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The Muse's Storage Box

The Muse's Storage Box
Copyright Diane Lou.

Alchemical Dreams and Disparate Realities

Rust and bones, broken toys and old text, game boards, gears and nests. Even as a child such odd, unwanted items evoked a pit-of-the-stomach response that bordered on exhilaration.
While I make no attempt to conjure up specific feelings in the viewer, the ambiguous juxtapositioning of familiar materials creates art that evokes half-forgotten, dream-like visions that beg to be interpreted by the viewer. There is a sense of deja vu (the already seen) tempered by a sense of jamais vu ( the never seen, or the illusion that the familiar does not seem familiar), and this contradiction asks the viewer to dig deeply, to look inside her own repository of wisdom, intuition and experience to find her own meaning in the familiar objects she sees.
The once-private discards of people's material lives that I collect for my art seem to carry universal memories with them, memories that can engage and mystify the viewer. Their beauty lies within the rust, the erosion, the wear, and the mere fact that they were once possessions.
I play with abandon and with no forethought. Each piece of detritus seems to suggest to me a relationship with some other piece, and I begin to put them together and wait for the mental "buzz" that lets me know I am proceeding as I should. Even at this point, I continue to remain in the play state and will not allow myself to direct the outcome of the piece, a process that requires complete trust. The outcome often mystifies me as much as it might any viewer.
Remember when, as a child, whatever was in reach became the instrument of your creative exploration? That is my life. A rusty, flattened piece of metal on the street, a gnawed bone by the roadside, a unique twisted branch from a tree, a fallen nest, a broken egg, a snake's skin, a dead butterfly...all will be added to my collection and eventually have their beauty honored in one of my pieces. The resulting art creates a new story with its own imagined history, one that invites the viewers to lay some claim on it by allowing themselves to be enveloped by the sight, the history, and the ambiguity of the realities before them.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Here we are, already at the end of 2009, a year, which for many of my friends, brought huge challenges in terms of their health, their jobs, their security.  Besides all that, many of us spent a year distressed by the complex issues our country has been involved in abroad.

On that note, may I recommend a must-read, "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson.  Although the title might not reveal much to you until you read it,  I consider it the most feel-good, amazing and inspiring book I have ever read...and it is a true story.  (And there is also a young readers' version, as well as a read-aloud version for smaller children.)

Many of you have probably already read it since it has been on the NY Times bestseller list for 3 years (and now the sequel, "Stones into Schools", is out).  It is the true story of Greg Mortenson, mountain climber turned humanitarian extraordinaire.  When he failed an attempt to climb K-2 which was intended to memorialize his sister who had died at 23, and he unexpectedly ended up lost in a remote Pakistan village, the course of his future was changed.  After the villagers took in the dirty lost American and fed him from their meager resources, he vowed to do something for them.  What they wanted most was a school, and the rest is history since many of the remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan wanted a school too.  He has risked his life repeatedly to fulfill these dreams, and the story reads like an action-packed novel as he built one school, then dozens of schools, and now well over 100 (with the emphasis on schooling females who have traditionally not been educated in these cultures).  And this is a man without resources of his own.

Read this book, and be inspired.  Read this book and understand the complexities of the Pakistan and Afghan cultures.  Rejoice in the fact that the US military consults with Greg Mortenson and that Three Cups of Tea is required reading for many military personnel who go into this region. 

After reading this book, I was so humbled that I vowed to find my own ways to help by donating a bit to the school-building (which is really the only way to fight radicalism in a country with nearly 90% illiteracy rate), and by finding my own service here at home.  Despite our interconnectedness through email, Facebook, etc, we need to remember that we are beings who learn from each other and help one another by being face to face, remembering the humanity of each other.  As Plato said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

On that note, I'm off to the studio which is now clean and organized.  Dear husband Nils cleaned the tool bench and pottery area after I got my uncontrolled section somewhat corralled.  A very good way to start the new year.  

My best to all of you. New art photos coming soon. Have a new year filled with peace, love, good health, and lots of art.

(Photo: Collage by Diane Lou, "Societe Anonyme".  Prints available.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy holidays, health and happiness...

Here we are nudging up to winter solstice ("the watershed of the year" as Vita Sackville-West called it).  A happy time for anyone who suffers through the short, dark, dreary days of winter each year.  Though there will be no noticeable difference for quite a while, the psychological difference is huge as I switch my attitude from desperation to optimism.  I can look at the weather website each day and watch as it announces that "tomorrow's daylight will be 3 minutes longer".  Cheers!

A walk to the garden today showed the devastation of our 8, 9 and 10 degree days that we had a week or so ago.  A few mixed Asian greens still show signs of life as does the Swiss chard.  Carrots still happily chill out in the soil, and just get better and better with the cold.
Now that I am recovered and feeling healthy and energetic, it's time to go clean up the rotting vegetation that succumbed to the cold.  

There's something hopeful about preparing the beds for spring planting, the earliest of which could be in 2-3 months.  The nearly 400 bulbs I planted are starting to send up their little green shoots, so the promise of bloom is already there.  Spring in the NW is so filled with abundance....of green, of brilliant color and sweet fragrance.  But winter is still in between....

Last year on this date, we had 26 inches a snow, a record, which kept us snowbound and without power for 10 days.  Trees broke and tumbled under the weight of the wet snow, power lines sagged and broke, and the roads were clogged with the debris of it all, making them impassible here in the woods.  Finally after 10 days as we ran out of firewood and food, we were finally able to get out of our remote location.  Good thing too because I ended up in the hospital the next day with a life-threatening emergency.  What a year it has been!

This is a full week of gatherings with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, and I'm grateful to be well and able to participate.

Here's a wish for our world...that we have peace, that people have jobs and homes and health, and that we learn to work together among ourselves here as well as in other lands to solve the many problems that affect our lives and our world.    

Happy holidays and a happy, creative year ahead to all of you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm back.... finally

After another little complication that put me back in the hospital the week of Thanksgiving, I think I am finally on my way.  I'm getting more energetic each day and feeling better.  Eating is becoming less of challenge, so all is going as it should.

We've had chilly days and nights with a rather brisk wind added into the mix, so just being outside isn't much fun.  But, I did get the last of tulips planted for spring bloom (over 375 bulbs will be showing off in a few months), cleaned out some of the garden, and have tried to spend a couple hours a day in the studio sorting and organizing.

Nils asked me how everything got so disorganized.  Well, I've been working in there for nearly 2 years now without a real complete cleaning....and I continue to bring things home that never quite get where they are supposed to.

It's rewarding though, to see those little 24-drawer units filling up things in one drawer and a label that actually reflects what is inside!  The best part is that all this scrounging and moving of things reminds me of all the great stuff I have to work with.  Currently I am only working with really small things, but soon I'll empty off the big shelf units and start from scratch there too.  

Today our tiny holiday tree tried to go up, but the tree stand was too big for it.  So tomorrow I'll get a smaller one when I head to Portland to spend the day with my twin daughters who will be 35 this week.

In 1968 my first husband and I married.   For some reason we took slides instead doing prints, and for all these 41 years, I have carried slides around with me.  A couple years ago I threw away a thousand or so....and today I did the rest, cutting it down to 250 which I will have put on a DVD for all family members.   And so will end the era of the slide.  Now for Nils's 1000's of slides....

I promise to get back to some posting and some new pictures now.