Crosses in oil

Slogging along with these, though more connected to the one on the left. Both painted over other pieces but the next step is layering painted images on top of each other.


I work with this image often. The wheel of heaven, blessings and/or energy from above and the generative threshold, entry. I started with the drawing and moved into paint.

Balance is still a work-in-progress. Working over an old piece.

Sketchbook Ideas

How does one get ideas? Apparently watching histrionic black and white Vivien Leigh movies from the 30’s works for me (though last night it was 2 episodes of Fear the Walking Dead.) Vivien Leigh and zombies were conductive to making pencil and watercolor sketches. Individual pieces are small, no bigger than 3×5″.

Cross Theme

Gouache seems to be the intermediary medium for me at the moment. The one I’m using to experiment with these shapes and forms. I’m still layering on top of older collage pieces. It’s interesting to me that even though I’ve been a collagist for years, the concept of layering in paint has been difficult to apprehend. But I’m getting there.

At the moment drawing inspiration from Chagall’s complicated forms, layered colors and subject matter.

Shrine Madonnas

A friend sent me a review of Elina Gertsman’s book, Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna, published by University of Pennsylvania Press this year. One look and I was smitten.

“In this truly multidisciplinary study of one of the most perplexing and beguiling of medieval visual traditions, the so-called Vierges ouvrantes, Elina Gertsman…. it brings together attention to the material and phenomenological specificity of objects and the theological, political, and epistemological dimensions within which they were created, viewed, and handled, or mishandled. One of the book’s most important contributions is its focus on the way the Vierges ouvrantes articulate a relationship between outside and inside, not just on an iconographic level but also and more importantly in terms of bodily process and passage. …Gertsman’s prose [is] finely balanced with the seriousness of her concern with the fundamental questions of how visual experience not only informs but actively shapes the way human beings experience physical, social, and psychic bodies.” —Alexa Sand, Utah State University

The idea of the sacred and profane body, inner and outer, and fragmentation are certainly  themes in my work based on sacred images. My intention is to research and understand the history of that impulse, articulate it and create images with paint that evoke that.


Cross Madonnas

Using mediums has helped me ease into oil painting. I worked with oils a long time ago with a teacher who wouldn’t let us use thinners, mediums etc. and we learned to clean our brushes with soap and water. I used palette knives and came to like them, but I enjoy the fluidity of paints thinned with medium. The concern: I’ll just repeat what I do in watercolor, gouache and ink. A better understanding of the medium would open up other ways to make images. I also feel I still rely too much on “staying within the lines” when I make an underdrawing. Often the initial drawing  becomes part of the picture.

The two cross madonnas below are works in progress.

In #1 I mounted a handkerchief on stretched canvas then painted into it using gouache and acrylic.I have a pile of  handkerchiefs my mother has sent me over the years. I used to sew clothes by hand and on a machine, and make quilts. I’m always drawn to the tactility of fabric, the history and sentiments/emotions attached to old fabric. Louise Bourgeois’s small fabric pieces have always inspired me and I’ve kept my mother’s gift handkerchiefs with the hope of using them. Not sure this is the way but there’s something about the piece I like.

#2 started with the image from the sketchbook, and I drew a rough sketch of it on top of an acrylic painting on paper. Then I worked into it with oils, adding some imagery but also allowing previous images to inform choices. I like the hint of a woman’s leg and breast though (of course) not sure where this will go.

Below: pages from my sketchbook noodling and doodling about crosses, madonnas, insects, vegetation and maybe Carmen Miranda. The cross in the lower left of sketchbook 1 reminds me of a dancing, singing Miranda. Maybe another direction.. ? 🙂




Exploring the cross theme is richer than I imagined. I have yet to leap into creating a large piece on white canvas or paper, but I made a conscious choice to work over existing pieces (which satisfies my desire to re-use/re-purpose) and as I paint, I see how I relate to the underlying piece. Even if I “erase” it, it affects how I chose to develop the the image. And in pushing myself to work with crosses almost exclusively, I’m uncovering my relationship to it, and questioning what I consciously thought about it, while allowing myself to go down all sorts of paths and make all sorts of connections without censorship.

The 3 below were made the other day and are directly related to madonna figures I’ve painted/drawn that include vegetation. They have a solid, earthy quality.

The following are particularly exciting. The 2 on the left were made last week (and I admit they felt close to finished) but I worked into them. This action of “working into” a piece, or working with one image, has been especially hard for me to understand, in large part because my practice has been developing a light, quick and facile style. I’ve spent years developing a spontaneous, authentic line. But that mercurial style belies a restlessness thread in my work as well as my life. The good side of that quality is agility and an ability to adapt, but the flip side is difficulty sticking with, and committing to, a project after the initial bloom wears off.  I’m actually working very directly with that restlessness in daily life. This decision to do a graduate program has upended my life in ways I couldn’t predict, and restlessness is rampant, but just as I’ve made the commitment to be still and pay attention in day-to-day decisions, I’ve also committed to a similar art practice, and it’s finally making sense.

Now for my life to make sense. I actually doubt that “making sense” is even the point… 🙂