Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Self Defeating Behavior 101

At the age of 46, I find myself enmeshed in the sophomoric actions of the middle aged. I'd like to let go. To untangle myself from their net. And I could if I just would. All it would take is a simple act, one of disengagement, one of giving no care, one of walking away. But like the frog who neglects to hop out of a pot as the heat is applied and simply allows itself to become boiled - I stay. I stay to watch, I stay, thinking things might change, that my intuitions are wrong, that these people really can't be as bad as all that...

And then all too late, I realize the water is boiling, and I'm the frog.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fear Biter

There is something about her that makes me want to reach out to her and tell her she has no reason to be afraid. That her worries about what others are thinking or doing are just her fears talking. But wishing for her to find a place without fear, is as delusional as thinking there is kindness behind those teeth.

She is a fear biter. Sometimes when I talk to her, she allows me to speak unmolested. Other times she snaps and bites. She bit me once rather badly. Out of fear, she determined that I was a threat to her. I'm not. But that was her view and she publicly stated, barked repeatedly, to anyone who would listen, that I was a bad person and had done her harm. Maybe she believes it's true, but I think it's a device, this righteous indignation and the false accusations. She needs to be top dog, the Alpha, and this was a way to eliminate the perceived threat to that position.

She bit me hard and deep on that occasion. She tore flesh. After that incident, I knew that she was not to be trusted; that she would bite without cause. I learned that she is viscious. I should have read the cues. I should have noticed the big teeth that are so visibly sharp and frequently bared. Instead, I noticed the clothing, but not that it was Sheep's. That was my mistake all along, that I didn't recognize her for what she is.

Time passed, she didn't bark or run at me from the other side of the fence, and I thought perhaps she was through with me. She had done enough damage and could just let me be. I should have been paying attention, but instead I started to feel empathy for her. I saw that she was being taunted and I felt badly for her. I offered her my sympathy because I felt she was being unjustly abused. I reached my hand over the fence to reassure her that she should have no worries, no fears. First she gave me a few tentative wags of the tail, a smile of sorts and an acknowledgement of my presence, an acceptance of my offer of solace. Then as I turned to leave her in her peace, she bit me. She bit me without cause. And like the last time, she bit me hard, and without warning. Maybe I just didn't recognize her for what she is... A fear biter, and like a fool, I put my hand over the fence.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Losing Things.

So many things escape me. Like little moments of clarity that light up my thinking, to only slip away in the next breath. The realization that I can choose to behave or respond in whatever way I want. That my path is not destiny or fate, but manifest in the decisions I make. Of course there are factors beyond my control. Everything about my life is about not having control of any of it, except for what I do in the face of it all, what I decide to do with what comes my way. I do get to choose. I can choose to act, not act, lie, cheat or steal...to tell the truth or act with morality. But I seem to be losing myself. Losing the continuity of the distinctive weave of who I am...the predictability of my actions or choices.

I worry. It seems I can't follow a thread of thought, hang on to it, or come back to it later because it's simply too fugitive. Dementia is my fear. A slow loss of my faculties, a loss so slow that it goes unrecognized by most. Today, I had one of those slips where I said something clearly so off track that the man I spoke the words to just looked at me trying to decide where I was going with this nonsense coming out of my mouth. What scared me is that I knew what I had said made no sense, not because I recognized my mistake, but because his expression told me he was confused. I wasn't sure what part was nonsensical because I couldn't recall what it was I had said.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Little Drawings on Glass

These are details of the new "plat de fleur" pieces. I have a show coming up starting this Wednesday. It's a guild show, and I didn't have any new work that hadn't been seen...that wasn't already committed, that was even conceived of. I waited until the last minute...And for some unknown reason, decided to do the "plat de fleur" pieces, containing these little silhouettes.

They are fresh outta the kiln. And to start, I have no idea where they were hiding in my head...But they surfaced, and I made these little tiles. Then incorporated these tiles into a field of transparent clear irid. They are very rigid (the dish forms) with these tight little squares of a drawing like ink on glass. The only thing loose about these pieces are the drawings...and even they are a bit tight. The texture imbedded on the back of the base glass gives some relief. They are very graphic and how they are composed makes them very strong.

I'm not certain if I like the pieces, but I like the little drawings.

This is a Bird of Paradise on cobalt.

A Calla Lily on pale mint green.

Chinese Lantern. Mica on black.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

As Simple As That

I could tell by the way he walked and the way he held his arms and hands that he was feeble. He was old, probably suffering from the beginnings of some form of dementia, maybe Alzheimers. He had a posture of leading with his chin, eyes down to the floor. His fingers were loosely curled over his thumbs, his arms were at his sides, slightly forward, and as he walked, he didn't swing them. His gait was mostly a shuffle. As though he was more stable if he didn't take his feet from the ground, but simply slipped one forward a small length, then the other in order to move along.

I was exercising in an Aquarobics class at the indoor public pool, when I saw him. I was surrounded by a few dozen other men and women who want to remain active, strong and keep moving in spite of age, arthritis, hip replacements and extra pounds. I saw this man, alone, shuffling along the deck on his way to the lap swimmers lanes. He awkwardly knelt to get in, mostly falling, then only moments later he was trying without success to get out of the pool. He was not at the ladder, he was in the deep end, trying to climb out along the edge. I had been watching him all along as I jogged in the water with my classmates. Yet I couldn't take my eyes off him. I was transported in thought and feeling to remembering my father's later years of life while declining with dementia.

As I watched him ineffectually struggling to get his own body out of the pool, I did nothing to help. The life guard was a young woman, a slight woman. She had him by the hands and was trying to lift him out as she remained at the side of the pool. Many of us in the pool and even others along the deck simply watched their struggle. I was frustrated that no one was helping them. Yet I didn't make a move to go over there to help either. It was only moments before he was successfully lifted out of the pool. He was clearly shaken and confused. Still I watched without helping as he tried to sort out where he was and where it was he wanted to go. I could see the lifeguard was distressed, sad, and watching his progress too.

My father would rail at the embarrassment of others knowing he was becoming dependent, confused, impotent in the ways of daily living and problem solving. He was not only becoming less of a man, but less of a human. His loss in bits and pieces of memory, knowledge, control of his body and his growing dependence on others to do the simplest of tasks for him was the ultimate humiliation.

For my father, I could help out of love, and he could accept my ministrations in private, but never ever before the view of others. At least that was so in the beginning. Toward the end, he was less self aware, and was so confused his pride couldn't interfere with his need for guidance.

I was feeling ineffectual myself, watching this elder struggle to navigate his way around the public pool, and suffering the results of loss of strength and good judgment. I was feeling angry that there was no other person there as a companion to help him get in a swim...to run the gauntlet of an unfamiliar public space when his body and mind were less than able. I was disappointed at my own impotence and lack of action to make his existence in that moment less of a struggle. Maybe what I was feeling was a remnant of grief for my own father, a moment of fear for my own potential of ending up with Alzheimers. Perhaps it was as simple as being paralyzed with indecision and feeling ashamed for not helping my neighbor.


As if she were not good enough, she colors and describes her life to appear more than, as if you would know from a single glance that she was less than.

Less than desirable.
Less than beautiful.
Less than brilliant.
Less than good enough.

She paints you a picture of herself that is less than accurate, and more than she believes herself to be. As if you couldn't care for her, in her actual skin or without her colorful stories.

Perhaps she believes that the right shade of lip color and hair that is styled just right, and shaded in many tints of gold and bronze will help you to value her more highly than she values herself. Is it possible that the right amount of enhanced breast, liberally exposed, and a surgically swollen mouth to suggest a bruised-lip sex appeal, in reality increases her value as a human being? Surely it increases her sense of self, if sex is a measure of worth, a commodity.

Her sex kitten a la Joey Heatherton facade is just the outer layer of her artifice. I wonder who she really is atop those 'fuck-me' pumps, and larger than real life stories.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Self Portrait 1 2 3...

"Outside Looking In"
5" x 7"

Transparent clear glass, flashed with black powdered glass then sandblasted and painted with Glassline Paints.

"Outside Looking In"
5" x 7"

Painted with Paradise Paints on clear iridised glass.

"Outside Looking In"
5" x 7"

Glassline Paints w/ pen.

The process of doing a self portrait can be daunting. The questions I'd ask are, how do I represent myself? Do I show you what I want you to see, do I tell the God awful truth and expose the hazards and wear and tear of a life lived...Or the airbrush version of a life desired?

I expressed some of this same thinking in my "Visual Memoir" post, but now the Self Portrait project has come to a close, and the work, mine and that of all the participants, has been submitted, I feel like it's a good time to talk about my thinking about the pieces I did for that project.
I'm in the process of "hanging" that show. Now that all submissions are in, I wanted to show the three faces of Cynthia ...Or the three approaches that I took for that project.

I wanted to show myself as I am, or as I see myself. No airbrushing away my age or blemishes, but to honestly describe an aspect of who I am...if I could. Each one, though taken from the same drawing (you can see the pencil drawing I used in "Visual Memoir") evokes a very different effect or feeling. The first one, which is the one I chose to submit for the self portrait project, is very graphic, like a comic book drawing... and feels flat yet pensive. I chose this one for the project because it was descriptive of me, but also displayed an array of techniques that other glass workers might enjoy.
The second one in Paradise Paint is more painterly than the other two. It's softer and feels mysterious and melancholy to me.
The third one is done with Glassline using the pen nibs. I like the way I could draw and describe contour with line, but I used the color right out of the tubes...and they are so harsh and bold that it makes the portrait feel angry or hostile with a great red slash for my mouth and a red hot shadow.
Are any one of these a more accurate description than the other? Who could say?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Curiosity Travels ~ Shameless Brag

Last night, I attended the opening for the 13th Annual Hogle Zoo, "World of the Wild Art Show". I had submitted three glass etched drawings to this show. Of the three I submitted, "Curiosity and Her Keeper" was accepted. I was anxious and excited to see the show, but mostly I was anxious to see how well "Curiosity" would be received. There was a good crowd and I hear the food was good. I never did get a plate for the schmoozing that was going on.

Toward the end of the evening, the awards were announced. I try not to hope for too much, but I rarely succeed. This was a fairly strong exhibition with nearly 100 pieces that were highly accomplished. But I still want more. I always want more. The progression of hopes is as follows. I want to be accepted to show first, and then if accepted, I want to place. It's a competition, and I am a competitor. I want to be given a nod of "atta girl" with that acknowlegement in the form of an award.

Last night was a good night, and I was not disapointed. "Curiosity" won a cash award given by a local gallery, and was also one of 20 or so pieces that were chosen by the Utah Arts Council to travel throughout the State for the next year. Oddly enough, the honor of having my piece chosen for one of the Arts Council's traveling exhibits means more to me than the monetary award.

My ego is sufficiently stroked. Who could want more?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Map Drawers

Monotypes. Acrylic plate, Oil on Paper 1995 ~ rediscovered in my map drawers

My father was a draftsman and geologist by profession. He worked in the field a lot when I was a girl. My memories of him from childhood are of a man either coming home, or going to a job site in a red Jeep Wagoneer that was rustic and loaded up with rock picks and heavy canvas bags full of dusty things that I wasn't supposed to touch.

One of my father's field cronies had taken a diamond encrusted drill bit and scratched his name in the rear window of that Jeep. His name was Leon and he was a crusty, slightly menacing (to my child's eye) sort of man who scarred the glass with his mark. I felt unnerved by this act. That this man had marked my father's territory as his own. My father allowed it without a word said and yet clearly he was irritated by the deed. I also remember thinking at times about the curiosity of that man's name as being Leon or Noel, depending upon whether I was a passenger, or standing in the driveway waving goodbye. Memories are odd. Why some are more vivid than others I simply couldn't say, but this one is indelible.

My memories of my father contain many images of his possessions, his tools, the material things that in many ways defined him. He owned a double stacked set of oak map drawers that held the plat maps he drafted. His drafting table and the Rapidograph pen set that sat upon it is where I can imagine him sitting, looking at me over the top of his half glasses as I stood in the doorway. There were lettering tools atop the table, and a talc filled muslin bag that was used to blot and set inks to paper. I remember the dryness and smell of the talc, and the office that contained the man and his tools.

He was free with his affection as a father, but in many ways he was a rigid man. Maybe not so rigid as constrained. He was a disappointed man, an unfulfilled man, a fearful man. He had a litany of life experiences that made him hold onto things too tightly, too jealously, too fiercely. He lost a lot somewhere along the way. He lost too much. He lost security, stability and pride. An ability to trust was damaged from losing his father to alcoholism. His family lost homes, moving instead of paying when the rent was overdue. He knew that his father couldn't hold down a job as well as he could hold down his liquor. He knew he had to shield the family he had from the view of the families around him.

My father needed to keep all the wrinkles and tears in the fabric of his life ironed or obscured to maintain the illusion of normalcy and control, a degree of control and stability that didn't exist for him as a child. I don't actually know this to be true, It's how I've come to understand who he was by the pieced together bits and snippets of stories he told and how he told them. Stories told in a comic way of his very petite mother throwing his drunken father up the stairs to get him out of the view and awareness of the children. And stories were told to me about the many houses they lived in and left, until his father got sober. He harbored an irrational resentment that it was his mother rather than his father that secured the job that allowed them to buy and stay put in a home. There were more stories that were never told and there were gaps in those that were, that I knew weren't to be explored or exposed.

I inherited from my father that rigid constraint that inhibits me from losing myself in pure expression or experience for fear of losing myself completely. Maybe I'm inhibited by a fear of doing it wrong, but in juxtaposition, I also learned to override that inhibition at times. I inherited a great strength of character, and with that a willingness to explore my potential and to take the risks required. I want to hang on too tightly, I want to guard jealously the things I can't afford to lose, but know that I may lose them anyway. I learned these things from watching my father.

I hope I learned from my father about strength and a willingness to keep trying. I hope I learned to hang on to stability, but not to hang on too tightly. I hope I learned that everything is temporary and to accept those wrinkles and tears as my history. He was unwilling to let go, and from that I learned that letting go can be a key to possibilities, and even to being able to hang on, if only by the seat of my pants.

When my father died, I inherited his map drawers, and I have them in my studio. I store my works on paper in those map drawers much like my father stored his works on paper there. I revisit his history and mine as I rummage through these drawers. Having and filling these drawers is analogous to keeping him with me, and through me, continuing on with what he started and couldn't finish. I think of these map drawers as an anchor of sorts. To anchor me to my past, present and future.

In my imagination, I look over the tops of my half glasses to see my son standing in the doorway. Maybe my son will have learned from me what I learned from my father and more. Maybe he'll be able to accomplish for himself what I couldn't finish. I hope he learns how to do a better job at living in his own skin than I did, and my father before me, and to let go of fear well enough to embrace possibility.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Intimate Scale

"Brenda Observed"
Flashed glass, sandblasted
by Cynthia Oliver, 2006

I have more ideas than I have focus. I get a terrific concept going. I flesh it out so that image matches thought. Then once done, I shelve the whole thing. Not always, but frequently. This behavior leads me to believe that I am more connected to process than the end result. There is a great deal of thinking going on. Subconscious processing of how to bring a concept to fruition. It may look like I'm not working, but I am.

My artist friend Suzanne, has been a good resource for listening and sharing. We toss out ideas, share each others eye, thoughts and reactions. With her help, I have been able to revisit some of those projects and concepts that I've shelved. Most recently, we've discussed scale and how both of us use scale as a device to bring you in closer. We discussed what our intentions are, and mostly it's a device used to ask you to be an active participant in the experience.

When learning to paint and draw, I was taught to work big. It was not a requirement, just a suggestion that we work on large, oversized canvas in order to loosen up. After learning to work big, we could explore the scale, perhaps a different scale, that was a fit for our concept and imagery. At times, a large canvas can feel impersonal. More like something to fill a wall with, than something to tell a story with.

My desire is to draw you in. Show you on an intimate level what it is that I want to share. I want you to get close, to look closely. A small scale pulls you in and requires you to come closer, to put your face right up to the piece, to put it in your hands so that you can find the detail in the story. Like hearing a whisper, you have to hold still, and pay attention. You can feel the breath in your ear, and hear the soft words only if you pay attention. So part of my ideal is to experience and create moments of intimacy. So I am practicing my work on a smaller scale.

"Portrait of Brenda"
flashed glass, sandblasted.
by Cynthia Oliver, 2006
This desire to create work that is about an intimate connection is also informing my work with portraits. Beyond scale, I am thinking of the composition and how that influences the story being told, or the personality being exposed.

I started these drawings of Brenda several months ago. I had been working on portraits (my own and of other people), and had a few ideas for sculptural pieces that were like kaleidoscopes in that they begged the viewer to peer inside to see what was there. I thought I would put portraits in these pieces. Not of specific persons you would recognize, but images that would ask you to think about who you were looking at. These would require you to take the time to observe and hopefully entice you to want to take the time to consider what it is you are looking at.
The concept is still stewing in my head. I don't know for certain what I want to put inside of these pieces. Should they be representational images of people, individuals in specific situations. Should it be an abstracted image, but only abstracted to the degree that you know what you are seeing, but still must interpret the story it tells? I am not happy with the solutions I've gotten to so far, so will shelve the project for a while longer. But I am happy with these portraits of Brenda.

I wanted to post the flashed glass portraits of Brenda. In these portraits, I wanted to describe her thoughtfulness, her internal world of thinking before acting, and her great honesty which she shares easily, but carefully. I hope I succeeded.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Curiosity & Daphne Framed

"Daphne II"

"Daphne I"

"Curiosity and Her Keeper"

Impeccably and beautifully framed by my highly professional friends at the Wasatch Frame Shop.
Thanks Bill and Brande.
These are ready for submission to the 13th Annual Hogle Zoo, "World of the Wild Art Show".
The color seen here is fairly close to true. No more crazy color. The etchings now framed, are fabulous. The framing completed the project wonderfully ~ and I am totally thrilled with the results.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Visual Memoir

"Age Observed"
by Cynthia Oliver
Pencil on Paper 2005

Thinking about the Glass Guild project piqued my interest with the concept of Self Portrait.

A cast glass sculpture of a face that is taken from life begins with a molded impression taken from the subject, and ends with a three dimensional replication of flesh and bone. Unless modified, it is simply a representation without interpretation. A cast taken from a face is a record of a visage, but not necessarily of who that face belongs to, who that person is. I wondered what it would look like if altered and molded as an interpretation. More specifically, how would I modify my own cast image to represent myself as I wanted to be seen.

I decided to explore the idea of Self Portrait, and how I would want to describe myself. What would I want to show, and how would I show it? How do I see myself, and what do I want to expose? In essence, a self portrait is a visual memoir, and as the author, I can choose whether to embellish, obscure, or lay clear before you my reality. What would I do? How would I write this brief memoir?

I started with sketches. I am aging, and it is interesting to watch my appearance evolve. I can see the years of abuse, exposure and experience displayed and expressed on my face and body. I wanted to illustrate that life rather than hide it. I wanted those lines to describe a life lived. For me, sketching is a fact finding process, and what I was seeing, and putting down on paper, was more than lines as an expression of age.

"Outside Looking In"
by Cynthia Oliver
Pencil on Paper. 2005
The "Outside Looking In" drawing went beyond a description of what I saw, and became more about who I am - about who I think I am. This drawing is unfinished, yet it well describes my sense of being on the outside of things, and of being an observer more than a participant. I pay attention to the small moments around me. I draw them, I paint them, I tell stories about them. This sketch is drawn from an angle and perspective that is a bit outside of the picture plane, a bit out of frame, it's me, standing on the outside, looking in.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Outside, Looking In

I belong to the Glass Artists Guild of Utah. We were casting the faces of the entire guild for the purposes of having a likeness of each member. A cast glass likeness of each, that would be grouped together en masse as a sculptural representation of the whole. I like the concept. A series as a body of work, a collaboration of individuals that represents the group. But I didn't participate in the casting party. I didn't sign up, and I didn't show up. My lack of participation was as a result of an unwillingness to leave my house. It's a form of intertia, a mild but persistent depression. A depression that feels like I'm often on the outside, looking in.

I would like to do the project and add my face, cast in glass, to the others. In hindsight, I realize that my lack of focus, and my lack of motivation to get myself to the casting party has possibly let the membership of the Glass Guild down. Maybe I've left a hole where they would like to see a representation of me. Perhaps my lack of participation looks like an act of arrogance or indifference. It isn't either of those things, but more an act of isolationism. It's easier for me that way.

Monday, January 09, 2006


"Bella ~ Sleeping"
Pencil on Foamcore
by Cynthia Oliver 2005
I've had the flu. I was down with fever and chills and every other evil associated with flu. For a couple of days I slept and sweated, coughed and chilled, sneezed and had fever induced surrealist dreams. But for the exception of the few necessary trips to the out of doors, Bella was in bed with me, constantly by my side.
I'd love to believe that it was because she knew I was sick, and that she was devoted to me. I'd love to believe that she did it because she knew I needed her there with me as comfort and companion in my time of need. In reality, I believe it was because she could lie unmoved in a super soft, pillow-topped bed with multiple layers of comforters, day in and day out. I believe this because when I had to leave our comfy nest of cushion and covers to minister to and monitor my flu with teas, tissues and thermometers ~ she didn't leave her post. Not once. Undisturbed, she stolidly awaited my return.

"Nose ~ Dry and Warm"
Pencil on Foamcore
by Cynthia Oliver 2005

" Ear ~ Supple and Long"
Pencil on Foamcore
by Cynthia Oliver 2005

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Life Drawing

"Rachel" from life drawing class 1996.
18" x 24" Nupastel on paper
by Cynthia Oliver

I am fascinated by people. I am drawn to watch their movements and their interactions. I observe and assess. I am as interested in the form as I am the action. Peoples hands, their faces, their poses, all tell a story that I want to know.
I will listen in on the most mundane of conversations. Not my own mind you, but the conversations of the those around me. I listen in on the conversations that are none of my business, the conversations that I am supposed to be politely disengaged from. I am unashamedly one of those people.

I have been known to be out with my husband at a restaurant, and instead of focusing my attention on him, I am watching our neighbors. I am fabricating a history for the couple that has been eating and drinking at the corner table in silence, barely making eye contact. Or for the man who appears to be a weekend father, trying to make up for lost time with his nearly adult aged kids by taking them out for a lavish meal. He's talking too big, and smiling too much. The kids are looking bored and slightly hostile. I can barely pay attention to my own evening for being distracted by the lives of others.
I watch people. I remember watching one young boy with his parents, and he was using his middle finger to scrape repeatedly at the thumbnail on the same hand. There was a world of tension in that movement, a world of anxiety. I could see it in his hands, and the way he watched his parents as if knowing, but hoping against hope, that no matter what he did or how he did it, it would be all wrong.

Today, I was at the neighborhood coffee spot, waiting for my friend to join me. I was listening to the couple at the table next to me. They were young. Twenty-something. Lean, healthy and hip looking. A woman entered the shop. She was wearing black mid thigh exercise pants and a lycra tank. There is a gym nearby, and this is a trendy, healthy, biking/hiking kind of neighborhood - so her attire wasn't unusual, but her weight was. This woman was middle aged, average height, and couldn't have weighed 100 lbs. The woman sitting at the table next to me commented to her boyfriend with a note of a contempt, "Look at the old anorexic who just blew in the door. It's great to be home, isn't it?"
I began to take the measure of the woman I was formerly only listening to. Now I was weighing her attributes, determining her age, education, social status and income bracket. She was taking this anorectic woman's inventory, and now I was going to take hers. I wondered what it was that made her disdain this thin and fragile woman. I wasn't interested in the woman who appeared to be in self imposed ill health, but with the young woman sitting next to me. I wished I could ask her, "What is it about the anorectic woman that is illustrative of your being back home?" and "Why the tone of disdain?" But if I asked her, my ill mannered eavesdropping would be exposed. Instead, I made up a history for her. I made up a story that would answer all of my questions and satisfy all of my curiosity.

Life drawing class was like that for me. A daily session where I got to be an overt observer of another human being, and to create and tell a story with Nupastel and impunity.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

History and Hope

"Mourning" Oil on panel, 6" x 5"
Cynthia Oliver. 1998

In my initial post, The Beginning, I added an image of a painting of mine titled "Awakening". This blue painting is its companion piece, titled "Mourning". Both were painted quite a number of years ago, yet have continued relevance for me today.
These paintings were about my feelings regarding the death of my first husband. I did them many years after he had died. I think that the making of these paintings were acts (or maybe just descriptions) of walking through that grief and moving into a time of light and normalcy. For some, a symbolic ritual act of saying goodbye to their loved one is a way to mark a moment of moving beyond their loss. I believe these paintings were my ritual act.
"Mourning" is dark and even a touch flat, but there is some bright and hopeful color that reads through. I was waiting, working through the sadness in hopes of finding myself back in the world without the burden of grief. I always had hope that time would come, and it did. But it was slow in the coming. Wounds take time to heal. Even after the healing, there is a mark, a history, a scar that describes the history of a trauma experienced. Perhaps these paintings are the marks of history. I couldn't say for certain. In some ways, they are things I am unable to fully explain.
"Awakening" describes being able to step back into life. This description of coming out from under grief is hopeful in it's color and warmth and movement. It's a description of gratitude and growth, and of coming back into the brighter warmer time on this pathway I am walking along, and acknowleges history without losing hope.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lending Voice to Thought

A line of scripted dialog has been traveling repeatedly through my thoughts. It was spoken by Toby Ziegler, a character on the television series West Wing. It's his line -Toby's line- ruefully, dare I say woefully delivered, that I continue to ponder. I'll paraphrase as I don't recall the exact quote. It goes something like this:
"I lent voice to thought, and that was my mistake..."

I've been thinking about that turn of phrase ever since I heard it. I have regrets of words I have spoken that should have been left unsaid. Lending voice to thought. It's something to be considered well.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Crazy Color

"Daphne II" Etched glass drawing 9" x 11"
by Cynthia Oliver. 2005

For the Hogle Zoo art show, they allow three entries for submission. The main piece for my submission is "Curiosity and Her Keeper". But the focus of the etchings that I have been doing is portraiture. So These two images are portraits of a large female giraffe at the same zoo...from the same day. I learned after the etchings were made, that her name is Daphne.

I love the foreshortening in this first portrait. She's rather lovely, no?

These etchings are done on colorless transparent glass. To photograph them, and provide contrast, I placed them on a black cloth. The "Curiosity..." piece did photograph black, but for some reason the color in the portraits appears blue.

Crazy color, or crazy camera? It does occur to me that I don't know how to take good pictures.

"Daphne I" ~ Etched glass drawing 9" x 11"
by Cynthia Oliver. 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Curiosity and Her Keeper

"Curiosity and Her Keeper" etched glass drawing. 10" x 38"
by Cynthia Oliver, 2005

I decided to do some pieces I could submit to the Annual Hogle Zoo Art Exhibit with thoughts toward some etched glass drawings. I visited the zoo to do some sketches and gather images of specific animals in hopes of capturing a moment or two worth depicting. What I found when I arrived, with the temperature being a mere 15 degrees, was a zoo empty of visitors. Most all the animals were indoors - unavailable to me. There were no elephants swimming in their pool and the great apes were behind glass and impossible to take photos of. A baby orangutan, seven months of age is on display for an hour a day with her human caretakers (nursery nannies), and although I spent an hour watching her delightful antics and explorations - she never sat still long enough for me to capture her sweetness on paper or film. There are no more polar bears at this zoo, regardless of the perfect winter weather, and the lions and tigers have been moved to a quiet and private spot while the Cat House is under renovation.
Undaunted by the absence of some of the animals I was hoping to observe, I knew where to find the giraffes, and their viewing area is available to the public where we all could be warm. I was there with friends, and we watched them for quite a while as their keeper was cleaning out the enclosures. One of the giraffes watched her keepers' every move and often would touch the top of his head with her soft mobile lips, or nibble at the handle of the broom as he cleaned the floor. In response, he would occasionally reach up a hand to her without even looking. A small gesture, a little touch in return with the tips of his fingers. The giraffe and her keeper doing their friendly dance, comfortable with each other in their daily routine.
This is the story I wanted to tell.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Beginning

"Awakening" Oil on panel. 6" x 5"
by Cynthia Oliver 1998

So this is my beginning. An opportunity to meditate or focus on life and art. Particularly mine and on occasion, that of other's. It feels a bit self conscious, a bit egoist to do this in such a public, or potentially public way. It also feels vulnerable. I feel vulnerable, naked and fat. If I were naked and thin, I wouldn't mind being naked...But I want to be honest, and that won't be so simple when I know I have an audience. To be honest, I have to edit out the confabulations that make me think I look good. I'd like to look good, but looking that good isn't terribly interesting, and I want to be interesting.

This introspection stuff isn't going to be easy.

I want you to see in me, nothing but brilliance, wisdom... stability. And for you to be in awe of my creative soul - my creative accomplishments. But I am none of those things. At least not always or often. Sometimes I'm brilliant, or wise. Occasionally I'm stable, level, mature. I do have moments of creative industrious drive that gets me moving forward with good strong work that has a voice and says what needs saying. Then there are more frequent times when I'm none of those things. There are more days than not, that I walk into my studio with my coffee in hand (God forbid I should start my day without an entire pot of coffee), and I go directly to my computer and bring up a bulletin board chat room devoted to kiln formed glass art. It's a soul-sucking place. A time-sucking place, and a place I go so I don't have to think about the work I am not doing. It's a place I go so that I can talk with people who have the same fascination with warm glass forming that I have, to talk with folks who do the same kind of work that I do. Mostly I go there to avoid having to start the day. I also go there because there's frequently the opportunity to watch (and even to participate with) other people behaving badly.

Insecurity, jealousy and fear run rampant on this warm glass bulletin board. Weekly accusations of work being copied can start a thread that will go on and on for pages. The numbers of members online will increase and you just know they are watching the latest train wreck that was started over a discussion of politics, religion, Art vs. Craft, or copying.

I think we're tired of politics, so now the big topic is copying. I was accused of copying. I felt blindsided, it was hateful and malicious and I know now that it was about attention seeking and drama rather than copying...But at the time it was more drama and meanheartedness than I personally needed to have going on in my life. But I recovered.

Now I read the train-wrecks of threads for the amusement of seeing the usual suspects stir up drama at least on a weekly basis. It's beginning to feel more like Peyton Place with emoticons, than a bulletin board. It has become a fix where I can find out who's copying who (rather than who is sleeping with who), and who is waving about virtual threats of law suits and public shaming. Emotions run high as we debate ethics, politics and religion. Even discussions of books can create a brouhaha. It's an adrenaline rush, a stimulant, like my pot of coffee. I feel my blood pressure rise, the hair on my head prickle a bit, and I'm hepped up and hooked. I want to see who will be the next to be accused, who will be the next to be publicly shamed. It's a drug I take daily. A drug I use to get out of my own head.

In part, this blog is a new beginning for me to take me away from that time and soul sucking bulletin board, and into a bit of self awareness. Exposing this obsession I have with a virtual bulletin board community is embarrassing. I'm embarrassed that I am enmeshed in a virtual neighborhood and that I am affected by their opinions, their commentary, their accusations. But there you have it, the fat part of being naked. My life is not full enough of real entanglements and engagements to keep me connected to the real world, so I spend a great deal of time, trying to fill those holes in a virtual one.