Saturday, December 7, 2019

Changes Along The Road of Life


It's been a while since my last blog post--let's face it, maybe the months of heaving, schlepping and cleaning took a toll. Well, to be honest, it has! Selling a long-time home is NOT easy, especially if you have to divest yourself of many belongings in order to fit into another smaller spot. It's akin to stuffing a watermelon in a bag meant for a grape, perhaps!

Getting rid of 'stuff' is not a bad thing. Just overwhelming. Symbolic of life, these sortings and siftings. I've let go many things. The house has been relisted, and I'm hopeful someone who loves old houses with a past will find it. Surely not everyone wants new, shiny, perfect? It's worse than a dating site if you ask me. These days I'd rather scroll through the animal rescue sites. Mercy, I miss my River Dog. Driving last month to Florida in the coastal rain, I found my own self raining, thinking about him in the passenger seat on past trips.

There's something comforting about a warm furry snout pointed toward the lone highways ahead. Yes, I need another dog. One of these days. Right now, I continue to work on adjusting to life in new digs--sort of a period of limbo and change this year. Losing River was the toughest thing; and two best friends died. I'd loved them both as long as I'd loved the old house, which has been a friend too. Things change, we face loss. In that, we keep on going, finding our way on different paths.

Finding space to create has been tough, but I rolled-pushed-shoved a balking  cart of oil paints and supplies out to the front porch this week on a sunny day. Let me tell you, it's work...there's a bit more involved than just rolling a cumbersome balky cart. Set up French easel. You do NOT want to see a right-brained artist setting up a French easel with 20000000 parts and screws. Then...rags and paper towels. Hunting more paint from packed boxes. Well, here's one of the paintings from that afternoon (above). I'm trying. I'm trying.


Florida fed my spirit. Just getting away for a while helps.
After walking the beach, searching for shells and a few answers, I got up one dark morning before dawn, skipped morning coffee and headed out to the sea. Waiting on the sand was a damp dollar bill. Then brilliant red, scarlet, and every shade of glorious you could ever imagine sweeping up over the ocean. Maybe there were a few answers in that solitary walk. Thank you, thank you, universe.


 It was hard to leave sunshine in Fernandina Beach, driving back to rain and chill. I returned with resolve to keep painting, to be kinder, to do better on making ends meet. I changed hair color. Looked at more rescue sites. And a dating site. The rescue site seemed a safer bet.



Thursday, August 22, 2019

Petals float: pink bowl filled with joy


"Every day do something that won't compute....Give your approval to all you cannot understand ....Ask the questions which have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years..... Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts....Practice resurrection."  ~ Wendell Berry (Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front)


Practice resurrection, laugh, be joyful Wendell Berry says. I've been a bit remiss over posting to this blog over the past few months. My excuses are thin, but my heart is full, sad, torn. Over that time, my house came under contract. Which involved sorting/sifting/boxing/giving/selling stuff. More stuff. One person doing all that wears on the bones. And my River died, the first of July. He was my constant star, companion, one-eyed guard dog and best friend. 


Oh, the excuses are thin....but here I am again. The contract fell through last week. River rests out in the front garden where sun and birds keep him company. Sort and sift continues, a little slower this week without a looming deadline of moving out. I read May Sarton, Lisa See books, spend extra time with friends. It's comforting. Life changes, goes on. Practice resurrection.

 
2019 Bring Us Your Best Exhibit

Goddess winged torso with paint brushes and painting


“...Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold.
Make of it a parka
For your soul.
Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise.
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.”
 ~ Alice Walker, excerpt from “Expect Nothing”


Lavender-peach sunsets paint Saluda evenings as trickles of summer folk talk on old-house porches, kids playing, cricket songs floating over the seven hills of town. Creeks sing over smooth rocks, yellow-papery leaves float to earth, time slows like golden honey. 

A ghost of overall-clad old-timer with red cotton bandanna and pocket knife, a sweating-cold green bottle of Coke in hand, sits on Main Street benches outside Thompson’s, wondering where the train whistle blows long and lonesome up the Grade once again. 

On sultry August afternoons, my nose longs to be stuck in a good book...which serves to restore the spirit under ceiling fan breezes. The hard dusty work at boxing and sorting needs a break time, although the deadline of late August disappeared in a POUF! when the house contract suddenly fell through last week. 

Am I upset? No. Could be worse. Life 101, Murphy’s Law always kicks in. 

All I could think was that it’d be OK. I got a lot cleaned up (pat on back), although I was wee bit disappointed not to be picking out a low-mileage used Prius for road trips, renewing passport, or paying for a (hopefully far-away) “pre-need” green burial. Those are things I had lined up to do once the house closed. Such for those best laid plans of mice and men. We know that one, Dear Reader!

Me, I just get back up on the horse—back in the saddle again, relist the house a little longer before winter and I become at odds with one another, figure I have a reprieve for porch swinging, picking garden flowers, and taking a little longer to weed through more stuff, living frugally on surprise, expecting nothing, wishing upon small stars. (Bonnie Bardos, Tryon Daily Bulletin, 8/2019)

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Month of June & Butterflies

“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”  ~ Pablo Neruda


Here it is the month of June, and I wonder where o where this year has fleeted to already. I've been remiss on blog posts, that's for certain. The older one gets, the faster time flies. When I was 8, time never went fast enough! It remains the most precious gift we have, if we only stop and think about it. For an artist, time often melds into 'no time', a timelessness to the day, a zone where hours don't count, only the act of creation. Sometimes I've been working on a project, and almost shake myself awake from that 'zone'...coming back to this world from the other.
 
 

The front porch swing and wicker chairs filled with deliciously fat comfy cushions are favorite spots to sip morning coffee, even on rainy days. The past week has been soaking wet, so it's hard to get in painting mode when rain lashes windows, pours from gutters, and all is dark. Summer's like that.

I stick my nose in a book every afternoon: "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer made delving deep into the soul and thought on order. Then Elizabeth Berg's book on George Sand's life is halfway read. Reading and art hold hands in this life: those feed our spirits. Wicker chairs, dogs, books--and sometimes a really good doughnut make things brighten. Rain or not.



The old Subaru beater came home finally after months of not running. The realtor's 'for sale' sign still is planted out front of the house. Roses and daylilies bloom in the garden. The graceful pond fish love the rain: dancing up to the surface, bright orange ribbons unfurling from shadowed green. Pink lemonade honeysuckle twines over porch rains and hydrangeas. Cicadas sing. Changes always come. I just observe it all: grateful to have a pink porch swing, clean cotton sheets, River Dog, a cup of coffee and a lot of paint. 
 

 These photos are from a workshop I gave at Upstairs Artspace: to encourage
women to paint, make art, and have FUN without copying a painting. Everyone did their own thing and had a ball! The flowers and bright things came from my place, as encouragement to MAKE ART!

(When you buy art from a living artist, you keep that artist living and surviving! Another thing that helps raise those much-needed pennies is to click those pesky ads on this blog--every few cents adds up over time. Thank you!) 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bonnie's World




(Painting detail: "Journey Home", Bonnie Joy Bardos, 36" x 48" sold ) 


"The great lesson from the true mystics is that the sacred
is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life,
in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard." 

~ Abraham H. Maslow






                                            Bonnie & River

photo credit: Mark Levin, photographer for Tryon Daily Bulletin, Life In Our Foothills)

It's getting toward the end of February, and I'm slow at getting this blog updated, so here it is, finally. Of course, there are excuses...don't you hate those? However, I do have some fairly credible ones. As usual, winter is a hard time for the art life and just surviving cold, winter bills, and the whole nine yards. I just had hand surgery (and lived to tell about it!)....after nine months of 24/7 pain. After a De Quervain's disease diagnosis back in June, I went to an orthopedic doctor for a shot and further help. That didn't last long-- finally it just was unbearable...whatever was going on. 

Naturally, a vivid imagination doesn't stop at the canvas or written word. I pictured having to paint and sculpt with different means than hands. Others have done it. Over the months, I could do less and less, although I still painted (I call those the one-handed marvels), typed, and hauled art to shows. Creating sculpture pieces was much harder, so that fell by the wayside over fall and winter. To make a long story short, the hand surgery was last week, and I'm hoping for good recovery: maybe no more hauling heavy rocks for fire rings, no? 

This gray soggy winter afternoon, I picked a few valiant daffodils on the walk with River, brought them home to brighten the days ahead. Sunshine in a vase! It's those little tender things that get us through. 

I hope you'll enjoy reading the February issue of "Life In Our Foothills" feature on "Bonnie's World" written by Steve Wong, photographed by Mark Levin. Just click the link above. 

Things may be slow-handed around the Art House, but I've got lots of art to look at, for sale, and out at shows. "Journey Home" is at the ubiquitous Purple Onion here in Saluda, and the Artist of the Year/Red Carpet exhibit lasts until mid-March at Tryon Arts and Crafts. Whimsical World Gallery in Landrum, SC also has a number of pieces. 

When you buy art from a living artist, you keep that artist living and surviving! Another thing that helps raise those much-needed pennies is to click those pesky ads on this blog. I get a few cents for each click. Sorry about that, I despise ads! But, in this case, it helps my ends meet. Thank you!  


                         "Songs of the Earth: The Pond Frog" goes home with Danielle

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Life Happens: An Artist in Winter

(Esto Perpetua series, 30" x 30", Bonnie Joy Bardos)


“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.