Thursday, October 30, 2008


Today is my 49th birthday. I really like the number 49. My favorite mathematical operation is multiplication probably because of its relationship to pattern making. I still remember learning the tables up to 12. I especially liked squaring numbers. 36 and 64 are such round numbers but 49 is a great square of a lucky angled prime number and only obtainable that way. There is something unique and crisp about 49.

Nine is a a good number for me. I have individual memories of earlier ages but the first age I really remember being is nine. When I was nine, I was in fourth grade, Mrs. Turgeon was my teacher and I read every Nancy Drew mystery. It was such a touchstone that for years I could tell what grade I had been at particular age by comparing it to nine - I must have been 12 in seventh grade because I was nine in fourth, I was in second grade when I was seven because I was in fourth when I was nine.

The zero birthdays always get big celebrations and signify change but there is something special too about nine birthdays. The last year you are in a particular decade. Maybe they seem special to me because I was born late in the month, late in the year, in the last year of a decade. I get an extra click as I pass that certain point in the circle of the seasons.

Monday, October 20, 2008


This entry was started more than a month ago. Now we regularly wake to widespread frosts . . .

A few weeks ago on an early morning walk I came across a patch of frosted ferns and grasses. It was a cool morning – too cool for mid-September – but I hadn’t seen any other frost. The spot was lovely with the light making each crystal glow and a bit eerie highlighted by its differences – a textbook microclimate – a spot that differs from the surrounding area. Now I have been thinking about how we each create our own microclimates - sometimes purposely and sometimes in a less examined way. We create the conditions, the metaphorical south facing slope or low valley, which in turn nurture or constrict our growth.

I recently read two articles, one on parenting and one on politics, that stated how little people’s opinions are influenced by science or other objective data. Once set, we are reluctant to let in anything that does not support our existing beliefs. In the case of politics, the author mentioned how data that refutes a thesis can even be used to support that thesis through denial of the validity of the evidence or disparagement of its source.

So now the question is how Art – definitely in this case with a capital A – can moderate these tendencies. Is expressing ourselves creatively a way to share our microclimate with others – a way to cross the boundaries of difference through communication? Can the artist’s willingness to delve into her own microclimate, study it, question it and reconfigure it in dialogue with an audience be a catalyst for others to step outside their own boundaries?

Specifically, as a visual artist, can I effectively interrupt the viewers’ status quo long and deeply enough to breach the divide. And if so, how best to do this, through shock, through beauty, through subtle effects that stay with the viewer and influence gently?

The purpose of art is not the same as the purpose of propaganda or persuasion. I have no desire to dictate or mold a viewer’s response. The goal is not unity of thought. But I do have a wish to elicit a response strong enough create change . Change - a word used in this season every year but this year a word we can not escape.