Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review for Rensing Artist

Here's a lovely book review for my nonfiction work. Great to know the message is getting out there!
Seven Sisters review

Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking Inward, Looking Outward

Join us!!

Gallery Opening for two Rensing Residents:
Dylan Critchfield-Sales and Alyson Soonchan Highsmith
April 4, 2014
in the Rensing Center Pottery Building

Movie Night at Rensing

Adriana, Laine, and Amelie, March 19, 2014

Paired with the lush light of the Library, my photographic eye did a cartwheel when Amelie stepped in front of the projected words, "Days of Heaven." I was in for another compositional treat when we started Malick's 1978 masterpiece classic; the film is filled with the most breathtaking scenes of "golden light" imaginable and the most impactful, simply stated dialogue I have ever heard. 

March Earth Dialogue - Tonight 5:30pm, Friends Café, Clemson

Earth Dialogue will meet on Monday, March 24th from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Friends Cafe in downtown Clemson. Earth Dialogue is a free, lively, open discussion that fosters collaboration and local action for a sustainable community. It is supported by several area groups, including The Rensing Center. The topic this month will be “Solar Matters: Why Waste our South Carolina Sun”. Three solar experts will be present to answer your questions. An optional buffet will be served beginning at 5:30 pm. We hope you will participate in this monthly forum to learn more about how our community is responding to hot environmental issues. For more information, contact Ellie Taylor at 654-1331.

Download or bookmark original flyer here if you like!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

 The Karate Tree

Each time I pass by it, I can't help thinking how much this tree looks like it has a karate belt on. Augusta watches me fake fight it sometimes. It always wins.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PARI visit

Art and Science, two fields that require energy, creativity, out of the box thinking, faith and discipline and that are yet often seen as opposite worlds. 
The goal of art and science projects is for the arts to use concepts from science as a source of inspiration, and for science to use art as an attractive way to reach the non scientific population. 
Take astronomy:  All civilizations have fantasized and dreamed about the beauty that liven the sky. This is as true today as it was in the most romantic ages, except that now there are a lot more complex words and concepts behind the lives of stars than the used to be. We think we understand better how and where stars are born, why they don't fall, and how and where they die. This is where art can serve science, not everyone is keen on reading scientific articles about the life of pulsars,  about what they do and about what these fascinating celestial objects are. Even if I am I very well understand that other people find no pleasure in reading about how a pulsar helps describe the curvature of space-time. Maybe the same people would understand this idea or what makes a pulsar different from another celestial object if we could show them the difference through a media other than words and tables of numbers and articles?
Maybe a painting or a photograph of their real environment, but somehow twisted so that it doesn't look the way they usually see it would help them grab an idea of this other reality. Maybe an installation where they
are part of the art would help them question their sense of perception? Maybe if we show people one representation of a gravitational wave that is neither a graph on a scale nor a number, they might grow interested in the concept and start to investigate it, or just remember that it exists.

At PARI today Ellen and I were exposed to many instruments, numbers and images which can be the source of a project or exhibition,
allowing the concept to be  displayed to the public in a form that might speak to different people. We got to talk with Christi about observing celestial objects through radio telescopes or regular telescopes, observatory, radome
... we saw poles that capture the wavelength of solar flares, and other instruments to capture data such as magnetic fields or movement of the earth's crust. 
Education, research and outreach are the three missions of this STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) institute. They want to share with the broadest possible public their enthusiasm and passion about this field.

 They want to make it fun, interesting and accessible, and we artists have a role there. We pursue the same goal. Is Art only for the people who go to museums? Art is a way to share a passion, to share a vision of our environment. When physicists write theories they do the same thing as when we paint. And it is the goal of the Rensing Center and of SymbASA to create such connection, which they have done during my residence stay. It was a wonderful experience, one that we all wish will lead to other meetings and exchanges and practical creations, so that the bridge between art and science can be crossed by more  PARI visitors.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The uncertainty principle

This idea, developed by W Heisenberg is one of the most famous and popularized ideas in quantum physics. It is rather a good choice because it is a fascinating one and once understood it changes the way you appreciate the world around you. It tells us that there is a haziness in nature, that the ever changing dynamic of "things" are a limit to what we can know about the behaviour of quantum particles. At quantum scale, the most we can hope for is to calculate probabilities for where things are (their position) and how they will behave (their momentum) and the more accurately we know one of these values, the less accurately we know the other. 
The uncertainty principle questions how we see and measure things in the everyday world. The painting you see are particles of light, photons, that have bounced off the screen or the canvas and reached your eyes. What you see is only what you see, it's a combination of some fuzziness that I created with what your senses perceive and what as you see you will interpret from it. Each particle bouncing from the canvas carries with it information about the surface it has bounced from, at the speed of light. The photon is a medium, what about the particles that create the painting? Observing a subatomic particle, such as an electron, is not so simple. You might similarly want to bounce a photon off it and hope to detect that photon with an instrument but chances are that the photon will impart some momentum to the electron as it hits it and change the path of the particle you are trying to measure. Or because quantum particles move so fast, the electron may no longer be in the place it was when the photon originally bounced off it. Either way, your observation of either position or momentum will be inaccurate and, more important, the act of observation affects the particles being observed.
That painting tells a lot about what my work tries to achieve, the fuzziness of nature, and the invisible force that our senses are trained to forget so that it's easy to live in a world where a table is just a table and it's always there, and where what we see as empty is just really empty. But hopefully, The uncertainty principle will give you a glimpse of what I see and how I perceive my environment, it'll give you an idea of the horizon colour when sun sets on the pasture and on the round old mountains, of how the clouds move in the sky, and of how peaceful our surroundings here are.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How Many People Did You Kill Today?

My first three novels were thrillers. One dealt with a murder and a shaman who stalked the protagonist across the outback. The second featured a Hindu-American FBI agent who had to access the powers of the dark goddess Kali to bring a serial killer to justice. The third (as yet unpublished) follows a Native American Lakota man who must stop the leader of a cult before he enacts the largest mass murder on American soil.
So, now I'm writing about an infectious disease specialist who discovers that mass outbreaks of violence worldwide are caused by a prion disease...a prion that has manifested due to all the religious hatred in the world. The novel deals with the intersection of quantum physics and shamanic wisdom.
Of necessity, a lot of people die. My life partner, who has kindly given up my presence in our home so that I could spend six weeks at the Rensing Center writing this novel, calls regularly to fill me in on all the messy house upgrades he decided to do while I am gone. To kick off one conversation, he asked, "How many people did you kill today?"
Many. And the death toll is rising.
That's the life of a writer for you!

Adventure Is Out There

Monday Adriana and I spent the entire day outside hiking, basking in the sun, throwing rocks in Lake Jocassee, and just having a laugh. We started our adventure at the Keowee-Toxaway State Park off Route 11, where we walked the 1.5-mile natural bridge trial. It was a glorious, crisp morning, perfect for some sweat-producing, heart-pumping exercise. We dined on our packed lunches – mine the quintessential American PP&J and Adriana’s Italian orzo coated in olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and parsley – we both chuckled about how our food choices reflected our cultural backgrounds.

We zoomed down 11 to the next state park, Devil’s Fork. We were met with the most wonderful view of Lake Jocassee and the mountain range that proudly stands guard over the basin’s inhabitants. Along with those picturesque peaks, the incandescent aqua blue and lime green water proved to be a most excellent subject matter. We walked around part of the lake, taking photographs and searching for that perfect rock to take as a keepsake of the day’s adventure. We next ventured to the Oconee Bell trail, where the rare Oconee Bell wildflower lives. Hunting for a glimpse of the elusive flower, we drank in the scent of fallen pine needles crunching under our boots. On the recommendation of a passerby, we found the single bloom near the end of the trail – it was small, white, and all alone. We ended our day back at the lake. Lying in the grass for close to two hours listening to the water lap against the rocks and the crows squawking in nearby trees (which instantly reminded me of my Grandma; she does the best impersonation of a crow), Adriana and I soaked up every ounce of the abundant vitamin D beaming down upon us. 

Lake Jocassee, March 10, 2014

The drive back to Pickens was the perfect capper to a perfect Monday. Light streaming through the trees, windows down, I felt rejuvenated, tingling with the warmth and the experiences of the day. 

Me and Adriana, March 10, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Experimentation with Pinhole

Writing at Downton Abbey

For the two days I spent packing for this six-week residency, snow fell across North Carolina where I live and South Carolina where the Rensing Center is located. My partner and my parents were very concerned about the safety of the roads. Not only was the snow much deeper than usually seen in these areas, Southern states generally aren't as prepared to deal with heavy accumulations. They don't have enough plows to keep up with the weather, and main roads can  remain covered in slush that freezes overnight for days.
I of course assured my parents that I would be very cautious about when I left. Ellen, the center's administrator, kept me updated on local conditions by email. Weather apps, weather websites and national newspapers kept me in the loop about the storm's effects. My plan was to leave the moment things seemed clear....and if possible, to arrive on the date and at the time I had sent Ellen.
My partner was worried that I was too focused on the commitment I had made with the date. He urged me several times to put off my arrival by a day or even two just to be sure that the rural roads in South Carolina would be safe.
We had just finished binge watching the first three seasons of Downton Abbey on Netflix. The third time he asked if I would delay my arrival, I asked, "Do you remember that, every time a visitor is due to arrive at Downton Abbey, the entire staff goes into a frenzy getting things ready?"
He thought about that then nodded, unsure where I was going.
The house staff, I reminded him, freshen the bed linens and scour the fireplaces and clean the room. The butler polishes the silver, the cook orders special food and creates a special menu, a valet and maid must be assigned to each visitor. And then when the carriage or car pulls into the grand round driveway, the entire staff turns out to greet the visitors.
That, I told him, was happening at the Rensing Center. Ellen, her volunteer staff, the artists who came on the work program, and Friends of the Rensing Center were all making preparations for the next round of artists. By doing the best I could to arrive when I was expected, I honored the hard work and extra effort those preparations required.
The accommodations here are part of the draw. The artists were even encouraged to cut some of the lovely camellias on the property to liven up their studios and living spaces. (Camellia flowers, by the way, stand for perfection and excellence.) In the end, an important part of the Rensing Center's appeal is that it is accommodating.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pinhole #6, March 8, 2014

(Behind the pottery building lives this clay statue - it reminds me of the Venus of Willendorf.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

under the light of Orion

Since I arrived here I have been obsessed with the sky. There is no light pollution in Pickens and very few clouds and every night I go out and look up and marvel at Orion which we can see right above us as mysterious as ever. What are you hunting here?
This morning, I woke up around 8:30, smiled because I was happy to be here and to have the time to do the things I love most, paint and write. I did my morning pages, then went to grab a cup of coffee and cookies, moved the laptop to the library, worked on my book for an hour and then painted. I painted surrounded by books and the soft music of the rain. I usually have great difficulties to work with small size canvases but this morning I had none. I used a small wood panel given by my weekend fellow painter Dylan (thanks again Dylan for that I'm not giving it back to you now) and whereas I thought, I'll just experiment on that because I'm not good with small size panels, I made this and I figured this is the product of Orion light bathing my every night.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Warm Thoughts

Today I was out walking when the sleet started. The temperature wasn't bad, about 41, but the wind was up and apparently there was enough chill in the air to allow the sleet to cut my face. Then I spotted a single snowflake. Everything shifted to rain before Hari and I got back to the snug little residency house.
I opened my email to find this pic from my parents. They're in Northern Virginia, which has received a lot of the cold weather lately.
My mom's comment was, "This bird is thinking, What the s**t am I doing in Virginia? I need to be somewhere south where it's warmer!" Well, Mr. Robin, I was feeling sorry for myself in the cold of South Carolina. Now I feel lucky again!
Extra note: Even the birds use sidewalks...and this one is just his size!
So it's all in how you see the world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gardening Wednesday

Adriana and Amelie Hard at Work, March 5, 2014

Amelie in the Inner Garden, March 5, 2014

Thoughts on the Creative Flow

Yesterday I arose at the unholy hour of 4 a.m. (Yes, I know, every hour and thing in this world is sacred but some are unholy, at least as far as getting out of bed is involved.)
Now, the only time I normally get up that early is for one of four very important reasons:
1. Hunt
2. Fish
3. Dance at a Native American powwow
4. Travel somewhere fun
Not that the numbering indicates the order of priority or frequency; it's just how it came to mind.
At any rate...that unholy hour.
I got up then in part because I went to sleep at 9:30 the night before. Why did I sleep then? Because I was tired.
Why did I arise at 4? Because I was awake.
I was ready to write.
I worked until 8 then ate breakfast. And because eating makes me tired (as well as the 4 a.m. waking time), I took a nap. By 9 I was writing again.
After lunch I went for a walk and did some food shopping in town.
Then I wrote again.
I created 12 pages yesterday, about 3,600 words.
That's one of the best parts about residency programs. You're able to do what moves you in the exact moment you are moved.
There's a power to setting aside purposeful time dedicated to a creative project.
There's even more power in the ability to write whenever you are moved to write. No worrying about whether you're disturbing a partner; no concerns over when the phone might start to ring and pull you away. No activities going on except those that nurture and support the work.
And, of course, I have the loving and patient support of my other partner, Hari. Here's a snapshot of him lounging on the porch of my residency home while I write in the morning sun.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Snapshot of the Waterfall- Adriana R

Augusta in the Cow Pasture- Adriana Rossi (February/March resident at RC)
Adriana, Ellen, and Me at The International Center of The Upstate Gala, March 1, 2014.
Nature Study #1, February 2014 - Augusta Pittman (February/March Resident at RC)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Feral Daffodils, Harmony, Community

I've spent some time walking the roads around the Rensing Center here in SC. Spring is just beginning to let herself be known to the world again, and these daffodils were growing feral on abandoned lots and in roadside trenches where I suppose the bulbs had been washed down during prior heavy rains.
This bunch is the second I collected during my first week or so here. They are in a beautiful glass vase that is part of the art collection in the guest house where I live and work. The view is through the large porthole window on one side of the building looking out into the wooded strip bordering the access road that goes by the front of the guest house. 
Daffodils hold a lot of spiritual energy. The yellow color speaks of strong energy, and the appearance of the flowers in spring signals newness, life and vitality. The scent is energizing and the flower itself stands for trust, harmony, and community. Which is everything the Rensing Center provides.