Ambiguity, Play, Curiosity

Watched this video (shared by a fellow art teacher)
last night, and was pretty choked up by the end--it is
so right-on with what I believe and try to practice as
an artist and teacher. 

Dealing with Ambiguity, Time for Play and Exploration, 
and Curiosity-based Research!

No idea where these works are going, but embracing
the ambiguity and play, and just need to make some-


Trying to Organize Random Stuff

I decided today that the basic story line of my daily life
at home and at work (in an art classroom) is this: 

She tries to organize random stuff, and then 
gets distracted.

The end. That is it, my life story condensed into one
sentence. Although, what happens after getting
distracted is the best part.

For instance, today I was getting a little over-
whelmed with the rats-nest that is my desk at work,
started organizing, and then thought 'these drawers
are so random they'd make interesting photos'. For
most of creative people's lives, they are shamed for
not being organized enough. Most of the anxiety that
overcomes me isn't from not being able to find stuff,
although that is an issue at times, but from feeling
ashamed of what other people may think. Like Mr.
Besonen often says, we have no control over what
goes on in-between people's ears. And then there is
the fire marshal--that is where requiring students to
clean up after themselves comes in.

I am a recovered perfectionist, have gone through
phases of being impressively organized and sterile,
and got gold stars for it. Then, I realize that all of my
time is spent cleaning and organizing and I am getting 
nothing else accomplished or created.

I like the balance now. I know where most things
are, things get cleaned eventually, and I have to trust
that other people will sufficiently clean up and organize
themselves. Now, often when I start to organize
BAM an idea forms from the juxtaposition of all the
random stuff or a person (my child, a student, my
charming husband), who is more interesting than stuff,
says or does something that I don't want to miss.
People and ideas are more important than stuff, and
more important than getting gold stars for Dwell
magazine-like interiors of spaces where people do
not really live.

My concrete-sequential friends might be rolling
their eyes now and possibly thinking 'she is making
excuses for disorganization'.  Yes, total chaos is
inefficient and overwhelming, but sterilization grows
next to nothing new or exciting. Except allergies--
but I am getting distracted again.

Always looking for new ways to embrace my
imperfections, here is some evidence. Below are
photos of my desk.

Enjoy my chaos. Or don't, but ask yourself why
you can not embrace some chaos. Excuse me, I
have to figure out how to close a desk drawer

Hey, just found the tooth picks I was looking for yesterday!

DISCLAIMER, 100 students go through my
art classroom a day, using hundreds of different
materials in one day. I love art materials, but
I love people and ideas even more.


Resilient Fox

These fox bowls remind me of my daughter Anna. She is 
sometimes fierce and quick, other times cautious and quiet, 
always witty and clever. The fox character first showed up 
in my sketch responses to LouAnn Shepard Muhm's poem 
Litany. Litany is about hope and resilience, and the fox
has come to represent resilience, to me.
That this counterfeited window may allow the scent of sedge. --LouAnn Shepard Muhm
Today, I am thinking a lot about resilience, what I wish for
all my loved ones in the face of life's disappointments and
difficult challenges.
When you are truly doing something new, something that
doesn't have a recipe or formula, it takes resilience through
the fear and uncertainty. "Hope begins in the dark, the 
stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the 
right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and 
work: you don't give up."  ― Anne Lamott
Writers and artists know this--our gifts are meant to be
shared. To hoard and hide our gifts is cowardly. We know
our gifts for words or images aren't truly realized until shared,
and possibly help others. Anna, a voracious reader and aspiring
writer, understands this."When writers make us shake our 
heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, 
and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our 
buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, 
or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead 
of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing 
on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the 
raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits 
of the people who are together on that ship.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

That we may gaze out from our husks, toward the greening promise. --LouAnn Shepard Muhm


After Reassurances

Our first exhibit of Reassurances is done. Some takeaway points:

 1. Most things are more than worth the wait. Here I am seeing the exhibit for the first time at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA, relieved and grateful that LouAnn and I didn't drop the ball over the last four years. Thank you to Jill, Brian, Nancy, the entire Cedar Crest Art department, driver Chuck, students, staff and administration of Cedar Crest College, and photographer Tom. They all made us feel welcome, even though our zealous Minnesota hugging habits surprised a few!
2. Community engagement connects us in unexpected and lovely ways. Fellow artist, Minnesota native, and Cedar Crest Art professor and department chair, Jill Odegaard, led a community engagement project in conjunction with our exhibit. 100 college student and staff bowls, made from paper pulp, clay and mixed-mediums and inscribed with their own writing against fears, were on display in the entrance of the gallery. Most of the bowls were created by students for art courses, but a few were created by college staff. Students started with an online Skype writing workshop with LouAnn, and then made bowls. Later, Cedar Crest staff were invited to participate in bowl-making too... bonding ensued. And, we're told, the closing reception was more highly attended than usual. A student shared with us the story about how she got to know a staff member from another department at one of these community bowl-making workshops, and they were excited to find out just how much they have in common and exchanged phone numbers. New connections that may not happen otherwise--this was a whole new scale of collaboration for us, and we thank Jill for teaching us more about it! (NY Times article, The Art of Community Engagement.)
The crowd ready to hear the artists speak.
The students were so proud and excited about their own bowls.
Cedar Crest student and staff bowls by the entrance of the gallery.

Me, speaking with my hands, or perhaps trying to form a bowl out of thin air!

 LouAnn and I, relaxed and already percolating more ideas.

3. Walk into the the unknown, carrying your fascinations and obsessions. For me these doors-within-doors paintings provide a balance to the exhibit. They are still pretty new to me, but the theme of our artists' talk turned out to be "There is not a formula for collaborating or making art, but pay attention and don't ignore the natural progressions and obsessions that keep showing up in your work, thoughts, and path." Doors, like the sheep and pears in my past work, could be cliche symbols or powerful personal metaphors. The 'door within the door' in these works relates to really paying attention to the beauty of the every day--the subtle, hidden door within the door that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Displayed curved from the gallery wall, echoing the curves of the bowls.



Opening Today!

Sept. 12 - Oct. 17, 2014
Artist Reception: Oct. 16; 6:15 – 7:45 p.m.
Harmon Hall of Peace, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA

Reassurances: Incantation Bowls Reimagined

Sept. 12 - Oct. 17, 2014
Artist Reception: Oct. 16; 6:15 – 7:45 p.m.
Harmon Hall of Peace, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA

Since 2010, LouAnn Shepard Muhm and Tiffany Besonen have been collaborating to create a collection of incantation bowls, in which Muhm’s incantations against fears are inscribed on Besonen’s translucent sewing pattern bowl forms. In 2010, Muhm and Besonen were educated about the large numbers of ancient Babylonian incantation bowls, 6th-8th Century CE, that have been unearthed in Iraq since the 1990s. Ancient incantation bowls are shallow bisqueware forms with a simplified character painted in the center and an incantation against a particular fear inscribed starting along the rim and spiraling toward the illustration. Each bowl and its incantation were created for a specific family’s plea for assurances against particular fears. The bowl was then buried upside down under the threshold of the family’s home. This collaboration between artist Tiffany Besonen and poet LouAnn Muhm has resulted in bowls containing incantations against cancer, violence, poverty, ignorance, and loss of hope, as well as in a series of Besonen’s dreamlike doors within doors, echoing the idea of the threshold. The results are powerful and hopeful.


Gifts of Collaboration

Reassurances: Incantation Bowls Reimagined
(sewing pattern bowl forms containing LouAnn Muhm's
poetry and doors within in doors paintings) is being
installed this week at the Lachaise Gallery. Like a child
before Christmas, I am counting down the days until we go
to Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Details
and an exhibit summary statement are here.

Like most artists and teachers, I have always been good at
working alone. So, this collaboration thing is kind of new
for me. Of course it helps that I have a collaborator who
gets me, as only a dear friend can. We have found that
poetry and art-making have some things in common and
some differences, but they are both a mixture of hard
work and awe. The results are always gifts.

I can not fully explain my excitement when LouAnn hands
me the gift of her words. Having first access to new poetry
is a gift in itself, but then responding to new poetry that
hasn't been out in the world yet is pretty extraordinary.
This is the motivating and daunting part, someone is relying
on me to create something new from those words--
someone who trusts and inspires me. I want to give back.

Now, the collaboration is bigger than us, and sent out into
the world. Reassurances are always gifts.

Incantation Bowls nested, packaged and ready to send.


Assuming we know

We are all guilty of it, not asking enough questions
--assuming we know someone and their ever-changing
stories. Or worse yet, asking questions and not really
listening to the answers.

Making art, for me, is all about asking questions. Not
assuming a thing, but posing a problem or asking a
question, and seeing where it leads. Most often this
process leads to more and more questions and few
answers. This requires patience. Building a body of
work does not happen over night, but it does happen
slowly. I'd love to skip a step or two, assume I know
it all, make it all fit into a pinterest-like/crafty formula,
and then close this chapter, and finally clean up the
dining table. It is messy, my table and the process.

Today, I am asking questions about doors and also
examining this quote by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert,
"Each one of my books has been written to a different person, and 
always to somebody I know well. I find that this is almost the most 
important decision (“Who exactly is it for?”) because that intimacy 
with my imagined reader will completely determine my voice and how 
I tell the story. I think it’s important to keep that one reader in mind 
as you write, and to hold yourself accountable to the duty of 
delighting them or transporting them as well as you can. It keeps me 
honest, somehow, and gives me a more human touch, I hope."

I am not sure how that translates to making art, exactly, 
but I do know that my ten year old daughter is probably 
one of the best people I know at asking questions and 
then really listening to the responses. She is so naturally 
curious and observant. Were we all like that at ten? It 
seems like that is one of her greatest gifts, and something 
that she is teaching me. Maybe these doors are for her;
she won't mind that each door holds more questions than
answers. Each one leads to the next, and then back to
another. A cohesive body of work for me doesn't really
have a beginning or an end, but they are all connected
somehow and tell fragments of stories for Julia to ponder.
She will be asking questions about them, there is no doubt.
(By the way, the bowls are for you Anna, age 13. More to
come about that!)

Here are a few details of recent doors. I am not going to 
show too many entire works now before the big reveal in 
September. The exhibit of my artwork and LouAnn's words 
opens the beginning of September at the Lachaise Gallery
of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA

in-progress: gouache, charcoal, watercolor pencil

gouache, charcoal, acrylic paint, watercolor pencil, & coffee on paper

Grand Marais Door: gouache, charcoal, & coffee on paper

gouache, charcoal, acrylic paint, carbon transfer, watercolor pencil, coffee on paper

Office Hours: gouache, charcoal, & coffee on paper

Painting with coffee


Doors, not the band

I love our Summer bubble! 5.5 miles to a Summer
restaurant job. 4.5 miles to the local organic foods
store. 4.25 miles to the beach. 0 miles to make art
or garden. I broke out of the bubble last week, and it
was worth it. My husband, a 4th grader teacher, often
says that both learning and growth always involve
some level of discomfort. The discomfort, of course,
is temporary.

Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities, so being
there is pretty comfortable. Sleeping on a dorm bed,
on the other hand, was not. The greatest challenge
last week lead to what may be one of my greatest
breakthroughs to complete a cohesive body of work
for Reassurances: Incantation Bowls Reimagined
--Doors. Enter the disclaimer that I am not a big
Doors, the band, fan. My doors are somewhat surreal
though, like the lyrics of the band.

Doors are a natural progression for this body of work.
The ancient incantation bowls were buried under the
threshold of front doors of family homes. Taking photos
of doors and really thinking about the experience of
walking through them was key. So, I walked around
Minneapolis College of Art and Design last week and
took photos of opening doors. Open doors and the
space around them, instead of my first drawings of
cold closed door fronts, lead to the door break-
through. Yes, the metaphors abound. By the way, I
just decided Opening Doors would be my band name,
if I had a band.

In-progress, experimenting with
displaying curved out from the wall
Possibly finished, temporarily entitled Door #1
gouache, charcoal, coffee staining, carbon transfer



Just got back from a workshop for art educators at the
Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Dawn calls it Art
Camp for Big Kids! See her blog post.

That is me working on a collaborative drawing at MCAD,
Experimental Drawing with Val Jenkins
Photo Credit: Dawn Rossbach
Still in the decompression stage, but I do know there
were breakthroughs, and the beginning of a new series of
paintings/drawings of doors that will most likely be included
in the Reassurances exhibit I will send out to Pennsylvania
at the end of August. Another thing I know is that break-
throughs do not happen without a little or a lot of struggle
and frustration. Not sure why I need to constantly relearn
that! I will post images of my doors soon.


My (imagined) conversation with Eva Zeisel

"All negative attitudes inhibit the process of creation; they
stop the joy of aesthetic play... Only the positive attitude
of generosity, a friendly dialogue with our work from the
beginning to the end of its development, will produce
pleasant variety." Eva Zeisel, from Eva Zeisel: On Design.

The design of Eva Zeisel has always made me smile and
relax, but today the words of Eva are inspiring as I am
working on the incantation bowl project. All of these parts
need to somehow fit together into a cohesive collection,
ready to show in September. Need to maximize my time
before September--tell me what to do Eva.

Eva Zeisel's Town & Country "Schmoo" Shakers
Red Wing Pottery, 1947-1956
Eva said, "I have rarely designed objects that were meant to
stand alone. My designs have family relationships. They are
either mother and child, siblings, or cousins. They might not
have identical lines, but there is always a family relationship."
Got it, a cohesive body of work is a happy family reunion.
Note: Need to weed out the reunion crashers or the ones
who really do not want to be there.

"We should not be embarrassed by beauty. In fact, beauty,
harmony, loveliness, elegance, and usefulness...should be
what we designers strive for today in the twenty-first
century." In a 2008 TED Talk, Zeisel said, "We are actually
concerned with the playful search for beauty." You tell 'em

The playful search of beauty is a great way to make art--
and live. Eva died December, 2011 at the age of 105.
Thank you Eva for teaching us to be bold, graceful, and
subtle all at once. According to Lance Esplund, she was
"never frail", and "strong yet delicate." Her works are
"hybrids of plant, animal, and human forms. They relate
to one another like members of a family."


Crox. We are all hybrids.

What do you get when you mix a crow and a fox?
A crox? A tail-heavy bird? A winged vulpes? Earlier,
I was thinking I had to choose between the fox and
the crow, but recently I more fully realize that the
best stories are about life's juxtapositions, contra-
dictions, and even hybridizations.

In-progess Large Litany Bowl
During the last two weeks of the school year, I have
spent a lot of time dreaming about gardening, especially
flower gardening. The scavenger in me is gathering
perennials that other people are thinning out, using
recycled culvert ends as planters. The teacher in me is
not having it with all the daydreaming and insists that all
the classroom checklists be done before my hands dive
deep into pulling out my inner gardener or the neglected

The waitress in me is breaking out again after quite a
long hiatus, and anxious to pay off a few bills and talk
to adults. The mom and wife in me knows how few
Summers there will be with our kids at home, desperately
wanting to go to the beach while desperately avoiding
chores. And the artist in me knows this all ties together

The artist most easily hybridizes all of this and knows
that we are all hybrids--of our families, of our roles, of
our dreams.


"Creativity takes courage." H. Matisse

Have been reading some of the writing of Brene' Brown
lately. We all need reminders like hers, daily. Brown
hits home with her writing about courage and vulner-
ability--to be vulnerable takes courage, and avoiding
vulnerability is the most disengaged and unfulfilling way
to live. This is why I post my art here, and continue to
put it out there.

Hearing You Not Being Heard
I'll never forget the day that I sent my work out
to an artist cooperative in NYC to be viewed as they
considered me for membership. Besides the fear of
a fragile sculpture getting smashed somewhere along
the way, the vulnerability and fear of my own ego
getting smashed was excruciating. So why do it?
Why put myself through that? The only person who
could truly understand that day was my graphic
designer sister-in-law. I remember tearing up as I told
her, "No one will ever know, if I don't get my work out
there." The more I think about it now, that was the
beginning of the realization that I need to make art to be
me and to connect to the world and others. I was feeling
fragile, but it was exhilarating when the gallery got back
to me. Yes, the sculpture made it there okay. Yes, they
wanted me to be a member of the gallery!

The more I put off this need to make art, the more sick I
feel about facing each day. Being authentic and having
the courage to be vulnerable is the most hopeful way to
live. Yes, there are rejections along the way and many
people who just don't get it, but allowing the fear to win is
a way of rejecting yourself. Thanks Brene' for leading me
to what I hope to be a new breakthrough in my art,
parenting, and teaching!

“What’s the most significant barrier to creativity and innovation? 
Kevin thought about it for a minute and said, “I don’t know if it 
has a name, but honestly, it’s the fear of introducing an idea and 
being ridiculed, laughed at, and belittled.” "
― Brené Brown

“Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability 
determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our 
purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being 
vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” 
― Brené Brown

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how 
the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have 
done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in 
the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who 
strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, 
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who 
does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, 
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at 
the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and 
who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.…” 
― Theodore Roosevelt

"Connection: Connection is the energy that is created between 
people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give 
and receive without judgment." 
― Brené Brown


I am the Mom?!

About 7 years ago, I was awoken on a Saturday morning
to the kitchen sounds of clanging and digging in forbidden
places, kids enjoying the freedom of sleeping parents.
The sounds brought back memories of my three younger
brothers--all fathers now. I fell back into the slumber
thinking, 'Mom will take care of it.' And then I shot up to
sitting in bed with the realization, I AM THE MOM!


Are you the crow or the fox?

Am I the crow or the fox? Depends on the day,
I guess. These characters are taking over the illustrations
for this body of work, and taking on a life of their own.

Just finishing up the small bowl series, Not Seeing Us.

See Them Not Seeing Us


DEADLINE: Opening Sept. 12th in Allentown, PA

The contract is signed and we have our first Reassurances, 
Incantation Bowls Reimagined exhibit scheduled! It will
be up September 12th through October 17th, 2014 at the
Lachaise Gallery of Cedar Crest College in Allentown,
Pennsylvania. It is a great space with a lot of possibilities
and natural light, and I look forward to meeting the
students and staff of Cedar Crest College next Fall.

For a few years, I have had time to experiment, read,
write, and play, but deadlines are a great thing. Thirty
unfinished projects are awaiting completion. Lately, I've
been repeatedly saying, "It is a start, but it isn't Art yet."
The beauty of deadlines is that they force me to make
those final leaps, risks, and connections.

Below are some sketches that will soon be illustrations in
in the centers of small bowls for the Against Want bowl
series based on the incantation poem This is a talisman
against want by LouAnn Muhm.

"abacus clack, not enough, not enough, not enough"

"constant weighing, what is held against what is needed"



My recent bowl illustration has two crow forms
tessellated like twins, surrounded by a ribcage or shell
form and LouAnn's haunting and visceral words, "Always 
into the glare... banished from this place...through 
that bony canal... sob air into new lungs."

I have developed a fondness for crows. I meet them daily
on the winter drive to work. Their solid, shimmering, dark
bodies contrast the snowy roadsides. Scavengers, willing
to put themselves on the edge to survive--sometimes
haunting eyeless shadows in the periphery, other times,
graceful blue-black dancers. But scavengers, always
scavengers, and I am often amazed at how they not only
survive, but thrive into such large birds.

Scavenger was my nickname when I was a counselor
and the arts and crafts coordinator at a YMCA Summer
camp in college. I dug in the dumpsters for cardboard,
searched for rocks and sticks in the woods--whatever I
could find to make art with campers on a small budget.
The camp director gave me that nickname, but what he
didn't know is that I really didn't mind. Scavenging
energized me. I was not only surviving, but thriving and
learning how to make something out of next to nothing.


Avoiding Perfectionists and 4 Other Serenity Moves

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the
enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped 
and insane your whole life...  Perfectionism is a 
mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are 
the artist’s true friend. What people somehow 
(inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when 
we were children was that we need to make 
messes in order to find out who we are and why 
we are here...”  Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

Serenity Moves for Spring
  1. Keep remembering that perfectionism is the oppressor. As a recovering perfectionist, I avoid perfectionists who are in denial, or at least do my best to not allow that insanity to reinfect me. 
  2. Embrace temporary messes as necessary to progress. And of course, insist other people clean up their own messes and don't be a perfectionist freak about how they do it. As an Art teacher and a mother, this one has taken me quite a few years to embrace.
  3. Keep the focus on people, not things. One of the best moments with my 9-year-old daughter last Fall was right after she broke one of my favorite (and most expensive) coffee mugs. She looked at me in a panic, terrified. I walked over and didn't even look at the mug, just focused on her. I gave her a hug and said, "You are way more important than a coffee mug." (If only I could always keep my cool like that.)
  4. Mud is a necessary part of Spring. Embrace it. We live in a new home with a moat of mud all around. Mud means that Summer is coming. Mess = Progress.
  5. The surest path to serenity is gratitude. 
Serenity Deer is looking out for us. My oil pastel demo to students this week.


It's really happening!

I can not explain the progress of our collaborative 
project any better. So, below is LouAnn's recent blog 
post. I have said it many times before; Spring is a 
great time for creative energies. The time when those 
hibernated ideas climb out and insist upon being 
heard. The time when I get this Spring urgency for 
action, passed down from generations of farmers... 
Time to embrace new growth.

Litany Bowl Series, Shaggy Tinder

It is really happening!
by LouAnn Muhm, louannmuhm.com
March 22, 2014

After two years, and much planning, dreaming, and work,
Reassurances: Incantation Bowls, Reimagined is getting
ready for its debut.  We are pretty sure (contracts in the
works) that the collection will be exhibited in Pennsylvania
in October of this year. It is truly amazing to think back to
the inception of this crazy idea (read more here and here)
and to realize that Tiffany Besonen and I have actually
made it happen, with the help of the Minnesota State Arts
Board, Region 2 Arts Council, and a number of individuals,
most notably Jennifer Heath, who was there when we had
the idea, helped us talk it out, and has supported it all along.
Jill Odegaard is doing the same now, helping us finalize all
the moving parts, and helping us imagine new moving parts.

The bowls pictured are smaller, more fragile ones, each
with one line of a poem called “Litany”–a list of my
wishes, for myself and for the world. The small bowls are
as beautiful as the big ones, and their fragility echoes the
fragility of my hopes. Both require careful handling.

I am continually amazed at the way Tiffany’s visual
images enhance and expand my understanding and
appreciation of my own words.  Writing poetry is such a
mystical process, and writing these incantations has been
even more so. Listening to Tiffany’s process of thinking,
and seeing how her imagery has evolved–now crow and
fox are emerging as themes, with all their mythical,
metaphorical and symbolic richness–has made my own
process deeper and more meaningful.  This is the beauty
of collaboration. The work of the collaborators intertwines
and informs itself and becomes something wholly different
than the component parts alone.

Stay tuned for more definite news, and thanks for being

LouAnn Muhm is the recipient of an Artist Initiative 
Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This 
activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota State 
Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage 
 fund with money from the vote of the people of 
Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008.


Litany Bowls Series

Currently, I'm making more progress on Reassurances:
Incantation Bowls Reimagined, an art and poetry
collaboration with poet LouAnn Muhm. LouAnn wrote
the poetry. I am creating the illustrated and inscribed
bowls. Exhibition possibilities are becoming more of a
reality, really moving this project forward.

Now I am working on adding LouAnn's words from her
incantation poems onto the surface of more bowls. Uniting
the words and illustrations onto the sewing pattern paper
surfaces proves to be a powerful and long-anticipated
process--a coming together of three art forms to create
one. Ideas are brewing about how they will be displayed
and how they will interact with the viewers.

Below is the series of smaller bowls, each containing a
line to Litany, an incantation poem by LouAnn Muhm.

As far as we know, the ancient incantation bowls were
only really viewed by the maker(s) and the family before
they were buried under the threshold (and sometimes
windows) outside of the family home. 

About ancient incantation bowls:
In 2010, I was educated about the large numbers of ancient 
Babylonian incantation bowls, 6th-8th Century CE, that have 
been unearthed in Iraq since the 1990s. Although there are some 
variations, most ancient incantation bowls are shallow bisqueware 
forms with a simplified character painted in the center and an 
incantation against a particular fear inscribed starting along the rim 
and spiraling toward the illustration. Each bowl and its incantation 
was created for a specific family’s plea for assurances against fears 
and was buried upside down, under the threshold of the family’s 


Relief & Reunion, 6 years later

Yesterday was in the 40s! Yesterday was in the 40s! After
70 days below zero here in Northern Minnesota since
December 1st, this is news and such a relief. Living in the
coldest place in the contiguous United States, I often think
about the Canadians North of us. Why aren't they whinier?

People are buzzing around, and breathing out a collective
sigh. Our dog, Wimpy, is diving head first into snow banks
and coming up with a mouthful of snow and a doggy grin.

LouAnn, art collaborator and dear friend, and I went skiing
in the woods yesterday. I've been wanting to get out to the
curved fallen-pine site deep in our woods for some time
now. Six years ago I placed these AMBIOTIC sculptures in
our woods and began documenting the change over a couple
years. Other projects took precedence, yet I've been
wondering. The anticipation to reach the site was building
yesterday, and then they appeared. It was an overdue
reunion. The first thing out of my mouth, "They are so
dark." Over time, they have darkened, shifted, shriveled,
become more ash-like, and recently lichen-coated.  

"Brittle expectancies", from one of LouAnn's recent
incantation poems, seems fitting here. (Click on images
to enlarge and see better detail.)

6 years, 2008-2014. Sewing pattern paper, wax, wire, gel medium.
2014. The words and graphic markings of the sewing paper still there.
2014. They may look like ice, but there are still some beeswax edges.
2014.   Taking on hive form & texture, with some added lichen-coating.
Maybe this was an exercise in patience, or aging, or letting
go. Five years ago in the post Can you be still?, I wrote,
"A year in the woods. Today, February 1, 2009, deer tracks
lead the way back to this place. Once again, the resiliency is
encouraging me to be in winter, be still, and watch. Like water,
I tend to flow in many directions, but not today."

A special thank you to Mr. Besonen for grooming the ski
trails and making my art time possible.

View from under the installation in 2008
Detail in 2008