the centre after being injured in some way. (Usually hit by cars). They are then stitched, mended and rehabilitated. Rorke the Black Eagle is the exception. He arrived as an egg to be incubated, hatched and reared. In fact Greg abseiled down a cliff face to rescue the egg because Black Eagles which usually lay two eggs practise 'cainism' whereby the first hatchling kills the second hatchling. This is a widespread avian phenomenon and since the Black Eagle population is thinning at an alarming rate, efforts are being made to rescue the second egg from known nesting sites.

This is Rorke who has an undeniable affection for his owner...though who owns who is debatable.
Near the end of the display we met the two clowns of the centre. Chaos and Hazard, two Cape Vultures, who hopped about the lawn challenging each other before shoving their beaks into our handbags, searching for chicken necks.


Besides the rehabilitation aspect of this centre, Falcon Ridge is also a valuable education centre. I was so impressed and will definitely return. In fact I was ready to book for the next day's performance but time was just too short.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CHAMPAGNE CASTLE

I'm back! The time flew as it does when one is having a good time.

The weather report prepared us for rain and snow but we had sunshine throughout the time we were there. A small glitch in the bookings lead to all three rooms being upgraded to deluxe suites overlooking the mountains at no extra cost. This is the view from our bedroom window. I still can't believe my luck!

Champagne Castle Hotel is without a doubt the best hotel I have ever stayed in. There is such a friendly atmosphere and the staff genuinly want to see you happy. They check up on you regularly, suggest interesting walks, offer to make picnic lunches and even remember who likes the crispy bacon or sunnyside up...or down.

We took long scenic walks through forests and up mountainsides with the sound of water running wherever we went. Springs bubbling up through the forest floor, waterfalls and swirling trout pools.


On our second day we set off on an 8 km hike to climb the Sphinx and have a picnic lunch on the top. The view was magnificent and well worth the effort.

On the way back we took a detour to photograph Bushman paintings. It never ceases to amaze me that hundreds (maybe even 350) years ago, San bushmen crouched in caves to create these delicate paintings.


Sleep came very easily after all the walking and though the thought of sleeping in late was very attractive I was still up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun come up.

This is Hooter, an owl whooo is being rehabilitated after being hit by a car.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING

"The mountains are calling and I must go" - John Muir

The whole family is off to the Drakensberg for 4 days! It is something we have all been hankering for, for far too long. Bags are packed and cameras are ready.

I spent most of my growing up on a farm in the Drakensberg and it was one of the most happy and carefree times of my life. Whenever I feel down I think back to when I was a kid, climbing up krantzes to peer into owl nests, swimming in mountain streams or traipsing through mossy forests collecting specimens.


Secretly, I fancied myself to be Gerald Durrell on collecting expeditions and many happy hours were spent sketching and labeling specimens. Snake skins, mantis casings, owl pellets, birdnests, feathers, tadpoles, lichen, mushrooms, pressed flowers and all manner of gogas.



'My Family and Other Animals' went everywhere with me in my rucksack. There was I spot high up on a kopje overlooking the farm where I liked to sit and read about Gerald Durrell's adventures on Corfu.


When I was about 16 there was a tragic accident on the farm which lead to it being put up for sale . I never went back. Lately I have had a deep yearning to be there again. So on Monday we are off to my beloved Drakensberg. It won't be to the farm of course but in essence it will feel close enough.

Friday, May 9, 2008

SECRET PORTALS


In Africa there are secret portals where objects used for rituals and ceremonies are hidden. Some sacred objects are viewed only by those who have the proper rank and knowledge to do so. I carved these doors with secret portals in mind..... pondering about treasures that are kept hidden behind closed doors.


Ancient scrolls are hidden in small Axumite chapels nestled in caves high above the earth. The Tabot (representation of the Ark of the Covenent) is said to be hidden in an Ethiopian monastery and guarded around the clock.

For centuries ancient manuscripts have been kept secret in Timbuktu. Recently archaeologists, archivists and treasure hunters have been pouring into Mali hoping to excavate volumes buried in desert caves and underground chambers. There have been amazing discoveries. Suddenly the world is taking interest and are wanting to help save the manuscripts before it is too late.


"Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

SACRED WEDNESDAY

Wednesday is the only day of the week that I get to be totally alone for the whole day. I call it my Sacred Wednesday. Isn't it amazing how, when you earmark some time to do something specific the world and his wife conspires to break those plans? Every Wednesday without fail someone or everyone phones, visits or expects attention.

Today hubby arrived home from work at about 10 o'clock complaining of a sore throat ......but a tomato sandwhich and tea would go a long way to making him feel better.....actually make that two tomato sandwhiches. I knew I was in for a long day when I found him propped up in bed with a "poor me" expression on his face and a sock around his throat. The dirty sock remedy comes from his Scottish ancestors and I have endured it all our married life without complaint. Today I told him what I thought of his dirty sock!

That was only the beginning of a very disruptive day but I did manage to work outside in the glorious sunshine for a few hours.


The highlight of the morning was my Kalahari package arriving with a book I ordered.

The first chapter opens with a quote by Henry Moore.
"We all have to fight our obsessions and prejudices and try to keep our eyes open to new forms. I know I do, for one. It's very difficult to see something that's new, and not a repitition of something you've already seen and responded to. But if you can get into the right kind of receptive and appreciative, creative way of seeing, then the whole world is full of new ideas and new possibilities. One of the things that modern art has done is to open people's eyes in that way."
Spirit Taking Form by Nancy Azara. The book helps one to see in a more creative way by means of meditation and exercises. Maybe next Wednesday I will have a chance to try out a few of the exercises. Hmmmm, I can only hope.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

CHILLY WEATHER



This morning we took a short ride out of town to buy some fresh vegetables from my favourite farm stall. I had an ulterior motive of course. They make the best macadamian nougat I have ever tasted. .... as well as honey pecan..... chocolate chunk.... and cherry. The wild berry wine is pretty good too. When we finally left the farm stall with baskets laden we realized we had forgotten to buy the vegetables. Ah well there's always next week.

We were driving along enjoying the countryside when out of the blue we discovered snow. Snow? Usually we have to drive for hours before we hit snow and here we were only 10 kilometres from home. I took photographs otherwise nobody would have believed me.



Don't you love the "No Fishing" sign next to the puddle?


It's been one of those weeks when I read a lot and ponder about what I'm going to create next. Quite a treat to snuggle up on the couch for a change while the cold air blasts around the house. I've been paging through my idea books and savouring my art books, waiting for something to ignite a spark to get me started on my next carving.


I've also been using this time to age all the found objects I use in my art. It's been a slow process trying to produce verdigris and yet when we take my carvings to the gallery in Durban which is near the sea, verdigris forms naturally without any help from me.

For some reason I get quite a lot of pleasure out of helping things to rust. Perhaps it's because it makes me feel like an Alchemist of sorts.

Fiddling with my photographs on Picassa is another pastime I enjoy and I can quite easily spend hours zooming and cropping. Ok, enough playing! It's time to get down to work!


Last but not least! Chilly weather is great for googling........for hours on end. I discovered Cal Lane on one of these Google meanders and am blown away. She creates the most exquisite filligree sculptures out of spades and wheelbarrows, petrol drums and all sorts of discarded metal objects. Go and look at the amazing crosses she has created out of old oil cans. www.callane.com/ Who would have thought!