Monday, August 3, 2015

Shifting gears... again

The Writer's Cottage at the Bingham Cottage residency, Hog Island, Maine

August. Hard to believe that I left Colorado in May and am still away. I've changed hats yet again... from Program Manager to Euro-traveler to Instructor... and now Artist-in-Residence.

I'm still on Hog Island, but I've moved from the camp peninsula on to the main part of the island. I've made my own camp in two historic buildings, known jointly as the Bingham Cottages.

Millicent Todd Bingham gave Hog Island to the National Audubon Society in 1936, naming the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary for her mother and establishing the camp's mission as a teaching facility. What we today call "the Binghams" are the last two remaining buildings of the original 8 that were the summer compound of Millicent's parents, David Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd. Mabel's story is long and complex (and a bit scandalous), but she is probably best known as the woman who first edited and brought to publication the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

The cottages were restored in 2012 through the efforts of the Friends of Hog Island volunteer association. In 2014 both a writer and a playwright spent time working in these cottages, and the Bingham Cottage Artist Residency program came to an informal start.

Part of my tenure here is to help formalize the residency program, which we hope to launch and  begin taking applications for this fall. I'm staying in the cottages with one eye to potential residents who won't necessarily already have a connection to this place and its wonders (or quirks). A sort of shakedown cruise to iron out the wrinkles. If you're in to mixed metaphors. Which apparently I am.

The Main Lodge porch

Main Lodge interior. Photos of the interior as it looked during the
early 1900s are on the wall in the back.

The cottages are "rustic," which means no water and no power. Well... there's a small solar panel which provides enough juice to power a laptop or cell phone and a small light in the Lodge, but the Writer's cabin is strictly off-off grid. And yes, there's an outhouse.

But I have my own beach (when the tide is out), my own red squirrels, and from time to time my own bald eagles perched in the "yard."

What I don't have is a lot of success yet with drawing. Mostly I keep trying to tackle things that are entirely too ambitious, too complex. When I sit down and draw the things I've been carting around in my pockets, no problem. But what I love most about this landscape is the intricacies of ferns and mosses and the ridiculous shades of green. When it comes to drawing, this landscape does NOT love me back.

Seed cones of white pine and red spruce, spruce branch with lichen

At least not yet.

Remains of an old rock wall

Of course part of the "problem" is that I've set myself up to try to accomplish entirely too many things while I'm here. The project I arrived wanting to do has already morphed into something else. And there's the residency to hash out. And some interp displays to get started on. And a couple of little sessions to do at Family Camp next week. And of course there's still a social schedule. ;-) So I'm constantly distracted. And while I'm seeing a zillion potential linocuts, that's not what I thought I would be doing, so of course I didn't outfit myself for it. Ah, well. I'll figure it out.

Until then, I'm enjoying many beautiful sunsets (doesn't this look like a good potential lino to you?) and the companionship of waves and seabirds. Not a bad way to spend my time.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

There and back again... and again.

Um, yes. Life has been a bit surreal lately. And if you read this entire post, your life may take on a strange aspect, too... since this will be a longish narrative. But there will be nice photos, I promise.

Hey, that's me! Sketching ancient rocks in a French meadow.
After a week in the Netherlands I traveled to France, first to visit friend and colleague Jean-Louis Verdier and his wife Dominique. It was great to see more of Jean-Louis' work, which has run the gamut of science and science fiction illustration. I was most familiar with Jean-Louis' insect paintings... sometimes enormous, and always intricately observed.

Jean-Louis is also one of that interesting breed of Frenchmen who is (and I say this without exaggeration) mad about American "old time" music. He has an amazing collection of antique banjos and mandolins, and was kind enough to indulge my request for a private concert. (You can watch a Sigrove Stompers video here.)


Together we visited the Jardin des Sens in Coutières. It's a special place, not only for its lovely gardens, but also because it filters water for the entire community through a "natural" system.

From the countryside around Fomperron I traveled to the coast of Bretagne, wherein I made my one and only train mistake (and I rode a lot of trains). I missed my stop and ended up at the end of the line on the last train of the day. With much gesticulating I was finally able to convince the Chef du Gare to call my friend Denis ("Oui, he speaks French"), who was waiting in the place I was supposed to be. I felt a bit foolish, obliging Denis to drive further to retrieve me, but in the end it turned out to be a good mistake. We drove through the marais salants as the sun set, watching the paludier at work and getting to see marsh owls and baby avocets.

The trip to Mesquer was the impetus for the entire trip. Not the grand art or great food of the Continent, but a birthday party under a big tree in a garden by the sea.

It was so great to spend time with friends old and new, including a few I hadn't seen in 16 years. (!!!) The birthday boy, Denis Clavreul, and mutual friend Robin D'Arcy Shillcock (both outstanding artists, of course) have been my friends, colleagues, and confidants for almost 25 years. Our in-the-flesh meetings are infrequent and all-too-brief... but each time we pick up as though no time has passed and sharing a table is the most natural thing in the world. Which it is.

Dunes and beach at Mesquer, France
But with a blink it was over and I was in motion again, first to spend a day in Rotterdam with my dear friend Nicky and then overnight in Amsterdam for my flight back to the States. In Rotterdam Nicky and I visited the new grand Markthal... an astounding indoor market building. (With apartments all around the top and sides.) I didn't take photos of the exterior (you can see plenty if you follow the link), but here's a panorama of the interior. (That's Nicky looking at the interp display in the lower right.)

Markthal Rotterdam - click to embiggen
One of many cool things about this building is that it has interpretive displays! During the excavation  for three levels of underground parking they uncovered many layers of Dutch historical artifacts. The escalator to the parking levels is itself an exhibit... a timeline of Rotterdam history as you travel up and down.

Markthal escalator with timeline.
At each level's landing there is a door to the parking garage, and just outside the door is an exhibit of artifacts discovered during the construction.

It's fascinating stuff, and really thoughtfully done. (In both Dutch and English, if you're wondering.)

After the Markthal we stopped in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, which has fantastic collections of old masters and modern oddities. I spent a lot of time in the print room, which rotates its displays of work on paper every few months. One can also sit on the bench and access the collection digitally to check out works that are not currently on exhibit. (Images are projected on the wall opposite the bench.)

Nicky returned home to Hardenberg and I found my way to Amsterdam and my hotel. The next day I flew to Boston (via Detroit, if you can believe it). I spent two nights at the Mass Audubon Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, where I had a chance to view an exhibition of watercolors by Don Eckelberry and to lead a couple of printmaking activities with children at the Museum's summer camp program.

From there it was back to Maine and Hog Island. Yes, it was one of those cliché weeks: Monday France, Tuesday Netherlands, Wednesday Travel, Thursday Boston, Friday Maine. It's now a week later and we have just wrapped up five days of programming for Educators' camp.

On Monday the next adventure begins, as I move out to the Bingham cottages and take up my role as Artist-in-Residence.

It's overcast and cool here today, and fairly quiet. All of the campers and most of the staff have gone back out into the world and those of us who remain are enjoying a more leisurely pace... catching up with email and laundry (and blog posts). Thank you all for indulging the travelog the past few weeks... I'm hoping to share some island field work soon!