Archive for June, 2010

Picky Gardener: Peace and Solace in the Garden

June 22, 2010

I recently visited my community garden plot to put a few melon plants in the ground. While I was there, another gardener and her children came to visit her weeds. The youngest of the two girls asked me, “are you the picky gardener?” I laughed and said that I was. Their mother, of course covered for her child’s unabashed honesty and question, by correcting her and stating, that I was the “good gardener.” She was embarrassed either by her children audacity or by the knowledge that her own views of me and my gardening were now expressed by her children.

In either case, it became clear to me that, I am perceived by some as a completely anal-retentive gardener or at the very least, not average in my approach to vegetable growing and that the mother of these two wonderfully honest children, in my perception seems to be teaching her children to accept mediocrity, unknowingly or not. She is doing this by denigrating someone else’s more zealous work or passion.

I am not found of mediocrity, and I am in constant inner turmoil with myself in an attempt to think, act, speak, intellectualize, converse, believe, work, make, or live more than a mediocre life. This inner turmoil is both painful and rewarding, and has created in me a constant and manic search for betterment. For me, this search has taken numerous emotional, physical, and intellectual manifestations. Which suffice it say, are not always pleasant, however, are an aspect of my human condition.

In the past few years, I have found much interest and fascination with gardening. I have spent many hours digging, composting, sewing seeds, saving seeds, picking bugs, harvesting vegetables, canning, maintaining tools, and preserving food. I have read a variety of books on gardening and I am constantly on the lookout for a new book or information that will enhance my understanding and knowledge of gardening. I also believe strongly that gardening has a huge potential to mitigate some of the world’s environmental and food source problems. In addition, the vegetables from an organically nurtured garden are incredibly delicious. I have been eating and cooking with them my entire live. In my opinion absolutely no other farming method compares with the vegetables produced from a well tended, nurtured, and loved garden.

My personal connection to the earth has been a struggle for me to understand. Until recently I have mostly had an intellectual appreciation for the world I live in. Many of my family, friends, and heroes have enjoyed intensive backpacking trips, canoeing, nature expeditions, and adventures. I prefer walking in the woods with defined paths, car camping, and swimming in clean lakes and rivers. I have met people who seem to have a spiritual and/or psychic connection to the earth, and whose bodies seem to flow and move with the seasons. I enjoy the seasons, however, I have always felt like a silent observer of them, physically disgruntled by their extremes and enjoying there pleasantries.

At this point, I am more fearful of Mother Nature’s wrath as a result of global warming, then I am comfortable with her nuances. I don’t even know how to emotionally or intellectual deal with the recent wave of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes in Haiti. I do consider myself an environmentalist or at least environmental concerned because I am not sure what the term really means anymore.

After I was accused of being a “picky gardener,” I began to reflect and notice something about my spiritual and intellectual connection to the earth. At the core of my being I am a searcher and a creator. I make objects and I am constantly searching for ways to improve upon what I create, and how I live. However, I do have limitations, and I am not afraid to ask for help. My current understanding of my connection to the earth is very basic, it is physical, and I feel closest to it when I am improving its soil to grow plants that I can later eat. Within the past few years, since I became a passionate gardener, I have felt much closer to the seasons and, therefore the earth, because, I have become more dependent on Spring, Summer and Fall to grow and preserve food for the Winter. I need the earth to survive, and like all creatures, always have. The difference for me now is that, much of my family’s food comes from my sweat, labor, and the soil, rather than from my wallet and a grocery store. Gardening is like anything else, you can turn it into an art form, in fact I have studied some artists who have done this such as Amy Franceschini. In 1995 she, founded Futurefarmers, a collective of international artists.

So yes I am proudly a “picky gardner”, and I find solace in the rich loam that I helped to improve and where my vegetables grow. I am dependent upon it as we all are. On days when I am uncomfortable in my skin, unhappy, frustrated, or disgusted with humanity, I go to my garden for solace where I find peace tending plants.


The Poisoned Cocoon Series

June 9, 2010

Images of my new series of artwork were uploaded to my website last night. I won’t comment on the work other than to say that I am glad to finally be able to release it to the world via the Internet and a few upcoming group exhibitions. Most notably, Visions in Clay, juried by Arthur Gonzales. Growth #1 with Baby Face will be exhibited at LH Horton Jr. Gallery, Stockton, CA from August 26 through September 23.

You can see all completed works in the series as well as my artist statement at:


Art Making: Rejection and the Courage to Continue

June 2, 2010

It has been some time since my last post. I have been busy putting the garden in, watching the earth grow as it recovers from the long winter, and recover from winter myself. I live in the upper Midwest after all where winters are cold and severe.

So far, I haven’t discussed my art making or artistic life, primarily because I would rather my artwork speak for itself, and because information about my artistic career is available on my website,, it has seemed unnecessary.

Fortunately, artwork does not tell the artist’s biography, but instead reflects the maker’s influences, inspirations, and/or muses. If it is good artwork it will take on a life of its own, transcending the maker. As a result, in some ways the artist becomes irrelevant or simply an aspect of an artwork’s birth. With this understanding, I tend not to speak of my life as an artist, although, I do like to discuss my artwork when invited to do so.

Uncharacteristically of myself, this particular post addresses a difficult aspect of my artistic life. In the past few months I have received rejections letters from three grants that I applied for. These grants would have provided finances for me to continue my art career in a more substantial and productive way. Since, my resignation from my professorial position, my fund base is slowly dwindling. In addition, and for a variety of reasons my artwork is not selling. In the past, I did not worry so much about financing this aspect of my life, because, my teaching income funded the making of my artwork.

Now that I am no longer receiving a paycheck, I am beginning to feel the oncoming financial crunch, which in all honesty is only part of the trials and tribulations of being an artist. Unfortunately, in America money is the primary accepted form of applause, and we also need it to survive. Thankfully, I receive various forms of applause for my artwork, which I definitely appreciate. However, when someone buys a sculpture of mine, I feel the value of my artwork and artistic role is substantiated. When a person is willing to trade their skills, time, and living for my artwork (skills, time, and living) in monetary form, this high level of appreciation shows a remarkable amount of faith in me as an artist. Which of course boost my ego and gives me courage to continue my artist role, not to mention the continuation of my being.

What I am trying to say is, that this past winter and early spring has been extremely difficult intellectually and emotionally. I am tired of rejection and I have been wondering why I chose to be an artist, if I did, as it certainly is not an easy way to exist or make a living. There are of course, wonderful aspects of the artist’s life, which revolve around the actual art making, study, and exploration that occur when I am in the “flow” of a creative period. The hard part is the continual realization that I live in a society that for the most part doesn’t really care about what I do, or give a damn about art-making in general. This might not be so bad if challenging artwork, which I like to think I make, was not also feared, misunderstood, and marginalized.

Suffice it to say, that I have been second guessing numerous aspects of my artwork and artist role, which has been difficult. So where do I go from here, where will the next well of energy come from to keep me going as an artist? So far grant applications haven’t been successful at providing funding, career enhancing kudos, or ego enhancing energy?

The only thing I know to do is to continue working and keep trying various avenues to promote myself. My entrepreneurial skills definitely need to be encouraged, found, and/or honed. Maybe the next few years of my life will be a study in learning how to be more entrepreneurial. If so, it may also prove to be the most challenging and difficult aspect of my artistic career, I have to admit that I face it with reluctance and fear.

I was hoping for a boost of energy and funding from a reputable arts foundation to keep me going, but I guess that is not in the cards at the moment. Somehow, I will have to find the courage and emotional energy to continue making my artwork, which usually means just getting up and out to the studio and working. I have done it numerous times before, I guess I can do it again. Hopefully, I will learn how to make a living from my artistic endeavors.

This blog post is for all artists who are struggling to continue their lives work. Please take Courage!

The Art of Rejection by Arthur GonzalezIf you need a little humor and an emotional boost to get you through all those rejections, take a look at Arthur Gonzalez’s book, The Art of Rejection. It is an artistic parody and some pretty damn good artwork literally drawn on the numerous rejection letters he has received, throughout his artistic career. I highly recommend it, it has helped me.

P.S. Arthur Gonzales did not pay me to write kudos about his book. However, if you want to buy it from Amazon via the above link, I will get a little kickback as an Amazon Associate.