summer reading list

Category : Art, Books, Farm, Nature, Plants
Date : July 5, 2018

Summer promises the great outdoors: time to explore new terrains or become more familiar with the world found on your doorstep.  As a primer to our summer exploration, we have been delving into ‘nature based’ reading.

on a colonial farm’s recommended summer reading list:

Carlos MagdalenaThe Plant Messiah:  Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species(New York:  Doubleday, 2017), pg. 6.

“I want to make the world aware of what plants do for us.  I want us to give plants a value and appreciate what they do. I want us to understand their importance for our survival and the survival of our families—our babies, grandparents, and future generations.  I want us to realize that without them we would die, and most living things on land in the air would die with us.  I want us to be enthused by the importance of conservation, to be fired with determination that we should never give up, even if there is only one plant left in the world.  I want us to understand the importance of plants so much that we are moved to do something about it.”

 

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, The Global Forest 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us, (New York:  Penguin Group, 2010), pg. 69.

“But art has a sister.  The sibling is science.  Art and science are of the same house, of the same family.  Art in all its forms opens the way for science, because art is the precursor to science in all things.  Art sounds the bell of change that leads to discovery, and science runs in to listen, to test, and to learn.  Art sometimes molds and other times reflects the thoughts of culture and then defines the tides of fashion.  Science follows in the wake of those tides and looks back at the great fetch of “why” to derive the question “how.”

“There is some time left. There is time for a different way of thinking in which man can rethread the needle and sew a life for the future. For if nature is destroyed, art will stand still and the creativity of science will follow suit. “

 

Tristan Gooley, The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, (New York:  The Experiment, 2010),  pg 3.

“Picking up one simple scent can take the mind on an extraordinary journey.  Sense and thought, observation and deduction, this two-step process is the key to transforming a walk from mind-numbing to synapse-tingling.  One cannot work without the other; the brain can build wondrous edifices in our mind but it requires the scaffold that our senses provide.”

 

 

Richard Powers, The Overstory, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2018), pgs.  454-455.

‘ “Trees stand at the heart of ecology, and they must come to stand at the heart of human politics. Tagore said, Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven…..If we could see green, we’d see a thing that keeps getting more interesting the closer we get.  If we could see what green was doing, we’d never be lonely or bored.  If we could understand green, we’d learn how to grow all the food we need in layers three deep, on a third of the ground we need right now, with plants that protected one another from pests and stress. If we knew what green wanted, we wouldn’t have to chose between the Earth’s interests and ours.  They’d be the same.” ‘

 

Andrea Barnet,  Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Alice Waters Changed Our World(New York: Ecco, 2018), pg. 330.

“People ask how can I as one person can make a difference……But if we can start making considered choices in our everyday actions, the little things – what we buy, what we wear, if we think carefully about the consequences of these choices – how it was made, where did it come from, was it child slave labor, was it cruelty to animals, etc., then we can start making different choices. Small choices. But multiply these small choices by a hundred, a thousand, a million and then a billion and then you start to see a different kind of world.”  Jane Goodall.

 

I will be tucking wildflower, bird and trees guides into my bag this summer, along with newly handmade books to start mapping what I see, hear and smell around the farm.  Delving deeper into where I live and what lives around me, guided by the thought that all is connected, and that by our choices we can make a difference.

 

[Note:  Click on Author’s name for their website, including Carson, Jacobs, Goodall and Waters.]

 


mending circles

Category : Art, Books, Textiles
Date : December 7, 2017

This fall I joined a mending group. We meet once a month, dragging in our big bags, filled with coats needing buttons, sweaters lacking elbow patches, socks filled with holes, jeans ripped at the knees, and proceed to share mending advice. Needles are threaded and away we go. We leave with garments ready to wear, again, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The act of sewing a button on one hand seems so simple and on the other quite a challenge. Do you have the original button, or will you replace it with one that doesn’t quite match? Will you use bright red thread when the original was a somber black? I intentionally make the mending visible, reminding myself and others that this garment has more than one life.

 

my mended sock

 

Embellishment in mending by way of using decorative stitches seems to be the next logical step. Why not make that mended hole stand out with a flurry of feather stitches, circled by chain stitches, denoted by a bevy of French knots and finished off besprinkled with beads or sequins?

Of course, one needs instruction and inspiration, both found in the work of Natalie Chanin and May Morris. Fortunately, two newly published books bring their endeavors onto one’s work table. The Geometry of Hand-Sewing: A Romance in Stitches and Embroidery from Alabama Chanin and The School of Making, gives practical methods of stitching based on geometry, with diagrams and images to guide one through 100+ stitches. The possibilities of adornment seem limitless. The catalogue accompanying the current exhibition May Morris: Art & Life allows one to linger over her exquisite and elaborate stitched tapestries, book covers, bags, and garments, as well as her wallpaper designs and jewelry.   Pull out your magnifying glass and examine her embroidery. Morris has been rightly called the “pioneer of art embroidery.”

Morris published her own embroidery guide Decorative Needlework in 1893. Anna Mason notes and quotes in a catalogue entry, “Through her writing as well as her practice, she sought to raise the status of embroidery: ‘in spite of the discouraging trifling and dabbling in silks, which is often all that stands for embroidery, I am inclined to take needle-art seriously, and regard its simply priceless decorative qualities worth as careful study or appreciation as any other form of art.’ ”

Chanin and Morris are birds of a feather. They both honor the hand-made and the hands that make. In my dreams, both of them will attend next month’s mending circle.

May Morris: Art & Crafts Designer with essays by Anna Mason, Jan Marsh, Jenny Lister, Rowan Bain and Hanne Faurby and with contributions by Alice McEwan and Catherine White, forward by Lynn Hulse (London: Thames and Hudson, 2017), pg. 122.

 Natalie Chanin, The Geometry of Hand-Sewing: A Romance in Stitches and Embroidery from Alabama Chanin and The School of Making, (Abrams, New York), 2017.

 


where have all the flowers gone?

Category : Art, Nature, Plants
Date : September 11, 2017

Incredible floral arrangements graced the Westbeth Art Gallery at the opening of Strange Flowers last Saturday night. Flowers and their strange beauty unite the artists assembled by the show’s organizer Elisabeth Condon, but their approaches vary widely. From backyard weeds and blooms gone awry; hyper-realized blossoms gleaned out of the corner of one’s eye; roses stained on ancient cloth literally marking the passing of a dear friend; perfectly rendered arrangements drawn in colored ink; ancient botanical images on wallpaper newly arranged to form an architectural temple pattern; plants gathered and dipped in wax laid against a perfect blue sky; larger than life-sized blooms and blossoms that one can escape into; butterflies and birds residing amongst leaves and streams of paint in an urban landscape; to a set of vintage wildflower identification cards placed on a shelf set against plant-dyed paper on the wall.

On the night of the opening, some visitors presumed that the wildflower cards were there for the taking. Was there a sign posted that said, “Please take a card, courtesy of the artist”? Absolutely not! Slowly the deck of 49 cards became 19. Unlike the stacks of candy found in the participatory work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, for example, these cards are irreplaceable parts of the artist’s work, not meant to be taken from the piece.

What led some viewers to literally pick these flowers without seeking permission? What did they think would happen when the 49 wildflower cards were gone? Did they think that they would just be replaced? Is this any different from one visiting a museum and simply taking a painting off the wall to put in one’s home?

If you take all the goldenrod from a particular spot, what will the foraging fall pollinators have to fuel them for the long cold winter?  If the forest is cleared to make way for a pipeline, where do all the insects, birds, and animals go when their habitat is removed?

Are art & nature for the taking?

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Strange Flowers on view at  Westbeth Art Gallery until September 30, 2017.  Gallery open Wednesday to Sunday, 1-6pm. 55 Bethune Street, New York, NY


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