In Memorial...

…and with profound gratitude to all those who gave their lives in defense of the American experiment. My spirit is with all my grandparents laid to rest in Arlington this day: Gerald and Charlotte O'Keefe, William and Marla Drake.

“Dawn Over Arlington National Cemetery” - 24”x20” acrylic on canvas.

“Dawn Over Arlington National Cemetery” - 24”x20” acrylic on canvas.

“Arlington: Above and Below,” photography. Framed print available, please inquire.

“Arlington: Above and Below,” photography. Framed print available, please inquire.

“Tomb of the Unknown,” photography.  Prints available, please inquire.

“Tomb of the Unknown,” photography. Prints available, please inquire.

Like softest music to attending ears

A small stuffed mallard is eyeing me from the corner of my desk. It knows that I am late composing this third entry in my blog, which I intended to publish this afternoon. The little duck saw me earlier when, instead of writing, I suddenly crafted a support structure for my poor flopping peony outside. But peace, good duck, it’s time.

This week began with housework, since we needed to gorgeous the place up for two showings with potential buyers. We’ve been trying to sell our home in southern New Jersey for a year now. It’s a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, with a meager price tag compared to where we’re going next. We’ve been trying to return home to Maryland, to a town just north of where I grew up and met my husband. Shawn and I have been all over the country — and across the planet — since then, adding two children along the way. And now we’re going to raise them where we started… or we’re trying to, at least, when a family finally picks this Jersey house for their next home. In the meantime, I’m dreaming about entering the robust arts scene in Frederick, MD. That community has great opportunities for the professional artist, and I do believe it will be an excellent next step in my artistic development. But how should I debut, I wonder? Which side of the pool should I try first: ease into the water via the stairs, or take a running jump off the diving board? That all depends on exactly what is going on in Frederick when this house does go under contract. Let’s hope for perfect timing.

After our two showings, I returned my attention to the music sign commission. Each detail from the original was carefully recreated, from the tiniest piece of veneer for the frets to the triple layers of paper for the music book. The scariest part was, once again, drilling through the back board, papers and acrylic spacers, and into my heretofore babied African Paduak guitar, in order to mount it securely in place. Everything else was significantly easier, since I had already done most of the designing and figuring the first time around. At the end of my work day today, I finished. Now to leave everything to cure overnight, and then I’ll need to figure out how to package this intricate piece so it arrives in New York safely. I suppose trusting the mail will be the truly scary part! Go forth, little sign, and make a young musician smile.

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One last project snuck its way in, right at the end, for the previously mentioned flopping peonies. This is my first year with blossoming peonies, and they are amazing delightful things that stood upright until last night’s storms came through. Fortunately only one of the plants was blossoming at the time, but when I got the kids off the bus today, I didn’t like seeing the peonies’ big red faces looking ashamedly at the ground. So instead of running in for some ugly stakes or tomato cages, I drew up a picket-fence shaped trellis-type thing and cut it out of clear acrylic. I love how it turned out: it does the job of stabilizing the drooping stems, while looking nearly invisible in the landscape. It barely even shows up at all in these pictures, despite being about 10” across and 19” tall, with 2” wide sides. Plant supports like this would be easy to sell and ship, except I’m not sure people would buy them for the $18 or so I’d have to charge (each) to make it worth the cost of materials. Oh well, I’ll at least make them to shake the fell purpose of my own fallen garden beauties.

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Next week, it’s on to a commission for personalized birthday party favors! Catch you next time, audience. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and all my gratitude to the men and women who sacrificed everything to defend our nation.

P.S. Apropos of nothing, a few days ago I realized what has quite possibly been my favorite piece of music, ever. It’s a theme from “The Mission” by Ennio Morricone, called “Gabriel’s Oboe.” If you listen to Yo-Yo Ma play this piece, you will know what life sounds like to my little human ears.

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Thoughts? Questions? Feel free to Like or Comment below!

Doing the Thing

Welcome to 2019, when I spend my workdays using a laser to make personalized technology stands for gifts and customers. And laser cutting mini pseudo guitars. Like, what? I mean, cool, but that’s definitely not something I saw coming. All this laser art isn’t something I had planned out. Never been a graphic designer, never a woodworker, and I didn’t even know what vector art was until recently. I’ve learned a motherload of skills in the past year. But honestly, ten years ago (when I was easing off the acting gigs due to my first pregnancy), I wouldn’t have believed I’d become a fine art painter, either. People so kindly tell me all the time how talented I am, and my work is amazing, but honestly I don’t think I can do a whole lot more than what anyone else can do. If you really, really want to do something, you can. All you need is courage, persistence, and a willingness to research the hell out of it. Sure, it drives me nuts when my project isn’t turning out how I envisioned it. I hate wasting the time and the materials. But I literally learn something from every. single. project. And now, a decade after I first put paintbrush to canvas, and a year & two months after I first put vector illustration to laser, I can make pretty much anything that comes to me. Yeah, talent helps. A supportive family helps (a LOT). But as Bernadette Peters told my graduating class at Hofstra in 2002, it’s “Persistence, persistence, persistence.” I practiced my flute and handbells a gazillion times before I performed at the White House, the Kennedy Center and Disney World. I auditioned a gazillion times before I landed acting roles consistently enough to quit my day job. And now, I’ve made gazillion pieces of art before working on a major collection that I plan to show the country. Onward and upward, baby. You CAN do that thing you wish you could do. Just be willing to suck at it until you don’t.

Welp, now that I got my DO THE THING speech out of the way (you’ve heard it before, I’m sure), let me tell you what I did this week:

First thing was finishing a tablet stand for my mother-in-law. She has a contemporary aesthetic and loves the look of frosted glass, so I made the stand out of 1/4” thick clear acrylic. My mother-in-law is Muslim, so my sister-in-law tracked down the perfect calligraphy design for me to engrave: Arabic for “Read.” I love being able to make personal gifts that are both artsy and practical at the drop of a hat. Plus this one comes in two pieces, so it was easy to mail. Thanks, Glowforge!

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Next up was a commission for 25 keychains. One of my neighbor’s daughters has been advocating for a girls’ golf team at the local high school (weird that they didn’t have one already!). So, to remind the powers that be to ADD THIS TEAM, and to also pass out to her friends, I made phone-stand keychains engraved with a custom Lady Vikings logo. The logo my customer picked is similar to the original Vikings logo, except I added a golf ball pattern to the helmet. The material I used for these was also 1/4” acrylic. Now go out into the world, little keychains, and make some teens happy!

Lastly this week, I put some good hours into a musically themed sign commission. On my Featured Works page, you’ll see a sign with a miniature guitar and piano-inspired lettering mounted on a music book. This is the sign I made for my musical daughter for her 9th birthday a couple weeks ago. When I posted this sign on Facebook and Instagram, I expected it would be a one-of-a-kind piece. However, I then received a lovely message from a college friend, who shared with me that her daughter just happens to have exactly the same interests as Fiona, and would I consider making her one, too. This was someone I always liked and respected, so yes, of course I’ll make one for her daughter. And I have to say, it’s definitely easier the second time around, since I’m not just making it up as I go along! I started by cutting the guitar out of this GORGEOUS 1/2” African Paduak my husband gave me for my birthday. The laser needed to make many passes to cut all the way through this wood, though, which burninates the edges all Trogdor style. Today I sanded off the char, and laid the first couple coats of dewaxed shellac. I’ve heard it’s good stuff to use to retain the beautiful red orange color of the natural wood (as long as you keep it out of direct sunlight). So while the shellac was drying, I cut out some of the many itty bitty details for the piece. Next week I’ll cut out the rest, paint some of those little pieces, and assemble the whole thing!

And now, my daughter is requesting that I teach her how to nail wood together. I don’t know specifically why, but it sounds like a good thing to do. Do the thing, my girl, do the thing.

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Thoughts? Questions? Feel free to Like or Comment below!

What's Past is Prologue

In the previous incarnation of my website, I described my long-term project “The Playing Space.” This project is the big one. THE collection. It draws from every little bit of who I am as an artist. It digs around in my past, grabbing concepts and imagery and moments, and uses connective tissue to hoist those ideas into the cosmos themselves. Yeah, that sounds grandiose. But dreaming small is something I have never been good at. I want to see this collection as a comprehensive show, a visual art PLAY, that tours to science museums and art galleries and theatres alike. I want the whole collection to tell a story, the story of where we come from and where we’re going, and this moment that is NOW, in this space in which we all perform our tiny scenes together. It is our playing space — all taking place literally in SPACE.

Actually getting this thing made is another story, of course. While my two vibrant kiddos are at school, I’m usually working on commissions and personal gifts. Which is fabulous! But at some point I’m going to need to pause the marketable crafting so I can put some good weeks into finishing my first entry in “The Playing Space.” (Technically “And Make Our Garden Grow” was the first completed piece of the series — you can see a video of it in the “Portfolio” section of this website — but that was a spontaneous entry made specifically for a juried exhibition, “The Art of the Flower,” at the Medford Arts Center here in Jersey. I love the piece’s imagery and message, but its place in “The Playing Space” collection is TBD.)

So in the meantime, my inspiration draws from the eloquent wisdom of two of humanity’s heroes, Carl Sagan and Shakespeare:

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

- Carl Sagan

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- Shakespeare, Macbeth