I try, about every other month, to post public domain images on my web site on my Public Domain Images page to provide scans of pictures that people can use in their art. I love to purchase vintage magazines, postcards, and old books that contain beautiful engravings and photographs that I can use in my artwork. But I can’t use everything, so I occasionally try to share my stash. It takes some time and energy to scan, fix-up, resize, and upload the images, but I don’t mind. I don’t like the idea that these lovely illustrations and photographs will disappear and be forgotten. Hopefully they will be used by others to make something beautiful. This month I have added three pages of Valentine Pictures, just in time for February. Have fun with them!
January 25, 2006
January 16, 2006
Almost exactly a year ago, my cat died. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:
We buried our cat today. She was fifteen years old and had been ill for a while—frail and fragile and not eating very well. I knew she was dying. I thought I was ready for the day, but when she didn’t come home yesterday, and then last night, with the rain coming down in torrents, my heart prepared for the worst.
I thought about her all day at work. Maybe she had squeezed into an open cupboard in the garage. Maybe she was stuck in a closet somewhere. But surely I would have heard her delicate mew like I always did when I called her.
After work, I walked around the house, called her name, which was Cat because nothing else really seemed to fit. She had adopted us and had been a perfect fit for our young family—aloof in that wonderfully cat-like way, but also eager for a lap and a snuggle now and then. I looked for her under favorite bushes and trees where she would cool herself on warm summer days. Then I opened the back gate to look into the field, and that’s where I saw her, half way down the hill, a raggedy white heap of fur. I called her name, still clinging to the hope that she was alive. But she didn’t move, and I knew that she was gone.
I hated the idea of leaving her there until my husband got home from work, but I didn’t have the courage to go through the deep green grass and bury her alone.
It took too long for him to come back from work. I kept going outside and looking down at her there, drowning in that impossibly green grass. I was worried about the crows or turkey vultures or- whatever- getting to her before we could. I watched over her from a distance until I was so cold I couldnt’ anymore. I tried to occupy myself with chores around the house, like putting the dishes away—there were the treats we were trying to get her to eat. Putting stuff away in the garage—there was her litter box. You know how it is. Everything becomes a sudden reminder when the day before those same things were practically invisible in their mundane normalcy.
Yes, I know she was just a cat, but no one who has ever lost a pet would ever put the “just a” in front of their pet’s name with any real conviction.
Finally, Michael came home. Lucky for us, the soil was soft. We wrapped her body in an old red towel. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t, as Michael lifted her already frozen body from the deep grass and into the hole. I didn’t want to see her face, but I couldn’t look away, one last time. But it wasn’t her I saw; not any more. And so now, I have to force that last second image out of my brain and replace it with all the ones I have from the years when she shared our house and our lives. Blue-eyes, apricot nose and ears, long soft fluffy white fur and tail.
Good-bye sweet Cat. You had us longer than any other pet of mine. And I am going to miss you.
What made me think about this is that yesterday I was working out in my backyard. Saturday’s rains had washed the sky into a luminescent blue and the fields are once again a glowing green. I dumped some leaves into the field and looked down to the place where we had buried Cat and thought about her, and how she had died just one year ago.
I went back to my work, returned to dump some more leaves, and as I looked down into the field again, saw with amazement a white cat sitting in almost the expect spot where we had found our own cat’s lifeless body. This cat bore an eery resemblance to our own, with the signature apricot ears and nose and piercing blue eyes. I spoke to her, and she meowed at me and quickly ran away. I had never seen this particular cat in our neighborhood before. Maybe by remembering Cat, I had conjured up her sweet spirit. At any rate, it was a very strange coincidence that made me think of the journal entry I had written the day she died.
January 15, 2006
The Children’s War
Today I spent about four hours working with my new artist friend, Phil, at Arts Benicia hanging this year’s Arts of the Community Show. I learned so much today. I was partnered up with Phil since he is the pro and I’m a newbie, and he did most of the work while I held the paintings and tried to keep up with all the mathematical calculations.
The idea is to keep the center of a pair of vertically hung paintings at 56” from the floor. So you have to add the length of the two paintings (or three, or one), add two inches to four inches for the space between them, divide by two, find the center, find the measurement for where the wire hangs and . . . well, you get the idea. Even with a calculator, I’m still mathematically challenged, so I was lucky to have Phil there to help me get the hang of things. I learned that the larger of a pair gets hung down at the bottom so the top doesn’t look heavy. And that you have to hang a pair so that they’re centered with the paintings beside them. I know it sounds complicated, but it’s not so bad, really. The best part was getting a preview of all the amazing art work, although I didn’t get too much of a chance to look around. The exhibit runs from January 21 – February 26, so if you’re in the area, I encourage you to stop by and have a look. You can find directions, hours, and other info at the Arts Benicia web site.
This is my third year (I can hardly believe it!) showing art work at the community art show. Every year I’ve shown something different. The first year I had two pieces that were assemblage and collage on book covers. The second year I showed three of my Reliquaries. I got a lot of positive comments about those. There was nothing like them at the show.
This year I made three book sculptures; they are different from anything I currently have on my web site. They are pretty dark and serious. I used a lot of found objects, burning, tearing, painting. They were so much fun to make but very time intensive. My husband doesn’t know what to make of them, and my youngest son says they creep him out. My oldest son says they’re”sick,” which is supposed to be a good thing. So overall, I’d say response from the family has been fairly positive!
Going to the artists’ reception for the show is crazy. The gallery is pretty small and it’s always packed with people. You have to nudge your way around the room. It’s a good time to schmooz and meet new people—not really my strong points, although I’m really going to make an effort this year.
After I look at all the other art work, I like to hang-out non-chalantly by my pieces and eavesdrop on peoples’ conversations. I love hearing reactions to my work. This year should be the best. I’m sure there will be a variety of lovers, haters, and people who are just plain puzzled. I can’t wait!
January 8, 2006
I just found a book arts site that has beautiful handbound, handmade books and includes pointers on how to make them. Dennis uses all different kinds of bindings and his covers are very bold and colorful. You can find his paper and book arts gallery at CaiLun.info and he also has a blog that has a lot of cool stuff on it. Enjoy!
January 4, 2006
Mom and I at Christmas
From my journal dated 7/3/05
Mom doesn’t know me at all today. She’s tolerating me like a house guest . . . barely. When she got dressed this morning, she put on long johns and underwear. When I suggested that she put on some pants or shorts, she asked me, “Why? What difference does it make?”
“We don’t wear long johns in the summer,” I replied.
“Why do you care?” she asks.
“I just don’t want you to be too hot. It’s so hot outside.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” I say.
Dad comes in to talk to her. I walk away but linger in the other room to listen to their conversation. Mom says, “Leave me alone. Don’t bother me, and tell that girl to stop telling me what to do. She deeps coming in here and checking on me every five minutes. I’m going to leave if she doesn’t stop it.”
“That girl is your daughter, and she’s just trying to help,” says Dad.
“No she’s not. And I don’t need her help.”
I bite my lip and walk away. I hurts so much inside to hear her talk this way. My dad says not to take it personally. It’s just mom’s illness. I know that intellectually, but it’s too soon for me not to care, not to feel sad and hurt and emotional about being the stranger that Mom doesn’t want in her home.
From my journal dated 7/14/05
Mom is sitting next to me at the table on the porch. She’s sorting flower heads and seed pods into beautiful little rows and clusters. We sit a while. I’m reading. She looks at me and says, “Do you know Karen?”
“Why, yes I do. I’m Karen.”
“You are?” she asks, amazed. “No, I mean the other one.”
“You mean your daughter, Karen?” I ask.
“Yes. Do you know her?”
“Yes, I know her. I am her. I am Karen. Don’t we look alike?”
“Well, yes, you do,” she says smiling.
“You’re my mother. And I’m your daugher, Karen.”
“Oh, I am so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. How can I not know my own daughter?” she wonders.
This is what I’ve discovered since that day. Bad days come and go; she’ll know who I am one moment and not know me the next. It’s hard to believe, but the pain of her not remembering me lessens with time. I just try to enjoy each of those precious moments when I’m her daughter again and don’t dwell on the times when I’m not.
I don’t try to convince her who I am any more because it’s not productive. If she thinks that I’m someone else, I just talk to her as though I really am that person. If she thinks I’m her sister or a different daughter, I just go along with it because I don’t want her to feel bad about not knowing. If she thinks that her sister Louise is still alive and talks about her as though she is, I swim with her memory.
And I don’t tell my dad how it hurts anymore. I write about it, and I talk to my sisters and husband instead. My dad is dealing with it too, and it just adds to his stress and heartache when he knows how this whole thing is affecting me. Can you imagine . . . for a time Mom slept in the recliner in the living room because she said it was wrong to sleep with “that strange man.”
They’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in March.