“Snapshot” mixed media on paper, 26 x 20 (framed)
This week, we moved in to our new abode in South Florida. The process of moving is physical, mental and emotional…full of surprises, twists and turns. The timing of this move, on the heals of the “Collaboratus” show and my own collaborative project with the poet Amy Vaughn, was exquisitely poetic and perfectly synchronized. This piece, based on Vaughn's poem “Snapshot”, became the catalyst for uncovering memories in our boxes as we lugged them from hither to yon.
The poem crossed my path months ago, and I remember pausing in my day as I read it, pondering for a moment simpler days - mud pies made in alleys, gooseberries and rhubarb, wading pools and gopher funerals (a story in itself, I assure you!), fire ants and crawdads, creeks and caves. Reading Vaughn’s poem, “the world dropped away” for a moment:
Wide sunny skies
Opened before us each summer day
We seized each moment
And lingered over watermelon smiles.
Muddy lake water ruined our bathing suits,
But we didn't care!
All that mattered in those moments gathered under the trees
Were ice cream freezers churning
And fish caught to be fried up crispy later.
Under watchful eyes we set our inner tubes spinning
And the world dropped away.
Coating each other with red clay from the shore
We danced and transformed into monsters
Who melted away when we ran giggling
Into the waves.
When the “Collaboratus” project was announced, this poem came to mind immediately. I wanted to capture Vaughn’s words in piece reminiscent of storybook illustration and childhood play.
In my own childhood, my sister and I were the muddy girls who didn’t care, seeking adventure every day and staying outside until our mother rang a cowbell (really, a cowbell) and made us come inside. We “seized each moment” in a way that eludes us now as adults, yet I can recall it perfectly if I pause long enough to remember the feeling.
Perhaps this collaborative piece will transport you as well, if only for a moment, and the world will drop away for a time of reflection, magical childhood memories and simple joys.
This piece is available. On display at Ciel Gallery for the month of July. Inquiries: Call the gallery at 704-496-9417 or Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Polar Bear Totem” - watercolor & ink on paper, 9” x 12"
This has been a week of moody Florida skies…billowing white clouds set against fuchsia, bright blue and black, lightning flashes and rolling thunder, tropical breezes and torrential rains, majestic palms waving like hula dancers across the top of the lanai. And I am painting a polar bear.
When the polar bear comes into your life, you are reminded of how strong and courageous you are. Regardless of how intimidating challenges might be, you will not be overwhelmed. This is quite reassuring during a week of transition and travel, new beginnings and big changes. Shamans consider the polar bear an ally and spirit helper. The polar bear is fearless…and the energy of the universe flows freely when fear is absent. I like the thought of freely flowing energy replacing fear.
The polar bear is considered to embody the spirit of the north, and to hold ancient wisdom. This concept makes me smile while I am moving to the sunny, steamy southern tip of the country. Bringing the spirit of the north with me through the polar bear totem is just the counterbalance I need here. And who doesn’t want some ancient wisdom?
Polar bears are observers and planners, gauging possible outcomes before acting. It is necessary for them to conserve energy and use it wisely and accurately. If the polar bear is your totem animal, it is important to learn how to manage your energy in a similar manner. Now this is tough advice for me, an “act first and plan later” kind of person. But of course, it is exactly what I need. Just this week, working outside in the heat, I had a lesson or two in what happens when I don’t plan ahead and conserve energy in the sun and humidity.
Whatever life brings you this summer, be it heat, big transitions or challenges, use a little polar bear mojo to see you through!
This piece is sold.
"Gazelle at Graduation" - pen and ink on paper, 9" x 12"
This was a whirlwind week. Our youngest graduated from high school on Friday, and on Saturday we piled into our cars and drove south to begin our relocation to Florida. Many endings, many beginnings. The question is, how do you navigate major life changes gracefully?
We began by carefully circumnavigating a sudden flurry of large debris on the highway which bounced off of a construction truck and nearly hit the windshield. (no need for caffeine after that incident!) One of our passengers was an elderly, crotchety dog who was determined to sit in the front seat. It took several hours, but we finally convinced him lengthy car rides were best handled by sleeping sandwiched between cargo placed around him like a baby gate.
Our arrival was serendipitously timed with a medical emergency and a ride to the hospital in an ambulance, where we settled in for the twilight zone days and nights of hospital routine, hospital food, equipment alarms, wonky IV’s and bare bottoms peeking through hospital gowns.
Now this is before even moving into our new home, which won’t happen until next week. And so I was not surprised when my sketch pad decided to reveal a young gazelle.
What does message does the gazelle have for me and for our new graduate? Awareness, speed, agility and the ability to quickly maneuver. (These skills came in handy on the car ride, for sure! ) Gazelles are quite vulnerable, and must always be aware of their surroundings. When we face major life changes, we inevitably feel vulnerable as well. The gazelle shows us how to use our awareness and skill to be comfortable exploring the unknown. The ability to explore new paths and change direction when necessary keeps the gazelle safe from hungry beasts, and perhaps keeps us safe from stagnation, depression and feeling vulnerable ourselves.
Through gazelle energy we learn action is the essence of living. The gazelle is the messenger of higher purpose…he knows the way through, and so will we. Somehow I find this quite reassuring, both as a person embarking on big move and as a mother sending her son out into the wide world.
This piece is sold.
“Stork” mixed media on paper,
26” x 18"
I’ve been cleaning my studio the past week or two in preparation for our big move to sunny Florida. Old paints and stubs of pencils, dried up pens and half-started projects found themselves victims of the big purge. Of course, I uncovered a ton of treasures during the process as well, things I will look forward to using in my new studio space next month.
One of the simple treasures I uncovered was a large piece of watercolor paper, the remnant of a huge piece I had cut up for a class. The piece was long and narrow, a little uneven in parts and rough around the edges, but for some reason it had to be painted immediately. (Art supplies speak to me that way sometimes. It may be crazy, but it works!) I had in mind a tall bird, but wasn’t feeling herons or egrets or flamingos. As I mulled my choices, I remembered the dozens of hikes my family has taken in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Florida, where families of nesting storks can be seen at certain times of year. So a stork emerged on the paper within minutes, and dazzled me with his brilliance for several days of play on the paper.
Once the final touches were finished and the stork delivered safely to the framer, I had to know: what message did this stork have for me? There are no babies on the way around here (thank goodness!) which would be the most traditional stork lore. But storks mean so much more than new babies...
The stork represents renewal and rebirth. They are closely tied to water and to feminine energy (alright! channeling my inner priestess!) They are a symbol sacred to Juno, the Roman goddess of hearth and home, who is a warrior for safety. The stork symbolizes protection at home (just what I need for a new abode in a new place!)
In Chinese wisdom, the stork represents long life and prosperity. It also symbolizes good luck and prosperity specifically from unseen sources (who doesn’t like a little serendipitous prosperity?) and this resonated with me.
Stork energy aids you in new beginnings…which is exactly what is in store for me this month! Moreover, stork energy brings you calm and peace through the transition of a new beginning. Now I like that message quite a bit, and feel really touched this stork decided to visit me right now, just before a move, to bring me his wisdom.
This piece is available. Framed. Inquiries: email@example.com
“All The Words In Between” - acrylic and inks on aquabord, 9” x 11"
Artists work ahead. Like retailers buying swimsuit inventory in December so they can put it out in February. As we are hanging the show I’ve been working toward since March, I am finishing the pieces for a salon show in July, “Collaboratus”, in which I am collaborating with local poet and human being extraordinaire, Amy Vaughn. So today you get a sneak peek at mid-summer art treats. Think of it as New York Fashion Week for art…you may not want to wear it right now, but when the season arrives, it will all make sense.
Vaughn’s poetry hits me right in my “everywoman”…the place where we are all connected as human beings, in which our experiences, though unique, bring emotions and “ahas” which are common to many. Vaughn captures those moments in a way that resonates and validates. Take this excerpt from one of her latest poems, “Neighbors” :
What lies in the balance
Between normal and crises?
All of us,
Fumbling in the dark to find our way
When what we are really doing ---
We are looking for
Right away, I feel what she says, right where it matters.
Recently, she posted a poem titled “Words”. Now anyone who knows me knows of my fascination with the written word. Reading it, writing it, noticing juicy phrases and descriptions and tasting them like ripe plums eaten over a kitchen sink. So when this poem came out, I knew I had to paint it.
What I want
Is to write,
To let the raw power of
Escape from the tips of my fingers
And bleed me dry
Like the dying corpse of a
This is what I must do
To purify myself
To make myself whole,
To get it all out
The dirty crusts of words
And the lofty cloudy words
And all the words in between.
Words are the sandwich
And the filling,
The side dish
And the drink
They are the complete meal
For a hungry soul.
When I am done,
When all the words have been
Wrung out of me
And the last drop has
Evaporated into the summer breeze,
Then I will be able to move
Do the laundry,
Run the errands,
Tackle the junk drawer.
But please, she said
Let me be
And let me write.
It is all I can do
It is all I should do.
The art began as this poem written in white ink on black-gesso’d aquabord. Then the woman began to emerge with oil pastels and acrylics, with the words peeking though, like thoughts fighting to get out and be heard. The finishing layer is brilliant inks, adding a glow to the face and intensity meant to convey the passion behind Vaughn’s words. What we want… is to be heard, to communicate, so you know ...what we want.
This piece is available. Framed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Walls and her imaJENation