Thursday, January 17, 2019

Life Happens: An Artist in Winter

(Esto Perpetua series, 30" x 30", Bonnie Joy Bardos, available at Whimsical World Gallery, Landrum SC)


“Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route.”
~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


Bittersweet route, indeed, as Tom Robbins writes. Mid-January is upon us, and here in the mountains it's been rain, ice, snow. Rain, ice, snow. Repeat. Repeat. Almost 24" of snow in December, and nearly 100 inches of rain for 2018. Last weekend was an ice storm, leaving 1/2" of the glistening stuff on trees, shrubs, and earth. Branches fell, trees crashed all night long: River Dog and I were up patrolling the cold house, worry-warting over the unseen dark bringing a Monster Tree crashing through our roof. It HAS happened to us in the past. Maybe that just instills a sense of paranoia! We did have large pine branches torpedo down alongside the house, and some damage out back on the back porch gutter. Pines are notorious for breaking in the frozen stuff. Like me, they just don't like it!




This week, the car died, so River and I are stuck until we can: get it fixed. Sold off to someone who will fix it. Or start hoofing it to parts unknown. It turns out the old Subaru I bought to take us to Florida has a bad transmission, and needs pad/rotor replacement, and no-telling-what-else. I did call the small-time dealer I bought it from and reminded him of his promise he would willingly let his wife drive it anytime, to Florida, and so forth. However, being it's an older car and such, it was a pig-in-the-poke deal, and that's, as Walter Cronkite used to say, the way it is. I've started up a begging and pleading GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/gzuga4-emergency-car-repair) page so folks can help if they want. Or not. It's hard times for so many of us, a broken-down car seems almost small potatoes. To me, it's a nightmare, but others are in even worse straits. Artists are usually conditioned to the trials of life. We tend to live hand to mouth anyway, and know it could be worse. We just get up and make art. Even if it's freezing in the house, outside, or the car implodes. We're gonna make art about it. That, my friend, is how we survive. Making art.

Mary Oliver, the poet of my life and days, died today. Oh Mary. You will live on, and on...in your words that are tender, true, observant of nature. You continue to spark and glow. Thank you, thank you for bringing your gentle kind soul to word and life. You just will keep glowing every time those words are read.


“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

― Mary Oliver


(photo credit: Mark Levin)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Winter Musings & Remembering Fernandina


Winter is upon us in my small town here in the Western North Carolina mountains...at least 18+ of winter knocking on the door, with even bigger piles of winter white blanketing the world outside. The stuff is heavy and dense, weighing roofs down, blocking roads, challenging power company crews out fixing downed lines. Oh yes, winter is upon us. Inside, River Dog and Pikachu Cat find the warmest spots they can: River in front of the living room gas stove.

I perch at my desk chair, wishing for heated seats or at least spring. Speaking of heat and spring, back in November I drove down to Florida over to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, not far from the Georgia line. A friend lets me borrow his historical charming-sweet little cottage "Fernandina Cottage". All I have to do is find my way there from here, River tucked beside me in the passenger seat, a load of art supplies and various bags tucked in the rear.




It takes us a good seven hours or so to get to the cottage, since we hit about every rest stop in between. We packed up before rain hit and got away to Florida just in time: driving in to sun and warm temperatures, palm fronds swaying. This trip, I was lucky to know where things already were: Nana Theresa's Bake Shop downtown. Thrift shops. Rhonda's house a couple blocks back from Wade's house. Who the neighbors and dogs are. The quickest way to the beach. Townie's Pizza. How to walk to the Green Turtle. Y'know. Important stuff.




This trip I expanded my exploring to American Beach. Then, neighbor Rhonda took a day off and introduced me to parts unknown: the little chapel in American Beach. Roads with Spanish moss dripping, live oaks. A ferry ride. Fresh shrimp at her favorite dive, painted orange, beside the river. Places she'd been where if you get out, you get toted off by mosquitoes. We just drove by that day, neither one of us wanted to duel with skeeters! She pointed out a quaint church tucked in Florida woodlands, a tabby house ruin, probably built by slaves. Little bits and pieces of the past. Small winding roads where new Florida still doesn't exist. Oh, I was hungry to find Old Florida still left.




We admired buckets of silver fish gleaming on the dock, right off the boat. Driving on, we came into the outskirts of Jacksonville near the Navy base. That's a whole 'nother story...but I'll say we had quite a laugh over our adventures that day. Back in Fernandina Beach, I hung some art around the cottage (with Wade's permission, of course) and rearranged furniture. It was a work of art. Over in the evening, the days short and with the time change, I'd pour a glass of vino, sit with River out on the front porch and toast life. It does a body good to go somewhere, and have a few friends along this path of life.



By the way, if you'd like to spend some time at Fernandina Cottage, just contact Wade Kirkland via Facebook, the owner who lives in Charlotte, NC. I can attest that it's in the heart of all sorts of Good Things. Historic Fernandina Beach. Not far from the sea or dining. The marina's a walk away. Bikes. Galleries. Bakeries. Fresh caught seafood. The oldest bar in Florida. A nice woman named Bonnie who works at the Visitor Center in the old depot building. I liked her. Besides, I'll always remember her name, since it's mine too. Oh, yes, it does a body good to get away.



(P.S.: This month, I'm "Artist of the Month" at Tryon Arts & Crafts School (see link at right) and will be featured at David Cedrone's "Whimsical World Gallery" December 15 from 5-8 p.m. along with David (gallery owner and artist), Alex Trumble, Kelly Sparks, and Amy Goldstein-Rice. Enjoy live music with Jay Maybry Band!)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

How We Spend Our Days


(painting: Bonnie Joy Bardos)


"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~ Annie Dillard

It's the first day of fall--this sun-filled Saturday afternoon, a blue jay's rusty-hinge screech high over blue-shaded woods. River Dog snores nearby; it's been a busy morning of walking to town, hauling paintings for the upcoming Art Trek Open Studio weekend next Saturday and Sunday. Somehow it gets a little harder to clean, prepare, haul each year, but it usually gets done--albeit slowly. Lately, I've been pondering what makes a life a good one. Annie Dillard, one of my favorite authors, "In The Writing Life" says, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern."

"There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life."

(Paintings: "When Dinosaurs Roamed" and "Spirit Guides": Bonnie Joy Bardos)

As one gets older, time flies quicker. You ask yourself if you've had a good life, one that matters. You start sorting and sifting through the grains of thought, of things: a paring of self, soul, possessions. The burden gets lighter, perhaps. In that, there is a sense of joy of giving away, of needing less, and embracing the life of the spirit. In evolving over a lifetime, the owning of things becomes less and less important.

Oh, it would be lovely to have a next-to-new car again, something that doesn't blow white smoke at stop signs, that goes smoothly on the road of life. It would be indeed. But the truth is what really matters is a dog that's snoring peacefully on the first day of fall, the sun sparkling through kitchen windows, the praying mantis turning her green face toward mine, a friend. There are paintings to be done, a ripe tomato on the sill, and a bit of chocolate gelato in the freezer. The morning coffee was fresh and hot earlier, and a Wildflour bakery danish in a paper bag for breakfast, carried home from my walk to town. Is this not the good life, this little vignette of time captured in these thoughts?

To paint, to create, to write and think, to watch the mantis, the rose petals drift, an acorn upon the ground. To love those dog ears, and be delighted by a new shade of pink. To hold the cup of life warming in the hand one more day, this. This. How we spend our lives......

**if you enjoy this blog, please share. I think it earned me a whole quarter last month. In the art life, a quarter is good. So click, share, and I'd love you to follow it (scroll down on right side and join in!).

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Creation of Gaia (how a sculpture is born)



The other night, my sculpture "Gaia: Mother Earth" (detail above) won 1st place in an annual juried exhibit. Of course, I was thrilled--who wouldn't be?! It dawned on me that maybe there are those who would like to know how a sculpture is born, so to speak. This particular piece was years in the making, and I spent the past year (on and off) working on her. It didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen in a day! Sometimes things do, but in this case, it was a long labor of love along with a lot of experimentation on top of labor and time.

Gaia started as another sculpture: one that I'd sent out to the side garden to live a few years by a garden arch. You might not want to do that to a painting, but you can often do that to a sculpture! Over months and a few years, she weathered the elements and changed. As we all do. Such is life, right? Ivy started creeping up her body, moss grew here, there. Every now and then I'd tuck flowers on her head--which was fired terra cotta clay.



Being out in nature, she took on a different persona. One day, I looked at her again and pulled her armature up from the base. Hauling her to the back deck tables, I laid her flat on a sheet of heavy duty plastic, made my witch's brew of secret treatments while wearing heavy neoprene black gloves and went to work (her face is toward bottom of photo below).



The new piece begun. With a bucket-load mix of matte medium and other elements including long strands of kudzu fiber, I literally bathed her from top to bottom, then wrapped her tight in the plastic, duct-taping the whole thing so it wouldn't drip. For a while, I tucked her inside on the back porch...who knows what the phone guy thought! She resembled an Egyptian mummy at this point.

I'd collected long strands of kudzu fiber from the side street: all summer, I'd pulled those pesky kudzu-monster vines out in the side street for cars to run over, again and again. Every walk with the dog, I'd pull 'em a little more, or kick them back to the edge: so they suffered great abuse! The traffic and abuse broke the long vines apart into fiber. Kudzu is amazingly strong, FYI. For sculpture, I needed it dry, and carefully separated it a bit, folding it up to store in a 5-gallon bucket on the back porch until I was ready to work more. Meanwhile, we have a 4' foot tall mummy hanging around the house. Imagine that! Occasionally, I'd unwrap the plastic and check. With fired clay, wood, metal, and other materials in the wrap, I didn't want it to be too wet, so I'd open it up to dry. Next, I hauled her back to the work tables outside and brought along the kudzu fiber. This was exciting! (don't ask me why, but it was...)

Maybe because experimentation is curiosity. You don't know where you're going to end up. This led into winding kudzu fiber, treated with more matte medium, in naturally-flowing patterns. Already, she had wings--which I added to with organic materials from Gulf waters, a couple of large twisted shells I'd collected, and wire. After all this dried, I left her propped (no more mummy wrap) in the dining room where over months I eyed her to think about what would be the next step. A friend noticed her and mentioned Japanese Kabuto theater masks. Now that really got my little imagination wheels spinning...so, I used Bondo for more structure-building, and a Golden modeling product for filling in cracks: sort of a face lift for the old face. (if only it was that easy for me!)

I used white gesso for her 'mask'. For the fun part, lips got Cadillac Red. A girl can never have too much lipstick, eh? I loved it! Experimentation = EXCITEMENT. So...I let her sit a few more months. I eyed her to think what's next? This takes a while, folks. All the while, I'm working on other things: a bazillion paintings on top of trying to mow and survive daily. However, she's my constant companion, and always standing at the dining room door so I never miss her.



I agonized over if I would enter the yearly Arts Council "Bring Us Your Best" art exhibit. It'd cost me money to renew my membership/enter, and I just didn't have the extra $40. Well, that's nothing new! My hand/wrist ached from carpal tunnel/tendon issues, and I worried that toting the piece around would be impossible. Nobody's ever going to buy her...oh, the excuses kept rolling! Maybe I won't enter this year, I thought. But.....I did. She kept whispering to me to work on her, no more excuses. So, I got busy and pulled the sculpture outside to the front porch studio: it was time to 'bring her home' which means get her finished! I elevated her on a large plastic bucket set on a large section of old canvas so I could move around her in a circle. More kudzu fiber, matte medium, acrylic paint. I have a lovely light-weight hammer I call "Maxwell's silver hammer": it was in use, along with wire cutters, paint brushes, pliers--tools of the trade. More wire. A bird's nest with nutmeg 'eggs'. I'd made the nest a few years ago, and painted the eggs with a bit of blue after securing it on her head, with a fired clay bird I'd made years ago--I retrieved it from the kitchen window. Like stone soup, the recipe for a sculpture of mine can include just about everything! Since I'm a fan of recycling, organic, and re-purposing: this is a way of educating others what can be done with materials we might not consider.



Hauling a copper pipe down to Gibb's Welding out of Landrum, SC, I picked out a nice rust-colored square of steel for the base, with the copper to be joined. That meant a return trip to pick it up...and the old truck and I went forth the next day. Having the functioning base with pipe made it easier to work with her. Treating the base with a etching fluid and later acrylic after a bit of naval jelly to remove extra rust, I finished that part and went back to tweaking, using matte-treated hydrangea blossoms from the yard, a bit of dried orchid flowers for the nest: which is by now attached as her head dress. The kudzu whorls beautifully up, around the head, even as it does lift toward the sun. A iridescent feather circles and whirls around her head, creating the feel of a turning earth.

Again, more matte medium and shades of green, brown (all natural hues) paint here and there, with a bit more white gesso and red for her face. I built a blue planet out of a Japanese lantern for her to hold: this takes a couple days of baking it on low in the oven (drying) and loads of paint with torn tissue paper to give it the look of Earth floating in space. Around this point, as I'm tucking moss and again eyeing the piece: she names herself. Gaia. Of course, she knew. All this time, we'd been working together, I was just listening. All her elements honored life, nature, and spirit.

If someone asked me how long it took me to make this sculpture, I would say a lifetime. She's a cumulation of all I've learned, and all that is. I took what I knew, and used what I didn't know. Maybe 'un-knowing' is a good thing. So on the show intake day, I tucked her in the passenger seat of the old truck, and we rode together over to Flat Rock, best friends. I never know what people think of seeing a pick-up truck with two women up front: one driving, and one with a bird nest on her head, but I hope they smile.





*if you enjoyed this blog, please share. Even feel free to click those annoying ads (sorry about that!)I think it earned me a whole quarter last month. In the art life, a quarter is good. So click, share, and I'd love you to follow it (scroll down on right side and join in!). Thank you for reading this. It's done with love.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Angels Among Us

"No, I never saw an angel, but it is irrelevant whether I saw one or not. I feel their presence around me." ~ Paulo Coelho


(painting: Angels Among Us, 30" x 30", Bonnie Joy Bardos, available)

When I was a little girl, every time I visited my Grandma and her country farmhouse, I was mesmerized by a small, framed print: an angel hovering behind two small children, watching over them. Some things stay in your memory a lifetime...that picture has been in my mind's eye all these years. I keep the same angel in my dining room (here it is!). Just because.



We all need angels, and I'm convinced they walk among us: sometimes in human form, sometimes in animal form. They're there. Certain subjects appear in my art over and over: trees, birds, women, horses, angels, things with wings often appear. In sculpture, angels again appear often. Again, this pattern goes back to childhood. I spent a lot of time in nature: the woods, garden, far reaches of fields. Wading in creeks, trickling branches there were crawdads under rocks to observe, the robin's egg blue sky overhead through pine branches. I would lay flat and watch the clouds, the birds, feel the breeze. Spending time in the outdoors, a child learns the rhythms and patterns of the earth, the sky, all that is. Answers whisper in the rustle of leaves. Squirrels chatter, rabbits hop. Snakes slip through summer grass. Water giggles over rocks. Moss carpets are lush green delight.

To this day, I paint the essence of what I've seen and felt. I don't work from photographs or endeavor to paint realistically. Details are not overly important, but the 'energy' and feel is everything. Perhaps I never saw an angel, although I'm convinced I've met them often. But as Paulo Coelho said, I feel their presence around me.

** So, what can you do to support the arts? The artists? Treasure art. Look at it. Appreciate it. Buy it when you can. As for me, I'd be grateful for a donation. Or to sell a painting. Or sculpture. Anything helps. I'm not alone out there....so keep us creative types in your thoughts and in your life. We need you, you need us. Now, that is what it's all about. If you click the ads on this blog, I get a pittance. Hey, I'm not proud...in the next year, maybe it'll earn $100, then I'll receive a payment from the G-place! Lucky me! I'll take it. Every bit counts, I'm not proud. It's humbling, folks.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Look At The Life Of An Artist



A mind that has no walls, that is not burdened with its own acquisitions, accumulations, with its own knowledge, a mind that lives timelessly, insecurely - to such a mind, life is an extraordinary thing. Such a mind is life itself, because life has no resting place. ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti



What else would I rather do, than go out on a sun-filled morning, the hydrangeas blooming rampant and blue, a ballerina-pink swing...rocking chairs....large ferns dripping green fronds.... the dog basking in the day. Butterflies, gold fish, hummingbirds nearby. The pond frog. The cat perched on the rail, pink collar. A painting on the wood easel, and others lined up. Messy oil paints, tubes crinkled, a rough drawing crumpled up on the blue metal table. Prisms sparkle. My soul fills up. The paint gets on clothes, hands, sometimes hair or face. Often the porch floor. This is my life. Nothing fancy. Mostly simple. I'm at it day in, day out.





“The poet lights the light and fades away. But the light goes on and on.”
~ Emily Dickinson

Over and over, I choose to continue making art with the little time I have left on this planet. I work on sculptures that probably will never sell, but that's what artists DO. They commit their being to making work: whether it sells or not. However, there comes a time when they have to give up on certain things in order to keep making their work, to lose this, to lose that. I've listed my house on Zillow. Boy, that was hard...but...we do what we gotta do. Maybe things will get better, maybe not. But we have to choose, and pick the things that feed our souls most, and artists do that: they stay true to self, to soul. It shouldn't be such a struggle, but it is. The world goes on, and the world will always need artists, whether it knows it or not. In the scheme of things: money, material things and greed are not what matters to this world. Art and truth stand firm, the North Star, fixed. There, that simple beautiful fact that leads me on down this rocky path.

So, what can you do to support the arts? The artists? Treasure art. Look at it. Appreciate it. Buy it when you can. As for me, I'd be grateful for a donation. Or to sell a painting. Or sculpture. Anything helps. I'm not alone out there....so keep us creative types in your thoughts and in your life. We need you, you need us. Now, that is what it's all about. If you click the ads on this blog, I get a pittance. Hey, I'm not proud...in the next year, maybe it'll earn $100, then I'll receive a payment from the G-place! Lucky me! I'll take it. Every bit counts!



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Feature in August 2018 Bold Life Magazine: Taking Wing

The August 2018 Bold Life Magazine is out on stands today, so if you're in Western N.C., you might get your hands on a copy. If not, just click the link included (see sidebar to right), and visit the story on-line.


Portrait: Amos Moses Photography

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Summer Paintings & Thoughts


The ultimate source of happiness is not money and power, but warm-heartedness.

~ Dalai Lama


This painting is "If I Could, I'd Fly Away With You", (painting in progress) 20" x 20" oil on linen...it really came around today: I'd taken it out to the front porch easel this morning: sun shining despite promise of rain, River Dog basking, Pikachu sneaking around as cats do.

My foot hurt (whine) from a shard of glass I hadn't been able to get out--serves me right for bare footin' it in the kitchen yesterday. The wrist hurt (whine) from carpal tunnel/tendonitis. I was worrying myself over mortgage and thoughts of will-I-make-it-another-day-month-year, and this, that, no half-&-half for coffee (whine), friends and family struggling with the big C, and then....started painting. And painting. Oh, the changes this one underwent all morning.

After hollering (several times) at Google to play "Poor Pitiful Me" by Linda Ronstadt, and the next thing I know I'm listening to Anne Murray sing "Snow Bird", and those wistful lyrics "I'd fly away with you...."

There I was, painting, crying over that song (it was my mother's favorite and how the memories fell in tears), crying over the foot, wrist, and the whole nine-yards. The painting named itself. All I did was listen. And paint despite it all.

The sun kept shining a bit longer, River snored a little longer, and I kept on. By afternoon the rain stepped in, I soaked that foot an hour in Epsom salts, and dug that damn glass out. You do not mess with a Southern woman. Behind every painting is a bit of blood, sweat, and tears....and faith that things will fall in place once again.

What's going on? The show I'm currently in with three other women painters will be up until August 3 at Upstairs Artspace gallery; we'll have an artist talk this afternoon at the gallery. For August, yours truly will be featured in Bold Life Magazine, interview by Norm Powers, photos by Amos Moses who came here on a HOT day, a couple hours behind. Naturally, I had already melted in the heat outside, and figure those photographs will show the artist in meltdown! It's a thrill to be in Bold Life. Here's a link to the article: https://www.boldlife.com/taking-wing/

In late September, I'll be at it again: Open Studio weekend with Art Trek. Also, I'm guest artist of the month at Whimsical World Gallery, Jones Street, Landrum, SC, owned by whimsical artist David Cedrone--located in a historical old church building! Stop in. I'm a fan of David's work! After moving here from Maine, he bought the old church and turned it into a gallery.



Times seem chaotic and unsure: I find solace in going out to my old easel and front porch. The swing is now 'ballerina pink', and the fish pond brims with gold fish, frogs, and ripples in water. Wind chimes sing on the summer breeze.

Tomatoes cluster on a vine, and a crimson mandevilla winds around a white post. A young praying mantis as-green-as spring's-tenderest-leaf peeps at me from the boxwoods. River Dog snoozes and the cat tiptoes soft as a whisper. Such is life here: one more day in an old house in a small town, trying to make ends meet, and singing my heart out with brush strokes and tenderness.



(photo: beauty in the imperfect: yesterday's hibiscus blossom fading)

*if you enjoyed this blog, please share. Even feel free to click those annoying ads (sorry about that!)I think it earned me a whole quarter last month. In the art life, a quarter is good. So click, share, and I'd love you to follow it (scroll down on right side and join in!). Thank you for reading this. It's done with love.