Monday, August 27, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Big Room by Andrew Wyeth

The funeral tomorrow
Estate sale the day after
the memories persistent
and so rich and red like the apples.
She could still hear
the thump of her cane
on wooden floor
the tick-tock of the clock.

She wanted just one thing
from this house
where she spent her summers
the clock that once scared her so
It's just my mother's clock
her Aunt would say.

But why must it tick-tock so loudly

So you can hear time passing.

Why must it pass? I want it to stay.

You cannot hold time in your hand.

The conversation so oft repeated
now over but in her memories
the clock had not worked for years
She wanted now only one thing
To make her Auntie Boe's clock
tick-tock again
so she could hold time in her hands.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2012

In loving memory of Auntie Boe and all the relatives I remember
who lived in old houses with scary clocks.
The worst of these was the coo-coo clock at Uncle Ray's.
It was an owl that went whooo on the hours.
It owned the dark at the top of the stairs.

See the Mag 132 for links to other creative takes on the prompt this week.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Great Company

Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico Exhibit at Angel Fire Visitor's Center
L to R Shirley Ellingboe, J. Binford-Bell, Steve Knight, Jessica Duke, Carol Rupp and pottery by JoAnne DeKeuster

Artists are rather solitary creatures and organizing them to do much of anything is like herding cats. And yet artists tend to gravitate toward each other. There were the salons of Paris with the Impressionists, and the Others, a post WWI New York collective. Taos, New Mexico got famous for its artists with the beatniks and Taos Moderns. Some of the names given to groups of artists come long after they have died and are bestowed upon them by art historians. But artists do collect around certain areas - areas that inspire them to paint, or write, or sculpt.

A more airy fairy friend of mine says it has to do with the energy of the place and I can embrace that. But it probably also has to do with rents. And the ability to get together however informally and feed off each other. Sounds like barracuda on a coral reef? But even though we work alone in our studios we like to see what our friends are doing. And if artists can be said to have friends it is other artists. Who else wants to spend hours talking of tone and texture or the new medium they are experimenting with.

And in this economy artists need to band together to get noticed at times. And so the revival of the art guild. We tried this a decade ago in the rarefied air of Moreno Valley. Back to the analogy of herding cats. But enough people talked about it wistfully in the last few years that we decided to give it a go again. Theory is we were to rigid and formal the first time around. Heck, most of the historic groups of artists were formed around a favorite bar. We are forming this one around a valley and Facebook. And without thinking about it too hard we managed to put together our first exhibition at the Angel Fire Visitor's Center.

Sherry Wolf of the Old Town Gallery in Cimarron, New Mexico

Katherine McDermott formerly owner of Artspace Gallery

L.Martin Pavlitch with his own studio in Cimarron, New Mexico

Photography by Deborah Binford-Baker represented by Binford-Bell Studio of Black Lake, NM
Small oils on right by Shirley Ellingboe

Melinda Marlow of Cimarron

Distances between us and our studios are greater than artists on the streets of Paris or Taos. And the linchpin galleries that once connected us are suffering from the economy. Old Town Gallery in Cimarron, which represents me and Sherry Wolf and Steve Knight is basically summers. I and JoAnne DeKeuster, Jessica Duke, Carol Rupp, and Katherine McDermott have their studios open for visitors and customers. My studio, Binford-Bell Studio and Gallery, represents my sister's photography.

Once galleries did our advertising and arranged exhibitions and receptions but now we do that ourselves. And so it is great that the Angel Fire Visitor's center has this wonderful space to display our works together or separately. There are more solitary artists in our area. And we hope they join up with us. I think there is opportunity in even a loosely formed group or collective of artists.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Without Definition

Under Windsor Bridge by Valette

All the edges 
no banks or embankments
pillars or piers.

All the lines
within the swallowing fog
all sounds whispered.

All the definition
in our minds
our memories.

by mist.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Revisiting a Milestone - The Creative Process

Grand Procession by J. Binford-Bell
24 x 30 mixed media on canvas

Every artist revisits a subject from time to time. Monet's Water Lilies give us permission. Often we return to a particular subject or sketch because we do not think we got it right the first time. And sometimes because we did get it right and we think we can build on that. And some painters do things over and over because it sold.

Grand Procession was a break through painting for me in so many ways. It was my first goddess painting. It was my largest painting up to that time. And one of my first prize winners. It was not my first poured sky or spiral stars or use of metallic paints. But it is often the one my followers remember as being the first. Mystic Passage holds that honor.

Mystic Passage by J. Binford-Bell
20 x 24 Mixed media on canvas

The interesting thing about these two paintings is that neither of them sold. And that my be my fault because I loved both so much I hardly ever took them to a fair or entered them in a show. They were my models for what worked and I often used them as inspiration for other paintings that built on what worked in these two. Mystic Passage still hangs in my studio even though I have moved past it.

Grand Procession was taken to an exhibit and suffered a fatal accident. Another framed painting fell against it and ripped the canvas. I stared at the torn work for a couple weeks before I finally cut it off the stretcher bars and rolled it up to save to use in a collage my brain has been working on for months. Yesterday I got out the sketch that was the basis for Grand Procession and made some alterations. I have transferred the new sketch to a 24 x 24 inch canvas to paint.

Will the new painting be a copy of the other? No. I have moved beyond in skills and materials from that point and I can see so many things I would do differently if I had it to do again which I do. I have gotten to that point with it that I was with all my works of art my parents owned; never once did I enter their house without wishing I had brought my paints to fix this or that. Do you suppose DaVinci ever felt that way about the Mona Lisa?

As for paintings that do not sell? I understand that Georgia O'Keeffe had over a 1000 paintings in her studio at the time of her death.

Am I ready to redo Mystic Passage? No. But I am ready to sell it.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Image by Francesca Woodman


A past so long hidden
she considered it gone
Memories covered with layers of nacre
hiding grit beyond her reach.

The conch whispered of beaches walked
shells she must have collected.
Keepsakes gathered
in a basket in her bathroom.

She would stare at them stepping from the shower
Pick up each tulip shell and Scotch bonnet 
as the haze swirled around her
her fingers remembered what her mind could not.

Friends would speak of the time before
as if all it took were words
to re-install the past into her life
Give her days roots.

She gave up
accepted that life began the day after
In her struggle to get on with living
The past was just an accessory.

All the pretty shells
were but talismen of a youth
She did not remember
Did not need.

Clutching the conch
toting the basket she tripped
shattered all the pretty shells
over the patio.

Between the fragments
glimpses of a past
she did not want to remember
lay revealed.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spirit Run

Spirit Run by J. Binford-Bell

Spirit Run is my latest completed work. I have done three paintings after my sabbatical into photography. All of the three have employed not just my customary liquid watercolors and inks but oil sticks. And I have moved on to less familiar subjects. As a result I have spent more time in sketching and more time working on one picture at a time.

All the pretty horses

What young girl, who fancies herself artistic, doesn't spend time drawing horses. In fact, had I kept my high school spiral notebooks, you would find they were more full of horses than notes. I was the kid who ran with scissors. Today we diagnose them HAADD, hyper active attention deficit disorder, and medicate them. I found I could attend to what was being said in class if part of my overactive brain was drawing in the margins of my notebooks.

But I digress. When I conceived of the idea of running horses I frankly had forgotten how to draw them so it was back to Google for images to use as models and yes, a drawing lesson on two. I drew five or six horses in different positions and then I traced each individual and laid them on a table. I rearranged until I had my basic composition. Then I traced through what I wanted on a larger sheet of tissue paper.

Liquid skies

Nothing beats liquid watercolor for skies. And because of working in that medium I begin my skies first. They set the tone for the rest of the painting. And it is easier to mask off the foreground and quickly lay in the sky than mask off the background and laboriously fill in the touching middle ground. It is oh so much quicker too and allows you to get the mask off before it decides to be part of your final work.

Painted ponies

There is a set of my followers on my Face Book Fan Page that believe this is where I should have stopped. There is certainly a simplicity about it and I can see where after pouring the sky I could have masked the horses legs and tails off and poured a simple "ground" for them to run upon. I keep my sketches so there is no reason I cannot do that version later. It just isn't at this point where I wanted to go with this work. Like I knew where I wanted to go.

Horses melting into the land

I like my goddesses and now my horses to be a part of the landscape. My original idea was that they should appear to come out of the land. Like my previous work Stampede, Spirit Run is based on the feeling I got upon visiting Dead Horse Mesa in Canyonlands area of Utah. They are ghost horses.

From the earth

And so the dark space which can be shadow cast by the setting sun or the chasm between mesas that live horses could not leap or a hole in time from which the horses emerge. At this point the painting is still all watercolors except from some metallic glitter floated in on the wet colors. I was also at this point sure I had ruined the painting. It isn't easy adjusting to the fact that with inks and oil I can cover up a lot of my mistakes.

Laying on of the oils and ink

Inks add definition and the oil sticks I think add weight. Made the horses look maybe a bet too real so I worked on fading the center horses back into the chasm from which they came and uniting them more with the earth.

In the finished work at the top of this blog some of the streaks in the earth become water by the addition of inked in ripples of silver. All my desert paintings have water. For me it is a prayer for moisture on the dry land. And in this time of drought I also put on a thunder cloud brand on the shoulder of the lead horse. And of course there are my signature ravens around the sun. And the one all alone which stands for a lost friend.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Conversation

A Dinner Table at Night,  John Singer Sargent

The Conversation

her attention exhausted 
smile worn out
the dinner too long.

the room too warm 
a distant memory invaded.

across the room
she saw his ghost
in conversation with another.

she wished for escape
from yet another conversation
with yet another man.

J. Binford-Bell
August 2012

Check out The Mag with other poems and conversations inspired by Tess Kincaid's prompt.