Sunday, November 29, 2009

a day to reconnect with past memories ...

Today we were quite the elves with the warm weather assisting us as we unloaded the numerous boxes of lights and trees and sleds. After a few hours our cabin was twinkling in sparkling stars, snowmen, trees and bright plaid ribbons fluttering in the winds as the rains slowly moved in for the night. As I opened each small music box I remembered the year we selected each one and how the girls would plead with us to play them one more time. I found their stockings and touched their special ornaments and I felt my heart swell as my memories flooded down my face is sweet salty tears. Colored papers and treasures burst open in the living room and I know tomorrow I will begin selecting appropriate papers for each grandchild's presents. I have not had a job for almost a year so I decided to keep the gifts simple and mainly handmade for each member of my family. A cupcake dress, and dinosaur pillow, and a few more selected pieces to be completed in the next week or so. For the older girls I have some warm and very cute things to wear in the New Year and with a little extra time I am hoping to select a memory gift that they will hold onto in the years to come. Their parents can buy their electronic doodads and games that I am not too sure how to play.

I have had a day with more... more... more boxes than I realized we have ever collected over the 23 years here in our cabin and if I close my eyes I can see Erin, Sherry and Tina flying down the stairs to see what Santa had delivered in his sleigh of eight tiny reindeer. I had decorated the Christmas breakfast table with red teddy bear tablecloth, my festive Holiday dishes and fresh homemade cinnamon waffles and hot chocolate ... I miss those mornings so much right now. My daughters are grown and living their lives with their beloved families and I am so proud. But for a moment I wish we could return to that first Christmas morning in our cabin on the Hill.

Today we have our health and wonderful, diverse families to love and they have given us six miracles...six beautiful grandchildren. Today we will have new rituals and new traditions to share with my greatest gifts in my life. Several artists have emailed me about my simple life but I have a favorite quote that says it so much better than I could have ..."Live simply so others may simply live. I live such a blessed life and putting up handmade ornaments from the past, unwrapping old Christmas cards, caressing a child's stocking...filled my heart with gratitude and joy. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Saturday, November 28, 2009

joy is rising and life is so good...

I will be short tonight because I have had an incredible couple of days starting with the celebration of Thanksgiving with my family. Then I came home to be here to light the courthouse on the square and the opening night of the Central Ohio Ballet Company's 8th production of the Nutcracker. I was a ticket taker on this evening and had time to pass out a few hugs to some dear families as they pass through my ticket line. The Holidays are definitely here and the Joy is ringing through out the city. I also attended a small intimate opening for Tony Reynolds miraculous wood turnings and furniture. He has experimented with the use of natural dyes for several of his vessels and they are stunning! Late on Friday night at 10:45pm I pulled up my driveway to literally drop into my warm soft bed!

Today I worked the matinee performance and yesterday was wonderful but today was GREAT. The small kinks were worked out and the performances seem to be growing stronger. At intermission I assisted my friend Liz Argyle with family portraits standing beside the large Nutcracker for Christmas memories for personalized Christmas cards. I came home checked my latest bills that have just arrived and had a quick bite and we headed over to the Argyles for Family game night. Life just does not get better but I am so tired I doubt that I will make much sense. I promise tomorrow to stay home, relax and catch up on my laundry and begin wrapping a few presents. I have the dining room table decorated and a small Christmas tree begin the family decorations. Now we can get out the Santas and snowmen to set out for the month of December...each one collected with a memory to collaborate a time and ceremony of our family. Forgive me I need to cut this short. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernanadez Stewart

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

gratitude ... a simple thought that gives us all possibilities...

Ken made three of his four pies for tomorrow's dinner for Thanksgiving dinner. I made a fresh cranberry orange relish with walnuts, small bite sized pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting drizzled on top and finally only for my Ken ...I made his favorite...oyster dressing. Everyone is bringing a contribution to the menu and the children have a few arts and crafts projects plus a Disney movie while we all wait for the dinner bell. Tomorrow we will gather to share the gifts we are blessed to have but in the back of my mind I am sending affirmations and prayers to our men and women who are serving away from their families to ensure our freedoms and national safety. The families struggling to put food of any kind on their tables and the unfortunates who may have lost their jobs and homes. I do wish our media would zero in on how if each person reaches out to someone alone the circumstances would gently change for the better. I guess I am not all that interested in shopping on Black Friday in the malls: first money is tight and second I am hoping I will take the girls to Holiday Traditions at the Works to create their 2009 fused glass ornament. Then in the evening I am working with the Midland and opening night for the Nutcracker production. It is also the lighting of our courthouse on the downtown square with Santa arriving for the Holidays on top of a shiny firetruck. I realize this sort of small town stuff but this is what makes memories in our hearts. Have a blessed day with those you love and remember to call home to your family if you are unable to make the trip this season. I am going to start my handmade Christmas cards this weekend for my brothers and sisters. Ken has already created a DVD of his mother's 89th and had them in the mail yesterday. I wish I could be that efficient in my thought processes and delivery. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

today was one for patiently planning the Thanksgiving celebration...

I received this Scrap Award from my friend Anne in Peru, In. now I have to make a list of ten revealing 10 smack in your face truths about me!

I had some time for a little extra quiet calm time as I get physically and spiritually ready for the coming of the Holidays here in Newark, Ohio! I went down to retrieve my three funny snowman pendants that I created with a few friends at the Works Glass Studios. They have a child like appeal in my eyes and will be so much fun to wear in the next couple of months. I then found the new location of our St. Vincent de Paul's Thrift store. They are working very hard to provide a men's shelter for the homeless and a food pantry for nourishment for the many unemployed in the area. I found a few more fabric items and some small holiday supplies to use to decorate with the girls in the next couple of weeks. After this excursion I hit Michael's for some arts and crafts project for little boys to work on at the art table while the Turkey is in the oven. I purchased a new Martha Stewart paper punch of a Christmas tree ...arbor de Navidad...arbre de Noel. No matter what language you speak everyone loves the Christmas centerpiece of the home... the Christmas Tree. I stopped by my daughter's house to give them their craft projects for their Turkey day...the girls are off for six straight days for the Holidays. Tina was working from her home and the girls were very excited to have a real holiday so hopefully they will be able to attend Holiday Traditions to make their very own fused glass ornament at the Glass studios and attend the cookie decorating and a few other surprises things to explore while Mom and Dad work. I then met Ken for the BIG grocery shopping expedition..whew even with two of us the job was time consuming but we did it! I had a certificate for a $1o.oo that would expire from our Kohl's store tonight. I needed to get an exchange so I can start wrapping. I told you we had a very busy day!

Now I am home and the weather is showing visible signs that a frisky cold front is beginning to move in...well November is almost over and we have had very few cold days and nights. I have some snowman work to do while the breads are baking and the pie crusts are being rolled out. I want to sort and rearrange the combined dining/living room to set the mood for candle light and making the room festive in a simple mode of fashion. The openness of the room is a good change for us and we can make the space accessible for winter life in front of the fireplace. I have some more quilting stitches to complete before I can begin to add the delicious beads and embellishments to add another layer of metaphors on my Kath Walker piece.

I picked up the latest edition of Altered Couture and it is truly inspirational in the projects they present in a short 145 pages. It is nice to sit down and have a cup of tea and study methods to alter my own tired clothes ...they are not really worn out but I am tired of their appearance/looks. Skirts and dresses, tops and pants, jackets and vests and shoes plus all the accessories you could possibly dream. This magazine is a great jumping off point for the upcoming 2010 after the holidays close for this season.I look forward to the children's section since I will be making a christening gown by January 3 for Morgan's baptism. I am cutting up the flowing train from the wedding's dress and have a few ideas to make it a simple but elegant gown for her day.

It is almost midnight and I need to get to bed and try to sleep. We will be busy for the nest couple of days. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Monday, November 23, 2009

Joan Mitchell

Today is documentary day on the Sunndance channel and I was immediately attracted to a one hour movie 1992 "Joan Mitchell: A Portrait of an Abstract Painter" directed by Marion Cajori. I never had the opportunity to meet this gestural painter who remain true to her vision of abstract expressionism. Joan was born in Chicago in 1925 to Herbert Mitchell and Mario Strobel Mitchell. Her father was a very competitive man and made Joan very aware of the importance of "winning". Her mother was deaf and wrote poetry until her children were born...expectations from society of what is expected in "women's work. Family first and only...Joan stopped writing herself at the age of eleven...under the guidance of her father ...choose one hobby...and be the best in that area. So she chose to become a painter. Joan attended Smith College to study English and Literature. After a visit to Oxbow art colony in Michigan in the summers of 1942 and 1943 she transferred to the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago to receive her B.F.A.

After graduation she moved to New York and began exhibiting along side other New York artists. She attended Hans Hoffman's classes and very influenced by De Kooning's gestural approach to painting. She later traveled to France, Spain and Italy to return for M.F.A. at the Art Institute of Chicago. As she describes her life in her own words she lived a messy life in her relationships and art politics. After a divorce she moved to Paris, France and struggled with severe depression as she struggled to remain true to herself. In 1968 I was senior in high school and remember hearing about her move to Vetheuil, near Paris. The landscape was her inspiration and her ability to become one in the present with Nature's gentle movement from season to season. She chose to use bold colors as well as very bold brushstrokes in a time when contemporary artists were expressing themselves in charcoals and muted colors as well as black and white. Joan was the first American woman to have a solo exhibit at Mu see' d Art in 1982. She gave vivid insight to how difficult it was for a woman artist to be in exhibits...they had a quota system in the 1950's where only two women in an exhibit and the remaining artists would have to be men or DEAD. Joan discusses how the figure disappeared from her painting process because with abstraction she could not be criticized and her brushstrokes exhibited sinuous strength while her personal life was fragile and mentally in isolation from relationships. Her canine companions would fill her circle of interactions and relationships. Slowly she would allow just certain artists and critics into the circle of her life as an artist. Her interviews are authentic and yet I was able to hear her pain and the struggle to fight her depression. Her paintings are her evidence of her feeling her inspiration and she does not have to explain them to others. Brice Marsden describes her powerful movement in color and composition in her very large un-primed canvases from classical format of the acceptable political art aspirations. Joan talked about her feelings of being an outsider with her days and nights totally reversed. The pain she describes from this isolation and loss of connection are visible in her paintings from this decade in her life. Joan wanted the energy of light in her paintings...she loved Mondrian, Kline and Matisse. But maybe her saving grave in inspiration were Cezanne and Van Gogh. In France she was always seeking the movement if the light ...the light on water... the landscapes in Nature...her home. Joan asks herself "What holds anybody to a painting?" Without light or life there can be no painting connection between the artists and the patrons. The colors are her alphabet...I need to research more about this concept. Her Yellow is Air...for many painters yellow can prove to be a very difficult color to employ in their compositions. Joan's works are enlivened by bright colors as her emotional response to painting what she feels from the inside out. Her visceral approach to visual elements are her realm of her thoughts and experiences. Many feel that is why she was drawn to the house outside Monet's garden...i think she called it Le Grand in valley became her serene safe studio. Her brushstrokes made a lyrical response to her sensations, expressions and experiences were transformed without a subjectivity. The painting process transposes and defines her visual experience onto the canvas for the world to view and study. Joan had a burning sensibility to hide in her abstractions and would reveal her true vulnerability in her pursuit for a sense of balance. During the daylight Joan amasses, collects and absorbs all day long so at night she is able to transpose her experiences in the dark of the night. This helps Joan put herself back together again and she explains the extraordinary in a world we would not expect. Joan discusses with the interviewer the need to keep people involved with the sense of human self...learn to exist as a human being and be true to self allows her to see up close and study elements from afar.

Joan Mitchell is an engaged intense intuitive painter who refused relinquish authority in her painting processes with her self-actualization in her brushstrokes with a mixture of recognizing life and death cycles. She is a role model to sustain her painting against the grain of popularity and documenting her existence in the Art World.

I have a lot of questions and will seek more information about this woman who fought to be accepted for her paintings. I am jazzed by her story and hope to learn more about her. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Sunday, November 22, 2009

a glorious Sunday...

I spent the day with my family moving furniture for preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving reunion. Our daughter and her husband are bringing us all together in a circle of love in their new home. Young couples have so many stresses that I know I did not have when I was in my twenties and with two beautiful small babies under the age of two. Everyone is coming together to help her and to be honest I have never seen her so happy with this challenge. After we made the official move and relocation I shared some of my own special dinner linens to be used in her family now. One was the hand embellished tablecloth and 8 napkins Ken and I used for our first Thanksgiving years ago and the Fall candle sticks and decorations to set the holiday mood for the families coming together. We then had a home cooked dinner with her slow cooked beef roast that melted in your mouth at first bite. Ken made mashed potatoes that were so creamy we now know we will need twice as many for Thursday feast. Home made crescent rolls made with a recipe from Chance's family that were delicious with melted butter and I did take care to not eat more than two...I know I could do some real harm with all this comfort foods lovingly made by the new younger generation of homemakers. Thank you for your loving ways Erin and your incredible generosity. I feel JOY rising when I look into your eyes as you make preparations for this enormous dinner.

Erin and Chance went out to get a new safe Christmas Tree complete with reindeer jingle bells ready to set the mood for pure frivolity. Believe me their son (he is only 2 1/2) was so excited he could barely contain himself as Dad put the tree with lights together so it could be ready to decorate...he climbed up on the couch and hopped off into the sofa pillows. May we all seek and find the child in our hearts when we celebrate with those we know and love. Take a minute to hold the door for stranger rushing in or out of a chaotic store. Be patient on the roadways and try not to let the sometimes angry drivers get under your skin. Listen with your heart. Find a moment to be calm and rest so your body can with stand the craziness often seen in the time of the year.

I came home a finished a collaboration with a dear friend Seth Apter who is undertaking an enormous challenge of uniting over 100 artists in the 4th Pulse Project. Tomorrow I need to relearn how to send the photos I want to include in this project and I pray this step is not a "too difficult" accommodation for Seth to pull off. I was a little intimidated at the final deadline...would mine be a worthwhile contribution for this incredible process. Self doubt and fear are really enemies when an artist steps out into the unknown. Be patient with me and my processes as I am still a novice when it comes to translating the mystical powers of the Internet. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Saturday, November 21, 2009

rituals and ceremonies of honor....

I have had a very busy day filled with human emotions from sorrow to extreme happiness. We attended a memorial celebration for a dear friend who had lived a heroic patriotic life. A gentle, gentle gentleman who raised his family in the purest of love and dedication. It had been a long time since I had witness an honor guard ceremony and taps with all divisions of the American Armed Forces present. (Back in the times of Vietnam and the horrors of war on families I grew up with in Louisville, KY.) The minister player on his accordion "Let there be Peace on Earth" and "Amazing Grace" as he shared the Lord's Prayer, the letter to Corinthians and the Saint Francis of Assisi's affirmation to make me an instrument of Peace. Yes, we were saying goodbye to the human vessel but we will live with his generous spirit as long as we take breath here on earth. We reunited at a nearby church cafe for a lunch shared with memories and love.

We then attended to yearly football rivalry of Ohio State vs. Michigan at the home of dear friends of over 20 years. OSU won and there were many happy touchdown dances during the afternoon and delicious home chili and assortments of finger foods, cheeses and Ken homemade fudge. Before we knew it the afternoon had flown by and we headed over to deliver the table leaves for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast at Erin's house. We had a few moments to play with the baby...Morgan was all decked out in scarlet and gray as a Buckeye from birth tee. Suddenly I realized how totally physically exhausted my body and spirit was. I reached my house and fell into my bed for a short nap....a restorative rest to enable me to finish my last touches for my contribution for The Pulse collaboration for surprise Sunday tomorrow!!! Forgive me for being short but I have work to finish. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Altered Page: Handcrafted

The Altered Page: Handcrafted

a room filled with magic...two wonderful exhibits in one night!

I attended the Rendville Art Works exhibit at the Bryn Du Mansion in Granville tonight. Pure Magic in both the art and the artists!This studio provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to participate in the act of creating art and to experience the sense of community. 100% of the proceeds go directly to the artists to further their journey. I talked to a few of the artists present and they were joyfully eager to share their process and focus with me and I felt honored to be able to have a private interview with such soft spoken honest persons. I took several photos of there exhibit and hopefully you will be able to experience this gleeful show full of bold colors and authentic brave brush strokes. One young man creates large ceramic works with the feel of the clay in his see he is very visually handicapped and walked me personally through three rooms so I would not miss seeing his works tonight. One artist painted "The Duke" to honor Duke Ellington...this artist was proud to wear his cowboy hat as he stood next to his painting. Tonight the image of the moon in the clear crisp November sky... the thumbnail of God...a small crescent moon floated above me as I walked to my car. The was a sacredness in the room filled with loving humane artists creating in a place where judgment never rears it head.

I then rushed to attend Nathan Reich's first solo exhibition of his photographs of landscapes in Hawaii and some spectacular images of dyes and inks hitting and swirling in water to express an ethereal landscape of fluid colors blending. Nathan is a giant gentle spirit who is the graphic artist who does the graphic arts for the Works. He is often quiet, gentle and a pleasure to be working with. I would love to print a transparency of one of his images on to a fine Egyptian cotton to hand quilt messages filled in Peace. I miss working daily with Nathan because he was so generous when I had my retro exhibit of the last 20 years of my quilts last year he printed a large poster to help me advertise my location. This exhibit happened to be in the same location of where my LCA had held their monthly exhibits for the last 7 years. I walked in without feeling the sense of loss I have been grieving since last December. And knowing I was supporting another artists in the same space felt good...real good...healing.

I need to get some work done now as the day has gotten away from me. We will attend the memorial tomorrow for our dear friend Bill over in Westerville. I have been calm and quiet readying myself to be totally present for Marsha. I know I will speak when I need to and know just being there with the family is a visual affirmation for our admiration and love for Bill. I am praying the sunshine will warm our hearts and spirits as we say our goodbyes. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Thursday, November 19, 2009

choose your thoughts wisely... your thoughts become things in your life....possibilities

I have had an interesting day with some interruptions that I was not planning for. I stayed in my pink snowflakes pajamas all day and before I knew it the mailman was at the front door bringing my Creation quilt home from FAVA. The plan is to ship it back in the spring and this gives me plenty of time to find a larger and more appropriate box for shipping. I had just returned my contracts and publicity information to the exhibit committee yesterday with the check to cover my shipping costs. It was if my child had come home and I am more than ready to hang her back up and enjoy her before she returns for May's show dates. Even though I made this work it always amazes me when they return from out of state or another venue that the quilt is part of me. Having Creation home energized me to continue work on a Pulse project for Seth Apter from his Altered Page blogspot. I also have more reorganization to do before the kids pick up the large cherry table for Thanksgiving next week. Whew...most people think I have the leisurely schedules of a stay at home wife and do mostly nothing artist friends are in unison that we are working constantly and daily processing thoughts and ideas. Seth is hosting a "Surprise Sunday" on November 22 at his blogspot so we are all anxiously awaiting the details. Seth has a way of reaching out to many artists he has never even met and yet collaborating with a host of artists and inviting us to think about human fragility and the intimate need we all share to make a connection through the Arts. Stay tuned and we will all be pleasantly surprised on Sunday!!!

I washed some very old fabrics today with a product designed to remove and clean deep set stains... the gown was stained and dark brown in color. The child's dressing gown is not fancy and yet was worn in the first months of a child's life. The humble cross stitches and trims were applied in a medium blue by hands of a new mother or a grandmother...maybe this was for the first male child in the family and may have been used by following siblings born into the family. This is a very precarious process in cleaning...sometimes the disintegration is evident and the fibers too weak to hold their shapes...but thanks to Dr. Cardimon and Dr. Meachum from Ohio State University's fabric restoration classes (my grad program) years ago I have had some experience on how to save the quality and integrity of the cottons fibers so I can employ them with my stitches to write my verses for my narratives. They are drying as I speak as well as some hand crochet trims made by an anonymous woman for maybe pillow cases or center pieces and doilies. I plan to photograph them tomorrow in the sunlight and hopefully they will aid me in my vision for a particular work I have in my mind's eye.

I laid out several other fibers that I have been collecting with some of my inspirations and I can not articulate how wonderful holding these fibers made me feel. I am getting closer to my goal in processing and composing the quilts. I need to start my painting with transparent SETA colors on several portraits with a multitude of women from different generations and cultures...all with their own stories and contributions to my life. Whew I have some pretty BIG thoughts but that is OK if I take one day at a time! Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a rainy day in my neighborhood...

I woke this morning in a cloak of soft rain clouds and velvet gray clouds wrapped around my hill...
the whispers from the whirling remnant leaves of my family of trees outside my bedroom window tapped out a quiet mystical message...
Leaves falling whispered their morning inconspicuous guidance for my day's expeditions
I discovered solace in the warmth of a cup of coffee held gently in my two hands as I attempted to overlook the stiffness in my body's joints... the damp cold hurts my vessel...
calm quiet movements ease me into recognition that I can step out from the comforts of my quilt.
I gaze into the images of a time past
the remembrance of a great woman's birthday with her circle of loved ones.
I remembered a favorite quote as I study the shuffle dance of my trees outside the window...
"Keep a green tree in your heart
and perhaps a singing bird will come."...Chinese proverb
I realize I am missing my Carolina Wrens singing their morning praises... their disappearance saddens me this morning of quiet darkness...
Yet, I have faith that in the Spring
they will return and bring new life into our hillside.
I need to write a few friends
I need to find words...words can hardly articulate what I know they are feeling...
to ease their sorrow and grief as they say farewell to their loved ones.
Maybe even the heavens feel the tears following onto the earth
as the grayness never left the day's passage.
Life is a miraculous circle and we are all following our path.

Imagine and Live in Peace,
Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the beat of a human heart beat....

I attended a celebratory dinner tonight with energetic, positive people who work to make our community a better place to grow and raise a family. The Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau...whew that is the longest name ever...but tonight we held our annual 2009 dinner and Awards Program. We had our final board meeting for 2009 and then went to work setting up the beautiful dining room for our dinner with friends and family recognition. Tourism is an incredible gift for all diverse kinds businesses here in Licking county. After a quick update and brief announcements we began an evening of frolic with wonderful foods...I ate my dessert first... and then we had a most unusual life invigorating audience participation with "Roots of Rhythm" an amazing drumming experience where we became children for the evening. Drums, tambourines, rattles and bells and many many different drums brought the audience to their feet. In an economy where we do not often have things to celebrate tonight was for recognizing collaborations and partnerships to bring visitors to our wonderful community. Awards were given and hugs were exchanged and board recognition with the induction of new officers for 2010. I felt as if we were all in a huge pep rally and the joy was what we all need to move into a new season of activities and special family centered packages to share when you visit Licking county. Thank you all for your dedication and hard work. No one succeeds alone in this world.

I did not get to finish my long pieced jacket coat but I did wear my jazzy purple tights with my big girl boots ...I felt a wee bit feisty and as an artist we can get away with everything in how we dress. Ken was all decked out and our dear friends Don and Betty were our guests. I will include a few photos to share the frivolity of our evening! I doubt if i will be able to work late tonight so I will wish you all adieu for the night. Remember to listen to the beat of your human heart and dance as if no one is looking. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart