Saturday, April 23, 2011

Quest To Poland and Hungary

Krakow, Poland (photo from google images)
What a winter it has been.  Actually, what a year it has been!  Last year, as I began taking my personal development and artistic development a lot more seriously, a message came to me loud and clear...

"This is your life, create it, live it."

I've been aiming and reaching to embrace this kind of outlook for awhile now. However, this year I am taking it up a notch. At some point I realized how I was living a little too passively by taking jobs I didn't fully love for the money, jumping on other peoples creative projects and not fully developing my own vision while deep inside I knew I wanted to step out and define myself more on my own terms. I am the co-captain of my ship along with the mysterious force that is with me every step of the way. I've had to be patient, I've had to trust and just put one foot in front of the other. Ultimately, I'm learning how to trust myself. The work is paying off and the path is becoming clearer. I feel aligned with it and on it now and feel excited, actively co-creating with what the universe gives me. I'm learning that hard work and patience are two keys to self development. Something I think I understood intellectually but am just starting to really understand in practice. 

I'm excited to announce my plans that I believe will have an impact on me for a lifetime. I am going on a creative and educational quest to Poland and Hungary. I've been working this past winter and spring by clarifying my creative, educational and travel dreams. I enrolled in an art class, I created an independent study project, I got in touch with friends and family in Central Europe, I bought a plane ticket, I arranged for places to stay and I created a fundraising page on IndieGoGo, that I will launch shortly, to help me meet the study and travel costs of this quest. I will be posting regularly regarding this quest and the fundraising. I especially can't wait to continue blogging from over in Poland and Hungary in July and August. In the following text you'll find a more in depth description of my plans. I'm so looking forward to sharing this quest with you!

Study & Travel Plan

I arrive in Krakow, Poland on July 3rd to attend a four week long study program at Jagiellonian University which is the second university to be founded in Central Europe way back in 1364.  The course, which is organized through The Kosciuszko Foundation in NYC, is called "The Art of Poland: Past and Present" and covers the art history of Poland, folk arts, poster art and contemporary art.

While in Krakow I plan to forge a connection with the Ethnographic Museum to do independent study on the folk arts of Poland. I will be taking photographs, sketching ideas and researching images, stories and music that will be influential to my future creations. I’m also looking forward to meeting and visiting with my family who reside in and around Krakow, as well as sight seeing to get a glimpse of the culture of my ancestors.

In August I will spend time in Hungary with friends and split my time between Budapest and the countryside. I plan to explore various Hungarian folk/peasant art traditions by visiting museums and attending festivals held on weekends during the summer months. My musician friend wants to share traditional Hungarian music and songs with me as well as put me in touch with traditional dancers who live in his countryside village. I will visit Harskut, Hungary, the village my grandfather's family is from. More photographs, sketches, memories, music and paintings will be made during this time.

The Impact

I believe that there are parallels between the working class people of today and the peasants of yesterday. Instead of toiling for land owning lords we toil for the elite/corporate class. I believe one's connection to meaningful creativity creates spiritual, mental and physical health ultimately fostering a sense connection within oneself and with the outer world by positively impacting community and relationships.

Culturally, I see a shift of interest from a consumeristic mentality to an interest in the cultivation of local economies through the production and consumption of handmade, homegrown products, goods, food and arts. I am interested in traditional cultures and how they created meaning and beauty in their lives before big box stores, factory assembly lines and mass consumption. How were the personal, the spiritual and the beautiful created and shared?

I believe that we find a deeper meaning in life through the creation and appreciation of beauty. I imagine that my ancestors, the peasants of Poland and Hungary, created many things of beauty and meaning despite leading lives full of back breaking work for the benefit of the upper class. Wood working, paper cuts, embroidery, paintings, gardening, music making and story telling gave the peasantry an outlet to create and share stories, folk lore, traditions and beauty. I am looking to re-cultivate this mentality for myself, not only to connect with my personal history but to create homemade things of beauty and meaning, and build new bridges within my community both socially and economically.

I will create new work to show in community and commercial gallery’s based on my experience. I will share these ideas and what I learn with others through my work and presentations. And I plan to start my own handmade business using my designs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Around the House

Good morning!  My girl, Una, or Lala as we like to call her around here, has the right idea.  She stays in bed, snuggled under the covers on these cool, drizzly,spring days.  I would've liked to have stayed by her side this morning.  Last night we celebrated Passover with another couple and their kids.  Let me just say, I'm paying
the price for those "four glasses of wine" you are supposed to drink during the ritual dinner.  
Besides Lala staying in bed...what else is happening around the house these days?  The gardens are waking up which means I'm getting ready to put the pedal to the metal because it's time to work hard out there.  This past weekend we worked in the gardens transplanting raspberries and blueberry bushes before the rains came.  I was back raking my client's garden and lawn on Monday.  My muscles are waking up. I feel that familiar soreness that comes when I get back to work after the less strenuous winter months. Other things are waking up around the house as well.

The fig tree in my studio is putting out new growth and so are the apple and peach branches I pruned off the trees in my little orchard.  After a week of sitting in the warm house in water they are about to blossom.
It's warm and cozy in here next to the fire.  Here are some other signs of spring...

The hand dyed eggs that I have made with friends over the years are out on the dining table in the kitchen.  Yet another symbol that there is new life all around.
The blossom of the hyacinth that I bought at the grocery store has gone by but the green leaves and hot pink wrapping are a cheery sign of spring.
Now lets venture outside and see what's happening this time of year in the gardens....
I've cleared away wild blackberry canes that have been hiding this beautiful boulder.  I then found a lone tulip coming up in front of the rock.  Sharing space with the tulip is some Siberian iris and fern.  It's nice to meet you all!
If you look closely you might see the garlic that is coming up through the straw mulch.
Happy, wet daffodils are popping up everywhere.
The frogs are back in my little pond.  Look what they left attached to the submerged flower pot...frog eggs!
The Allium bulbs are catching glistening rain drops.
The first flowers are blooming...these pink Pulmonaria, a crocus, coltsfoot...
Green mosses and lichen add such beauty and interest to the many rocks around the gardens.

This week, the gray, drizzly days, have been a blessing.  I'm not working at the poster shop because of the Holidays.  So, I get to work at home on the projects here that are taking up so much time.  I am planning to study and travel in Central Europe this July and August.  I am going to Poland and Hungary to study the folk art of these two countries plus I will meet family in Poland, stay with friends in Hungary and visit the villages where my grandmother and grandfather's families lived before they came to America.  I can't wait to share more about my upcoming adventure with you.  For now the planning for this trip is taking up a lot of time and I have it this week! I'm reluctant to work in the rain in the gardens too so I can happily bask in the glow of my computer with a warm cup of coffee by my side...a little calm before the storm.  Next week I will be in PA visiting family and working. The first week of May I'm off...back to the garden work.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Cats & Dolphins, Roosters & People

I love watching animals communicate.  Especially when the the communication is between different species of animals.  Life is rich in language and it's so gratifying to see when something meaningful is shared or conveyed with out words.  Isn't this video the sweetest thing?  The people, the dolphins and the cat seem to be smiling, laughing, loving and sharing a beautiful day on and in the water.

Today I had a sweet moment with my neighbor and my rooster.  My rooster's leg got caught up and wrapped tightly in some poultry fencing.  He couldn't move and the nylon was cutting into his skin.  I was at home alone and apprehensive to try and hold the rooster for the first time while cutting the fencing free from his leg.  I went and got my neighbor who knows animals really well.  I was nervous to handle my rooster for the first time as roosters can be nasty, peck you or try to stab you with their bone spurs.   Mr. Roosta and I have always respected each others space yet until today I have never picked him up and held him.  Two hens of mine hatched him and raised him so he is used to me feeding them and being around.  I bent down and gingerly picked him up, and there was no fight, no resistance, no aggression.  He was just a big, old love bug....  heavy too!  My neighbor and I pet him.  I touched his warm, red wattles, and then handed him to my neighbor after he cut the fencing free from his leg, while I went  in the house to get some Neosporin to put on the cut.   He was calm, sweet and still as can be!  I think he knew we were helping him.  I always have admired and respected how he talks with his hens and calls them over to choice bits of food or coo's to them in warning if a big bird flies over our land.  Now I feel more of a personal connection with Mr. Roosta while a new warmer, fuzzier place in my heart opened for him.
Here's Mr. Roosta in his old home last summer.  Now he's free ranging it with the ladies in the big back area of our yard.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday #10: Crescent Moon

There was a sighting of the crescent moon lined up nicely with a church spire in downtown Northampton this past warm Friday evening.  In keeping with the shape of the moon, I thought I'd share some recent images from my sketchbook that have crescents in the drawings.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sketchbook "Sunday" #9

Yup, it's Thursday really... but I like the sound of Sketchbook Sunday and I do have every intention of posting from my sketchbooks every Sunday... yet, sometimes life runs away with me, or maybe I run away with life?  I'm trying to be on top of things yet a few things were put off...which I do not like to do.  Well, here we are.

On my end, I've been dreaming and scheming.  An adventure including study and travel is in the making and I'm taken away with all of the planning.  Things are becoming clearer and coming together but I will wait to share my news until I am certain I will do what I intend to do.

My Polish Folk Art class came to a close last evening.  I really enjoyed the time there with the other women and the teacher.  There is somethings wonderful about being in an art class with other eager and enthusiastic students.  It brings me back to the best days in school from Kindergarten through University, which for me was art class day. 

Art class = learning, the imagination, creativity, the smell of paper, glue, paint, tables clean but stained with various art supplies, quiet attention, quiet chit-chat, time flying, looking at your friend's work, experimentation, interesting teachers, the rest of the world fades into the background, time stands still (but still flies while it appears to stop), possibilities loom, growing, happiness.

What does art class mean to you?  Do you have any memories or experiences to share?