Overflow With Artistry [On Two Artists Tuesday]

Sitting amidst the boxes that currently fill my studio space, I realized that I’m rolling into the third year since I’ve completed a painting. I’ve been staring at the same canvas set on my easel for a very long time. Broken wrists, the pandemic, another broken wrist, lost jobs and economic free fall initiated an era of blank canvases.

I’ve done this almost every day for two years. I stand at the edge of the boxes. I look at the large canvas layered with undertones of red, covered with layers of tissue, preparing the ground for the image. Charcoal sketch marks barely visible, images I drew and wiped away. I suppose it’s not accurate to say the canvas is blank.

My sketchbook is closed. It sits on the table next to the easel. If I opened it, on the last pages, I would find rough sketches for the painting. Ideas in rude pencil scribbles.

Memory is an organizing principle. A story plot line. We make sense of today based on how we organize our memories into a tellable tale. Looking at the canvas is like looking into a mirror and I ask myself what made me pick up a pencil the very first time. The small-boy-me was seeking. “Running or seeking?” I ask. My studio has always served as a sanctuary. A place where I found quiet, made sense of the chaotic world. “Running or seeking?” I ask again.

Staring at the canvas I should feel loss but I don’t. Each morning, Kerri and I sit next to each other and write. This is the 232nd consecutive week that, five days a week, we’ve written together. She edits what I write, makes suggestions, and I do the same for her. We produce a cartoon every week. For my work I’m also drawing a series of cartoons that, after I script and draw final drafts, I hand them off to Kerri. She digitizes them and, quite literally, adds elements that improves them. I’m not empty of artistry but full to overflowing. I no longer need to retreat to enter my sanctuary.

It’s hard to know where my work ends and hers begins. They are ours. A perfect collaboration. Two as one.

Last week we had a fence installed. Invasive neighbors, throwing rocks at Dogga, lobbing toys into our pond, we’d finally had enough. The fence felt like reclamation of space. The impact was immediate. We hadn’t realized how completely the space invaders – like broken wrists and job losses, had interrupted every rhythm and pattern of our life. Basking in our space – our space – Kerri started to laugh and point. Two birds, lawn art purchased in a small town on our long drive from Seattle, always in our yard but always barely seen, we’d hastily placed them next to the new fence. “Two birds, one shadow,” she said, jumping up to snap a photo.

“Two birds. One shadow,” I repeated her words. I’ll take it as an affirmation. A new fence. A new era. All the world is my studio. My sanctuary. It’s what the small-boy-me was seeking all along.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TWO AS ONE

Welcome The Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The daisy plays a central role in our story. And, not surprisingly, daisies represent, among other things, new beginnings and rebirth. When I first met Kerri, a friend, a wise older woman, told me that the universe was offering me a second chance.

At our first meeting, she waited for me in the concourse holding a daisy. Three weeks later I flew back for a second visit. She awaited me in the concourse holding a bushel of daisies. An abundance of renewal. At our wedding, daisies ringed the altar. Daisy cupcakes, instead of a wedding cake, were made special by our miracle-baker Susan.

Daisies are also symbolic of love, cheerfulness, hope, and affection. All are present in our second chance.

Unlike other people, Kerri doesn’t toss the daisies when they wither. She considers them beautiful and carriers of story. One of the daisies from our wedding sat atop the shelf by our bed and only recently passed beyond brittle into daisy dust. The dust made its way into the back yard, sprinkled with appreciation like a magic love potion.

During the pandemic-job-loss-broken-wrist epoch, there was a distinct absence of daisies in our house. Hunkering down and isolating brought a daisy void. A few weeks ago, I came down the stairs from my office to find a row of chipper daisies adorning the dining room table.

“I thought we needed some daisies,” Kerri said and smiled.

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

New beginnings. Rebirth.

If I could, I’d dose this sad discordant world with a hundred million daisies but, for now, it’s a great start welcoming home our special symbol of hope, beauty, cheerfulness, regeneration.

read Kerri’s blogpsot about DAISIES

Consider The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

Because it is outside, she grabs her camera. Were it inside, I’d hear the special scream saved for spiders and I’d come running. The power of a screen, flipping fear to fascination. “It’s amazing,” she said and cringed.

Spider symbolism – like all vital symbols – carries the power of a complex split-metaphor. On one side of the screen they are toxic, malicious, potential bringers of slow venomous death. On the other side of the symbol, they are world creators, weavers of life and interconnectivity. Certainly, they are central characters in this world-wide-web that we enjoy.

In this era, we attempt to restrict our symbols, preferring them to be absolute, one-sided, either this or that. Symbols never work that way. They lose their power when cut in half. To be potent, a symbol must embody both sides of the moon. Limiting a symbol to only one side flattens it, robs it of dimension, renders it useless. The real power of the symbol ignites when both aspects are understood and embraced. Symbols are polarities.

We would be wise, in our nation, to look at both sides of our symbols. Our history, embodied in our symbols, is both shining and dark. Vapid fear-stories like “replacement theory” fester in a flattened symbol culture, a half-told history. Ugly nationalism grows in the spaces left empty by a cleaved symbolism, a highly-edited narrative.

Gaze through the screen at both sides of the symbol, and a fuller, richer, more color-full story emerges. An honest narrative.

Nations, like people, become healthy when they embrace all sides of their story, the dark side and the light, when they acknowledge both aspects of their symbol, when they take responsibility for their actions, the venomous and the virtuous alike.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SPIDER.

Prometheus Resurrection © 2008 David Robinson

Add More Pulp [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Last night Jupiter and Mars converged without us. We had the best of intentions to rise at 3:30am and walk east to the water’s edge where we might see the event. Somehow, we slept through it. “Do you think they converged anyway?” I asked in a moment of grand ego inflation. I’m not the first human to delude myself into thinking the heavens spin around me. Kerri sipped her coffee and pretended she was alone.

Do you remember Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree? A story of the sacrifices made in relationship. The little boy in the story takes everything the tree has to offer. And the tree, in return, is happy. I was not aware – though I’m not surprised – that such a simple book for children could be so controversial. Banned and excoriated for sexist messages. Loved and embraced for altruism. Both/And. Symbols and metaphors are open to interpretation, planets of meaning circling the life-experience of the interpreter.

Jonathan once told us that “A tree must split its bark to grow.” Though he did not know it at the time, I was gaining weight and en route to splitting my bark. Now that the splitting is done and I am at least one size bigger, I’m wondering if my new expanse provided space for wisdom or if I’ve simply added another ring of wood. More pulp.

Don’t ask Kerri. She’s sipping her coffee, quietly pondering the inordinate sacrifices made in relationship. While she’s suffering her obvious conclusion, I’m think I’ll phone Jupiter and Mars and apologize for not showing up. Who knows, maybe when I didn’t show, they decided to reschedule! It wouldn’t be a proper convergence without me, right?

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARK

Pass The Cheer [on DR Thursday]

We do some quirky things. Driving an aspen tree halfway across America in the back of our car is certainly on the list of quirky.

It’s from a place special to us. We honeymooned at Linda and Bill’s condo in Breckenridge, Colorado. I am from Colorado and our honeymoon trip felt like coming home – for both of us. We return to that special place when we can, though not often enough. There is a trail we like to hike. It’s become an old friend that we need to visit when in the area. If we do nothing else, we strap on our boots and begin the climb. It follows a brook up the side of the mountain. We’ve never made it to the top but one day…

On our mantel is a piece of driftwood from Long Island, Kerri’s home. In our dining room is a log – literally a log – we carried from our trail in Breckenridge. Elemental. We have stones from our respective birthplaces, too. Our house is filled with confused cairns, pointing both east and west.

We named the little aspen tree Breck. It traveled in a pot with its tippy top branches bent against the car ceiling for the ride. It survived the journey. For the first few years it lived in a pot on the deck in the warm months and was wrapped and protected in the winter. Breck’s quaking leaves make us smile and instantly transport us to the special town in the high mountains.

Breck did not like its first spot where we planted it in the yard. The top branches died. When we moved it last fall, we were afraid that Breck would not make it through the winter. We talked to it. We cheered for it. “You can do it!” we chirped. Imagine our relief and celebration a few weeks ago when we went out back and found Breck budding. Lots of buds. More sun. Better soil. New Growth!

A reminder of a special place. A symbol of resilience and a hearty can-do. This spring it feels as if Breck is speaking to us, too. More sun! Better soil! You can do it. New growth. Art-life budding.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BRECK

Seed The Pocket [on Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve appreciated this sunflower for many years and until a month ago it never made me think of Ukraine. Now, that’s all I see. Thus, the power of a symbol. Sunflower seeds placed into the pockets of Russian soldiers by brave Ukrainian elders. “So, some good may come from your death.”

Walking through the antique mall, Brad spotted an ugly homemade sculpture. Golf balls with multiple screws protruding, spray painted and supported by wire rods. “Look, the coronavirus!” he exclaimed. Three years ago spheres with spiky knobs would have made me wrinkle my brow but never associate the shape with a virus. Now?

And masks? Will we ever see a surgical mask without feeling the divide in our nation? A confederate flag paraded through the Capitol? Members of the Capitol Police beaten with the stars and stripes; symbols matter.

Every year more and more our written communication is reimagined with emojis. Visual symbols. The new Ideogram. A thumbs up. A heart. Laughing face. Saying more with less or at the very least opening up our communication to broader interpretation. I find that I’m symbolically rolling my eyes more and more. Exclamation point. HAHA! Know what I mean? Winky face.

Leonard Shlain wrote some remarkable books about how our brains are wired by how we communicate; he posits that linear language, the introduction of writing drove us into our left brains and away from our holistic right. Perhaps in our movement back toward the ideogram we are rebalancing? A course correction or returning to center? It takes more than a few years for brains to rewire. Our descendants will, no doubt, either write books about it or communicate their thoughts through a combo platter of alphabet and pictograph.

Either way, we can only hope they grasp the meaning of the peace symbol. Or, at the very least, learn how to give it more preference than the dollar sign. Or, better yet, figure out how to make peace profitable. Can you imagine? Certainly there will be a symbol for that.

Until then, sunflowers in the killing fields. Sad face. Broken heart.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SUNFLOWER

Sit On The Fence [on KS Friday]

We have a small compost pile behind the garage that we call The Golden Corral. The squirrels line up like seniors at the buffet and scurry away with the good bits before they turn into soil.

When John texted a photo of the opossum on the fence, we ran outside to take a look. He – we named him Peter – was in no hurry to run away and hide. He was perfectly content to sit on the fence and gladly participated in our photo shoot. I suspect the word is out about The Golden Corral.

Our neighborhood has always been a lively haven for critters. Red fox and raccoons, skunks and rabbits, squirrels and hawks and chipmunks. In the summer months we sit out back and watch the animal escapades. We feel honored when the owl appears. We laugh when the turkey lands on our roof. The crows alert us to the comings-and-goings of predators.

Peter is a new addition. We’ve seen him or his kin down the street at Pam’s place. She scatters birdseed at the base of her tree and the furry nocturnal fraternity gathers there after the bars shut down. They stare us down when we come home late at night, their eyes red in our headlights.

Possums symbolize peaceful transitions, conflict avoidance, and cooperative effort. “We could use more of that in the world,” Kerri said. They also represent the development of insight and uncovering hidden truths. After the events of the past few years, surfacing a few hidden truths would be welcome. I could use an insight or two.

Peter posed. He definitely wanted us to photograph his good side. “He’s really beautiful,” Kerri said, snapping pictures.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about PETER POSSUM

nurture me/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Wander In Wonderland [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I’ve re-read his email several times. Skip’s explanation of the development of the computer. Subject/Object. Noun/Verb. Items/Action. It’s a story of cause and effect. This causes that. I’ve learned more from this single email than from my very expensive graduate degree. And, it’s sent me down the rabbit hole and I am currently in a world easily as miraculous as Alice’s Wonderland.

Does the moon cause the tides? It does if you are an English-speaker. Causation is the foundation structure of the English language. An action needs an initiator. The noun is king. He kicked. The sea rocked the boat. The moon causes tides. If you speak Mandarin, the moon and the tides are inseparable, not perceived or described as separate events but as interconnected. The same dance, differentiated forms.

Where does an action begin? A consequence end? I warned you. A rabbit hole.

Our perception of the world has everything to do with the language we use to describe it. Our creating of the world has everything to do with the language we use to imagine it. In a world where actions are separate from items, verbs from nouns, this causes that, it’s easy to believe that order is separate from disorder, cosmos is separate from earth, humans are separate from nature. Death is separate from life. Is it?

Each year that passes I’ve noticed the world of written communication includes more emojis and fewer words. Attention spans are shorter – mine, too. Tweet and text. Images carries the bulk of the message. If you could see the analytics on my blog you’d note that if I use more than 600 words, you are less likely to read what I write. We are slowly moving toward ideograms and slowly away from alphabets. Whatever will we do, what might we see, when nouns and verbs blend into image? When the eyes of dedicated separation begin to see through the eyes of interconnectivity – or, as Skip says, “When actions become central.”

It’s called a Wolf Moon, I read, because wolves are particularly loud and vocal during the first months of the year. One questioner asked if the moon causes the wolves to howl. Noun/Verb. Subject/Object.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE WOLF MOON

Connect The Poles [on KS Friday]

Though it is not, this could be a close-up of an x-ray. Arteries carrying blood away from the heart, veins carrying blood back to the heart, and the capillaries that connect the them. Outgoing. Incoming. And the connection between the two. And, as is always true of language, in the naming and the action-describing, the whole system is obscured. This part does this. That part does that. Mechanical mind applied to a miracle of pulsating life.

In North Carolina I overheard an old guy grousing about climate change. He is a sceptic. “There’s record snow in California!” he decried, “And, we’re having record heat here! You can’t have it both ways!” His reluctant listener bobbed her head. “It’s either warming or it’s not!” he railed. “Explain that to me!” Mechanical mind. Parts-thinkers cannot see the whole system. The capillary-word that tumbled from his mouth but bypassed his mind was “record.” The poles are, after all, connected.

I am fascinated by my current work. I am witness to and a participant in the creation of software. The language is familiar though the meanings are new: epic and story. Bug. My mind, lately, has been awhirl. The developers necessarily talk of information as content-objects. Items. The language of “fixed” things. Yet, the problems in the world that they design and solve for are “fluid.” Information, in our day-and-age, never stops. It grows exponentially everyday. It is movement, constant motion. More/faster. Sometimes I get a glimpse behind the curtain and see the developer’s work of content-items-in-motion. You’ve never seen a faster moving current of symbols. Is it a particle or a wave? It depends.

The tree in our front yard reaches toward the house. Kerri tells me that our children climbed through the branches when they were young. When the crew had to clear some branches to trench the yard, Kerri winced each time a branch snapped and fell to the ground. “I can’t look,” she said, not taking her eyes off the tree. Holding vigil. Holding her heart.

It’s easy to forget that, in all cases, no matter the eyes though which we see, the movement is always back to center. To the heart-of-the-matter. The pieces are never isolated. This tree is not separate or distinct from the sky or Kerri’s heart. The poles are always connected, whether we recognize it, see it, acknowledge it, or not. Breathe in. Breathe out. Two actions or one?

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE AND SKY

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

See The Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There was a transformation the moment we raised the branch and secured it in the pot. “It looks happy,” Kerri said. I was thinking the exact same thing. This broken branch, muddy and discarded and sad, we brought into the house, trimmed it, lifted it, and positioned it, was instantly revivified. The moment was palpable.

“Are we just making it up” she asked.

“No,” I responded, not certain what, exactly, I was seeing, but this branch was suddenly full of life. It was warm and energetic where, only a few moments before, it was downcast. “I think it likes being here.”

We stood and stared and tried to make sense of what we were seeing. “This would make a good children’s book,” we said at the same moment. Happy, happy, happy.

We added a few simple lights, a single ornament, but mostly we let it be. Its happiness is decoration enough.

We visit our tree during the day. Its exuberance is infectious. Before retiring each night, we turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree. We sit with it and drink in the warm feeling it radiates.

“That tree is like good sculpture,” 20 said, admiring it. “It reaches,” he added. Good energy.

We remain amazed. We’ve not yet grown used to the sudden metamorphosis. I hope we never do. It’s become more than a symbol for the season. It’s a possibility. A promise. A reminder.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE