Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Sandy Day 1 Monday October 29 3 P.M.
From the Tree House Window

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Threads of Shabos

A friend told me about a story she heard from a once-Orthodox man, that when he was a child, the end of shabos, Saturday, was determined not by a clock but by the moment when one could no longer distinguish a red thread from a green thread in the evening light.  Now I think he said “someone”, no doubt meaning the same someone every week, who went out from the synagogue every few minutes, and held up the threads in the waning light, and when he himself could no longer distinguish green from red, he went back inside and announced that shabos was over.   The beauty in this story belongs to this privileged man, because the perception of color is profoundly affected by one’s mood, by one’s emotions.  And I imagine that he didn’t need to go outside too many times, because at that moment in his devotion when the feeling came on him that shabos was drifting away, he went outside and could not tell the green from the red.

Green and red are complements on the color wheel, that is, they sit opposite each other.  Here’s the traditional color wheel  concept (in a very lovely rendition by Jill Morton) for pigments (though not for computer graphics):  the three primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, can’t be derived by mixing other colors, something like primary numbers, and theoretically you only need these three.  You make secondary colors, green, orange, and purple, by mixing the two primaries next to them, and with judicious mixing you can have all the colors you could ever want.

When two complements are side by side in an image, or in your dress, or in nature, they enhance each other.  They maximize the contrast.  So you put your tomatoes in a green box to make them look very red, and you hold up a red and a green thread in diminishing light to be absolutely certain that shabos has quietly slipped away for the week.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two Ladders

Once again, out into the forest for maintaining our trail.  Two ladders:  one is a piece that I happily own, a ladder made by artist Judy Hoffman (not in the forest) from hand-made hand-dyed rolled paper, 12” high.  The other is a ladder made by a vine that sends its tendrils out and they wrap themselves opportunistically around whatever they come across, even a sibling twig, and they grow thick and build a solid wall.  Those walls, of course, we had to hack away to clear the path.  In the process, I saved this beautiful ladder, 18” high.   

Judy Hoffman's Ladder, with detail

Nature's Ladder, found complete in the forest, with detail


    Two Fine Ladders

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dance as sculpture

Watching dance, my attention moves from one part of the stage to another, so that I experience the intimacy and the beauty of particular movements.  But recently I had a glorious awakening.  At the Performance Festival of the American Dance Guild, being farther back in the audience than usual, my eyes suddenly took in the entire stage at once and I found myself watching a great sculpture where the parts moved instead of the viewer, and the dancers, coupling, grouping, separating, created continually changing forms in space.  All we had to do was to sit and be willing to receive.  I don’t know why I never saw it before.  All of my large constructions were created with many individual parts, lines of different weight and direction, with this very goal, that the viewers, moving around and thereby shifting their perspective, would continually see new objects forming in space. This is a gift too from park trees, those with twisting outstretched branches, if you keep your eyes fastened while you walk.  Walk backwards if you have to.

I won’t abandon the old way of looking, I simply know that an entire new dimension has been added to my experience of dance.

Here are two views of “Private Rooms”, 16’ x 12’ x 8’h:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Art in other places

If I keep my eyes tuned to the road, I’ll find it everywhere.  And so it was on the Jersey Turnpike, I think that’s where I was, in a bus to Lenox, Mass.    Very tall slender poles, a few stories high, guyed to the ground with red wires, three such objects in a row, symmetrical and perfect.  I didn’t know what they do, though I now think they are simple radio masts, which I’ve since learned can be quite complex and also camouflaged. They’re beautiful, to me at least.  Much of my work is about lines, and this road furniture was as inspiring and exciting as anything I see in museums and galleries. 

This photo, a set of radio masts in England which was the closest image I could find to “mine” in NJ, might cause you to scratch your head and ask What is she seeing.  The NJ masts are more slender, or so I recall from zipping by them in the bus.  Well, I can’t help anyone else with this, I only can say that when I saw them my attention was riveted, fleeting though the scene was.

Today I was waiting on the subway platform, #1, 125th Street, which for me means leisurely pacing back and forth from one end of the platform to the other.  In the pleasant outdoors of this platform, a man sat on a bench with two or three rats draped around his shoulders, dyed in various colors.  I couldn’t tell if they were somehow bound to his shirt, as they seemed to be scrambling but not going anywhere.  I saw it and kept walking, as they were not so interesting actually, just dyed rats.  I only hope they are well cared for.  I tried to find a photo subsequently on the internet, but it seems that there’s a trend, and I couldn’t be sure I was getting the right rats, or the right person. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Carla Rae Johnson, The Alternet

Carla Rae Johnson has an abiding love for libraries, those that you enter with your whole body.  You enter with your whole being.  You walk in the aisles and find worlds.  Hold a book, smell it, flip around from flap to cover to pages, pictures, contents, maps, a cluster of photos.  History.  Madness.  The biology of a cell.

Carla Rae has two card catalogs, is an artist with two card catalogs that used to hold the keys to all that wonder, and she has many artist friends.  The invitation read: one card a day for one year, no restrictions.   The “Alternet”.

Yes, a card catalog is bulky and an internet site isn’t and is a bit faster and probably more complete.   We’ll be sorry when the books are gone too.  But for now there are two old card catalogs filling up quickly with whatever happens when you put something in the palm of an artist’s hand, or a musician or a writer, and say, “Have fun!” 

In elementary school the book cart came around, oh I don’t know, every week, every month, and each child could pick a book to buy.  For me, an easy choice.  I always picked the one with flocking on the cover, and if there were none with flocking, then the book most brilliantly colored.  Content always rose to the standard of the cover, then.

You can visit the project at The Alternet on Facebook  and if you like it, be sure to Like it!

Here's the poster:

Here are a couple of my cards (each 3" x 5"):

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Artist’s Art

On a recent hike in a glorious forest in northern New Jersey, where I went as a team member to maintain a trail, my task was to paint blazes on trees to mark the way.   Some markers were there already.  The trail had been blazed before, but had fallen into a less cared-for condition.  The plan was to mark the path well when it was not obvious where to go next, and to mark it just enough so that a hiker doesn’t have to go too far to see the next blaze even when the way is clear. 

My teammate was busy pruning and sawing, cutting away intruding branches and “stickers”, which are thorny viney things that grab you and prick you but don’t give you a rose.  I walked ahead, far enough often to be by myself in that big forest.   I’ve been craving just that solitude for a long time, in just that sort of place, where there is no evidence of the built world or debris from human civilization.  And there wasn’t – the trail was clean, no wrappers, no coffee cups. 
The poetry of the walk was this, that I was alone but someone had watched out for me, laying out the route, blazing it years ago.  And now I was contributing to that conversation, so that tomorrow another hiker could walk here and know the way.  Sublime is the right word for certain moments on that walk, all I could wish for as an artist, even though I was painting 2”x3” yellow rectangles on rough bark, because of the pleasure of communicating silently through form and color.  Being in a beautiful forest, painting on the bark as canvas, but not harming the tree, in perfect hiking weather, looking out for the newcomers, feeling part of an ancient cycle, carrying the communication forward with invisible partners.  

This encaustic painting is of a different trail.

 Red Trail at Saltonstall, encaustic, 8.5" x 12", 1998

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lines go someplace and do something

Where Lines Can Go

A show of my drawings and sculpture

February 28th – March 24th
Tuesday – Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

Gallery 2
547 W. 27th Street, Suite 201
New York, NY 10001

Nests and Amphitheaters
Colored pencil on black paper
11" x 16"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Forbidden Streets

The news from Israel has been as bleak as the news from the West Bank, with no shortage of parallels. Flakes of Israel’s rich coat of democracy are rubbing off like speckles of paint from a rusty metal wall. Suddenly, though, in the very last minute the Netanyahu government has gotten embarrassed about what they have allowed against women, in Israel. It has admitted, thanks to pressure from the Israel Medical Association, that if a health conference is being held about women’s health, it isn’t such a good idea to bar women gynecologists for fear of offending male rabbis who want to attend. The great tent city movement rustled up some brave hearts and now people are emboldened to speak out against these last straws perpetrated by the collusion between the government and the Haredim. I have a calendar drawn especially for this new season of outrage. I’m marking its longevity.

The issue is, of course, complicated. “Non-violent” Haredim in Beit Shemesh are expressing their own outrage that they are being given a bad image by media coverage of the violence. Well, yes, but segregated buses and streets, and the wholesale erasure of women’s images from billboards and magazines, and the barring of women themselves from award ceremonies or from field games in the army – these are a quiet violence that the news media seem to have been missing until now, and are attributable to the whole Haredi community. In a way, and unfortunately, it took a little violence to let everyone know what’s happening.

Not much concern for the women in the West Bank or any Palestinians there, and it gets worse. A Bedouin village is destroyed over and over again in the name of planting a forest in the very spot that people have made their home. That spot, that piece of a vast desert needs that forest. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories,, has an ongoing Camera Project, distributing video cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which really needs widespread viewing. B’Tselem itself is a great source of information.

I’m reading The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. It is about the great migration of black people from the South during Jim Crow. It talks about the streets in their own home towns where they could not walk. It doesn’t mention the Jews in Poland in 1938 and their streets, or the women in Beit Shemesh, or the Palestinians in Hebron. But we know that it does.