Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Jenny Hunter Groat

Some time after I took Jenny's Notan workshop, I wrote her a letter. I had never done anything like that before. I wrote to her about my conflicted feelings about calligraphy, about my desire to expand beyond it but not knowing where to go. I'm not sure I ever felt like I truly belonged to whatever I thought the calligraphy world was. As I started to question and try to stretch my wings, I never felt those efforts were appreciated. Looking back, I see that there was a lot I got wrong over the years due to my oversensitivity and insecurity but I think there is some truth to my feelings.

Somehow my letter touched a chord with Jenny. She wrote me back a long letter of encouragement, the first of the many times she shared her profound belief: "Follow your heart. Let it and your work lead you." The letter was the beginning of a correspondence which helped me find my voice and led me to a week with Jenny at her Knowing/Not Knowing retreat/workshop at Green Gulch Zen Center in 1988. During her first evening talk there, she gave me words for my dilemma. She said that there are two kinds of artists—interpretive and originating. Her examples were the ballerina Margot Fonteyn as interpretive and the modern dancer/choreographer Martha Graham as originating. It became clear. I wanted to be an originating artist. Green Gulch also planted the seeds for the Spirit Books. After two days of calligraphy in the studio, I went outside and spent the rest of the week playing with sticks and natural materials and creating little environments.

In 1992 I created an edition book, Lessons From Green Gulch. It contained my text about Green Gulch with the closing passage:

I went to Green Gulch holding my creative spark. The gentle and wise touch of Jenny, the warmth of new friends, and the safe haven of hallowed earth fanned the spark into a small fire. I left knowing the task ahead: to keep the fire going, to both feed it and protect it. May it burn on. 

along with photocopier imagery from photographs and Zen koan, 

and words of wisdom from Jenny.

Read more about Jenny on my blog here.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Forty Years #29: Notan

In the fall of 1985, I took a weekend workshop in Boston with Jenny Hunter Groat on Notan, the Japanese design principle based on the interaction of dark (no) and light (tan). I had first encountered the concept in a design class with Brenda Lowen-Siegel at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA. I loved Jenny's workshop and I loved Jenny, especially the philosophical depth she brought to the study of calligraphy and design. For her, Notan extended beyond the page and into life. From her experience with Zen Buddhism and Jungian analysis, she saw Notan as more than a design principle. It spoke to her of the importance of acknowledging and balancing light and dark, positive and negative, in all aspects of life.
If you are interested in exploring this Japanese design principle, I recommend Notan by Dorr Bothwell which has been reissued by Dover Art Instruction.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Forty Years #28: Photocopier

The photocopier bits in the black and white version of Childbirth Journey were only part of my exploration of working with the photocopier. I loved the way the images broke down through repeated copying and that the results were unpredictable.

I did a lot of work inspired by being a new mother

and celebrations of the seasons. The quote on mumming from Henry Glassie's book All Silver and No Brass was published in the 1991 Calligrapher's Engagement Calendar.

Look for a pdf to save and print of the Winter Solstice Seasonal Celebration on December 21. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Forty Years #27: Childbirth Journey in Black and White

My first stop on the way to making books was a portfolio of 8.5" x 11" offset prints of Childbirth Journey. They combined charcoal drawings, calligraphy, and bits of photocopied natural objects—milkweed in #3 core of contentment and asparagus in #4 unstoppable life force.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Forty Years #26: Childbirth Journey

The first work that I consider to be truly my own was Childbirth Journey, a series of 15 abstract pastel drawings with calligraphy of excerpts from my journal. Here's what I wrote about the work on the back of the invitation: "As I tried to come to terms with the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, I felt that while the baby was making a physical journey into the world, I was making an emotional journey to motherhood. The series is an attempt to express the wide range of emotions—up, down, and in-between—the made up the journey."

After the exhibition at the Newburyport Art Association, I questioned whether the wall was the right place for the work. It made sense on the wall of the gallery but I didn't want to hang them in my home. They were too emotional to look at all the time. I felt they needed to be presented in a more intimate form which is what led me to the handmade book.
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